“The book American Gods wishes it was.” --Despina Durand

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

PANDEMIC ODYSSEY: PART TWO

 


On first Day of the Dead 2020, the dead children were honored with Venus rising over San Luis Obispo that I captured before we took off for Morro Bay, past some plutons (“an igneous intrusion is a body of intrusive igneous rock that forms by crystallization of magma slowly cooling below the surface of the Earth,” according to Wikipedia), toward the Pacific Ocean that I hadn’t seen in years.

 

There were a lot of Mexican food places in Morro Bay, but then, this was California, Aztlán.

 

Cambria was still decorated from their Scarecrow Festival. Near San Simeon, and the Hearst Castle, fat, healthy zebras grazed along with horses and cows, putting visions of zebra burger stands in my head. Sea lions lounged on a beach.

 


Soon we passed the famed Esalen Institute and stopped at the Coast Art Gallery, where Mike sells some of his drums near a gallery of Henry Miller paintings. This was Big Sur, and there was no cell service, but my phone started chirping after we passed a sign welcoming us to THE OFFICAL BIG SUR.

 

Soon we were in a forest of baby redwoods.

 

Emily pointed out a grove where there was a house that she said had to belong to El Cucuy.

 


The combination of Halloween and the election made for a weird weekend. Roadsides along the Pacific Coast Highway near Carmel were clogged with parked cars, overflowing from beach parking lots. Not many masks or much social distancing--we stood in the car. Yaks grazed in the hills. A car flew a Trump flag. 

 

Went through Monterey on our way to Santa Cruz. Passed a town called Freedom with its own Freedom Boulevard.

 


We couldn’t stay at the Super 8 in Watsonville because it was still full of evacuees from a fire back in August.

 

The next day was the Día de los Muertos, when the spirits of dead adults are said to come back to visit the living. It was foggy--I couldn’t remember the last time we had fog in Phoenix. And we had trouble finding coffee in Santa Cruz.

 


As we left town, there was a demonstration at a church that was the opposite of the Trump patrol. Freedom of expression--it’s what America is supposed to be all about.

 


Half Moon Bay was pretty even in the fog that had burned off as we entered San Francisco. We took some pictures from the Golden Gate Bridge.

 

Near Stinson Beach, a  road sign was festooned with a FUCK TRUMP graffito. Good ol’ American free speech again.

 

 

We were long out of the desert, into the forest. Most of the time there was beach on one side and forest on the other. This was the far edge of Aztlán, a different climate, colder, wetter. Still most of the people working in the stores were Latinoid.

 

That night I dreamed that a classic lowrider with a dazzling purple paint job dropped off a box that was addressed to me. In it was a tiny snail that grew to twenty times its original size. Then it glowed and gurgled . . .

 

There were a lot of Black Lives Matter signs along the road, and one Trump sign at a beach.


We stood at the Ocean Cove Lodge, which has a spectacular view of the setting sun over the glittering Pacific.

 

The next day was Election Day. Sometimes this holiday weekend is Halloween/Días de los Muertos/Election Day. An extra long Dead Daze.



If I had thought of it, I could have had Smoking Mirror Blues end with an election, disheveled, costumed revelers lining up at the polls . . . maybe it’s better that I didn’t.


Voting was going well as we got back on the highway, and spent the day driving through the seaside forests. 


For miles and miles all the buildings looked like they were the work of the same architect. House and and other structures were all simplified, with geometric edges and a lack of details that made it all look like what we thought the future would look like back in the twentieth century. Bland utopia, decaying into dystopia.

 


Em and I masked up and got out to pick through the colorful, surf-smoothed pebbles of Glass Beach as ravens and seagulls fought a turf war. I had forgotten what beaches smelled like--salty, fishy, decaying . . .

 

The twisty, tree-lined highways along the rock-studded surf beaches (with surfers) took us to a lot of funky, little towns where you wander around and find homespun, found-object surrealism.



We stopped and took pictures of the Grandfather Tree: an 1,800 year-old living thing.


Then surfer country gave way to redwood country, and Bigfoot exploitation country.

 

“It’s like visiting Hobbiton,” said Mike. There was something Middle Earth-like about it all. Hobbits do have big feet . . .

 

That night we stood in Garberville, at the Motel Garberville. Got food from next door at the Humbolt Bar & Grill that had been converted to a Mexican food joint (also staffed by Mexicans). There is a fantastic thrift shop across the street.

 


And a local Trump patrol pickup cruised by, flying its flag.


It looked like Trump was winning when we called it a night. In the morning, Mike--who was pretty sure that it would be a landslide for Biden was pretty shaken up. Emily had to reassure him and her other brothers (over the phone). But the news started to look good. Maybe my snail dream was a metaphor for the election results. All those early votes being counted after Election Day, we could still have a delayed, slow-motion ass-whuping here.


Garberville is strange, arty, mountain town with lots of murals, boarded-up businesses, and Latinoid workers. In the depressed economy, the hippies are being replaced by Mexicans. This may be the future of rural California. I’ve got no complaint about it.



Again, we had trouble finding coffee. Funny, how in so many small towns nothing is open at eight A.M. We finally got coffee (I had to settle for regular, because they didn’t have decaf) at the Aztec Grill, another chain that is bringing La Cultura to the Northwest.


We went north on the 101. News from NPR about the election was encouraging. We stopped at Avenue of the Giants to see the redwoods up close. Saw Bigfoot statues. And elk. Went through Eureka and Orick. Crossed rivers.



I crossed more rivers this week than I have in my whole life.


After a while, Margaret, who had been tired and quiet for a couple of days declared, “ I don’t want anybody to win except Biden!”


There were lots of Mexican restaurants. I spotted more Aztec Grills.



And cannabis was big in these parts. In NoCal, but also as we crossed over into Oregon, there were signs advertising WEED and MARIJUANA.

 

And some TRUMP/PENCE signs in Brookings . . .

 

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