lycanthrope When he was a child, simply knowing the name of that place meant little to him. He never knew where he had gone all of those times, all of those one week or two day trips with his mother and sister and father who was on business. He knew that when he told people about it they were not impressed. He was never able to quite convey to them how untouchable it was, how encompassing, how exact an intersection of memory and place, how it was more than a location but was an event, a concurrence, an eclipse. It was not, however, one of those places that most people seemed to frame portions of their lives around and so he often got strange looks when he would praise it unabashedly. He didn't seem to have Hawaii or Europe like the friends in his class did when it was time to share and tell and rank. The sun in their stories was always the normal sun, the sun which warms and shines, and spreads blue over the endless depths people gather at a crowded beach to touch the beginnings and echoes of. But the sun in this place was a following sun, a questioning sun, a sun with answers to questions only he had. And so though he couldn't explain it to others, he remembered this place so vividly and was able to, at any moment, reunite various, sometimes seemingly sundry or contradictory, objects into a place with accurate landmarks that opened into blurry memories. In his mind he often saw that familiar landscape peopled with strange changing impermanent creatures who were his extension of lives he and others lived back then which perhaps they did not live now. His memories were always martrys for whatever he at the moment felt, because in this place he could remember tears or smiles. And that was perhaps the most fantastic thing to him, no matter which particular objects he remembered, which smiles or laughter or satiated and digestive idling he chose to remember, they always somehow combined to the same place, that haven. It was a strange adjustable mathematics of memory.

He was not sure if it was still even in California, but it seemed as though it was. They'd drive down long freeways lined with unharvested fields, fields that seemed eternally sprouting, fields he had never seen being picked, never seen submitted to the vulgar machinations of their essential purpose. Thick reds and greens in rows seemed to squirm still in the sunlight. The sun was always high in the sky, always amidst no clouds, rather only a blue blending to brightness; and no matter what direction they drove, it always seemed to be direclty outside his window, beating down and making the seats hot to the touch, making the back of his shirt soak through with sweat. To him, as a small child, it was evidence of an adventure. They'd stop occasionally at little pockets of civilization and respite, Carl Junior's and Arby's and a gas station all clustered within feet of each other, not sporadically placed along the road's openess which would confuse and startle people, but insteadly wisely at contrast with it. They were a destination, not a journey, an oasis in a desert of interstate and fields and fields of produce.

Soon the place would near. The telltale curves that the road once again gave into or offramps that he recognized coming and going were distinct measurements of anticipation. The rest of the world seemed to melt around this place as if his family's station wagon was driving across a burning bridge which connected them to the world of ordinary time, of school days and homework and bed times and alarm clocks. His family seemed to grow more and more indomitable and unreproachable as the place grew more and more firm, was pieced together by the passing offramps and familiar establishments untill it reached critical mass, becoming less of a dream and more of a waking. Each stretch of road as they approached became its own town, more and more exact points of reference carved out from the road that had before seemed as unified and endless as an ocean.

The next journey would be towards the hotel, and again the familiar and the novel exchanged places - balancing between wonder and comfort, sights and smells took turns expanding and condensing just like the rare cloud that came to and from existence above them and in every mirror of the car. Drifting inbetween things that could never be known for their vastness like the sky and things that could never be known for their detail like the minutia of a stone's scratches off to the side of a stretch of road as they sped by, they found an ever more precise and precise middle ground. Inside of the city was the hotel, inside of the hotel was the courtyard, inside of the courtyard was their room. The familiar things were packed in their waiting minds like embedded boxes, levels of being there, of having arrived. The car rambled down the road, as passing cars made whirring noises. He would sit with in a little cubicle all to his own thoughts, separated from his sister by cardboard boxes of clothes and road trip snacks so that they couldn't fight too much. But they would cooperate to make the most of the space between the boxes and the seat so that they could fight, since what they wanted most was the play of it.

When they arrived at the hotel, he and his sister and their mother would wait in the car as their father checked in. It was a numinous process to them. He would go in alone, come out alone, with a granted permission from an unknown source, with a key, a key to the gates and the room and the pool. You need a key to the gates, because you needed access to the ice machines which were located at all the various points where the front doors of rooms gave way submissively to a hallway, an entrance or an exit to the little encampment, the economy xanadu. And you need the ice machines. It was always hot during the day, a still heat the emanated from right next to you, not merely the sun, it was alive and ignited in the air, a heat that tried to freeze you into sluggish stillness. The whole town seemed affected. The sporadic industrial buildings outside of the lush Ramada Inn seemed a manifestation of this thick heat in their stillness, in their separation: they were not huddled together, they were one here, and another there, separated by an idle road that was in no hurry, circling in on itself, taking frivolous turns. There were also crosswalks and intersections so useless, and then a freeway you could always turn back onto for a straight shot to anywhere, to leave for some town more concerting, where the roads did not admit the heat. And amongst days like this, we had no conflict, we'd open the small gate to the pool in the courtyard, where there was water, wetness and life, amidst the arid and dry sky. A small lawn framed the concrete which framed the pool. The pool was not olympic sized. The boy could cross it when he was young, under water and would often suddenly pop up at one end or another out of breath to everyone's confusion. And a couple of feet away from the deep side of the pool was a single step up to a gazebo holding a hot tub. It was here his father and mother would sit and talk and laugh in high and low coded voices, it was there that seemed like another world, the other world, the world behind the closed bedroom door at home, but now separated by only a thin delicate wooden pattern. There it all was, right there to study, to teasingly catch on to. The boy would attempt to add his jokes to theirs under his breath, his words gurgling on the pool's lapping surface as he clung to the edge and conversed with them a million times. It was everything that was to be strived for in this life. To sit in that hot tub, to be a member of the council, deserving your rest, knowing its richness, making the decisions that make hot tubs necessary.

At night, this invitation into the other world was even more exhiliarating, when they were given the rare treat of a night swim, all the way up until the pool closed at 10. The expectation of how cold the pool would be when they saw the dark turqoise water all around its underwater artificial lights, and the way the moon was broken into a thousand waves which obscured the depths and gave the illusion that perhaps the pool at some areas and not others could conceivably go on forever, that one could set out to feel the pool's slippery bottom before pushing off to emerge again breathlessly, but never come back, made it almost dangerous to jump into. And sometimes at that time it would be just their family, he and his sister would play water games: diving contests, find the coins. His father and his mother would talk to them gently when they came to the edge and peered in. Sometimes they'd get out of the pool and walk into the cove and watch their parents takl and laugh about things they didn't even try to listen to as steam rose only so high into the pale full mooned sky, filtered by the substantial pattern of the gazebo before fading into darkness unlike the type they knew in their hometown. The boy would sit down and his father would let him put his feet in the water, and let him rest his arms on his broad hairy shoulder, and he'd make faces or tease him or tell him he was lucky, because it was time to go to bed for most children. The boy was almost as tall as where the steam from the hot tub grew chilled, and he'd walk in circles shivering until his father let him slip into the hot tub "unnocticed" as they sat in full gazing silence with the world.

It was because of the heat of the air most of the time, always pleasantly nice and cool in the room at night, so still and quiet. you could easily hear someone walking outside your room, walking to the ice machine, another of its restless churnings and crunchings and then silence again, crickets, the sounds of fields in the darkness at the fringes of a world. They'd all be back in the room now, dried off, exotic sodas like grape and Orangina poured from the wet bar, or pulled from an ice box still glistening with the ride over's condensation. And they'd inhabit the small room, two twin beds next to each other, no separation, nothing to fear, the sound of their father snoring constant, a familiar expression of safety, of approaching and comforting sleep, a precursor to a long morning with numerous drifts back into warm dreams, and the anticipation of breakfast, or another day out while dad was at work. The rooms were always so air conditioned, so cool and crisp, and on a hot day it was as satisfying as any effort, as scoring a goal for the soccer team, as getting an A on any test, just to lie on the bed and induldge in air that lay heavy and cool on your eyelids and neck and palms away for a moment from the heat. A day or two in and the luggage was now stored away, and forever seemed ready to begin, it was easy to forget that he had ever even come to this place. At night they'd turn the air conditioning low so that it hummed like a muted flute and they'd watch TV for a while, and then the lights would turn off and they'd all go to sleep together. Sometimes, he'd try to stay up quietly until all of them were asleep, a thing he was terrified of being at home.

In the mornings, his dad would already be gone and his mother would wake his sister and them slowly, they'd watch some tv, or sometimes he'd already be up, watching tv after his father left,, watching it low so as to wake no one, a secret pact he and his father had, that his father did not know about. Then his mother and sister and him would go and eat at a diner or a Lyon's every morning once they all were up and about. They'd have pancakes and eggs and bacon, wonderful abstractions from cereal, from anything they recognized, they seemed a little different here, the syrup a little warmer. It all was just warm and filling and served to them, various different combinations for different moods and days, anything they wanted. Then they'd go shopping at an outlet. The town was filled with them, but they almost never bought anything. They'd run up and down aisles of Cost Plus and Pic and Save, coloring in the coloring books and then leaving them there, sometimes getting a toy. The boy would often sit and read books and wait for his mom as she touched and observed various baskets and chairs and wines, and then they'd go to a movie. It'd always be some movie they'd never see at home. Some movie they knew the companies were saving to release until this particular family was here amidst outlets and diners and a pool with smooth tiles edging its stairs. Walking in the parking lot from the outlet store or the theatre to the cars, the trees would stay dead still and then jostle suddenly, but languidly with the phantom wind of a stifling heat. The whole town seemed a parking lot with sporadic trees. A few leaves blew on the ground near the trees, but for the most part the cement was barren as the sky, almost a complete reflection. The walk back to the car, the walk from the car to the hotel, were to him the most beautiful paths in the world. Filled with heat and sunshine and the bluest skies, or stark moonlight and the undulating reflection of the pool's water, they were paths to be walked slow and calm or run energetically until his pulse beat in his neck and stomach and the cool air conditioned air as he collapsed on the bed of their room almost hurt as he breathed deeply. He never even knew the name of it all, of that place, until his father died a few years later, and then he found out it was Fresno, a place he often tried to remember, a place he hadn't been to for a while. The roads probably didn't even lead there anymore, were rerouted, or maybe it had dried up, was deserted, a portal swallowed by the fields, fields he had recently seen harvested for the first time.
mannY you make it sound romantic to live here. you and ME should trade places. where are you from??!! i don't think that it matters...... 040419
jane i used to take the train down to fresno to visit my aunt. it was about three hours by train, but it seemed to go fast for me because i was so eager to be relieved of the burden of my household at the time - not to mention i had headphones & my sketchbook. i would listen to the cd's that sean had burned me at the time, or something i had made myself, and i would draw everyone on the train who was sleeping, or just people who couldn't see me drawing. one time, getting off to smoke a cigarette, i told the guy i had been drawing, "thanks for being the only one who stayed still enough for me to draw." he gave me the weirdest look & i swore to god i would never tell anyone again that i had drawn them 040503
stork daddy we always tell the wrong people 040503
minnesota_chris I love to draw people when their not watching. But they usually don't like it when they find out, unless they are someone who is unused to attention. Then sometimes they appreciate the attention. Ugly people can be so beautiful. 040503
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