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Thursday, December 7, 2017

Southern California Vol. 4: Bubblegum and Wildman Warriors

When you think of Southern California, most of the time people are talking about Los Angeles, San Diego and Orange County.  The thing is, if you break the state up into thirds, you find that places like Morro Bay, San Luis Obispo and even San Simeon fall into or very close to the southern third of the state.  What I'm saying is that California is huge and so when I include today's column under the "Southern California" heading, I'm stretching that term to it's maximum.  

In 2016, my family and I get this itch to go on a road trip. We'd done a huge international trip two years before and we'd been kind of laying low since then.  At the spur of the moment, I asked for a couple of days off work and my wife booked a trip up to visit the Hearst Castle.  We love that part of our state and rarely get up there.

While planning though, we decided that if we were going to head up for an extended weekend, we ought to hit up any and all of the little weird places along the way that we could.  One of the must-see stops for us was in San Luis Obispo.

Imagine you're chewing gum, it's completely flavorless, your jaw is tired and you just want to get rid of it.  You look around and there's not a trashcan in sight.  Being the upstanding individual you are, you decide not to just spit it out on the sidewalk where someone else may step in it.  What do you do?

Well, luckily you're in San Luis Obispo, so you head down to Higuera Street and once you pass Broad St. heading North, you turn down Bubblegum Alley.

People have been depositing their gum on the walls of the alley since at least 1940.  Some say it started before that.  Either way, there are literally millions of pieces.  Some people chewed multiple sticks and stretched theirs out to spell messages or names.  Others took up the challenge to place their piece as high as they could.  There are even business cards and playing cards stuck to the wall.  It's pretty amazing in a colorfully disgusting way.  

The bonus is that it's in an area of SLO that's pretty trendy and pricey.  Nothing like an alley full of chewed up bubblegum to bring you back down to Earth as you pass hipster bars and coffee shops.  Also, it's great when you can get that "I can't believe you brought me here" look from your daughter.

 Which brings us to the werewolf part of this post.  I could do a whole piece on the Hearst Castle and I may someday.  For those who don't know, William Randolph Hearst was a newspaper magnate who bought a ton of property and built a gigantic house dubbed Hearst Castle.  He's an interesting man and the house itself is amazing but in the interest of just keeping it weird, I want to just show one or two things that stood out on the tour.

As we were being led through the grounds, our tour guide pointed out this magnificent door that had been imported from Europe.  

It's the kind of thing you'd expect to see on a cathedral.  As I looked closer though, I noticed something about the two figures guarding either side of the entrance.  They looked particularly hairy.

These are wildman guardians.  They are Spanish in origin but the guide didn't know much else about them.  The thing about Hearst Castle is it's so far up in foothills above the ocean that it makes sense that a pair of wild men would be guarding the place.  I'd like to tell you there were more odd monster statues and artwork around the place but that would be a lie. Most everything was tasteful and normal.  

Well, except for this picture of a group of demons with faces for genitals pulling a baby out of a sleeping man's mouth.

But otherwise, yeah... tasteful and normal. 

Speaking of tasteful, if you haven't picked up The Wash already I'd love for you to check it out.  Sure, there's some murder in it and yes, there is a talking coyote and the possibility that there may be some demonic activity somewhere in the 250 pages, so it's not exactly normal but I'd argue that it's pretty tasteful overall.  Of course my tastes may not be the same as yours.

See you next time!


Lisanne Harrington said...

Hearst Castle is such a monument to pomposity and opulence! It's been a really long time since I've been there (80s?) that I don't remember the demons or wild men. Mostly what I remember is all the gold.

My folks live in SLO county (Paso Robles, about 30 minutes away from SLO proper) but I never heard about Bubblegum Alley. Next time I'm up there and we go to Costco in SLO, I'll have to check it out.

Cary said...

It's pretty cool actually. We spent a lot of time trying to figure out how so many people got their gum up high.

As for Hearst Castle, you're spot on. I've been twice. The first time was years ago when my daughter was probably four or five. I've never been much of one for touring these big mansions but I remember being struck by the fact that he not only had his own movie theater, he also had it set up so that if his guests would like a dog to pet and sit with them during the film, he would provide them with one. That's insane.