Thoughts and Prayers, OK?

Strange how our most-summery sport waits until the bluster of winter rolls in before naming a champ? Everything about baseball is too long – the games, the season. The World Series always feels like a February wedding, cold and raw.

As we head out on our roadtrip, White Fang and I will watch the World Series from motels and saloons across the West. What was that Steinbeck book, “Travels With Charley,” the one where he takes off in a camper with his dog?

My book will be “A World Series with White Fang.” We’ll chat up fans named Otto and Faye, who will look skeptically upon any travelers from LA, as well they should. Are we two itinerant preachers, as we claim? Or are we out to rob them?

To outsiders, everything about LA seems some sort of con.

“BEAT LA!” opposing fans love to shout, as if Glendale were Gomorrah. As if we’re going to corrupt their sisters and steal their wives. Semi-true, of course. In Los Angeles, we spend much of our time plotting how to completely ruin America.

Even the sight of a California plate unsettles outsiders. “This is everything we fear,” they think to themselves.

Trust me, we come in peace. I’m just like the next guy. I like wistful music and mad funny women. Most dudes do.

Besides, I’m too old to fight; I can barely finesse a 9-iron anymore. In our SUV, a small propane grill, a few beach chairs, a table, a football. All we want it to tailgate in the Pacific Northwest, in places where God spends his Saturdays.

Here, have a beer and a brat. What’d you say your name was? God? Wow, OK then. Cheers! Keep up the great work!

We’ll drop in on my son, the young scholar Smartacus, gasp at the condition of his dorm room, then treat him to a floppy sirloin, medium rare.

“The only way to order meat,” I’ll tell him, and if he learns nothing else at that big expensive college, at least he’ll always have that.

Professor Dad (emeritus). School of Life.

Rapunzel is going to jet into Eugene to join us. She’s sort of an auntie, sort of a chanteuse, but in the end just a really devoted big sister with really bitchin hair. That’s all Smartacus really needs, a silly sister and his beloved White Fang, who will dash into his arms when she spots him, tackling him to the leafy autumn grass, begging him to please come home, damn it. Kiss-kiss-kiss. Now!

A Kodak Moment, everyone wearing sweaters. I’ll try to send photos.

I offered to bring Catty Cakes along. She’s almost 6 months now, and having her in my arms would go a long way to convincing the locals that we’ve come in peace. I think she’d like the trip – do babies still sleep in cars? In my day, that’s the only place they ever slept.

We might stop in Tahoe and see that shimmering little lake. We might stop again in Ashland, Oregon, where they hold an annual Shakespeare festival. “A Christmas Carol” is coming up, and I suspect a town brimming with randy and buxom Shakespearean actors could really knock the heck out of a little Dickens.

Can’t you see us – me, White Fang and Catty Cakes, in the audience in our oversized Christmas scarves, all snoring away.

At some point, we’ll also buy a whole bunch of tourist-village fudge.

Why, ’tis a happy thing … to be the father unto many sons.

Not sure Catty Cakes can make it, her mama is pretty protective. Were my grandbaby a fourth child, like Smartacus, her mom would be more than happy to unload her for a week. But she’s a first child, a nominative queen. I get it. I have one too.

Before hitting the road, we had to clear the garage of the tailgate crud from last week’s fiasco at the Rose Bowl. Good crowd, poorly behaved, which is what I always look for in a tailgate party.

Loved watching the UCLA kids parade around the Rose Bowl, the grandest collegiate venue in all the land. The arroyo was misty …painterly…another place where God would spend a Saturday. Smelled of chorizo and beer.

The high point of the tailgate came when the DJ (Miller) played “Shout” from “Animal House,” perhaps the best party song ever.

People danced like their toes were burning.

Really, what we were really witnessing at the Rose Bowl last Saturday was the utter breakdown of society as we know it, which is another thing I look for in a rousing tailgate party.

Every tailgate is a mini-miracle.

I had bruises the next day, which sounds illicit, but came – I’m fairly sure – from climbing into the rental van to fetch the pop-up tents and a tub of tequila, which we splashed into lime-based drinks like holy water.

“Zero point zero,” Dean Wormer told me and Miller the next day.

I don’t know if that’s our current GPA, or our IQs. Zero. Point. Zero. Sounds pretty ominous either way.

That’s why this road trip is so important. I think it’ll be cathartic. I’ll eat tons of taffy apples and drink too much roadside cider. At night, I’ll thumb through the Gideon Bible, seeking out the racy parts.

Truth be told, I don’t find many Bibles in motels anymore, and the lobbies are devoid of morning papers, unless you really get out into the sticks, where the local rags still thrive.

Honestly, I don’t want to live in a world without print newspapers, journalism’s only link to Shakespeare.

That’s what I’m actually looking for, places where newspapers still thrive, and the waitress at the town diner inadvertently puts her fingers in your eggs when she slams the plate down in front of you.

“Enjoy,” she says as she slurps her yolky thumb.

Real places. Real people. Real food (not fussy LA restaurant food, which looks more and more like very expensive bait).

“WEST COAST SLAMMED BY BOMB CYCLONE,” read one weather headline as we were about to leave.

Thoughts and prayers, OK?

White Fang is soooooo excited though. She loves nasty weather. Her favorite thing lately is to sit out in the cold garage and pretend she’s back in Saskatchewan.

Besides, White Fang has never been on a long road trip, or met a real person before. I’ve told her stories of real people, of course — before bed, to calm her heart and rid her head of hostile thoughts.

She thinks I must be feeding her fables, yet I assure her that on Halloween week, in the sleepy hollows of the Pacific Northwest, we’re going to meet some real characters, straight from Steinbeck.

Jeeeesh, hope I’m right for a change.

In fact, if there’s one thing I’m right about, it’s that people and experiences are the only things that really matter in life.

And dogs, of course. And kids. And music. And a really beefy chili on a cold  October night.

All of it, dude. All of it.

Wheels up! FYI, I might file Saturday, as usual, I might not. Depends on whether I can find a wi-fi connection, or a tad of inspiration. We’ll check in sometime, which is the important thing. If we beg for bail money, just say no. We have to learn moderation and social norms at some point, especially White Fang. Cheers!

8 thoughts on “Thoughts and Prayers, OK?

  1. Thanks for a thoroughly enjoyable post! I hope you missed the bomb cyclone, which was a fine mist here in the OC. Wishing you and your faithful companion a wonderful trip, filled with real people and real experiences you will share with us in your own special way.

  2. In California you have Steinbeck characters.
    In Oregon we have Kesey characters. Ken’s gone, but the Springfield Creamery – the other family biz – keeps making the best yogurt & kefir– EVER! Nancy’s.

  3. A masterful free association riff. Beisbol has become an owner’s dream: you sit on a pile of money after a long, long panting season of fat cat posturing, and exhort all the lovers of the game to dive into that final mosh pit of theatrical pause, The World Series, for one more hopefully dramatic stretchout. The droning length of the season is, in itself, hypnotic to the devotee, so few resist, but the weight of the largess bores the spirit, and probably not a few of the players. Some must be tired well beyond boredom, and should be allowed to go home sooner, to their money. The season is way too long, and the playoffs seem to stretch into the Autumn sun almost all the way into the dark of Winter. Enough. Something tense and vital has been lost.

    I loved the Steinbeck allusions, and the bow to his lovely paean to travel, with a dog. You guys have keening fun and an emotional tailgate up there in that brisk fresh country, you hear?

  4. There is something magical and mysterious that happens inside me when I hear about a roadtrip north in the fall…an unfulfilled yearning….miss them a great deal livin in this eternal summer called South Texas. Wish I was heading out with you. Give that Smartacus a hug (they need ’em but will never ask….)

  5. 1953. Chicago. Barney’s Steakhouse. State and Randolph. The doorman greeted you with a plume in his hat. “Good evening, Senators.” Five-course steak dinner for $5. Appetizer, soup, salad, steak, dessert. Extra for the Cutty Sark and soda. Or so I’ve heard from some loveable Cavaliers. People love their steak memories. One of mine is “Table for 9” at Sizzler’s. Where do you take 9 people for dinner, anyway. Enjoy!

  6. In the far right corner of the “La Canada Tailgate Society” pic there is a kiss going on that makes Klimt’s famous rendering seem merely anecdotal.
    This seems entirely in sync with the name itself, a stirring homage to the illustrious gateway so revered by the roistering many. Oh, so any pathways to the stars there are, in Fall.

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