Trip to Mars

The Foreboding Bed

We drove through a tunnel of noise, adding our own tiny tinnitus to the cacophony of tinkling horns, ringing roads, buzzing bells, babbling motorways, looking for egress to ingress in some small motor motel to recess and relax and redress for a new beginning, a new morning, an internal spring, a fresh start. These motels are not hard to find, cities big and small all designed for the convenience of the motorist: the traveller, the travelling salesman on a limited per diem, the tourist on a budget, the trucker desiring a shower nap and cup of coffee, the rodeo rider on tour, the four piece garageband on a trip booked of small venue gigs, the soldier sailor or airman on leave on weekend pass or perhaps just Absent Without Official Leave, the family of four on vacation, the adulterous couple, the relocator, the lost, the looking, the hiding. The first place we pulled into because Sylvie liked the name: Motel In Vino Veritas. But the beds had coin operated boxes on the nightstands – for 50 cents you could make the bed vibrate for a couple of minutes – and Sylvie refused to stay in such a place, said such a bed forebode bad dreams.

“The Foreboding Bed” is episode 70 of Inventories, a Novel in Progress in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.

Tucson to San Diego

Fall now ahead, Sylvie’s baseball season over, we drove from Tucson to San Diego, where Sylvie was to attend a three day conference. Not in a hurry, we drove west to Why, then dropped south to the border crossing at Lukeville. Back in old Mexico, we stopped in Sonoyta to eat, dry and hot, folks moving slowly in the heat. After lunch we walked around some, surrounded but ignored by border business as usual. I had drunk a beer with a taco burrito full of red and black steaming beans and hot chilies, and with Sylvie now driving, I fell asleep. When I awoke we were on Mexico Federal Highway 2, driving west along the border. Desert, mesa, flat tan and sandy, rocky hills. We switched seats again and Sylvie slept while I drove and when she awoke she was surprised by crops and greenery reappearing around San Luis Rio Colorado. We crossed the border again at the portmanteau crossing of Mexicali and Calexico, picking up 8 west through chaparral forest to El Cajon and La Mesa, and finally drove into a muted San Diego night, where Sylvie had booked a bungalow near the water in Ocean Beach. We had encountered no gods in the desert, had not felt watched. The desert gods are heavy sleepers, Sylvie said. Now back to the city gods, I said. The beach gods are my favorites, Sylvie said. I should move the team to a beach city next year. You can never be sure about the gods, I said, how they’re going to act, or react. I unpacked the car while Sylvie opened up the bungalow windows to the ocean breeze. We sat out on the front porch facing a narrow road that led down to the beach, and Sylvie poured herself a glass of chardonnay and I drank a beer and then we went to sleep for the night.

“Tucson to San Diego” is episode 61 of Inventories, a Novel in Progress in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.

Intransitive

Sylvie and I drove southeast and south from Tucson, stayed a couple of nights as tourists in Tombstone, crossing the border at Naco into old Mexico, where we spent a night in Motel Cowboy, and a few nights farther out, in a rough cabin in a shady grove near a dry stream bed. Attempt no profit from your epiphanies, Dr. Lao had said. No worries, since I wasn’t having any, though the desert was lovely in its apparent simplicity. One story trailers, shacks, lean-to structures, adobe and brick block dwellings, old pickup trucks. Little commotion, no one about. No plots brewing that I could see. The prickly pear grows little opportunities, another Dr. Lao ambiguous comment. Life is a mystery only to be enjoyed, he said, not to be grasped mentally. That I got. When the beer and wine and food ran out we drove back north, cutting west after the border crossing to Sierra Vista and north past Fort Huachuca, and on up back to Tucson. Sylvie said what she got from Dr. Lao was motifs, like string theory. Life seemed made up of motifs, but her theory never went much beyond that. Life is made up of moods, I said. Moody. Life is a mood, and mostly a bad one. Very moodily said, Sylvie replied. Yes, an adverb chasing after some runaway verb, now ahead, now behind, a sentence with its noun cut off. And no object. No, and no object. Intransitive. In transit, anyway. Where to now? I don’t know.

“Intransitive” is episode 60 of Inventories, a Novel in Progress in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.

Three for the Road

Quiet finally filled Wormy’s place as an early morning fog rose over the dunes from the ocean beach. His plan to slough off Tilde awoke a sleeping shrew. They fought and argued and cried and wrestled and scratched, clawed and scolded each other all night long, Tilde’s wails crescendoing up and down scales like fiddles in flight. Why he couldn’t wait till morning to tell her I don’t know. Something about he wanted to give her time to pack and say goodbye. Late morning I got up and went inside and made coffee. On my way to the bathroom I passed their bedroom and saw them sleeping head to toe. The ’56 Chevy two-ten was gassed up and ready to go. I packed my bedroll kit and stashed it in the trunk with a small cooler of ice, a couple of beers, a chunk of cheese, and a loaf of bread. I waited outside with Brigid, sipping coffee, feeling the breeze begin to shift offshore to onshore. We were not getting the early start I had asked for. Wormy came out with his coffee. We heard the shower come on through the open bathroom window. Tilde came out, her hair still wet, her backpack fully rigged, and walked straight to the car without a word. She stowed her stuff in the trunk and climbed into the back and whistled for Brigid who jumped into the back seat, the two of them hugging and snuggling in a way that did not suggest goodbye. I gave Wormy a questioning look. Oh, yeah, he said, turns out Brigid is Tilde’s dog, not mine, and she wants to keep her. We were now three for the road as I pulled onto Grand Avenue and drove down to Vista del Mar where I turned north to San Francisco.

“Three for the Road” is episode 52 of Inventories, a Novel in Progress in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.

An Old Rig and a Passenger

Wormy had a girlfriend, was in a relationship, he wanted to get rid of, to get out of. He had a plan. He wanted to do some time travelling on the scooter. I tried to tell him that was a bad idea. All times are the same, same rotten humans unhappy with their lot. The only road to true happiness was to live like a gypsy in a caravan putting down only shallow roots if any, keeping with your family. Nonsense, he said. The girlfriend was called Tilde, a nickname ascribed to her from the way her eyebrows grew: ~ ~ . The plan was I would give Tilde a ride up the coast with me to San Francisco, where she had a sister Wormy was in touch with who would take her in and help her find a job waitressing. Tilde had been tending bar at the Orange Orchid Tiki Bar and sleeping with Wormy and had grown accustomed and comfortable with the arrangement, but Wormy was beginning to feel cramped and closed out and wanted to kick out before wiping out, as he put it, and did something really stupid like get married. He would tell Tilde it was all over between them, but that I would give her a ride up the coast to her sister’s place. Tilda’s sister was some sort of professor at one of the Frisco colleges. Her beau was a veteran right fielder for the Kyoto Kinks who owned a fancy Japanese restaurant in Frisco. Long ways to go two on a Vespa, I said. Impossible. You’re not taking the scooter, Wormy said. You’ll take the Chevy. The Chevy was his restored 1956 two-ten with a rebuilt 265 cubic inch engine, 3 speed synchromesh manual transmission. Cream white with turquoise roof and lower side panels. Not as classic as the Bel-Air, but a nice ride for a coast cruise. Go ahead, Wormy said, who had backed the car out of the garage and was beckoning me to take the wheel and we’d go for a test drive around town. It was a different kind of time travel, the ’56 Chevy, and maybe I’d had enough of the scooter for a time, and I agreed to Wormy’s plan.

“An Old Rig and a Passenger” is episode 51 of Inventories, a Novel in Progress in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.

Coast Road Trip: Double Back

A reader of the Toads writes:

“Hi Joe,  I have been reading your travel posts . They seem familiar like maybe I’ve seen them before . The photos are recent , though , so I must be wrong about that.”

personal correspondence

That is precisely the problem with writing, with, indeed, life, the feeling we’ve been here before, Déjà vu, been there – done that. Yet we continue to imagine our future, awake and asleep, waiting for something new.

“I pity the poor immigrant
Who wishes he would’ve stayed home”

“I Pity the Poor Immigrant,” Bob Dylan, from John Wesley Harding, 1968.

“Make it new,” Ezra Pound said, over and over again. But if you make it too new, who will recognize it?

HAMM: Go and get the oilcan.
CLOV: What for?
HAMM: To oil the castors.
CLOV: I oiled them yesterday.
HAMM: Yesterday! What does that mean? Yesterday!
CLOV (violently): That means that bloody awful day, long ago, before this bloody awful day. I use the words you taught me. If they don’t mean anything any more, teach me others. Or let me be silent.
(Pause.)

“Endgame,” Samuel Beckett, 1957.

A Google search of “Yaquina Head Lighthouse” will bring up over 300,000 results (in .78 seconds, no less). Click on “images,” and you’ll see more than 500 pics of the lighthouse. Nevertheless, I now double back and offer readers of the Toads these entirely original never seen before pics of the lighthouse, freshly taken about a month ago: