Tuesday, 22 July 2008

23 July 2008

Divide at midnight at Creston, arriving Salt Late City at dawn, a city of sprinklers, the least likely place for Neal to have been born; then out to Nevada in the hot sun, Reno by nightfall, its twinkling Chinese streets; then up to Sierra Nevada, pines, stars, mountain lodges signifying Frisco romances---a little boy in the back seat crying to his mother “Mother when do we get home to Truckee?” And Truckee itself, homey Truckee and then down the hill to the flats of Sacramento. I suddenly realized I was in California. Warm palmy air---air you can kiss---and palms. Along the storied Sacramento river on a superhighway; into the hills again; up, down; and suddenly the vast expanse of bay---it was just before dawn---with the sleepy lights of Frisco festooned across. Crossing the Oakland Bay Bridge I slept for the first time since Denver soundly; so that I was rudely jolted in the bus station at Market and Third into the memory of the fact that I was in San Francisco three thousand two hundred miles from my mother’s house in Ozone Park, Long Island. I wandered out like a haggard ghost, and there she was Frisco, long bleak streets with trolley wires all shrouded in fog and whiteness. I stumbled about a few blocks. Weird bums (it was Mission st.) asked me for dimes in the dawn. I heard music somewhere. “Boy am I going to dig all this later! But now I’ve got to find Henri Cru.” And following his instructions I took a bus and rode out over the Golden Gate bridge to Marin City. The sun was making a terrific haze over the Pacific as we crossed Golden Gate, a haze I couldn’t look into, and so this was the shining shield of the China-going world ocean and it wore a terrible aspect especially as I was scheduled to sail out on it. Marin City where Henri Cru lived was a collection of shacks in a valley, housing project shacks built for Navy yard workers during the war; it was really a canyon, and a deep one, treed profusely on all slopes. There were special stores and barbershops and tailorshops for the people of the Project. It was, so they say, the only community in America where whites and Negroes lived together voluntarily; and that was so, and a wild joyous place I’ve never seen since. On the door of Henri’s shack was the note he had pinned up there three weeks ago. “Jack Claptrap!” (in huge letters,

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