August 24, 2019

Shoreline Village
Downtown Long Beach from Shoreline Village, August 11, 2019 (pen and ink, water color, Inktense pencils on watercolor paper)

Sometimes it feels like maybe this one CA girl is really just one CA tourist. For example, last week’s post was all about going to the Heritage Square Museum and the one before that was about visiting the Norton Simon Museum. Maybe being a tourist of the state I was born and raised in makes sense because describing CA, past and present, is one of the key components of this blog. And if you add the descriptions of the actual art/materials/techniques I use plus the stories of my mostly CA family, you have the other two elements that comprise the whole of One California Girl. This week’s art and story will take you to another SoCal tourist attraction. But for this one you leave LA’s NE interior and head some 30 miles south to the Pacific Ocean. 

On August 11, I met up with a couple sketching groups at Shoreline Village. We all wandered this very touristy waterfront shopping and entertainment area in search of the perfect scene to sketch. Some sketched the row of colorful village shops, while others (like me) looked out to Rainbow Harbor. There is actually a merry-go-round on that boardwalk. (I don’t think anyone actually included the merry-go-round in his or her sketch. I figured we were at the ocean, so who would want to ride, or paint, a merry-go-round? I guess that I must be in the minority when it comes to entertainment at the seashore, as I find the ocean very entertaining and I am not particularizing interested in all the junk you can find at a boardwalk. I have always always thought that rides, carnival games and sticky finger food at the beach rather odd. But I digress…) A couple of people focused on a lighthouse that is across the harbor. I had hoped to the do the same, but just as I had settled in to sketch it a huge yacht pulled in and blocked my view. Oh well. It didn’t take me long to find something else to paint. In past posts I have written of my obsession with palm trees. And low and behold, across the harbor were some downtown Long Beach high rises with a a lovely row of palm trees lining the waterfront. So, even though I was initially upset that I was robbed of the light house, I was immediately calmed with the imaginings of swaying palm trees. I sat there quite happily for a couple hours and got all this down on paper.

If you were to walk around to the other side of Shoreline Village you can actually see the Port of Long Beach, the Queen Mary and the geodesic dome that was constructed for the Spruce Goose (flying  boat designed and built by Howard Hughes). It seems that the Port of Long Beach is the second largest/busiest container port in the US. The largest, and busiest, being the Port of Los Angeles which is just a little bit north of Long Beach. The Port of Long Beach is huge! And I can attest to how busy it must be by the shear number of trucks attached to containers that go to and leave that port on the 710 at all hours of the day. It’s quite unnerving to drive in and around those hulking trucks. They sure rule that road and driving there with just a car is not for the faint of heart.

More about the Queen Mary, “The Spruce Goose”/geodesic domes and other Port of Long Beach tourist attractions—past and present

The Queen Mary was originally a British Ocean Liner (built in the 1930s), but it is now moored in the Port of Long Beach. It has an onboard hotel with restaurant as well as a museum that you can tour with other tourists. I have taken the tour a couple times and I have to say that the last time I was on that ship I got seasick. Yup! And how can you get seasick on a ship that is moored to a dock in the second largest US port? Well, I remember going on a tour that took us way down below the water line and I remember feeling claustrophobic. When we finally got down to the last step of the ladder I could definitely feel the ship rock side to side ever so slightly. I was done and soon retreated upwards to the fresh ocean air of the upper deck. Once we all got up there the tour guide tried to scare everyone with stores of ghosts that haunt the Queen Mary.  But as for me I was more scared that someone might have noticed I’d left my handbag with all my money down in that hull. The thought of going back down there was just too scary for words. 

Beside the Queen Mary is a very large geodesic dome. It was originally constructed to house a very large airplane that had been built by Howard Hughes in the 1940s. The press at the time named it “The Spruce Goose.” The Spruce Goose was a prototype that was meant to be used during WWII as a kind of ship/airplane hybrid. And it was made from wood because of restrictions of the use of aluminum during the war and wood was more lightweight than other metals used at the time. Even though it was known as The Spruce Goose, it was made almost completely from birch and I guess Howard Hughes wasn’t fond of the name. The dome housed the airplane until 1991 and now if you want to see it you have to travel to McMinnville Oregon. But now that the Spruce Goose is no longer inside the dome, what is in there? I tried to look that up and couldn’t really figure it out, but I guess it has been used as a backdrop for a number of movies. In fact, I read that it was prominently featured in a recent Batman movie—only in LA, right?

If you travel a bit south from those to attractions you come to a pretty nice aquarium—the Aquarium of the Pacific. When I was a kid that area was known as the Pike. And it was home to the infamous and legendary Cyclone Racer roller coaster. The amusement zone at the Pike was built in 1902 and my dad often reminisced about the Pike and riding the Cyclone Racer (built in 1930). So, when we were old enough we too were taken to the Pike. I remember a lot of things about that place, with that giant roller coaster that had been constructed out of pilings and took you out over the ocean. But I also remember quite a number of tattoo parlors and gaming areas. My mother ushered us quickly past those “sketchy” places. I also seem to remember that she was none too keen to let her young children ride this stuff of our father’s legends. But ride it we did. I don’t remember if I thought it particularly scary at the time, but my brothers and I were scared with anticipation. I remember comparing it with a roller coaster we had been on at the boardwalk in Santa Cruz, the Big Dipper. I think we were quite impressed with the fact that we had ridden on both those rides and survived. Sadly, the Cyclone Racer was taken down in 1969. And I can’t remember when I last went to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk to ride the Big Dipper.

Finally, I think I am a hypocrite, a touristy CA hypocrite! Earlier in this story I made a snooty comment about “those people” who go on rides at the beach. And here I have just described a couple instances where I not only participated in such rides, but also fondly remember doing it. Sorry! So, here’s to being wrong and trying to set the record straight. And here’s to my dad, a man who wanted desperately to share so many fond life memories and stories with us. And this is just a guess, but I think he thought such words and deeds would give him just a touch of immortality. What do you think, my brothers? No matter, I am so glad I got to ride on the Cyclone Racer with him. Thanks dad!

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