The traffic from the mall into the photographic store salesmen Mark and I, and photographic printer Michelle worked was so slow we arranged merchandise countless times, gossiped about people walking through the mall, and took more than our allotted breaks so that by day’s end all were ready to go home. Walking out to our cars the blue Pacific Ocean glistened under the 1995 fall sunshine, a sweet aroma infiltrated the air, and the poinsettia bushes where in bloom which up until Alfred and I moved to Ventura, California in 1985 thought only available at Christmas time at your favorite grocery but here they grow outdoors all year. Isn’t nature wonderful! With the overpowering urge to go for a long drive alone I bid co-workers farewell will see you in the morning and settle into my 1980 Volvo DL heading north, northeast of the mall onto N. Mills Road about one mile to Telegraph to N. Victoria and a right onto Foothill Road.
It is still warm out so the driver’s side window is down, the radio is off, and nothing but the sound of rushing air as I accelerate. Spanish style stucco homes give way to row upon row of orchards filled with oranges, lemons and avocados as if an invisible wall were passed through, on one side the tangles of city life and the other scents of orchards that float upon the air and into the car, aaaahhhh. My destination, which is just a few miles from Ventura, is Santa Paula dubbed the Citrus Capital of the world because of its rich top soil and Mediterranean-like climate. Santa Paula was one of the early centers of California’s enormous petroleum industry long since peaked however, the oil producers here are still a significant employer. The landscape is now painted in amber as the sun nears the horizon; I could drive endlessly through this country, comfort food for the soul.
A few minutes pass and I decide something from the radio is right so, with eyes glued to the road, I lean in and tune the radio to the local comedy radio station and a good choice as the show on was relating a story that sounded familiar. Soon, it became clear that the history of the United States was being mocked yet not in an offense way. Within minutes I was laughing to the lampooning of Chris Columbus and an affair with Queen Isabella of Spain? Some of the voices I connected to cartoons and beer commercials so I kept listening as the show now started on the Revolutionary War, George Washington’s obsession on he looks in his powdered wig, and how, “the skinny kid with a pipe,” Norman Rockwell, helped boost troop numbers to fool the British by painting a false back drop. Fortunately, no one is behind as I accelerate, decelerate, and accelerate due to lack of concentration on driving because of the hilarious antics coming through my speakers. Who is this? I now committed to listen to the end and get the facts to look up and buy a copy!
I continue down Foothill Road bisecting the foothills of nearby Sulphur Mountain and the orchards to my right, any idea of having worked this day is gone. Santa Paula is largely citrus producing farmland but has seen its share of stardom starting in 1911 when Gaston Melies brought his Star Film Company north from Texas also, Alan Alda’s West Wing character was from here, portions of the television series The Thornbirds and movie Disorganized Crime were filmed here, notable actors Steve Mcqueen and Dana Elcar called Santa Paula home but none of this matters as I drove into town on North Peck Road then onto East Santa Paula Street sightseeing through town with a left turn here a right there until I end up at a convenience store somewhere on East Harvard Blvd where I park. The parody of America history continues with the crossing of the Delaware and Washington having to choose which boat, Donald Duck or Popeye, he will use to cross, asks his second in command how the wig looks, and picks out outrageously priced sandwiches from a boatman. George settles on the boat Popeye! I will never be able to look at that famous picture the same way, don’t ya know! Within ten minutes of parking the show ended so I waited to discover the comedian and then, “you have just been listening to Stan Freberg’s History of the United States, Volume 1: The Early Years conceived, written, and recorded in 1958,” the announcer proclaimed in a matter of fact tone. Wow that old, I thought not having ever heard of Stan Freberg but made sure to make note to investigate and hope to buy the record, oops compact disc.
I sat there in my 1980 Volvo DL absorbing the show, the drive, and the soft ice cream cone I bought in the convenience store. By now the last rays of sunlight were sinking into the Pacific as I merge onto Highway 126, the Santa Paula Freeway, and head west to Ventura and home just 5 miles down the road. What a wonderful evening!
© Jim Pykonen, February 2013