Kage Baker liked adventures.
No, I tell a lie. She liked talking about adventures; anything that made a good story delighted her. She enjoyed reading about them, if they were well-done and/or true: there is nothing so disappointing as a true-life adventure that was boring. She adored adventure movies, especially with special effects.
Living them, not so much.
It was undoubtedly because we had such messy adventures. Kage felt an adventure should be planned to some extent; one should at least consult Triple A, and preferably Conde Nast. Ideally, an adventure would move comfortably between good bars and elegant restaurants, each night ending in a very clean hotel room with a splendid view. There would always be flush toilets to hand, and Coke and iced tea with lemon would always be available. Exciting stuff – wild animals, haunted roads, Acts of God and extra-terrestrial incursions – would be at sufficient distance to keep one’s clothes tidy but close enough to see all the details.
She actually did pre-plan a lot of our adventures, which made the voyages of discovery and the hunts for rare objects much more comfortable. And she was easily enthused: every time we ventured onto a new road, she was bright-eyed and ready for wonders. Every new way was an adventure in the egg, and Kage loved that. She just didn’t like things getting dirty. Or too strange.
Late night auto repairs in Kettleman City, with the air so thick, heavy and hot it was like being a leaf in a deep layer of sediment, bound for an ultimate destiny as coal; and Kage sitting, cursing, on the hot asphalt, handing tools to me, also cursing, under the car. The sorts of gas stations that sell dubious home-made sandwiches wrapped in waxed paper so old its wrinkles have rendered it opaque, and that feature a fresh,dripping rabbit’s head impaled on a pump handle. Encountering inexplicable hordes of moths, or crickets, or caterpillars, or finches. Finding giant grasshoppers on the windshield, or hissing cockroaches in the front seat. Sleeping in the ruins of an old hotel when you can’t find a room in one that still exists. Getting accosted by a drunken loonie reciting the Táin Bó Cúailnge by moonlight on the pier, and then being introduced to him as the local Mayor next morning at a municipal breakfast.
Normalcy was a lost cause in our travels.
I must admit, I am developing a growing fondness for the comfortable sort of adventure myself. I mean, I’m getting older; I can still sleep comfortably on a floor, but I can’t get up off it again in the morning. Luckily, house-sitting in Berkeley is not usually an adventure.
Unless you get up in the morning and find the charger that fits both your Kindle and your phone has died in the night. All I intended to do was go grocery shopping down the street today – instead, I set out on an electronics hunt. Mind you, finding a Best Buy is not all that hard, but I’m map-impaired. And Emoryville isn’t easy to actually arrive at; though you can see it, like a magical floating island, from the freeway as you whizz by … I finally gave up and drove into Marin. I can find anything between San Quentin and Petaluma, and the 101 through that Summer Country is one of my favourite roads in the world.
So many warm mornings spent on the highway through those golden hills! So many midnights, too, and every hour in between – and none of them regretted, ever, because we were in a land we loved. On the way to or from Faire, or the three years we lived there, in a trailer beside a pond. The Best Buy in San Rafael is very close to an exceedingly well-stocked and cooperative BevMo; I know the streets there from countless frantic missions to find an extra keg or a Golden Gate tap head …
Once in the Best Buy, though, I found myself on yet another unexpected adventure: a visit to The Land Of Confused Old Farts. I haven’t gotten used yet to being consigned to this land by excessively youthful clerks, and their inability to understand that I might know what I’m talking about makes every conversation a journey into the Twilight Zone.
It’s apparently outside the realm of reality that a fat old lady leaning on a cane should know what a Kindle is. I’ll admit, I couldn’t find the display where the accessories like wall chargers were kept, but that turned out to be because it was locked up under a counter – Best Buy being understandably loathe to leave little bits of equipment out where they can be casually acquired. That still doesn’t excuse the clerk’s conviction that what I needed was an entire Kindle, and that I didn’t understand how they worked.
To silence his rambling explanation I finally hauled my actual Kindle – complete with its resplendent tooled Oberon Leather case – out of my purse and waved it in his face. Only then did this tender youth get the idea of what I wanted, and finally reveal to me the fabulous secret trove of completely concealed gods damned wall chargers. What I needed cost a whacking $9.99.
I decided that if I had to be in some Old Person Land, the Land of Old Hippies was a lot more fun.
So then I went to my favourite Safeway in the whole world, in Novato, and bought insane amounts of cheese and comestible accessories. Dinner was local Brie from the legendary fromagerie outside Petaluma, apples from Sebastopol, and Kalamata olives – all enjoyed while reading on my newly-charged Kindle.
Now that’s Kage’s kind of adventure.