Friday, January 16, 2009

Rising, Like Phoenix, From the Ashes

It was about 30 minutes out of Los Angeles when the car windows stopped working. And the fuel gauge, temperature gauge, air conditioner and the tiny little fan that you never think about but is actually quite important that is hidden inside your vent. And the seat belts in the front.

But I wanted to get out of California before we got caught in some traffic jam, so we sped on until Max threatened to pee in the car.

We made Phoenix our goal. A big city, lots of cheap motels on the outskirts, an easy spot to find dinner. We jammed on with our broken car. At a truck stop, we stopped to buy fuses, but they only had some of what we needed. Steve was determined to conduct a full fuse makeover to see if the various problems would go away, so he got what they had and we moved on, the seat belts just hanging there lifelessly in front of us, as if to mock us about the fixer ticket we were sure to get.

Phoenix is far, so we stopped at rest stops and raced each other to the vending machines and back again. Before kids, I was never a rest stop person, I was like Calvin Trillan in that essay Jenny read me, putting the car in neutral at red lights and running to switch drivers, all in the name of making "good time". There is no good time with children. But good times, yes! Like Geni singing to us from the car seat or Max spending two hours muttering to himself in an alien voice, lost, somewhere.

It turns out Phoenix does not exist. I don't understand it. We looked and looked for it, we even exited at a sign that seemed to imply Phoenix, but it wasn't, it was just an empty business park, like a deserted movie set for the movie "Phoenix". Is Phoenix an empty business park?

We wound up on an empty, dark street way far from the freeway, with no restaurant in sight and the kids crying from hunger. In the distance, like a beacon, I saw a neon sign with a red K. If I hadn't seen "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" in college (maybe thrice, even), I would not have known what I was seeing: Circle K. We pulled up, bought crap, had a picnic on the cold car hood in the dark while some serious street action rolled around us in the parking lot. I went back in to ask the cashier that all important question: "Where are we?"


Tomorrow: Tumbling tumbleweeds

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