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The Mill Valley Modesty Preservation Society, Special Selection


Shortly after my deep infatuation with Art Deco (a prerequisite obsession for anyone with eyes), I curiously disappeared into dogmatic reverence for minimalistic modernism. I liked my architecture stripped raw. Concrete. Glass. Steel. Mies. van. de. Rohe.

I stayed in a right-angle coma for over a year. Eventually, rock reminded me that there's more, more, more, more. Reverence for the past. The Ramones had it. Spector celebrated it in "Do You Remember Rock and Roll Radio?" Ray Manzarek kept X respectful of history. The Mekons continue to pull punk from the ancient and old. Even Social Distortion sang respectfully of the Stones and covered Emmylou Harris.

The Mrs. also helped me rediscovered my appreciation of the whimsy and class of old-timey ornament. Her abstract paintings are infused with patterns from the past: details from old refrigerators, sheet music & vintage upholstery. Subtle but brave details eek out space on her canvases.

It's good to live in the past, to appreciate what came before. I'm not sweating in a twenties wool suit or losing myself to big band, but it sure is good to see some old-fashioned ornament on a walk.

Which brings me to this lovely Mill Valley abode, located across the street from the town's original homestead (circa 1830).

There is nothing pretentious about this house. It's small. It's a tidy rectangle with a detached box for a garage. Squint your eyes until everything's a blur and the house is roughly the same shape and size as a van der Rohe home. The detail that delights me is decorative icing. It's polite and utterly free of polish and pretense.

It's friendly neighbor. Friendly neighbors are key.

Suggested Listening Accompaniment: I should find something from the 30s or 40s to align with this structure's age, but since I mentioned it above... a lovely cover from some Orange County punks.


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