The Aeolian Roadtrip

Every roadtrip has a purpose, even if it has none.temecula psychic

This had one: recover a 100 year old wind up phonograph: the Aeolian.

Recover is too diversant a term, accept would be more appropriate. Its owners wished to donate it to the JohnsonArts Impermanent Collection. How could I say otherwise?

I did say otherwhen when I contracted a near-death respiratory infection, but that has no bearing toward our story, if story it be, and bearing toward south.

For south was the phonograph at an enclave called Rancho Santa Fe.

But let us start at the start, which is of course the extensive over-packing the day before. Real Persons haven’t the time for this; but in my circumstance, it allows the overnight to remember all the things wanted but which were forgotten. This is not a one carry-on bag trip, but why should it be. As Slackman was famed for saying: Gear is Good.


No rush the morning out the gate. A leisurely stop at the nearest 7-11 for a Brazilian jump juice, insipid, but still better than the joe I brew.

The usual slow traffic getting out to the 101, but clear sailing south for a gas stop just north of Paso Robles, and a double check on the oil and radiator fluid. I’d just dropped two grand on truck maintenance, but was still leery of the aberrant temperature readings on the dash gauge. Was is insufficient engine cooling, or simply a malfunctioning gauge?

Temps near the triple digits inspire the temp gauge to red-line just north of the Cuesta Grade. White Knuckle Driving.

By Pismo, the temps, and the gauge reading, had dropped. And so had the speed. Half a dozen exits closed for a car show resulted in the 405 Creep all the way to Arroyo Grande.

You just missed the lizard scurrying out that limb....

You just missed the lizard scurrying out that limb….

Pleasant motoring to Gaviota where I stopped to look over the ocean (that which I could see as the coast was gloomed in) and have a snack.

Southward. Instead of the usual route east on 126 to 118, took the Conejo Grade (temp red-lines, yikes) to 26 which morphs into 118. Plane dealing all the way to Sparr Heights and the Slackman manse.

Leapt into the pool. Slacked.

And then, The Phone Call. It’s Penningstone. Can I help him shift a spa tomorrow?

I owe him. Of course I can. Since tomorrow is Sunday, I won’t have to leave Glendale six hours ago in order to make it to Long Beach by 0900. Another option would be take the airport shuttle to Burbank, fly the 40 miles to LB, then shanks mare the two miles to Lime Street.

Shifting a spa. When I first met Penningstone, lo these many moons ago, it was in the context of a job interview. I got the billet, was impressed by his unimpressiveness, and in the first manly bonding episode, helped him move a spa from Fontana to his dump in Redlands.


While I laid out some trailer trash dim sum (cheese, pickles, crackers and gracknoids) Slackman tried to make out that he wasn’t as sick as he felt. He’d split a molar down to the root in Cabo and picked up the same respiratory infection what pole-axed me two weeks ago. We don’t even go to the same satanic temple.look over the pool at evening

We sat on the pool deck watching the sun set over the Verdugos and the temps drop for good sleeping. His leather couch could cure scrofula.


Up for excellent coffee and out the door toward Long Beach. The only time of the week in LA you can drive the freeways and be free. I’m down the 2, off the 5, hit the 710, make the 405 and up Atlantic; miles equal minutes

Of this unnatural freedom in the conduits of LA I was reminded of how much I liked the town, and of what I didn’t.  The squalor, the graffiti, the crime, the despair.  And of that which I did.  The hope, the expanse, the sheer impossibility, the might be, the poise.  You can be graced and you can be erased, you can be cursed all in the same streetside moment, but you cannot be anything but thrilled by the sun, the sky, the shot better than Lotto.  It can happen here.

Penningstone looks just as he did six months ago when he helped me after the knee replacement, which is to say horrific and overly hairy, except on the top of his head.

Today’s operation was planned with less care than my knee replacement, but with more than enough risk.

Ever shift a 7 foot by 7 foot by 3 foot 800 pound thing? I have. Once. I thought once was enough. I was wrong.

We only need to stand on it edge, put it on the dollies, wheel it 20 feet where it has to come off the dollies to get under a pipe, then horse it around a corner and up on to the truck.

We only need to stand it on edge, put it on the dollies, wheel it 20 feet where it has to come off the dollies to get under a pipe, then horse it around a corner and up on to the truck.

Penn, his pal Rob and I boodle the 3/4 of a mile east to find the donor. Yes, that’s the reason for this episode, the spa is ‘free’ needs only our good will to extract it from the back yard of a 1950’s tract house, down the narrow path to the back sidewalk, take 90 degree turn, up a step and we’re out in the alley.

Easy. If you’ve got twelve guys. We’ve got five. And two of those, the those who have the truck we’re supposedly putting the spa in/on, aren’t here.

I am trapped in that evil vortex called You Are Not In Control …. Not that any of us are truly ever in control, but at least sometimes we can pull the cord and the bus will stop.

There was no stopping the nothing that was not happening as we waited for Sam and The Truck.

Meanwhile, Rob and I hatched the multi-headed snake of just how to get the spa out of the back yard and to anywhere we could get it on a truck, if truck there be.

We were raving.

In the end, Sam, who actually lives in the place, showed with his grandson Zach, and we pretty much horsed the spa down the sidewalk, over the lip and up onto the gunnels of his beater. And that was the EASY part.

All without ruptures, that we know of....

All without ruptures, that we know of….

Not really. Once Sam and the Spa backed into Penningstone’s drive, the tip onto the dolly’s and the nip into his back 40 was straightforward.

If you are with me this far, you will know how crucial it is that I climb back up the freeways I came so as to avoid the burgeoning traffic. And so it was and so I did.

Slackman’s. Luxury. Pool deck. Nap. Views across the valley. Arguments about just why I haven’t found a job in 10 years.

Then, happily, a convivial supper.

Night. Good sleep. Good intentions for the morrow….


The destination: Rancho Santa Fe

The origin: Glendale

The route was clear, or at least so it seemed to this traveler by a glance at the map.

The 2 to the 210 to the 57 to the 71 to the 91 to the 15. Obviously.

And so the deed met the need.

hotel palomarWaypoint: Old Temecula…. or at least the residue of late 19th Century Temecula which hasn’t been subsumed by towering buildings full of lawyers and stockbrokers and aroma therapists, but all in keeping with a wild wild west sort of architectural code.

Amid the claptrap and tourist drinkeries (amidst with misters – it is already 100 degrees, and its only Monday), there are some relics. The 1909 bank building, a hotel dating from the 1920’s; none of these, however, provided the traveler with sustenance.

Devilicious did.

Got to talking with one of the owners. They started with a food truck, reckon they got the menu down; and then they moved on up to brick and mortar. 48 taps done the right way: taps on the wall, cooler behind.

devilicious tap wallResult:

The Kansas City Boulevard Kolsch – dusky, savory and nutty, more than a lager, more than a blonde, but it fatigues the palate.

The San Diego Saint Archer misses the mark, too sweet for my tastes.

The San Marcos Lost Abbey Devotion is indeed worthy of adoration, hits a solid 12 on the one-to-ten Laguitas Scale, yet billed as a blonde; sharp, crisp, and cool.

The Blue Lake Mad River Steelhead has more in its name than in its complexity, and insufficiently mature at that.

Thus braced and with a tucker of the best (and first I’ve ever had) Parmesan truffle fries and a chicken brie handwich, I again faced the triple digit temps in an attempt to see some country from the old roads.

Turned south (too soon, as was revealed) to Rainbow Canyon, which while headed in the proper direction – South by Southeast – unhappily dumped me back to the I-5.

Thus to 76 and east through Pala. Once a quiet mission outpost 200 years ago, it is today an incongruous site for a 12 story casino. The country hereabouts, and all through my penetration of north San Diego County is characterized by ambitious looking orchards casting green amid the rocky rolling terrain. And the second most unattractive, boulder strew, burned over, backwater I’ve ever seen in California.

Was it the heat? Worse than even Barstow? Feh.

RSF oasisExhausted myself getting south to Escondido. I had intended to take in the San Pasqual Battlefield, but when I made the turnoff, I was too knackered from the heat, and so veered west toward Rancho Santa Fe. Or is it Fee?

Debbie and Tom greeted me cordially, and we immediately retired to their patio and pool, into which I leapt, fortunately after emptying my pockets. These were friends of my sister, and somehow got wind that I collect antique phonographs. Thus it was that Debbie, seeking a good home for Great Grandfather Pearson, who’s instrument it was, donated it to the JohnsonArts Impermanent Collection

some artEnough of that anon. Parting with GGPa was difficult, for Debbie, who has the hoarder’s gene, but it must be stated for the record that amid the crass consumeristic bric-a-brac not quite choking their mansion there are quite a few fine antiques (she used to be a dealer) and not a few interesting objet d’art.

Tom, who is a minimalist, of course would be happy to see half or all the claptrap I Mean Vital Decorative Accents of the place put on a fast boat to Thailand, where his manufacturing facilities are. He is a bio-medical inventor and engineer. No job for me.yard claptrap

We trundle over to the coast, Encinitas, for supper. I’m given a precis on RSF. There are two. The Covenant, and the lesser outburbs. Within The Covenant, community interference with your property rights, and no parcel is less than five acres, is more severe. Outside, where lies the Deb/Tom manse, restrictions (but not cost) are fewer. And bonus rattlesnakes.

The feed: An Asian storefront serving up piping hot bowls of Mongolian BBQ that no Mongol would recognize. Chinese food crafted so as not to offend the palate of the white man. Stone IPA was spot on, however.

The Whole Foods Market once across the street is no more, too pricey even for here? So we stopped in at its clone. I love grocery stores, no matter how humble. This was anti-humble. I would work there for free just for lunch. And they had in the railroad car sized fridge a four-pack of the Ballast Point Mango Even Keel. Don’t judge a beer by its cover. Which I nabbed for my host.

Apparently the house staff had been given the day off as we had the precinct to ourselves once returned after NOT taking in the site of the infamous 1997 Heaven’s Gate Drink The Kool-aid and Ascend to The Comet House.

caveman tvTom sort of built a fire in the patio fireplace (store bought ‘logs’) and then retired to admire the plasma screen. Debbie and chatted it up for a time until she too gravitated for the shifting electrons. I stayed to take in the caveman TV, and watch the coastal murk mask Pollox and Caster overhead.


I always sleep better away from home …. except for the first night out. I reckon my demons don’t travel.

Coast gloom cools the burned, arid inland. I pack the truck and marvel at the puddle amidships. Left the cooler downspout unsealed.

The house arouses for coffee. Tom, who the day prior was shy and circumspect, opens up a bit, perhaps gladdened to see the departure of the phonograph, and me.

phonograph ready for travelI see the thing for the first time. Nice piece, I don’t have an Aeolian, a company that in the 19th Century made pianos, but expanded in the early 20th to the dotcom boom of its day, wind up noise makers. They were subsumed 1926 by Brunswick, but the phonograph here in the garage looks late 1920’s, perhaps the Aeolian label was still used for a few years after the take-over.

I don’t have time or energy to fully inspect the thing, Debbie says it played. I play it into the back of the truck, and then tighten up some hose clamps on the engine coolant system. Debbie took her last look at GGPa, and I mine of RSF. And I thought Carmel was where rich white people go after death. RSF makes Carmel look like Barstow. Adieu.

Route: north on I-5, risk the gridlock. There was none.

Offed at PCH. Wanted to take in the changes, coastwise, since lo these many years ago was introduced to Laguna Beach and beach cities strung like lei’s against the azure blue of the sea.

Strung like angry wasps were the 174 traffic signals, All Of Them Red?

Coast built over like a dowager with a yearly pass to the plastic surgeon. Who wouldn’t want to live with a view of Father Neptune. Huntington Beach like a Miami Beach, except with even more condo’s. Yet, still, vestiges remain.

The shabby (to modern eyes) mom & pop motel, the odd strand bungalow from the Roosevelt Administration, a shuttered beach hamburger shack in shingles from 1960 (yellow).

Sunset Beach, just south of the Naval Weapons Station of Seal Beach still resists gentrification. The biker bars and hot dog joints yet live, wished I wanted to start today’s tear already….

lime street looking northI tear north just south of Seal Beach to make the 405 and my destination, Lime Street Long Beach.

In Penningstone’s porch cohere there is a comely damsel painting cupboard doors. “Hello, who are you?” “I’m Kasheara.” “What are you doing here?” Dumb question. “I’m painting.”

I had been warned that Manse Penningstone was undergoing renovation. In this case, the servant’s kitchen with a complete cosmetic make-over. The Penningstones not yet advanced toward the time-saving notion that no kitchen ought have doors (or drawers). They are of Old (non) Money.

Kasheara is the factor of Rick, a 50’s something guy whose been around the block enough to know himself, the value of his labor, and of the blessings of each morning begats. Liked him. Liked Kasheara. In a way you wouldn’t think would be possible for a person of my ….. maturity.

Penningstone is not to home. His dear wife humping about just 3/4’s of a fortnight after her second hip replacement. These are my people.

Whilst borrowing Rick’s catspaw and pounding manfully on oak skids conveniently arrayed amid the backstage props, I dive into the cooler for some O’boom.

beatlesKnocking apart structures never intended to be knocked apart (skids) raises the artistic concern of Rick, and quite rightfully so as doors with fresh primer are a-drying next.

I desist toward more cooler diving under the shade of a Lime Street tree where I enjoy the beatles and other fauna amid the street curb leaf litter.

Slackingstone arrives from his quasi-job as animal shelter deity (he washing soiled crates and transports critters to shelters far afield which a no-kill policy).

We take a walk.

container villageNorth to Long Beach Boulevard to a mirage: Steelcraft.

It is a contemporary representation of how a village came to be 20, 000 years ago. No, no yurts or mud huts, but steel cargo containers. Steel cargo containers each with a different reason, arrayed around a parking lot space with some shade overhead strung between them, and picnic tables.

One container is waffles, another is burgers, another is the hygienic facilities (combination is 2341) another is pizza, another is ramen, and most importantly, THE other is refreshing beverages.

A village? One day, long ago, a sheepherder stopped to water his flock at a stream. As he rested and his flock stood in mid-stream, he looked over the country. Enough hills to quell the winter wind, water all year round, bois about for wood, undergrowth for thatch. Perhaps I could stay….

In time, other drovers came here, stayed. A cart minder thought this stream crossing might give him work. Persons having no other skill but cooking built a hut in front of which was always a fire dripping from lamb on the spit. In time, the huts became more solid, the traffic, which had learned there was sustenance, and hospitality, grew. In this way hamlets became villages became towns became city.

And here I was in a present day incarnation.

The beer wasn’t that good, the …. ‘pizza’ was abysmal, but I was hungry, the yapping dog (Penningstone wisely admonished me as I was about to chastise the ‘owner’) “This isn’t your world” annoying, as was the nearby pervert couple. I slacked. And so it was good.

We (I) had some difficulty later that evening with the manufactured, 74 channel reality obscurance. Finally we took in the beginning of the original Manchurian Candidate and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly after which it was his turn and he cues up Season 484547 of The Simpsons. Like all originally semi-entertaining modern (or semi-modren) mass marketed pack all your troubles in our own marketing bag and buy buy buy, whatever The Simpsons was, is not.

spa wedged inI sleep under the pergola, now even better supported by having the new-found spa wedged into its rafters until mosquitos Mosquitos!?? drive me indoors.


Any coffee is better than no coffee, yes? Yes, we have some banana’s, we have some drip Folger’s today.

Today is about Pedro. Meeting Lisa at The Whale. Well, my agenda.

Of the morning before this meeting, we meet with Rick, Rick gets the blue tape on drawer faces thought in need of improvement, Penningstone and I wander over topics of no import, and the dogs of the house reign.

Thirteen years.

Thirteen years separate me from Pedro and today.

Where does the time go?

We go hence, Penningstone drives, allows me to take in the construction of the replacement bridge over the south channel into the Long Beach Harbor.

And Pedro. Always gleaming in the sun to me, even in the fog. Happy memories. Can never go home.

Here’s the USS Iowa, a WWII battleship moored just west of the cruise ship terminal. Just as long as the 1100 foot container ships in and out of the port daily, half as tall amidship, but with more guns. As beautiful as anything man has created meant to deal death on as wide a scale as possible. How is it one can admire and deplore simultaneously?

The marina expanded, although the parking lot out of which I used to park and skate is still without meters.

Seventh Street between Mesa and Centre (and yes, it really is Centre, not my affectation) does have parking metres, just like the first time I attended The Whale and Ale, the first non-smoking pub in LA. If you must know, and must you should, that was 1991.

A time capsule, as if (except for that picture of the Beatles circa 1969) nothing had changed across 13 years. The English barmaid was the replacement for the Sally I knew. Not. It WAS Sally. The lunch was excellent, but as we opened all the taps for the day, the beer was a bit off.

Not so the proprietor. Andrew remembered us both, he looked good, and lied just as well as is his duty, being a publican, saying that I hadn’t changed a bit.

Maybe, sometimes, you can go home again.

We homed it back to Lime Street where in spite of the painting, I laxed it under the pergola next the spa wedged therein for a quasi-nap. Delicious.

The evenings entertainments were planned: Congregational Ale House, downtown Long Beach. Uber was over, Lyft was uplifting.

congregation hymn listThe Congregational Ale House is a temple to the faithful, conveniently located to call forth to the thirsty, to beckon the righteous, and to taunt the unbeliever ground zero the New Long Beach.

An aside. When Penningstone first moved to Long Beach, about a mile south from the downtown, the town was was on its knees: urban blight, abandoned buildings, storefront art galleries, low rents. Just the way I liked it.

Today, a renaissance. Condo’s, lofts, converted bank buildings, a redeveloped waterfront. Progress. Bah.

Old friends and new were parked on the plaza of the Congregation. Here’s Hemetman who needs two new knees (and a couple of spares) given his overload. Most significantly is Barry, the potslinger. For years ever before I knew them, he and his wife Roz were crafting unique pottery and shilling the stuff from Florida to Washington. Operating on a shoestring, they eked the existential existence of the artiste.

No more counting pennies. An inheritance has put them far above money worries, and it couldn’t happen to better people.

These are the controls to regulate pressure for the taps.

These are the controls to regulate pressure for the taps.

Better beer could happen to Penningstone and I. Not 50 paces north is the downtown emporium of Beachwood Brewing, the products of which are second to none. Due to an unfortunate set of circumstances, all my copious notes What and How have mysteriously vanished (had they ever existed). But don’t take my word for it – go. Drink. Luxuriate.

We LuxLyfted back to Lime Street and somnolence. Well deserved.


To home. How would the truck fare up the steep grade at the Cuesta north of San Luis Obispo?

Well, first, we have to get there. It’s 0930. I figure that the constipation has cleared on the 405.


Stop, creep, stop, crawl, stop, stand, crawl all the 20 plus miles between the 110 and the 10. Then, blessed be, all was as a freeway should be, with sunshine. Engine temps nominal.

Hours later, The Cuesta Grade. Red-line. White Knuckle. Reached the top of the grade, downhill all the way home. My worries are over.


Atascadero: Triple-digit temperatures outside the vehicle. Inside the vehicle, it and I come to a standstill. Stop, creep, stop, crawl, stop, stand, crawl. One of the lanes must be closed. No side-road options until Templeton when I diverged, took some back roads and came out on 46. 101 clear sailing, except that the engine temperature gauge reads one notch below Red-Line.

All the way to cooler air temperatures 40 miles from home.

Is it the gauge? I do not smell hot engine. The the fuel gauge has been reading 35% high since the Clinton Administration. Clearly, this needs seen to once home.

An home again.

Total mileage: 960

Total beers quaffed: a sufficient amount

Number of phonographs secured: 1