Kage Baker subscribed to that popular view that all roads are connected, somehow, somewhere. However, she didn’t believe that they all ran through the same world at the same time. Some roads ran through several, and you might journey through some very strange hinterlands indeed if you were careless. Others ran on the edge of other worlds, the way they might run on the edge of an amusement park – you weren’t driving between the rides and the midway, but you could smell the popcorn and see the lights. And sometimes, hear the screams.
She always claimed to be on the lookout for places on the road where the fabric of the world was thin. “People are looking very strange hereabouts,” she might say. “Let’s turn west for a few miles somewhere – I always feel safer going west.”
Or: “See the windows on that building on the ridge? They were square last week and now they’re arched. Wonder if it moved or we did? Don’t you wonder?”
“Oh, screw you,” I would reply wittily, peering uncertainly into the rear view mirror. And Kage would laugh.
I left Los Angeles early today, under a morning moon. It hung in the west, shedding no light but luminous nonetheless in the early sunlight. That always looks unreal to begin with, the big pale shard of crystal in the bright blue sky, looking like someone has whacked a clear marble with a hammer. You have to doubt the reality of that view, just seeing it.
There was snow above the highest passes in the Grapevine – the more distant peaks and canyons were all gleaming white, improbable frosting above hills still the pale gold of autumn. The trees are still burning in fall colour along every canyon, beds of embers; but above them, the snow had extinguished and stilled the mountains tops. You are acutely aware of the Edges of things when you see that.
Last week’s field of tumbleweeds had been ploughed clean. Burned and frozen, too, by the look of it: like a field where nothing has grown for a decade instead of one thick with a live, if improbable, crop only a week before.
There are stockyards here and there along I-5; the biggest is at Harris Ranch (known to Faire People as The Sea of Cows) but they are all along the road. Last week, most of them were full of black cattle – Angus, probably, popular and common beef steers in Central California. Today … pen after pen was filled with snow-white cattle, bowlegged and dewlapped, the very Cattle of the Sun in the heart of Winter. Who changed them out, and how, and why?
And just north of Kettleman city, where the hills rise up and bunch close together like a sleeping lions, a figure was standing on a berm above the road. It was the middle of the road, too, in a place where I know the south-bound road on the other side lies yards lower than the north-bound, steeply overshadowed by the rise of the hill. He was scowling, arms crossed, legs spraddled, staring down at the traffic with a look of pugnacious dislike. He was dressed all in black, except that pulled down over his forehead was a red cap …
What was a Red Cap doing on the side of I-5, frowning at the human traffic?
I’ve never been sure how -or if – I would know if we’d strayed over the Border …
Today’s entry is dedicated affectionately to Steve Skold, who (with his wife Carol) invited me to come have Thanksgiving dinner with his wonderful family today. He did me the great honour of reminding me to make time to blog today. I give thanks for the gift of knowing someone was waiting to read this!
And tomorrow: Dickens Fair Opens