Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Condemned To Drift

Cedar Springs, Michigan

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A last posting in March for those curious about the denouement of my trip home. A week in Minnesota with daughter Katie, son-in-law Drew, and grandson Isaac, very enjoyable despite the rude coldness of the north. An afternoon's visit with the Superman King Father himself, Randy Moses, in Stillwater (pictured above). They had a heatwave in the Twin Cities while I was there, and for a couple of days it got up into the high 40s, at least. People were practically sunbathing.

Then back to the Great Lake State and a couple of days visiting Greg Farnum, old friend and old soul, il miglior fabbro, for certain. In grey chilly Michigan something from a Velvet Underground tune called "The Black Angel's Death Song" came to mind, a line about "the cozy brown snow of the east," which I'm sure meant something altogether different from what I was seeing. It was piles of grubby slow-melting ice shoveled around parking lot light poles--the same poles in other warmer places next to which I would ease the motor home in each new city and town for another night of blogging and a nuked dinner, the sturdy Chinese generator purring outside to power the computer then maybe the TV for a quick rerun of something stupid or a chapter of a book before sleep and more waking and walking and recording and seeing.

Things will return to normal eventually, but will that normal ever be acceptable again? Was it acceptable in the first place? The walk, and lots of other things, have wrought permanent changes. Vegetating in front of the television, overeating, promising to get exercise I never get--these things will no longer do, but I can't break out of them as long as I'm here.

I've got a little gig coming up in Grand Rapids with a company that grades standardized school tests, but my mind is already on the next walk, beginning in June, from northern Washington state down the west coast to the California-Mexico border. I'll use a bicycle this time. Drive to point B with the motor home, car, and bike. Ride the bike north to point A. Walk south to the motor home and car, drive the car back to pick up the bike, and return to the motor home. Should save lots of gas. Walmarts and roadsides again. To make it all fit within daylight and also not kill me, I'm thinking of doing only 15 miles a day. By the end I'll be able to say I walked down the west coast and cycled up it simultaneously.

More details soon.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Eastward Ho

Burnsville, Minnesota

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The drive east began a week and a half ago. The rest of the drive from the coast was increasingly colder and bleaker. After leaving California I zipped through Las Vegas, stopping at the MGM Grand Hotel for a quick rendezvous with Lady Luck, coming away an hour later 72 cents to the good. I'd venture to say that the majority of the people walking to the parking lot weren't that far ahead. My miserly gambling methodology, outlined previously in the blog, prevented me from either winning or losing big. But considering the odds I felt like a winner.

Nevada gave way to Utah, with its amazing red rocks. I got out to fill the gas tank at about 3 p.m. and it was still pretty warm, maybe in the high 50s. Heading straight north on I-15 I began to notice some snow on the mountainsides, then snow on the flat ground at the food of the mountains, then snow on the roadside, and finally snow on the shoulders, pushed back perhaps the night before by plowblades.

I went uphill for hours. Night fell and tiny specks of precipitation began to swirl around, too dry and light to be raindrops. Soon enough the road was covered with a dusting, which got packed down and became icy. Signs on the road warned of icy conditions. The darkness intensified and the specks turned into flakes and then became a blizzard. The amazing 80 mph speed limit had long since become a joke. We were crawling at between 10 and 15. Trucks were cutting serpentine tracks and cars that had come to a complete stop were unable to move forward, their spinning tires making them drift down the crown of the highway and onto the soft shoulder.

I kept moving, focusing only on the pair of tail lights about 50 feet in front of me. That's all I could see anyway. I stayed lined up behind them, hoping my tires would cut through the same tracks. The snow blew in almost horizontally. Everyone else had dropped back or somehow disappeared. There was one car behind me and one in front. For well over an hour we kept that up, my anonymous fellow travelers and I, like a small caravan of Hannibal's elephants lumbering down through the Alps toward absolute uncertainty. Everything closed in around us and nothing else mattered. I thought from time to time about the warm sandstorm blowing in Palm Springs when I'd left early in the morning. What a difference a day makes. No winter for months, then I'm right back in it, with a vengeance.

Imperceptibly except for slight fluctuations in the noise of the automatic transmission, geared down as far as it would go, I headed downhill and out of the storm. The change in elevation changed the quality of the snow, which became fine sleet and finally nothing much at all. The windshield wipers went from low to intermittent to off. I realized I could see lights from the oncoming traffic a hundred yards across the wide median. I looked in the rear view mirror and saw a car pulling up behind me in the outer lane. Things were picking up, going faster. The person in front of me hadn't changed speed, but I realized I could pass him now. A tap on the brakes to be sure I wouldn't slip and slide and I was out in the left lane and on my way into the darkness. In ten or fifteen miles the roads were clear and dry and it was back up to warp speed, Mr. Sulu. Snow plows with unusual halo-like crowns of light (some Mormon thing maybe?) drifted across the access roads on the median. Lights from houses and small towns came into view.

I stopped at a place called Nephi, named for the prophet Nephi, supposedly the author of the first two books of the Book of Mormon. Many people wonder just exactly what the Book of Mormon is. Well, I'll tell you, though I don't necessarily expect you to take my word for it. First let's talk about the Biblical Old Testament, in order to differentiate the two. The Bible is a collection of myths, lies, aphorisms, half-truths, and history refined and developed over centuries by numerous authors. Some of it is Just So stories used to explain the status quo to the simple-minded: "Daddy, where did animals come from? Daddy, why are we wandering around in the desert picking our noses? Daddy, were our people ever in charge? Mommy, why can't we have bacon like the neighbors do?" Stuff like that.

The Book of Mormon, on the other hand, was the pipe dream of a single charismatic and possibly psychotic con man in the 1820s, a dude who knew the Bible pretty well and also had access to and probably plagiarized at least one other contemporary publication purporting to explain the relationship between American Indians, Negroes, and white people, tying the destiny of the Europeans in America together with that of the Israelites. That work, by the way, was called View of the Hebrews, written by another guy named Smith, no relation. What he was smoking, Christ only knows.

Okay, no big deal really. Several other religions were invented in the U.S. during the 19th century. People were churning this stuff out the way they grind out self-help books and serial killer detective mysteries today. Spiritualism, Theosophy, Christian Science, Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventism. This was the time of what's called the Second Great Awakening, and some awakenings were weirder than others. But what's always amazed and impressed me about Joseph Smith and the Mormons is how quickly and efficiently they seem to have done their thing. Everyone has heard of that parlor game where people sit in a circle and someone whispers a sentence into the ear of the person to their right, and that person does the same, and when it gets all the way around the room the sentence has taken on a life of its own, bearing almost no resemblance to the original. Well that's how I imagine the origins of the Bible to be, for the most part--far removed from whatever thin underpinnings, factual or fanciful, there might have been at some point.

But the Book of Mormon was cooked up according to this unique recipe: take the Bible, add isolation on a farm in upstate New York, a general nationwide yearning for mumbo jumbo, some graphomania, a good ear for the cadences of the King James Version, and bingo! you've got a new religion. All written down by a guy who combined the imagination of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne with the brashness and flimflammery of the Wizard of Oz. Well, I could go on criticizing the Mormons all day, but others have been doing that more effectively than I from the beginning, even to the point of lynching Joseph Smith down in Illinois. And really, given all the other religious silliness out there, taking the Mormons too seriously or too much to task is a little like writing a PhD. dissertation comparing Bugs Bunny favorably to Sponge Bob. (I'll bet that's already being done somewhere.)

Which leaves me at the Motel 6 in Nephi, where I awoke the morning after the blizzard, scraped the ice off my windows, and hopped back on the highway, heading up to Mormon central, Salt Lake City. I got there at about noon and went straight to the Utah state capitol building, which sits high on a hill at the north end of the city. Like most capitols it was built when labor and materials were a lot cheaper than they are today, but even so very little expense seems to have been spared. Big neoclassical/federal/beaux arts style building--nice marble, nice alabaster, nice wood, nice murals. State capitols are always free and open to the public, each state's nod in the direction of transparency in government. Ironically, the day I got to the Utah state house the second floor just below the house chamber was jammed with picketers protesting a bill that had just been passed curtailing the state Freedom of Information law.

After breezing through the capitol I drove down to Temple Square. This is a huge piece of real estate on which are located various buildings essential to the Mormons, who founded this state. Brigham Young's house, the multi-story denominational headquarters, the Mormon Tabernacle, and the Mormon Temple, to name just some of them. The Temple, pictured above, is closed to all but card-carrying Mormons and open to them only by prior arrangement. But the Tabernacle, where the famous choir sings, is open to the public, and I went in. It's a domed building that from the outside, with its rounded two-story oval roof, looks like a small sports venue. Inside it's obviously a church, and a pretty old one at that. A guide suggested I go into the welcome center to look at a scale model of the Temple showing the rooms inside and all that. I did so, but was assailed at every hand by young women, calling themselves Sisters, who kept asking me if they could help me or give me any information about the Latter Day Saints. It's part of their missionary work, they explained, to serve as greeters and hostesses. They were a little annoying, but meant well. I politely declined their offers of assistance, knowing the questions I wanted to ask them wouldn't be appropriate. Like how, in two thousand fucking eleven, could anyone in the so-called First World believe any of this claptrap, much less wish to devote themselves to it? To consign themselves to a life of funny underwear and no coffee or tobacco or booze and maybe being one of several wives of some old west-style patriarch? Lord have mercy.

By the middle of the afternoon I'd left Salt Lake City and was climbing the breathtaking mountains toward Wyoming. Already the terrain was beginning to widen a bit and flatten. High elevations, to be sure, but broader and more spread out. A night in a particularly skeevy motel halfway across Wyoming, then a trip through nothing, past the site of the Teapot Dome oil field, distinguished only by a few mountainous bumps. Eastward I drove, through long stretches of steel gray skies and white undulating buffalo grass, sans buffalo. Wyoming gave way to South Dakota, with more mountains tapering to hills. I suppose they were the Black Hills, but they were white with snow. A quick stop at Wall Drug Store, another motel, this one quite nice, and a last day of driving to get to Minnesota, first crossing the Missouri and entering the prairie.

Driving east from California can be depressing in the best of times, what with the loss of mountains and desert and fascinating rock formations and the increasing flatness of things, but more so when the waiting weather is bleak and cold and hard. In some parts of the east spring is in the air, but not here. When it inevitably happens it will be more than welcome and will make the locals forget the grim Scandinavian doldrums they've been in for the previous six months. For a bit.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Number 2

Random thoughts from the road:


Saturday, March 5, 2011

One of the things that has always amused me is the lengths to which some property owners will go to keep people out. They string barbed wire atop fences and walls and in the strangest places. Places you wouldn’t think would need to be secured from invaders—parking lots filled with motorized equipment that no one but an expert would even know how to drive, shitty vacant lots overgrown with weeds, buildings no self-respecting homeless person would deign to sleep in, yards filled with things so useless that stealing them would be doing the owner a favor.

While driving east on I-10 between Los Angeles and Palm Springs I look up at an overpass and happen to notice that strung around the sign for the next exit is a garland of concertina wire, invisible from a distance and just barely discernible as I speed under the bridge. The sign is suspended on a little metal platform, like a cup holder hung on the inside of a car window. I’m puzzled at first until it hits me that someone is trying to prevent people from spraying graffiti on the sign.

This, it strikes me, is an insult to the tenacity of any graffiti artist. If you’re determined to sneak out onto a little metal grate twenty feet above speeding traffic, probably in the middle of a dark night, carrying a can of Krylon with the intention of tagging a sign that says “Mountain View Ave. ¼ Mile,” you’ll think nothing of taking along a pair of wire cutters for the barbed wire.

Speaking as someone who’s spent a year and a half climbing with relative ease over barbed wire, I can tell you that it’s not a serious deterrent for a human being, at least not if you have the time and patience. As a topper to prison walls, I can see its effectiveness. There the key is to move fast and the wire will definitely slow you down. Not to mention the fact that you probably don’t have the right tools at your disposal. Around a highway sign suspended from a bridge I suppose the stringing of barbed wire isn’t supposed to be a deterrent so much as a way for the powers that be to say, in effect, “We know what you’re doing and we don’t want you to do it any more.” Just posting a note to that effect would be cheaper and no less ineffective.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Somewhere north of where I-10 passes Palm Springs, on California Route 247 cutting through the hills and the desert and a succession of tiny towns, I see a white industrial-sized dumpster. At one end someone has painted, “GOD IS #1.” To the nonbeliever such a sentiment is silly and irrelevant. To the believer it can't help but trivialize the omniscience and omnipotence of the creator. It invites you to imagine that God, over a long, sweaty and hard-fought season, has managed to reach the semi-finals and then the finals, edging out Mammon or Satan or some other tough opponent. Had God slipped on the court, or thrown for an interception, or walked in the winning run in the bottom of the ninth, God might not be #1 after all. He might have to retreat and lick his wounds and wait till next year, spending the off season at his home in Florida with his wife and kids. And there would be something really worth writing on the edge of a dumpster, or for that matter on a road sign on an overpass: “GOD IS #2.”

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Hard Way

Los Angeles

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The freeways are relatively clear and fast-moving as I speed by the Pasadena train station in my car on the way to Griffith Park and the adjacent Forest Lawn Cemetery. This is one of the last stops on my list of sights to see before I begin to head back east on Saturday.

First I cruise through Griffith Park, past the LA Zoo and a couple of museums devoted to train travel, which don't interest me much. Down at the south end of the park is the Griffith Observatory, built in 1935 with money bequeathed by Griffith Jenkins Griffith himself. When he first tried to donate the money in 1912, the City of Los Angeles accepted it but the Park Commission didn't want it and enjoined him from making the donation. Perhaps it was because of the unfortunate incident at the hotel in Santa Monica where he shot his wife in the face while she kneeled in front of him. But hey, he'd done his time, paid his debt to society and all that. Eventually he left the money to the city in his will and they got it when he died in 1919.

The Griffith Observatory is well known--one of the biggest tourist attractions in the area. Due in part to some bad memories involving college astronomy classes, I have a bias against looking too deeply into space, but I go up anyway because the view of Mother Earth is pretty decent. The Hollywood sign comes into view as I approach the summit, and downtown LA is spread out in all its glory on this hazy day.

Inside the observatory are a number of dislays on outer space. Models of the planets and movies about the impenetrable mysteries of the universe. Blah blah blah. Little exhibits abound with captions like "Our Sun is a Star," and "The Moon is Our Closest Neighbor in Space." Things that everyone over the age of eight who isn't from the jungles of Borneo already knows. I take the elevator up to the roof and walk around, enjoying the view of the Hollywood Hills and the vastness of the metropolitan area. Now it's time to move on.

With my love of cemeteries I couldn't very well come this close to Forest Lawn without dropping in. On the north side of Griffith Park, up by the freeway, I leave the park and drive west around to the entrance of the graveyard. This is one of about a dozen branches of Forest Hills. Maybe because it's near Hollywood, the Land of Make Believe, this one is a little like a Greenfield Village for the dead. There's a full-scale replica of the Old North Church in Boston, for instance, and other chapels that resemble things like a quaint white New England country parish church. And lots of paeans to patriotism in the form of tributes to great Americans and flags and monuments to soldiers. The place is vast, appearing even more so because there's a mountain on the edge of it and it looks as if the graves will some day go all the way up it.

Many of the graves by the Old North Church are those of Armenians, who in life fill the nearby City of Glendale. Some of the markers are written entirely in the unique and interesting alphabet of that language. Just a little uphill from the church and the dead Armenians is a huge monument dedicated to George Washington. At the top, twenty feet up, stands the father of our country in his military garb. Below him on the pedestal are the busts of four generals from the Revolutionary War and below them on the plinth sit the female personifications of various virtues and travails. A couple dozen thin metal prongs stick straight up out of Washington's bare bewigged head, suggesting that he's having a bad hair day. They're intended, I suppose, to keep pigeons from sitting and shitting on him. There's a lot going on here. As I stand back to take in the entire Washington extravaganza a woman approaches me. She's wearing a blazer that makes her look like a real estate agent. As it turns out she is, sort of. She works for Forest Lawn, in sales. She hands me her card, bearing an Armenian name and stating that she's in "Advance Planning." She wonders if I need any help purchasing a final resting place. Although I'm thinking I wouldn't mind being buried here by the Old North Church in the shadow of George Washington, I tell her that I'm just visiting from out of town. We chat for a bit and she says she has relatives in the Detroit area. I tell her I'm not surprised, because there's a significant Armenian population there. Though I don't tell her so, I'm thinking she might be related to another Armenian from Michigan, Jack Kevorkian. And, coincidentally, they're in different ends of the same business.

The only drawback to Forest Hills is that it's a memorial park, so most of the grave markers are flush with the ground. Few interesting tombstones. On the plus side they don't allow artificial flowers, so lots of the bronze vases dotting the gentle slopes are filled with freshly-cut carnations, roses, and birds of paradise. A definite improvement over the weatherproof plastic and silk flowers you find in most memorial parks.

As much as I enjoy looking at the final resting places of unknown folks, I'm thinking there must be some famous people here, too. On the way out past the front gate I stop at the small drive-up building labeled "Information." I ask a well-dressed young man if he can tell me where the graves of the famous people are. He's trained to be helpful, but this is first and foremost a business--a going concern where they're trying to put bodies in the ground, not a tourist attraction. Naturally, however, there's something to be gained by having well-known people in your cemetery. It increases the cost of real estate, for one thing. The guy in the booth eyes me the way a concierge at the Hotel George V in Paris might examine an underdressed tourist who walks in off the street to ask directions to the Eiffel Tower. "We don't keep that sort of information here," he says with amiable gravity. He forces a smile as he looks at the bungee cord holding my left front fender together. "But since you've driven all the way from Michigan I suppose I could show you where you might see a few celebrities." He disappears into the small building and comes back in a few seconds with a map of the cemetery on which he has circled a particular section, a group of mausoleums. I thank him and he smiles and waves as I make a U-turn and drive back in.

Rather than simply numbering its sections, Forest Hills gives them names. No doubt they're designed to provide a sort of comfort to the living while assuring them that their loved ones are resting in a place that's strictly top of the line. Names like God's Acre, Bright Eternity, Abiding Love, Blessed Assurance, and the Vale of Peace. I drive by the Sheltering Hills and the Vale of Hope to arrive at the Courts of Remembrance, which is what they call the collection of large mausoleums my concierge has circled on the map. I park the car in front of the entrance. Almost immediately I see that he was being a little coy when he suggested there "might be" some famous dead people here. To the left of the entrance stands the tomb of none other than Bette Davis. Actually she's in there with her mother and sister, too. Just the girls. On the white marble box beneath a statue of an angel, under her name, is inscribed "She did it the hard way." I guess that refers to how she navigated her career through the straits of the rigid studio system that held actors in a sort of well-paying bondage throughout their careers. But it could mean any number of other things.

My appetite for the famous whetted by this early sighting, I proceed on through the gates of the mausoleum, where the dead are slid into drawers and stacked six high on both sides of wide walls fifty feet long forming squared enclosures. Occasionally large tombs like that of Bette Davis sit in front of the walls of bodies. Liberace and his mom and a brother are in one. I set about systematically scanning the brass plates on the three-foot square fronts of the crypts, going from top to bottom and then back up again. Each marble front has two knobs, one on each side of the nameplate, on which metal bud vases can be hung. My efforts are soon rewarded with sightings of Charles Laughton and Clyde Beatty the lion tamer. Eventually, after slowly working my way around the inside and outside of six or eight large courtyards and looking at thousands of names, I see the crypts or tombs of several more celebrities, including George Raft, Freddie Prinze, Sandra Dee, Andy Gibb, Lou Rawls, Albert Broccoli the producer of James Bond movies, heavy metal vocalist Ronnie James Dio, Isabel Sanford (Weezie on The Jeffersons), and Roy Williams the Big Mooseketeer. A pretty damn good haul, and enough for one day.

At last I wander to my car and drive slowly out, past sections called Devotion, Gentleness, Blessed Promise, and Ascending Dawn, leaving behind the legions of the dead of Los Angeles. Important and unimportant, rich and not so rich, loved and unloved, good and bad, they're all part of the quiet landscape of Forest Hills now. And like Bette Davis, they all got here the hard way.

Hammer Time

Los Angeles

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Couldn't leave the art museums alone. I decide to visit one more, the Hammer Museum on Wilshire in the Westwood section of LA. It's run by UCLA and was started and endowed substantially by the industrialist Armand Hammer. We call people "industrialists" when they make a shitload of money in businesses that involve heavy lifting or deep drilling, as differentiated from ones where papers are shuffled and maybe people make pills or microprocessors or grow food. Of course, the industrialists themselves rarely do more than shuffle papers, take pills, use microprocessors, and eat food. Considering all that, "tycoon" would probably be a better word to describe Armand Hammer, since manufacturing medications, transporting food, and indeed making stationery and pencils were all part of what made him rich. Eventually, and probably most crucially from the standpoint of the securing of his fortune, he became a major stockholder in an LA-based company called Occidental Petroleum.

Armand Hammer's name is often merged in the popular imagination with Arm & Hammer, a brand of baking soda, and some people think the two are related. In fact, Arm & Hammer Baking Soda and its logo, property of a company called Church and Dwight, date back to the 1860s, almost forty years before Armand was born. But there are some odd and intriguing connections anyway. Hammer was the son of Russian immigrants Julius and Rose Lipshitz Hammer, who came to New York City before he was born. His father was a physician who also ran a small chain of pharmacies in the Bronx. According to the usual semi-reliable sources (i.e. Wikipedia), Julius was a committed socialist. It so happens that the logo for Arm & Hammer Baking Soda, a muscular arm holding a hammer, bears a striking resemblance to what later became the symbol for the Socialist Labor Party in the United States. Julius, it is said, led a branch of the SLP to split off and become part of the Communist Party USA after the Russian Revolution. So there is a bit of an "arm and hammer" connection in Armand's background, underscored even more by his lifelong close ties to the Soviet Union. He was, in a way, their capitalist ace in the hole, and was given a sort of one-man Most Favored Nation status by the Soviets, from Lenin forward. Having made his first serious money manufacturing patent medicines and expanding the family business, Allied Drugs, he then began exporting pharmaceuticals to the Soviet Union and also selling wheat to the Russians. He went to visit the USSR in 1921 and didn't come back until 1930. While there he ran a pen and pencil factory. Apparently his father Julius also had a stationery factory concession in the USSR for quite some time. Armand's time in Russia cut short his medical career, but he did get an M.D. degree from Columbia, and styled himself "Dr. Hammer" all his life.

Armand Hammer seemed to be able to move freely between the two worlds of Russian communism and American capitalism, and made plenty of money in both spheres, hobnobbing and supporting high-placed Communists over there and Republicans over here all his life. In the end I don't suppose there was a hell of a lot of difference between the apparatuses of the two parties. Money talks, bullshit walks. Whether he was a spy for one side or the other, or just a convenient go-between, he was left pretty much alone to do his thing. Without a doubt he was a supporter, for humanitarian or political reasons or both, of the Soviet Union, and he was a supporter of the GOP, too. He was convicted of making illegal campaign contributions to Nixon, but was later pardoned by George H.W. Bush. The last and cutest thing is that late in life he took a substantial position in Church and Dwight, maker of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda, becoming one of its directors.

I wish I could say the museum is as interesting as the life of the man who founded it. I take trains and a bus out to Westwood, enjoying the ride through the heart of LA and across Beverly Hills, lured in large part by the promise that it holds the largest collection of works by Honore Daumier outside Paris, some 7,500 items. However, only a couple dozen are on display. Perhaps the rest are around somewhere, but they're not accessible. Other items in the rather small permanent collection exhibit include a nice handful of French paintings by the likes of Corot, Millet, Pisarro, and Boudin, and a few Van Goghs. Also one by Rubens entitled "Young Woman With Curly Hair." And wouldn't you know it, they've got two paintings by Rembrandt. That brings the total Rembrandts I've seen in the LA area to at least 15, which is about 5 percent of the 300 plus verified works of his in existence. Not bad, when you consider all the other major league venues that must have more than their share, including the New York Metropolitan, the Louvre, the Hermitage, and the Rijksmuseum. It's getting to the point where I expect to see a Rembrandt everywhere I go.

The rest of the displays aren't much to my liking. Because it's a university-run museum, I suppose they feel obliged to invite new young artists, and for that I applaud them. But the ones they chose were, frankly, kind of shitty. Lots of multi-media and conceptual stuff, which can be great, except that this just isn't very good. My recommendation to most of the artists in the "All Of This And Nothing" exhibition is not to quit their day jobs, if they have any. I did enjoy an unrelated display of some of the works of an Italian named Roberto Cuoghi, which included a nice statue of the Assyrian demon Pazuzu. If that name sounds familiar to movie buffs, it's because old Pazuzu figured prominently in the really awful sequel to The Exorcist, the one with Richard Burton.

On the afternoon ride back from the Hammer to Pasadena I begin to realize I'm getting tired of riding the trains. This will probably be the last time on this go round.