PINBALL machine production is way down. Theres one company left making them. Theyre being replaced by home video games and cell phones. The machines manufactured today go directly to homes not stores, according to the Friday New York Times article.
The story sent me back to my childhood in Long Island and that lucky machine in the back of a candy store off Newbridge Road. If I had some money from my paper route Id hop off my bike, go in and test my flipper skills and maybe enjoy a chocolate egg cream and a bonus score.
Today, kids rarely go out of the house to find entertainment. They flip on the flat screen and fire up the Xbox. Or they play across social networking sites at their home computer.
Its not like I ventured into the great outdoors alot, either, unless it was to attend a ball game. Youre talking to a kid who flunked scouting. But ever since a day 20 years ago, when I hiked into the eastern San Gabriel Mountains with botanist Ann Croissant on an assignment, Ive been hooked on wild plants.
Yeah, whod a thunk it? Me and plants. Its really not so shocking since I studied environmental science and took botany at Nassau College.
I had no idea, however, of the variety of species, nor the array of shapes and colors of wildflowers right here in our back yard.
The San Gabriels, a home to biodiversity! Who would have thought that a mountain range so heavily impacted by people and urban sprawl in Los Angeles County would retain its rank as one of the most biodiverse regions in America, was how Croissant so aptly stated it in her new book Wildflowers of the San Gabriel Mountains, (Stephens Press, 2007).
The window to the thriving world below my knees was opened. Croissant showed me purple thistles and orange-red paintbrush growing from craggy rocks. Later, I was the first to write about the discovery of the thread-leaved brodiaea along the Colby Trail in Glendora, an endangered plant that existed only in the intense flower oasis called the Santa Rosa Plateau, until this discovery. Glendora named it their city flower and celebrates its existence every May.
Blue dicks, chia, purple nightshade, phacelia, wild morning-glory, golden-yarrow are just some of my favorites. These and others are featured in her book, organized by color and spiral bound for use on the trail.
If you havent seen these flowers, now may be the best time. Plentiful winter rains have produced a rich bounty. Though the first bloom is ending, the second bloom the blues and purples are due in May and June.
And you dont need a course in botany. Just a desire to get off the couch, drop the remote and head for the hills. Start by checking out the roadway flowers (I love the ones next to the 57/10 interchange). Going to the San Gabriel Mountains Regional Conservancys Web site (www.sgmrc.org) for info on hikes and nature center locations.
It (family hikes) is something that has been lost in the heritage, explained Croissant, founder of the group. A lot of families dont go out; it is a consumer culture.
Whenever she hikes with kids, either through scouting or the Hike It! program her group sponsors, she finds young people are absorbed.
You only have to take kids on a trail once time and it is amazing how much they pick up, she said.
And you dont have to be young or in excellent physical shape to go wildflowering.
It is for the kid in all of us, she said with a smile.