The Life in My Years

An anthology of life

The fifth in a series of occasional posts about tripping along U.S. Highway 395.

Bridgeport is our home base for three days and two nights. We’re keeping it simple. In a town as small as Bridgeport, with few businesses, and some of those closed for the season, the choices are nominal. So keep it simple, baby.

Dinner on the first night is leftovers that we brought from the previous night’s dinner at home. Cora and I aren’t about throwing away food so we packed it in the cooler to be heated up in the microwave. There’s a small communal dining area with a microwave in the Cain House where we’re staying. We heat up the leftovers and suddenly it doesn’t smell quite as good as it did the first time. In fact, it might be as rank as nuked leftover fish (something that’s a mortal sin in the workplace lunchroom). Luckily we’re the only ones in the dining room when the stink bomb goes off. I imagine the next guest in will be wondering who stashed a dead body in the dining room.

There are two drive-in fat vats in Bridgeport. A place called The Barn, is burgers, Mexican and the usual selection of dairy desserts. Jolly Kone is burgers and dairy.

There are a couple of sit down places in Bridgeport, The Rhino Bar and Grill, and The Bridgeport Inn. Like I said, we’re keeping it simple so we stick with The Barn both nights.

The Bridgeport Inn advertises itself, in a neon ECV sign, as a Clamper hangout. What exactly is a clamper? That’s a good question, and I’m not certain that I’m qualified to explain. I’m not certain that anyone is qualified to explain, unless that person is a bona fide Clamper. I mention the Clampers because out here in Gold Rush Country, the Clampers are something of an institution.

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“ … your position and power in life do not matter: no one is above the law … “ ~ South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson following the conviction of Alex Murdaugh.

“I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.” ~ Donald J. Trump, January 23, 2016.

***

If the two statements above seem to you to be at odds with each other, well, you’re right.

Can’t go a week without hearing some version of the former statement, “Nobody is above the law.” It’s usually delivered with a self satisfied harrumph and can come from just about any mouth; politician, pundit, law enforcement official, or just the average citizen. Van Jones said it. Gloria Allred said it. John Yang, Leon Jaworski and, ironically enough, Andrew Cuomo said it.

We’ll come back to the quotes a bit later, but first, let’s get to Donald Trump’s recent bloviation, delivered on Saturday via his chicken shit media platform, Truth Social (“truth” is a seldom found commodity on that platform).

In a statement delivered all in caps (because that’s how Donnie rolls), Trump said that he will be arrested (correction: ARRESTED) on Tuesday by the New York D.A. over his alleged hush money payment to porn star, Stormy Daniels. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Trump ended his statement by urging his followers to take to the streets and protest. We saw this movie on January 6th, 2021 and it didn’t end well. In fact, it hasn’t ended. January 6th is the never ending story without apparent resolution.

But Trump wasn’t done. Feeling the need to pour more gasoline on the fire he went back on Truth Social, and posted, “WE MUST SAVE AMERICA! PROTEST, PROTEST, PROTEST!!!”

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Dateline 5:30 AM in the San Francisco Bay Area, and Mother Nature is crying a river – an atmospheric river.

***

Cry Me A River. The song is a classic. The original version sung by Julie London, that is.

“Now you say you’re lonely
You cry the long night through
Well, you can cry me a river
Cry me a river
I cried a river over you”

You have to be a geezer, or on the cusp of geezerdom, to remember your parents listening to Julie’s soulful, dusky rendition of the torch song written by Arthur Hamilton in 1953. Or maybe you’re an aficionado of the torch song genre; Ella Fitzgerald, Patsy Cline, Edith Piaf, Rosemary Clooney, Bessie Smith.

You can listen to Cry Me A River anywhere; your car, your home, the backyard cookout.

But do you want to get the full effect? It’s near closing time in the wood paneled hotel tavern. It’s dim lighting; a few weak lamps, and candles in red globular candle holders, flames flickering wearily as if they wish to be done with their night’s labor. You’re seated on a stool, upholstered in red leatherette. The place is empty, but for the couple at the corner table, and they’re just staggering out of their seats. They’re headed upstairs to do the dirty boogie. He’s a traveling salesman, cheatin’ on his wife. Her? She spends her evenings in that dank bar, huntin’ traveling salesmen. Now it’s just you and the bartender. He’s at the other end of the bar, polishing the mahogany surface before closing out the till. There’s a squint in his left eye from the curly-Q of smoke drifting up from the butt of an unfiltered Camel dangling from his mouth. He glances at you impatiently from time to time. You’re boozy, swaying your head to the melody while you stare down into the bottomless well of your third gin martini. Your collar is loose, tie all a kilter. Your fedora is pushed back on your head. Haven’t shaved in a couple days. You want a cigarette, but you smoked your last an hour ago. The song ends, the joint goes as quiet as a church on Monday morning. You drain your glass and your head bobs down, chin resting on your chest. The bartender looks over. In his Bronx accent that’s sharp as a straight razor, he shouts, “Hey Mac, I’m gettin’ ready to close up.”
You look outside through a veil of cigarette smoke and the tavern’s thick glass window at the dank rain soaked streets. Street lights reflecting off the puddles. The streets are as desolate as your heart. A Yellow Cab splashes through a puddle and disappears into the dark of the city.
“C’mon Frank, my baby just left me. One more. For the road. For her.”
“Alright, but that’s the last. I’ll tell you what, Mac. Since you’re havin’ hard luck, I’ll make it a double. On me. But finish it up quick – ya hear”

That’s how you listen to Cry Me A River.

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This week John, of Journeys with Johnbo, leads the Lens Artists Photo Challenge with his topic, The Road Most Often Taken. John is speaking metaphorically. He writes, “I want you to think of your favorite type or style of photography as the road you’ve chosen to take most often.”

Quite honestly I’ve been all over the photographic map. Landscape used to be my go to. And then I visited the S.F. Botanical Garden and got hooked on plants (photographically speaking). Then it was urban photography and architecture. Or was it oceanscapes? Then I got buried in cemeteries. My road has more forks than my kitchen drawer.

My current passion is monochrome. Now, whenever I go out and shoot, I do so in color. But I also stop to consider what a shot might look like in black and white or sepia. I might compose a shot a bit differently if I think there’s promise in editing in monochrome. Cemeteries, old buildings, people and relics? I almost always shoot with monochrome in mind.

Places and things left to the whims of time fascinate me. When I’m traveling, I’m always looking out for an old barn, a building in some stage of dilapidation. I’m drawn to the detritus of the ages.

During a road trip in the autumn of 2021, I left Hannibal, Missouri, headed for Springfield, Illinois. I stopped for breakfast in Louisiana, Missouri, on the bank of the Mississippi River. Near the riverbank are the remains of an old ice house. Built in 1924, it burned down eight months before I passed thru town.

Louisiana, Missouri

Just outside of Virginia City, Nevada (those old enough to remember the old western, Bonanza, will remember Virginia City, and old Sheriff Roy Coffee) are the remains of an old wagon.

Virginia City NV

Last fall, my wife and I traveled to Bodie, California, a ghost town in the true sense of the term. I posted about Bodie recently. Below are a saloon (on the left) and a barber shop (note the barber pole design on the far right).

Saloon and barbershop

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The fourth in a series of occasional posts about tripping along U.S. Highway 395.

From Sonora Junction, Highway 395 heads due east before dipping to the south and finally cutting back east to enter Bridgeport. Crane your view to the right and you see the picture of green, brown and yellow grazing land backdropped by the Sawtooth Range of the Sierra Nevada. You could be looking at a location for a western movie.

Grazing cattle with the Sawtooth Range as a backdrop

It’s two lanes into Bridgeport but once in the town proper the street widens to accommodate angle parking. The parking signs instruct drivers to back into the parking spots. It’s odd. For me anyway. Apparently odd for others as well, as cars are parked at some very creative angles.

Downtown Bridgeport is slightly more than three straight, albeit long, blocks of 395 before the highway leaves town and curves to the south. If you don’t pay attention, you’ll miss a few motels, a hotel, a drive-in burger joint cheek by jowl with a Mexican drive-in, a meat market, a deli/food store with little in the way of selection unless you’re into the three food groups, beer, hooch and snacks. One filling station and convenience store and a little shop hawking Native American artifacts. There’s a bakery and there’s Ken’s Sporting Goods where you’ll find your hunting rifle, fishing gear and some advice on where to put that gear to use. If you’re looking for a soccer ball, well, you might find one about 80 miles north in Carson City, Nevada. Oh, and on a snowy day in winter, you’re out of luck – road’s closed.

Below, two views of the Bridgeport Valley

 

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Posted in concert with this week’s Lens-Artists Challenge.

The subject for this week’s Lens Artist Challenge is “Alone Time.” Host, Ann-Christine, begins her piece, “Alone time means time spent by an individual or a couple apart from others.”

Some people choose nature to find their alone time. I do. Some take a drive. I’ve certainly done that; an 8,000 mile solo road trip through the Midwest should qualify. Mostly though, I find my alone time in my own home, in a small downstairs bedroom that currently serves as my office, but, for over more than two decades has served many purposes and the people who have called it, even if only briefly, their own space.

This office – I’ve made it my own space while keeping reminders of what it’s been over the years. I’ve decorated the room, or fouled it, depending on your point of view, with mementoes of my life and the lives of my family.

Ann-Christine writes, “It (your solitary place) is often used to ground oneself, or to do something creative.”
My office is where I work, where I write (where I’m writing this very piece), where I edit and where I think. Sometimes it’s where I listen to music or take a nap.

For over thirteen years, it was my son’s room. He moved in when he was five. It was the place where you went to scream in pain after stepping on a Lego blog. It wasn’t just his room. Phantom, our first Gordon Setter, slept with our son until Matt went to college. To this day I don’t know how that kid and that big dog managed to share a single bed. I mean, let’s face it, dogs normally sleep curled in a warm, compact ball. That is, until they get invited to the bed, in which case they manage to sprawl into what seems triple their size.

When Matt moved out it became a spare bedroom and went mostly unused. By and by, our friend Scott moved into the room and stayed while he was between jobs. That was only for a few months until he found a job in Medford, Oregon. Over the next few years he used the room as a home base every October when he came down to the Bay Area for the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, in San Francisco.

It was my dearest friend Ivy’s (not her real name) room while she was going through a personal crisis. She called that room her home until the night she left to take her own life. Luckily, she was found by the Oakland police who spotted her car. She’d left us a short note which I’ve kept to this day. It’s a reminder.

Medford wasn’t kind to Scott. From what I know of Medford, the only good things about it are full service gas and the Harry and David’s gourmet food outlet. Scott moved back in to look for another job. After a while he moved on and the room became my grandson Jackson’s.

My daughter Jessica, Jackson and sister Luciana (Lucy), just moved out last summer. Broke my heart. Many of the things that Jackson left behind, a Steph Curry piggy bank, his soccer medals and a painting he did, still remain.

This is where my son did his homework, where Scott read voraciously, where Jackson did his homework and, I’m so proud to say, read Maus — because he wanted to. This is where I come to read.

Held in place by a petrified rock I got in a gift shop at the Painted Desert and Jackson’s old piggy bank, six special books sit on a shelf by themselves:
The Constitution of The United States
The copy of Maus that my grandson Jackson read.
My dad’s copy of Here Is Your War, by Ernie Pyle. My father was a veteran of WWII, and his favorite correspondent was Ernie Pyle.
Dad’s copy of The Pickwick Papers (1943).
Dad’s copy of This Is My Best (1943), an anthology of writers that includes, Steinbeck, Hemingway, Sandburg, James Thurber, William Carlos Williams, Robinson Jeffers and over 80 others.
A personalized autographed copy of Over Time by Frank Deford.

Growing up, and later, during my early adult years, Deford was my favorite sports writer. Every week I would wait for my copy of Sports Illustrated to arrive so I could read his column. There’s an importance to the date of the autograph. Cora and I went to see a talk by Mr. Deford at The Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. As he was speaking and later chatting and autographing copies of his book, a few miles away at the ballpark, Giants pitcher Matt Cain was throwing a perfect game. Driving home we listened to the innings go by as Cain mowed down every batter he faced. We got home just in time to see the final pitch.

How fitting was it that on the night that I met my favorite sportswriter, just a few miles away, the hometown pitcher was accomplishing what every pitcher dreams of but very, very few realize.

 

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