Mugology: The Pie Hole

There are few problems finding a great burrito, an excellent burger, or a decent pizza in LA: just ask a local and they’ll point you in the right direction. Good savory pies, though, are another matter.

I bought this mug to remind myself that the nearest veggie pie is just a few blocks from Vroman’s bookstore – or the DTLA Arts district.

The reverse says “Happiness: one cup at a time.”

Highway Six, Unvisited

Old US 6, north of Los Angeles

Hovering near the top of my bucket list are a series of road trips I want to take that retrace the old US highway system. I even have a dream about writing a guidebook on the subject.

Of course, traveling Route 66 is on there, but there are at least a dozen overlooked byways that failed to inspire popular songs yet cut America into revealing cross-sections. One of those journeys is US Route 6, the Grand Army of the Republic Highway running from Provincetown, MA to Long Beach, CA.

Almost as much as any of our heritage roads, Route 6 captured my imagination. The short stretch of the old highway that I have driven so far – from San Fernando, California to Palmdale, California – evoked an epiphany. If you want to drive through America, do it on an Interstate. But if you want to drive to America, do it on a road less – or no longer much – traveled. The history, culture, and beauty wantonly bypassed by the brilliant but artless Interstate system begs for rediscovery, appreciation, and chronicling. Plus, the food is better, and the people more real.

Planning has begun. More as it evolves.

Entering Phase V

When I was twenty years old, I wanted to be a scholar. I wanted to read, to study, to write, to live a life of the mind like the professors and authors I admired. I wanted to teach, to learn, and to be a part of the grand conversations that form the intellectual fabric of our civilization.

Yet I was plagued by the unemployment rate among twentysomethings with doctorates, by the fact that at the end of ten years of higher education lay no reasonable assurance of a job, just the prospect of being another fish in a pool of Doctors of Philosophy fighting over adjunct professorships in obscure colleges. Overeducated and underemployed, I would spend years seeking a place in academia, overeducated and underemployed, and perhaps for life.

It would be nice to say that I cast all of these fears aside, knuckled down, pushed ahead with my dream, and built a respectable career as an historian/political scientist. But it would be a lie. Lacking the requisite confidence and courage, I ran away from my dream.

So I cooked up a new one: I would go into business. It was the early 1980s, after all, and our heroes were boardroom cowboys. I carried a briefcase, I read the Wall Street Journal, I was a 6’7″ version of Alex P. Keaton.  I went to a decent business school, got a job with the firm of an old family friend, hooked myself into China as its economic boom began, and held on for dear life.

And here I am, 37 years later, and every day, the dreams I left behind come back with greater urgency. My wife and son can tell. They sit me down and remind me that life is short. They tell me I don’t need to put off my dreams any longer. And I can no longer hide from the truth in their words.  It is time time for the dreams to rise again.

We all look at our lives in different ways. I see mine have gone in four phases. First I was a child, then a student, then I built a career, then I built a family. Now it is phase five. Now I chase my dreams. In 16 days the to-do list gets set aside, and I begin living my life by my bucket list.

Shadow of the Inferno

Wildfire morning. The flames are a dozen miles away, but here downwind, you wouldn’t know it. The smell of burning brush hangs heavily in the air and the cars are covered with ash. We’re not worried for ourselves: that dozen miles is all flat, and there is a six mile wide fire break in the form of vast berry fields twixt the flames and our town.

But we worry for our friends in the hills, and for the kids in our scout troop who are going through the stress of evacuation.

We toy with the idea of cancelling our family campout, but decide to go ahead. A good thing, too: two of our Navy families being evacuated out of Point Mugu can’t find housing nearby for the night, so the campground is the best alternative.

And, frankly, everyone needs a little distraction to relieve the stress, so where better than in the minutiae of setting up camp?

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