Al & Dusty et al

26 April 2019                                                   Al & Dusty et al.

Reading the novel On the Road, I come to a page where Sal and Dean go listen to jazz in a San Francisco bar-club, and I remember two friends of my parents, a married couple named Al and Dusty. I lost track of them years ago, in fact they divorced and it was Dusty I last saw one day near fifty years ago when she and my Mom and me drove to Tijuana for a little shopping. But ten and twenty years before that, when I was a mere child and the four of them were both young couples in their thirties, I remember how Al and Dusty often took a little trip to San Francisco and would talk later about their adventures there, especially I remember they always spoke of going out at night to a nightclub called the hungry i, which I am not surprised has a wikipedia entry now on the internet.

But what I remember even more is how my mom and dad would occasionally go up to Idylwild for a weekend with their friends. Al and Dusty owned a cabin up there somewhere. I may have seen it once, when we took a short weekend up there, but I don’t remember going to the cabin. What I do remember is going to the library and reading books about dog breeding and UFO abductions.

Al worked with my dad for twenty some years at Astronautics, the builders of the Atlas rocket. An aerospace engineer, like my father. There were other friends from Dad’s work (the men) whom we often saw, George and Harriet Conroy, John and Marguerite Wickham, Dean Whitney (don’t remember his wife, they divorced early). My parents enjoyed having friends over for dinner, throughout those golden years of the 1950s and 1960s, whether at our little old house on Woodland Drive, or the newer, ranch house on Lemon Avenue, which my brother and I still own fifty years later after Mom left it to us last year.

But it was Al and Dusty who sprang to mind when I read Jack Kerouac’s words: “But one night we suddenly went mad together again; we went to see Slim Gaillard in a little Frisco nightclub.

The couple never had children that I knew of, and were economically free to wander and travel and buy a cabin in the mountains.

I often wonder what happened to all my dad’s old workmates and friends. My mom formed a strong bond with Marguerite Wickham, but the others drifted away, and I heard that some died. I have lost all of them in time.

A slightly different story rules with my Mom’s friends and work associates – she kept in touch with them through the years, and felt almost unspeakably upset as one by one they got old and died, leaving her alone, like the buffalo, the last of its kind. Fortunately we had the family, my stepbrothers and stepsister, my brother, their husbands and wives and children, my cousins and step-cousins (Mom’s nieces and nephews) who filled her life with love and friendship.

But I still wonder whatever happened to all those old ghosts who haunt my memories to this very day and hour. I write. I remember. I wonder where, what, when, who. How.

I know why. Because life goes on and we all get old. As my first father used to say, we either grow old or die young.


On the back cover. #001.

24 April 2019.

On the back cover of a book I am reading, you can see these words:

The novel that defined a generation

Pulsating with the rhythms of fifties underground America, jazz, sex, illicit drugs, and the mystery and promise of the open road, Jack Kerouac’s classic novel of freedom and longing defined what it meant to be “Beat,” and has inspired every generation since its initial publication more than forty years ago. Based on Kerouac’s adventures with Neal Cassady, On the Road tells the story of two friends, whose four cross-country road trips are a quest for meaning and true experience. Written with a mixture of sad-eyed naiveté and wild abandon, and imbued with Kerouac’s love of America, his compassion for humanity, and his sense of language as jazz, On the Road is the quintessential American vision of freedom and hope—vibrant, compelling, and full of wonder.

“A historic occasion . . . the most beautifully executed, the clearest and most important utterance yet made by the generation Keouac himself named years ago as ‘beat.’ ”     .     –The New York Times


For the last two days we have been busy at home cleaning and getting ready for a house sale next month, and coincidentally the email notice arrived about a book I had asked to check out online. It was available and ready for me to download. So the past day and a half I have been reading chapter by chapter – so far I have not jumped ahead to read the “conclusion” as they say we readers often do, just to reassure ourselves that this will be a happy outcome for me, at least, that is, if you believe that sort of analysis of artistic fore-shadowing or perhaps we should call it fore-readingplay.

Today the work parties have not arrived, and at 3:45 in the afternoon I can almost with full confidence say none will arrive today, although I remember days in the past when H 3 would zoom up in his powerful truck and come in to make the family happy to see him and glad he and his had a good day. My Mom was happy for many years with her last home. Across the long time of forty years from when she married H 2, through to his weakening thirty years later, and then near eleven years of last widowhood, she almost always enjoyed receiving callers at her door, especially in those times when we all gathered for family and holiday celebrations. I remember how she told me that even though she did not want to be fussed over or nagged at, even though she sometimes mistook our attention for criticism, she more often then not turned away from that selfish feeling and came to enjoy spending time with the hordes of the family she had married, as she once said to me, feeling grumpy and wanting go get back to her weaving work or reading or (especially the last ten years when I lived with her) her puzzle books. Sometimes she wanted us to let her be, but not usually.

She knew how to dress well, and always looked radiant. H 3 once lamented, two years before she passed, that she seemed to have lost some of her sparkle. After he left, she told me she was often touched by how much H’s children seemed to love her.

I have spent the whole day merely watching news on TV and reading a chapter or two more of the famous novel. Now I began to write. The phone rang. It was H 3 himself. I read him the two sentences I just wrote here about him and the sparkle and love. He chuckled a little and said he had thought about coming by today but they had to go get O’s truck out of the auto mechanic shop. I suddenly can remember the smell of gas stations and mechanic work. Oil, grease, gasoline. Coffee. The restroom around the corner.

Then I remember how I started this, a new journal, with the name of: “on the back cover.”


winter is going

My sister-in-law recently told me how her great-grandmother’s family survived the winter in Nebraska. Or maybe it was the Dakotas; but I prefer the word Nebraska.

They had a big old farmhouse, out in the country, with several bedrooms upstairs. Sometime around Christmas they would move a few beds downstairs and hunker down for the cold months in the kitchen and perhaps another room. The memory of her story is already growing dim, even a few scarce months after she told me.

But I can see them, here in my imagination, either cooking on the parlor stove in the front room, or on the kitchen stove. You see them now?

The details are shifting and rearranging even as I struggle to remember her exact words.

I am only certain it was downstairs. The rest of the house was freezing. The upstairs rooms. The attic.

Wherever it was, winter was cold there.

Not like sunny California.


a coincidence March 2019

A coincidence. Happened the other day. Sunday. I went to meet my brother and nephew at a bookstore. Before going in, I visited a next-door middle-eastern market and bought some tea and produce. After the bookstore, we went for a bite to eat across the street. Then we sat and talked for more than an hour.

The coincidence, which I still cannot quite believe occurred/transpired, was that the amount I paid in the market was exactly – to the penny – the same as I paid for my lunch. Fourteen dollars and nine cents.



2019 March 23

I talked with an old friend of Mom’s yesterday on the phone. We had not spoken since almost a year ago, after Mom died.

Anne. Or Ann. I am not sure how to spell it now. Her husband Don was a fellow worker at Grossmont, or rather I believe he was actually Mom’s supervisor for a while. She taught many years with the Grossmont District, in the home study program – she would visit students at home if they were too sick, or injured, and could not come back to school yet.

In recent years, Mom had regularly gone out with them for lunch roughly once a month.

Ann and Don had lived in Alpine, twenty or thirty miles east of the city in the hills. At the beginning of the mountains, folded around the southern slopes of Viejas Mountain (its peak is just above 4100 feet above sea level). The town lies nearer to an elevation of 2000 feet. I have been studying the location because I found a rather attractive trailer for sale in a mobile home park right in the center of town.

Ann and I talked for a while about family, her new home in a senior community in Rancho San Diego, and her old home in Alpine. She mentioned how far east of town it was, and that just coming down into San Diego entailed at least a seventy or eighty mile round trip.

There is fire danger there. That is one concern for me. Ann mentioned how they were always concerned with that possible disaster. She also complained that there is not much shopping in Alpine, compared with the big city down the hill.

I felt better after talking with her.

It has been a year now since Mom died. I miss her.

But I remain deeply grateful she had such a good life, and was able to leave us with very little suffering.

God was kind to us. I know that is a superstitious statement, but it is exactly how I feel.

Now, if I can just finish this work I am loath to address.

The house must be cleaned. The stuff must be distributed.

I found her mother’s old toy stove. I was cleaning out the linen closet. All kinds of stuff hidden away in there.

Found some linens, too.


from 2000


Auh in ye yuqui in oaccico in Xoloco

Now the yes so he [Cortes] arrived at Dividing-Place

in ye uncan tlantimani, in uncan yaquetihuitz,

at yes already their-finish-time, at their end-place

niman ye ic muchichioya, mocencahua

then yes for to-be-dressed, to-prepare

in Motecuzomatzin inic tenamiquiz;

the Motecuzoma-lord for meeting-them;

ihuan occequintin huehueintin tlatoque,

also the most-wise old-old-wise speakers,

in tlazopipilti, in itlatocayohuan, in ipilhuan.

the warriors, the leaders, the nobles.

Niman ye ic hui tenamiquizque.

Then yes for went to-meet-them-all.

more than eighteen years ago I was living in Tijuana


When I remember a thing, or an event, or a person, there are several different processes going on in my brain and body. Emotional feelings, intellectual reflections, then links to other memories related to the person, place, or event. The good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful. Most precious are the memories of love and affection. This is often very personal, having to do with remembering one or more specific persons I have known in my life. Or a dog. Or a place. A tree. A playground. A house where special people lived. Live. Memories can be a fresh as what happened yesterday or come from years ago. Long and short, deep and shallow. All of it.