Sunday, July 27, 2003

"Rode to Opelousas, rode to Wounded Knee
Rode to Ogallala, home I’ll never be
Rode to Oklahoma, rode to El Cajon
Rode to old Tehatchapi, rode to San Antone

Home I’ll never be
Home I’ll never be
Home I’ll never be
Home I’ll never be"

-from "On the Road" by Jack Kerouac

That's actually from a song, not from the book of the same title and author. I listened to the Tom Waits cover of it as I drove at night through the mountains of southern Oregon for the fourth and final time. It's fortunate I have so very, very many CDs, as I spent an awful lot of time, well, on the road in the past two weeks. When I left, my new car had about thirty miles on it. Now it has around 5800.

After that CD, I put in the Two Towers soundtrack, which ends with a song performed by Emilliana Torrini (lyrics by Fran Walsh) called “Gollum's Song”, and contains the lyrics, “And we will weep/To be so alone/We are lost!/We can never go home.”

And before the Kerouac CD, I’d been listening to a Black Heart Procession album I’d long been avoiding listening to because it had been given to me by Trisa. It also contained lyrics about never reaching home.

I had pretty much been choosing CDs at random, at times just reaching into my bag and putting in whatever came out. So by the time I got to “Gollum’s Song”, I wondered if this theme of not getting home was an omen of some kind. I was feeling sleepy, and beginning to feel sick from, I think, some onion rings I’d purchased at Burger King a little earlier. I wondered if I was going to fall asleep and drive off one of the dark, winding roads, falling like slumber into the silent air. I wondered if that would be a bad thing. In Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, Batman often seems to psych himself out before a tough battle by telling himself that “it would be a good death” if he lost.

Driving off a cliff in those spooky mountains, far from home, after two of the best weeks of my life would be a dramatic and interesting death.

Well, to keep you from suspense, I did indeed make it home. But that’s not to say the omen didn’t prove true. It did. In a variety of seemingly unrelated and gargantuan ways. But I’ll come to that in a moment.

After I finally got out of the mountains, I pulled into a rest stop and crawled into my back seat. And I went to sleep.

I dreamt that Richard and Cryptess were in the car with me, and that I was talking to them. I do not remember any of the conversation. It was as if wordless . . . it was casual symbiosis. I guess, in those two weeks, I greatly became accustomed to living with those two.

The first drive up, I didn’t stop to rest at all. I left San Diego at 10am on a Sunday, and I reached Northgate mall in Seattle at around 10am on Monday. About two hours before I’d told Cryptess I’d meet her there. It was eerie.

I waited, and read Edith Wharton’s Age of Innocence, and was able to concentrate on it somehow—incredible as usually when I’m terribly sleep deprived, I simply cannot concentrate on the written word.

But I grew tired of reading—I began to feel strangely anxious and energetic, perhaps having something to do with the six Red Bulls I’d frantically gulped down whilst driving, trying to keep myself awake (entering the outskirts of Seattle, listening to Sleater-Kinney at extremely high volume, I passed an exit for Sleater-Kinney road, which later turned out not to be an hallucination).

So I drew weird little patterns on my hand, and paced, and bought another coffee.

I’d been to Northgate mall before, when I visited Cryptess a few years earlier. I knew my way around, a bit. I felt, as I walked through its lofty, bright, vaulted main corridor, vaguely like I was walking through a museum of my memory or something—having a bit to do with that sense of timelessness that malls always give me. I felt a little like I was wandering an old stage abandoned by its acting troupe long ago.

But these thoughts went away when a guy who turned out to be Richard walked up and said hello.

We talked about things, and I told him about how I was able to concentrate on Edith Wharton. Then Cryptess showed up, and I watched the two of them discuss math and three pennies.

I had a very great time with those two. Stayed with them in their garage, which was part of Cryptess’s grandmother’s house. They made a mysterious meal having to do with rice and stuff-I-don’t-know-the-names-of that was anyway incredibly good. We watched and revelled in our mutual love for The Family Guy.

Both seemed concerned that I would rather sleep on the garage’s concrete floor than on the couch upstairs, where dwelt the Cryptess’s noisy, er, cousin, or nephew. I’m not sure which. But so tired was I, that I could really have slept anywhere. Oddly, even after having gotten some rest, this was a talent that I got to keep.

Cryptess was at first unsure if she actually ought to go to ComicCon in San Diego (as was the plan) because of her college. So we dawdled for a few delightful days in that city with its small streets designed, Cryptess’s dad informed me, for early twentieth century cars which made it so that now the city’s much employed buses could not pass each other without one pulling over.

What a web of streets. One morning, while Cryptess was at school, Richard and I tried to find our way someplace with directions containing such mystic instructions as “Take a slight left on Greenleaf”. It was some time before we determined exactly what a slight left meant. We also found that 46th intersected with 47th and that there were indeed plenty of roundabouts in America.

Richard’s from Scotland, and hadn’t seen before a lot of the things we saw in the two weeks. But on the road, he had a few reminders of home in the roundabouts and on the freeway, where he saw people speeding and passing on the right.

Ah! There’s so much to tell, I’m overwhelmed, and it’s hard, as I’m depressed at the moment. But let’s see . . .

Cryptess’s college is beautiful and grey and sells cheap TigersMilk bars . . .

Oh! And the college she doesn’t go to, the one downtown, was absolutely gorgeous and wonderful and I thought it looked a little like Buckingham Palace.

(listening at the moment to Elvis Costello and Tom Waits’ cover of Bob Dylan’s “I’ve Forgot More Than You’ll Ever Know About Her” it occurs to me that people are rather like old peanut butter and jelly sandwiches you’ve left in your desk drawer and forgotten about until they start giving off an obtrusive smell).

In a comic book store nearby, I purchased for Cryptess a Sandman Dream action figure, completely on a whim, as I was terrifically excited to see it--I hadn’t seen it in a store for a very long time (I hardly ever buy action figures for myself as I have nowhere to put them. Instead, I buy ‘em for friends who have shelves to put them on—I came up with this strategy when I realised one day that I spend a lot of time looking at friend’s shelves or piles of stuff).

Cryptess was a little taken aback by the gift—even though I told her it was a birthday present (an excuse of course)(and anyway she’dgenerously given me the Sleeping Beauty soundtrack earlier)(oh, her birthday was coming up too, I ought to’ve mentioned here . . .). I guess because shortly after arriving I’d deposited in her tiny arms several stacks of my old books. I also gave Richard my copy of Naked Lunch and a D&D book so it goes to show that friends are really great for offloading stuff you’re not using anymore.

Richard showed me the movies Battle Royal and, er, another one, produced by Oliver Stone, the title of which escapes me.

Battle Royal was a strange Japanese film about students put on an island to kill each other and the other film was about kids in Brooklyn who stumble into wacky murderous mayhem. Generally fun and/or interesting films.

And I introduced them to Mysterious Science Theatre 3000, which is an excellent show to watch with new people as, with all the obscure jokes made by Joel and the ‘bots, there are a few you never get that other people do, and vice versa. I’ve seen a lot of these episodes over and over again since Junior High, but they just never stop being fresh.

So, yes, we did decide to go to San Diego Comic Con. Bad traffic jam leaving Seattle and we stopped just before reaching Sacramento at about 1am, and got a motel room. Nearly seventy dollars.

“These things should be free,” I said to Cryptess.

“You say that about everything,” she responded with her pretty braces smile, and I realised this was true. I’d said it a lot, and it seems natural. Things ought to be free.

We left at noon or so the next day (we went to Denny’s after checking out)(gods we ate at a lot of Denny’s. As I told Tim last night, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to taste Denny’s again without throwing up).

(Now listening to Elvis Costello’s High Fidelity, and I probably oughtn’t).

Traffic thwarted us again in, of course, L.A. This town Richard and Cryptess found to be quite fascinating, and I realised, having seen now Sacramento, Portland, and Seattle, how exceptionally big and bright and sprawling L.A. county/San Diego county is. Richard and Cryptess were both reminded of Rouge City from A.I. Artificial Intelligence, which is a film they’ve developed an affection for simultaneously to, but apparently independently from, my own affection for it. Which was weird.

(Richard finished saying things a lot with “Which was nice”, strangely echoing a joke he’d told me. He also had a lot of stories that ended with “which was really quite unpleasant” and a grin)

(Speaking of Richard echoing things, a girl named Echo in one of the Denny’s fell in love instantly with his accent, much to his visible chagrin. That was fun).

Right then, where was I? Ah—we got into San Diego just after ten, in time for me to immediately take them to Grossmont Centre’s Barnes and Noble—one of my regular hang outs. Cryptess, who’d seemed nervous in L.A., now started to look a bit more comfortable (she bought a sketch book and a copy of American Gods to Be Prepared). Richard correspondingly became more nervous, and perhaps justifiably so, as we’d kinna left plans for their accommodations ‘til just that moment.

A while ago, they had checked on Yahoo! for places to stay, and had told me that there were absolutely no vacancies in San Diego county. We’d agreed that this was absolutely ridiculous, but, after the Barnes and Noble, when we were roaming about, going from one absolutely choked motel to another, we finally realised this might not have been so far fetched.

Of course, it was a dark and rainy night, which added to dramatic effect—it did not rain once, nor was their even so much as a cloud, for any of the time I was outside San Diego. Which led me to believe that weather had simply not been programmed for outside the region I lived in. Which is damned sloppy.

My grandmother wouldn’t let them stay at her place, so we were damned lucky when Tim offered his, as his parents were in Europe. Luck was definitely on our side, as, when I checked Tim’s computer later, it appeared that indeed, there were absolutely no vacancies anywhere in San Diego county, not even as far up as Oceanside.

Tim’s couch is as comfortable as a bed and he doesn’t believe me.

Comic-Con . . . was crowded. It seemed tremendously plausible, then, that there were no vacancies anywhere in 200 miles. But it was a good Con. Richard and Cryptess seemed to enjoy it far more than Tim or I. They were still scampering about the floor, meeting artists and porn stars while Tim and I were sitting on the floor near the bathroom, comparing spoils.

One thing I was excited to get was the free Maharajah Donald comic book which I’d read as a child and I quite loved.

But the only thing I actually purchased was a copy of the collected Optic Nerve, which I told Adrian Tomine to sign to Trisa, which is probably unfortunate as she, it turns out, never wants to speak to me again.

(Tomine, apparently, grew up in Sacramento. Having recently become acquainted with that place, I felt bad for him).

We were there for the third and fourth days of the con, so we missed a lot. We saw Jill Thompson’s panel on the new Death manga, and she sold three of us on it—on Monday I promptly purchased it. Cryptess and I read and greatly enjoyed it.

On Sunday, I saw two panels. The first was the CBLDF panel where I could have sworn Neil Gaiman was staring at me, although it was hard to tell as he was wearing dark sunglasses. In the hallway afterward I could have approached him, but I got nervous and tongue tied and blah.

(the CBLDF panel was fascinating and horrifying, by the way. Do see their website).

Shortly afterwards, I met up with Cryptess and Richard in the hall where Cryptess, spotting Gaiman, followed after, giddily entranced. In the ballroom I watched the oddly adorable scene of her approaching Gaiman.

“Hello,” said Cryptess.

“Hello,” said Neil Gaiman.

“How’re you?”

“I’m good. How’re you?”

“I’m good. Can I get a picture with you?”

“Sure. Is the camera ready?”

Then very nervous looking Richard stood back as Gaiman enveloped little Cryptess in his arm/leather jacket. He proved to have very red eyes in the photo later.

Cryptess was very pleased that day.

A few days and more than a thousand miles later, we were back in Seattle, watching more Mystery Science Theatre. I stayed for several days, during which time I finally got to have food from the Thai restaurant Cryptess had been raving about ever since I met her. It really is deserving of praise. It is also spicy.

My last day, we met Mel for breakfast, which she paid for. Terribly nice of her—a tremendous service to me for giving me real, non-Denny’s scrambled eggs.

And then I bid farewell to my friends.

Fifteen or so hours later, I was waking up at a rest stop at 3am, having dreamt about them, and noticing that I’d been sleeping on the belt from Cryptess’s coat.

The trip back went mostly smooth until LA, where a traffic jam extending all the way into San Diego County gave me the peculiar feeling that San Diego didn’t want me back. But I still made damn good time, pulling up to my grandmother’s house at around 3pm on Saturday.

Now . . . why I can never go home again. The first reason anyway.

Walking up to the driveway, heavy black bag in hand, I saw the top of an enormous desk, leaning against the side of the garage.

My desk.

The desk my grandfather had designed and built himself.

The desk designed perfectly for use with computer and office stuff . . .

I walked into the house . . . piles of my things in little islands everywhere . . .

When Cryptess and Richard and I had stopped by my grandmothers before, she’d been taking down all the lovely cupboards in “my” room, and my things had been all over the bed, and I had been, um, upset.

Well, now I was furious. And indignant and outraged and . . . gah.

The weird thing is that my grandmother was surprised that this angered me. Huh.

So I took a shower. My first in two weeks. At least the shower was still there. And I realised I still was not going to be able to sleep in my own bed that night, due to the strange man wandering around my most prized and previously private possessions with a drill.

One of those moments where you don’t realise what you’ve got ‘till it’s gone . . . I really loved this room. Also a moment where I realised anew that this is a place where I stay as a guest, and that it is not my home.

I went out for a while. I decided to go to Parkway Plaza mall . . . I guess that place is really the closest place I have to home. When my mother first kicked me out, I hung out there a lot . . . I guess because it hadn’t changed, even though the whole rest of my life had. Like I said, there’s a timeless quality to malls for me. Richard and I had had a discussion about how malls are kinna microcosms, their own self contained worlds. Apart from everything else . . .

I wanted two things there, two things that’d started to tug at my mind as I neared San Diego. I wanted a burrito from Rubios (all the burritos in Seattle tasted like microwave burritos) and I wanted to call Trisa.

Trisa informed me then that she didn’t feel like it would be a good idea for her and I to continue our friendship. Amongst other things, she’d been upset by the fact that in an e-mail I’d told her that I’d fantasised about killing her current male friend, as I had felt instinctually that he had usurped my territory. I told her that I’d day-dreamed about killing the man she loved, and it’d freaked her out. Go figure.

She said a lot of people had always advised her that I was not right in the head, and that she would do well to stay away from me. That was chilling, it’s true, but oddly flattering as I’m so accustoming to viewing myself as consummately harmless.

From the sound of things, what had began as a hiatus for the two of us turned into her making a new life for herself that I wasn’t to be a part of. Trying desperately to convince her that we could still continue our friendship, telling her I love her, and all that soul pouring goop, I realised that things had very quickly gotten to the point where I very simply did not fit in her life any longer. And that even though she has, as she said, affection for me, there was no place for me with her. Finally reading over her journal a short while ago, I realised this instinct was accurate.

Anyway, as she explained to me that she felt it no longer healthy to expend energy on me—sensing that I would never get better—she finished with a “I’ll see you later.”

“You will?” I asked hopefully, desperately.

“In a manner of speaking,” she said angrily. Then she said bye and hung up.

So I hung up, and walking through the mall, on my way to Rubios I noticed three new stores, and that the Disney Store had closed.

Home I’ll never be . . .

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