Americaphiles

The Story Of My Fucking Life

Sixty-nine, dudes

Posted by ilbebe on January 15, 2012

As it was meant to be, the confluence of six and nine occurs on the fifteenth. This was, and shall remain, my mother’s father’s birthday. He shares this birthday with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior. They both now share this birthday with Maggie Lenore Lee, the daughter of my friend Kaydee and her husband Johnny. It has been almost forty-four years since the assassination of Rev Dr. King, and 44 is Kaydee’s favorite number. Kaydee and Johnny were married last November 11th. I think we all know whose birthday that was and is, and what his brand of smokes were.

What is the nature and manner of coincidence?

It is easy at this point for me to say that the two best trips I took in 2011 were camping trips, and both passed through Yosemite National Park for just one night. However, it must be known that a single night in Yosemite contains power sufficient to infuse the days and weeks following a visit with the mystery and wonder of the place as though you were still there, soaking in the cool breeze beside Tanaya Lake.

The first trip happened in the end of August, and saw me and my friends Shawn, Jess, and M Pie cruising up CA-50 east into the Sierras and spending five nights in five different locations all over the Sierras and the Eastern Sierra high desert. The final full day of the trip, we awoke near Mammoth and took Tioga Road into Yosemite from the east, got a campsite in Tuolumne Meadows, and cruised past Tanaya Lake down into the grand Yosemite Valley. I was stunned.

Seeing the many wonders along CA-120 into the Valley would have been more than enough to ensure a sleepless night of waking dreams, but the one-two-three-four-I lost track roll call of wonders that reside in the Valley proper were absolutely the most majestic group of testaments to the awe and grandeur of the natural world I have ever seen in one place. M Pie took a picture of me next to a duck as we moseyed around in a calm oxbow of the Merced River admiring El Capitan as the setting sun turned it all the colors of the zodiac. Then a few minutes later he accidentally exposed himself as he came out of the river after a refreshing dip. Later that night, the rangers came around to let us know there had been a bear sighted very nearby, and so to keep our beers close and remain observant. As I did not sleep, I thought mostly of El Capitan, and also US one-cent pieces.

A few months later, in the first week of November, I embarked with Shawn and Jess on a journey with a similar yet more focused agenda. This time around we entered Yosemite from the West, planning to stay one night in the notorious Camp Four before moving on to the Pleasant Valley Pit Campground north of Bishop in the Owens River Valley the following day. We left Oakland in the mid-afternoon and hit I-5 out in the valley en route to the CA-140E exit near Gustine. Dinner was at a Jack in the Box right off of the exit with one of those depressingly perky fast food cashiers that makes you wonder how and why some people can work so hard in unreal towns without painkillers, snuff films, JC, or at the very least, the potential for tips.

Cruising across the floor of the Central Valley, Shawn put on some Thin Lizzy, and gave a solid discourse on how Goddamn great they were. The song Vagabonds of the Western World was just hitting the apex of the first solo when we passed through Merced and got behind a lone motorcyclist with a bedroll tied across the top of his saddlebags.

“Holy shit, that guy is awesome,” Jess said.

I added “Dude, I think he’s THE Vagabond Of The Western World!”

The consensus was that we had indeed found him. And so far from Ireland! We followed him for several miles until he split off somewhere near the junction with CA-49 at the base of the Sierra foothills as the sun set. We continued climbing up CA-140 to Mariposa, where we stopped for gas and beer. A 24-pack of Natural Ice was purchased at the aforementioned 49er Supermarket, which to me seemed somewhat hidden in a shopping center behind a large bluff next to the highway. I don’t think I would have found it on my own. There were numerous moments like this during both of the camping trips; moments where I was really glad I was with people who knew what they were doing. There have also been moments since then when I wonder what it might be like to shovel that parking lot after a light snow in the mid-winter. It sounds divine…

We entered the park gates past El Portal around seven or eight and parked at Camp 4. Shawn and Jess remarked that they had never seen the parking lot so empty, and this must be respected in light of the fact that they had been to Yosemite ten times in the previous two years. We set up our site, and Shawn realized that they had forgotten to bring a camp stove, a circumstance made even more amusing because they had very recently purchased a new, larger one intended for “car camping” trips just such as this one. We laughed it off, drank some beer, and joined a campfire some guys had started at a nearby site. Much mirth ensued, owing to a very diverse gang of dudes which included an older dude named Spirit; a guy our age from Sac named Bryce; a very very hungover friend of Bryce’s named John; a catatonically stoned Russian mountain climber; and a real firebrand named Andre from Dallas who wandered in drinking water out of a gallon jug about an hour after we first rolled up.

Andre’s first comment was directed at Bryce: God Damn, Was That You Puking Last Night?

Bryce said no, it was his very very hungover friend John.

Well God Damn, Andre continued, turning his attention to John, That Was So Fucking Loud I Couldn’t Sleep. I Almost Came Over Here And Beat Your Ass.

Very very hungover friend John carefully nodded in acknowledgment of Andre’s mercy. Spirit leaned back and chuckled. Andre asked more than once if anyone was interested in splitting the cost of a room at the lodge the next night. Only Forty Bucks Each! He said. The second time he brought it up, about twenty minutes after the first, I said Wow, There Is Some Echo In This Valley. I Coulda Sworn You Said The Exact Same Thing A While Ago. I got a few laughs, and soon enough it was bedtime.

Good times. I slept like a baby that night. We woke up the next morning, had PB&J sandwiches for breakfast, and hit the road east out of the park. We stopped at Tanaya Lake briefly, and then continued through Tuolumne Meadows to Tioga Road and the East Portal. We found out the next day that the previous night’s snowfall had closed the pass for the season, meaning we had squeaked through on the last day the road would be passable for six months. Again, I considered myself very fortunate to be with such knowledgeable companions. Coming down Tioga Road from the West and looking out over the Eastern Sierra high desert valley and Mono Lake near Lee Vining was damn near heart-stopping. This impression may have been somewhat influenced by the weed cookie I had eaten a few hours before leaving Yosemite, but trust me, drive Tioga out of the park heading East sometime and tell me that’s not fucking beautiful.

A few days before Christmas, and a little more than three weeks ago now, Shawn and Jess gave me two excellent Christmas gifts; A Historical Atlas of California, and a excellent modern road atlas of California. The modern road atlas was a new edition of the same California road atlas that had been stolen from me on May 5, 2007, when my old Honda was stolen for the first time. That edition had been a gift from the publisher, awarded to all presenters at a Geography conference I attended and presented a paper on the plight of the James Bay Cree on May 3-4-5, 2002. That old first edition had been very special to me, because it was very useful and beautiful, and also because of what it represented to me: accomplishment, and the keys to the Golden State. When it was stolen from me almost exactly five years later while I was squandering my talents delivering pizzas, I was hurt, but ultimately not too surprised.

Also of note was that that old first edition had a map of the Palm Springs/Coachella Valley/Indian Wells area on the cover. The new one, that Shawn and Jess gave me, had a partial map of Yosemite, and a picture of Yosemite Falls. I recognized the falls instantly, and I was bowled over.

“Dude, I used to have this same atlas, but an older edition, and it was stolen from me! This is amazing!”

Jess chuckled, as she often does, so sweetly. “Yeah, you told us all about it when we were in Bishop.”

You may have noticed that I have a tendency to tell the entirety of a story at the occasional cost of what may be called expedience.

Ha. Did I mention that the conference I had been awarded the old one at was held in Lone Pine, about sixty miles away from Bishop?

Then a few days after New Year’s, I took out the recycling. In the recycling bin, I found an unopened package addressed to one of my upstairs neighbors. I puzzled over what to so with it for a short while, but then opened it, and discovered that it was a wall calendar featuring pictures of Yosemite. Huh.

On my bedroom wall now hangs a calendar with a picture of snowfall over Horse Ridge and Ostrander Lake. This is the calendar that tells me it is the fifteenth of January, and that Grandpa Freddy would have been 93 today; Rev. Dr. King, 83.

Maggie is one. That makes me smile.

A few days ago I made a mix CD for my friend JH, and the next day received an email from him saying he had made one for me. We hadn’t talked about swapping mixes in a good while. Huh.

This event followed by merely a day my making a mix CD for Bethany, the same Bethany of my New Year’s Eve and Day stories of confluence. She received it in the mail two days ago, and sent me a text saying she loved it. That makes me smile.

Have you remembered whose birthday was, and is, 11-11-22, and what his brand of smokes was?

I’ll give you a hint.

“Ad astra per aspera, in hoc signo vinces”

The road to the stars is rough, but in this sign you will conquer.

This sign is no sign, or whatever you wish to make of it, with every breath you take. Your existence in this world is all the proof I need that life is good, and I am so happy for your parents, and all of your friends and family. I was there when your parents were married, and I love them. Thus I love you too, Maggie.

Happy first birthday. Many more.

Peace.

–Sunday, January 15, 2012 7:19AM, at home, drinking water, looking at the first rays of the day

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4 Responses to “Sixty-nine, dudes”

  1. Justin said

    I’m not positive, but I think you’re refering to a gentlemen who preferred unfiltered Pall Malls….

    • ilbebe said

      Indeed. I find it a tad absurd that these days the unfiltereds cost like two bucks more per pack than the new “regulars”, i.e. filtereds. Oh well. Roll with the tide.

      And oh my, by the way. 21-0? Call it fail gumbo, put it on the chalkboard as “January’s Unspecial”. I bet it’ll be the talk of the town, and if it happens, I want credit. I’ll take payment in beads, but I want the beads to have an alligator head as the totem. A lobster would be an acceptable substitute.

  2. Hi Ilbebe,
    I just stumbled across this and, I have a passion for locating out what sort of tunes men and women on the following like.
    I am listening to a compilation of an assortment of sixties garage rock. Right now, it truly is At the River’s Edge by New Colony Six.
    Thanks

    • ilbebe said

      If you like sixties garage rock, look up FpodBpod and The Blank Tapes. They’re both active bands based in SF, and they’re both great. They share members,and they’ll share their light with you if you look for it.

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