Sunday, April 3, 2011

heaps of rotten seaweed sopping up the wet sand, black flies so thick as to form a second skin. multi-colored pebbles, bleached oyster shells, driftwood smashed into fragments i pick up and put into my pocket. each beach m. and i visit is unlike any beach i have seen because i have seen so few. we stop at every vista. i snap pictures of sea maggots wiggling in and out tiny rips in the body of a brown leaf; a dead fish; discarded men’s sandal with rusted buckles. up up up the one, speed peaking at forty. with each curve, we tower higher and higher above the pacific as it pushes up against colossal rocks, with or without trees, a carpet of lime green moss.

we left los angeles glazed with sun. a trickle of traffic, five lanes moving in unison until we drive down the grade: lane after lane of empty tarmac. santa barbara, the “tree city.” we park beside an oak—lay in the grass, suck on sunflower seeds, and eat tacos wrapped in purple wax paper. already the sky blackening, the “breeze” shifting to wind lifting my skirt above my knees. the sun holds out till san luis obispo. at the welcome center, a middle-aged man wearing a dodgers cap sells me a stale cup of coffee and proselytizes about obama’s unwillingness to show his birth certificate.

rain. water smeared across the windshield like vaseline. sixty miles outside big sur, a small digital sign: road closed ahead, businesses open. we drive on. as we soon learn, there are two roads leading in or out big sur: the pacific coast highway, which is closed, and a single lane mountain path, marked by an orange, handwritten sign do not drive after dark if unfamiliar. we rent the only room we can afford, a modified coat closet. no clock, radio, phone, or even nightstand. but a full size mattress, quilted comforter with aztec print. the placard above the light switch: NO LOUD TALKING. directly opposite the bed is a massive mirror. we unload our single black suitcase, all tattered with cat scratches, and fuck just once before heading to the lodge bar where we are the sole non-locals. on st. patricks day. the girl sitting next to us orders an irish car bomb, tells her friend in the imitation ugg boots: i fucked him last night, gestures towards the bartender sporting head to toe camo. don’t look! ten minutes earlier, i heard the same bartender say to a “regular” with premature balding: i slept with natalie. another round of irish car bombs for all. a four piece band with a blown out bass amp plays come back paddy reilly while a woman with a baby on her hip dances a jig, or what appears to be a jig, spinning round and round until she collapses into a deep-seated couch phew!

far too buzzed from the drive and the gin to ever sleep again, i kiss m. goodnight and stay in the bar, dancing and cheating at chinese checkers with natalie and her friend in the imitation uggs. 3 am: hotbox a jeep wrangler. eyes all threaded with blood. the girls refer to the men they’ve slept with, not by name, but profession. trail guides, boaters, bartenders, line cooks, wood cutters, or the day-shift assistant manager at the monterey pet smart. in the morning, m & i wake to a sky still snuffed of light. rain. inpentratable fog. car claws on. arrive to L’s apartment in oakland a day and seven hours late. we hug, say hi and what’s up, pack two bowls, squatting to blow the smoke out L’s bedroom window. say bye. am off to sacramento, alone.

an unexpected toll road. i hand fistfuls of pennies and dimes to the man behind the glass partition who blinks really? when i knock on J’s door, she's wearing pajama pants, hugging her boyfriend in the foyer. we eat burritos and drink modelo in orange wooden booths. walk in the rain to a brightly lit bar with tile floors and a bearded doorman who nods us inside. gin tonics, gossip about internet friends. i watch J watching herself in the mirrors that line the entire room. we talk about catherine millett. and the clitoris. flaubert’s letter to maupassant “i touch myself when i think of you,” signed “sister clitoris.” regarding a recent liaison of mine, J says well he was probably that obsessed because he couldn’t have you. biting into a lime: no matter who-you have to play it cool, pretend you don’t dig.

we pay cash for a taxi, strip off our coats, and listen to the everly brothers while cuddling mugs of vodka mixed with frozen pineapple concentrate in the living room. two tabby cats slink past, snuggle down on the edge of the couch. no toilet paper in the house so i wipe with a whole foods receipt. J fills the room with her milky yawns, shuttles off to bed. i am hardly ever wild awake in unfamiliar apartments these days, but tonight, yes.

lay on the couch, write in my journal or listen to J's roommates through the bedroom door. their laughter interrupted only by bits of conversation about a girl whose name i miss, but who, last weekend, acted
ridiculous, i mean really ridiculous. at some point, one of the boys staggers out, asks you smoking pot? can i rip that? i hand him the bubbler no worries, man. he does not ask my name or my reason for being there. sun’s first flush. i wake six hours later with my head going bomp bomp bomp. J brews a pot of coffee, toasts an english muffin. cigarettes? she buys toilet paper and cigarettes from the corner store. in the kitchen i read all the cute notes she’s tacked to the fridge if any of you need more time for electricity or rent, you can pay me in installments.

after a colorless sunset, in a part of san francisco i am told is “industrial,” m. and the others plug in keyboards, amps, a whole grocery bags’ worth of black cords while, in the basement of the venue, i talk to my sister on the phone about potty training and exposed brick. bookless and bored--walk four blocks past one hour room rentals to good times liquor store with requisite black bars on the windows, boiled eggs for thirty-five cents, a five-tier plate of sticky buns, and everything i need for diy white russians. no, i can’t concentrate on the band or L’s film tonight all these unfamiliar bodies swimming in and out shafts of light from the floor to ceiling windows. i study the girl in the too tight jeggings, her carrie bradshaw hair piled high atop her head. whenever she sits, she unbuttons her pants, turning her head side to side to see if anyone noticed. a group of out-of-place punks pick at their nail beds, finger a belt loop, occasionally kiss, or bob their heads to the beat. the twenty-something boy in turquoise corduroys, passionately texting, his face rimmed in blue. slip outside to smoke, wind slapping my face bright red, mascara clotted. it is impossible to light the cigarette so i just stand there five, seven minutes, staring into the sleet.