North Coast Journal



Wish you were here

by Maka MacKenna

AUGUST IS THE MONTH OF CHOICE for summer vacations.

Soon school will open and the weather will change. If you don't get it together by August, you lose out. The crush of traffic at the KOAs during August is the moral equivalent of the crush at the IRS on April 15th. Humans instinctively crave the safety of a crowd.

One year my sister and I tagged along with my aunt's family on a road trip to Seattle for the World's Fair. My uncle was literally well-connected. He worked for the Phone Company and wherever we went he knew other Phone Company guys and they would meet and go off together to compare circuits, or at least that's what they told us.

In those pre-Internet days, they communicated by shortwave radio. A worldwide network of Phone Company cheapskates had fed my uncle lots of data on cheap motels and places to eat. At one point we found ourselves in a dive on the Seattle docks eating something that, as my cousin pointed out, resembled Gravy Train. It was an adventure.

We stayed for two or three days with former neighbors who had moved to a manicured suburb with a view of Mount Whitney. They were excruciatingly normal. Their eldest daughter later became a radical lesbian who lives Back East and churns out angry novels.

I don't know that our brief stay really had any influence on her but I'd sure like to think that the visitation of our dysfunctional bunch had its impact, however modest, on the course of American letters.

I can't remember anything about the Fair except being dragged up the Space Needle and eating Belgian waffles. Actually, we ate anything at the Fair that even looked edible, we were so burnt out from road food.

After two or three days at the Fair, we went camping on Vancouver Island. My air mattress deflated during the night and I awoke on the ground with a serious cold that lasted the rest of the trip.

The adults made the mistake of caving in to our pleas to go somewhere NICE and took us to afternoon tea at the Empress Hotel in Victoria. Bad move. We spent the rest of the trip grumbling that the plebeian tastes of the elders were depriving us of our birthright, not to mention a proper upbringing.

I remember another vacation involving a caravan of three cars and many relatives, all staying at the Disneyland Hotel. My thrifty Phone Company uncle, true to form, rented one room for their family of four.

My canny San Jose uncle was smarter; he rented a room for himself on a separate floor and dumped the three girls for whom he was responsible in a room by ourselves. We stayed up all night pillow fighting and went around Disneyland with dark circles under our eyes. He also put us in a separate cabin the year we went to Yosemite. That uncle is a wise man.

Vacations can have their tragic aspects. One year we were going away for a few weeks and a blue-haired old busybody from down the street demanded to know who was taking care of our goldfish while we were away. We hung our heads; we had no plan and could not object when she insisted on taking them. I knew as I watched her carry them off I'd never see them again.

Sure enough, our car was hardly out of sight before she decided to clean the fishbowl -- with ammonia. All the fishes were floating atop the water the next day. To add insult to injury she didn't even bury them, just flushed them down the toilet.

As someone said, the worse day on vacation is better than the best day at work. Bon voyageand drive carefully.


Maka MacKenna is a Eureka free-lance writer.

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