Saturday, November 23, 2013

United States of America: California 1987

"That hill there, that's a wildlife reserve."
I'm sitting in the front of the Shuttle Bus from airport to hotel in San Francisco. I look where he's pointing and see only a conical hill, devoid of bushes and trees, and there are no large animals. 
"A wildlife reserve?"
"Shuure! Butterflies. Mission Blues. They only live eight days. Won't see anything now."
"You've got a whole hill for butterflies and they only live eight days?"
"Shuure! They feed on the lupin flowers. Hard to tell the butterflies from the flowers."
I bet it is. Some of the blue spots would dance before your eyes, if your vehicle slowed down enough on this freeway. The hill is already well behind us. Eight days: that would make life rather an urgent matter.

The Eagles sang The Hotel California  into my world and here it is in reality: a jewelled quiet cave with settees covered in peach-skin velour.

At the bottom of Powell Street, two men in dinner suits with macaws on their wrists. For some inexplicable reason, this brings me a memory of my three-year-old son crying, fighting with his grandfather, as I am carried away down Mornington's Main Street in the Shuttle Bus to Tullamarine Airport.

The syncopated yell of cable cars. They're impossible to board except at the Terminal. John keeps whipping out his cassette recorder to interview bag men and shoeshine men. Frances finds silk outfits. I'm stalking books, latest editions of Marge Piercy's poetry, for example.

Frances and John return to the Hotel California after our six-day course. I choose the Burbank because it's cheaper. Hearing an eruption two days before July 4, I think war has begun. But the manageress rushes out to reassure me it's only a Chinese wedding over the road, fire crackers on the footpath. 
"We had a quake on Monday," she says. "I just wondered," Wondered?
"A big one?"
"Six point eight."
Here I'm aware how thin
city-skin is - Earth's heart
could heave and we would
simply fly loose, specks
of epithelium.
I visit Alcatraz. A middle-aged man on the ferry, alone. What if his Dad was an inmate? What if his Dad drowned, escaping? What if he's a middle-aged novelist, writing about a middle-aged man whose Dad did time on Alcatraz?

That's the United States for me: questions, questions, questions.

No comments:

Post a Comment