Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Lunch Date Part 2: Ad Astra Per Alas Porci

                                                                      me and G

When I drive up the driveway I can see my Dad by the pool walking slowly with his hands behind his back. This is how men walk after they reach a certain age; it's also how philosophers walk, and prisoners. I'm sure there are other things those three types have in common, but I think that walk heads the list.

Toot toot, I beep the horn.  He takes a wide U like a speed boat except not like a speed boat at all because he's going really slow and looking down. When he gets to the car, he bends down to talk through the window.



He feels around for the door handle. He makes a joke out of it by also rubbing his hand on the roof and the windshield.

"Can you not see?"

"No" he pauses,  "I mean yes. I can not see".

"Do you want me to get your glasses?"

"They don't work".


He gets into the car, butt first, and then swings his legs in, first one, and then the other, "I can see when I'm close, but the rest of the time it's a blur".

"Can't you get that fixed?"

"It's like I'm looking through a peep hole". He turns to face me for the first time and puts his hand, like a telescope, in front of one eye.

"Well, that's kind of fantastic", I say, looking at him, "Fantastic and horrifying".

"Like life".

"All right, Dad," I say turning back to put the car in gear, "Don't start with that". We head out the driveway and down towards Ventura Boulevard.

"Where are we going?" translation: Let's go somewhere other than where we said we were going.

"To the Sushi place?". translation: Where else do you want to go?

We drive about 50 yards down his street and the gentle ding that indicates someone is not wearing his seatbelt starts going off. After 50 more yards it has, in my imagination, morphed into a fog horn.

"Do you hear that?"

"Hear what?"

I decide to see who can hold out longer because even though he is pretending he can't hear it, I know he hates that sound. As a devout non-seatbelt wearer, he resents it.

"Do you want to go to Hugo's instead?" I say, oblivious.

"What's Hugo's?" translation: I am a master at this game and you, silly child, will never win.

"It's that place that has healthy food". I then list off most of the items on the 5 page menu, pausing, at moments here and there, for the dings to have their full effect. I look over at him from time to time feeling pretty proud of myself. He may be ready to break. But then he doesn't say anything. He is considering: Hmmm(ding...ding...ding) and then considering some more: Well, (ding...ding..ding), and again: Ah (ding...ding...ding...ding...ding...ding) and then...I have to pull over and put the car in park--

"Dad please sweet Jesus"


"Please just put it on"

"Oh," he says, feeling for the buckle at his shoulder, "Sorry about that". translation: I still got it.

We continue to drive, already past the sushi place. "Should we go to Hugo's?"

"Sure whatever you want".

"Oh look, Topanga, we should go there, but I don't have enough time".

"Yeah, Topanga".

"Should we go?"

"No, Hugo's is fine".

Topanga is a canyon you drive through to get the beach. It's an old hippie town with hillside farms and huge shady trees and the same exact cafes and corner stores that have been there since the 50s. Parts of it can seem like a tiny French village or a town from the Wild West or a David Lynch location. It's beautiful and has always been my favorite part of LA because it doesn't feel like LA. As we get just about past the Topanga Boulevard, I decide at the last minute to turn.

"Let's just go here".

"Yeah, we really should", he puts his hand on the dash board as I turn with one back wheel in the air; the overshoot and quick left might actually be my signature move, heading one way and at the last minute making a turn, symbolic of my childhood and possibly my whole life.



We drive up the long curvy hill that my Dad used to speed up in a sports car when we were kids, sometimes as many as 5 of us in the back seat. He would go fast enough that we'd slide into each other to the left and then all the way back to the right. I drive up the hill slowly, past the strawberry stand, past the little creek and just before the Flying Pig. We pull into Pat's, a diner that serves pancakes, burgers and vegan tuna fish. No one is there, but we seat ourselves at a table and wait.

"Is it weird not being able to see?"

"Not at all".

"Good one". We high-five but he goes wide like a, well, like a blind person.

We can hear people having an argument in the back; it's not heated in a dangerous way, but heated nonetheless, like they have been having this particular argument a long time. Finally a woman with a long braid walks in. Behind her a big guy lurks in the door way; he has a huge red/purple birthmark across the lower part of his face and bulging eyes, one of which looks to the right. He's wearing an apron and smiles at us.

I lean forward and mutter under my breath, "Okay, Dad, here we go".

to be continued...

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