Tuesday, March 24, 2009

on the road to nowhere

a few weeks ago nicholas and i were taking the long way home after a late afternoon at the movies. i was driving on auburn blvd, a long and old stretch of road the sidles beside for a while business 80 which is part of the freeway system that had made auburn blvd as a major artery redundant and slow-going. the blvd is still used, big-time, but its luster has long faded and on certain stretches of it are trailer park communities and strip clubs so blighted it gives tijuana a run for sleaze.

i decided to drive home on auburn blvd because, well, there's a certain decorum found on the street. but only if you look for it. i love the old, fading, soon-to-be lost artifacts of our culture. perhaps my love of drive-ins is partly explained by this love of the soon-to-be lost culture. certainly going the way of the dodo is googie architecture, a form of vernacular building exemplified by space-age designs, starburst neon, and sloping roofs. when i was a pup googie was much more common and the most obvious example of it here in sac was in the form of an orbit gas station. most of these gast stations are gone. there's even a converted orbit gas station near my house. it was turned into a kind of hip retro burger joint called suzy's burgers. the burger place looks cool but finally when we ate there we were met with a very limited menu and all but one item was served with beef. a huge disappointment for us vegetarians and finally a waste, i think, of a cool building.

but what do i know anyway. it was dark when i was driving down auburn. then out of the corner of my eye i spotted a working, intact orbit gas station. i did a double-take and nearly drove off the road. it's the small things i guess that gives us pleasure. the roof of the gas station sloped skyward as if beckoning the mothership to pick it up and take it back home to galaxy x. time again folded upon itself as i was swept up by the details of the gas station's design. it was physical, a place to park and walk into. i could reach out and touch the roof. i could, as i fantasized when i was a kid, take a skateboard and grind my trucks on its edges.

another pleasure lately -- it seems every time i fire up the laptop i go there -- is the retro website roadside peek. i love the categories and photographs of neon sings, ghost signage, googie and vernacular architectures found within. as the editors proclaim roadside peek is 'an adventure in time.' i know from the various pics located in sac many of those icons documented are now gone, or soon to be gone. for the human measure time can only be counted by its absence. we don't know what until it is gone. the thing is for me to stop sometimes and find pleasure in the moment. learning to stop is the hard part. i was pretty psyched to see orbit, enough to tell anna about it, because it was not just an icon from a vanished era, but it is a form of pop art that happened to be intact and used still for its intended purposes of selling gas. for the moment it is rooted in the present as it is in the past as well. a vanished era is only so when there is no one to remember it.


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