It was raining hard as L took me to the train station. L swooshed merrily laughing through several flooded portions of Route 9, and I thought, You want to be careful with that, girlfriend—but did not say because backseat drivers are odious, so unless my chauffer is driving up a ramp that says, Wrong Way! Turn Back!, I white-knuckle it and remain mute.
I was really nervous about what awaited me in the City, though. Assuming I even made it into the City. I calculated there was a very real risk that the tracks would wash out while the train was in transit. Plus, I still hadn’t pinned down the bus to the airport.
There was a girl on the train with a large suitcase.
As soon as we pulled into Grand Central, I asked her, “Excuse me, but are you going to the airport?”
“How are you getting there?”
She was taking the bus.
So, there was a bus! Relief flooded me.
“Do you mind if I follow you?”
She rolled her eyes, but in times of duress, one ignores social humiliation.
It wasn’t raining yet in the City, but the skies were grey and ominous.
Now, I know the airporter buses leave from 41st and Lexington. The girl with the suitcase was marching the wrong way plus she was talking via speaker phone, “Well, I don’t see it—”
“You just missed it,” said a disembodied male voice. “Find a Starbucks and just hang out—”
“Plus, there’s this person who’s following me—”
“The bus is actually right over there,” I interjected timidly.
It was. Right next to a sign that said Newark Airporter Express.
The girl was going to the Newark airport.
“Where’s the bus to JFK?” I asked the bus driver.
He shook his head. “No more buses to JFK. COVID.”
Damn it! That meant my only transportation options were the subway or a $250 taxi ride.
(The next morning when I read that the Newark airport had been shut down by flooding and not a single plane had gotten out, I felt a surge of triumph: Take that, be-yatch! Thus does my own private G-d smite down my enemies! Person. Fuck you.)
The subway it was. And actually, the subway turned out to be okay, even at rush hour because absolutely no one takes the subway in NYC anymore. The E train was completely deserted; the trip took half an hour, which is a much shorter time than a bus ride would have taken.
And my timing was impeccable.
Because one hour later, the stations I passed through were under three feet of water.
By then, though, I had checked into the fabulous TWA hotel and was blissing out on crepes, Real Housewives, and hot showers.
Here I am posing for an adorable selfie shortly after arrival at SFO:
SF-Bay-Aryans seem to have the same aversion to public transportation that New Yawkers do, plus everyone is masked all the time when they’re out of doors—which strikes me as a peculiarly Californian form of virtue-signaling: I mean, if you’re 25 feet away from all other human life forms, how much real risk is there that you will infect them with the plague?
No, matter. I am happy to do as the Romans do while roamin’. And the BART train was completely empty, so no plague there.
I walked to Rik’s house from the North Berkeley BART station.
The air was hazy with distant smoke.
Berkeley was still a pretty place, but it didn’t make my heart lilt the way it used to.
Once at the Rik House, I caught up on the latest family feuds with young Haley. Little did I suspect that I was about to become the newest installment!
Rik’s two daughters, Alicia and Katherine, still hate each other; it has something to do with Rik’s will. (Figures.). And Megan, Haley’s half-sister not-by-Alicia, has cut off all communication with everyone and moved to Sacramento.
(“Well, your mother was pretty unkind to Megan when Megan was growing up,” I observed mildly—and in retrospect, it was probably this casual remark that got me banished from the house since there is no reason to believe that Haley doesn’t repeat everything to Alicia.)
Later that night, I took Haley out to dinner at a Tibetan restaurant. We had momos.
“This is great!” said Haley. “I never go out. I order Grub Hub.”
Haley is not currently working. There is a boyfriend, and he has a roommate. That means that Haley’s real-life social circle consists mainly of two other people. I don’t think that’s a particularly mentally healthy setup for a 25-year-old, though, of course, it’s none of my business. I suppose she has a rich and full online life, which I don’t think is particularly mentally healthy either.
There was not one morsel of food in the house, so the next morning, I took Haley out grocery shopping.
And then went over to Barbara Angell’s house and had the fabulous time that one has with a beloved friend that one has known for more than (ulp) 40 years. Barbara looked really tired to me, so I didn’t take pictures. She wants to sell the Petrified Forest, but it’s not clear to me that there will be many prospective buyers for a roadside attraction in prime fire country. Although, of course, this is California where neither droughts, nor fires, nor the omnipresent fear of the Big Earthquake That Will Take Everything Out seems to affect the ever-escalating real estate prices, so I’m probably wrong.
Ichabod arrived the next day.
His hair is so long! And so grey.
This is when the Family Unpleasantness (described elsewhere) took place.
In a way, it’s almost a good thing that the Family Unpleasantness took place. The big task of the day was confronting all the shit in the storage unit, and last time I was at the storage unit, I’d gotten hysterical because all those deep-rooted feelings of shame and failure completely overwhelmed me.
This time I went to the storage unit feeling self-righteous and wronged!
Much better emotions for productivity!
I immediately began tossing things into big black garbage bags. All those diaries I’ve been keeping since I was 12-years-old, oversized black sketchbooks filled with pages and pages of spidery Rapidograph scribbling in a variety of colored inks? Into the trash with them!
It felt good.
The magic is in the daily transcribing, right?
Who wants to read this shit once it’s receded into the past?
I did save the diary I kept in Egypt. Plus any actual fiction efforts I could recognize as such. And a few clips from my voluminous clip files that I am particularly fond of—I had forgotten that I was actually a pretty prolific entertainment journalist throughout the 90s; all the way up, in fact, to the time I started working at ICM and had to sign a bunch of NDA documents.
Throwing that stuff away felt liberating.
I realized I didn’t even care anymore what became of the sign and the hutch.
Ichabod had been having car trouble. On the drive down from Ukiah, all the Danger, Will Robinson lights had flashed on on his dashboard.
He drives a 30-year-old Volvo gifted to him by my demented aunt.
(Whom we were told by Janet we could not go visit. I don’t know why it was any business of Janet’s whether we visited Annie. Annie was Rik Wife v. 1.0; Janet was Rik Wife v. 2.0. Janet is not really Annie’s family. But apparently, Janet went out of her way to call Annie and put The Fear into her. Pity, as I was fairly certain that this would be the last time I would ever see Annie alive.)
Ichabod makes a good salary, so continuing to drive the Volvo strikes me as a false economy—but hey! it's his life. I will just note that I have driven some pretty dicey cars over the course of my lifetime, but even I would avoid the Volvo.
As Ichabod was manoevering the Volvo off I-80, the engine began sputtering.
And by the time he’d steered the Volvo 100 feet or so up Ashby Avenue, the engine stopped working altogether.
“You’re so funny, Mom,” Ichabod told me later. “Do you know what you said when the car broke down?”
“I can’t remember—”
“You said, ‘God is kind.’”
“I did? Well, God is kind. If the car had broken down on the freeway—or God help us, the fucking Bay Bridge—we would have been in some deep shit. As it was, it was only an inconvenience.”
We managed to push the car onto the sidewalk with the help of a friendly bystander.
Triple A only took five minutes to arrive. The very pleasant Triple A guy fished a broken alternator belt out of the engine: “Here’s your problem.”
Then the very pleasant Triple A guy towed us to a nearby auto repair shop where we dropped off the cars keys and a note.
The very pleasant Triple A guy was willing to give us a ride to the Spruce Street house as well, but even though I’d been zealous about throwing stuff away, I had still managed to salvage two large suitcases from the storage unit, and the suitcases wouldn’t fit in his truck. So, we walked.
We smoked a joint along the way.
Since I don’t smoke much dope, I got pretty blitzed.
“I really love Berkeley,” Ichabod said. “It’s such a pretty place.”
But my own love affair with Berkeley feels over.
And I see that I’ve been writing for three hours, which is wayyyyy too long ‘cause I’ve got work to do. Crossposted from Dreamwidth.