à peu près

I'll be posting about our vacation in dribs and drabs as I get the time. Here's how the trip to Chico went:

We left Mom's shortly after noon a week ago Saturday. Successfully navigated the super-tricky quicky-dicky back way through the rice fields and almond orchards, and made it to Lucille and Jeff's shortly after four (we stopped for lunch in Cordelia, where Monstro put premium gas in my dad's generously loaned, 3-month old Mercedes). They weren't home, so we keyed in the code and cautiously led Lex into their living room, where they display many of their collectibles. Our hosts arrived home from a wedding reception shortly thereafter and Jeff busied himself by cleaning their hall closet, because once he got through to the hamper of their sons' and grandchildren's toys he figured he might as well pull everything out. I don't know his final tally of decorative outdoor flags, though 23 umbrellas plus three more (“a bonus for your hard work!” I said) were unearthed.

“How can a woman have so many umbrellas?” Jeff asked.

“Well, sometimes I don't have one when it rains, and other times I've left it at my desk.”

“Or someplace else.”

“Or someplace else,” she agreed.

Lex ran around Lucille's Turtle Garden, fenced around in white mini-fence and marked with an eponymous sign. We hung out on the deck.” Jeff and Lucille have been married for 53 years, so when you take a soda from their outdoor fridge it might be in a '70s can. I opened a 7up that was half empty. It was great.

They invited our luckless buddy Lenny to dinner with us, and after greeting him heartily they were met by the waitress with hugs and happy chattering. Jeff and Lucille had been to the restaurant's other location, the same place that Monstro and I held our rehearsal dinner. The waitress, Alba, told us a story about when her sister asked Jeff and Lucille for man advice, and the next time they came in they asked Alba, “So, have you found a good guy yet?

“I smiled and shrugged,” Alba said, “but thought to myself, 'who are these people and why are they asking me this?'”

Incidentally, Alba and Lex began what I'm certain will be a long-term, everlasting love affair. By the end of the night, I was addressing her has my future daughter-in-law.

We put Lex to bed in our portaged Pack-n-Play, between the twin beds where Monstro and I would sleep much later that evening, and we three (with Lenny) took off in Lenny's Metro, me in the backseat. Parked in the lot of a bank, where we ourselves had never had the guts to park.

“Uh, is it ok to park here?” Monstro asked him.

“They're closed. Do they really need the parking? And are they really going to tow a car that looks like this?”

I unfolded myself from the backseat. “Don't lock it,” Lenny said.

Much of Chico is the same but the new shops and their goods look much more expensive. We made it downstairs to the bar that used to be Team Players but now is Dino's.

“What did that used to be?” Monstro motioned up to the left on ground level. Lenny told him it used to be a tattoo shop (the only place Monstro told me never to enter), “but then my boss bought the whole damn building and kicked out all the places that were disreputable.” Lenny then told us stories about “raw sewage up to your thighs” and a drunken repairman lost in the ductwork between the ground floor and the basement's ceiling. We ordered two pitchers of Sierra Nevada Anniversary (happy anniversary, Sierra Nevada brewery!) and played the world's longest game of darts.

I don't remember who won. I do remember this indiscriminately Asian-type guy sidling into what might as well have been our trio's special room, if not for the more-as-the-night-got-later women, marching toward the Ladies'.

“So,” he asked me. “What are you doing?”

I kept it so cool I don't think Monstro knew that I knew the guy was hitting on me. Honey, I knew. Of course I knew.

But I played it cool. “Playing the world's longest game of darts,” I told the guy.

“How's that working out for you?”

“Not so good,” I said.

(My prophecy came to pass not much later when I dropped a dart point-side-down into my big toe, getting a spot of blood on the cute green sandals I bought at 21st Century in Manhattan)

“You gotta admire his guts… we're practically in a private room, playing a game, two of us are wearing wedding bands, and he hits on you,” Monstro said later. “You knew he was hitting on you, right?”

“Uhm, yes,” I said.

In a move that bummed me out at the time but made me really super happy the next morning, my “let's go somewhere else now!” pleas fell on deaf men's ears. Lenny dropped us off around midnight. I took the bed on the right because it had a footboard that would need to be climbed over.

Six hours later: “Mama? Mama! Da Da!” The kid's awake, it's 6:30, so we piled in the SUV as quietly as possible.

“Jack's?” I asked.


The waitress there sat us on the left-hand side, away from the bikers and the homeless people but in front of two late-teenagers that somehow became eight. One of them threw up on the sidewalk on his way into the place.

“That's why I always carry a toothbrush with me,” he told his buddies, who nodded in agreement. “Good idea,” another said. Their welcome ritual was laden with expletives, prompting the girl in the short plaid skirt and bandaged wrist to apologize on their behalf. They cleaned it up a little, but whenever someone forgot I heard the girl, behind me now, saying “sorry” under her breath. Then they all started talking about acid. It got quieter after that.

My California omelette tasted amazing and we dug into our hashbrowns, yes, hashbrowns with great abandon.

There is more to this but it's too good to rush through, and Lex just awoke. I shall leave you with the taste of hashbrowns in your brain.

One thought on “à peu près

  1. Tough to follow with all of the unfamiliar people and places, but the drunk repairman lost in the ductwork is priceless.

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