Oh, yeah. It’s summer. And the Hawks are Yukoning the 5 north. Like the tides and the playoffs, it’s something you can count on.
It’s been a long SoCal winter and spring, with late rains and clouds and bright green grass on the hills persisting into May. If this is climate change, the world’s loss is Los Angeles’s gain. But it’s June 25, so let’s get on with it. The longest day has come and gone, and we feel real heat for the first time at the TA/Starbucks offramp at the foot of the Grapevine, just south of the giant Famous Footwear warehouse freshly scarring the fertile farmland next to the interstate.
This service center is jumping. The Starbucks is electric with energy, as America’s new melting pot pours itself into the artfully air-conditioned urban zone. Most of these well fed pilgrims order giant frothy frapppucccinos. Rob orders his customary espresso and gets away with his free-soy-milk-request-at-the-very-end scam, first victory in many months of trying. Perhaps the barista is giddy with the turn-away crowd, and charging 50 cents in the midst of such entrepreneurial splendor would be petty, and might break the magic spell.
America’s got gas. We’re hanging in there at three dollars a gallon, mortgage rates are at a historical low, and the big bulbous SUVs and trucks are still rolling. Are we rich? Are we poor? Are we doomed? Will we muddle through? At TA, we opt for optimism.
The corn is high in the low central valley. As high as an elephant’s eye by the Fourth of July. The alfalfa is rich green, sheep graze by the canals, tin roof sheds house equipment for hard laborers, sweet red roadside onions are for sale, and orchards are holding their own against the onslaught of instant suburbias stopped frozen in their crappy soft pine and drywall tracks. For the moment, we’ve been saved from ourselves, but can we save ourselves? Paul Krugman doesn’t think so, the crabby cynic.
But who cares? We come to rock. We come to rock Fresno. “Fres-yes,” Paul M re-christens the flat sprawl, home of the western region IRS and William Saroyan, who left his fortune to a foundation dedicated to preserving the obsessive minutiae of his life, cutting his children off without a dime. It’s a new town, a town on the margins, the kind of town where our little band tends to thrive. We’re feeling the irrational optimism as we exit the 5 and let Rob’s iPhone® guide us to the house of Evelyn.
May we digress, dear reader? It’s been a long time between blogs, which we’ll explain later,* and there’s a lot on our minds. The iPhone, for example. It’s not merely rotting our souls. It is fulfilling the prophecy of The Matrix, which will be noted by historians who survive this epoch as the most prophetic work of art since Revelations or Yeats’ The Second Coming. Internet connectivity has siphoned our most vital energy, our love and dreams, and all our information. Facebook and Google know everything you are doing online, and are storing your history, selling it to the highest bidder, and saving it for unknown and unimagined purposes over the event horizon.
But we digress indeed. In the meantime we’ve exited the secondary freeway deep into Fresno and out into exurbia nova, traversed tidy tracts, and arrived at the 1971 stucco home of Evelyn Stewart, mom of Randall Stewart of Randall and Mona, best friends of Hawks and budding duprass. We cross the wide and tidy lawn, and get the big hug from Evelyn, who wears her pure heart on her sleeve and has prepared a feast and spare bedrooms for us. Life is good.
We dig into a backyard feast, drink White Russians and tequila, and talk long into the afternoon with these old friends, caravan at sunset through old Fresno neighborhoods to Audie’s, in the hip Tower section. Audie’s is big, cool, like an old roadhouse with a warehouse type ceiling betraying its more recent origin. Audie himself is a generous proprietor, offers us the run of top shelf at the long bar. Delicious bacon cheeseburgers tended by a Vietnam vet are smoking on the sidewalk grill outside, and all is mellow. Maybe we’ll play at 10, maybe 11, as a local band hits the stage. We take a walk through early 1900’s houses in museum quality condition. Maybe the blazing heat is good for the wood. The heat of early darkness is delicious, a well earned sensation.
We play two sets at Audie’s, rock it pretty good, the crowd digs it, the sound man is great, and we leave the club forgetting to get paid. Paul M drives back to the club with Randall in his purring midlife Miata. Audie: “I knew you’d be back.” Randall, Mona, and Paul L manage to make it to the three a.m. partial eclipse of the strawberry moon. The shadow is a bit sinister, turning the Man into a Sad And Haunted Little Boy.
June 26. Next morning, a heroic baked Eggs Evelyn breakfast with conversation, and we hit the road. Oh, yes, it’s hot. We drive west on 140, Newman bound. It’s been a wet year and all is still lush in the largest farmland on planet earth. Fallow fields wild with grass, temporary wet marshland just a few months ago. Gustine. Silos. Rail crossing. Fallow field, alfalfa field, fallow, alfalfa, alfalfa, corn, fallowfallowcorncorn. Black cows black against yellow grass grazing. The good stuff is irrigated for cutting and baling on the other side of the highway.
*Life has pre-empted blogs for some time, dear reader. RW is neck deep in parenting. Paul L and Victoria have purchased, liberated from stucco (with the generous and mighty Shawn N wielding the hammer of stucco destruction), and are restoring a 1924 bungalow in the upper hills of upper Highland Park. Not a lot of touring, but some grand local shows which go duly unrecorded.