Sunday, January 27, 2008

San Francisco.

Jan. 27, Dallas, Texas.

To the friends we left in the Bay Area: Beverly and Bob, always there with something for the kids, garage sales fanatics, Beverly with the quick wit behind her good humor ("Have you met a terrorist lately?" ,) just seeing them drive in made me happy, Margaret and her big heart, Richard and Frank and Tim, their hospitality, Natalie and Marc, friends of the spirit, always.
This is what we left.

San Francisco, Nov. 21, 2007.

To Hugo.

Jan. 20, Hugo, Oklahoma.

It took us a week to come from northern California. A week to enter another world altogether, a week of bitter cold nights, strange bedfellows and a sordid motel.
We left El Cerrito on Monday, almost six months to the day after Circus Chimera closed unexpectedly in early July. It was six months of paradise suspended, perfect weather and enchanted places, the Metro Hotel in Petaluma with Paris the cat where my mother and her friend Margaret stayed, a ride through postcard dairy country along the highway to Bodega Bay and the chowder at the seaside cafe, strolling through the "historic downtown," shopping at a posh of malls (complete with valet parking) in Marin county just a few blocks from the trailer park we had moved to, looking for Christmas presents with my mother after Margaret left and Fridman went to Texas, then to Vegas, leaving us to ourselves and the babies, and time disappeared from under us as it does and the month and a half of her visit was up and we took her to the airport in San Francisco and Dylan started crying when she stepped into the security area and he could not follow.
It took us a week to travel from northern California.
It became cold when we were in Las vegas, sleeping in the trailer parked on the street at a friend's house one night. We bundled up, the four of us arranged like dominoes in the full-size bed, head to toes and the babies in between, sweat-pants and socks, extra layers under the triple blankets, and Dylan being Dylan keeps throwing off the covers, the cold wind blowing in from the head of the bed, it is open because Fridman never finished the job of reconstructing the wall and there is a gap two inches wide where the air comes through, so out he goes in the night with duck tape the next day at an RV park lost in the desert dust somewhere in Kingman, Arizona, to try and close the gap, and it works, it is less cold in the bedroom, but it is colder the day after in Albuquerque, and the heaters fail to warm us up as we eat dinner in the trailer after a day's drive across two states, and a water drop which failed to fall at the tap instead has turned into ice, and it is cold, cold, cold when we go to bed, not warmed up by the food but chilled, still, and daylight brings only the illusion of relief as we embark onto another day on the road, dreaming maybe it could be the last? the babies are quiet and let us drive hours at a time, not a 12-hour stretch as I used to do driving across the country by myself but still, but then the truck stalls a few feet from the gas pump in Amarillo and we're stuck sideways at the entrance to the gas station, powerless to move, and a good samaritan appears and rescues us and we crawl on til we can't.
It is the last night on road, if our luck holds, and I'm tired just contemplating another night of bone chilling trailer so I beg Fridman to stop at a motel for one night, just tonight, I dream of a warm shower - no bath in days, the pipes are still frozen in the trailer - the bliss of a warm shower and a warm bed, the simple comfort of warmth; Fridman is reluctant, finally he passes all the national brand ones with the promise of reasonably clean sheets in a town called Childress in the Texas panhandle and stops at a motel with an empty parking lot called Budget Inn which advertises clean rooms on an electronic panel above the door to the office, and there is only one car parked in front of one of the rooms, I should have known, and the windows of the rooms are small and high, like prison windows I think as I'm waiting, half asleep, for Fridman to check us in, the real window must give out onto the back is what comes through my mind, and then I go in and stand in the most sordid room I have ever seen in so many years of road trips on a shoestring budget: there is no window in the back, only an old AC unit mounted onto the wall blasting warmish air into a room with no lights at the beds, and I don't know which one is worse, the pee-stained bathroom door or the amount of dirt and trash under the beds as we move them close together so the babies won't fall during the night, or the crumbling bathroom rack, or the peeking scotch-taped tissue holder with no tissues, or that the room reeks and makes me feel as if I have fallen at the bottom of an endless well where exhaustion and my own disgust don't matter anymore. I am exhausted but I cannot sleep. In the morning, still, I showered. The hot water felt good when I closed my eyes, breathing in deeply; there was only a small towel and it was badly frayed, worn to the thread, with more than the tinge of a large red stain on it.
Later that day we drove the last leg of the trip, up to Hugo, Oklahoma, Fridman and I taking a memory ride on a road we traveled together before, highway 70 in Oklahoma, a road cutting through the rolling hills of the southernmost part of the state along the Red River that makes up the border with Texas, we pass the Shamrock gas station where we stopped two years ago for lunch, it has the look of another era, we pass the small towns, we pass through Durant, where the Peruvian family Cavallini played a few dusty, empty-house dates before closing, the year before Dylan was born, itself a ghost of a circus, and we arrive in Hugo and the first stop is at the Wal-mart, what else, and a surprise, our friend Marcos there and I've never been happier to see him and his house and the junk in his yard makes me feel happy too, I'm somewhere nearing home, I'm forty-one years old, I have two babies, I'm on the move, but I have arrived for now.

Budget Inn, Childress, Texas.