Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Can Your Yahoo! Do That?

When I used to visit my grandfather when I was a kid, I'd usually make my way to what we called "the way, way back yard" where he had a couple of sheds. One housed his model trains, the other his tools and projects. In the latter were also old boxes of magazines, mostly LIFE magazine, and I could sit in the musty heat for hours and skim through them, reading articles and looking at pictures. It was fun to find out what a reviewer thought of an old movie when it was new, or how some old music I currently liked was being discussed as some sort of cultural sea-change upon its release twenty years earlier. Wars long over were being reported on in the now, and it was like time travel for me. Advertisements were great fun to look at as well, the styles, designs and fashions once cutting edge now laughable, viewed from the future.

Grandpa died and I was always sorry I didn't make it out to California for the funeral. I would've liked to have visited the old house on Del Mar Avenue one more time, with its brick driveway and deep lot, the odd yet pleasant smell when you walked in the front door, the furniture, like those magazine ads, passed by time and now somehow retro-chic. And I probably would've requested of my aunt, who was managing his affairs after he passed, that I be able to lug those boxes of LIFE magazines back home, to sit in my garage or attic, waiting to be pored over again from time to time, an archeological treasure for an amateur historian.

I haven't been back to Chula Vista in years, but I've seen Grandpa's old house on Google Street Views. The brick driveway has been replaced by concrete, the ivy that made up his front yard replaced by grass. The big swinging gate he made at the end of the driveway, leading to the first part of his three-sectioned back yard, is gone. Someone replaced the louvre windows in the front of the house. The roof, once peppered with white rocks in some 1960s architect's idea of stylish cool, is now just a regular roof. From the aerial view, it's obvious that someone didn't like the idea of three small back yards divided by banana trees and lattice work, and has turned it into a deep lot of grass. I think they even cut down the weeping willow that stood near the two sheds in the way, way back.

But the LIFE magazines are now in my hands again, thanks to Google. The only thing missing is the musty smell of California dirt and dust in the late afternoon of a dimly lit shed. And the sound of Grandpa yelling my name from the first or second back yard to come wash up for dinner.

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