Friday, July 19, 2013

California Research Adventure: Days 14-18

I wasn't quite sure how I wanted to catalogue this latest iteration of my California Research Adventure. But rather than changing the title to something new, I have decided to just keep the narrative of the "California Research Adventure" going, picking up where I left off back in August 2012.

You can read those earlier posts here:
Berkeley & San Francisco (Days 1-3)
Gold Country (Days 4-6)
Pasadena/San Marino (Days 7-10)
San Diego (Days 11-13)

On Day 13.5 (sort of, if that's what we'll call the day I flew into LAX), I arrived back in Los Angeles for the first time in eleven months. Just as in August 2012, I am once again staying at the Saga Motor Hotel in Pasadena.

My study and sleeping room at the Saga Motor Hotel, Pasadena

I am here for a whole month this time(!), courtesy of a generous fellowship from the Huntington Library in nearby San Marino (a good 30 minute walk from here). In exchange for receiving this fellowship, I have agreed to walk to the Huntington Library five days a week and spend a good six to eight hours there each and every one of those days doing research in their manuscript collections. This research will make its way into my doctoral dissertation.

I have already written about the Saga Motor Hotel in last year's posts, so I won't give a very detailed description again. Suffice it to say, it is a very reasonably-priced, friendly, and comfortable place to live for the next month of my life. From my third-floor room, I can look out and see a parking lot. But really, when I step just outside of the hotel, I can see to the north of me the beautiful San Gabriel Mountains.

 A palm-lined street heading north towards the San Gabriel Mountains, Pasadena

Meanwhile, if I look just south—just a few dozen yards south—there's historic Route 66, perhaps the most famous road in the history of the U.S. West. Having just re-read John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath this spring, I can easily look out at this road and imagine the whole Joad family in their beat-up truck coming down from the eastern hills on their long journey from Oklahoma.

But besides gazing at the San Gabriel Mountains and walking up and down Route 66 looking for grub in the evenings (I've tried Mexican, Vietnamese, and Italian so far...), I don't really spend a lot of time in Pasadena. In fact, since arriving on Day 13.5 I've been spending most of time in San Marino, the "city" immediately south of Pasadena—if we dare call this quiet suburb a city.

Day 14: First day at the Huntington!

So I was actually a "reader" at the Huntington Library for a few days last year—I wrote about it, of course!—and my reader card doesn't expire until early August, so it was pretty easy for me to slip right back into the swing of things here. I woke at 7 a.m. at the Motor Hotel—I am motorless, I should say—and walked over to the communal dining room for my breakfast—which has now become a "thing" of a toasted English muffin with jam, a half-cup of black coffee, and a small orange juice. It is the perfect combination of foods! I just love it. Then, around 8 a.m., after reading my complimentary copy of USA Today and taking my last sip of coffee, I spring off down Route 66 to Allen Street, then head due south on Allen Street to San Marino. Thirty minutes later I am on the Huntington campus.

Statues, gardens, museums, and more. The Huntington Library, San Marino
I say "campus" because that's what the Huntington really is. It has a world-class library, which is where I spend most of my time, but it also has two art museums, scores of different gardens, a cafe, and much more. It was all once the land of one Henry Huntington, a very rich robber baron from early 20th century Los Angeles. Like the story with many great libraries and art museums, he made a hell of a lot of money and then put that money into buying books and paintings. I tend to resent people who make that much money—assuming that their wealth is directly derived from—stolen from—the labor of the toiling masses of exploited workers—I mean, I write labor history after all!—but at the same time, I'll never forget a colleague who warned me that "there is no grant or fellowship in existence that does not trace its origin to the wealth of some great capitalist exploiter of the working classes!" Right. Well, I am certainly grateful for this fellowship, and therefore I will keep my criticisms of wealth-hording to a minimum; at least Mr. Huntington had the kindness to share all of his wealth with future plebians such as myself.

What this all means, of course, is that when I am not researching, I have the luxury of wandering the gardens and visiting the museums. And since the library forces us to take 75 minutes off in the middle of the day for lunch—and I only use about 30 of those minutes for actual eating—that means that I get to spend about 45 minutes each day wandering the grounds of the Huntington campus.

 My standard lunch at the Huntington cafe. This is a really delicious caprese panini; they also have an equally good portabello mushroom panini. Also iced tea! Yay for lunch!!

The outdoor dining area at the Huntington cafe. 
Needless to say, the Huntington campus is a very beautiful place to be, to wander, to peripatetically think with...

View of the Botanical Conservatory with San Gabriel Mountains in the background. Huntington Library, San Marino
 Of course, the other part of this story is my research, but I won't bore you with that. It's the same as it has been since this blog began over three years ago! I'm researching Hawaiian workers in the nineteenth century. Here at the Huntington I am particularly looking at Hawaiian labor in whaling, in sugar production, and also Hawaiian migrants in California. 

So after reading dusty old manuscripts for six to eight hours each day, I usually pack up around 4 p.m. or so and begin my walk back to Route 66 in Pasadena. The 4 to 5 p.m. hour however is extremely hot and sunny, so by the time I get back to Pasadena I am sweating through all my clothes and feeling just awfully disgusting. So that's why I've been picking myself up with bubble tea at the shop right next to the hotel!

 A taro-flavored bubble tea... to remind me of Hawaiʻi, and give me comfort while I edit my dissertation.
So when I get back to the hotel, I drink my bubble tea, clean out my email inbox, and then finally motivate myself to sit down at my desk and edit dissertation chapters. This week I've been working on editing down my 100-page chapter on the sugar industry. One hundred pages is just too long for a dissertation chapter... but editing is no fun. Editing means having to accept that not every word I write is perfect. Needless to say, I am not a very good self-editor; I love my words too much!
But there I sit with my kalo bubble tea while listening to Hawaiian music on my computer, channeling my dissertation into being... almost forgetting that I'm in Pasadena rather than in Mānoa! :)

Day 16: Botanical Conservatory

So that was Monday. Then on Tuesday I did the same thing all over again. Then on Wednesday, Day 16, I decided to actually go inside the Huntington's botanical conservatory.

Inside the Botanical Conservatory. Huntington Library, San Marino
I am glad that I did so. It was beautiful, and some of the rainforest plants reminded me a lot of plants we saw in Hawaiʻi.

 Cacao. Yes, that's the source of chocolate right there, inside those orange pods.

 A pitcher plant. It is carniverous I think... it eats bugs.

 Beautiful white flowers.

 Some kind of rainforest plant, beautifully shaped.

What a plant! So beautiful.
That's a lot of plants. But we can't forget the animals, too!
A small lizard. I've seen scores of these already, at the Huntington, in Pasadena, everywhere. This is one I found on the sidewalk on my walk back to Route 66 from the Huntington. [I have no idea what kind of lizard this is. Just look at how many different kinds there are in California!]
Day 17: A Few More Garden Pics...

 Another scene of the Huntington campus, San Gabriel Mountains in the distance.

The Chinese Garden (which I found seriously disappointing... just a lot of pavilions, and not a lot of plants. The Japanese Garden is much more interesting.)

Day 18: A Visit to Mr. Huntington's Mansion

Day 18—that's today—I decided to visit Mr. Henry Huntington's old mansion, built in the 1910s and now a museum of European Art. 
Pathway to Mr. Huntington's house...

The exterior of Mr. Huntington's mansion, on the Huntington campus, San Marino

I generally take no interest in European art, just as I generally take little interest in European history. It's so overdone. It's so self-centered. But with the option of an audio-guided experience, I thought I might learn something, and so I did. Especially after our visit to Peru last summer, where we used audio guides to no end at every historic site and museum, I have taken a great liking to using audio guides. What could be better than listening to a curator speak directly to you about a particular work of art? And anyway, they usually have nifty baroque harpsichord music on in the background of the audio recordings, which somehow helps me better appreciate early modern European art.

Mr. Huntington's former library

Mr. Huntington's former drawing room. Note the Qing Dynasty porcelain jugs on both sides of the fireplace. This man was an Orientalist just like the lot of them!

The Huntington has two stunning J.M.W. Turner paintings. This small one...

...and then this large masterpiece.

A small gathering of objects reflecting 18th-century European tastes for chinoiserie (Chinese-style objects). The dresser, the two chairs, and the ceramics were all made in Europe—made to imitate Qing Dynasty-era Chinese art.

What is a Southern California mansion without a huge stained glass window in it, right?
Thank you, Mr. Huntington, for funding my research on nineteenth-century Hawaiian labor! Who knows, maybe somewhere in Mr. Huntington's vast business empire was once a Hawaiian employee or two. It's certainly within the realm of possibility. 
So conclude Days 14-18 of my California Research Adventure. By the time I fly back to New York next month I will have reached Day 39. So stay tuned! There's a lot more "research adventure" where that came from.

As for this weekend? I'll be exploring L.A. proper: starting downtown in old Spanish-era and Mexican-era Los Angeles, then working my way out through the nineteenth-century history (and steering clear of all twentieth-century history). 

Mahalo for reading!

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