Monday, January 12, 2015

Monday Musings (about Locke, CA)

Oh little town of Locke, CA.  A rich and sordid history, the ups and downs of an isolated community.  Built by Chinese immigrants, for themselves, a safe place to live that reminded them of home in China. 
I've been to Locke before, on a photographic field trip, but felt very inhibited about taking photos.  This is a small community, part ghost  town, part arts enclave, and a stop off for the curious.  Having lived in tourist towns myself, I'm respectful of the inhabitants and try to blend in as much as possible.  A model tourist, not an ugly Amerikan.  No hiding the fact that in this small place, I am an outsider, a lookyloo.  Couldn't help but feel I was skulking about, using their everyday lives as photographic fodder.  It was my good fortune, then, to meet some residents of the town.  A real meeting, a handshake, a conversation.

One of the residents,  Jim met my husband many years ago.  He is a photographer, and has collaborated on a book about Locke.  He is one of the several artists associated with the Moon Cafe, an cooperative made up of locals.

We came to Locke that day because we were out along the delta to photograph birds.  This area is a major migratory path for Sand Hill Cranes, geese and ducks of all sorts, the ubiquitous Coot, and many other birds.  We are not adept at wildlife photography, but we gave it a good shot (no pun intended).  My husband managed to catch a Blue Heron in flight, a beautiful image that involved a large amount of luck as well as skill.

After the birds, we were hungry.  I got on the iPhone and searched restaurants in that remote area and came up with Al the Wop's in Locke, a few miles down the road.  Practically every place in that town is an oddity and Al's did not disappoint: it is old and dark, uneven floors and low ceilings, with a full fledged barroom in the front.  Locke used to have quite a few saloons, as well as whore houses and gambling joints.

I ate delicious prawns with a crisp green salad.  Basic and good.  Restored, we wandered the town, the husband wondering if he could find his old buddy Jim.  We wandered to the neighborhood behind the commercial street, came to Jim's and hollered for him.  No answer.  Only a luxurious cat sunning itself on the porch.  How glad we were, then, to run into Jim at the Moon Cafe.

He was putting in volunteer hours to keep the place open, along with building owner and fellow artist Brock Alexander.  Brock talked about his sculpture of a woman embracing the head of the cyclops.  Still in progress, it is a piece of beauty and horror.  I would love to have it in my yard, actually, but the price tag is too steep for me at this point.  Not overpriced, mind you, just not in my league.I was struck by the vitality of the Cafe, brightly colored walls, a bathroom decked out in Abraham Lincoln memorabilia, artwork on the walls by locals.

This is, I thought, an artist's paradise.  Artists don't generally make a lot of money, but we sure can have a lot of fun.  It's playtime for grown ups.  Brock Alexander owns the joint, but runs the space as a cooperative. 

Serendipitously I happen to be reading a novel called "In the Casa Azul" about Frieda Kahlo's life and her affair with Trotsky.  This cafe seems a very Kahlo kind of place.  Full of whimsy, saturated colors, and rich history. 

And, finally, here's a fruit I brought home from Brock's tree.  Pomelo, Citrus maxima, is an original citrus fruit, with the look of a big grapefruit, native to South and Southeast Asia.  It smells heavenly.


  1. Interesting post. I had never heard of Locke but have been through a lot of sortof ghost towns. Always interesting places for those who stay and try to keep such sites alive.

  2. a beautiful, warm,respectful piece darling.......Locke is a unique and valuable find. is this blog.

  3. What a fun adventure. Thanks for sharing with us.