(by request – thanks, Fred!

(Side note before I get started: this bit from the previous post, “a gorgeous head-high wave broke and peeled right and left, a surfer on either side. Certainly appealing…” cracked me up. “Peeled”… “appealing”… get it? Hahahahaha!)

OK, on to the trip.

Fresh off a successful surf session, something bad happened: the sense that I’d left the burner on. We hadn’t rushed, wanting to be careful to remember everything we’d need for our overnight to the city, but despite the methodical attitude, I couldn’t remember turning the stove off after heating up some soup. As I continued on past Walgreen’s on Broadway, I fretted. Was I being paranoid? Or was a flame emanating from the stove, burning the remaining soup, crisping it to the pot, growing ever closer to burning out entire house down? Who could I call to check? I hesitated to call the landlords – the house was a mess, the gate had just broken and mostly I didn’t want them to know if I’d been that stupid. I didn’t want to call Bobby, again for the “stupid” reason. But I didn’t want to turn around, either. A sick feeling took hold of my stomach.

I called Chelsea. No luck. She was in Arcata without a way to quickly get home. I tried a couple friends. No luck there either. Finally I called our landlord, who said he’d go check, no big deal. Mind somewhat eased, my next big decision was what to listen to once KHUM faded. I settled on Scott H. Biram and realized what perfect road trip music he makes(in addition to the fact that he makes damn fine country music, period). He’s all about the trucker storytelling, which works especially well when big trucks are rumbling alongside, in front and coming at you. (In fact, Biram was almost killed in a head-on with an 18-wheeler about four years ago. Played a show soon after in wheelchair, IV still attached. He’s one tough SOB.) I sang along while Nick read and played his PSP between admiring the beauty of the drive. Really.

“Are you looking out the window?” (He sat directly behind me, so I couldn’t see him well.)
“Isn’t it beautiful?”
“You can play your game when we get to a less beautiful area, OK?”
“Look at those cute clouds (big tree, sunlit river, etc.)!”
“I know! It’s really pretty (nice, cool, etc.), Mom.”

You have to make your kids look out the window. I remember driving to Eureka from Redway one time, through the Avenue of the Giants area, and seeing these kids watching a movie in the back of an RV. I freaked out at the sheer wrongness. Why bother being somewhere beautiful if you’re not going to appreciate it?

I pointed out the way the landscape changes from redwoods to madrones to vineyards as Humboldt gives way to Mendo changes to Sonoma.

What I failed to do was stop for a restroom when finding one was still relatively easy. (Normally I don’t like to discuss bodily functions in public, but this was so classic that I’m compelled to.) By the time we reached Santa Rosa, I needed to go. Badly. Why didn’t I stop all those times stopping would’ve been easy? Instead, I was stuck in traffic, in pain, praying that the offramp I was inching toward would take me to a gas station. It did – but the restrooms both had “Out of Order” signs on them. I hobbled back to the car and drove to the next station. Just as I aimed for a parking space, a car pulled in front of me to make a turn out into the road, blocking me from said spot. I fumed, but waited. Finally that car made it into the traffic-filled street – but before I could pull into the spot, a woman exited the mini-mart and opened her car door so that it reached across into my parking space. I couldn’t pull forward without hitting her door, so I had to wait for her to get settled. Breathing as deeply as my pain-wracked insides would allow, I finally was able to park and dash for the restroom… but… once again, I was greeted by an “Out of Order” sign. Sensing a conspiracy, I cursed the station and everyone in it, then made for yet another gas place, this one across the street, necessitating some pretty fancy multi-lane navigation. At last, a clean, well-lit place with a functioning restroom. Heaven for a moment. I filled up my gas tank in gratitude.

By the time we reached Marin, the novelty of the drive had worn off. I itched to be in San Francisco. We turned that last corner before the bridge about 5:30 p.m. and were rewarded by a city lit up by the descending sun, the Golden Gate aglow in the evening sunshine. The moment couldn’t have been any more picturesque and perfect.

We reached K’s house in Inner Richmond. She and her boyfriend live in a teensy, adorable home near Clement Street. They must have the only front yard for blocks. A teensy, adorable front yard, maybe five-by-four feet. After catching up, cleaning up and contacting my brother, we walked up to Clement to have dinner at Q, Nick’s restaurant of choice. They serve baked mac’n’cheese with tater tots on top – and they seated us at the table with the tree coming up the middle. Sangria and garlic fries and nice conversation and then, the near-full moon hovering over the hustle of the street, a perfect juxtaposition of ancient and immediate, timelessness and right now.

My sense that all was right with the world took a blow when I talked to Bobby however – I had left the burner on, though fortunately the soup pot wasn’t on top of it. Also, he’d happened to go home for lunch, heading off the landlord, so I was saved that embarrassment. What an idiot, though – all the times I’m responsible shot to hell by this one could’ve-been-major foul up. At least nothing bad actually happened, I consoled myself.

Back at the house, Nick and I slept well.

K and P left for work early. I scrambled Nick some eggs, wrapped them in a tortilla, did the morning insulin routine. He played Halo 2 on P’s giant TV for 20 minutes while I scrawled some notes in my notebook, then we set off on one of our big missions: Green Apple Bookstore. I scored a coffee table version of the Mirrormask screenplay with slick color photos and storyboards, two books for Nick, two other kid books (one about a girl raised by dolphins and Larklight, by Philip Reeve of Mortal Engines fame), a comic of Arkham Asyum illustrated by Dave McKean, Ann Patchett’s Truth and Beauty and a game, Abalone, chosen by Nick. I could’ve spent twice as much money and lugged home dozens more books – the place is a candy store.

Next on the agenda: the Crepevine. This is Nick’s favorite place to eat in the world. Normally we walk from K’s, but this time we decided to drive and park at UCSF despite the outrageous parking fees so that we’d have a better chance of beating the late afternoon traffic.

Parking was still a pain, of course: the lot was nearly full, we were competing against a dozen other drivers for what spots remained and the whole damn place is packed so tightly that maneuvering into a place left me nervewracked – and that’s in a Civic! I don’t know how the SUVs and even the full-size sedans manage it.

Crepevine was predictably delicious. Since we had some time and the weather had remained ideal, sunny with just the right amount of ocean breeze, I suggested a walk to the park. We strolled along, witnessed the lawn bowling (“What is that?” Nick asked) and generally enjoyed hanging out. But then Nick started feeling low and sure enough – 54. He took his emergency Starbursts, but we didn’t have any more “regular” food on us to follow with – and the hospital was four blocks uphill. We took the walk back slowly but steadily; fortuna
tely I found an elevator that saved us two vertical blocks (it makes sense in SF) and deposited us next to a food truck where I bought Nick a Kit Kat for lack of a healthier choice. Crisis averted, we went to his appointment.

He’s doing great. His AC1 level was 6.3, which is ideal. The doctor praised him and emphasized how well he was doing. Yay! But the gluten allergy (which is really an autoimmune issue and called something else I can’t remember at the moment) possibility still looms – they want him to get further testing. The other doctor came in and explained a bit more, too much more. Only five-to-eight percent of diabetics have this disease (the good news), but the initial screening process is designed to catch anyone with even the slightest risk, resulting in many false positives (more good news). Nick will need some more blood work and if that comes back positive (here comes the bad news), the next step is a procedure in which they put him under, slide some tool down his throat and remove a sample of his intestine. I believe in being up front with the kids, but I really wish the doctor hadn’t said that part – one step at a time would’ve been much better. Nick latched on to that, though, and is worried.

I did my best to reassure him and focus on how great he’s doing, has been doing.

After the appointment, we paid our $11 for parking (less than I expected, but still, sheesh) and headed home with just a stop at Trader Joe’s to break the journey up. Next time maybe I’ll take three days off, so we can stay an extra night and not have to drive in the dark. Something about driving into the night wears me right out, even if the hour’s not late. By the time we crossed the Humboldt County line, I was ready to be home.

Such a wonderful trip, though, overall. Perfect weather, mostly good news, great food, nice people, books! Having a kid to myself is a rare thing; Bobby and I should make that happen more often. We do good family, but making those individual connections is important, too. The kids each relax and open up more when they have a parent to themselves. I had several moments of just watching Nick read or talk or whatever and feeling that wave of love wash over me, like when he and the girls were babies, all sweetness and innocence and I could just look at their perfection forever. I love them so much.