Crumbling Empires and Parked Cars

I’d been dreaming of escaping the land locked San Joaquin Valley since I was in grade school, collecting shells in jars at the age of seven.  By high school graduation, I’d been accepted at two colleges but my long-time boyfriend (one year ahead of me) was not at my school of choice. Tearfully, I chose to forgo the giant Redwoods along the ocean, so I could stick with him in the asphalt apartment complex of Bulldog Lane Village, Fresno, California, USA.

image courtesy of Fresno State University

I knew it was a gamble, but I was willing.  I tried to make the best of it.  Got a job at Naturalizer Shoes in the mall, grateful for air conditioning in 108 degree heat, especially since I was donned in the required pantyhose.  I even hooked my boyfriend up with a job at the same shoe store in the neighboring mall, which was the beginning of our demise.  Romance struck when he bonded with the goth-fashioned clerk down the way at Waldenbooks.  He broke up with me and started reading “Geek Love”


courtesy of Wikipedia

I was devastated and stuck in Fresno.

Around this time, I found myself in a Political Science lecture where the professor reminded the class, “Throughout history, all empires have fallen.  Who is to say that the United States is any different?”

The suggestion shattered the bedrock of a foundation I had never questioned.

Still needing to finish up the school year, I took a short story fiction class, read Chekov and met a fellow student and brilliant writer (and, by chance, the son of the Political Science professor).  I still remember that first story I read of his.  A man and woman, oranges and chocolate and plenty of pregnant pauses.  I was enamored.  He took me to San Francisco where I wore red lipstick in the day time.  We ate Vietnamese food, perused bookstores and I bought a copy of  “That Which You Are Seeking is Causing You to Seek.”

I tried to make the best of my Fresno time.  I wrote a lot in my journal.  Found off-the-path nooks on campus where I’d sit in the shade of a big tree and read about the act of peeling a tangerine as meditation. Saw Ramblin Jack Elliot perform at a small bar in the Tower District with my father.

One weekend I took a road trip to Humboldt with my girlfriend, where a kind, handsome man in Buddy Holly glasses read me Richard Brautigan poetry at 2am in his studio by the railroad tracks.  I swooned to the sound of

“I want your hair
to cover me with maps
of new places…”

Foundation had been shaken.  The light was spilling forth.  Back in Fresno, I was standing in the displays of white, soft-soled shoes reading “Death is a Parked Car Only” with skipping heart beats.  I would no longer be confined to used peds and Orange Juliuses.  I would not end in Fresno.

Richard Brautigan

“You joyride around for a while listening
to the radio, and then abandon death, walk
away, and leave death for the police
to find.”

Sometimes the greatest gift is to lose the thing you wanted.  That which I was seeking, was causing me to split.  I finished that semester, left Geek Love and the Bulldogs behind, and headed for the ocean.