Three California Moments


061299-pontiac.jpgExiting Interstate-5 and Jeffrey, I came to a stop at the light and my eye caught something large off to the left. It was a car, specifically a late ’60’s Pontiac Elektra. This thing was huge. So huge, in fact, that some serious pretzeling was necessary to get a glimpse of the back end. A rolling work of art and, like the Queen Mary or the occasional DC-3 you’ll see on it’s way to Catalina, a harbinger of days long gone. Decked out in a gleaming silver paint job, the simonized Pontiac was spit polished to a “T” and framed by flawless, twinkling chrome.

Inside, an older couple perched regally on the low-back bench seat. He sported a white button up shirt, tie, and a felt hat tipped just so. She, a light blouse. Windows down, the soft sound of some classic ditty (“real music”, he would have said, “perfect for a Sunday drive”) flowed from what was likely the original AM radio.

Green light, the thirsty big block engine purred, and they motored off into the sunset as the anemic performance of my efficient 95 horsepower Mitsubishi brought me back to 1999.

Easy Street

It was late in the afternoon, and the deli/liquor store was largely deserted. I leaned on one of the many low aisles filled with alcohol, condoms, and other necessities while waiting for my sandwich to be made. Slowly the door creaked open and a small oriental man peered inside. After a moment of examining the place, he came in–and was almost immediately followed by about a dozen other random personages. Among them was a baby boomer clad in a polyester maroon pants suit. She pointed at a handwritten sign taped to the cash register (“The phone line is out”) and demanded, “Does that mean you can’t do any tickets?”

“Yeah, the line has been out since this morning.”

“Well, when will it be up again?”, she scowled.

“I don’t know. Pac Bell is supposed to be coming by to look at it sometime today.”

She paused to consider her options, then turned to a very young boy standing next to her.

“C’mon”, she said in total earnest as she started for the door, “we have to go somewhere else and get a Lotto ticket or mommy won’t be able to pay for your college fund.”


As I slowed the plane and veered left at the end of the runway, the call came: “Decathlon 389, left at Golf, taxi and hold short one-nine left via Charlie and Kilo, this frequency.”

061299-decathlon.jpg“Left at Golf, one-nine left via Charlie/Kilo, 389”, I replied while allowing the aerobatic taildragger to continue the slow roll toward taxiway Charlie. The crosswinds this day had been very demanding, and it seemed that both plane and controller were conspiring to prevent The Perfect Landing. Why am I doing this to myself, I asked? It’s just not my day.

But as I continued northbound, a tall man came into view just off to the right of the taxiway. I noticed he had something on his shoulders. Eventually it took the form of a small boy. A smiling boy. And he was smiling at me, missing teeth and all. I sat up a little straighter, returned the smile and gave him an impromptu salute which broadened the grin and set the two little hands to clapping in that uncoordinated fashion only young people can accurately muster.

Just then the strangest thing happened–the joy was back, and it turned out to be my day after all.


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