Thursday, July 03, 2008

notes from vacation

Day two of our trip to SoCal.

I'm in the passenger seat of my Element and my sister is driving us over the Grapevine. Pretty soon we'll be dropped, as if by miracle, into Los Angeles and its sprawling burbs. Santa Clarita. Glendale. The dreaded City of Angels and its snarl of cars.

I've spent the past hour writing the very first graphic sex scene in my novel whilst passing trucks and the vast expanse of the Diablo Range. Frances and Arthur, doing it, after a prolonged hiatus. It's one of those types of sex scenes that's supposed to evoke the emotional complexity of their relationship, establish empathy for the somewhat unlikeable Arthur, and mitigate my narrator's usual cynical amor.

At the last rest stop a flock of flies entered the car, and between the annoying tickle of these insects and thwack sound of Carson trying to hit them with a ruler, it's been a little hard to, um, concentrate.

Anyway, I've had a few sessions with "The Secret to Love" when my sister takes the wheel, and it's really interesting writing a family narrative while being in a family narrative. My sister and I haven't spent much time together as adults, and certainly not since we've had kids. This long road trip we're on—to visit our mother in San Diego—is unprecedented. Our two little boys are in the backseat, chewing Skittles and reading Bone Books and C.S. Lewis and inquiring, every few miles, about the next stop for provisions.

Patti and I keep each other entertained with random memories of our childhood games which typically involved pretending we were grown ups with little kids.

Last night we stopped in Stockton, ate at a sub-mediocre chain restaurant and then settled at a La Quinta, where our room was a few steps from the pool. At the pool we happened upon a teenage girl with some sort of social disorder. She was robust in her over-sharing and presumptuous in her assumptions that our boys would like her to give them swimming lessons. When she began tickling Carson, and pulling Matthew around the pool with her t-shirt, they sensed the social contract had been violated and managed quite successfully to keep their distance. Patti found the girl to be extremely troubling, and marveled at her parents lack of supervisory presence. She invented end-result scenarios where the girl would stalk us all the way to San Diego to prey on our offspring. Since I'm a writer, of course I was just looking for the takeaway. Which I got. In her quest to offer information on every topic that would set her up as an expert in all things, she informed us that when we get to Disneyland, we shouldn't get our hearts set on It's a Small World. "They're remodeling it," she said. "They have to rebuild the boats because people have gotten too fat to fit in them."

So, we're about to leave the hills of the Grapevine and enter the land of many chains. Maybe we'll eat in one of those beef places where you can get onions deep fried in batter and dip them in sauce. We'll take two. And bring on the beef platters of angus. Don't forget the side of pork. It's a Fat World After All!

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