In early February we were in Sacramento for work – an opportunity for a Quirky Berkeley notional field trip.
It is President’s Day, which started out as Washington’s Birthday. When George Washington was eleven years old, he inherited ten slaves. By the time of his death, 317 slaves lived at Mount Vernon, including 123 owned by Washington, 40 leased from a neighbor, and 153 “dower slaves” designated for his wife Martha’s use, The father of our country owned African slaves for most of his life.
Since you asked about President’s Day, here are the basics. As a result of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act passed in 1968, our celebration of Washington’s Birthday was shifted from the fixed date of February 22 to the third Monday of February. Columbus Day, Memorial Day and Veterans Day were also moved from their traditionally designated dates. In 1980 Veterans’ Day was returned to its original November 11 date.
The subject house for our President’s Day field trip is known as the Dragon House. “Dragon House” sounds like the name of a Chinese restaurant. It is n fact a fairly popular name for a Chinese restaurant at that. But, no, this is a house, a home, with a dragon dominating the tile art encompassing the house.
The central image is a large mosaic of a dragon fighting a white tiger, In Buddhist/Taoist scripture, the tiger is an of-the-ground aggressor, while the dragon is a wise animal of the sky. Kind of a yin and yang thing, producing a cosmic balance. But let’s not get carried away with a story. “There is no theme. Just a fantasy,” says the house owner.
It is in the Curtis Park neighborhood. Atlas Obscura, usually spot-on reliable, describes the neighborhood has an “otherwise drab suburban landscape.” Wow – wrong! It is NOT suburban. It is NOT drab. Perhaps not quirky, but good architecture from the 30s and 40s, trees, a nice place.
In 2013, the Sacramento Appraisal Blog interviewed Steve Gage, the son of Raymond Gage. artist who led the work on the house
According to the son, Ray Gage began taught art at Elk Grove High School from 1959. until 1975.
After retiring, he met Carolyn Belamore with whom he started a stained glass business. From that came the Dragon House, owned by Carolyn and her husband Dave.
It took around three years to finish, starting in 1985. Each tile is handmade. Carolyn and Gage made them. Dave did a lot of the stained glass work.
Ray Gage died in 2003. Sixteen years later, his dragon and tiger and vision live on, pristine and inspirational.
Some details from the big picture:
Best downspout ever – or at least in a long time.
Tucked in around the front of the house and in the verge / devil’s strip / sidewalk strip, are intricate examples of what I have called “small worlds.” The small worlds of Berkeley tend to be largely random, but not here. Each is planned, staged, and maintained.
I try not to overthink – perhaps to a fault – but I am all about Dostoyevsky from Notes from Underground: “To think too much is a disease.”
That said – quirky in Berkeley is usually either something big or a small world with little things, but usually not both. Here we have both, and both done to a grand scale with great quirk. Gnomes, gargoyles, grotesques, artificial flowers, and gift shop ceramic kitsch abound, along with handmade tiles and landscape sculptures. The production values are very high, something else that we don’t worry about all that much in Berkeley.
Sacramento and I go way back. I arrived there for the first time on a Greyhound bus late at night in March 1972. I had had a rough time in Nevada getting myself to Sacramento and I had a rough time in Sacramento. I was glad to leave early the next morning.
I lived there, at 24th and O, for about six months in 1975. It was a sometimes lonely but really good time. I’m there all the time now.
And it’s good to know that yes there is quirk.
I called out for my friend to have him look at the draft. He came from his quarters with two folded pieces of clothing.
“I though you should be reminded of this. Fifty years ago RIGHT NOW you played electric bass in a little high school garage folk-rock band. This is what you wore:”
“Yes. I’m so glad that you held on to these. Don’t you remember what Jackson Browne taught us – don’t confront me with my failures, I had not forgotten them. I indeed wore these clothes fifty years ago. Forgive my sins, just as You forgave Peter’s denial and those who crucified You. Count not my transgressions, but, rather, my tears of repentance. Remember not my iniquities, but, more especially, my sorrow for the offenses I have committed.”
He waved me off. “Enough prayer for forgiveness. Be proud of who you were dude. Just be glad I didn’t save the leisure suits.”
He was grasping at straws. “There were no leisure suits to save and I think you know that. I did not partake in the Golden Age of Polyester.”
He wouldn’t quit. “I don’t know. I kind of think I remember you in a Full Cleveland – baby blue leisure suit with white belt and shoes. A cool name honoring a cultural wasteland of a city.”
Me: “Nope. Nope. Nope.”
He was done. “Never be ashamed of what you were. Or are.”
“Good advice. What do you think of the Dragon House post?