Tuesday, 12 August 2008

12 August 2008

I were lost. In Oakland I had a beer among the bums of a saloon with a wagon wheel in front of it, and I was on the road again. I walked clear across Oakland to get on the Fresno road. I was on the verge of entering that great buzzing valley of the world, the San Joaquin, where I was destined to meet and love a wonderful woman and go through the craziest adventures of all before I got back home. Two rides took me to Bakersfield four hundred miles south. The first one was the mad one: a burly blond kid in a souped-up rod. “See that toe?” he said as he gunned the heap to eighty and passed everybody on the road. “Look at it.” It was swathed in bandages. “I just had it amputated this morning. The bastards wanted me to stay in the hospital. I packed my bag and left. What’s a toe.” Yes indeed, I said to myself, look out now, and I hung on. You never saw a driving fool like that. He made Tracy in no time. Tracy is a railroad town; brakemen eat surly meals in diners by the tracks. Trains howl away across the valley. The sun goes down long and red. All the magic names of the Valley unrolled—Manteca, Madera, all the rest. Soon it got dusk, a grapey dusk, a purple dusk over tangerine groves and long melon fields; the sun the color of pressed grapes, slashed with burgundy red, the fields the color of love and Spanish mysteries. I stuck my head out of the window and took deep breaths of the fragrant air. It was the most beautiful of all moments. The madman was a brakeman with the SP and he lived in Fresno; his father was also a brakeman. He lost his toe in the Frisco yards switching. I didn’t quite understand how. He drove me into buzzing Fresno and let me off the south side of town. I went for a quick coke in a little grocery store by the tracks and here came a melancholy Armenian youth along the red boxcars, and just at that moment a locomotive howled, and I said to myself, “Yes, yes, Saroyan’s town.” Whither went that Mourad?---to what glooms? What Fresno dreams? I had to go South; I got on the road. A man in a brandnew pickup truck picked me up. He was from Lubbock Texas and in the trailer business. “You want to buy a trailer?” he asked me. “Any time, look me up.” He told stories about his father in Lubbock. “One night my old man left the day’s receipts sittin’ on top of

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