I left my heart in San Francisco

24 04 2021

Well leaving SF has become hard for me. That said, I will be back before I know it. The summer on Nantucket is a whirlwind and before I know it it will be over and then I’ll be sad to leave Nantucket, BUT I already procured two gigs out west at the Outer Sunset Mercantile Market on September 26 and October 10, both days from 12-2! I’m so excited!

Bison Golden Gate Park

So I got a lot of errands done, thankfully a package that was delayed arrived a day early yet still I couldn’t get out of the house before 5pm which meant I had to miss having dinner at the epic Trelio in Clovis, CA. I’ve always wanted to go, it’s epic, but it wasn’t in the cards this trip. And luckily on my last trip to sell back books at Green Apple Bookstore on Clement I was able to get to Wing Lee one last time! This time I got salt and pepper fried prawns! A half duck was too much to deal with yet very tempting… but wowsers this is a half pound of prawns!!

This is what $5.40 will buy you in prawns!!!!

So I got relatively organized but trying to organize a car for a long haul road trip is hard. Then add a fancy Gibson guitar and the basic needs like the traveling Riedel stemware kit and you can see how it escalated. I’d wanted to dine at Trelio in Clovis but I headed out too late. Bummed to miss my friend owner Chris Shackelford, but at least I got on the road. Instead it was me dining Chez Hampton Inn late night with roadside avocado and all my excess food and whatnot. I was able to regroup though and get a whole lot mire organized. Luckily the first leg was a shorter one and I was able to get one of the last rooms at the Tulare Hampton Inn. I like the chain, good Covid protocol which I discovered when I was in Arizona in late October helping the United Farm Workers Union with their canvassing campaign for Biden. I stayed for a week and found it to be super clean, safe and comfy.

So the morning got to a slow start and I did not get the Day One blog post done, but instead had to deal with the now new and very real urgency of trying to pack the car. I have some towels I bought at Costco and garbage bins and books… silly stuff really that is in the back seat, hopefully it obviously not important stuff, but I wanted the valuable stuff like the guitar to be covered when I stop for lunch or a restroom. I also brought a ton of CDs to join me, CDs I might add that are totally annoying because literally every time I took a load to the room they fell all over the place. Leg one music by the way was Dr. John Going Back to New Orleans (chosen at random, but seemed appropriate), Faith No More, and The Singles soundtrack.

So I pulled the car to the back of the hotel to load the three piles of crap back in, yep even after consolidating still so much stuff. While I was puzzling over how to fit it all, a homeless man approached asking for my room key so he could use my room to shower. I felt bad but I couldn’t chance it, seemed too sketchy. He apologized for asking me without my husband there, so I told him, “Oh yeah so he’s at the market getting us food.” He loomed around so I took the car round to the front portico of the hotel and resumed my puzzle. Let’s just say it was a total disaster. Everything in and out so many times, at least right. I love my Subaru but damn the truck is a weird shape on this Forester, I liked the old boxy one! And the curvy Gibson just did not want to fit. I know, I’m sorry first world problems. So everything in, then out, I tried not to make eye contact with the UPS delivery guy who was clearly amused. I took photos to remember the configuration but then some little thing would be off and I’d try again. Total nightmare. After about 35 minutes I got the thing done. And even got the truck closed, well after having to stop again. And then I had to stop at a rest stop about 10 minutes away because my anxiety had me convinced it could never have fit and I must’ve left a bag on the ground at the hotel. Ugh! So I left later than I’d wanted. I tried to remind myself that it’s all about the journey but I did make a ferry reservation for May 2, so I still need to make progress.

Hot mess

So the area around Tulare is the home to my favorite standard butter, Land O Lakes despite me not seeing any water anywhere. Lots of dairyland, big tanks, farm equipment suppliers etc. it was pretty dull scenery wise so I spent a good deal of the time on the phone with a friend chatting about my recent mindset. I’ve had a sort of catharsis understanding that my role in this life is to communicate and do so through writing, songwriting, teaching, healing and cooking. My message is going to take various routes to people and the universe has set things up so that I can live with ease to accomplish thus. Sounds a little wacky and new age but it’s what I feel compelled to do. This journey itself is part of it. I explained that I feel that my ancestors are closely around me guiding me at every turn. They’ve got me in their embrace and I’m being held by them. They’re holding my hand and allowing me to release past traumas so I can move forward. The other day I determined that “The Universe is my hammock”. Not a parachute that may or may not open, but rather a constant support system. If I believe something I’m doing is for the better good, the Universe will make it so. Very similar to the concept that The Camino will provide.

So I’m zipping along and starting to enter the Tehachapi mountains. I explain to Glen that this is where my dad Roman would have picked crops as a young migrant farm worker who came to the US in the bracero program. Roman passed away in 1995, and I’ve been recently understanding that although he’s gone it’s just for now. I didn’t handle the trauma of his death well… I’ve let it shadow me, and I’m learning to release that too, believing that our souls will reunite, but also believing his energy is still here with me. I explained also that this is the area where Cesar Chavez had his commune, La Paz, where I lived in Cesar’s home on an internship in 1988 while I was in high school in 1988. In fact just yesterday I came across the essay I’d written about agribusiness and its detrimental affect of the health of people in the town of McFarland that happened to appear somehow almost demanding to come on this journey with me. So suddenly the call dropped so I brought my attention to the mountains I was entering.

I had not done much research on what lay between my destinations, and I had thought I’d be staying in Clovis and heading to Sedona, but now the route was Tulare to Flagstaff. And I was literally just in the care of Google maps. I was on 58 E, I had no idea where in these mountains I’d visited so long ago. Suddenly I saw one of those blue signs that list food options with “Keene Café” on it. My mind perked up. Keene? Wasn’t that the name of the town where La Paz was? Yes, I remember now, that’s where I’d address the letters to Cesar and Helen. The whole reason I got the internship with Cesar was because he was a close friend of my father. My father would host UFW events at his Pancho Villa’s restaurants. Cesar was even my brother’s godfather. I met Emilio Estevez at a UFW grocery boycott… fast forward to me going to see a pre-screening of The Way where he and Martin Sheen spoke… and me then going on The Camino de Santiago years later… all interconnected.

But wait I’m driving here, and today I’ve got Buddha Bar playing and it’s all trance like and Zen like you just checked into a W Hotel or something, and there’s huge trucks all around me and these super rocky mountains are growing taller, and the drums. I’m in the right hand lane, should I stop fir lunch? It’s like 1:30. I can’t just pop in and say hey UFW. And it’s Covid. And is this even where it’s at? Then I see a sign, Cesar Chavez National Monument. What? This is a thing? (Thanks to Barack Obama it is) and just a few minutes later and I feel the wheel pull me to the exit.

The cute kitschy Keene Cafe signs had me pull over to take a photo. Still numbly floundering somehow I wonder should I bother with the monument? Is this really a thing? I see a sign that says 1/2 mile with an arrow… so I go. At the entrance is a new looking sign that confirms I’m here. This is La Paz. I start the windy road down. I even stop once, is this private? Am I allowed to be here? Why am I scared or think I’m imposing? I Google “Cesar Chavez National Monument” confirming it’s real and there’s a gift shop. So I go.

I pull in and get out to read a sign and a docent is there with a private tour. I hear him say they’re closed due to Covid. “Sorry are you closed? “ I ask timidly, he wonders if I’m looking for a bathroom. Not really I say and then he tells me I can go through the gardens, see the monument and if I want to go on a short jaunt I can go and see Cesar and Helen’s humble home. It’s behind the fence.

I tell him I lived there once for a week and he’s impressed lol, starts rattling off names of people I probably should remember, but he doesn’t know the current team, he’s a park services guy. I feel guilty for not reaching out to then but I’m just breezing through.

Suddenly they’re off, not a big place, but they disappear to allow me to be alone. The fountain which I discovered is the monument isn’t grand, just like Cesar wasn’t grand, but it exudes a sense of peace and calm that Cesar would have loved. There’s wisteria and a rose garden, but I step up into another area, didn’t seem like much save some quotes on the wall but one more step reveals a statue of the Virgen de Guadalupe. She’s an icon for me and I said before I headed out that she’d be with me on my journey. I am struck by the fact that if I hadn’t taken that extra step I would have missed her. I burst into tears, overcome by the emotion of it all suddenly allowing myself that feeling I’ve had so many times, that I’m EXACTLY where I’m supposed to be. The repacking the car, the little stop to check the trunk all the confluences are set out by the Universe to put me in the right place at the right time so that I’ll get confirmation that the messages I’m receiving are oh so real. I turned to the left and my eye caught the centerpiece of the garden and my heart caught further in my throat. Sobbing now I gazed at the final resting place of Cesar and Helen Chavez. Roman had given me that nudge so I could go and pay my respects. I had no idea they’d be buried there. Just incredible.

So I took the walk through plants that represented Cesar’s persona, simultaneously sturdy and tender, some from Cesar’s home state of Arizona. I found the humble home where I lived with them the week I worked on my research. I was embraced by the community and Cesar’s nieces. I remember the house had a small guest room with a high si gel bed where I stayed. It smelled of clean laundry with lots of Downy fabric softener. Cesar was macrobiotic and ate very simply and I’d sometimes see he’d taken a nibble right off the block of Muenster cheese. Wow. I’m so honored to be the keeper of these memories. I’m so grateful for this experience. I felt very connected yesterday.

The rest of the drive, about 7 hours, was pretty uneventful, beautiful Mojave desert and not much but deep thoughts.


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