I’m not sure if the business is always as brisk at Michael’s craft store as it was last weekend. I am not the arts-and-crafts type, so I rarely venture there.
But right now in Glendale, and around much of California, it is “Mission Season” — that hallowed time of year when fourth-graders turn to their groaning and reluctant parents to help them build models of one of the California missions that helped define our state’s grand history. This season runs concurrent to the “Days of Father Junipero Serra” — the lesser-known season where parents all across the land pay for a year of sins with paint stains, utility-knife cuts and burns from hot glue.
And so we found ourselves wandering aimlessly around the aisles of Michael’s in search of materials to build San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo, which was, for those of you not partaking in Mission Season, the second of the California missions and the burial site of Father Serra.
After gathering two types of foam core, glue, various mosses and what seemed to be enough sculpting clay to build everything full-scale, we headed home to follow the blueprint my daughter found in the back of a library book. Aside from a couple of compound angles along the roofline, which almost required the hiring of a subcontractor, construction was a relatively simple process.
We had the walls glued together in less than half a day and with minimal blood loss. We might not have suffered any injuries, had we opted to stick with the recommended dried lasagna noodles as roofing material, but we were feeling rather bold on this day and decided upon different materials.
I told my daughter we might have to fight for the roof. Since we were building her model at my house, which sits in the Rossmoyne area, we could be forced to tear down our unapproved renovation at the whim of the Design Review Board. I shudder to think of the red-tape nightmare we might have faced, had we opted for solar power.
We took a break, grabbed an early dinner and returned to begin work on the sculpted items. My daughter and I began making trees and rocks, while my girlfriend set about the more difficult task of building the fountain — the focal point of our courtyard. We toiled well into the late hours of the evening, mimicking the efforts of the actual builders of the real mission, I’m sure. Saturday ended with our having made two fountains, four bells, five trees and a fistful of rocks to border the walkways.
We awoke bright and early Sunday in hopes of getting off to an early start — an homage to the tireless efforts of the Native American laborers who quarried the sandstone for the church walls in the late 1700s. That said, I’m not quite sure if the original workers began their day with a Chai Tea Latte.
By noon, we had baked all of our sculpted items. With no bureaucracy to squabble over rights of eminent domain, we were making great progress. Until we ran out of hot-glue sticks.
It was back to Michael’s — the real beneficiary of Mission Season. This second trip found the store even more crowded with familial construction crews throwing money around like drunken pirates. Evidently, missions were starting to pop up all over Glendale.
It made me wonder what economic impact, aside from the obvious gold rush at Michael’s, this construction frenzy was having on our area. Was Domino’s Pizza working overtime to feed the makeshift masons and landscapers? Was Glendale Water & Power frantically looking for a way to install utility meters on the missions? Would Rick Caruso be making a bid to develop the tiny parcel of open foam core to the left of my daughter’s cathedral?
By mid-afternoon on Sunday, we were putting the finishing touches on the project, scrutinizing it from every angle. Sand was added to the paint to give the walls a sandstone feel. We had hot-glued all the sculpted items in place. All that was left was to get the qualified opinion of a noted authority — my girlfriend’s son — a veteran of Mission Season.
He proclaimed the project an A-1 success, which made my daughter beam and likewise made the cuts and burns on my hands sting a little less. We stood over the project, proud of our united effort. In the end, I agreed with the project assessment.
Unfortunately, thanks to our biodegradable architecture, I figure it will be just a matter of weeks before the Redevelopment Agency claims the entire project blighted and forces us to tear down the mission and build a strip mall in its place.
GARY HUERTA is a Glendale resident and author. He is currently working on his second novel and the second half of his life. Gary may be reached at email@example.com.