Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Pieces of Egg: A Prelude

As I'm pulling together some Egg City research and gathering all my old Egg photos, I realize that I've never researched Egg City on the internet. Shocking and strange! But probably okay.

Erica and I discovered Egg City on a map around the year 2000, and visited it promptly. (More creative-non-fiction type prose on that to come.) The visit itself was research. Not only did we document the place (the buildings have now burned down) but we recovered some telling artifacts. No egg-related equipment could be removed from there (it was too big and we were already trespassing), but we took with us a notebook of records, a magnet bearing the name of an egg-quipment supplier (still on my fridge), a poster of chicken diseases, and an empty plastic sack meant to be filled with Egg City brand chicken guano. It still smells funny, even though it never touched any guano.

Erica sent me a scan of the notebook cover today, which opens this post. She can tell you more about what's actually inside it. All I remember is the notes on employee sick-days I read somewhere, which were post-Julius Goldman era (the golden age of Egg City) and very stern.

Me rifling through documents we found in an outbuilding.

And here's all it says about Egg City on Wikipedia. It doesn't even have an article, it just lives on the Moorpark, California page. A quick Google search only returns some ten year old plans to develop the site as fancy houses (there's a nice view up there on the chicken hill...) but that probably went to shit when the rest of the buildings burned down. It had been part of a ranch when we visited, with cows roaming on the pavement where the chicken houses used to be, and a farmhand in a pickup truck patroling the grounds. He waved at us.

Our field research was not the end of our efforts, however. Even though the internet does not contain much information on obscure things that went defunct long before web 2.0 arrived, the Los Angeles Public Library most certainly does. Shortly after our first trip to Moorpark we made a second trip downtown.

The central branch of the LA library is a friggin' museum. I mean, it has to be I guess. It's the main library for an enormous city and it owes an explanation for its own existence, the city's existence, and the architecture and art of the place have to contribute to everything else that's going on in the city. But I was still amazed by it. I still haven't had the pleasure of visiting any New York librarys, nor any Ivy League university's hallowed stacks (though I have had the pleasure of getting chills in the manuscripts rooms at Newberry Library in Chicago). But those places probably hold a different sort of magic, a more academic sort, from a sprawling city's house of information. And that's what LA's is. It's not "books" (I don't think I looked at any books that day) but information, and maps, and photos, and STUFF! Seven floors of it.

I think we spent the day on level -4. We looked at old maps (they've a roomful), we got sidetracked by about 80 years worth of phonebooks (you can see who lived in your house even...), stared into locked cases of ancient tomes, and I had the librarian hauling out microfilms of 1980s newspaper clippings about Julius and his hens. We did some goddamn good old fashioned research, for a couple of crazy kids.

So I will whip something up, an Egg City merengue I guess, and post it post haste. I am most excited to show off the photos, taken on two or three separate trips. These were pre-digital days, and we were both running full manual cameras with no zoom. Some of the 32mm shots came out amazingly sharp and colorful. Others (especially from the dull day) were dull but capture the delapidation perfectly. We also have some moody black and whites that make Egg City look like the perfect spot for a '90s rock video. I'm so excited!

I just wanted to preamble, and reminisce a little on the first research days we had on our obsession, and what I wouldn't give to go back and visit level -3 (philosophy!), -2 (patents!?) . . . of the LA library, and close the place a few nights.

Unfortunately for us, there is no going back to Egg City.

Erica looks out on Moorpark. I guess this is where developers were picturing luxury homes (Moorpark Egg-states...Life can be this good) in lieu of crumbled chicken barns and corrugated steel.

But wait! Here's Egg City's former location from satellite. I think it was somewhere within the brown spot between Grimes Canyon and Rifleman Drive. And it's surrounded by green developments and fields. The photo shows no sign of any buildings now.

1 comment:

  1. Did you ever get around to publishing about Egg City. I live not far from there, in Moorpark, and have been trying to find out more information about it.


I publish all the comments, the good, the bad and the ugly. Unless I have no idea what you're saying. If you want to email me (with only good I hope), I'm at rbyrd [at] niu [dot] edu.