Friday, July 2, 2010
We arrive at the cabin in Mt. Hermon with a tinge of sadness, knowing our visit will not be long enough. There may be other family road trips just the four of us but the numbers are waning. We will travel with Spuds for a few more years and most likely he will have a year or two in the role of only child at home. Road trips and memories of road trips, back to our own childhoods and through infants and toddlers to teens. The pattern is the same. Kids get cranky. Dad doesn’t want to stop. Kids become more shrill. Stop and feed kids. Rushed by dad. Sated children sleep.
Hiimself, ever eager to arrive at destination, is willing to make a half hour detour to eat Mexican in the Steinbeckian town of Guadalupe. There are seismic retrofit notices in the windows and most of the restaurants on Main St. are closed up tight. The Wikipedia entry for Guadalupe is scant on the town’s history but notes that the Dollar Store is popular. We walk through the dusty boarded up town chasing a homemade tortilla sign that Himself spotted. The tortillas are perfect and the guacamole is excellent and the quantity is so abundant that at $2 that it feels like a gift.
I e-mail the mayor of Guadalupe and he responds assuring me that the other restaurants are slated to reopen. He is glad for my interest and provides a list of all the films shot in the area including De Mille’s Ten Commandments. Some of the gargantuan biblical sets are occasionally visible when the dunes shift. The kids in Guadalupe watch us as we make our way down the main street. My kids have relatively empty plates this summer but we watch the youth of Guadalupe amble through the ghost of downtown, our own prospects don’t seem quite so bleak.
I gamble and surprise the kids with a night at the Madonna Inn. They are pleased and we share the Skyroom with clouds airbrushed on the ceiling and a bidet. Himself and I are relegated to the televisionless loft where he bumps his head four times on his birthday. I like the Madonna Inn. It is kitschy but also clean and comfortable, unless you are over 6 feet and there is a low beam in the loft. I like going into the gift store and looking at postcards of each of the different 110 rooms, so explosively imaginative that aesthetics become inconsequential. It’s like staying overnight at Disneyland, a purely California experience to enjoy every decade or so.
We travel to Gold Rush country to visit my niece Cari and her husband Mike in Grass Valley. We see again the effects of the economic downturn on a small town as stores and restaurants we remember from previous trips are shuttered. It is weird to still be in California and be in a place where the preponderance of people are white. Cari was adopted and met her birthmother, my sister, when she was eighteen. I’m flying blind and somewhat self serving in reconstructing family history for my niece. Most of the players were unreliable and now they are all gone. But what’s left is a niece and a grand niece who shine and who both like so many of the same things that I like.
It is the 100th anniversary of the Santa Cruz Boardwalk and in honor of the occasion there is a screening on the beach of the film Lost Boys. The opening event is a performance by the band of cast member Corey Feldman which features bikini clad girls playing with beach balls on the stage. Feldman acknowledges the recent loss of one of his Lost Boys co-stars, Corey Haim. A number of scenes in the 1987 film are filmed on the boardwalk. We have imported some Cornish pasties, a Grass Valley speciality and smuggled in some beer and we sit on a blanket as the sun goes down. The actual neon ferris wheel and the roller coaster on the inflatable screen are right there. There are a number of people smoking pot.
Grass Valley swelters but in the Mt. Hermon Redwoods we sleep with quilts. I make a dent in 6 months worth of New Yorkers and do some crossword puzzles. We play Scattergories and have a cocktail hour. Tomorrow we get up early and wash the sheets in the cabin for the next renters. We will probably make the detour for more handmade tortillas in Guadalupe. We will return home and hope that puppy Oprah hasn’t been too destructive. I will savor my last hours here in the Redwoods. The topic for the week’s writing usually emerges on Wednesday or Thursday but there’s been no epiphany on a road trip through California and time spent with friends and family, just a gratitude that transcends words.