insomnia #21 aka 2013 Year in Review

If I were to make a list of things I’d most like to leave behind in 2013, insomnia would be up there. I blame the evening’s red wine this time, but the cause could just as easily be falling asleep too early with too much on my mind. It’s a horrible thing, thinking.

My arsenal of sleep aids – herbal teas and tonics, Tylenol PM, relaxation apps – are failing to do the trick tonight. Rather than lie in bed kicking my husband every time he nears snoring, I’m here in front of the computer, writing.

It seemed potentially more productive. New Year’s Eve. Why not take stock?

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January: Our sweet dog died, my younger daughter was detained in London en route to Ireland, I wrote my first Five Things, and a friend and I attended the Presidential inauguration.

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February: My older daughter turned 23, my husband and I relived the ’90s by seeing Soundgarden in Oakland’s Fox Theater, I moved into The Link and I went on an epic surf-work trip to Central Cali, the first of many excursions I’d take with my dear friend Casey.

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March: Spent another week along the central coast, my younger daughter turned 19 and I wrote my first (and so far only) cover story for the North Coast Journal.

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April: My first Five Things column ran in the NCJ, I tripped to Sacramento and Santa Cruz, and I helped coordinate a memorial service and paddle out for John “Moose” Mason, a man whose sudden death brought forth such beautiful tribute from so many people that I found myself thinking, “We should all be so loved” – and that we should all be so kind and good as Moose.

May: Some idiots filming an ad at Moonstone high-centered a Dodge truck on a rock, launching me into Surfrider mode and ending with me being named a “Humboldtian of the Week” on Facebook, a work trip took me to D.C., we attended my fabulous brother’s fabulous wedding in San Francisco, where I stayed on for a conference after – four hotels in 10 days.

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June: Traveled to Long Beach for work and some time with my older daughter, stepped in as the NCJ’s music columnist, spent Summer Solstice at Shelter Cove, wrote about the dead whale that washed up on my beach and was given a six-month layoff heads up.

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July: Played cornhole and bocce ball for the first times and failed at neither, took a vacation to Seattle that included a whale watching tour through the Puget Sound and a stop in Portland on the way back that included visiting a friend with whom I shared a room when we were 18 – and all the required reminiscing that implies, and wrote my favorite Five Things so far.

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August: Threw a most excellent birthday party for my husband’s 50th, was hired on to do part-time outreach for Humboldt Baykeeper and moved my younger daughter to Santa Cruz.

September: Played a small role in Humboldt Made’s big premier, guested on Sherae O’Shaughnessy’s Late Night gig, traveled with Casey to San Diego for the annual Surfrider conference, helped cover the arrest of alleged crossbow killers in Manila, helped clean up around a homeless camp for Coastal Cleanup Day and wrote about it.

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October: My kickball team raised $2,697 for Six Rivers Planned Parenthood and came in second in the annual tournament, Casey and Kj joined me for my second excursion to a foreign country, this one a long-anticipated trip to Manzanillo, Mexico, where we spent six days surfing, swimming, reading, drinking and eating tacos – best vacation ever – followed by a closer-to-home excursion to track gray whales and see humpbacks, a transcendent experience.

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November: My son turned 18, my friend Grant and I took off to New York for a week, where I stayed with my brother and his wife and celebrated my own birthday – 44! – at The Comedy Cellar, and upon returning home, my husband and I moved into the upstairs master bedroom after 11 years of downstairs living.

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December: Held what was likely my favorite Ocean Night ever, wrapped up my job with Ocean Conservancy, made plans for a next chapter with the Northcoast Environmental Center, tripped down to Santa Cruz to visit our younger daughter, reminisced about a time I almost died, and trekked up to Crescent City for an especially memorable surf safari due to cramming five people in a Honda CRV, finding fun waves under endless sunshine, a rescue by me of a person drifting out to sea, stinky sea lions, piles of fish and chips and hours of excellent conversation.

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In between and throughout all that, a million photos of sunsets, sunrises and various bodies of water. Also, surfing. My wonderful writers’ group. Parties. Music. Books. Movies. Food. The requisite ups-and-downs and various heartbreaks involved in being a human people who spends time with people. Most importantly, a ton of love and good best friends. I aim to transform this list of things done into something larger and life-useful at some point, but for now, what a reminder that I am a lucky, lucky girl.

Mexico: Departure

Of course, it wasn’t quite over. In between dropping Kj off at the airport and cleaning the house, Casey and I squeezed a final surf in at Santiago Bay, picking off waves between local kids flinging themselves into the head-high barrels with abandon. And then we were done.

That would have been an elegant way to end, but at the airport I discovered I’d lost my immigration paper, which meant I couldn’t board the plane. They held it for me – thanks to Casey’s quick thinking – as I scrambled to pay the fine required to replace it. This was the second time an important piece of paper had gone missing while I was with Casey – the first was in a San Diego security line when we finally got to the front and I abruptly had no boarding pass – so her patience with the situation was especially commendable.

And then we were done.

Mexico: Day Four

I rose late, a nearby midnight drum session having interfered with my sleep – so late that Casey had to get me up, a situation greatly reversed from the norm! We headed straight to Paraiso, where I was determined to try the hollow waves on my rented board. The waves rolled in a few feet overhead, steep and pitching. A better surfer would’ve been barrelled for days, but for me, I was stoked to make the drops, repeatedly pushing myself into another and another.

We then ate the best tacos in the world. I scarfed down two chile con queso while Casey moved in on a third. Antonio and I teased her. La Nina es La Gorda! Off to Pasquales, an internationally known spot and the only place we saw other tourists. If you enjoy hammocks, a pool, well-muscled Australians and epic barrels, I highly recommend this place. The waves were bigger here, the surfing pro level. I hung out on the edge of things with a paunchy Canadian, finally caught a wave and called it a day, in part due to the fact that my board was de-waxing in the heat as I watched.

Back home, we made more silly Vines and dinner. I’d found a bottle of citrus liquor and made what I thought would be amazing margaritas. I should have made a test one first – the look of polite disgust on both Kj and Casey’s faces suggested “amazing” was not the taste they were experiencing. I sipped mine. Oh, puke. We returned to the tequila-Fresca combination that’d been working much, much better.

“Tomorrow’s the last day!” – Kj

“Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!” – Me

Mexico: Day Three

We looked and looked and looked for waves. Santiago Bay, then through Manzanillo’s Centrale Historicale district to the power plant, the jetties. The heat oppressed us. I wanted to get in the water so badly, but everywhere was closing out. We took a break for tacos pescado and were restored. After, Antonio pulled over without telling us why. As we climbed out of the car, he pointed into the trees. Iguanas! We then walked inside this place that was part zoo, part iguana sanctuary. An exhibit of raccoons made me laugh – bastards used to show up on my porch every night and they get their own space here? The other critters made me sad – a pig tied to a tree, birds in tiny cages. But the iguanas roamed free. As I held up my phone taking video of the dozens of iguanas, one detached from the group and marched at me so quickly I backed up, tripping over a mound of dirt behind me and falling on my ass. That would have made an even better video, but the moment will have to live on in only my and Casey’s memories.

Having given up somewhat on the surf, we trekked over to La Boquita for some snorkeling. Ah, the blessed relief of bath water temperature ocean on a baking hot day! A shipwreck lies not too far offshore, so we loaded up the snorkels and goggles on the boards, then paddled over to where a rusty beam protruded from the water. Now, maybe it was my two recent rounds of X-rays at the dentist, but I found the snorkel mouth bit disconcerting. Wasn’t sure I could relax and get used to it. Nonetheless, I swam around the edge of the shipwreck peering through the cloudy water as the tide pushed and pulled. Suddenly, the visibility improved. Brightly striped tropical fish exploded into my vision. I gasped like a little kid and kicked closer. The experience repeated as I stroked across the top of the wrecked ship – silvery fish twinkled, sunlit under the water. More clown fish, so many others I didn’t know. I forgot everything in my delight.

After, I drug out the longboard and caught some peeling ankle-biters for a while. So far I’d surfed every day.

Later, we drank wine and tequila and read outside as a tropical storm brought a few hours of rain. I scrawled this in my journal:

“I am sitting on a patio in Mexico, half drunk in a thunderstorm, reading Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder while two of my best girlfriends sit drinking margaritas reading Jess Walters’ Beautiful Ruins and the thunder cracks and the rain falls into the pool and the wine sits on the table and we’re tired from swimming and snorkeling over a fish-riddled shipwreck and all the sun that came before the rain and has life ever been so wonderful?”

Mexico: Day Two

We searched around Santiago Bay, ended up at Boca de Iguanas luxuriating in the heat, delighting in the ocean. Antonio helped Kj overcome her hesitation at giving surfing a go. Casey played on the small closeouts while I opted to swim. At some point a fish leapt out of the water near me. I laughed and said a thanks for providing such delight. Antonio took us to another taco shop. I opted for the scallops a la Diabla. Mexican food in Mexico is the best.

We also took in the crocodiles. The place, which consisted of elevated walkways over the river, was closed for the day, so we walked along the chain-link fence instead, oohing and eeking at the sharp-toothed reptiles separated from us by such a flimsy barrier. One of the walkways was accessible and led us on a swinging bridge over the river. On the other side, the fence stopped near the river mouth and only yellow caution tape haphazardly slung between two poles suggested something dangerous was going on.

The strangeness continued with a stop at Antonio’s friend’s shop, an arcade/surfboard repair place located in an old theatre. In front, quarter mechanical horse rides. Inside, Guitar Hero and pinball. In the back, boards sprawled out on sawhorses and a stage upon which a carousel horse leaned, detached. Light filtered through broken windows. Within that surreal scene, I found a board more suited to me than the longboard I’d been using. We hung out, marveled, negotiated, then moved on to Barra de Navidad. I caught some waves on the new board and took a million photos while Kj and Casey read their own copies of Beautiful Ruins.

Mexico: Day One

Up and out early to look for what I thought would be friendly surf. Pulled in to Paraiso to discover beautiful waves and by “beautiful,” I mean, “slabby head-and-a-half barrels.” Now, at this point in my surfing life, I should be excited by such conditions, but our boards were long and my charging motivation was short. Nonetheless, I decided to paddle out. No wetsuit! Eighty degree water! The enjoyment stopped there, however, as the current shoved me down the beach while I was still on my feet. I tried again, made it about halfway to the outside before a wave collapsed on my head like a dynamited building. I came detached from my board and with panic bolting through me. Don’t panic, I scolded myself – never, ever panic in the water. I reminded myself that I’m a strong swimmer, rolled onto my back and kicked and dove and stroked my way to shore among the sets.

Thus chastened, we left for elsewhere, grabbing lunch along the way – my first sign that vegetariano was not a common option in these parts. I had a quesadilla and salad. We then drove north to a spot frequented by locals and accessible only by a dirt road that’d been washed out by the rain in spots. Antonio’s car scraped over rocks, ricocheted through gulleys. Once, we had to get out and push. But when we reached the overlook, perfect longboard waves awaited. Kj relaxed on the beach while Casey, Antonio and I took turns zipping down the rights. Antonio had warned us about La Tigre, a rock we shouldn’t surf past as it meant we’d end up on the reef. After a couple hours, Casey and I decided we’d catch our last waves. Mine was the best one I’d had all day, head-high, fast, peeling for days. Caught up in play, I forgot to watch for La Tigre until too late – I’d stoked myself right into the rocks. Banged up my toe, my knee, didn’t care. The happiness coursing through me kept the bruises at bay.

Mexico: Getting there

Packing

I’d packed in my head multiple times: two swimsuits, sundress, sunscreen, SPF 30 lip balm, etc. But a half hour before departure, I had yet to do it in reality. So I packed under duress, always a bad idea since it leads to forgetting things and arguing with one’s husband as one is heading out the door to leave the country for a week.

Things I Forgot

daypack
tampons
extra pen
underwear
tank top

Thing I Remembered

magazines
sunscreen
rash guard
floss
sandals

Vines

Making Vines amuses me. Making Casey make Vines with me generates the kind of giggles that continue the rest of the day. She’s the best subject: cute, silly, totally committed to the project. We’ve traveled together several times now and I love her more each trip. She embraces adventure. She shrugs off inconveniences. She’s flexible, but not indecisive – there’s none of that protracted, maddening “What do you want to do?” back-and-forth. In other words, the perfect person to bring along on a trip.

San Francisco

An aquaintance referred to Mexico as a place where “brown people wait on white people.” I thought of that as the Asian woman scrubbed my feet and clipped my toenails before polishing them turquoise. I’m not sure if I overthink these things or don’t think about them enough – should I cancel my trip, give myself a pedicure nowhere near as skilled? I have no answers to the complex questions surrounding race, culture and class issues. I just want to take a vacation and be a good person and hoping the two aren’t mutually exclusive.

Thus prettified, Casey and I ran errands – sundress shopping at Goodwill, rash guard shopping at Aqua Surf – then popped over to the Tenderloin to meet my friend Donna and her gang for a drink. Oh, the Tenderloin! My brother lived their for years, so I’m familiar with it, but wow, the level of trash and insanity still jars. But the area – while not gentrified – has grown more hip. I saw a magazine headline referring to it as “The Trendyloin,” which the 620 Jones bar bore out. We were underdressed in our hoodies, a fact that didn’t stop Mr. “I’m In High Tech Sales!” from hitting on us. Oh, San Francisco. The good, the bad, the inevitably cliché.

At some point, Casey nudged me into departing for the airport. Smart, as we were now running a bit on the late side for my flight – hers was a couple hours later. A rental car mixup delayed me getting to the flight I was already late for. My stress level shot up until I remembered all the other times I’d run late for flights and never missed them. I hugged Casey goodbye-for-now. I rushed off to hand my boarding pass over to the attendant, who alerted me to the wonderful news that for some reason I’d been unexpectedly granted a pre-approved TSA clearance, allowing me into a shorter security line that didn’t require me to take off my shoes. I made the plane.

Flying

A middle seat on a redeye flight sucks as much as one would expect.

The Houston airport will always be remembered for two things. One, it’s the first airport I’ve slept in. Two, the guy pacing the length of the gate, talking nonstop at his laptop held arm’s length in front of him. Facetiming, I suppose. His Texas accent began to run like sandpaper on sunburned skin, so I tried to pretend he was Matthew McConaughy in a movie role, but did not succeed.

At the Mexico City airport I was reminded how incredibly stupid it is to not speak Spanish. I spent money I didn’t want to on food I wasn’t hungry for because the restaurant promised wifi. The wifi did not work. No matter. The book I was reading – Jess Walters’ Beautiful Ruins – had me aching with delight and eventually I noticed the polka dots and a confident walk that meant I’d found Kj. We were both near the ends of our books, so we stretched out on the floor and finished our respective pages.

The flight from Mexico City to Manzanillo bumped along over cities that gave way to green hills and blue lagoons, ocean stretching out alongside. The puddle-jumper plane taxied down the runway and we disembarked on the tarmac outside an airport large enough for one, maybe two, gates. Just like landing in Humboldt, only warm and foreign.

We reunited with Casey, who handed us beers in the car – you can do that in Mexico! – and introduced us to Antonio, our guide for the week. Twenty minutes later, we pulled up at Joe’s house, four years of dreaming of going culminating in finally arriving.

Mexico, The Short Version

What We Did

Surfed, swam, ate tacos, drank, read.

What We Didn’t Do

Work, wear makeup, bother with much more than swimsuits, be cold, worry.

 

So, 2013, yada yada yada, Mexico

It’s been a while.

Between Facebook and once again writing regularly for the North Coast Journal, I don’t turn here as often as I once did. And since my children have – for the most part – grown too old to use as fodder and since I am no longer chronicling my surf sessions, well, what would I write about?

It’s been quite a year.

But aren’t all years? Not one year of my life has passed after which I thought, Oh, wow, what a nice, dull time. This one started with our wonderful yellow mutt reaching the end of her 14 years. The following month marked the termination of a decade-long friendship. An important family relationship turned inexplicably distant. My youngest child graduated from high school, the middle one moved on to Santa Cruz and college. In June, I received notice that my beloved job will officially cease to exist as of Dec. 31. Another friendship fell apart. The endodontist says I need two root canals and the dentist found nine cavities in my son’s mouth and I have no idea how I’m going to take care of all this when the insurance only covers a percentage in the first place and time before losing what little coverage I have is running out.

Insert obligatory #firstworldproblems acknowledgment.

Of course, a stream of good things happened, too – they always do, preventing me from sinking too far into self-pity. Foremost, my children are alive and relatively well. I reconnected with old friends during one visit to Long Beach, another to Portland and yet another to San Diego. We reminisced, as people do, about the crazy things we did – that trip to Ensenada where she ended up in the closet with my future husband’s roommate and I broke the top off a Cherry 7Up bottle in my desperation to quench my hangover-induced thirst. That time I was super stoned and pulled what I thought were eyedrops out of my purse, but it was lotion and I didn’t realize it until I’d squeezed globs on top of both eyeballs – a story that apparently never gets old in the retelling. Those days we stayed past close in the bar, too blown away by some great band that had played to stop drinking – or because we needed to vent about how shitty the band was and how annoying the NA crowd could be with their ceaseless demands for coffee refills and emptied ashtrays.

Despite differing political and social views, visits with family members were lovely and free of debate. My previous writers’ group stopped meeting years ago due to the demands of children, husbands, jobs, life, but the women who made it up continue to be on the other end of late night/early morning emails most notable for being pleas of Help! How do I cope with this crisis? How do I get through another day fraught with too much to do and people going nuts? They always have answers – or for the unanswerable, comfort. I needed a lot of that this year. My new writers’ group delights me. Who am I to deserve such an abundance of smart, kind, funny, creative people populating my world?

From the people I work with – at all my various endeavors – to the people who showed up for my husband’s ridiculously fun 50th birthday, I am, for lack of a less hackneyed word, blessed. (Thoughts on friendship distilled here.) My job, albeit ending, has provided a leg up in the world and experiences I never expected: Taiwan, for example, adventures in D.C., even more intimate knowledge of our coastline, a hand in creating concrete protection for it. Health care. Experiencing what being able to pay one’s bills is like. I’ll miss it desperately, sure, but future opportunities are promising and for the time being I’m still privileged to write, occasionally, for both the Lost Coast Outpost and the NCJ. Those days when keeping all the magic going threatens to send me sobbing into anxiety-riddled nervous breakdown, I can still walk out my front door to the beach. Life is so very much work and yet continually proves to be worth it.

And I’m leaving for Mexico tomorrow.

This trip will be only my second out of the country (not counting ill-fated teenage trips to Baja), made possible by the generosity of a friend with a house there and judicious use of frequent flyer miles. To say I’m excited is to say a hummingbird is bit of a speedy creature – my heart is beating faster than those wings with anticipation. I wanted my husband to come so that we could have a shared adventure, celebrate this dawning new phase of our lives in which our children are grown, but alas, his desire to avoid flying supersedes his desire to trip along with me to exotic locales. The consolation option is no less wonderful, however – lieu of romance, I have two of my best girlfriends accompanying me, both so easygoing that my only concern is now I’m in danger of being the uptight one. I’ve wanted to travel forever. And I’m leaving both cell phone and laptop behind, so ready to disconnect that keeping focus through the day seems nearly impossible. I have a stack of books. Oh, to read novels again!

I fear I’m too happy about this.

Sometimes I’m compelled to reiterate, it’s not easy, this life. It’s much easier now that I’m not working 60 hours a week between two jobs that still didn’t pay enough to cover life’s expenses, fun as they were. A living wage directly improves one’s world, no question. But a lot of struggling and stress existed between finding myself pregnant at 19 and finding myself landing a dream job 20 years later. (I’m always finding myself!) Even under ideal circumstances, raising children challenges the most patient of adults. Our circumstances were far from ideal, lacking in both family support and cash, our son diagnosed with an as-yet incurable disease. And I am not patient. But – to get hackneyed again – love keeps getting us through.

So I can’t write about my kids very much because they’re adults or very nearly. (Also – disclaimer – because I hope to contribute a column to the NCJ’s new “Offsprung” series, so I can’t go on too much about how, despite what a vast number of well-intentioned people say, having adult children does not, in fact, make a parent “done.”) The nearly-adult status of my son also means I can’t write about my son’s diabetes like I used to. For the record, it’s still scary. Scarier in some ways because he’s opted to take on more responsibility for his care. He now inserts his own sets, checks his blood sugar on his own even in the early morning hours. I have not stuck a needle in the kid for months. Hardly a thing to miss – but like all aspects of letting go of controlling a child’s life, one that brings anxiety along with the relief. Who will take care of him if not me?

And since, for the first time since I began surfing, I’ve stopped counting my yearly surf sessions, I have no obligation to chronicle them here – by permitting myself the freedom from tracking, I inadvertently did away with a steady writing prompt. Alas. I have surfed and not surfed. Weeks pass and I freak out and suddenly I’m zipping down the spit, truck loaded, blood racing, my need to be in the water as primal as hunger. I don’t do things for a while and then worry I’ve forgotten how to do them. Surf. Make pancakes. Read. Write a blog post.

Thanks for bearing with me.

Travel Misadventures or Why Waiting to Get Gas is a Bad Idea

Some disasters are but a split second in the making. A word slips from the lips, an item slips from the hand – in my case, I slipped through Crescent City without stopping for gas. Waiting to fill up across the Oregon border seemed clever; gas is cheaper and this trip to the presidential inauguration needs to impact my family’s finances as little as possible.

What I didn’t understand was how far up the 199 we’d have to go to reach the border, much less arrive at an open gas station. We’d just blown through Gasquet when the car spluttered and died. My traveling companion didn’t realize what had happened at first – we still had momentum and he was deep into Marc Maron’s podcast with Dave Grohl. My phrasing didn’t help.

“Hey, Andrew, I need to get gas.”

“It’s a long way to the next gas station.”

“Well, I’m running out. I mean, I just ran out.”

“Wait – this is happening now?”

I cruised into a turnout in answer.

After exhausting every possible way of apologizing for being so stupid, so very stupid, oh my god I’m so sorry for being so very stupid, I took the next step of getting us out of this mess,  to the side of the road, where I waved my arms overhead in the universal signal for “Please stop and save me!”

The car stopped, backed up. Two women agreed to give us a lift to the nearest northerly gas station. A long lift – Goff was right. The miles passed slowly in the backseat, my concern growing in proportion to the distance we were leaving the car behind. The car, in which I’d left everything except my wallet.

Including, I realized as I patted my pocket, my keys.

I tried to squelch the panic. Goff glumly watched our progress on a map — even without cell service, you can GPS yourself, apparently. The women chainsmoked and played teeth-grinding music – although I like to think they’d chosen songs with a hopeful message on purpose. For us. “Everything’s gonna be fiii-yiii-yiiine…” They flicked their cigarette butts out the window.I refrained from sharing the fact that cigarette butts are the number one contributor to garbage on the beach. That the butts don’t decompose, but end up in the rivers and creeks, where they get washed out to sea and kill sea babies who mistake them for food. Nope, I quietly looked at the snow outside the window and thought about the news stories reporting about how some foolish travelers ran out of gas and ended up stuck in the snow and dying or losing limbs or eating each other. While I didn’t think Goff and I had been in danger of cannibalism, the knowledge that I was now one of those “What were they thinking?!” morons added embarrassment to the practical problems needing solving.

The sun set. Things looked dark.

We ended up in O’Brien, a tiny town over the border and about 25 miles north of my Civic. The O’Brien Country Store clerks graciously let me use the phone – cell coverage had gone from nonexistent to still not good enough. I called Triple A. Twenty minutes and multiple service representatives later, we had a plan to meet their driver at the car. How to get to the car remained a problem. Since it was in California and we were in Oregon, the driver would not be coming to get us. I hit up the store clerks. “Um, do you guys know anyone who would be willing to drive us 20 miles south? I have cash. I can pay for gas.”

Welcome to Irony Town, Savage.

They asked the sole customer, a portly, 50-ish fellow with a 12-pack of beer and a shaggy head of hair. He reacted with regret. He’d had too much to drink already, see, and shouldn’t drive. I understood, of course, and appreciated his offer to go to the bar across the street and ask around for us.

O’Brien is a store, a post office and a bar. Our odds weren’t looking good. Goff had vanished to the outside, roaming the perimeter in hopes of scoring cell coverage. I believe he also had hopes he’d reach a friend in Crescent City who would come rescue him from this ill-fated venture.

“You know, we have good people around here,” the older clerk mused. “If I see someone I know, I’ll ask for you.” He went out to the porch, presumably to look for some of these good people. I followed him out. The parking lot was empty.

“I guess I could try to flag someone down.” My breath frosted white as I spoke.

“Well, you could…” my friend answered. His tone suggested that what he meant was, “That’s a hell of an idea,” and by “hell of” he meant, “one that will end up with you shot and dumped down a river bank.”

He paused and followed up with, “We do have a lot of methheads around here, but you can usually tell them by their cars.”

I contemplated that for a moment and in that moment, a truck’s lights came on across the street. The driver exited the bar parking lot, eased into the street and pulled into the store parking lot.

Please please please be someone who will help us.

“Joe*? That you?” the clerk called out.

Joe looked leery of answering. He must have known he was about to commit to something. Maybe the earnestness on the clerk’s face. Maybe the puppy dog look on mine.

“This little lady needs some help.”

Situation explained, Joe acquiesced. I rounded up Goff and we set out for the car. A little ways down the road, Joe mentioned he was about three beers in and, “If you get scared, one of you’ll have to drive.”

He also shared how much he hates California. He really hates California. Grew up in Morro Bay area, got the hell out as soon as he could. Hates, hates, hates California. O’Brien may have its inbreds – “literally” – and methheads, but it’s “paradise” compared to the California’s gangbanging, Mexicans and taxes.

Joe is also not a guy who “bends over and takes it,” he’ll tell you. That’s why he hates unions. He’s also a commercial fishermen who hates regulations. When he got around to asking what Goff and I do, I opted to not share my identity as an ocean protection advocate and instead answered, “Oh, we work for the local paper.” Technically, I am on a freelance assignment, so it wasn’t a total lie. I also didn’t mention we were on our way to the Obama inauguration.

We needed a ride and Joe provided.

Arrived at the car, where I’d left the keys in the ignition and the door unlocked to no harm. All contents accounted for. A few minutes later, the Triple A driver arrived, poured some wonderful, life-saving gas into my tank and we were back in business. Looking at a long and much-later drive to Portland than anticipated, but nobody froze to death or resorted to gnawing off body parts. I’d gotten us into this mess and out. Everything was going to be A-OK.

Goff even started speaking to me again… sometime around Grant’s Pass.

* Not his real name.

(Official adventures to be reported in this week’s North Coast Journal!)

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