Ventura and Oxnard, the city it bleeds into towards the southeast, are
by volume mostly agricultural. Along the 101 Freeway that bisects them
is a succession of malls and outlet centers, and using only this artery
one could supply all the needs of life without ever thinking of these
cities as anything other than highway sprawl. You could miss entirely
the old downtown of Ventura, that runs along Main Street for a few
blocks near the restored mission, or the tiny beach community where I
live, “on the lanes”, as the older residents say — the little lanes
like mine that run off Pierpont Avenue and dead-end at the sea.
But if you take the surface roads that lead from my lane to the backs
of the shopping centers and malls, you drive through a landscape of
cultivated fields, some of which run down almost to the state beaches,
and grow strawberries and mushrooms and many other green things which I
do not recognize.
Downtown and the lanes, like these open fields, seem frozen in a
time-warp, images of the California coast towns long ago. It can't
last. Already one sees industrial parks and condo developments sitting
preposterously isolated on the edges of the farmland. In our lifetimes,
probably, the fields will give way entirely to such things, as they
have over the course of the last century in Los Angeles and in the San
One navigates this dreamscape with a sense of loss already. One wants
to photograph it all, just to prove it really exists — to be able to
prove it once existed. The bright hand-painted signs at the fruit stands
near where Telephone Road becomes a dirt lane, minutes from the great
outlet malls of Oxnard, brood in melancholy gaiety.
They will not be preserved, like the Olivas Adobe, which sits surreally
on the edge of the Olivas Park Golf Course, testifying unconvincingly
to the age of the Spanish land grants. The tiny beach shacks on
Weymouth Lane where I live, where lower middle-class families could
once live within spitting distance of the Golden Coast, will not
survive another generation.
Ventura is a strange place, culturally arid, hard to love for any
obvious reasons — but the quiet doom that invests all of it makes it
very sweet . . . charms the spirit.