Hoopty Days

A day out with Tim usually involves some combination of getting dirty, eating soul food, trespassing, scrambling, decayed waterfront, poison oak, housing projects, bushwhacking, and a canoe. This life has taken a toll on his car, a 1991 Honda Accord station wagon, which was once admired by the Puerto Rican kids as a potential lowrider, but is now beneath their attention. The windshield is cracked. The rear-end has been replaced with a slightly different shade of charcoal, after a disagreement with a garbage trailer up at Lake Superior. The color doesn’t quite camouflage the caked mud and dust from its daily commute up a dirt road. Strewn inside are all the necessaries–canoe and kayak paddles, firewood, mosquito netting, tools for fixing the car’s many problems, bags of laundry, dozens of magazines, pads and ropes and bungee cords, oil, coffee mugs, and several changes of clothing. There is often a canoe strapped to the roof, in case the Ontario plates don’t explain enough. It is unstealable.

On Thursday he arrived at my office for a party to celebrate a decade of Stone Yamashita with our clients. He described the look on the valet’s face as he joined the line with the Lexuses and Porsches. “Are you, uh, here for the party?”

In Menlo Park, where chamber music quartets play in the rug shops, we cruised defiantly in the filthy hoopty, smirking at the founders and the Java programmers who still have to live _here,_ in spite of their wealth. Over in East Palo Alto, we stopped at a Juneteenth street party and ate banana puddding. “Wow,” said Tim proudly, “even in East Palo Alto, my car is by far the worst.” It makes people friendlier, or so we imagine.

Today (Sunday) we left the car behind and scrambled down onto the disused railway bed opposite the ranch. There were signs everywhere.

No trespassing
No loitering
Enforced by law
–The San Jose Water Company

As usual, I worried, and he laughed. We investigated dried coyote scat (mouse claws and beetles) and the scene of a blue jay’s murder. We passed two redwoods festooned solemnly and absurdly with prize finds from an old midden–shards of china, Julian Schnabel style; fragments of a mouth-blown olive oil bottle, carefully-smashed beer bottle necks, a child’s plasticine mold, Christmas decorations, an enamel watering can. Every piece had been wedged in the loose bark in a position apparently chosen with great care. Propped in front of each tree was a San Jose Water Company trespass sign.

We crossed Los Gatos Creek below a 30-foot weir, and had to climb a dried-out fish ladder to get to the top. A pair of twelve-year-old boys paddled up there. They claimed they’ve seen people go down the weir, though I felt sure they were lying. Tim offered to call an ambulance if the boys wanted to try it. They declined, and I noted that only twelve-year-old boys are interested in the places we regularly go to.

    “Look,” said Tim, as I picked my way back down the fish ladder. He made a blowing sound at the mossy wall. Three gaping, custard-yellow beaks appeared from a teacup nest, cheeping madly. Day-old flycatcher babies, whose mother watched anxiously from a branch overhead. Tim imitated her again, and the chicks craned, heads back, all maw and want. “I want college tuition! I want new shoes!” he cheeped, and the babies, not understanding mockery, begged for chewed-up flies. They were so tiny, so yellow, and so beautiful. We let them be.

3 thoughts on “Hoopty Days”

  1. He sounds like a bit of all right, I’m not nice enough to offer the ambulance. My sister was driving a well-travelled four-wheel drive in suburban Melbourne recently, with an aluminium dinghy
    (or ‘tinny’ as they are known here) strapped to the top. This is a beautiful post, Dervala, thanks again.


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