Kage Baker believed that how a place or time felt was more important, and more informative, than what or when it actually was. If a day felt like a weekend (or weekday), her responses were tuned to what it felt like, disregarding what the calendar said about it.
The general ambiance of a place was an even more Kage-specific indicator. I’ve mentioned that she sometimes decided that wherever we were “looked funny”; or worse, the people there did: we would depart, while she spun me stories of just how the people were strange, and the probable fate of strangers who stayed there. (Sometimes justified, too – non-residents are not welcome in Ballena Bay.) There were times she could not bear to be traveling for too long in a given compass direction; or, conversely, felt that it was a good day to drive north for a few hours.
“Wake up,” she’d announce, striding into my bedroom, “we need to go north today!”
“Where? How far? How long?” I would mumble, groping for my glasses (I always hear better with my glasses on).
“I don’t know. I’ll tell you when we get there.” Then she’d go work out a travel route where we didn’t slip on to an eastbound road while we were also going north. Going east made her uncomfortable.
This is an interesting way to design road trips, and I usually enjoyed it enormously. One memorable occasion we started out from Pismo on a Friday morning, and went on through all the coastal towns between there and San Francisco. Nothing was planned, we just didn’t feel like stopping or turning around. It took us three days to get home, camping and staying in motels at random: the best one was the hilariously named Borg Motel in Monterey. Incredible sea view, and the best bacon on the coast in the restaurant next door – if you can avoid being assimilated.
Why did I put up with this? Well, like I said, it was interesting. Stories got told, and we sought for and found fascinating things. We’ve explored most of the small graveyards on the California coast, for instance – a stone mausoleum in Arroyo Grande with a broken roof filled by an enormous honeycomb, honey dripping down its walls; the dappled deer that graze all fearless between the headstones in Pacific Grove; a cemetery almost abandoned in Port Arena, where ground squirrels have built a metropolis between the graves and the ground opens up most alarmingly under your feet.
We’ve found wonderful – and merely wonderfully strange – rest stops and parks, with plaques honoring pioneer wives, and merchant seamen. and the dead of 4 wars in a town so small the total was less than 20 names: none forgotten, though. Commemorations of Freemasons and dry stone masons and some family named Mason who introduced a special variety of grape to a valley up North. Signs extolling the Rare Santa Clarita Valley Prune (all in proud caps on the sign), or fruit stands with two dozen unlikely flavours of pistachio nuts, like jelly beans. Farms that bred miniature horses, sheep, cattle, poodles; someplace called The Pork Palace that had a huge sign proclaiming itself OPEN TO THE PUBLIC, but with no indication of what it was open for – we figured it was either a temple to bacon or a brothel.
Today, as the year has nearly run out, is loose in time in just this way. I got out of bed at a sane hour, but it feels like a Saturday today, not a mundane Wednesday. Can’t tell the time, either, because Los Angeles is once more pent under a rainstorm. So we went to the movies – The Deathly Hallows, which is long and dark and weird and so does nothing for one’s sense of temporal stability. Good movie, though; good way to spend a Saturday.
And I think it’s a good day to have breakfast for dinner, too. Kage would agree it just feels that way.