Orange County Fairgrounds

Long before the end of World War II, there were offices in the Pentagon trying to decide what to do with all of the property the government had acquired over the past decade, first for the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), then the military. Five years after the war, Washington had divested itself of much of its wartime surplus real estate, but much had remained unaltered.

The state of California purchased a large portion of the Santa Ana Army Air Base, a massive wartime training facility, and apportioned part of that to become the Orange County Fairgrounds.

In the past five years, the fairgrounds have become a political football, with one governor (Schwarzenegger) arguing for their privatization, and another (Brown) urging that the land be retained by the state. The loss of the county fair would be a pity – if nothing else, county fairs are a quintessentially American event that no child should be without, and our fairs in California each seem to be better or different.

But there is no denying that the urban counties of California have left behind the agricultural endeavors that were the original basis for such events. If the Orange County Fair and others like it up and down the state are to survive the exigencies of development and fiscal austerity, they must discover anew their purpose in the future of the State, not just its past.

Sunset over the City

City of Blinding Light by twoeyes
City of Blinding Light, a photo by twoeyes on Flickr.

I spent what was probably the pivotal summer of my life – the summer of 1985 – studying Chinese in a third-floor walk-up studio apartment at Haste and Telegraph in Berkeley. The great virtue of the place was that it was west-facing and had an unobstructed view of the bay and the City.

There are a number of cities in the world where the mixture of water and skyline creates a magical effect at sunset. Hong Kong is one, and the view from Kowloon toward the Island at sunset changes the character of the city utterly. Shanghai along the river is like that, as is London.

But there is something about San Francisco viewed from the east at sunset that will be for me forever precious. And I know it is more than a view. It is a nexus in my soul where the view, the time, the place, and what I was doing all come together in a moment of such emotion and beauty that the heart aches just thinking about it.

I want to call it “love,” but it is a love that is neither the love of a spouse, the love of a child, a parent, or a brother. It is a love of life, a love that celebrates the wonderfulness of being alive, being you, and being on a journey that goes to ever more wonderful places.

(Photo credit: Tony Park)

Ships, Westwood, 1984

Ships, Westwood, 1984 by jericl cat
Ships, Westwood, 1984, a photo by jericl cat on Flickr.

There are bits of history that should never be forgotten, and high among those are the bits that went into our bellies.

My first hamburger was a quarter of a Ship Shape burger taken out from Ship’s Westwood years before McDonald’s showed its face in West Los Angeles.

The quasi-streamline-moderne architecture, the neon, and the unrepentantly retro fixtures, along with a San Francisco-style hamburger on sourdough instead of a bun, made this place iconic.

I think about it every time I drive past the intersection of Wilshire and Glendon.

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