Hearst Castle

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Since Highway 1 was closed at Big Sur we couldn’t make the drive up the Central Coast. Instead we used Morro Bay as a base/hub for driving up 1 and then coming back.

Our main stop was Hearst Castle—another place I hadn’t been to since I was in 4th grade. We just did the standard tour since it was kind of our first time and we felt that seeing the main rooms and getting the official introduction made the most sense. The quality of the tour seems to depend a lot on the guide, thankfully Carson, our guide, was great. Just the right level of detail into how things were collected and manufactured while maintaining the humor and interest that’s naturally part of the celebrity nature of the place.

Against my expectations I really liked it. Heart Castle hits a lot of art stuff I’m typically allergic to. Rich collectors with a collection which is branded by the collectors’ names. Collections displayed as per the collector’s wishes yet masquerading as a museum. Mixing and matching things from all to create a generic sense of culture. But it works here.

This is partly because Hearst’s collecting is very much specific to his taste and doesn’t look like anything else I’ve seen. Especially his fascination with ceilings and choir lofts and the way that he reuses and repurposes them. That the lofts become wainscotting or panelling and the ceilings are reengineered so they both fit rooms and have the structural strength to support chandeliers turns everything into something new.

Hearst uses his collection so rather than being museum pieces for display only, they have an additional life with how they functioned in the castle. Wonderful furniture pieces are repurposed as storage for cigarettes or condiments and while the new function is different, the object has a different life to it. Even the “fakery” works. It’s not exactly making replicas or faking the original objects but rather creating brand new things out of the replicas.

Nothing’s trying to be “authentic.” It’s all just raw material to be remixed into something new and inspired by the originals. This is fun to see and it’s enjoyable to see it as a result of raiding Europe for a change.

A lot of times—specifically with orientalism and primitivism—we see artwork or ideas get raided from non-white countries and turned into Western, “high” art which conjures up an all-look-same myth about the non-Western source cultures. In situations where the audience doesn’t know better that appropriation is indeed something I’m allergic to. Here though, where we know the cultures that are being sampled, the appropriation and remixing is actually fun to see and, rather than being annoyed at the lack of context, I can enjoy seeing the shoe be on the other foot.

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But we also drove a bit further and checked out some of the coast. And took a walk to see the Elephant Seals.

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Hank Aaron

Hank Aaron

The funny thing about missing Hank Aaron in while I was getting Kevin Mitchell’s autograph was that I had absolutely nothing for him to sign anyway. I mean I guess I could have gotten it on my Giants-branded baseball but that would’ve been all kinds of wrong. It was only after getting all the Old Timers signatures on hotel stationery and having filled up the Giants ball that I managed to talk my mom into buying a brand-new National League baseball.

Getting that ball probably cursed my autograph hunting for that trip since it was the transition between being satisfied at getting most of what I brought signed to wanting more more and MORE. Hank Aaron became my goal for the rest of that weekend. I came close a few times but repeatedly failed. When it became clear that I wasn’t going to get his signature I started to sorry about “wasting” my baseball and wanted to get it signed by anyone.

This is about the point where my mom yanked me out of the hotel and walked me down to the Philadelphia Mint. The walk was long enough to cool down and get a talk—not a lecture, just a talk—about obsession and how easy it is to get greedy and lose track of things. I’d been ecstatic just getting Donell Nixon’s signature only a day or so earlier. Now I was all upset about wasting a new baseball because I had no more room on the previous one. And the Mint was cool I also collected coins (naturally) and so seeing how they were made and buying a proof set cheered me up.

Anyway, two years later my mom accompanied me to a card show, purchased a Hank Aaron baseball, and managed to hide it from me both throughout the show and until Christmas. I’d sort of forgotten about the Philadelphia experience but she noticed that I’d learned my lesson and figured that I’d put enough legwork in trying to get Aaron’s autograph that I deserved one.

Morro Bay

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We really liked Morro Bay. Since there’s no proper beach, the town, while full of motels for tourists, didn’t feel touristy. Very very different than Santa Barbara. Instead it was small and sleepy with a working fishing industry and a ton of other animals in the bay taking advantage of the seafood as well. We got to eat at small fish restaurants where the proprietor knows the fishermen bringing in the good. It reminded us of how cool Santa Cruz and Monterey used to be with their small funky shops and weird rabbit warren malls before all the chains moved in.

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Mailday from @mjpmke

A great mailday from Matt Prigge (@mjpmke) which manages to hit a bunch of different projects I’m working on. Matt’s a Brewers fan whose All-time Brewers project seemed daunting until I found out about his Brewers Autograph Project. He also has some cool history writing about Milwaukee.

This is one of those rare cards which satisfies two projects at once. This fills a hole in my 1974 Giants but it’s also a record of the Padres aborted move to Washington DC. I’ve been sort of working on a moves/expansion project for a while now and the 1974 Washington cards are a key part of that.

I’m also working on a project of Stanford Alumni. I’ve not gone after any of the cards from after I stopped collecting in 1994 so this stack is fantastic. It’s a good mix of players like Sprague and Hinch who I collected (and chased autographs) when I was still a kid and players like Lowrie and Storen who I’m older than and would’ve felt really weird about trying to get their signatures.

Some Junk Wax Giants, most of which I’m pretty sure I don’t have. 1988 Donruss is one of those sets which, as nostalgia-inducing as it is, looks worse and worse each year. 1990 Donruss and 1990 Fleer though are growing on me. I love the Topps Gold Righetti card and that Upper Deck Triple Crown subset is also brand new to me.

And a half dozen holiday cards. I have to admit that these confuse me greatly. Googling suggests this was a Walmart exclusive set released around Christmastime. The idea of replacing the smoke effect in 2016 Topps with snowflakes is mighty weird. Baseball is, after all, a summer game so the resulting look was never going to make sense.

For some reason though I find myself kind of liking these. I don’t know, maybe the holiday tackarama hits a different sort of feel for me. Yes I think they’re stupid but they’re kind of gloriously self-aware and embracing of the stupidity. The only thing that could have made things better was replacing all the caps with Santa hats. Maybe that’s what we’ll get this winter.

Anyway thanks Matt! I’ve got a handful of 1975s I need to send your way in return.

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One of the baseball card tweeps who I talk with a lot is @junkwaxtwins. He’s a Minnesota fan living in Texas who’s especially interested in miscuts and printing errors. I sent him a small package of miscuts and Minnesota oddballs a while ago and I just received a small package from him as part of his celebration about hitting the 2000 followers mark on Twitter.

This package consisted of two parts. Part one was for me.

Highlights here are the wonderful combination of a Donruss Elite card with a Sportflics card. And also Bo Jackson as an Angel. My brain can’t grok that at all.

Donruss Elite was one of the first major chase cards in the hobby. Yes we had things like the Griffey Jr Upper Deck Rookie or the Billy Ripken error, but the idea of inserting a special, super-hard-to-find card was somewhat novel. We’d had the 1990 Upper Deck Reggie Jackson signatures the previous year but that was in packs that most of us kids couldn’t really afford. 1991 Donruss though? Totally affordable.

Still, I’ve never seen an Elite card before. Given what the hobby would turn into this is a wonderfully plain and simple card. No fancy card stock, just foil stamping and number out of 10,000.* It’s a very fun reminder of a simpler time.

*With the focus on 1:1 to 1:250 on chase cards to day this is a laughably huge run.

The Giants cards are all fun too. Always enjoyable to get a Lincecum. The Brandon Crawford rookie is great. The Jonathan Sanchez confuses me immensely since it’s so thick. As someone who puts cards into binders I still don’t know what to do with these thick cards.

Part two however was for my sons.

They were excited to see the pack and couldn’t wait for me to open it. I dutifully explained to them that it was a wax pack made of paper that had been stuck together and opened it slowly so they could see how it all worked.

The first thing we had to do was carefully unstick the gum from one of the cards. No damage. They were intrigued by the gum but did not try. I did. It turns to dust and never becomes chewable. I had to rinse my mouth out.

The cards though are pretty cool. Both boys love the Christopher Reeve Superman films and while they prefer the first one, they appreciate that I prefer the second. Of the twelve in the pack I like the one of the villains escaping the Phantom Zone and the one of Clark Kent getting his revenge on the asshole in the diner.

In a bit of a minor miracle the boys managed to split these into two piles of six without fighting. More predictably they promptly badgered me for binder pages so they could properly sort them.

It’s funny. Once I started collecting baseball cards I never considered any other sports—let alone non-sport cards like these. I never saw the point. I get it more now although I daresay that it only works when the movie cards are of something from pop culture which has achieved staying power. In the same way that it’s been fun to introduce my kids to Superman the Motion Picture, seeing and having these cards is another aspect of pop culture we can bond over.

Now I need to figure out what to do with the blank card the I’m supposed to “decorate” and sign and return. It’s a little small for my kids to draw on* but we’ll figure something out.

*My eldest did make a special 1:1 custom for Peter as a result of being on the receiving end of a large mailing of Giants cards.

Bach, Beethoven, Bob Brenly

Bach, Beethoven, Bob Brenly

My mom thought this would be a fun tshirt. So she made all the drawings and letrasetted the text and got a handful of them printed. And she sent one to Bob Brenly. Brenly was one of those players who Giants fans loved despite a somewhat mediocre career. Yes, we all loved Will Clark too, but Giants fans have always seemed to have favorites which the rest of the country doesn’t understand.

When my mom made this shirt Brenly had retired and was a broadcaster for the Cubs. This was his first go-round as a broadcaster before he came back as a Giants coach. So I’m guessing she mailed the shirt to either the Cubs of WGN. Anyway, like a month or so after she mailed the package, she got a random phone call. Turns out it was Bob Brenly calling to personally thank her for the shirt. She said we’d swing by the broadcaster’s elevator at Candlestick the next time the Cubs were in town.

Bob Brenly 1985 Topps

So we did. I brought my favorite Bob Brenly card. It’s pretty beat up but I only had maybe a couple dozen 1985 Topps cards. He was confused until he saw our shirts (we had to unzip our jackets what with Candlestick being Candlestick). That reveal was pretty fun and he signed my card despite having a ton of stuff in his arms. The signature is kind of wonky because I had to hold the card for him.

Steve Stone 1981 Donruss

Since this was the Cubs broadcasting team I also combed through my albums looking for a Steve Stone card. I actually had a couple but went with the 1981 Donruss Cy Young Award one because I figured the award reminder was a nice touch. It’s definitely not the nicest card on purely esthetic terms (it’s actually in the mix for the worst card I’ve gotten autographed) but there’s something charming about it.

I also didn’t ask for the personalization. I’m not sure if Stone does this all the time but it was the first time I’d gotten a personalized autograph. I have mixed feelings. It’s not like I was going to sell this so it’s cool that this is clearly an in-person signature with a story behind it. At the same time, my name is covering his face and that’s kind of annoying.

And yes, I could’ve tried to get Harry Caray’s autograph as well but I wasn’t into autographs from non-players at the time.

Santa Barbara

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We were spending our weekend in Morro Bay but on the way there from Northridge we stopped off in Santa Barbara. I’d not made it this far south during my 4th Grade California Mission trip (we only gone as far south as San Luis Obispo) so in addition to walking on the Pier we checked out the Mission.

We were both a little apprehensive since we remembered the ways that the (now-discontinued) Mission curriculum pretty much glossed over anything concerning the Indians. So we were pleasantly surprised at how much of the tour and museum focused on the Chumash who both built and lived in the Mission. It’s fantastic to see the artisans named and associated with the specific things they built in the Mission. And it’s important that the museum also points out when and how those items incorporate Chumash designs.

It’s also great to see descriptions of how materials and instructors came from Mexico as part of the Mission construction. It’s always important to be reminded about how global trade and craft has always been.

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