Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Road Home

The road home from Woodside, thanks to cooperation from US 101, has the sun behind you, the long shadows in front and to the sides, making the mountains seem like prehistoric creatures with prominent spines.  Even the cows, on their evening feast of grass, seem to stand out, etched in shadowy light.  Thus you drive with an abundant sense of awareness of the features of agriculture about you, including the individuals who are at work harvesting it,     the enormous, complex irrigating devices that broadcast sprays of water which is caught up in the late afternoon wind giving the impression of hundreds of garden hoses, spraying water in out-of-control gyrations.

This is the beginning of the season of county fairs, of celebrations for such diversity as asparagus, garlic, broccoli, and cherries.  Soon now, very soon, California's number one cash crop will have its own public celebration.  For now, the mood of celebration is upon you and you are drawn by nostalgia to a roadside circus, its lights dazzling the approaching dusk much the way smells of onion and garlic, set to grill draw the crowds, tugging at their deepest instincts.  You have not been with a carnival or circus for many years and have rarely visited one, but on this evening as it approached dusk, you were for long moments seduced by the whir of lights, the spin of the rides, the dazzle of brightness cast upon the evening, making you aware of the tang of onions and garlic even without their actual presence. The carnival has changed on a relative jump from film to digital; it is brighter, its pace more frenetic; it is crisper than when you knew it.  The fascination throbs within you for long moments, but you are not tempted to move beyond the perimeter from which you stand, observing.

It is somewhat of a jump in logic, but you feel the same way about your nostalgia for Virginia City.  There is little you could have found earlier this evening by stepping into the actual pulse of the crowd.  For a few moments, you heard yourself chanting your pitch, Well, well, well, the ball game.  Don't have to knock 'em off the stand--just tip 'em over.  Three balls for a quarter.  You even heard the hoarseness that crept into your voice after a few weeks on the road, and you began the odor hallucinations of sensing the smell of the midway.  You have on any number of occasions moved to the perimeter of Virginia City, particularly a Virginia City with an inch or more of snow and the temperature down into the teens and you, standing out front of Piper's Opera House, warming a snifter of cognac with your hands, a snifter from The Brass Rail, to be exact, poured for you by Pat Hart, the mustachioed owner.  If you'd had enough cognac earlier in the evening, it was easy to imagine yourself waiting for the evening show at Piper's to end,and that equally mustached reporter from the Territorial-Enterprise, fellow who'd begun signing some of his pieces Mark Twain, to come bursting out.  A parade of individuals, many of whom were dear to you, haunt those streets and places.  With some regularity, you dream of being there, even more so by at least half than you dream of the midway, three baseballs in one hand, the sing-song inducements tumbling from your mouth.  Well let's try the ball game.

You experience nostalgia from a distance.  Whatever it is nostalgia for, you step in too close and you lose it, see it retreat from you with your recognition that something has changed, that you have frozen moments which you wish to keep alive, your photos from the time.

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