- 4 may 2003 -
part II: arrival
US101 through California is also known as El Camino Real and roughly follows the path of the 18th Century Spanish interlopers as they moved north to convert the indigenous heathens to Catholicism while taking their gold, their land and their culture. The symbols that mark the path are a series of bells hung on what look like shepherd's crooks along the side of the highway. Over the years they've lost their essential meaning and blended into the landscape as quaint and decorative markers. While bells are mostly pleasant things that make a pretty sound, for some reason these particular bells put me in mind of the sounds made by whips and chains and the various other nifty accoutrements of European colonization.
As I cruised north through the Salinas Valley on the Harley headed for Lucy's, I passed busloads of Mexican farm workers bouncing along on the road home to their campos. Their faces were solemn and weary as they followed the trucks loaded with their daily pickings, and who knows how far away their imaginations were taking them. This was the lot of my own family three generations ago. Some never survived the bracero program and got deported, U.S. legal status notwithstanding, simply because they looked like the current undesirable element. It's a history well-buried beneath the propaganda of the agriculture industry. At least Cesar Chavez finally got on a stamp.
The ride on the 101 north of Salinas is the pits, with eternal reimprovement projects posted with signs warning of the stiff fines that come your way if you go too fast. As it flattens out into the South Bay, especially if you hit it as the work day is ending, the traffic becomes a study in how tens of thousands of human brains can manipulate vehicles without the benefit of conscious spatial orientation, with courtesy apparently an unaffordable commodity to the Friday commuter. Fortunately, this unpleasantness seemed to subside as I neared San Bruno.
San Bruno, while near the SF International Airport (an ideal location for me because I've always wanted to live close to an airport), maintains a small town feel to it, and its nascent gentrification isn't as blatant as, say, Santa Rosa's. Small quaint houses, a central district easily walked to, and the pace is relaxed. People drive calmly there.
I arrived about 4:30 in the afternoon, and since I didn't expect Lucy to be home till half past six, I motored into a local Wendy's to enjoy a delicious beverage. While securing my bike I looked across the parking lot and saw a woman and daughter going inside. The younger woman looked at me strangely (not unusual for me) but I got a weird feeling that I'd seen her before.
I got behind them in line at the counter where we both looked at each other and said "I know you." It was Trish whom I'd met at JournalCon in October, there with her mom. They were waiting for a flight to Denver to visit Lisa, who'd been another JournalCon attendee and sitter at my table during the initial banquet that evening. I was careful to be demure and properly gentlemanly regarding my comments about Lisa, particularly after the clear effect my pheromones had had upon her back in October. Seeing the danger of volcanic lust that was expanding within Lisa on that first night of JournalCon, I opted for my emergency diffusing techniques. I began to drool egg flower soup onto my pants and laugh loudly with my mouth open thus exposing unchewed peapods and bits of shrimp. This seemed to do the trick. Whew.
But anyway, back to San Bruno.
Trish, her mom Patty, and I all chatted for 45 minutes of so, gossiping about journalers and living in Santa Cruz and all the possibilities the future holds. Then off they went to catch a flight and I decided to go for a slow-riding tour through the wonderfulness that is San Bruno. It's a delightful place with a small town feel. I could live there easily.
When 6:30 rolled around I pulled into Lucy's driveway and there she appeared on her porch all jellied-kneed and swoony from the stunning masculinity of my leatherness. After a few passes across her cheek with a Japanese fan she was able to breathe enough to say hello and welcome me into her lovely chapeau. Her husband John came out to welcome me and check my threatening posture and seemed adequately assured I was not a ne'er do well. We had enjoyed a dinner together back in 1999, but as you know, we hot-blooded Mexicans can change our ways faster than you can say Zapatistas, so perhaps it was right for him to make a visual re-evaluation of my threat level.
Soon to arrive at Lucy's was Alan Rosenthal, a wonderful well-spoken man of kind nature whose employment at Microsoft seems not to have affected his mental health at all.
We all chatted for a while, then headed out to a local eatery for some Thai cuisine. Try the Mee Krob. Mwah.
Here's something you might not know about me. I like people. Most people. The vast majority, in fact. But there are a few out there who emit some kind of ubersonic frequency with either their personalities or sense of timing or inappropriateness or something - it's generally very nebulous and discernable within the first few seconds of meeting - a quality that seems to immediately put me not only on the defensive but launches me into an offensive mood so strong that if the stakes are low these people will, by evening's end, wish they had been born in a world far from one that would ever intersect with mine.
None of these were present during my entire trip. In fact, Alan's interest seemed to intersect my own in many ways, particularly in the nature of history, how it is remembered, passed on, ingrained, and even perhaps genetically embedded. Anyway, I like the guy a lot and he even asked me to look him up when I'm in his town.
I was very relaxed at Lucy's place. It's a most hospitable house and neighborhood. John and Lucy have got themselves a great home, with friendly pets and a very comfortable couch.
The next day after a great breakfast at Joe's Cafe we regrouped for a final palaver and then I packed up the bike for a ride across the bay to see Bob the Sole Proprietor in Oakland.
Warning to Lucy and John: I'm coming back someday. Your hospitality is your curse.
to be continued
"The Theme From Route 66" -- Nelson Riddle and His Orchestra -- bachelor pad royale
"Your friend is the man who knows all about you, and still likes you."
- Elbert Hubbard