In the Land of Liquid Sun
The proverbial day late, give or take, and a dollar short, ditto, we finally left Salmon, Id.  The wrong part having been delivered to Ford we were treated to an extension of our stay.  The dealership did agree to tear up the rental agreement on the cash-for-clunkers mobile that we were using and call it a loaner.  Not a bad stay, really.  Tried out the local eateries, spent mornings at the Sacajawea Trail dogpark, read, and walked the neighborhoods stem to stern.  In a town of 3000 that isn't too hard with a 6 month old pup on the leash.  The town is a nice mix of newer spiffy places, some of them of the modular/mobile sort, new log cabin kits, old stucco, ratty trailers behind junk and brush, and real old log cabins from the 19th century.  Can't say what goes on behind the facade but everyone seemed to be getting along with their disparate fellow citizens.  A comfortable mix of Midwest small town and frontier village; I liked it.

Stopped midwalk our last evening to talk to a silver-haired lady working in a tidy garden of raised beds;  she was picking peppers with a younger woman.  She wanted to know if I followed the teachings of Eliot Coleman.  Told her he lived not far from us, and maybe mumbled that of course I had not yet met him.  She said she bought all her seeds from Fedco in Maine. Strange synergy.   Told the gardening lady that we were spending a week in town waiting for a transmission.  She laughed and said many people had started that way and waited so long they just stayed on.  All the folk we met there were amiable and pleasant.  Pat has modified her view of Idaho as a Klan Fortress to a marked degree.

A 14 hour day and about 700 miles down to Reno, and then on into the Bay Area Friday A.M.  Spent the weekend with Ara and Natty.  The only hitch was that old grey Shay and their Lab, Ferny, are both dominant bitches and wanted to disembowel one another.  We ended up sleeping in the basement on a mattress with the boxers, but I really preferred that to being a a little room upstairs. Just felt right.  Nights were just slightly cool and it was good sleeping weather. 

It was a nice but too-short visit.  Natty is trying to get some long-range plans together for their coalescing family.  My read on Ara is that indeed they are a family and he is satisfied with that. It can be very hard to commit when you are young.  Natty is a strong one and I think Ara accedes to that in a woman much the way I do.  The current incipient plan is Seattle in five years.  I certainly would not hold them to that as five years is forever and incipience a phantom, but Pat and I rather like the idea.  It would certainly be our last move; Pat would be pushing toward 80 and me not far behind.  We have both thought that sooner or later we would like to get out of these Maine winters, and she has always wanted to be closer to family.  I may mellow toward that view myself.

Over to Brentwood on Monday to John and Cara's, in Pat's eye this is where the focus of the entire trip really lay. Jack's second birthday had recently occurred and Pat was eager to see him.  Jack is a great kid.  Hadn't played with a 2 year old in years and it reminded me so much of both my kids at that age: the grin hurtlilng towards you.  He has no fear of Rose, though he is fighting out of his weight class by 50%, and they have a grand time together.  After the initial excitement of finding a small and defenseless human covered in food particles Rose has settled and only rarely knocks him flat.  They play ball and chase together on the back lawn.  We are tucked up next to the house in a fenced drive so the dogs can come and go at will.  They stay out of the house when Cara is home as she doesn't like dogs the way we, and Jack, do.  It is very comfortable.  We have our own little house with the extra conveniences of an indoor toilet, family up the yin yang, and electricity.  I must admit that Pat spends much more time in the house than I do.  Three women, plus Pat, and Jack can be rather daunting.  John is fairly quiet; the foundation stone.

Pat got her much anticipated day in S.F.  We started out from Brentwood in the vast plains of erstwhile-orchard-housing-tracts in the Sacramento River Delta, and by bus and and Bart were able to make the city in under three hours.  That might sound critical on my part, but the fact that public transport can even do this rather amazes me.  It is like standing in NYC and wondering how all these people get fed and clothed and warmed.  We live in the most amazing web of interdependence wherever people gather in any number.  I cannot fathom how it all works.

Three pics: 

We went to SFMOMA with Bill-of-the-City.  I don't usually go to such venues; modern art is a complete puzzle to me.  In one gallery I was standing back a good distance running my eye down the row of large paintings positioned along the wall, all of them very rectilinear and stark.  The last one on the far left finally arrested my attention; it was particularly stark, but somehow caught me.  I stepped closer to see what I was responding to and began to laugh:  I was looking at a piece that but for a very few lines blended perfectly into the white wall .  Yes, it was a real door with stainless hinges and a stainless handle and the thinnest dark thread delineating its size and shape. I can only hope that someone with a sense of humor set that up.  Guess that is the basis of performance art, which I don't understand either. 

The three pics that really grabbed me were all figurative; they would have grabbed me anywhere.  None of them come out worth a tinker's damn above, but believe me, seen in person with the real colors and real lines slapping you in the face they hammer your eyeballs.  You may be able to blow them up somehow and see them better with your toaster - mine won't do it, and the last two will look a lot like they should, but the colors in the first pic are just stunning;  overall the young woman presents a devastating view.

Ok, I have to add a bit to what Pat wrote:  the tawdry foundation garment currently in use is a skimpy red and black bra.  The picture of a greying man in his seventies, hearing aids and spectacles in place, dangling a bra from a string on a stick in front of an elegant Siamese cat shook my faith in the concept of aging gracefully.  Did I mention his lewd grin?  "Cheaper than cat-toys," he told me.

I am finishing this letter up at home.  We got in yesterday after a week of driving.  Lappy finally completely defeated me with his little keyboard.  Fat Fingers made it a challenge to type anything and have it stay in the right place.  Clumsy isn't in it; I might as well try composing with my toes.

The days of driving were long and tedious, endlessly so.  I swear I will never again drive coast to coast to coast.  We got our Donner Party moment in Ft. Bridger, Wyoming.  Had been driving in high winds and rain for a couple of days and pulled into a truck stop to boondock before midnight.  Woke up at 0330 and looked out to see almost a foot of snow and more coming down in a thick curtain.  Knowing we were just ahead of a storm I had kept pushing until fatigue nailed me; this was my reward.  The storm had caught up with us and I was really bummed.  A truck driver said it turned back to rain about 60 miles east, so off we went.  Visibility was about 10 feet and the road obvious only inasmuch as I could see vague smushy tire tracks to follow; hoping there was blacktop beneath was mandated.  We did this for about an hour at 30 mph until a big rig overtook us and I tucked in behind him.  Maybe the best advice my mother ever gave me was to stick close to an eighteen wheeler in bad weather like I was glued there.  Got back down to rain by dawn.  No more snow on the trip, but the wind gusts were tornadic.  Kept hearing about twisters touching down around us as we drove.  Once when I opened the front door of Snooky just as a gust hit I was dragged out of my seat; I was holding onto the door knowing the wind might wrack it on its hinges, but the gust dragged me to the pavement when I wouldn't let go.  Several times I could not get a door closed until a gust died.  Really nice to be home where it is only coolish and cloudy. 

Rose was very good for a six month old puppy.  Her only real misadventure was to eat Hal's lifeline.  Hal is our new Magellan GPS.  She is pretty decent to us.  Gives us generally good advice - her crowning moment for absurdity was to take us to the Reno Airport and tell us to find parking in front of the heavily guarded disembarking area.  All we wanted was a cup of good coffee and we ended up with several people with automatic weapons giving us the eyeball.  An RV at 'departing flights' probably falls under the heading of 'unusual events' and we all know we are supposed to report those to the authorities.  Not just any authorities but the ones with full clips.  We left without dropping off any suspicious and unmarked packages, though I am sure our license plate number went into a database somewhere deep underground in an information-sifting room.

Reminds me of a conversation Stuie and I had.  He claimed the drones that attack, among other things wedding parties, in Pakistan are piloted by people in a bunker in Nevada.  They have lots of armchair combat experience and achieve wondrous body-counts. Maybe they get rotated back to Las Vegas every 20 missions for stress reduction, proud recipients of the LazyBoy Commendation.  I told him I imagined the drones were really linked to video arcades and the missions were actually handled by teenage boys who paid money into what they thought was a game and attacked with animal fervor the putative enemy.  That would explain why missions go so badly wrong now and then.  It is due more to high spirits than bad intel. 

One thing I like about Hal is that I can say anything to her and she keeps her cool; always the mannerly and forgiving young mechano-femme.  Her frequent instruction to 'make the next available legal U turn' is overdone, though.  She humorously claims to be smarter than me and then takes us into some two saloon town and keeps us circling between them and the fire station until I figure out we never should have left the main road and she is just funning us.  A new power cord is in the mail already; a virtual rebirth via USPS.

I think one could become enslaved by such clever devices.  I imagine itchy-palmed drone pilots on downtime in comped rooms at the Mandalay or Macau sweating it out until the next call to scramble.  Watching people interact with their electronic other-selves is amazing.  Everywhere people of all ages are engaged in communication of some sort with glowing entities that aren't even aware that life exists - how could they?  It is like we have all taken happy-pills and been transported into an alternate universe where the true meaning of 'opposable thumb' becomes clear as we text, talk and walk all at the same time. There is probably an extreme sport called screw-texting that I am not privvy to.  Stuie sees the actual melding of carbon-based life with electronic intelligence in the near future, and he is glad he probably won't live to share in its wonders.  Everything is changing so fast.  We ride the tiger. 

Pat here.  The day in SF included Peet's coffee el fresco at the Ferry Building,  rides on antique European streetcars through Chinatown and North Beach, and a visit with Oberon and Abigail, gentlecats of Union Street, who have a predeliction for tawdry foundation garments.  We wound up in the gloaming at Vesuvio's, drinking red wine, talking in Beatnik.  It was a day, my friend!

Pat here.  I took a ferry across the bay to see my daughter Gillian and her family, who are trying to live real lives in a place more fantastic than Oz, The Shire, or Sugar Mountain...Marin, fabled Marin!  The garages are full of Escalades ("My other car is a Prius!"  Note to self:Are Prius drivers priapic?), and the malls are full of gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous things.  The Writing on the Wall has been tastefully papered over.  Gillian is sane, therefore she doesn't quite fit in.  She is managing to raise, sweet, decent kids and deserves great praise.
Sunday and Pat had gone off to visit Gillian.  I got homesick and hunkered down in the basement with the kids.  Ara came down to get some pics and Natty soon joined.  My visit with them was all too brief. 

And that is all the news there is.  from all of us....
This page was last updated: November 1, 2010