"Be It Ever So Humble..."
2 September 2005
One of the neat things about travel is going around to various countries and looking at the historical artifacts that define a culture.
We haven't been to Italy, but could there be a more perfect historical artifact to define Italian culture than Michelangelo's David (cir. 1500)?
One might argue that any number of famous statues, bronze doors, buildings, or other historical sites might better say "Italy," but I think that David definitely ranks up there with all that is special and sacred about the Italian culture. (And note that nobody has decided to add a strategically placed figleaf, as they draped those bare breasted statues in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol. Those Italians understand art as "art" and don't look at this statue and see pornography.
Think of France and sooner or later you'll think of the Mona Lisa (1503), La Giocanda herself, the most famous painting at the Louvre.
People come from all over the world to France and when they enter the Louvre, whether they are art patrons or not, they all want to see the Mona Lisa. She may have been born in Italy, but she has become synonymous as a famous cultural icon of France. The two are inexorably intertwined.
The problem with living in a country like the United States is that often our historical artifacts date from last year. Our "historic buildings" would be considered "new" to most of the rest of the world. I think about these cultural icons whenever I make the trip from Davis to the San Francisco Bay Area.
One of the artifacts around Davis is the "historic" Milk Farm sign.
The Milk Farm was a hamburger joint that was built in Dixon in 1919 and moved to this location in 1939. At that time Dixon was known as "the dairy city," hence the name.
Its wimsical sign with the cow jumping over the moon looked out over Highway I-80 for years, inviting people to come to the restaurant. The problem is that the restaurant closed years ago, but the locals put up such a fuss about losing the sign, that the city of Dixon has left the sign standing for some 10 years now. I often wonder about people who pull off to go to the "restaurant" that is no longer there.
Dixie, the dinosaur, stood guard over a gas station along the same stretch of I-80, just a few miles from The Milk Farm.
Dixie was another local favorite, but she didn't fare quite as well as the Milk Farm sign. When it was decided that the dinosaur was a distraction to motorists and had to go, they didn't just tear it down, they moved it to a less traveled road a few miles away. Dixie now looks out on a Navy mothball fleet in Suisun Bay, and still remains as a cultural icon that defines our American culture. Our very own David.
In San Francisco, the revered cultural icon is this newly refurbished 700 lb, 7 foot tall dachshund head, one of about 50 manufactured to serve as signs for the Doggie Diner chain of fast-food hot dog restaurants, based in the Bay Area and popular in the 1960s and '70s. The restaurant closed, but one head remained, at the intersection of Sloat Blvd. and 45th Ave. (near my friend Char's house) and then it suffered damage during a storm.
"He's been compared to the Mona Lisa," said Diana Scott, of the Ocean Beach Historical Society. "We had been watching him deteriorate. We were concerned that something like this could happen."
The head was taken down and refurbished and in April of 2004, it was back up on its pole, with a new coat of paint.
"We've been pushing them since last year . . . that dog head is important to myself and a lot of people. It's like an icon," said the owner of the restaurant that replaced the Doggie Diner.
You can have your Davids and your Mona Lisas, in this country, we have our own cultural icons, which are (sadly) probably as representataive of this culture as those great works of art are to the culture of their own countries.
If you have Internet explorer, you need to see this
film about conditions at the Convention center in New Orleans. It's
PHOTO OF THE DAY
Another Peggy photo.