Friday, November 6, 2009

Lost in the Fog (Part 1) "The Idea of North"

Lost in the Fog
Part 1 (of 3)
"The Idea of North"

(with thanks to Raymond Chandler)

The broad dared me to come north, so here I was buzzing past my beloved Morro Bay just to prove to her I was a man of my word. Hell, for all I knew she was a man. She had a pretty angular jaw in one photo. But damn it to hell, I had to go through with it. I was already cutting up the 101 like a bat out of hell trying to beat rush hour along the Central Coast and get to Monterey before I lost the light.

Driving with the top down for 5 hours without a pit stop is enough to make a man’s head shake. The vibrations of the wind provide a scalp massage that the best Thai ‘girlfriend’ wouldn’t have a chance of replicating. You don’t feel it while driving, but when you get out, it’s like you’ve been sitting all that time with a lady from the Turkish baths dancing the hoochie coochie on your head. And while it’s far from soothing, it reminds you of being alive. “And that’s what it’s all about, right?” says Voice #2. Voice #3 curses when you talk to yourself like that, so you make a note to yourself never to do that again – at least not just before you’re about to meet someone for the first time. At least when it’s a woman with a vague plan in a strange town. It’s hard to think straight with all that blood rushing to the head. That’s not what I told her though when I sidled up to the bar.

I simply lied and said she looked just like her picture.

She replied in kind, but she meant it.

It’s not that she wasn’t attractive. She was, in spades. I’d lucked out. But the proportions in her photo were some kind of forced perspective art shot that made her breasts look like each was the size of her head. Don’t get me wrong, they were a fine size and that’s not what I was looking for anyway. Done that and it’s usually nothing but trouble. The girl from the massage class with the triple D implants that made her website such a success, my ex who went crazy after meeting me, left her job as an accountant, traveled to Africa and took more lovers than she could track in a database, and of course, the girl from HarperCollins who dragged me back to her pad, ripped her top off, boasted about how she was going to have reduction surgery and then proclaimed, as she slid off her pants, that we weren’t having sex.

Heard it.

She was right. They always are. I’m used to this rap: invite me to your bedroom, rip off your own clothes and…"Just so you know…” If they’re lucky they’ll get a laugh out of me, otherwise it’ll just be a yawn. I never push it, but if I’d ever read any of a certain private dick, I would know enough to just walk out right then. Unfortunately, I was trained on the overly sensitive side of the tracks. I’ll be damned if I know how I was brainwashed, but a little more hard-boiled edge might well make everyone happier. I’ve been working on that.

* * * * *

We pounded back the first martini without a blink and the second one was magically already on its way. We were going to see a band she liked. That was her lure.

We’d met on Facebook days before. This was in the early days of Facebook and I didn’t really know how people did that. But I signed up for one of those free apps and went through a hurricane of images of lonely ladies with two choices. Yea or Nay. No other information. Just the picture. Most of them I couldn’t hit the “Skip” button fast enough for. And I went through hundreds before I found her. There’s almost a strange meditative quality to simply saying “no. no. no. no. no. no. mmmmm…”

This is what it’s come down to in our fragmented little town.

A picture and a click.

YES or IGNORE (or the third choice I didn’t mention – the truly pussified “YES - anonymous”, so they don’t know you dig their pic unless they click on you too).

I suppose no app can’t give me the scent of a woman as I bury my nose between their hair and their neck and no app can’t transcribe the last bitch ass crazy conversation the dame had with their last boyfriend before breaking up, so I might as well take a gander at the pic, stop complaining and hit SKIP.

Well, against all odds, we’d both clicked YES. But I was new at the game, so I hadn’t even put down the correct settings, and was searching all over Cali as it turns out. We started talking and when she said “I bet you don’t come up here much”, I realized my mistake and her location, but to cover I said “I’ve got a car, where do you want to meet?”

So here I was, five and half hours north, looking for an exit after busting a gut at 80 the whole way praying the CHP was taking an early Friday.

I’m a sucker for trouble. And she smelled like all kinds of the good stuff. A single mom with two kids and a free weekend. We’re talking about a coaster with serious loop-d-loops.

When we spoke 24 hours earlier for the first time, she let me know there was a Motel 6 right around the corner from her house, so I would have an easy time finding a bed that night. I was determined to find a less expensive option. Call me cheap. That’s one thing I did learn from my dad.

I also learned that if you don’t pay for a lady’s drink, you’re going home and fast. So I ponied up for the second round of martinis and said, “Do we need to hit the road if we’re gonna get to this gig on time?”

She’d never been to the spot. It was on the campus, she assured me. Some community college I guess. We couldn’t quite find the building though. And Monterey is a bitch in the fog. This was no ordinary fog let me tell you. This last a late October, right out of a freakin’ Halloween B-Movie fog. One of God’s PAs had clearly put too much lighter fluid on the coals and we couldn’t see more than a few feet ahead of us. She waved around her little iPhone with GPS, but it gave us nothin’. We looked for someone to ask, but this joint was a virtual ghost town.

Then we saw the army barracks. Abandoned barracks. The fog thinned just enough for me spot the barbed wire peeling paint off the shacks dating back to the Great War. I slowed down at a stop sign and she begged me to keep going. She was getting as creeped out as I was. I would not have been surprised for a moment if a real life zombie appeared out of nowhere and slid his pointy hands right through the canvass top of my car.

So I pushed on through ‘til we got to a vacant parking lot.

I stopped in the middle of it so we could see intruders coming from any direction and I turned the car off.

She leaned into me, her face lit up from the glow of her iPhone which she tried to show me that, the place should be right where we were. As we both tried to see the screen our heads almost touched. I could feel her getting anxious and I knew there was only one thing to do.


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