Gayle Madwin (queerbychoice) wrote,
Gayle Madwin

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The End of the Earth

Today after work I decided to indulge my urge for senseless emotional bonding time with my new car (and the Rufus Wainwright debut album in its CD player, which I often don't even get to hear one complete dong from on my terribly short usual commute to and from work) by driving to the end of the earth. I live, as it happens, right next to the end of the earth, which made my quest somewhat easier. I live, you see, in an ugly kind of neighborhood where the scenery consists mostly of empty brown fields, a large number of which contain endless rows of 10' x 10' white garage-like things with bright orange garage-like doors marked "Public Storage"—and along one side of my place of residence is the American River, which, due to the inconvenient sparsity of bridges across it, effectively blocks me off from all of civilization. I grew up on the other side of the river, in civilization. That's where everybody lives. That's where all the stores are. In a desperate attempt to avoid the quite unpleasant traffic jams on the inconveniently distant bridges, I once examined the local Yellow Pages in minute detail, convinced that somewhere, surely, my side of the river must contain a bookstore too. But no such luck. Or rather: there are two bookstores on this side of the river: one is a Christian bookstore that sells only "inspirational" books (umm, thanks but no thanks) and the other is "Books in Color," an unbelievably tiny used bookstore which sells quite good books by nonwhite authors, but which isn't terribly useful if you've already got your heart set on acquiring a book by a very specific author who does happen to be white.

Ah, but think what I've just said. There are only two bookstores on this side of the river. Anywhere on this side of the river? Nowhere from the American River south all the way to Mexico and the Gulf of California is there one single other bookstore to be found? Surely not. Surely not! So it's just a question of how far I'm willing to drive, then, right?

Or perhaps not. Despite having lived here in this apartment for over three years now, I'd absolutely never once driven more than 5 minutes south of here. I've simply never had occasion to. Whenever I look up a particular type of store in the Yellow Pages, I always get directed north, across the river. I've never been directed south for anything. Maybe there's nothing there at all. Maybe one mile south of my own apartment, the ground simply stops, leaving nothing beyond but the vast emptiness of outerspace at the end of the earth.

So today, I finally decided to find out.

The first thing I saw was rectangular bales of hay. A whole lot of them. This was only ten minutes away from my apartment, and although I've certainly seen plenty of orange "Public Storage" garages around here, I'd never seen any bales of hay around here before. To the south, however, there are many bales of hay.

Ten minutes further, and I was surrounded on all sides by horses. This was less surprising than the hay. There used to be plenty of horses across the river where I grew up, too, back before urban sprawl had entirely invaded yet. I'm used to horses. But I don't remember seeing bales of hay much over there.

Eventually the road I was on came to an end. It ended in, of course, a huge brown empty field. The huge brown empty field contained airplanes. Around here, all the brown empty fields that don't contain orange "Public Storage" garages contain row and rows of tiny one- or two- person airplanes. I think we grow them or something. The huge jet airliners drop their seeds while in flight and the little baby airplanelings spring up in every big empty field for miles around.

I turned right, onto another road. After about a hundred feet, that road ended too. Somehow I found my way to Highway 99, which was the only road left that didn't dead-end. I got on Highway 99 and drove south, inexplicably certain that if I just commanded it authoritatively enough, a city at least as big as San Francisco would miraculously spring up less than half an hour from my home, leaving me mystified as to how I could possibly have lived in Sacramento all my life without ever having heard of this bigger city right next door.

After a while I arrived in a city. Well, it claimed to be a city. The sign said "City Limits," not "Wide-Spot-in-the-Road Limits." The so-called city was Galt. There were four exits leading into it, but it didn't look to me like the kind of place that would have a decent bookstore. I drove on.

Soon I arrived in San Joaquin County. I tried very hard to remember if I'd ever heard of anything at all interesting being located in San Joaquin County. The signs along the side of the road informed me that I was "entering wine country." That's just lovely, but I don't drink. The signs tried a new tactic: they informed me that I was entering Lodi. Now, Lodi is a place I clearly remember having been to, for a Girl Scout camp when I was about ten years old. I am not, however, very interested in Girl Scout camps anymore, these days.

I had by this time been driving fully an hour. It was clearly foolish of me to imagine that continuing to drive in this direction would ever lead me anywhere citified, because I was headed southeast, whereas the only decent-sized city between here and Los Angeles is San Francisco, which is considerably to the southwest. So after an hour, I took a random exit somewhere in San Joaquin County, turned around, and got back on Highway 99, headed the opposite direction.

It was all very sad. I don't like living at the end of the earth. I want me a city.
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