Saturday, September 23, 2006

i see you!
when babies and little children play games -- like peek-a-boo on the train with strangers -- how much of it will they remember? how much will be imprinted on them? will they find they like the train for some vague reason? or have positive feelings toward dark-haired people with glasses that remind them of the person who smiled at them from the seat behind their mother and father?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Pollardville, I hardly knew ye

For years, ever since we've been traveling up and down Highway 99 to Sacramento and back it's been there. Somewhere in the quickly shrinking emptiness between Elk Grove to the north and Stockton to the south you can spot it -- a tower looming over the land, even more impressive when lit up like the theater marquees of old. and at the very top its crowning glory: an 8-foot tall chicken.

In nine months, the Pollardville Chicken Kitchen and Ghost Town will be no more.

For years, the tower with the giant chicken has been a beacon, one of few California roadside reminders of days gone by, a landmark that told us that in about half an hour we'd be in Sacramento. On the last trip up I noticed the intrusion of new homes just yards away from the Chicken Kitchen and its neighboring Showboat [a dinner theatre, i think?]. i knew this didn't bode well.

we have a friend who said he's always wanted to try the place. how could you not want to? it's the last of the kitsch. we made a pact to meet there sometime. i just didn't realize how soon we'd need to act on it.

so it must be done. before that big chicken in the sky goes the way of the dodo. even if it means our first meal there will be the last one, i feel a need to pay our respects to our old friend, that proud and cocky bird in the sky. While there's still time.

Friday, July 21, 2006

there was the most incredible sky as the sun set yesterday. k. had called me to go outside and do it quickly before it disappeared. i told my weather-loving co-worker and we hurried out the room, down the stairs and outside. we were slammed by oppressive heat saturating the air and a gorgeous glowing light. we hurried around the corner and oohed and ahhhed at the sky: bubbly mammatus clouds lit like orange embers backed by a blue sky rarely ever seen in these parts. my co-worker and i stood there awestruck for several minutes. weather geeks that we are, we exclaimed that maybe we should have lived somewhere where they actually have interesting weather, like the midwest.

last night on our way home from work we saw two groups of four men, both on opposite sides of the street. one group, we think members of a band from the mexican nightclub on the corner, were wearing white long-sleeved shirts and cowboy hats. they hurriedly crossed the street only to just meet and pass the other group of four young men, all about the same build and height wearing black baggy pants and black t-shirts. it was a sort of clash of cultures old and new, a study in contrasts. that particular intersection is definitely one of the most interesting -- and dangerous [there was a murder in the nightclub parking lot a few weeks ago] -- corners in town.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

cafe a noir

Sunday, June 18, 2006


the crazy dog lady who lives catty corner from us is at it again.

last night her dog was barking again, as usual when the weather is warm and only made worse because we like to open our windows. occasionally we'll hear her whistling at him to keep him quiet, though sometimes she'll whistle even when he's not making noise.

a couple of minutes later i hear a high-pitched noise. i couldn't tell what it was exactly over the sound of our fan. was it a puppy whimpering? i got closer to the window to listen a little carefully. this time i heard two differently high-pitched sounds. i turned off the fan. no, it wasn't the dog but the dog lady doing operatic scale exercises or something. she did this for about five minutes. this was new to me. i told my husband and he said this wasn't the first time she's done it.

i looked at the clock. it was a little after two o'clock in the morning.

Monday, June 12, 2006

we got back about a little while ago from visiting friends in the ol' hometown. neither are hometown natives; it just happened to be where one of our friends worked and decided to buy a house. the other, a published author in the middle of three more books and who is transient at the moment, was visiting. i look forward to such visits because it gives us a reason to go back, even though i didn't have much appreciation for the place at the time. like many other of my classmates, i couldn't wait to skip town.

but this place, this valley, has a strange pull. they're called memories. whenever i'm near the old hometown the urge to visit the house where my brother and sister and i grew up is strong. even though there were many unhappy memories for me, there were enough good ones to keep me around. i am reminded of this when we drive through the valley on hot summer nights. sights and smells take me back to certain times in my life, like weekend drives on I-5, along the san luis reservoir on pacheco pass, past the garlic processing plant in gilroy where we'd roll down the windows to breathe in the intoxicating smell. i remember one too many times when our car would break down on 152 when it was relatively untraveled as it is now, a bit too far between towns. we ended up parked in the median, sleeping in the car until we got towed the next morning to a gas station stop called Red Top with its World Famous Fishing Museum [although it seemed to be miles away from any real water] and some of the best, fluffiest eggs i'd ever had. because of this, i missed my 8th grade civics pizza party that day.

i'm too old and timid to live in a place as congested as the bay area. i never liked cars and feel that i would probably thrive better in a place like NYC, london, or paris with their super-efficient public transit, but the cost of living deters us.

so i have struggled with the decision to leave or stay way too many times in my head. as time goes by i realize that i'm ok with certain things: it is fairly easy to get around here. it is close to work. it's relatively inexpensive. it's close to mountains and ocean. i recognize the street names when we pass through certain valley towns. it's far from perfect but getting better in some ways.

it's home.

Friday, June 09, 2006

the fountain head