The place where we live

April 16, 2007

Driving into town this morning for coffee, I nearly picked up a young boy hitchhiking into town with his skateboard under his arm. It’s not uncommon for kids to hitchhike up here – I did it once or twice when I was in high school, never intentionally – I’d be walking to work along the main drive and inevitably a young woman would pull over and scold me about walking on the highway and insist that she drive me into town. It’s not easy to ride a bike up here, and hitchhiking is as ingrained in the local culture as making wildly inaccurate predictions about snow and earthquakes.

The world is in flower, the dogwoods are shimmering all over the hillsides, and this boy had hair over his collar and looked like old pictures of my uncles. He saw my hesitation and we grinned at each other as I passed – ultimately, giving him a lift would have meant giving a lift to the three much less charming characters ten feet behind him, also hitchhiking into town. So I drove on alone. The dial-a-ride bus passed me with a faded sign in the windshield proclaiming its next destination as “Valley of Enchantment”.

That’s where we live. I was born here. Our house sits in some unincorporated hinterland either known as Crestline or Cedarpines Park, depending on whose database you go by – the post office’s or the USGS. It doesn’t matter – Cedarpines Park is actually a couple miles up the road, and Crestline is at least three miles away in the opposite direction. As far as the locals are concerned, we live in V.O.E.

Crestline was freshly washed from yesterday’s spring rains, and the shops were just starting to put out their antique furniture and other wares. I tried not to look at them as I passed, focusing instead on the road. It can be hazardous, shopping while driving. I stopped at the post office first, where the door is always held for me and where it’s hard to cross the parking lot without waving at three people I know or am related to. No mail today, so I walked past the Oak Trunk – combination candy store, craft store, and junk trove, listening to three boys speculate about whether or not they might put in an all night Denny’s here in town. I smiled – we used to daydream about that very same thing in high school, some place that would be open all the time so you could get hashbrowns after midnight. There were two teenaged girls at the ice-cream counter chatting with the middle-aged ladies stocking chocolates. The air smelled like honeysuckle and it finally occurred to me that all the kids were out and about because it must be spring break.

I lingered over my errands – stopping at the local grocery store for tea and watching the kids at the skate park, the lake shining across the road. I waved at Jenn’s car at her office as I passed (hi Jenn!), then stopped at the cafe for the espresso that had gotten me out of the house in the first place. I chatted with the barista (who has a face I’ve known for years in other capacities – shop clerk, post office worker. I’ve never learned her name), grabbed our lattés, and headed back towards home.

Just as I crested over the hill into the Valley, I saw the skateboarding boy walking along the road. He’d almost made it into town – just another mile would have him at the skate park where his friends were undoubtedly waiting. He recognized me and waved and laughed – I did too. No hard feelings. It’s a beautiful day for a walk.

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