The people of La Jolla are riotous gardeners. Their bougainvilleas are obscene. We want to walk to the beach but the sidewalk moves under our feet. The hill rises up and tries to shake us off, so we lie flat and hope for the best. Below us is the Pacific with its whales waiting open-mouthed. We grab at the thorny vines but they shrink back behind a privacy fence. A bird of paradise peeks over, shakes its plumed head and tsks as we slide down.
Hollyhocks, cowboy hat, hills of dead grass a tinder box ready to burn.
The screen on the door is ripped. Feral cats. Tadpoles like a thick, squirming carpet.
Tortilla chips, a rusted swing set, plastic lawn furniture.
A pit bull, drowned somehow, in the shallows of the creek.
We are at the church where Hitchcock filmed “The Birds.” Clapboard painted a severe white, stained glass windows like Gothic punctuation.
You raise your binoculars and look to the sky.
Take a picture of me birdwatching at the bird church!
Is it funny?
Yes, it is!
We laugh and laugh.
The parishioners open the door. They file outside and cross their arms.
We pissed off the Protestants.
Shhh, don’t call them that! They’re Catholic.
They stare at us. We stare at them.
We’re all still there. Staring.
101 North, Hollywood Freeway, Ventura.
We are rich, counting our wealth in palm trees, graffiti, and broken glass. The minutes tick away but the miles do not.
Are we moving?
Will we ever move again?
It’s possible not.
The minivan is silver, the kids are asleep. The Dead Kennedys hiss and boo Winnebagos, souvenirs.
Once when you were a teenager you dropped acid, drove over the Grapevine, acquired a half-sleeve of ink. A close-up of an alien with an exploding brain. Now, when you get your annual flu shot, they put a bandage across his gyri and sulci, and we laugh and say Ahh, pobrecito!
Our hair is turning grey. We know we will never get off this freeway.
Jello Biafra would hate you now, I say.
Fuck him, anyway.
A California Quail, male, perched on a fence post, his topknot an outrageous black plume he wears for the ladies.
I’ve always enjoyed well-dressed men who lack subtlety.
I don’t know about heaven, but I hope I find it in these seagrass hills. When I die, I will float here and haunt the abandoned dairy. Me and the tule elk and the peregrine falcons. Like Sir Francis Drake on the Golden Hinde, I’ll repair on the beach and think about salvation.
Come here often? the quail will ask.
I’ll roll my eyes.
I’ll wait for you.