So today we flew down to SD. That was a real extravagance since it costs as much nearly to fly from SB to SD as it does from SB to NY. But we flew down together so that we could drive back together in the car Carol’s mom passed along to us. We drove down months back to get it and she changed her mind about giving it to us because she didn’t want to admit her driving days were over. That pissed me off.
Then every time Carol called the first thing out of her mother’s mouth was, “When are going to come down and get the car. When are you going to come down and get the car? You had better come down and get the car before the battery runs down.” So Carol said she was going fly down and drive the car back up. But her mother said, “I don’t want you driving alone back up. Can’t your husband come?” No, her husband can’t come because the last thing he wants to do is drive through LA. So she said she would pay for the airplane ticket for the husband to fly down and drive back up to SB with her daughter.
So we flew down and of course she forgot she said she was going to pay for the husband’s ticket, not the husband cared any because he was pretty sure to begin with that he would see the money.
Brother Dave picked us up at the airport and drove us to his house and then out to where Carol’s mother is and then we drove over to where Joan is and met Steve there right after he got off from his job at the swap meet.
That’s really why the husband flew down to see what kind of shape his mother was in, given that she seemed to have been pretty ill. The visit was pretty scary because Joan did not look very good and they made the husband, and the wife, and Steve wear masks when visiting Joan because the doctor’s say she had a really nasty bug. So now the husband thinks he will catch this nasty bug from Joan and die.
The husband thinks that would be pretty ironic and is in a really crabby mood.
Above, a picture of the SD airport terminal, and the view from Brother David’s house.
So first there was Traffic and then there was Blind Faith, both with Stevie Winwood. Every time I hear their “I Can’t Find My Way Home” I remember the time I got lost in L.A. It had to have been in my first quarter of graduate school; that would have been the fall of ’68 and I went to visit some friends over past Pasadena, and we smoked a lot of grass, and I couldn’t find my way back to Venice, CA.
Somehow I missed the first freeway onramp. So I drove along by some freeway hoping I would find an onramp, but that freeway was hard to follow and I kept losing it and going off to places I shouldn’t have been. I went into this all night convenience store for directions. The black guy behind the counter wouldn’t even look at me. I asked could he point me to the freeway; he said he didn’t know where one was. So I left.
I was in a pretty shitty area of town. There are a lot of shitty areas in LA, but if you are a white person and know what onramps to get on and what exits to get off you never have to see any of the shitty stuff. The freeways organize LA pretty well so you don’t have to see the shitty stuff unless you get lost as I did.
I was pretty fucking lost. I drove around for hours in my trusty 1959 Plymouth Station Wagon. Once in a parking lot the Mexican American attendant came up to me and said he would give me a 100 dollars for it. I said no thinks. He said 150. I guess he didn’t get it; maybe he thought it was my “second” car or something. My parents had driven me off to college in that car. For some reason my brothers had to come along too. I sat there scared shitless and clutching Kaufman’s From Shakespeare to Sartre like it was a life buoy.
Getting lost in LA is pretty existential, I guess. Maybe I remember that night because, in my stoned state, I really got scared and thought I might drive around forever and maybe because getting lost that night was sort of a symbolic representation of the inward lostness that was beginning to eat me up.
When the sun started coming up, I was able to orient myself. I knew Venice, CA was near the Pacific, so what I had to do was drive west. The sun helped me figure that out. Eventually I hit Sunset and I took it on out to the ocean. I had been lost in LA for about five hours.
So that song has a special meaning for me.
One day while driving around in the Great Northwest, we drove down a country road, found a memorable looking mailbox, stashed our weed in the culvert by it, and drove into Canada. That was Vancouver, and I don’t remember anything about it except that the money was different and it was real clean. I have noticed that cities where there is lot of rain or snow tend to look clean. Nature does the dirty work.
Unlike Tijuana. I went there once, or I went through it once later when I was living in the hole under my parent’s house. My mother’s Aunt by this time had made a lot of money selling real estate and she had married into a large Catholic, Italian family though she was neither Catholic nor Italian. So she bought this “house” I guess you would call it on the beach in Ensenada. I say “house” in quotes because it was more like a beach side bunker. Block walls, concrete floors, a bathroom, a kitchen, and some empty rooms.
You could call it a summer home I guess. They locked it all up with padlocks when they weren’t there in the hopes nobody would break in and vandalize when they weren’t there, though there wasn’t a whole lot to vandalize, and there were other places all around my Aunt’s place that looked like they might be better to vandalize than her place.
So once me and my good buddy were invited to tag along with the rest of my Aunt’s clan to one of their weekend outings. I have to say I was impressed by the cheapness of the wine. We found a winery right there and could get decent stuff for 2 dollars a bottle, keeping in mind that my idea of decent stuff was Thunderbird, Ripple, and Red Mountain, by the gallon. But this stuff was real wine with like a cork in it and not a screw off cap. Also the clan bought plenty of beer, though they all had to call it cerveza because they were in Mexico I guess.
This was, to my mind, a pretty strange family weekend. No doubt I was in a bad mood as usual. But the weekend seemed to consist primarily of lying around in the sun and maybe running out into the water for a bit and sleeping either in the concrete house or in the sand and then getting up and starting to drink again. So the recreational goal, if I may call it that, seemed to be to get as blotto as possible for a 48 hour period. If so this was the ideal place for it, since the booze was cheap, and what with no TV there was nothing else to do. Maybe some of my aunt’s stepsons went into TJ to fuck some whores, but that was about it.
So I have been in Canada, Mexico, and the USA. That’s it. I guess I am a pretty provincial, parochial, and totally unsophisticated guy. I am USA all the way. I have thought about going to Europe, but according to my Aunt’s husband who visited there during WWII Europe is a pretty fucked up place.
Eventually, my aunt and her clan stopped going down there because the concrete house was built on sand and eventually the ocean came closer and the house fell into it.
I have wasted a good deal of time in my adult life looking for the mythical tomato of my youth. Now at the stores, you can buy things that resemble tomatoes. But the tomato of my youth was so juicy the skin was about to burst, and when you cut it the smell filled the room. Once I grew some beefsteak tomatoes that almost reached the mark. We had a hot summer, but the next year when I tried again, the crop was covered in the most god awful worms I have ever seen.
Such is the farmer’s life.
Once we visited Uncle Baxter in Georgia. I don’t know whose Uncle he was exactly, but we were related somehow. He lived out in the middle of nowhere. We drove along a paved road for a long time and then we drove off on a dirt road for a long time. The land was all Uncle Baxter’s and he rented it out to blacks. Finally we got to Uncle Baxter’s house. It didn’t have a lick of paint on it and was lifted up off the ground. Underneath the house was a pack of dogs.
They came yipping and snarling out into the yard, and boy, you knew, you had better stop. So we did and they stopped too but still yipping and snarling till Uncle Baxter came out and called them off. I guess living off like that Uncle Baxter was scared of strangers or something what with the dogs and right inside over the front door was not one but two loaded firearms. Maybe he was worried about being the only white person around and the landlord for many black people—landlords being universally hated.
Uncle Baxter showed us around the place while Mrs. Baxter made us up a light lunch. We sat down to ham that had come straight out of their smokehouse and biscuits that Mrs. Baxter had whipped up on the spot and sliced tomatoes right from their garden. And a little pan gravy from frying the ham if you wanted it. That was one of the best lunches I ever had. And the tomatoes! Well, they were real tomatoes straight from their garden where they had been a few minutes before we ate them.
Sometimes you have just got to be there; there’s no other way. Ham straight from your own smokehouse is completely different from the hams you buy at the store. The same for a tomato. If you grow corn, you learn that the sugars in the corn begin to change within minutes of having been picked. So first you get the water boiling and then you pick the corn and shuck it and turn off the heat and just sort of dip the corn in the hot water and it will taste like nothing you had ever had before.
The same with ham from your own smokehouse or tomatoes straight from your own garden. Most of us don’t know, these days, what anything “really” tastes like or even if there’s a “real” way for anything to taste.
I caught the school bus to the Ford School; it was seven miles away in Watts Mill. I would cross the two lanes of blacktop and take up my position on a dirt road that dead ended in the blacktop. Twenty yards away the dirt road crossed over the railroad tracks and disappeared into the woods.
The ditch by the side of the dirt road always seemed to have water in it. In the winter it froze over; in the spring I would watch the guppies grow and then disappear to go wherever frogs go.
The school bus was driven by some kid, a senior in high school, who lived out on the route. In the morning, he would pick up the kids and park it in front of the Ford School and go in and take classes. The Ford School had all grades, one to twelve, in it. After school, the high school kid would drop us off, go home, and park the bus in front of his house.
One day, as we were turning into the gate to the school, the steering wheel came right off in the driver’s hands. He held it up in the air like he was wondering how it got there and forgot to put on the brakes; but he had the right angle and we just rolled on in to a dead stop. Then the driver stuck the steering wheel back on the post.
Another time going home, I was sitting in the front seat and notice some smoke coming up through the floor boards. I waited a while to see if the driver would notice, but he didn’t. So I yelled out, there is smoke coming up here. He looked around, slammed on the breaks and pulled over on the shoulder. He gave the fire extinguisher a yank and it came right out with a piece of the metal wall attached to it. The whole thing was rusted through and through.
But there was a creek nearby and the driver got out and ran into the bushes and came back with water pouring out the holes in his baseball cap. And then he ran off again into the bushes. That was one of the few times I ever saw Jane Wallace smile. She was laughing at the bus driver disappearing into the bushes. Here teeth were exposed and every one of them—her baby teeth—were as black as coal and looked flaky and rotten. I looked away quickly so she wouldn’t see me looking. But I think she did because her mouth snapped shut.
I don’t know what was wrong with the bus. But the driver wet down the floor boards and we went on our way. My father had driven the school bus back in his day before WWII; sometimes I thought maybe it was the same bus I went to school in.