October 4th, 2005

5th street los angeles 1905


Jacket night! The clouds cleared, and the air took on a wintry chill. About midnight, I went out, and I noticed that the neighbor's motion sensing yard light had been turned on by some passing beast. Thinking it might be the cat from the end of the block come to pick a fight with my kitty, I walked toward the fence and was startled to see a deer leap from the shadows and run down the street. I heard the hooves of at least two more clattering down the other side of the street, following the first. I guess I startled the deer as much as they startled me. Once they departed, I remained outside to watch the stars sparkle in the moonless blackness, but it was very chilly, so I soon returned indoors to putz about on teh Intenets.

Recently, I came across a dandy web page featuring an extensive collection of links to web sites containing History and Historical Resources for the Los Angeles area. As is the nature of teh web, to follow one link is to discover more, and by and by I fetched up at one I was not expecting. I've mentioned in earlier entries that, back in the deeps of time, I once attended a gathering at a Highland Park house built early in the 20th century by Jackson Browne's somewhat bohemian grandfather, Clyde Browne, an influential member of the circle of artists and intellectuals who peopled the Arroyo Seco for several decades around that time.

Turns out that somebody has put up a web page about the house, Abbey San Encino. (There was no "Saint Encino" as far as I know-- encina is the Spanish name of a type of evergreen oak tree-- but this sort of imaginative though inaccurate nomenclature was characteristic of the Anglo-Americans, who were often bemused into such linguistic foolishness by the exotic world of formerly Spanish California in those days.) There's a small but nice early picture of the house on that page, its setting a bit more bucolic than when I knew it, but even by my time the place still retained much of that romantic atmosphere this picture displays.

On that page, there is a link to another web site I didn't expect to find. It turns out that Jackson Browne has a brother named Severin Browne, also a songwriter and musician, who actually recorded a couple of albums for... Motown, of all things, in the 1970s. There are several free MP3s available on his site, for those with faster Internet connections (or more patience with dial-up downloads) than I possess. I am truly surprised that I never knew about this obscure brother. I did fetch one song, and must say that, though not my sort of music, it is not too shabby an example of its kind (sort of easy-listening R&B inflected country jazz pop... oh, you know-- singer-songwriter crap.)

Finally, sadly, I must say that the Bancroft Library of the University of California, Berkeley, has absolutely the worst web site ever! Most University-based web sites are bad, but Bancroft is a Byzantine nightmare of gargantuan evil. In fact, it is so utterly irredeemable, that, after attempting to use it, I found myself ghoulishly delighted to recall that UC Berkeley is located almost directly atop an active fault which is capable of producing an earthquake sufficiently powerful to turn the entire campus to dust in a matter of seconds. I am profoundly disturbed, and hold the University and its web designers responsible, that I now find this prospect terribly attractive. I shall never forgive them for this.

Anyway. The rain has long since ceased, but the mulberry tree continues shed its accumulated drops of water, from leaf to fat leaf, and I can hear the sound it makes, like a dozen idiosyncratic clocks counting irregular seconds, hour after hour. I do enjoy it.
caillebotte_the orangerie

Pleasant Days

Overpowered by the day's bright, seductive balm, I spent an afternoon hour in luxuriant repose, expending no more energy than did the lazing cat who basked nearby, where she was toasted on one side by the sun-warmed bricks of the porch, and on the other by the rays of the now autumn-gentled sun itself. Not for us the urgent labors of the scampering squirrels and antic woodpeckers all around us, who gathered acorns for their winter larders. Our nocturnal habits left us free to let the day drift, like the soft air which barely stirred the turning leaves, like the reflective pools which, in October, lie cradled in gentle curves of the sluggish streams.

The thought crossed my mind that, in earlier times, the busy squirrels would have been gathering food for my larder as well as their own, as the acorns which puffed their cheeks would have been destined to become the squirrel meat I'd have hunted in winter's depths. I can imagine a member of the native tribes which once inhabited this ridge watching a similar scene of rodent enterprise approvingly, knowing that he was seeing a future meal being prepared for his own fire. I, of course, do not devour squirrels, but I think perhaps the cat would be pleased to do so, were she able to catch one. In fact, she prefers the smaller rodents who are now gathering smaller seeds from brown fields and the tangled brush of the forest floor. Maybe those tasty creatures are what she dreams of as she lies in the sunlight, whiskers twitching.

Still, the cat knows that I am the one who opens the cans from which she is fed. Maybe she's dreaming of me, spooning exotic salmon or beef into her bowl. Should some disaster befall the elaborate artificial food chain constructed by humans, the cat would stand a better chance of survival than would I, of course. She can revert to a wild state with great ease-- I've seen her do so, stalking some hapless creature which has come withing her view-- while I would be at great loss were I to have need of those furry little rodents, or any other wild creature, as sustenance. Though my ancestors of not too long ago would have known just how to find, slaughter, and prepare a squirrel for dinner, I have none of their craft, and am adept only at stalking the throughly domesticated package of ramen or jar of peanut butter.

Despite my considerable distance from traditional ways of life, I think perhaps that the pleasure I take in observing the activities of those species with which I share this bit of territory may be dependent on some atavistic instinct which indicates to my subconscious mind that things are going well. The plants and trees are bearing seeds and fruit, the birds and beasts are eating, the sun is warming the soil and the small wisps of cloud which appear are gathering the rain which will renew the cycle-- in short, the season is where it ought to be. That's good enough reason to take an hour in which to indulge that sense of well being which rises in my thoughts as effortlessly as the oak leaves drift earthward to become soil once again.