July 08, 2005



(Written during an April trip to Carlsbad, California.)

Southern California is for a part of me that’s already always hurt and tired. The weather, the amazing absence of signals—if everything is aligned, I can receive what's so emphatically barely there.

I was sun-tired, aching and dozed by my body’s chemicals. I went next door and asked the nice lady who runs the B&B where I might find a freezer; I wanted to ice up my armband cuff. She showed me where it was, so I added a query about seltzer, hoping she’d give me pity soda but she just kept smiling and told me to walk down two blocks to the 7-11. This was surprising—to a Brooklyn boy, all the split-level Cali surf housing looked aggressively residential; it didn’t seem as if there’d be any commerce until some big highway rose up and created a cloverleaf and some shadow. But this town is about two blocks long; I guess they need to cram a 7-11 into all the tiny relaxedness.

I walked down a super-dark, semi-rural street while a guy walked towards me, yelling into his cell phone as a woman held his arm. "So you can see me, and I can’t see you! That’s what you’re saying? I think we’re one street over! Let’s just meet at Pat’s, that’s easier!” The 7-11 was a 7-11, same size as always, same surgical brightness. I bought a copy of XXL with Fat Joe on the cover saying something nuts about how he’s second to Tupac in street cred—we all missed that memo, Mr. Crack—and some water water, but could find no seltzer. No regular seltzer at all in the cold case. None hot, either. What’s the deal? I thought everyone in Cali was a body builder, consuming nothing but power turds and celery and bubbly water. Nope. This 7-11 provided the generic tabloids and beef jerky spread of every other 7-11. I found “black cherry” seltzer, which I hoped would be like Zazz, the cheap lime seltzer we get by the case at Stop 'n' Shop back home.

The checkout girl was a beautiful curvy lady with tats who talked to a younger stoned teen boy who kept coming in and leaving, then coming back. The other checkout guy, an older Hawaiian, watched them interact. When the stoner left, he asked her how much money the stoner owed her. “Only twenty dollars.” She giggled. I paid and walked home, and tried to drink the seltzer. It was as sweet as soda, nothing like the flavored water we know. It was just secret clear imitation soda with Splenda in it. Sweet, cyberoily, useless. I stowed it behind a car that looked like it hadn’t been moved since it was bought—it was concealed under a form-fitting canvas cover—because I thought dudes who put their cars under canvas covers might like molten plastic drinks. I put the rest of my purchase in the nice lady’s freezer when I got home.

Posted by Sasha at July 8, 2005 03:34 PM | TrackBack