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Real-Time Poetry Project: 'California Road Story'

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Coming down the mountain, moving south, out of
Oregon and into the Jefferson valley, I could see the
clouds, wrung out by the winds, streaming across the top
of Mount Shasta, a white-capped behemoth overlooking
the region like a Himalayan monarch. Most mountains
do. They have that quality. They are monarchical. They
press against the sky and there’s no telling them
anything. They are in charge. We wait on them. They are
never pleased. Like the wind, they own the land, forcing
their will upon all inhabitants. And so on this day,
seabirds, white gulls of some kind (I wish I knew what
kind), were oddly trouncing around, sifting for food at
the road side rest site, placed like a dish of rest at the
mountain’s valley table. They seemed lost, as if the wind
had blown them there from far away. I asked the rest site
attendants, one was clearly retarded and the other one, a
Latino) if it was unusual for these birds to be there. The
retarded one mumbled something that was lost in the 50
mph winds. The Latino said the white gulls always come
in the summer. I thanked them and then walked away,
then realized: It was March.
The point of this passage was to get out of the rain.
And just this once, the sun burst through the clouds and
painted this valley in a way valleys are supposed to be
painted by the sun. Great broad clean sweeps of color.
At this rest stop along U.S. 5, I got out to take a piss and
a picture.
The wind was blowing hard, damn hard. I’d been
driving for six hours at least, after leaving Canyonville,
Oregon earlier that morning (a nice little place that I
eventually found a little disturbing, due to its bible belt
undercurrent that packed its more hermetic charms in
tight, its health food store, its cyber cafe, its large white
masons hall, all tucked in tight in a womb of paternal
Jehovah protectionism) and was about ready to go postal
about the weather. Really had had enough.
Six miserable months the storms, my sweeties, rendered
me into complete unreliable narrator-hood. Now, after
facing numerable challenges to my sanity as I have retraced
our steps to this dream of a life at the far end of
our continent, I have been reduced to madly running
through the Mohave desert in the cold and dark in order
to find a telephone so that I could hear her voice
and know it’s going to be OK. But such assurances have
escaped me. Instead, after facing yet another horrible
Olympus on the road up and down the pass in
Tehachapi, California, where I determined the most
deadly foe to man isn’t the horror of nature, but instead,
the nature of the California drivers who hurl through the
world on some kind of high-octane hell without a care in
the world for who they run off the road, I descended into
yet another underworld to find I’m not worthy of this
mission.
Now, as I face this cracked mirror in a motel room in
Barstow, another place being cold-blasted by the hideous
wind, I am tortured by a lingering premonition ...

~ From "Forty Days of Fire, Forty Days of Rain," by Douglas McDaniel

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