I see that I’ve been talking (and posting) as if I’ve already left.
Well, I have, in effect. That is to say, the campaign has begun. Interviews are recorded and being slowly (and I mean slowly) forged into…whatever alternative art forms history will term them in the future.
I’ve moved out of what will (I hope) be my last permanent residence for the foreseeable future.
I’ve given away my bed, my dresser, my surfboard, and most of my books. My pictures and extra clothes are packed into a couple of Rubbermaid boxes. The General is now a caravan.
My back feels lighter, but my gut feels heavier.
The name of this town means “hidden” in Spanish. That’s what I’ve been doing, most of the time. Which may be why the 2.5 years I’ve been here feel like much longer than that.
Which may be why it feels so good to be leaving, in spite of the heroically good friends I’m leaving behind.
I’m staying at the home of some of these good friends. What’s funny about this home is that it’s across the street from a house that my family considered moving into, when I was eleven and we didn’t know any of the people we know now. I idolized that house, and the pool and the giant backyard and the horses we would surely have, if we lived there.
Maison Shirley itself has a pool, and a giant backyard; horses belonging to a neighbor live nearby, and the girls here like to pull a wagon through the hole in the fence and down the central corridor between the stalls, patting noses and offering handfuls of hay.
In the morning, you can hear roosters, followed soon after by the donkey who lives across the street. There are roses, and butterflies, and one of the better breezes in this part of town.
At night, you can hear train whistles and coyotes. The trains sound like approaching death and loneliness, and the coyotes sound like frat boys.
I know this part of town chiefly by running through it.
I know where the valleys are that collect the cold; I avoid them in the winter.
I know where the best views are, and where it’s best to turn around and run backwards to get their full potential.
I know where I can pick up windfallen avocados, oranges, and figs, if I want to tote them home with me.
I know what time of day to find the Ancient Mariner guy stalking Valley Parkway with his shopping cart, wearing a t-shirt on his head and cut-off jeans.
I know where never to take a date again; it’s proved to be plain bad luck.
I know the side streets that smell, for no accountable reason, like cinnamon rolls baking, no matter what season or time of day.
And I know to breathe shallowly when crossing Ninth Avenue, which reeks of the septic treatment plant clumsily shoehorned behind it.
This is where I first saw an owl in real life. And where I first saw bats, though those have lost their novelty, by making too frequent appearances.
Besides the brewery which is quickly turning into a Disneyland for domesticated males, the principal features of this area are its sunsets and power lines. And, of course, its cars. The rusting classics on blocks, the ’70s beaters driven around by poor kids and middle-aged Mexicans, the body shop smorgasboard of Auto Park Way, and summertime’s “Cruisin’ Grand” event, which everybody makes fun of but still goes to.
Except me; I’ve never been. And now the summer’s over, and I’m leaving.