Saturday, January 31, 2015

WPA Era Post Offices Ventura and Oxnard

WPA Era Post Offices

675 E. Santa Clara St.
Ventura, CA

1961 N. C St.
Oxnard, CA

When I started this blog, this is really the stuff that I wanted to put into it. 

If you were paying attention in your US History Class, then you heard about the Great Depression of the 1930's. The short version is this-if you want to get your country out of a depression, you put everyone to work. Governments have been doing this forever, and it's important to note yet again-the government jump starts the economy by putting as many people as possible doing whatever work they do. 

One of my favorite examples I discovered inside the Hoover Dam when the family was on a 'Dam Trip' a few years back (my kids loved that part of the trip-"Can we go to the dam gift shop?""I want some dam souviners""Look at the dam clock,""What's the dam tempature?" My wife wanted to go to the "Dam car," but the kids and I explained that we didn't have a "Dam car," that those were inside the dam. At least I think that's what she meant). Inside the Hoover Dam, where almost no one can see it, is some really amazing tile work and terrazzo floors, because the people who did those things needed work, too. Thanks to Jennifer Roberts and her Flickr account for this excellent picture from inside the Dam.

And another example is the murals that ended up inside many post offices and libraries. Ventura and Oxnard both have examples of this work. 

This sign from the Ventura Post Office explains as well as I can. The pictures were taken with my beat up iPhone 4, the same one I use for my "Pictures of Ventura Churches" blog.

I really should get the iPhone 6 if I'm going to do all this picture taking.

I found a website that lists all the WPA Post Offices in California.

Oxnard Post Office

I knew the Oxnard Post Office was from the same era, and I was expecting to see the same type of murals when I went in, but there was only one, and it really wasn't very interesting.

The craftsmanship of the building, however, was impressive, with lots of wood and tile. I also noticed that what appears to be a second floor from the outside is actually just a row of high windows, and I imagine that the idea there was for cooling in the time before air conditioning. Hot air rises, and would be blown out by the afternoon winds of Oxnard.

February 5, 2015
Santa Barbara Post Office
836 Anacapa Street
Santa Barbara, CA

I initially wrote this because the Oxnard and Ventura Post Offices reminded me of the Post Offices of Bell, Maywood and Huntington Park, where I grew up. All of those cities grew around the turn of the 20th Century, and were all hit hard by the Depression, which necessitated Roosevelt's WPA building projects.
The Santa Barbara Post Office is of the same era, but reflects the Mission Style that all of the cities' public buildings display, including the great City Hall. In the lobby, though, everything is Art Deco, including the six plaster reliefs, entitled "Transportation of the Mall." The doors and tables have some great craftsmanship, and it was worth the few minutes that I stopped.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Drum Fan Deli (Pa Lee's Liquor)

Drum Fan Deli
(Also known as Pa Lee's Liquor)
4160 Donlon Ave.
Ventura CA  93003

I'm not sure for how long, but for a while now there've been signs on Market Street for the Drum Fan Deli's $1 taco, and I've been meaning to swing in. I do have one memory when it was only Pa Lee's Liquor store, and that is while I was sitting at the corner, waiting for the light to change. A young guy ran out of the store, holding a bottle, and an old, asian man, who I assume was Pa Lee, was running out after him yelling something. The light changed, and I drove on.

Okay, back to the Drum Fan. According to some reviewer on Yelp, Pa Lee has headed off to the big liquor store in the sky, and his son has taken over the business, adding the deli.

Concerning tacos. Honestly, it would have to be pretty bad for me to say something negative about a $1 taco. If it has meat and sits on a tortilla, it's probably worth a buck. With that in mind, the bar is set pretty low for the price point.

I walked  in, and it was a s small liquor with a clean deli counter. There was a list of sandwiches, on the side, all reasonably priced. But it was the tacos that brought me in, and that's what I ordered. They have two kinds, a beef barbacoa and a pulled pork. I opted for two of each. I also noticed my favorite corn chips, those from Taco Works (made in San Luis Obispo, and featuring paprika as their 'secret ingredient'), and I picked up a bag and a Dr. Pepper to wash it all down. 

The order was up pretty quick, and I started with the barbacoa. Moist and tender, with plenty of meat and fresh onions and cilantro, along with a mild salsa, it wasn't bad, and certainly worth a dollar.

Then, I had the pulled pork. That was really good! Made in the Korean style, it was both sweet and spicy, with a generous amount of meat on the tortilla. A really pleasant surprise, and the type of place I like to find for this blog!

I'd have paid twice as much for the tacos and not given it a second thought.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Marie Shannon Confections, Ventura

27 S. Chestnut St.
Ventura CA 93001

After walking to the post office with my son on a cold winter's eve, I was going to go to Starbucks, but remembered this place and thought that we'd pop in. 

A few words about the post office, though. Originally built in the 1930's, the exterior was remodeled in the 60's and isn't anything special. The inside, though, is filled with WPA/TRAP murals by Santa Barbara artist Gordon Grant. When I was a small child in the 60's, I remember that many post offices had these types of murals-which, upon further reflection, means only Maywood and Bell, which both had post offices of a similar vintage. Anyway, it's nice to see WPA stuff around still, and the murals in this post office, (as well as the post office in Oxnard), are maintained well. That Roosevelt guy may have been on to something.

Maria Shannon Confections is across from the Ventura Theatre, and is open for breakfast, which looks healthy, tasty and reasonably priced. But on this evening, I was looking for someplace to sit and thaw before the walk home. My son had the hot chocolate, while I plunked down a couple of bucks for a medium coffee. They use Caribbean Roast, which is okay. I also had a chocolate chip cookie, which was very good when dipped in the coffee.

The display case was full of pastries, and under ordinary circumstances, I might have tried something else. But one of the reasons I was out for a walk is that I'm feeling a bit tubby from the amount of junk food that I've been eating for the holidays. There was also a book of custom cake creations that looked quite good.

They have ample outdoor seating, which I wanted no part of on a cold evening, and plenty of comfortable indoor seating as well. They also have free wi-fi.

I'll get back in for breakfast and write more.

And now, for more!

I wrote the initial post on  Dec. 28, and on Jan. 4, 2015, I had a chance to go back for breakfast. Since it was Sunday, though, I wasn't carrying my phone-I try not to carry my phone on Sundays, with the rationale that it's family day and I don't need my phone if I'm with my family. It doesn't always work that way, but it sounds good.

My daughter went with the Egg White Spinach Feta Scramble with toast and fresh orange juice. I was about to order empanadas, but the Breakfast Plate, (scrambled eggs, potatoes, bacon and toast) walked by just as I was about to order, and I went with that. We sat outside in the slightly chilly patio area, and I was thankful that the coffee was very hot. 

Though not large portions, they were adequate for the price, (about $25 for everything, with tip) and they weren't bad. The patio area was nice, though it seemed like they were slow to pick up after other diners, it wasn't crowded so it wasn't an issue. My daughter rated her scramble as excellent (I took a bit and thought it was good), and the dining space was nice. 

I don't think I'll make a special trip, but I wouldn't be opposed to eating here again. Sorry I didn't bring my my phone, but there are ample pix on the Marie Shannon Confections website, and they're pretty accurate.

Monday, January 5, 2015

DIY Slide Guitar

DIY Slide Guitar

My Board
Let's start with this. I'm not very handy. I'm not creative and I'm not particularly patient, which really is why I'll never be a good craftsman. Still, every now and then I get a bug up my butt, and try to build something. I get mixed results, (though if I remember to give myself enough time, things generally come out okay), and I do have to remember that everything takes me twice as long as it would if I were good at stuff.

That being said, I do also attempt to repair my various musical instruments, and find that when I slow down and take my time, I can do little things. So to try something like build from scratch, I'm really moving into unfamiliar territory. 

Right! Cut once
But it's the New Year, and time for some new challenges. So while looking at stuff on Youtube, I came across this, a DIY Electric Slide Guitar. I had an extra pickup, so I thought, okay, let's give it a shot. If you want to know how to make one, watch the video. It does have all the parts and measurements. Here, I'm just documenting what I did.

Wrong! Measure twice....
The first problem came on my trip to Lowe's-I didn't like any of the 2 x 4's they had, and so, I thought, what the heck, let's go with a 1 x 4. Everything else I was able to find. 

The bottom
Trying to remember to measure twice and drill once, I still made assorted mistakes on my drilling. I reminded myself that this was a practice run, and if it worked, I could do it all again. 

One String!
It seemed easy on the video, but I couldn't get anywhere close to in tune, and had to keep adding washers and nails to what I was doing, taking the strings off and putting them back on-breaking a few in the process. I opted for 5 strings instead of six, too-I broke the only high E string I had handy, so that's not going to happen for now.

Attached to tuner
After about three hours of work, the garage got too cold to work in, and I put everything down. I also think the temps were having an effect on the strings as well.

I did get the brackets attached and the E string added, creating a 'Diddley Bo,' but since I couldn't feel my hands, I couldn't feel the strings cutting my fingers as I was trying to tighten it enough to tune.

More. Note string cutting into wood
The next afternoon, I came out again. I was pretty comfortable in my string anchor placement, but as I finished installing all five, the troubles really began. I couldn't keep any of them tight enough for the tuning screws to be effective. There's a lot of tension on the strings, and the higher, lighter strings would start cutting into the wood, making them impossible to tune. I'd get it tuned to a note, then put my glass slide (an old spice bottle), put a little pressure, and it would be out of tune again.

I didn't solder the pick-up to the output jack, because I hadn't figured out where I wanted to attach the jack. And in the video, the pick-up was just balanced on a wood screw, which seemed very unstable. I was still trying to figure out how I wanted to do that, so for the sound checks, I just rested the leads from the pick-up on the jack, and plugged it into my amp. Though there was a slight feedback hum, it actually worked okay, as the video should show.

Sound Check!
Trying to tune
Bad knots
Again and again, though, I was trying to increase the tension on the strings so that I could tune it, and again and again, I kept getting foiled. I tried to think of way to create stability, and added washers, which gave me the idea of next time drilling through the wood and and then using the ball side to anchor with washers. Then I started to add some nails I had in the garage to act as a bridge. That actually worked, but I think that I needed more tension on the strings to begin with.

I've got the idea, though, so I think with a better piece of wood, and adding more tension from the start, it should work.

There's a better lumber place here in town, so I might try them, or I think I have some old lumber from when the house was remodeled. I might use that. I didn't connect the pick-up permanently so that I can use it on my next try.

Tail Stabilization with nails

Semi Complete

Tuning Screws


It's been a week since I 'finished', and I went back out again yesterday. I played with it a bit, and still can't get it in tune with itself. It's not anymore out of tune, though, so I think with a little more work, and the mods I mentioned above, the next one might come out as more than a curiosity.