Summer…I’m home

by Jan Wheatcroft

I will not be taking a big trip this summer. I just know that my body can’t take all that walking for two months throughout cities and up and downstairs. I guess one just has to listen to the messages the body sends. I think more than 10 hours sitting in an airplane might also be difficult to deal with.

It makes me really sad to know I won’t be seeing my good friends in London and Sweden and exploring at least one new place with my good friend, Frances. I just have to get stronger. I plan to go to Portland, Oregon with a friend, for a quick and easy four-day trip. The flight is short and we have reserved a very comfortable hotel. This is a first outing for me, so I will just go and improvise from there. But there is a whole summer ahead of me and many possibilities and choices of things to do.

I can drive and I can walk, albeit slower than before, so I can get around. It is nice to think of all the things I can enjoy right here in my own area.

I love to browse bookstores, and there is a good, big one in Pasadena as well as our local store. I find a good bookstore so satisfying. Time seems to disappear as I explore the magazines, mysteries, cookbooks and art books. But this is not anything new or different to what I do during the year.

Because it is summer there is so much fresh food available, and our local farmer’s markets are great places to visit and shop. Of course Claremont has one of the best markets around. Many farmers sell certified organic produce from nearby farms. Fresh local honey, good olive oil, fish, breads, meat, plants and flowers can be found and good local music can be heard as well.  Flea markets are full of hidden treasures and they’re also a great deal of fun.

There is at least one good flea market each weekend in the Los Angeles area. The only drawback for me is the summer heat, as most ofthe markets are open air at schools or other large, flat areas where vendors can park, set up and sell. When it’s too hot one can always explore large antique emporiums filled with various vendors’ booths.

Museums are also good places to visit and exhibits change often. Locally, we have quite a few college museums, and the AMOCA ceramic museum in Pomona is a great place to view interesting ceramic exhibitions. Los Angeles also has quite a few “weird” small museums.

On Hollywood Blvd there is the Museum of  Death and The Museum of Broken Relationships. In Pasadena one can find The Bunny Museum and on Venice Blvd. in Culver City one can find The Museum of Jurassic Technology. Los Angeles has a rich and varied art life. Even on the streets one can find murals and graffiti with an exploding creative expression for everyone to enjoy. I have been told it is possible to have a self-guided tour of the subway system and view the artwork at the various stations. I plan to do this over the summer, and to see some of the city’s street murals. Another interesting place to visit is a cemetery.

As a kid I remember my grandparents always took visitors from New York to Forest Lawn Cemetery in LA. Everyone loved visiting the different chapels and mausoleums. A few years back some friends took me to a cemetery in Hollywood where my great uncle is buried in a big, white shrine. As we walked around, taking it all in, I happened to look down and realized I was standing on my grandmother’s grave. A further search revealed the entire side of my father’s family was under my feet (having been moved from wherever they had originally been buried).

If I want to “travel” locally I can go to foreign restaurants, which offer meals from a wide variety of places; some of which I have already been and still some  beckon me to come and visit. More and more chefs are willing to be creative in these places, using old techniques and new, fresh foods. The farmer’s markets help this experimentation along as they increase their offerings. Also, more chefs are now willing to forage for ingredients once rejected as not worth using. I remember learning from Greek friends how and where to gather dandelion and mustard greens from the hills around this area to make wonderful vegetable side dishes and salads. It’s fun to try a few different restaurants from the same country, such as Thai or Vietnamese, and compare what is preferred regionally and why.

Summer is also a great time to expand your artistic knowledge and abilities. All sorts of classes are offered both privately and through various schools. One need not worry about getting grades: it’s all about learning new tricks, finding out what you like to do, what you may be good at, and just having fun experimenting. Using the computer or by word of mouth will get you much of the information you will need to go “exploring.”

Although it is hot, traveling to local beaches might not be worth a second thought due to heavy traffic and overcrowding. Perhaps it might be worth investigating whether the Colleges have summertime passes for people to use at their pools. We used to do this when our kids were small. If one is creative one can design a pleasant summertime experience close to home.

For me it isn’t as exciting as destinations where the world just opens up its doors and welcomes you to an older place that you may not have visited before. In the meantime I will work at getting stronger and hopefully the world will welcome me back next year.


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