You say I took the Name in vain
Laffin' Len Cohen, "Hallelujah," Various Positions, 1984
Ecstatic clarity is hard to hold anywhere, least of all in the land of malls and fastfoods, carwashes and beauty salons, chainstore white sales and silver-screen chainsaw massacrees. The two basic real reactions to the absurdity of Capitola's 41st Avenue are disgust and amusement. Storekeepers & doorkeepers, gu'mint & bizniss, buyers, oh yeah and window-shoppers too, the whole white-noise conspiracy of life as she is lived (there and then, to be sure, but take a look around, dear reader, look around just in case) connive instead to promote a dull acquiescence, a response tortured by neon and faked excitement into remaining emotionally null, one that does not get in the way of acceptance. Yet silent assent with the superficial is never the way of enlightenment and even a momentary satori such as that which touched Annie on the Graham Hill Road is enough to break the fragile bonds of consent. The street, to her, on that day was simply absurd. Try as she eventually would to forget and to fit in, in some way that cluster of consumerism would remain lost to her forever.
She steered the Bunny delicately off the freeway, softly guiding the reins so they hugged the rightmost of the three lanes heading their way, and reveling in the response of the machine. She saw the light was green and noticed it glowing to amber as they rolled past, so she lightly spurred the steed through the set immediately beyond the turn and they cantered easily across the lanes in the momentary gap in traffic till they could take a watchful position on the left.
How appropriate, she thought, with increasing good humor.
Trapped in the multitude at the light where Clares crossed, she looked around, at BK on the hard right and Sizzler off to the forward left, sandwiched between Home Savings and the Pacific Western Bank. The enormous parking lot for the Capitola Mall stretched out at right front, half empty on this Thursday morning but tensing for the assault that would follow Thanksgiving a bare week hence. She remembered a time, two decades before, when nothing but Sears on the right and Longs and Albertson's on the left sprouted higher than inches from the acres of grass. The empty lots were gone now, the holes all filled in, the road widened and flattened and painted and infected with traffic lights up and down its length.
Poor little road, thought Annie, it probably didn't want to grow up either.
Somehow she had thought there should be portcullises and turrets or at least lines of guys in uniforms spitting and scratching their crotches in a masculine kind of way, like baseball players. The blockade had been advertised, she knew, and someone had been assigned to inform the local fuzz. Was anyone going to show up? If there were no cops did that mean there were no protesters? What if they gave a revolution and nobody came? Did she have the wrong day? Heaven forfend, was she early? Unthinkable, but it all added to the preposterously surreal air of the moment. Oh well. What next?
Following the curvy white arrow, she entered the first of the seven short blocks to the rendez-vous site and caught out of the corner of her eye the first intimations that something might indeed be up. There was an unmarked white van parked beside a wall the wrong way, hogging three spaces in the nearly empty parking lot, and beside it a nebbish with what looked like a video camera. At a glance, he didn't look official but he might have been media. (Hey, we're going to be on TV.) She didn't stop or even slow down to catch any more detail she was on her own and sought the safety of numbers but she was relieved to see at last that something was up.
Tooling down the Jewel Box, past Crystal and Emerald and Garnet and coming up to Jewel itself, the scene was playing out as tedious suburbia, modern condos on the right and slightly older single-family dwellings on the left, leave it all to Beaver and let the world drift by. But as she crossed Opal towards Topaz and Jade Street came into view, there before her ... suddenly, like a fast fade to a different reality ... was a motley crew of levelers ... bagpipes skirling ...no, that was just the movies ... hoisting placards and milling with smiles like self-assured anarchist workers waiting for the Redcoats to cut them down. But wait! They were self-assured anarchists, and just because they didn't expect muskets to be aimed at them didn't mean they weren't keyed up for confrontation. The facts of the situation came down on Annie for a moment, and her heartbeat went up again for a moment, and then subsided as, well, as the facts of the situation rose to shelter her.
It's us, she thought, and felt welcome.
Safe from the wasteland of automotive heaven, surrounded by people in all their noisy, smelly, smiling, frowning, thinking and ultimately loving selves, Annie was coming home.
She was also looking for a place to park. It struck her, in the manner of the best acid flashes of insight, that the metaphor was fine and she giggled as she turned down Jade and spotted a space and reversed into it as if it were the easiest and most natural thing to do. She hated parallel parking, she reminded herself, and then corrected herself gently. No, she hated failing to parallel park. Today she could even do that. Hell, today she could do anything she wanted.