Location: Vacaville, California, 01/09
Randomly Appropriate Music: California Dreamer by Wolf Parade (and not just because of the title, that song is eery)
Yes, I’m fully aware that in my last post I promised a far more lurid tale about being excommunicated by the band that opened up for The Killers on their last tour. The thing is, today was a busy day at Omaha.net Central Command. I had some appointments scheduled, and let me be the first to tell you, this whole meeting face-to-face with people in the real world, très tiring! How do you people do it, day in, day out? If I don’t get a solid night’s sleep and my 12 hours in front of the computer, I’m simply not myself.
However, since @NorCal recently followed me, I’ve stayed in that California state of mind started by my last post. And I like the way the photograph sums up the way I was feeling while finally driving toward San Francisco, the goal destination that for months had kept me a hungry, quick moving traveler.
But I wasn’t there quite yet.
Vacaville. What a name.
While in Portland, OR I had found a ride on Craiglist Rideshare, a service I endorse and use frequently, despite the fact that’s it’s constantly getting me in ridiculous situations. This one was fairly tame on the ridiculous scale (unlike the polyandrous dominatrix I met, which rated 11 out of 10 on the, “Holy Crap Your Life Was So Much More Screwed Up Than Mine and You Scare Me but I Love You” ridiculous scale. Alas, another story for another time).
A man in his mid 40s driving a rented Toyota Prius offered to drive me from Stumptown to San Francisco. For any one who has seen it, that screen in the Prius’ dashboard is mesmerizing. Who knew that watching an animated video of the car tirelessly transferring energy down little flashing wires into happy little battery packs could be so fun? And how come Sufjan Stevens never recorded a song called Hooray for Internal Combustion? Would have been great on that Michigan album.
Also along for the ride was a kid my age, a hippie type with a dumb accent who had an encyclopedic knowledge of hot springs and rocks and other useless hippie crap. He could point you to a spring anywhere in the West, and probably knew the location of some manna pools and heart chakras and geodesic flavor rods if you probed him.
He had been bouncing around for a while, knew every minor highway like the back of his hand. Called everyone he knew “nice kids” even when they were far older than he was.
The hippie had to make a stop in Asheville, CA, which is one of those leftist outposts that totally creeps up on you unexpectedly. It’s full of the same tidy yards and small town intersections I grew up in. Has the same 20,000 people inside its borders. And yet, people walk there, on the side of the road, going who knows where, totally incongruous to a place with no public transportation. They hang out, looking vagrant-y, and somehow support art galleries and bars where real bands play in the middle of nowhere.
The hippie said he had to pick up some money from a friend who owed him, which sounded fairly implausible at the time, and really became quite laughable as he explained how he didn’t trust banks, and never used them, preferring instead to transport relatively enormous sums of hard cash across our great nation.
As he told us about the rock and gem show he was to work at in Arizona, which is sorta the equivalent of a Muslim making it to Mecca or a Mormon making it to Salt Lake City for bat shit crazy feng shui hippies, we stopped at brown split level. He entered the home, into which we were not invited, and emerged a few minutes later with swollen backpack, and never said another word about it. The girl who answered the door had waist length dreadlocks dyed purple. The man next to her had many piercings. Her boyfriend/husband/father of her child, who ran in between their legs giggling and shirtless, did not come from where I came from. They gave us tasty brownies. They seemed like “nice kids.”
Soon, we continued on the road to San Francisco, the Pacific Northwest already a memory, gaining momentum as the magnet sucked us toward it. Well, at least in theory this was true, if not in practice. On the screen, the little wheels of the Prius spun, and the happy gas flowed into the engine, and flowed out as happy power to wheels going the same damn happy speed as before. But by and by, the animated movie told us that the wheels would spin no more. We needed gas.
And so we happened on Vacaville, clearly vying with Mt. Shasta in a game of cock-dongled one-upsmenship as to which place could have the sillier name.
But there was no fun in Vacaville. No silliness.
The internet would have you believe that Vacaville is a town of 96,735 people, but I know better. Vacaville is a gas stop in the early night. It is empty, and because I will never be back, it will always be raining, like it is always raining for me in Berlin.
The fog had rolled in, a blanket between the ground and the sky. The fog coated everything with wetness, caught the light, made the black glow white under the Big Top. Vacaville is a parking lot, nothing more. Maybe endless, it stretches out into the northern scrub, unbroken pavement clear to the horizon, dotted only by monuments to retail.
No one lives there but big box Bedouins, an oasis on the way back to the civilized world San Francisco represents. It is onyx. And just when you’ve wandered a little too far from the car, past a ghost town of international corporations selling food + gasoline + lumber + dirt but not selling it now, not in the night, and it glows everywhere with signs that are all the same, all saying buy, it is there and it is gone, like a animal biting your heal in a ocean of dark + wet.
Screeee! Slash! Blood! McDonalds! Chop! Horror! Scream! Best Buy! Rrrrrrr! Valero! Ahhhhhhhhhh!
(I totally wish it were easier to do sound effects in text)
Bonus happy shots for people worried that I might be suffering from seasonal depression (how sweet of an omen is this to start a trip with? Just across the Oregon border):