Saturday, February 20, 2010

California Dreaming

It is a place I've been exactly twice, in what felt like two distinctly separate lives that I have been given the memories of, so apparently the same person experienced them, and that person is me. Or why are these sensations and recollections in my head?

In 1980, in that between-college-and-real-life juncture--more like a pothole into which the wheel thunks suddenly, because you do not see it coming--I went west to California. A stay in a roommate's lovely old family house in San Francisco (not withstanding my ugly ban on her Laura Nyro records in the communal student housing) was offered, replete with sushi breakfast in the garden. A a week of doing little but skulking around the best bookstores I'd ever seen, drinking coffee and Anchor Steam beer, and having my conception of Chinese food rearranged in the most pleasing fashion, I got on a Greyhound bus. I was headed for Utah, and a breakup, though I did not know this detail until after I'd arrived. Now I see I survived. Then, I was less than sure; such is youth.

The second time I was another person, a new mother. This journey was by airliner, praying all the while the baby would not start screaming somewhere over Indiana and not stop til LAX. The flight and the hotel--the kind with cool marble lobby, artful bowl of green apples on the reception desk, and alluring fountain sending a wall of gold water into a basin--were paid for. I was just along for the ride. So ride I did: around and around an unfamiliar city in a car with an infant in the backseat, day after day, in order to explore, or rather push a stroller around, by myself. But there was more car than stroller. Way more. I did not like L.A. I'm sorry.

It is time, I've decided, for a new view on this variegated and gorgeous state. The baby is now big--we wear the same shoe size, at least for the moment. And I want to take him there.

The plan got byzantine, even for someone whose daily bread is twisting things into impossible shapes. It involved overnight camp with California cousins, visits to friends both known and as-yet unmet along the coast, traveling Highway 1, and a real sense of having gotten there: ergo, by motorcycle. Because there is just as much to see along the way. I have grown tired of hearing myself say, "I want to take you to the Grand Canyon, honey," and "We could go see those Indian cave dwellings in New Mexico," and repeat the variations the next year. When is "next year," anyway? Is next year when I'm leaning on a walker, or, worse, never? I want to be as good as my word. Or not utter words--or have hopes--at all.

The problems would pop up, and my brain would find a counter for them. Don't feel comfortable enough on the K75 to put my dear heart on the pillion seat? Well, how interesting that I happen to know one of the finest riders on the planet; I would trust my son to him, if to anyone. It all seemed possible, if not truly, overwhelmingly, excitingly difficult: a month total on the road, two bikes, three people, thousands of miles.

When an idea takes hold--and an idea I go public with, to boot--I am loath to let it go. Even when the other rider suddenly finds himself without a motorcycle to ride. So my brain starts churning again. I could ride someone on the back of a bike like a Lario: there was not a place I did not feel fine taking that nimble, well-balanced machine. Too bad it is recommended to bring a certified mechanic along on rides of more than forty miles. But a bike like the Lario but not a Lario: how interesting that a Breva 750 is up for sale nearby. Do I need three bikes? Is that a rhetorical question?

I am still California dreaming--August sounds fine, doesn't it, the word itself like gentle heat--but now it takes place in a fitful sleep. I wake suddenly on the what if . . . and suddenly feel as though all the balls are in midair but I am watching some of them fall to earth, uncaught, in slow motion.

I never know what I am going to do, really, until just before I do it. I somehow sense this is not normal behavior. But a trip like this is not normal, either, which is why you have to sleep on it, and wish hard upon waking that it is real. Not disappeared into day.


ren said...

In my world, trips like these are indeed normal. If more of us do them, then more of them would be considered normal, and then! well, THEN the world will be a much better place, one that allows time to dream and time to live those dreams and time to read of dreams realized.
So, think that this is normal and it will be what happens. Or so think I, who is not considered normal.

Charles said...

mi casa es su casa. bring it! :)

Melissa Holbrook Pierson said...

I take your inspiration, Ren, across the not-normal air waves.

"Just go!" I hear being whispered from all corners . . .

Charles, there's still time to reconsider. But if you choose not to, will you please direct me to some good fish tacos?

Steve said...

You simply must allow this dream to become a reality! You owe it to yourself to make a coast to coast trip as part of your motorcyclist being. Your son will have memories for a lifetime. Some of the details will be challenging, to be sure, but not impossible.

California by motorcycle; the third time will be a charm. :-)

Melissa Holbrook Pierson said...

Hearing this, Steve, suddenly brought me back to the days when I would climb the ladder of the high dive, then stand at the end of the board looking down. For a long time: Am I going to jump, or not? I had to run the possibilities through my head. I had to try to imprint the sensation of falling on my body before I could make myself do it. Yet I don't remember ever turning around to go back down the ladder. It might have taken a good long while, but I always jumped.

Thanks. With enough of a chorus saying exactly this, I'll get closer & closer to the end of the board, and I think it will indeed be the trip of a lifetime.

ren said...

Hey, then when you do it once, you will continue doing it." A trip of a lifetime" becomes something you cannot do without doing it regularly. Heehee!

Yeah, just go.

Liz said...

Hello, all I can say is, if you need ANYTHING when you get here, don't hesitate to ask!
Liz (in Los Angeles)

Melissa Holbrook Pierson said...

Thank you so much, Liz! I can't wait to sit down with a map at last to plot our course: each dot will represent not only a place to be visited, but (like stars in the constellations) people everywhere to be met or re-met. So grand.