Chapter 5: Go North, Young Man
There were a few other crappy things that happened during our stay in the San Fernando Valley, as if the earth trying to kill us weren't enough. I don't want to spend too long on this autobiographical stuff. This book is supposed to be about jobs, right? Lots of jobs. Yes, but I don't think I can give you a good idea of why I've had so many jobs without giving you some idea of who I am. We're coming up to the final phase of my childhood. As I transitioned to a being young adult, the sort of things I learned from my parents – especially from my father – had a profound effect upon my attitudes toward work. Like R. Duke and the ether, we'll get into that rotten stuff soon enough. But first, let's try to finish up with the SoCal sojourn.
I've already mentioned the troubles I was having trying to adjust to a school in a large metropolitan area. One of the other significant bad things that happened down there was that my mother and I were involved in a pretty bad auto accident. Some old man with hearing aids in both ears just blew through a red light and t-boned us on my mom's side of the car. I was okay, but my mom was rather badly injured. I rode in the ambulance with her to the hospital. The hospital wasn't far from our house, and we went right up our street. I remember seeing Edward and his mom out in their front yard, looking curiously as we went by. I waved, but they couldn't see who was inside the vehicle.
My mom's injuries required surgery. I feel bad for not being able to remember this stuff better, but I was still just a kid. She came home after a bit, but her health rapidly declined. She had to go back into the hospital. It was discovered that some kind of surgical tool had been left inside her. Needless to say, she had to have another surgery to remove it.
All in all, she was out of commission for quite a while. My sister came down from Sacramento to help us out. It was nice to have her around, but it was rather a sad time.
Another unfortunate event that comes to mind was at one point I had some kind of flu that kept me out of school for a few days. One day, my parents needed to run out to the store. I was too sick to go with them, but I was old enough to stay home alone for a little while, especially since I was just going to be lying in bed. Right after they went out the front door to the car, which was parked down on the street (rather than in the garage on the alley), I thought of something I wanted to tell them. I threw back my covers and attempted to jump to dash to the door, but I found my legs would not work, and I fell to the floor.
Maybe it was some kind of symptom of this particular flu virus that caused partial paralysis, or maybe I was just weak. Either way, it was quite terrifying to me to not be able to walk. Whatever I had wanted to tell my parents was supplanted by the desire to report this alarming development. I dragged myself to the front door, and got it open just in time to see the car pull away. That was a very desperate sensation. All I could do was crawl back to my bed and await their return, wondering if I was ever going to be able to walk again.
Of course, I did walk again, but the weakness in my legs lingered for a few days. I found it easier to locomote about the house on my hands and knees. My dad apparently found this offensive, because one day he ordered me to stop crawling around like a baby. I managed to claw my way up the wall to a standing position, and then I made my way back to my room, hugging the walls like a drunken man. Thanks, dad.
As I said before, the earthquake was the deciding factor in my parent's decision to move. Before I was born, my family had lived in a little Sacramento Valley town called O-town. My maternal grandparents had lived in the nearby mountain retirement town of Mountain Town (not their real names) until my grandfather, of whom I have very few memories, passed away. When my grandmother became too old to live by herself, she lived with us for awhile at our home in San Luis Obispo. My sister had moved out by this time, so grandma Fay was in Buff's former room.
Eventually she was placed in a convalescent home in nearby Arroyo Grande. She remained there even after we moved south. I think the official story was that her needs had become more than my mom could handle, but I think the real reason was that my dad resented having her around the house.
I think Fay passed away while we were living in southern Californa, so chalk up another mark on that area's scoreboard of shittiness.
My parents remembered O-Town as being a nice little community, just the right kind of place for a boy who was used to smaller towns. So eventually I bid goodbye to yet another best friend, and we headed for northern California.
All those negative experiences I had in SoCal have given me a life-long detestation of that area, something maybe it doesn't deserve. Before we lived there, we often traveled there on family vacations. My paternal grandparents lived there, as well as many of my dad's siblings. It was also the home of such fun destinations as Disney Land and Universal Studios. I remember fondly getting to ride the original Angels Flight before it was demolished.
On one of those trips, my parents and I were admiring a fountain in the hilly area of downtown Los Angeles near the aforementioned Angels Flight. A man standing on another street above shouted to get the attention of anyone near the fountain. He and another man had a large camera-like apparatus on a tripod. He explained that the picture they were going to take involved some kind of special process, and he needed everyone within the camera's view to stand perfectly still until he gave the all clear.
We did as we were told, and when they were done, he thanked us and said, “You're going to be on a postcard!” I found this quite exciting. Amazingly, we later came across that postcard. The image of the fountain was the lenticular kind that looks like the image is moving when you move the card about. That's why the people had to hold still while the fountain got to spray to its heart content. The people in the image look like little blobs, but off to one side, you can see two adult-sized blobs and one child-sized blob. We knew that those blobs were us. I wonder if that card is still out there somewhere.
I've been back to the Los Angeles area several times since them, but only one of them was willingly. Other than a visit to a Beverly Hills friend I met at summer camp a few years later, most of my trips to that blighted region were for work reasons. I still shudder when I see images of the area. I guess the best thing I can say about Southern California is that it was a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there (again).
Pretty soon, we were in O-Town. It was still small, but as I soon find out, it no longer seemed to be the “nice little town” my parents remembered. I was surprised one day shortly after we got there when we went to the famous old Chinese Temple, built and used by the laborers who had toiled on the railroads and in the mining industry of the Gold Rush era.
Upon seeing the quaint little temple, I remembered that we had previously visited O-Town on one of our vacations in our camper. I recalled that O-Town had seemed like a perpetually rainy place ( a lot of our vacations were during winter, when work in the construction industry was slow), but the temple had stuck in my mind. It made me feel a little more at home in our new town knowing that I had a brief, prior history with it.
So now we're in O-Town, the scene of the final phase of my childhood and the start of my so-called grown-up years. However, that's a tale best left for another chapter.