This post and its embrace of kitsch does not represent a complete defeat for me, but I admit – I have surrendered to the charm and allure of kitsch. I have evolved. As a Nobel laureate once wrote, I can change, I swear.
There is kitsch and there is camp – camp being kitsch with irony, more or less. But I have said before that Quirky Berkeley is a big tent operation. No more apologia or defenses of kitsch. Bring it on!
Presented here – a collection of Kitsch In Berkeley yards, a combination plate, a melange, a medley in the key of kitsch.
We started above with, as the Angels would say, a kinda big Statue of Liberty seen from Sutter a block south of the Northbrae tunnel to Solano. It is more or less visible depending on the severity of the most recent pruning. Highbrow kitsch to start with.
Turning to other yards, there is a glorious collection in the front yard of 2428 McGee.
Time for close-ups. Are you ready? Yes!
A fourth cow!
A tire planter, sometimes known as a Mississippi planter. No plants though. And not splayed. It is the second one I have seen in Berkeley.
The first one I saw was in Marcia Donahue’s garden. The tire is splayed. It is more than a little quirky.
The yard at 1521 Oregon and the house itself – kitsch masterpieces.
The curb is pure Old School Berkeley – re-use / give away.
Oh these colors!
Which inevitably brings to mind the movie Up and the ADHD dog Dug, a golden retriever. It in turn calls to mind the “Attention deficit… ooh, shiny!” meme. Or it could call to mind the difficulty that “squirrel” presents to those with Italian as a first language.
They’ve got it all – bright, unexpected colors, kitsch statuary, and a peace sign.
The yard at 2202 Spaulding is trending great in the kitsch department. Here are the hints of greatness which may follow:
The yard at 1341 Addison is where whirligigs meet a bear.
Whirligigs are also known as pinwheels, buzzers, comic weather-vanes, gee-haws, spinners, whirlybirds, or just plain whirlies. The word “whyrlegyge” was first recorded in 1440.
As we walked up to 1615 Ward Street, we were spotted. In criminal cant, we were made.
Two seconds after the photo was taken all little-dog hell broke loose. Right after John Storey said that they looked pretty mellow.
At 1615 Ward, a glorious collection of statuary:
Leaving 1615, a Perfect and Magic Quirky Berkeley moment happened.
Bruce “Brewman” Bjerke and Debbie Segal stopped their car as they drove by. Bruce owns East Bay Audio Repair. Debbie works at the Mad Monk Media Center.
The dashboard of their car was superb:
A unicorn on the dash! Bruce’s window was down. I admired the car.
They asked what we were doing, in a nice way. I told them I do a blog called Quirky Berkeley. She smiled – “You are Quirky Berkeley?” Yes. I think that she thought I looked a little straight for the gig. She isn’t the first person.
She was on her way to work at Mad Monk, which she told me was a quirky place to work. I know, I have done two posts on Mark Bulwinkle’s metal and tile work there. She suggested that we look at her yard a few houses west, at 1609 Ward. We did, and this is what we saw:
A lighthouse with Mother Mary! Perhaps this is the sun pouring down like honey on Our Lady of the Harbor?
A stringed instrument, sort of. No visible frets. A resonator?
And the main event – PONIES!
At the next stop – 1411 Blake – there was more Perfect Quirky Berkeley Magic.
As it turns out, the installation in front of the house is not all that kitschy.
This is what the installation looked like in February, 2013, when I first saw and photographed it. On the basis of the frog, I classified it as kitsch and went back with John Storey to shoot it. But – the frog isn’t there anymore!
Frogs come and frogs go.But there we were. It is clearly quirky, so we shot it, frog or not frog. It isn’t enough for its own post, so here it lives.
There was a surprise under an aluminum awning just off the ground in front.
It is a spirit house, sort of, made by Denise Hingle, the woman of the house. She wasn’t home. Dang!
Abe Schlingski was painting the non-structural but Tudor-evoking beams. He is a solver of problems, not a simple painter. He describes his approach to anything that is broken or not working well. He said that he becomes at one with the problem. Zen! He grokked Quirky Berkeley right away. “Like Weird New Jersey?” Exactly.
Abe suggested we knock on the door and talk with Jim – Webster James Hingle, owner, husband of Denise.
We talked about his yard and his house (built in 1940, one of about eight small Tudors on the north side of Blake), and his block. He has lived in the house since 1997. He finds the string of Tudors to be too much the same; I lean the other way.
He walks Berkeley. We compared notes on quirky finds. He has made a compilation video of portable toilets / Porta Potties encountered on walks on our streets and paths. I offered to post it on Quirky Berkeley. He sent me the link. It is HERE. I am struggling to embed it. I will continue with the struggle.
Once again – I am not alone! Quirky magic indeed.
The last piece of kitsch in this combination is on Sonoma Street.
You see, what happened was this. We drove to 1764 Sonoma because in January 2013 when I walked the block there were angels like this in front of 1764.
They aren’t there any more. But we were on the block and we looked around.
It’s hard to miss this in front of 1767 Sonoma.
I think that these are called Bonshō (梵鐘) or Buddhist bells, also known as tsurigane (釣り鐘, hanging bells) or ōgane (大鐘, great bells). They are used to summon the monks to prayer and to demarcate periods of time. Rather than containing a clapper, bonshō are struck from the outside, using either a handheld mallet or a beam suspended on ropes.
They are a zen instrument. They are not kitsch but I found them on a kitsch expedition and where else would I put them?
There was some honest-to-God kitsch on the block, at 1779 Sonoma. Either I missed it when I walked the block four years ago or it has popped up since then. I suspect the latter.
So there you have it – a full embrace of kitsch. Joseph Conrad’s words “in the destructive element immerse” have stuck with me since I read Lord Jim in Mr. Lee’s English class in 11th grade. That might be overthinking my newly found acceptance of kitsch, but I am now welcoming kitsch with open arms.
I showed the draft post to my friend. He took me to his quarters to show me a new find.
He had found the Margaret Keene print in an abandoned brick storefront on a recent excursion to North San Juan in Nevada County. San Juan was named because it reminded someone of San Juan de Ulúa near Veracruz. When the post office opened in 1857 “North” was added to distinguish it from San Juan Bautista. He was pretty sure that the Keene worked with his Danish modern decor.
“One man’s kitsch is another man’s vintage. I don’t dig labels.”
He continued. “And you don’t give me credit – I told you about the bonshō on Sonoma. I was out for an evening drive and saw it and told you about it.”
Okay, he was right. I hadn’t made a note. I thought I was finding it. I was wrong.
Okay, we’re on the same page. What about the post?