Wednesday, December 7, 2022


Emily and I left Hacienda Hogan before sunrise. It’s a five-hour drive from Glendale, Arizona to San Clemente California. We were going to SoCal for Thanksgiving with my family. Though gigs at universities had me in Riverside and San Diego, I hadn’t visited my family since some funerals over ten years ago. It was about damn time.

Soon we drifted out of town, down the I-10 into the desert that was like a black, starless void, with the sun rising behind us.

Not long after first light, we reached Quartzite, where gas was $3.89 a gallon. We pulled into a Terrible’s to top off the tank. 

There was a big sign announcing CLEAN RESTROOMS, which was true. Instead of the usual open-air stalls, each sit-down toilet (the urinals were exposed as usual) was in its own small, tall room. It got pitch black when the door was closed. Luckily, I could find and figure out the futuristic light switch.

Across the street were some rusty dinosaurs.

There wasn’t much traffic. Even after we got to California. Not until we reached the outer reaches of the SoCal/ L.A. Sprawl. Since we were heading for San Clemente, and not West Covina, not much was familiar when we asked Siri for assistance navigating the freeways. Even they had changed—it was now a fascinating, complicated, concrete tangle under a heavy blanket of smog. What were these Fastracks and toll roads?

And finally, there was traffic.

My brain got sci-fi on me:  How about a similar system for interstellar travel? Wormhole corridors with twists and turns and on- and offramps. Navigation would be complicated, wrong turns putting you on the wrong side of the Galaxy. A Siri/HAL 9000 type entity may be necessary. Of course there would be hyperspace traffic jams, timespace warp accidents, oh no, this a toll corridor . . .

Siri’s route led us to a toll road, but we managed to avoid it.

This may be an Orange County rather than an L.A. thing--I couldn’t see any urban funkiness from the freeways. A long time ago there was that mural of an Aztec warrior emerging from a pyramid-shaped spaceship . . . Does anybody else remember it? Here all you can see are rolling hills and neighborhoods that look like they were extruded from a post-suburban sprawl generating colony machine.

Is SoCal real? I’ve been wondering that since I lived there.

Californians could take over–or save–the world. Instead they manufacture new entertainment franchises that stumble over themselves as they struggle to win over another brave new world.

Finally, we reached my sister’s house in San Clemente. Reconnected with family. Important, but not for public consumption.

We kept smelling gas in the kitchen. Turns out the new oven had a leak. The guy from the gas company stuck DANGER signs on it. It looked like it might be pizza for Thanksgiving, but then, as corny as it sounds, it really is all about family, not the sacrificial bird.

I did some writing talk with my nephew Miles. Guess I’m somekinda mentor.

Even though they ordered dinner from Sancho’s Tacos, they insisted on taking us–by way of the Harbor Holiday lights at Dana Point–to pick it up. Turns out the place not only has excellent food (it was crowded, with lines spilling out into the parking lot), it had fantastic decor: Murals, paintings in a lowrider/Ed “Big Daddy” Roth/Ratfink style. And there was even an ape! It needs to become a Chicano Mecca.

Last, we watched the sunset over the Pacific Ocean and the ghostly outlines of Catalina and San Clemente islands from my sister’s living room.

We woke up early the next morning. It was dark at 5 AM, which would have 6 AM back in Arizona–guess Daylight Savings Time is back.

My sister let us know about the sunrise via text. It was spectacular. Yes, you can see the sun set and rise over the Pacific from that living room.

During the night, my sister managed to borrow a roaster, and was using it. We had fresh pumpkin pie and turkey for an early dinner. When they discovered that they were out of mayonnaise, my mom made some. More family showed up.

Because Emily works in retail, and tomorrow was Black Friday, we had to leave early.

On the way back Siri led us into another toll road. We went through it, realizing that we could pay at the website and had five days to do it.

SoCal looks like a luxury Mars colony, crumbling in places, getting more crumbly and post-apocalyptic as we made our way west, to Arizona, where it got dark–a black, starless void.

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