Kage Baker loved weather like today. Especially this evening, wherein I am happily writing because it was too damned hot to actually turn my brain on during the day.
It was hot, hot, hot today in Los Angeles; with the middle air clear and yet storm-wrack way high up – scattered clouds, dark and puffy, hinting at rain but never getting numerous enough to do more than tease. Thunderheads have been crawling up over the Verdugoes all day, and promptly evaporating away in the hot air; palaces of djinni, rising up into salt-white anvils and then whirling away into heated transparency.
The air smells of incense and blacksmiths’ forges.
The sun is gone at last, so I can finally venture outdoors without fear. The light in the sky is deep and rich and looks like it will never end – but twilight will eventually creep out from the roots of the mountains and flood the streets below. All the long warm arches under the cedar and camphor and and jacaranda and crepe myrtle trees will fill up with perfume and soft heat – at noon you couldn’t walk out there, your feet would fry in your shoes; if you went barefoot (like me, aging ninny that I am, forgetting I am no longer 14) your feet would blister unless you could leap from shady spot to shady spot to the thick-painted lines of street work. Those painted lines are always just cool enough to walk on …
The clouds overhead have been stretched so thin and long on the sky, they look like the ripples under shallow waves. They are ghost beaches up there, phantom coastlines. The Observatory, silhoetted in ivory and bronze, rimmed with lanterns, has always suggested to me that it might be the coast of Numenor up there, drowned deep under the dreaming sea while Gondar keeps watch on the black hills. Or maybe it’s Lyonesse. Or Ys, of whom Mount St. Michael is a lost memory. Or, the heck with ancient tales, maybe it’s a bastion of the Lost City of the Lizard Men.
It’s the hour of the day when you just don’t know which universe the twilight will tip you into …
I’ve been going through the proofreader’s edit of In the Company of Thieves, and my brain burned out its bearings some hours ago. Proofreaders are nice people, and utterly invaluable to writers: but sometimes I think they suspend their critical faculties so far to achieve objectivity that they lose track of some common aspects of life. They don’t extend that friendly willingness to be fooled that characterizes the pleasant reader; they want one’s immortal prose to make sense! Can you imagine?
Well, sometimes I can’t imagine anymore, nor recall just why I wrote that sentence that is so confusing. As immortal Browning once admitted to someone querying the underlying point of one of his poems: “When I wrote that, only God and Robert Browning knew what it means – now, only God knows.” Man, there was a guy who spoke truth.
Well, I went through all the proofing, and sent my work off into the aether; the sweet twilight is creeping in through the open doors and windows just like music, or fog, or perfume … it’s lovely. Time for a mint chocolate chip ice cream sandwich and a tall iced coffee. Large parts of California are on fire from dry lightning; darkness is almost complete, and yet it’s 80 degrees out there.
But I’ve done some work today, so I don’t feel like a total waste; even though I don’t have enough working neurons left offer you more than a stream of semi-consciousness. Have a lovely summer evening, Dear Readers.
Briefly, in my high hippie days, I tried out the “going around barefoot” thing, which seemed to be a statement of some kind or another. Unhappily for the experiment, I was living in the San Fernando Valley at the time (Northridge, to be exact), and it was summertime. I have a particularly painful memory of trying to get back to my car, parked earlier that day in the middle of a black topped lot. It must have been hilarious for the viewer, if any, to see me, frantically dancing from painted hash mark to hash mark, trying desperately not to walk on the scorching, black surface. That ended that countercultural experiment. Back to the Meskin sandals, which were rebellious enough. The things we do for fashion.
Oh, Buffalo – Northridge is a terrible place to go barefoot! Now I, descended from wild Celts that included Gen-U-Wine Shanty Irishwomen, have determinedly eschewed footgear since I learned to walk. In all the years of school and actual work, my shoes were the first thing to come off when the day was done. I have soles like Mowgli, which Kipling described as “hard as thorn”. And have for decades. But not even I would try going barefoot in the Valley! That is heroism. And it’s wonderful to learn that walking on the painted lines to avoid the lava blacktop is a piece of universal wisdom among the barefooted (even though I was too young to be a real hippie.)
Nowadays I mostly wear huaraches when I must wear shoes. The only time I am respectably stockinged and shod is at Dickens Fair.
Much as I crave the good opinion of my peers (if I may so presume), I cannot agree that the act of going barefoot in The Valley, in high summer. had anything to do with heroics. It was, to put it as generously as possible, ignorance, abetted by whatever dried, leafy substance I was smoking in those days. Our loving Mother, generous with her lessons, taught me a few things about heat reflection and retention, on that day, that I’m unlikely to forget. No Mowgli, I!
I just didn’t like shoes. Still don’t. I am fond of stiletto heels, but those come under the heading of jewelry, I think.
Down on the Jersey Shore, my friends and I used to be barefoot darn near all the time in the summer. Some places of business required patrons to be shod (like banks, say, or fancy restaurants, the kind where you sat down at a table and a waitress took your order) but the rest of the time the Shore was a no-shoes zone from the day school let out in June until it started again in September. As a result, the soles of our feel were like cement. I once had a fish hook embedded in my heel for a week before I noticed it. True story.
I’m trying to remember which character in the Firesign Theater said he was going to sit in a tree without any shoes and learn to play the flute.
I grew up in the Valley and wandered through the lowlands of Granada Hills, often barefoot even on those days. I remember more clearly than almost anything else in my childhood tight-rope walking on the painted lines in the Sav-On parking lot. I think the soles of my feet still hide the primordial blisters. I love shoes, and hate wearing them, So of course, a nicked Achilles means I am now obliged to wear them constantly, even in the house! I am supposed to keep a lifted heel under my heel at all times, so mere flats won’t do. Believe me, my feet are in complete sympathy.