Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Solstice Canyon

Having found ourselves summarily evicted from the Holy Land. Young Beauregard and I blast forth in his spaceship around a long sweeping bend and there she is: my old friend the Pacific Ocean. Many times in my day my trusty old '68 Plymouth convertible and me were wont to  make this long sweeping turn that deposits you onto the far edge of the continent.  These New Age automobiles are swift and silent and ready for outer space; but give me Old Steel anytime. I knew just how much I could push her on a turn like this before the rear wheels would break loose. I really loved that old car and she was a loyal friend through a lot of adventures. Today my loyal friend is this here little rascal of a first born child and we cut right up the coast and pull into some kind of seafood place that wasn't there thirty years fact, this whole area looks different. Something has changed. But right now I am hungry and order a swordfish sandwich and fries. Beau has picked up a little dish of granola from the deli counter. I head around the side of the restaurant to the restrooms. When I come back, Beau is bringing a big basket of fries and my sandwich. As we sit down I notice that he doesn't have any food, just that little dish of granola.

“Aren't you eating?"   I squirt a big dose of malt vinegar all over everything in front of me and plop a large dollop of ketchup next to the basket of fries.

“I'm a raw vegan now, Dad.”

“Uh...oh. Well, you should have said something.” I'm a little embarrassed by this huge pile of batter-fried wonderfulness in front of me. “So, you can't eat some of these fries.”

“No, Dad, they were cooked in animal fat.” This is taking a lot of the fun out of the feast. But I have not had a solid meal since I got off the plane close to seventy-two hours ago and I'm ready to eat. So he sits carefully chewing his granola while I plow through about two pounds of fish and chips. A couple beers and maybe a two hour nap on the beach would make this a splendid day indeed. But Beau does not drink, and when I am with Beau, I do not drink also.

“Your Mom and I used to hang out on the beach here.”


“Yeah. Here and Zuma.”

“I haven't talked to her for a long time.” he says, looking west, gazing out over the vastness of the Pacific.  "I don't remember the last time."

It is a problem. We are an absolutely fractured family. And my West Coast version ain't the only one. I also have an estranged ex in Chicago and another son there. The cause of all this fragmentation of hearts is me. It all centers around me, obviously. But I don't really understand. I didn't do it on purpose and the reason Beauregard hasn't spoken to his mother in a long time has more to do with her serious immersion into biker-gang drug dealing and addiction. It is an unbelievable tale and if you knew her, you would never guess. She is a perfect front for those rotten bastards, well dressed and articulate and hanging on to her beauty but she is the Mother Lost and here we are, Beau and me, a couple orphans sitting in the sunshine at the side of the Pacific Ocean and both of us, my son and I , have been through enough blast-furnace pain and loss to kill a squad of infantry. But I am still here and so is he.  I guess all we have is each other, three thousand miles apart.  I wrap up the remains of my food and put it into the trash can.

“I didn't mean to bring her up Beau. I'm sorry.”

"Oh, hell no, Dad, it's okay. It isn't your fault.”

 Yeah it is.

Back in the Time Machine we roll down the windows and blast on North up the Pacific Coast Highway. Man! All that Hollywood and Laurel Canyon crap was a big part of my old life here, but it was the PCH where I came for fun. It was Malibu and points north where I could punch the old Shark into high speed and just roll along with the wind in my hair. I'm ready to climb up on the roof of this Magic Bus and start singing LA Woman at the top of my lungs. Hell, I used to LIVE in a Hollywood bungalow.

Beauregard turns right up a canyon road. This ain't Topanga Canyon.

“This ain't Topanga, Beau.”

“I know. Did you ever come up here? Liz and I come up here all the time.” Liz is his fiance.

“No, this is new to me.” It is called Solstice Canyon. We come to the entrance to a County Park, but he goes on past.

“We always go to the Park, but I never went on up the road. Let's see if it goes over to the Valley.”

“Fine with me.” I'm pretty sure it doesn't. I really combed these hills and roads back in the day. But it was a long time ago. Who knows? Maybe it is a new road.

We wind back and forth up a steep, really steep little canyon road and it keeps on going. Every once in a while he sweeps around a cliff-side switchback a little too fast and I get a shot of adrenalin. I almost never ride in cars and this is like a roller coaster ride at an amusement park where anything goes. I have been in Florida for a long time and the highest I ever get above sea level is the sixty feet or so of a big bridge. These rail-less hairpin turns are carved into the side of steep cliffs and going over the side would be a wild ride indeed. Then, just like that, we reach a little roadside parking area. End of the road. We get out and look around. Man! This is a view we should be paying for by the hour to enjoy. You can see for miles across the vast arroyos and pinon scrub and there is a foot trail heading even further up. We don't say anything. We just start climbing.

There are some kind of stratified rock eruptions up ahead. The climb is steep and I am old and that swordfish feast is still right there. I'm breathing hard but granola-boy is sprinting up the trail like a mountain goat. The trail leads to some kind of natural amphitheater. But there is an old foundation here. Incredibly, someone must have at one time built a house here. An odd thought crosses my mind.

“You don't have a bunch of friends up here in black robes waiting for the human sacrifice, do you Beau?” He laughs.  But after all, the Sostice doth rapidly approach.

“Of course not, Dad. We wear green robes now.” It does indeed look like the perfect spot for a solstice sacrifice and given the name of the road up here...

“Man, son, this is incredible. Who the hell would build a house way up here? And how?”

“Did you call me Manson, Dad?” It is a game we started playing when he was just a lost teenager running the roads with me, building commercial restaurants and sleeping in motels. Start a theme and riff on it all day.

We stand there at the top of this little mountain for awhile, looking around. It is about seventy-five degrees out, the sun is smiling down on us and we are way the hell out there and alone on a mountaintop together. I don't know what I am doing here so far from home, but if this moment, this moment just right now is why I am here, it is good enough for me.

“It's just that I haven't seen you for a year and I got that big deposit check and I said the hell with it, I'm going to fly my Dad out for a visit.” We are standing in the sky in a fantastically beautiful place. You can turn in any direction and see forever. He speaks again. “I came to Florida on that three day trip last year and you and I just spent a couple hours walking around the old neighborhood together and then we went and sat at the Crooked Angel and you drank beer and I drank grapefruit juice and the whole thing, the whole visit was like a dream. It lasted just as long as a dream.”

“We saw that white dog. The stray.”

“Yeah! I forgot about that!”

“The wolf?”


“You used to always see a wolf. You would wake up in the middle of the night because you thought you saw a wolf.” He thinks for a moment. Far below us I can  see some kind of huge bird flying along,  floating on a rising thermal. I could live here.

“The Wolf! I forgot about the Wolf!”

“It was a pretty big deal. That wolf cost me a lot of sleep.”

“I'm sorry, Dad. When did that end?”

“I don't know.” We turn and head back down the steep rocky trail.

“I don't really remember that wolf thing all that well, Dad.”

“Good. I always wondered what it was about. I mean, a wolf is pretty standard imagery but I don't remember where you got it. Probably from my Mom.”

“I don't really remember her much, either.”

“That's okay. It was a long time ago. At least you remember me.”

“Hah!” He bounds over and gives me a bear hug. “I love you, man!” Risky business, two big men hugging and stumbling down this precarious path. Risky business indeed.

“I love you too, Son.”

 From where we stand on this high ground the sun is not a mystery.  There it is right there, smiling and warming these exposed boulders and these two orphans.  There it is but not for long;  our old friend the sun is headed for the horizon and we have got to head back to town, ourselves.  Back to LA.

Whispering Pines Trailer Park on location:Back To LA


  1. TJ,

    Dammit man, you need to sit down and write a novel. You can f**king write. Really. You did some nice writing on bikes, but this stuff is really letting you hit your stride. Just amazing.

    Steve Z

    1. Thanks, Steve. I had no idea how you guys would react to this tangent that I am on and almost pulled the plug. There are only a couple more installments. Thanks for all your support.


    2. I'm with Steve. I'd read the hell out of any novel you wrote.
      I came for the bike talk, but stay for the prose.


  2. Ditto what Steve said! Your narrative combined with the dialog is outstanding. Keep it coming!


    1. Thanks Dan. I wanted to test the waters. I don't know what the future of the Blog will be...not this, though, I don't think.


  3. Couldn't agree more. I like the stories from Whispering Pines, and the stories about cycling, but this is like a book that I cant put down. It looks to me like your life story is worth writing about.

    Jason from Colorado

    1. Jason, I believe that EVERYONE'S story is worth telling. But I'm glad you are enjoying the tale.


  4. Your writing today transports me from rainy cold Seattle to sun bleached hills under blue skies overlooking the mighty Pacific. Chapeau Brother, I'll say it again, a collection of short stories.

    1. Thanks, my velo brother! Actually, this Blog IS a collection of short stories. But I know what you mean: a real live book that people pay money for and order from Amazon and so on...

      Trust me, I'm waiting for that shoe to drop. I tried to put something together for "Ride Two" but fiction isn't really my thing. Real stories about real people and real events come more naturally to me. Especially when one of the people is me.


  5. TJ,
    You so can write, and beautifully. Thanks for sharing with us.

    1. As always, Brian, thanks. Readership has almost doubled during this series, which is gratifying. But I also look forward to getting back to the bicycles. The weather here has been perfect and i have been getting in some pretty good mileage. If I could find some way to pull it off, I would spend the rest of my days travelling to various locations, riding around for a week and writing about it.

      A guy can dream...


  6. I can't figure it out: my eyes are sweating. What's the deal, is someone chopping onions?

  7. TJ,

    Dunno what just happened to Interlude & Orpheus Descending, but they were really good. Not happy, but good.

    "The world is a hellish place, and bad writing is destroying the quality of our suffering." - Tom Waits

    Endeavor to perservere.

    Steve Z

    1. Steve, I just now saw your comment. Apparently I pushed some wrong buttons. Orpheus Descending is still coming.


  8. I am locked in to the story but space-out checking everyday. you have become prolific!
    I am also trying to keep up with the sly rock references. Nice Janis Joplin although you have more, than nothing left to lose.
    Also Green Day.
    I'll just catch up here, and then make sure I check everyday.

    You and your son sound more like survivors than the pain and loss could kill infantry with.

    Good writing!

    1. I like to keep it interesting, Jim. Hardship breeds hardasses.


  9. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.