Monday, October 17, 2011

Fall Foliage in California Exists! Mammoth Lakes, Eastern Sierra Nevada

I miss Fall. I miss the cool, crisp air, the hooded sweatshirts, the colors in the trees and on the ground. I miss walking to the train and kicking through little mounds of leaves. I miss Astoria Park and Central Park, literally aflame with falling red leaves in the low afternoon sun.

Fall has always felt sad and lonely to me, even though it is by far my favorite season. I am not sure why Fall makes me feel like I am falling. Maybe it's because cold is on its way and you have to wrap up inside your own skin. Maybe it's because everything around you is too beautiful to express.

Los Angeles does not have a traditional Fall. Yes, the trees turn color and the leaves fall. There is no winter in Los Angeles, and Fall basically stretches from November to March. It is a lovely time of year. But.

Fall is (in New England anyway) a few weeks of concentrated bursts of color and cold. Every day, the leaves change to some other, unimaginable, nonexistent shade until streets and parks that are usually so ordinary, are now something out of a technicolor dream. Fall jolts you out of yourself with its color. You want to hang on to these yellows, oranges and reds but you know they won't last. Fall forces you to live in the moment, as much as you can handle.

Fall in Los Angeles is slow and spotted and lacks urgency. It is beautiful in its lingering, gentle way.
But I had heard iridescent fall existed in the California Sierra Nevadas, and with our time constraints (Friday evening-Sunday night) we headed to Mammoth Lakes.

It was a five and a half hour drive each way, and worth every moment. We got to our very reasonably off-peak priced cottage around midnight. Mark immediately lit a fire and we stared at it like zombies for a good hour before going to bed.
Keith, who owns the Edelweiss Lodge, told us to head over to Rock Creek Canyon. He heard there was color around there.

on the 395 south heading to Rock Creek Canyon

We soon found ourselves on a Leaf Hunt, and part of a rabidly passionate community of people on the prowl for bursts of color.
There are roads veer turn right off the highway and into the mountains. On any given Fall day, some of these roads will have color, and others won't. People exchange information, photographs, and predict what canyons will peak on what day. Dozens of cars pull right off the highway to photograph and gaze at the swaths of color. I wanted to yell out the window, "I LOVE ALL OF YOU PEOPLE!" They are fall-crazies, just like me.
We had heard that Rock Creek Lake was lined with reds, but found the reds had already fallen. Part of the fun is exchanging information with other leaf hunters (!!) but the real adventure is your own sense of exploration.  The road through Rock Creek Canyon was lined with beautiful aspens.

Rock Creek Canyon
We parked the car on the side of the road and made our way down a thin trail to the rushing creek. We followed the water until we found a fallen tree to cross over. We carefully stepped over the slippery tree to the other side. We were on a little island of aspens, all alone, with our own window onto the snowy mountains.

Rock Creek Canyon
By the time we picked our way back up to the car, an old guy (maybe in his 70's) with a walking stick, who we had seen walking by himself earlier, miles and miles away, walked in to the aspens where we had just emerged. I hope he found this spot too. Along this road, we saw a few cars of elderly women, smiling with their cameras. I want to be just like them when I am their age.

Next, we headed to Convict Lake. The Sierra Nevada mountain range and its surrounding environs hold tons of murderous history. This lake is named after a group of escaped convicts who were hunted down at the lake. The color was mostly gone but the walk around the lake was still lovely. I had heard that it was possible to see bald eagles at the lake. I saw something giant fly across the lake and snapped a picture. It's probably not a bald eagle, I thought. I had never seen one before. I showed the picture to Mark. "You just took that? Where is he? I wanna see a bald eagle!"

Bald Eagle at Convict Lake
After a delicious beer tasting at the Mammoth Brewing Company (my favorite was the 395 double IPA), we managed to just catch the sunset at the Minaret Vista back in Mammoth Lakes. There were about 30 people up there, all set up with their tripods, maniacally running back and forth, as the sunset turned the whole sky pink in every direction.

Minaret Peaks at Mammoth Lakes
Here, I eavesdropped on a passionate conversation about "Where to find the reds." A few people said Bishop Creek was the best place to go right now. We decided to head there the next day.

on the way to Bodie

But first, a little detour to Bodie. I'd wanted to go to Bodie pretty much upon moving to California. It is a genuine Ghost Town. As this was quite the drive, and we never know how long we will be living in Southern California, we decided to make the three hour detour to Bodie. This trek deserves its own blog post, especially because we had a long talk with the ranger who LIVES there. Here is a little sneak peak at Bodie:


If you look inside the windows, there is still furniture and other signs of life
Back on the 395 south, at the exit for Virgina Lakes, dozens of cars were pulled off to the side of the road to gaze upon this:

Off the 395. I almost crashed into the divider.

The drive into Bishop Creek took a lot longer than I anticipated. We had to drive up to about 8500 feet. We didn't know where we were going. I didn't see any reds, as the photographers atop the Minaret Vista proclaimed. But we continued up the mountain. We randomly turned into a campground, drove onto a one lane road that winded up, away from the cars full of color hunters.

This is how we went about most of the weekend. On a whim. Planning nothing. Talking to people and getting advice about what to do next. It is how we like to travel-- just leave. This way. That way? OK. This is actually the way we shoulder through life, too. I was a little disappointed at the long detour, and the lack of color. Then we came upon this.

Somewhere in Bishop Creek Canyon
And everything, all the trouble, the ups and downs on the mountain, the long drives, the hunting-- all worth it, for the moment to gaze upon nature and feel like you are not seeing something real, but you are, this is Earth, this is our home, this.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

ADELE at the Greek Theatre/ Addiction

I'm in the middle of writing the second draft of my YA novel, and Adele's two albums play on a loop whenever I work on it. There's a reason I'll only listen to her for this book- I'll get to that later. I don't buy many new albums- but when she won her Grammy for best new artist, she made a sound when she acknowledged the Jonas Brothers- also in her category- an "eegh" sound that meant, "I want to fuck you," and though I find the Jonas Brothers repugnant, I was immediately smitten with Adele.
 
We got there super early. Sorry for the crap quality of these pictures- they are from Mark's cell phone.

I also love the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles. I think it's my favorite venue. It's in Griffith Park- another one of my favorite places ever. It's walking distance from both the apartments my husband and I have lived in here in LA. It's in the mountains. It's not immense the way the Hollywood Bowl is. And there is something magical about sitting under the moon and the stars, surrounded by redwoods, part of a crowd, here for live music.

Happy Lady at the Greek Theatre.

We didn't have tickets, and they were going for HUNDREDS of dollars. No thank you. We decided to take our chances a couple hours before showtime and pretty easily scored two thirty dollar tickets, excellent seats, straight from the box office. This was after a lovely day at my summer job (a non-profit horse ranch for at-risk girls) where I felt so sad thinking about leaving these wonderful girls and wondering if I'd ever have a magic summer (awesome job, lots of writing time) like this again.

This is where I work. Jealous? I won't bother with pics from my other job- AKA most depressing place on the planet


Wanda Jackson opened the show, and what a sassy broad! Loved her and her raspy, crispy voice. She covered an Amy Winehouse song and it seemed natural, like I was expecting it. Amy was also a sassy broad, just like Wanda and Adele. It hit me hard when Amy Winehouse died, not because I was a giant fan, but because she was struggling, she was trying to fight addiction and she didn't make it and when I heard she died I thought of the members of my immediate family, two alcoholics and a heroin addict and if they were going to be able to fight the demons Amy died from.

Good heavens, I love this place

I didn't know how much I wanted to see Adele until her voice came from the dark as she opened "Hometown Glory," a swooning, sad song that makes you think of home and the people there that "are the wonders of my world." She appeared after the first verse, fresh, alive, shining, healthy and we all glowed, ecstatic to see her. The crowd was a noticeably diverse one, too- Adele appeals across race and sexual orientation. She is all around lovable.

Adele chatted between every song and she is just the most endearing, confidant, self-deprecating,  relatable artist I've ever seen live. She let out a big, "HA" as she laughed at her own jokes and it reminded me of my tendency to snort whenever I think I've said something hysterical. After "I'll be Waiting," she said, "That was a rare happy song. The rest is quite depressing. Especially this one." And she sang, "When Will I See You Again?"
I actually think both songs are very sad. I'll Be Waiting is the desperation of wanting someone back, perhaps when you are on a break but you have hope it will all turn out OK in the end. Don't You Remember is after he has left, and these beautiful lines, "I know I have a fickle heart, and a bitterness and a wandering eye and a heaviness in my head, but don't you remember the reason you loved me, before?" She is who she is. Unapologetic.

When you are young, you fall in love hard and fast and unapologetically. I fell in love like mad, I fell in love with my friends, male or female, I fell in love with bands and rivers and places and objects, I fell and fell and fell and I felt so much for everything and everyone and this is what adolescence is to me- it is feeling without boundary, unadulterated emotion, unapologetic, free and without the scar tissue of adulthood, the world wide open with possibility, hope given free reign. This is being a teenager.
Do you remember when you first fell in love? Do you remember how all consuming it was? You could not think or talk about anyone or anything else. You thought you would die without that person. You wanted to swallow them whole and you wanted them to swallow you whole so you would never lose each other. You don't know yet that you can't sustain this amount of emotion forever. What I am saying, is that in Adele's voice is this unapologetic emotion. Her words do not make you feel like these are crippled love songs, but relatable ones, we have all felt this way.

It's how we all feel- sometimes sad, lonely, sometimes depressed but we get it out and it's easy to laugh about our sadness and easy to laugh in general.
"Don't you remember the reason you loved me?" Don't we all feel this way about someone? When she sings this line, I think about my brothers and how close we used to be and the demons that are eating them up, the demons that took away my father and are trying to take my brothers away from me.

The song ends and Adele points out her sequined outfit, "I tried to look Hollywood for you. I was gonna wear red lipstick but I've got a cold sore. It's quite disgusting actually. I don't know why I said that."

"Anyway," she looked out at the crowd, the trees, the mountains. "It's quite beautiful here, innit?"


"YES IT IS," I yelled back, tears in my eyes.
"My nerves are settling, I might stop talking rubbish soon." I hoped she would never stop talking rubbish.
"Did you come here with your best friend?" Adele wanted to know. "This song is about me best friend Laura. We had a falling out over lip gloss or boys or something stupid. I don't know what happened really. I toured after my first album and I couldn't stop thinking about her. I called her on New Years, crying, drunk, I miss you. And she's the love of my life now!"
Remember when your friends were the loves of your life? Remember that intensity? I loved that time. I have a couple of friends from my teen years, and that intensity either burns out or it carries you into a lifelong friendship.

The moon rose over the stage, and from our vantage point, the moon hung in the sky right over Adele.

Wish I had a decent camera for this, but here is Adele on stage under the moon
Adele explained that almost all the songs on her new album are about her ex, and that this next song gets her emotional every time she sings it. "It's alright, it's alright. I'm playing the Greek Theatre. Where the fuck is he?" We all cheered like crazy. She sang, "Go on and take it all. Don't look back at this crumbling fool."
At this point in the show I start to get worried that Adele thinks she needs heartbreak and pain in order to write best selling albums. I scribble in my notebook, don't crumble under your lonleiness, you are a lioness, and of course I am thinking of Amy Winehouse.
But the next song is "Rumor Has It." Adele explains it's about going out with her girlfriends ("the loves of my life,") and they ask her if the rumors are true that she is dating a certain older, famous man. She flips, "Fuck off! I've never even met him!" I don't need to be worried about her. She'll be fine.
Just then she explains that the next song is the one happy song on the album. "I was so excited. I can write a happy song!" Unfortunately, the guy the song is about "turned out to be SUCH a prick. The worst of them all!"  But jeez, she gets her heart broken over and over but she is still able to feel this: "I dare you to let me be your one and only. I promise I'm worth it. I know it ain't easy. Giving up your heart. I'm worth it." (Half of me is in love with her, let's quit men together! The stinkers! Half of me just wants to be best friends and boy talk.)
She sings Lovesong, a song that means a lot to Mark and I. Adele, though, "thinks of my mum when I sing this song. She's into paragliding now. Which I pay for. Anyone here paraglide? I'm not losing my mama to the sky."

Before she takes her encore ("I've only got two albums. No one should do an encore unless you're Bruce Springsteen. Quite ridiculous, aren't they?") she sings "To Make You Feel My Love" for Amy Winehouse. She asks us all to lift up our LED screens so "Amy can see them from upstairs." (I am so old- I remember when people lifted up their lighters at concerts.) Adele says what a lot of people think- that she would not be here without Amy.

To Make You Feel My Love

I think about how there are plenty of people without genius or success who suffer from addiction. I've come to think of addiction as a demon that possesses an otherwise lovely, normal and kind person and eats them alive from the inside.
And you don't know how to hate the demon but love the person. And once you learn how to both hate the demon and love the person, you don't know how to let them know that you still love them when part of what the demon wants is to make you feel like no one loves you and never will. "I could hold you for a million years, to make you feel my love. I'd go hungry, I'd go black and blue, I'd go crawling down the avenue, to make you feel my love. Nothing I wouldn't do. I'd go to the ends of the earth for you. To make you feel my love."
How do you love someone who won't let you love them? I don't know how to answer that.
I know that Al-anon tells you to CARE LESS. They tell you to FEEL LESS. You are supposed to do this to shield yourself, to keep yourself from falling apart. There is nothing you can do. You can't make this person stop drinking. You can't make them stop shooting heroin. You can't feel hope when they stop and you can't feel helpless when they start again. Al-anon tells you to steel yourself, harden yourself, feel less. Care less.
Adulthood tells you this too. When you grow up you can't fall in love suddenly and hard and without reason. You can't love with abandon. Your love needs to be measured and reasoned and practical and hard, hard so it can withstand the hurricane that is life.
This is actually something I say to myself all the time so I won't succumb to bouts of sadness: FEEL LESS. CARE LESS.
Tonight, Adele made me feel, made me think, that for this one night it was okay to CARE MORE. Care as much as I want. Do not temper my tears. Sing along with any ol' kind of emotion I feel like. This is why I am listening to her albums as I write my YA book about my Dakotas girl, a girl who wants to feel love but doesn't know where to put it, a girl who has power and energy running through her that she doesn't know what to do with, a girl who wants to be a teenager and an adult at the same time. That's how Adele makes me feel too.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

I LOVE SPECIAL AGENT DALE COOPER/ Twin Peaks on Netflix/ Twin Peaks Ending?!?!/ Twin Peaks exhibit at Clifton's Cafeteria

Laura Palmer at the Clifton's "In the Trees" Twin Peaks event (all pics are from this show)
When I was a teenager, the only place to rent or buy Twin Peaks was at Kim's Video in the West Village. When you were fifteen, in the mid 90's, living in Queens, this was quite the trek. A friend and I took the train to 42nd street, transferred through the neverending caverns to the E train, down to West Fourth Street. We didn't know where we were going. I don't know how we found Bleecker Street. I don't know how we wound our way through the labyrinth of tiny tree lined streets that emerged from wormholes so that 4th street and 10th street connected. But we found it. KIM's VIDEO and MUSIC. Inside was a world of movies and music I'd never even suspected was out there. It would become a weekly pilgrimmage. A portal to the West Village, the East Village, a place that would define my teens and early twenties. But for now, I needed a credit card to open a rental account. A credit card? What the heck is a credit card?

It took incessant begging and nagging and whining to get my parents to drive down to the WEST VILLAGE to open an account for me. ("Manhattan? The West Village? Whaaat? Are you nuts? I ain't goin in to the city!" My mother, like all Queens mother's, could think of nothing more undesirable than going to the city.)

One VHS tape at a time, one week at a time, one journey at a time, I rented TWIN PEAKS.
David Lynch's Twin Peaks

I bought blank VHS tapes at Blockbuster to copy them on our family's high-tech, state of the art VHS to VHS recorder.

I watched them over and over. My friends and I had all night TWIN PEAKS marathons. When I worked out on the treadmill in the basement, I popped in an episode of TWIN PEAKS. I was driven by its strangeness, it's quirky characters, the evil and the good, the beauty of the pacific northwest, the funky soundtrack, the dreams, the silences, the mystery and more than anything, the deep and true love for my soulmate, Special Agent Dale Cooper.

Fifteen years later, TWIN PEAKS is available to Watch Instantly on Netflix, I am living in Los Angeles, and there is a TWIN PEAKS art exhibit going on, one weekend only, at Clifton's Cafeteria, an immense downtown lunch spot made to look like a Giant Redwood Grove.

waiting on gigantic line to get into Twin Peaks thing

alllll these people wanted in- Feb 11, 2011
Watching the show again with my husband, Mark, who had never seen it before and going to this Twin Peaks event made me think about why I loved the show so much. It made me think about who I was back then and who I am now.
Hmmm, I am both 15 and 30 at once, how odd! How Twin Peaksy!

I was weird. I had blue hair, purple hair, rainbow hair, pink hair, bleached white hair. I fit in nowhere- I wasn't a punk, I wasn't normal, I wasn't a goth, I was nothing. I loved that Twin Peaks was strange because I was strange. I loved beautiful places, which I didn't get to see much of in Queens. I loved the simple little town of Twin Peaks, the waterfalls, the mill, the mountains, the forest, the owls, the Great Northern Hotel. I felt transported there.
i loved this one. totally wanted to buy it.

I wanted to be there, amongst these beautiful girls, like Shelley and Audrey, and Bobby, who I thought was the hottest fucking thing I'd ever seen.
But it was all about Special Agent Dale Cooper. He was the light of the show. He was upstanding and moral. He loved life. He devours Twin Peaks with glee in the same way I would. He stops everything- the world pauses- while he takes a sip of coffee or tastes a slice of pie.
I remember latching onto his quips of philosophy- "Nothing is so bad if you can just keep the fear from your mind," or, "when two separate events occur simultaneously pertaining to the same object of inquiry, we must always pay strict attention."
I loved everything he said to Diane, and his impulse to record, to share his every thought.  I wanted to record my thoughts, my observations, I wanted to share them too.
I wanted to be just like him. I wanted to be fearless. I wanted to love life unabashedly. I wanted to be plowed over with joy at the sight of, "DUCKS! ON A LAKE!"
classic Coop scene... love the trees!
This time around, watching Twin Peaks on Netflix, I had exactly the same love for my Special Agent. Shelly, while still pretty, was a giant idiot and I was exhausted by her. Audry and Major Briggs were my other favorite characters, something I don't remember feeling when I was fifteen.
I loved the music, Audry closing her eyes and dancing.
in the red room
Then, the last episode happened. I watched it, genuinely perplexed. Was this a new ending? One I'd never seen before?
Audrey and Ben Horne blown up? Special Agent Dale Cooper is now BOB??? No way. 
I think, every time I replayed the taped, grainy VHS episodes over and over, I think I skipped the last episode. I think I rejected it. I erased it from my memory, and I am pretty sure that's what I am going to do again.

I had a clear memory of Audrey leaving Twin Peaks with her pilot man and Special Agent Dale Cooper asking Annie to marry him on a boat on a lake. That was my ending.
I loved Dale Cooper and I wanted him to be happy.

Scarred as I was, I knew I had to watch Fire Walk With Me again. I could see, now, that Special Agent needed to be there, stuck in the Black Lodge, because he was the only one with the purity of heart enough to withstand it, to help Laura make her way to the White Lodge.
my favorite painting of the evening

also my favorite title of the evening
I think we love Twin Peaks because it feels like a dream. We believe in our dreams, that they are somehow connected to our waking life, that they are predictive, they are telling, they are real. Cooper believes that coincidence is fate and that this is a sort of magic that is real, and we believe that too. We believe that little details, tiny pleasures propel us through life. We believe people are not what they seem, we are all little labyrinths, capable of a myriad of possibilities.

I still hope I can be just like Special Agent Dale Cooper. I'm not yet, but I'm a lot closer than when I was when I was fifteen.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Grandma Prisbrey's Bottle Village

I'd only been living in LA a few months when I read about an old lady who made a village out of bottles. Almost five years later (I can't believe I've lived here for this long) Mark and I finally made the trip out to Simi Valley, one of the many places in and around Los Angeles where horse culture abounds.

Neighborhoods like these are populated with horse ranches and long, narrow swaths of land cut up from former ranches. Grandma Prisbrey lived in a trailer on one of these blocks of land and in the 1950's, began to build structures made from bottles and cement.

She was sixty years old when she started, and was the town crazy woman. When I first walk into Bottle Village, I think of my cousin Linda, a schizophrenic who has been in and out of mental institutions all her adult life. When I was 22, I moved out of my parent's house- directly across the street- into a walk-in apartment that used to belong to Linda. There were fingerpaintings on the walls and mosaics in the bathroom made from smashed glass. I remember walking around that apartment and imagining that Linda must have thought she was a great artist. I had all kinds of romantic notions of insanity then, and it just made me sad to see all the evidence of this woman's delusions. She was not a great artist; She was a deeply disturbed person. I thought a lot about the distinction between art and messy insanity. I thought about that walking into Grandma Prisbrey's Bottle Village too.

My first thought, though, is "This woman was not crazy." A few minutes later, I hear a guide telling someone, "Everyone thought Grandma Prisbrey was crazy." The guide explains that this was before recycling was cool, although I don't think that has anything to do with it. Almost the entire plot of land is covered in concrete with tiles and pieces of random debris. Grandma Prisbrey loved going to the dumpsters.

It took me awhile to even notice the bottle structures because I was so fascinated by the objects in the concrete. I thought of her finding a tiny monopoly house and pushing it into the concrete floor. This was meticulous dedication. This was a project that was very clearly worked on every day. It was the time she put into it, the thought, the planning and the careful execution, that makes this a real piece of art, as opposed to the delusion of a madwoman. 

You have to work through the Bottle Village slowly. I couldn’t even look up. There was too much to take in. Too many places to look. And a lot of guns.

There are a number of ladies, who talk of Grandma Prisbrey as if she were alive and well, that have taken over preservation attempts and banded together to form Preserve Bottle Village. They were giving little tours and I eavesdropped on as many conversations I could. 

Grandma Prisbrey married her first husband in North Dakota when she was 15 and he was 52. 

They had seven children but she left him and became a waitress and a lounge singer. After a few years she took her kids and headed to California to live with her sister.

When they were young, Grandma Prisbrey’s kids used to play in a nearby river of nuclear waste while their mom worked. It would happen slowly, but they would all eventually get sick. Four of her seven children would die of cancer in the 1960's, and Grandma Prisbrey outlived all but one of her children. The guides suggest that the Bottle Village was a form of therapy for Grandma Prisbrey and all the death around her.
I notice the trailer, see the door is open and I step inside. This is where Grandma Prisbrey lived. It looks untouched. It looks like she will come limping out of the tiny bedroom at any moment. I feel gigantic inside. Grandma Prisbrey started building her Village to house her pencil collection- she had 17,000 different pencils. I didn’t see the pencils, but their were some pens on display in her trailer.
 From Grandma Prisbrey's teeny trailer, she could see the entirety of her Bottle Village.
While I was looking at the pens, a little girl and her mom came inside the trailer. The little girl turned to her mom and said, “I don’t want to be in here.” 


Mark came out of the bedroom and told the little girl, “There are dolls back there.” The mom asked her daughter if she wanted to go see the dolls and the little girl shook her head no. I looked at Mark, and back into the bedroom, doubtful that the dolls would be anything but creepy. Inside the trailer, it felt more like Cousin Linda. Cousin Linda had a hard life too. Her husband left her for Linda's best friend. That's enough to make anyone lose their mind. Inside the trailer, Grandma Prisbrey felt just a little 
insane.
 
Inside Grandma Prisbrey’s bedroom are her seemingly untouched dolls. Did she sleep with them all around her? Did they keep her company? I stared at the dolls for a long time, wishing that the eighty year old woman who had owned them, had arranged them here, was still alive so I could talk to her. 

 The bottle village from Grandma Prisbrey's bedroom window:
I left the trailer and walked up to the first bottle structure. There were little holes where I could peek inside. I felt like I was happening upon a secret treasure.
 
 Candlesticks, a piano, books, shelves, mirrors, toys caked in dust! A very nice guide asked me if I wanted to go inside. YES, I said.


Outside, I completely lost the “crazy person” vibe I had in the trailer. Outside, among the bottles and cement, there was something beautiful everywhere you looked. And looking around inside the bottle structures felt like an adventure. The light shining through the bottles, the wind blowing around the lace, the colors, the stars-- it was all just a lovely, free, and happy explosion of imagination and creativity.
There is also just something inherently pretty about bottles and light. My college photography teacher made me feel like a lousy amateur after I brought in pictures of bottles when he announced, “I don’t know why first year photo students all take pictures of bottles. There’s really nothing to look at.” Whatever. He’s wrong. 
She would alternate the directions of the bottles in her walls. Her second husband helped her make her first bottle house, but then he died. 
In the 70’s, Grandma Prisbrey started to get attention from arty scholars and charged 25 cents for tours. At the end of every tour, she would bring her group into the piano house and play for them. Mark came in while I was staring at the piano and he started to play. It still works just fine.
 
Exterior photos of the bottle houses:
Bottle Village was severely damaged by the 1994 Northridge Earthquake. Preserve Bottle Village, the amazing group of ladies who years before raised funds to buy back the land, applied for, and received 400,000 dollars from FEMA- money set aside specifically for art damage. The mayor of Simi Valley, though, took up a personal vendetta against Bottle Village and made sure they wouldn’t get any of that money- and they didn’t. He thought Bottle Village was just a trash heap, a joke, the workings of a mad woman.
I left feeling the same way I do after the best museum experiences- drained from all the feeling and thinking and imagining. This is the sort of art I love. The kind of art that has never had anything to do with money. The kind of art that doesn’t care what other people think. The kind of art that is made for love, for healing, out of a compulsion, because you can’t stop and you don’t even know how you started or why. The kind of art that isn’t trying to be anything. That’s the art I can relate to, that most people can relate to, because it's art that appeals to the normal every day person, as all art should.
I left thinking that Grandma Prisbrey was a real artist, not a crazy lady, because she didn’t give up, and I left feeling like I shouldn’t give up either. 

Mark and I were all smiles as we drove back home through the otherworldly Simi Valley.