Posts Tagged ‘road’

Hair Trigger

21 December 2010

Dear J-

With the steady rain (nothing like what our friends to the north are getting, of course — here in San Diego it’s that same steady drizzle all day long) I’ve been walking on the sidewalks more carefully, watching out for the annelids working their way across sidewalks and driveways. Imagine being an earthworm when it rains: your usual snug tunnels filling with water and the choice is between drowning and being horribly exposed on concrete, prey to passing birds and feet. Then again what do we know of the earthworm expreience? It’s the PeTA* folks who like to anthropomorphize the animal life — it’s one thing to empathize, and quite another to project human feelings and values.

So I’ve been watching where I step outside when I can; it’s a choice that takes a little more effort but isn’t onerous or especially hard. Likewise there are all kinds of choices where to go and what to do throughout the day; that person may push all your buttons, but why is it okay to blow up at, say, figgy for minor offenses like not snapping to commands crisply (there are times I think Captain Von Trapp had it right with the whistle and commands, although I’m sure that’s just a holdover from his military background) whereas stuff like that just slides at work? There’s no answer there that doesn’t make me look like a complete loser and hypocrite, I’m afraid. Is it the familiarity factor — are you comfortable enough with someone to yell at them? Or do you yell because you care? Or are you really yelling about yesterday?

figgy has the concept of time down imperfectly: everything past is yesterday, everything eventual is tomorrow. And she offers this up to me as I grow crabby: “Don’t be mad with your new haircut!” sometimes pausing for emphasis between each syllable, haircut becoming two words with vehemence. There’s a lot to be learned here. First, there are bigger things at stake than my pride and swelled head; second, all that stuff before is yesterday and beside the point (if you want to be effective, correct the behavior now, don’t start off with “you always …”); third, don’t the blessings outweigh the frustrations? I know they say to count to ten before responding but I’ll offer this addendum: count to ten and number off the things in your life worth being around for. Folks like me with short fuses can hardly afford less.


* True story: the only Doritos flavor that’s endorsed by PeTA is my favorite, Sweet & Spicy Chili — it comes in a purple bag — because it’s vegan; all the other ones contain at least some traces of cheese, apparently.


California Notes

13 June 2009

Dear J-

One thing that you might want to know for later is that the 34 miles between Highways 46 and 41 along I-5 can be the longest stretch of road in the world if you fail to realize that there are no suitable turnouts or recreational opportunities for active toddlers not used to being cooped up for hours on the road. Lesson received loud and clear; do not plan on explaining that you were wanting In’n Out instead of Carl’s Jr. to a two-year-old — that kind of thinking gets you nowhere.

Thanks to an aggressively merging tractor-trailer, we missed our turnoff onto Highway 152, leading west past a perilously low-looking reservoir (last year I could have sworn it was like a scene out of the Alps; this year it was more like Mad Max) and sun-dried meadows to Gilroy. Instead we made it up to Santa Nella and the moderately famous Andersen’s (notable for their split-pea soup) — intrigued, we went inside to poke at their gift shop; we ended up having to bribe figgy out of the handful of toys she’d collected by offering magical pocket contents — another travel pro-tip, then: don’t travel without a pocket flashlight, as you never know how handy it can be.

Ten hours and nearly five hundred miles later we’re that much closer to swearing off car travel altogether; I sometimes suspect that we bring as much stuff as we do because we can, not because we have to. Yet the distant miles lend a sort of perspective on how far we’ve come. The sense of displacement is magnified by this not being the same house I grew up in — same parents and the same eclectic decorations, but different arrangements and configurations; maddeningly familiar and totally strange, all at once.


Road Warriors

11 June 2009

Dear J-

The first long road trip I can remember taking was in 1979, when my parents went to Yellowstone with a like-minded uncle and their set of kids, nicely bracketing our ages (we were four and seven; they were three and ten).  I can see the lessons learned on that trip applied the very next year; instead of the board and blanket converting the back seat into a makeshift bed — we rattled around a lot, without seatbelts — the ten-year-old 1969 Cougar got traded in on a Cutlass wagon, just like the uncle’s family had (okay, they had a Custom Cruiser), save the nausea/rumble-seat.  Of course a CB radio was de rigeur — between listening to trucker chatter and keeping in touch with the family convoy, that was the peak of the CB radio craze.

I also remember that was the first time I had corned beef — part of the Yellowstone experience being “roughing it” in a park cabin and excitedly eating meals out of cans and outdoors on picnics (I can still remember my cousins’ delight at seeing Wonder Bread on the table).  No one ever expects to be livng in anything but the most modern times, but it felt like endless pioneer days to a four-year-old, regardless of the number of Motel 6 stays we made.

What I barely recall were the tricks used to keep us in line; I remember begging for various souvenirs (one, a kind of fuzzy bookmark/animal that would arch its back when petted, just because all the other kids were getting one; another, a thunderbird keychain that caught my eye) and books (another trend was starting to peak — the Scratch-N-Sniff — and there was a magnificent book they kept trying to say I was too old for, complete with smells of honey, campfire smoke, and skunk).  It now dawns on me that if it’s this hard to keep figgy entertained in a house filled with stuff and junk, how we’re going to pull the same trick while on the road is beyond me.


Desert Dreams

30 December 2008

Dear J-

I’ve had dreams of the desert; nights spent throwing gear in the back of a pickup (perhaps the modern equivalent of a trusty steed), dust swirling around your knees as you set off down the road into a sunset.  Pick up your feet and hope they carry you straight; long shadows trailing your steps and everywhere, sand swirling softly away.  Of storms; of brief, intense squalls, the earth drinking up moisture greedily, and cracking back into an aerial map of muddy city blocks.

I’ve dreamt of the ocean, whispering waves and rocking boats; spray flavoring the very air with the salt of a thousand drowned kingdoms.  Watching rust drip like icicles, eating without pause, never resting; reading the doom inherent in each unique wave, casting forth and robbing the land with each moment.  The deep mirror of every pool shows every wrinkle, every experience without editing.  Water’s edge, sometimes like a knife cutting sky from earth, sometimes obscured by a cousin cloud, always ever changing.

The road slips by as we dance between worlds.  A mile either way and we’re out of our intermediate border zone.  If this place has magic, it’s in the variable face of the sun; witness how shocking cold grips us with icy fingers before the sun banishes our cloaks and coats.  It’s enough, sometimes, just to sit out and watch that chariot drive a few arc-seconds; clouds pass and winds shape, but the sun hangs with the promise of another day spent together, you and I, the pledge of the earth spinning silently onward through the void.