Kage Baker was always in favour of waiting until Monday to drive home from a Faire. We didn’t get to do it too often – those being many of our years in the office trade – but now that I am old and unemployed, it’s more feasible. This weekend, with the rigours of a 3-day behind me, it was imperative. I wouldn’t have been able to get her to agree to a 6-hour night drive anyway … and traveling with a sleepy, whiny, nervous navigator is not recommended.
So I left lovely Vallejo at half past 8 this morning. The lawns were all white and crisp with frost, and it was a bracing 38 degrees. I had to chip the ice off my windshield. I actually rather enjoy this decisive weather, and once I was armed with a giant coffee, the road was mine!
It was cold and clear and sparkling all down I-5. The holiday traffic was gone, except for one horrific accident near Harris Ranch: three cars all crushed, one of them upside down and one of the upright ones still in flames. No telling what had happened; it looked like a mortar attack. Traffice on the north-bound side was backed up for miles.
The white cattle are proliferating in the road side feed lots: more today. They look like blocks of granite, or the totem animals of glaciers. Are there quiet groups of Mithra-worshippers getting ready for the Winter Solstice out there? These look utterly appropriate for Mithraic rites.
More fans – I saw a fallen wind generator’s blades, imbedded in the grass like enormous swords. Wonder what that was like when it fell? There was another standing lamp by the side of the road in Livermore, just looking casual. However, in Vallejo itself there was a sad sight: a little table fan, face down in the leaf-filled gutter, an empty 40-ounce Colt .45 standing on the curb above it …
A hawk almost hit me near Apricot Tree, taking off from the side of the road and just barely clearing my car. I could see its contemptuous glance as it skimmed over me, apparently deciding at the last moment that my little black Cruiser was not actually an award-winning rabbit.
And it is the season for road kill, which Kage always said were Midwinter sacrifices from the land to the road. I saw a fox (red one), several unfortunate moggies, a badger, and what looked like the Giant Rat of Sumatra but was probably a possum. Also, about a half dozen coyotes – but Kage, again, always said that those are never really dead. They are just Coyote himself, playing dead for a prank and waiting for someone foolish to come check him out …
There were also several unidentifiable masses with odd horns or wings projecting from the wrecks, like the battle standards of the losing side. If it’s big enough to be a cow but there’s a wing sticking up – what are you seeing? A really careless vulture? An unfortunate critter collision? We used to play “ID The Roadkill” on these journeys, as many animals seem to die in species-characteristic poses (skunks are always pasted to the road but with their tails waving like plumes), but what is one to make of an anomaly like that? Aside from Brunswick stew …
There was snow thick on the upper peaks of the Tehachapis, but it thinned out in the canyons where the sun comes late and weak this time of year. Only at the top of the Grapevine, close to a mile up, did it come down to the side of the road – but there, even at 2 PM in the afternoon, it was lying thick and solemn and immovable-looking. In 6 months those hills will burn like embers with the blues and golds of wild flowers; but for now they are a frozen grey sea with whitecaps breeding on its bosom.
And on a hill above Castaic there was a boat. One assumes there was a house somewhere out of sight, but all that showed from the road was the boat – a big one – perched on the crest of the hill. Maybe the owners expect God to regret the Simi Valley and wipe it out with the Castaic Dam.
After that, though, there was only the ordinary strangeness of Los Angeles to get through: and I was born here, so the local weirdness is comforting and familiar. Harry the parrot sang “Rule Brittania” in his patented monster voice (that always cracked Kage up) in welcome., and the little black cat and the Corgi danced a four in hand around the living room in joy.
Now it’s laundry and costume repair and cooking and packing and writing for 4 days, before I brave the trek north again.
It’s nice to be home.
Tomorrow: scenes from Dickens