Friday, May 24, 2013

part-time camping

Greetings from the gleaming local metropolis of Turlock, California! Apparently the second-largest city in Stanislaus County, after Modesto. The core Bay Area has mostly forgotten the Laci Peterson murder, so we're back to forgetting Stanislaus County exists, except perhaps in stories about almond orchards, or crystal meth.

Anna and J are sleeping at the campsite on the Tuolumne River; due to a sequence of commuication and logistical errors, I'm here at America's Best Value Inn and will make the 40-minute drive back and forth a few more times before we leave on Sunday. This ultimately ends in an unwillingness to experiment with sleeping without the CPAP machine; the CPAP needs electricity, which the campground doesn't have, and here I am, doing the kind of crazy thing that seems built in to parenthood. Last time I raced back home in an overheating car with a severely damaged radiator to retrieve a forgotten suitcase; now I'm commuting to a campsite from a motel 30 miles away. Some family experiences are easier than others.

I don't think I've been to this part of California's vast Central Valley before. Some differences are subtle, like the greater number of Spanish words on the storefronts: one building had "MUEBLER√ćA" painted right on the wall, Latin America-style, from which I suspect they're aiming at less-integrated Spanish-speaking customers who may not know the word "FURNITURE." Other things, like the frequency of shuttered storefronts and abandoned buildings, strike you more immediately. This is Republican political territory, a place where conservatives can live out and proud, not furtively closeted as they tend to be around San Francisco. (San Francisco and American conservatism have their own Cold War of long standing, just like the U.S. and the U.S.S.R., but without all the dialogue.) They can cheer on their U.S. Representative as he joins the quixotic votes to repeal Obamacare, and if their State Assemblycritters form part of a permanent legislative minority, that's okay: the structure of California's government means that a dedicated minority can still successfully destroy the system of public higher education. Because the Bible says lower taxes are more important than our children's education and opportunity to improve their lot in life!

Okay, I'm paraphrasing.

I had planned to visit the pool hall here in Turlock, Sharkey's Family Billiards & Pizza; I had not noticed or anticipated that it would be literally on the other side of the block from the motel. It's a good place, with decent equipment and a family vibe.

Tomorrow: another day on a beautiful river with the wife and kid, surrounded by the constant chatter of birds.

And then back to Turlock!

Two great tastes that make you wonder why anyone would combine them.

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