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The road not taken to Camino Port Lligat

I rounded a corner, stepped twice on dirty carpeting in a dim corridor, and found a place I had never heard of, across from Room 1:

Room Zero.

I creaked open the hollow wooden door to the shoebox office. An unshaven man in a sleeveless T-shirt, chest-hair sweater, suspenders and cigar smoke snarled, “Get otta here.”

I stepped outside into the parking lot, where a diner waved me over to a picnic in an oak glade. Everyone looked expectantly at me. I stood and shouted that passion is no ordinary word, banging my fist on the picnic table’s shamrock-green slats. As I ran out of words, the picnickers ran out of ears, so I climbed onto a fat bicycle and rolled away.

Soon I was lost, route signs betraying me, highways turning stranger as day and destination shaded into night. I abandoned the bicycle amid patchwork fields farmed by the Amish and began to walk. After walking all night, I found an abandoned ’62 Chrysler Newport coupe in two-tone green and one-tone rust, which I drove into the heart of the city at a hot noon. Midtown, I stopped at a traffic signal in an intersection where all four streets led downhill. High summer sun glared the windshield.

I turned right. The street forked, left lane veering toward Camino Port Lligat. Speeding right, steering by instinct and fear, fighting savage momentum, I rattled the Chrysler for miles along snakelike streets of Sicilian cobblestone, finally coasting to a stop in a familiar-looking suburb. I parked at a meter on the main street. No matter how many quarters I fed it, the word “expired” never left the meter’s glassy face.

As I walked into the village, I thought I might have visited it before; at the same time, I was afraid I was lost, so I turned around. When I returned to the main street, I could not remember where I had parked. I paced sidewalks for hours before I found the Newport. Pulling a U-turn, I left. Outside the village line, the street turned onto a road bordered by dull gray chain-link fence, broken glass in turn-signal orange, indifferent cinders and grimy tan-brick ghosts of industry.

On a still parkway beyond the silent factories, I spotted a house where I had once lived, but it had been painted, it had morphed from a two-story house into a ranch, it was on the wrong side of the street, and its address had changed. I walked among rag-doll memories strewn on the steps; shouted inside to my former housemates, who all were passed-out drunk on the beer-sticky black walnut floor; and then clambered back into my car. Its driver-side door moaned as I opened it, yearning for the past and WD-40, and I drove away. Within minutes, I was lost again. I took stock of my situation: I had a car but preferred a motorcycle, a used black BSA Lightning, which I could not afford. I had bills but no income and no prospects of a job. Wait: That is not entirely true. I had been offered a principal’s job at a failing parochial school with dangerously declining enrollment, but the superintendent withdrew the offer when I told him I was an agnostic. I thought of the motorcycle, my debts and my obligations while I drove zombie-eyed, the raspy radio’s refrain a sputter of static and Spanish.

As if my destination had been predetermined, I had driven to the parking lot of a nine-story library. Hundreds of people stood inside its glass walls in cocktail party groups, discussing their plans to spend the night there. For some reason—maybe because there were so many of them—they thought I was one of their group as I entered. When the lights went out, I found myself in the top bunk of a bed on the precipice of a hundred-yard drop. The bed began wobbling. I tried to roll to my left, away from the edge, but was tangled in blankets and pinned against the ceiling. Suddenly, the person in the bottom bunk dived. His perfect trajectory curved, and he landed in a circular above-ground swimming pool. Suddenly, others were jumping over the edge and continued dropping like hailstones into the pool until morning arrived. I climbed out of bed to get dressed. Watching me, those who also had not jumped knew I was an impostor. They hissed and whispered and cursed in the face of my feigned amiability.

I needed a drink and pulled up a stool in a bar built like a shotgun shack. As triple tequila shots turned into empty glasses amassed like tenpins surrounded by salt and squeezed lemon wedges, my thoughts coagulated and my tongue swelled. I had turned into a toad from the neck up and was slurping my drink. The wordless bartender handed me the phone. An angry woman demanded to know why I had been receiving letters from a waitress in a pizza parlor.

The stool spun as I grew irate. The waitress was long gone from my life, long beyond the point where I forgot about her every day. I spat into the telephone, “She has not been in contact with me in any way, sheep or farm.”

I handed the telephone back to the bartender and slur-stepped outside to look again for my car.


( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 24th, 2012 11:33 pm (UTC)
Sweetjeezus, you make is seem so easy to capture this and put it into words. It's not, I know. Bizarrely fascinating.

...a road bordered by dull gray chain-link fence, broken yellow glass, indifferent cinders and grimy yellow-brick ghosts of industry. So vivid.

Got our cd bounty in the mail - yowser, loved Shrunken Heads first time through...loved it.
Nov. 25th, 2012 12:13 am (UTC)
"Bizzarely fascinating." Thanks. I knew it was bizarre but wasn't sure which other adjectives would follow.

In your breaking that line out, I see I used the word "yellow" twice in that sentence. Gotta fix that.

I'm glad you like Shrunken Heads. I think it's the best of the four Hunter CD's we've been listening to, and that's saying something, because When I'm President is a great disc. Rant might take awhile to grow on you. I didn't like it at all at first, but it rewards repeated listenings. I haven't heard Man Overboard enough yet to get a handle on it.

It's a Saturday night and I'm grading student essays. Sherry is working; I'm sitting in kitchen and watching the dogs. Back to school Monday, with two full weeks of classes yet, then a week of finals.

Regards to all.
Nov. 25th, 2012 01:00 am (UTC)
Amber glass? Red brick? Go with whatever it was; maybe both were yellow...it didn't read like a repeat to me.
Nov. 25th, 2012 01:17 am (UTC)
Mr. Obsessive-Compulsive can't help it. He needed to tweak that sentence.

Nov. 25th, 2012 01:19 am (UTC)
Ooh, I like the changes.
Nov. 25th, 2012 02:01 am (UTC)
After my book is published, I'll credit you in a footnote.
Nov. 25th, 2012 02:16 am (UTC)
Mrs. Ego-As-Big-As-Your-House will not be satisfied with just a footnote. She'll expect more. So much more.
Nov. 25th, 2012 04:37 am (UTC)
Here's an oddity: I was trying to be more specific with certain references in this post. Instead of "car," I wanted to be brand and model specific. For some reason I chose Chrysler but then wanted to get more specific, so I chose Newport, coupe and 1962. But when I made those choices, I did a search for Google images because I wasn't sure Chrysler had ever made a model called the Newport, wasn't sure if it came as a coupe, and wasn't sure if it was built in 1962 (when I was 8) if indeed such a model existed. Turned out there was such a model from that year, so I wrote about it.

Today on a drive into town, I passed a house on the corner where a guy has had an old car up on a flatbed truck for the past couple of months. I had noticed it before because I'm a bit of a motorhead. But today, I realized it wasn't just any old car—it was a Chrysler Newport.


Nov. 25th, 2012 10:13 pm (UTC)
Or a fascinating moment of synchronicity - maybe your subconscious made note of that car without your knowledge, and then slipped it in to your consciousness when you weren't looking..
Nov. 25th, 2012 04:47 am (UTC)
Bah! (Or is that "Baaa"?)
Nov. 25th, 2012 05:10 am (UTC)
Tequilla will do that to ya.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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