Sunday, 5 July 2009

Cliffside sweeps (day eleven and twelve)

California is a plentiful land. Sprinkler fed fields crowd the roadsides- artichokes and avocadoes, cherries and apricots. Americans no longer farm this land. Hordes of Mexican workers bow in peasant clothes before their plaid shirted overlords. The American dream- this land would be dust blown plains without irrigation/immigration.

On a San Franciscan morning the firemen have parked up their engine on the sea front. It's not 1905 any more. Surfers bob, the rolling breakers not strong enough for any tunnel riding. Pelicans flap, stop, slow and plunge down amidst the wetsuited clans, like so many sleekbacked seals, grabbing invisible fish in the grey clouded waters.

From the top of the ferris wheel, on top of the board walk, attached to Santa Cruz, we can see everything. Cross pathed families, teenagers, couples intersecting and a million faces passing by never to be seen again, or somewhere to be seen again, crossing at a future intersection, or queueing in the supermarket, or living down the block. Somewhere down that infinite mosaic. You zoom out, a set of concentric rings, or a maze, or a figure 8.

This is the American house. Grammaw is ensconced as a limited mobility action doll on the armchair. We are strangers in a strange land. We are not welcome here. We say tomato. We say potato. We have an accent. Our license plate is noted on a scrap of paper. Please return our daughter by 10.30 or the authorities will be notified. Implied.

There are no bangs in the skies over Morro Bay this Independence Day. Instead, a thousand laser star spangled banners flutter across the projection screen. They smash a hammer and sickle. This show was last seen gathering dust in a 1970s warehouse. Those days are that-a-way. Single line caricatures dance and play the guitar in time with the slowballad old time rock'n'roll, but the crowd are restless. Where's our whistle and bang? Where's the sparks flashing out from the pulse of light? They aren't there in the laser representations.

Families start leaving within minutes. A small child starts crying. Those early flashes of excitement, anticipation where you bounce on your feet with uncoordinated arm flailing. So soon to change to nonchalance, affected worldweary boredom and ambivalence. It came slightly closer tonight. In the distance, across the harbour, fireworks explode to gleeful reactions from the fleeing masses. So many dreams dashed tonight...

Elephant seals spread their blubber in the sunscalded sand, wrinkled schnozzes snuffing and comical, like B movie aliens. Fleshwaves rhythmic oscillation in a hefty beach shuffle. They came here to scrap and to mate, like a sea front wilderness version of every city centre in every country.

Car rush pedal down and swoop down and up along all the vectors, camber ache in the shoulders and neck. Tailgating is the only way to ride the Californian cliffs. Bludgeon your way through traffic. Roadclambering around windgnarled cypress trees, zigzagging to the soleil. Kelp or sea otter? Always kelp. We are southwest. Two corners of the square. I always liked geometry.

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