Shank’s Mare

Kage Baker was a very capable walker in her youth. There were a lot of us and usually only one car (which she never learned to drive anyway), and so she was accustomed to long walks in and out of the Hollywood Hills from an early age. You had to negotiate a half-mile on the level and a vertical drop of two blocks just to make it to the Oakshire Market for a Coke and a candy bar.

When she and I moved out, it was only to another portion of the Hills; a neighborhood of narrow twisty streets above and behind the Hollywood Bowl, where some streets were nothing more than staircases dug into the hillside and no wheeled vehicles had ever gone. Being carless at frequent intervals, we walked a lot; being vigorous young women, we took the hills and slopes literally in stride. Being a pair of feckless idiots, we thought nothing of simply heading up or down hill through the neighbors’ gardens and driveways – I have climbed down to Highland Avenue a thousand times through the rear parking lot of the Veterans Legion Hall, trotting out under the impotent guardian cannons there.

Not only did no one ever shoot us, they never even yelled at us: residents who caught us climbing over the dry stone walls and city drainage channels nodded pleasantly and said Good Morning. It was a (slightly) more innocent time. And the Hills have always had their own special kind of residents. The Ladies, and Gentlemen, of the Canyons existed long before Joni Mitchell sang about them in the ’60’s. Hell, Kage Baker was one of them in her time.

While I once could sprint through the Hills like a deer, now I am old and fat. My heart has grown as eccentric as my clothes once were and I am having to negotiate the circulation to my legs. I drive nostalgically through the haunts of our youth – I don’t walk them anymore. Though I keep meaning to take it up again on a small basis, just to get back in some other kind of shape than globular …

Good intentions pave the road to hell, it is claimed. Today they certainly paved the road home from Trader Joe’s, as my poor sister Kimberly’s car croaked it just east of Hyperion Bridge. We were lucky enough to get the poor thing off busy Glendale Boulevard, and almost into an actual parking place. And Kimberly has  a tow service and a mechanic, and we both had our phones; and of course, since I moved in with her we’ve had the advantage of two cars and drivers: who were both in the one, dead, immobile vehicle.

Public transport in Los Angeles sucks, Dear Reader. There are no taxis except at the airports. And while busses do run here and there, none of them run down the tiny residential streets of Atwater Village where I live. What we did have was both of the household males stranded at school – Ray at Hollywood High where he teaches, and Michael at Cal State LA where he matriculates. So Kimberly called everyone involved, advising the stranded and requesting a towtruck, and I legged it for home to get my car.

At least it was flat and paved, and moderately shady. It was also 83 degrees and 5 blocks, which was the most I have walked in several months … kept meaning to take it up again, you know? Any day now. In easy increments, maybe a block to start with … but needs must when the Devil rides behind you, as another saying goes, which I think means you just gotta walk till you get there. And I did. And I made it back with my PT Cruiser before Kimberly’s Malibu Classic was even towed away, and was able to begin the afternoon round of rescues with her.

But now, it’s been a long, looong day. I’m gonna take a nap and dream of loping along the ridge crests of the Hollywood Hills, following Kage’s braid as she flies along the path ahead of me – easily, swiftly, long ago in the morning of the world.

About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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8 Responses to Shank’s Mare

  1. Mark says:

    You know, I always wanted a female horse so she could be called… 😉


  2. Kate says:

    Oooh, good one, Mark!

    I thought of you when I titled this one and thought about explaining: then realized you are one of the few people who will know what it means.


  3. widdershins says:

    Shanks’ Mare .. been around since Adam was a rib! …

    … and maybe you should get thee walking Kate.. the Universe, or whatever, only kicks you in the butt gently, ONCE … next time, well, just watch out for flying farmhouses and twisters!


  4. Kate says:

    The Universe gave me my one gentle kick some three years ago, I fear: we’ve been at odds since then. It can do as it will and I will do likewise – but I don’t owe Fate anything else.


  5. Katie says:

    This made me so happy to read, and brought that beautiful time back to life so vividly that I could smell the scrub and datura, could feel the earth and golden granite crumbling as I climbed up or down a slope. Being feral was a fine, fine thing. Perhaps the greatest luxury anyone can know. And we had it at it’s zenith. You and the sisters in particular. Please keep these memories going. And, we need to get coffee soon!!! I miss you so, so much Kathleen. Love, Katie.


  6. Katie says:

    BTW, my next big tattoo is a lilac crowned Amazon spreading it’s wings on my left shoulder. I have to show you the memorial one for Aunt Kate up the back of my calf – a clamshell opening to reveal a big pearl, blooming California poppies (like the Wonder Shells she used to bring me from Chinatown). I have yet to color it in, but it will look amazing when finished.


  7. Kate says:

    Nifty, Katie – and the shells-and-poppies sounds like something that would have intrigued Kage, too.


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