This is not a happy tale.
Broken in a car crash ,Chris, flown by helicopter to the hospital trauma unit, is fed through a tube, breaths through a tube,has a sensor pinned into the top of his shaved head to reveal brain activity.
Staff shift his body position every four hours, nurses monitor instruments, follow Doctor’s orders, clean up bowel movements. He is pale, his left eye is swollen shut.
This hospital is modern, with waxed floors, clean bathrooms, refrigerated air, a cafeteria and Gift Shop on the first floor. It has departments for every part of the body, doctors, nurses and staff with name badges.Security officers carry weapons. Visitors check in at the entry and get wristbands.
Chris’s mom sleeps on a cot in her son’s room.
Modern medicine does amazing things, but, right now, we need a miracle.
This situation is even beyond a mom’s ability to fix.
Watching my friend fight for his life, all we can do is pray that God is with him.
This is an All Gender Restroom at the UC Irvine Medical Center in Los Angeles, California.
The worst thing about this sign is having to figure out where all these genders are suddenly coming from, and whether I can open the door, safely go inside, and use the bathroom without breaking any laws?
Life has turned complicated.
I’m going to have to find a special California State Dictionary so I can understand this state.
Apparently, your sex/gender is what you personally decide to call yourself, and, we just haven’t been looking at things the right way over the past several thousand years.
Not certain about the bathroom, I go ahead and use it and am careful to lock the door behind me.
None of us are exempt from nature calls despite what we call ourselves.
Long term residents, going back to the 1940’s and 50’s, who are still alive, talk in the hospital waiting room about California being a Garden of Eden.
” Down that street, ” one says, “: there were acres and acres of orange trees….. ”
” And grapefruits as big as your head, ” another chips in from his chair as he looks out a huge window on the third floor.
” When we were little, ” a gray haired matron with granny glasses says, almost so quiet you can’t hear her, “my little sister and I would walk to an orchard and buy a bag of lemons for home made lemonade. Our mother made it so sweet…..”
The Garden of Eden has been sold, divided into planned communities with covenants.
There are still berry farms scattered inside municipal Los Angeles though, operations that take up a few city blocks,not bulldozed by progress. This strawberry patch is on the street I follow to the University of Irvine Medical Center where Chris is on life support.
I imagine a little Japanese man as this farm’s owner and operator, who opens early and closes late, who uses a hoe to keep furrows clear of weeds, who carefully carries boxes of strawberries out to SUV’s for domestic Goddesses. His grandchildren help him, and,for lunch, he eats rice and fish at the small table back of his stand.
Some people are born to get dirt on their pants, hold soil in the palm of their hand, taste a fresh picked strawberry and let the juice run down their cheeks.
This strawberry patch is grounding me to the Earth today.
My Dad grew strawberries in New Mexico, not so long ago, and we all loved helping him, picking tomato worms off vines, dusting for squash bugs, weeding watering troughs on either side of his fast growing black eyed peas and cucumbers and okra.
It calms me to be in this strawberry field, praying Chris falls on the right side of life.
I don’t try one of the old man’s strawberries.
It is good enough for me just to know that our government still lets people grow their own food, and, especially, inside city limits.
Government’s wagging finger, saying ” No “, never seems to stop pointing at us these days.
Victoria Gardens is a Rancho Cucamonga mall, one of many in the Los Angeles area where shopping ranks high on people’s to do lists.
The day before Christmas, late afternoon, crowds are thinning. By now, most have their shopping complete and are winding home to pack, wrap, tie bows, slip their gift under a tree or drop it into a red sock hanging from fake fireplace mantles. On the outside wall of a mall store, the California Soul Records marquee is a synopsis of California.
The surf is here. The palm trees are here. The image of carefree living is here. The surfer is here. The feeling of comfort, washed out shirts and denims, short sleeves and caps is here. The effects of unlimited sun, salt, air, and wind have worked the images on the painted brick wall into something as comfortable as your favorite pair of shorts.
There might not have been a California Soul Records, but if there wasn’t, there should be.
This afternoon, Chris and I take photos for our future albums with this wall in the background.
When you are an imaginary recording star, with California Soul Records , looks are everything.
This afternoon I imagine Andy Warhol opening a can of Campbell soup, grasping it with a pair of channel locks,and warming it on a can of sterno by a Christmas tree on Wall Street
Finishing 2014 on the road, most of my past year didn’t end up on scotttreks, and that is good.
When I tuck a past year into the scrapbook, I’m okay if most of it doesn’t wake up again.
Your chariot has to be tuned up to keep you in the Los Angeles race.
You aren’t going to get anywhere in this L.A. burg without a good set of wheels, a team of rested and well fed horses, and enough time to get where you are going through a maze of interconnected freeways, on and off ramps, incorporated towns that remind you of a patchwork quilt with each town independent but linked to the others to make a California dreaming quilt.
It is almost a forty minute drive to Los Angeles to reach Chris’s mechanic.
Ontario, where Chris and his mom live, is fifty miles from the Pacific Ocean, the Getty Museum, Staples Center, Sunset Strip, Hollywood, the Walk of Fame, and other landmarks. His car’s CHECK engine light is on and fan belts, recently replaced, are slipping and making a squeal..It isn’t something any garage can’t fix but when you get a mechanic you trust, you will grudgingly drive the hour to let him work his car magic on your car.
The Auto Care Center,when we pull in, is busting open at the seams with car hoods up, tires off, doors open, uniformed grease junkies busily removing and replacing parts, running computer checks, calling parts suppliers. It is the day before Christmas and cars are doing what they invariably do – break down.
Chris’s car belts are tightened and his check engine light turns out to be caused by not tightening down on the gas cap enough so a seal is broken and escaping emissions trigger a sensor.
On the way back to Ontario we stay off the freeways.
Chris, who cared for my dad and Roseanne, in California, was exceedingly fond of my Dad.
California was never a place my dad wanted to be, and, at the end, he wasn’t.
Chris and I still have plenty of J.L. stories, and all of them make us smile, to tell, even when they don’t have happy endings.
The shopping mall is not only a metaphor for the Christmas season, but a melody.
Jingle bells ring from inside closed stores as a security pickup patrols and deliveries are made to the back door. Stores open at ten in the morning and stay open till ten in the evening.
Palm trees and oranges mark this territory as Southern California but this shopping mall could also be in Arizona or parts of Nevada, Texas, or even Florida. Malls, once a new concept, brought customers out of neighborhood stores to shop in retail fantasy lands, closed down mom and pop places that had higher prices but kept neighborhoods together. Malls gave big business a chance to grab market share, streamline operations, centralize and advertise their brand. They changed America.
Christmas is promoted here as far as my eyes can see. Windows have nativity scenes, garlands are draped over light poles, decorated trees have presents wrapped underneath, snowflakes are sprayed on windows.
The last time Los Angeles saw a real snowflake was when Hell froze over.
High on a ladder, a painter keeps up appearances.
In California, there is no room for wrinkles, sags, or cracks.
California dedicates herself to the pursuit of Dionysus and when Santa rolls into town with his reindeer, real soon, he will be wearing yellow speedo’s, a bright red stocking cap, and a pair of dark sunglasses that would make a gangster proud.