Our so-called neighborhood growing up was a single street, elbow shaped, running along the northern end of what I considered to be an actual neighborhood in the classical sense of the word. The streets to the south of us were filled with music streaming from open screen doors, cars unloading wood or produce or new furniture and dogs continuously barking. This world that bordered our own seemed filled with life. For the one year we were allowed to participate in the Girl Scouts we weren’t allowed to go there to sell cookies which seemed to me proof that this neighboring world was both terrifyingly real and wonderful. Our street by comparison was extremely quiet and almost void of people out-of-doors with the exception of Ned, the lawn fanatic that insisted on watering his perfect plot of golf course-like grass aside from the aid of a standard sprinkler system. The houses were built circa the later part of the 1950’s with large back yards for living out of sight which the inhabitants of our street took full advantage of.
For my sister and I, in spite of the bordering neighborhoods, the petty theft from bins of small plastic toys lining the back wall of the Party Emporium, the corner liquor store and its tub of Red Vines for a nickel, or the local Blockbuster and all the scary, weird and wonderful movies that lurked the white laminate aisles, it was never quite enough. Our imaginations were bucking against the restraints of our tiny world as it existed at the ages of 8 and 9 and the binds were getting tighter at a rapid rate. It was the summer during this time that we first employed the concept of lateral thinking in action.
We hopped on our bikes.
Every weekend we would ride down to the end of our street, toss our helmets into a bush making sure we were not within the realms of our mother’s omnipotent gaze and ride off. For miles and miles, across freeways and through dried-up river beds, we would continue until we found something strange, something that reflected how we felt ourselves; out-of-place. I am pleased to say that we found a lot, some places are still in our lives today. The very cool part is how our early adventures perpetuated a lifelong obsession with exploring worlds very much within reach. We travel to other places a lot (Sarah is in Paris right now actually) and have lived for years in other states but it is still the abandoned buildings, unattended construction sites, used bookstores, funky coffee shops and strange belts of nature that exist up against railway tracks and along the city lines of Southern California that effect me the most. Recently I went exploring around the old military barracks still standing along the eastern side of The Great Park in Irvine.
The sun was setting and I found myself surrounded by dilapidated row housing and crumbling asphalt. Every time I took a step on the dirt it would give way and a creature would rustle in terror. Somehow I managed to maneuver around the barbed wire enough to take a few pictures which, now that I don’t look for walls to paint on, is my singular artistic outlet in situations like this.
I left as it was getting dark, filled with a very familiar thrill.