Kage Baker considered herself very straightforward. She saw herself as logical, methodical and very much a cause-and-effect sort of person. She was wrong.
What she was, was inhumanly disciplined, dedicated to her goals, and just plain stubborn. When she started a project, she stayed with it until it was done, no matter how long it took. But her route, though as inexorable and ruthless as Sherman’s march to the sea, was likely to be a wild and twisty one. Her thought processes were laid out with a pretzel for a straight-edge.
Kage had a compass in her head. She always knew where she was in relation to the cardinal points of the map, which was extremely useful in navigating our way around California on back roads. We spent a lot of time doing that. And since I can get lost trying to exit a parking lot (I once spent 15 minutes trapped in one near the Griffith Park Zoo, going around in circles), that swinging needle in Kage’s skull got us out of a lot of lonely dead ends.
However, she couldn’t tell her left from her right. Luckily, she had a lasting scar on her left hand and eventually learned to look at her hands before she chose one direction or another. When we were driving, she tended to just point and say: “That way!” If she told me go North or bear East, I gibbered and and my brain leaked out my ears; if I asked her “Left or right?”, she confidently chose the wrong way half the time. All of which contributed a lot to our getting lost and finding interesting places by accident …
That’s how we found where Budu was buried (ref. The Graveyard Game). Kage wanted to make sure he was buried somewhere that might be undisturbed for the next century or so. And it had to be real. She knew it was in Chinatown, because she’d written it that way in Son, Observe the Time. But she had to see it. That was vital to Kage; she had to have a firm visualization of what she wrote about, and when she couldn’t build it clearly enough in her head – we went out and found something to put in place. She was pretty sure it was a side street off Grant, the main drag of Chinatown; but her landmarks dated from a trip with Dad when she was five years old … she remembered a shopfront with dried ducks in it, though.
There are a lot of shops with pitiful dried ducks in them in Chinatown. Also, there a lot of one-way streets. And the pedestrians have things to do, thank you very much, and are quite unconcerned with you driving where they want to walk. And Kage kept saying Turn Right where it was impossible to do so (even if she meant Right, which was always doubtful) and I was driving a manual transmission in an area where flat ground is apparently illegal. Finally, in an attempt not to slide backwards into San Francisco Bay, I made a frantic left turn and was forced into a side street called Waverly.
And there was a playground being put in at a school. An old building had been removed; the construction crew had cleared the ground right down to the original dirt of the hillside, and were preparing to asphalt it over. Kage yelled, “There! That has to be it! It’ll be there for years!” She rolled down the window and hung out, staring desperately as we went past, and told me to drive around the block so she could see it again.
Driving around any block in San Francisco is an interesting affair. One way streets that slant precipitously up hill and down , have no parking and are always full of trucks and pedestrians make it far too exciting. But we drove around that block of Waverly (more or less) a dozen times, until the transmission was moaning and Kage had the geography memorized.
And that’s where Budu is/was/will be buried. Every time we went to San Francisco after that, we drove by and waved to him. We got lost every time; Kage decided there had to be a force field near the place, to make it hard for just anyone to find it … but there Budu lies, safely hidden, until Joseph comes/will come/did come to resurrect him. Budu would find it absurdly sentimental that we drove by to memorialize him, but Kage always had a soft spot for the Enforcers.
That’s what traveling with Kage was like in the “real” world. We usually slid sideways into the antechamber of the world in her head, and drove through the landscapes of her mind. And I’m still doing that now, still following that navigator who couldn’t tell Right from Left without a clue but knew in her bones where the North Star was.
Tomorrow: Getting somewhere. Anywhere. Or erehwon.