Travel as Metaphor

The blog of novelist Sue Swift.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Another item from the "You Can't Make this Stuff Up" file:
September 28, 2005

Bless 'em, the Bee's headline writers have outdone themselves again.

Here's an item from the automotive section, "Wheels."

Flooding messes up everything.

Ya think?

Best of all, the article was written by Dan Rafter.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

From the “You Can’t Make this Stuff Up” file

I read at least one newspaper daily, and every once in a while I come upon an edition that’s to wacky that I feel compelled to share. The most recent time this happened was on Friday, September 23. My husband and I were eating a wonderful breakfast in an Auburn restaurant (which I won’t name because too many people know about it already. If you get there at the wrong time, waiting patrons fill the patio tables outside the door, and the parking lot is filled with hungry folks.)

But I digress. Back we go to the front section of the Sacramento Bee, the daily fishwrap around here. It is generally a decent newspaper, but on Friday last they outdid themselves. Perhaps a tribe of mischievous elves had taken over the newsroom, but more likely, Loki has taken over our planet and is torturing us to satisfy his evil sense of humor.

The front page is pretty standard and serious, but the fun starts on page three: “Beatty speech thrills nurses. Get this: Warren Beatty may be running for governor of California against the incumbent, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Bowfinger versus the Terminator…didn’t I tell you already that even I, a writer, can’t make this stuff up? If I pitched this to my editors, I’d be laughed out of the room.

Here’s another wrinkle: Rob Reiner is also thinking of running for governor. So we’d have the spectacle of Meathead v. Bowfinger v. Terminator. This is surely how legends, if not nightmares, are born.

Onward and downward.

Page 6 story: S.F. leaps at chance for a ski jump. Yes, the wise city parents of San Francisco plan to create a ski and snowboard jump on Fillmore Street. This is one of those things about which my mother would say, “Don’t ask.”

On the next page we have news of Amber Frey. You remember Amber, don’t you? She’s parlayed stupid slutdom into a career. The spectacle she presents makes one wonder if the Clorox she uses on her head has affected the brain inside.

Lest you feel I’m cruel to dear Amber, here’s what this paragon has done: she manipulated a former lover into paying four years of child support for a daughter that isn’t his. The poor fellow’s attorney said the truest words possible about Ms. Frey: “…she’s like a bad penny; she keeps coming back.”

I am willing to take up a collection to provide Ms. Frey a one-way ticket to the opposite side of this planet, say, to Fallujah. At the merest whiff of interest, I’ll set up a PayPal account, and we can get rid of this boil on society’s ass forever.

On top of that, she has another child by a different father. I have another suggestion for Ms. Frey: CONDOMS.

Speaking of condoms, there’s a fabulous little article on page 18. A Chinese company is selling condoms named after Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. The company had considered and rejected names like “First Night” and “I Miss You,” concluding that they just didn’t have the “same aura of respectability.”

I don’t know about you, but that statement left my brain gobsmacked. It was closely followed by another brain-smacker: an article about a couple who were fined for kissing at their wedding in India. Yes, the culture that brought us the erotic sculptures at Khajurato temple and the Kama Sutra won’t allow a bride and groom to kiss at their wedding.

Watch this space for future installments of “You Can’t Make This Stuff Up.” I’m sure there will be lots of material in our future.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Postscript to say good bye...somehow...

Well, all of us who knew and loved Kelli and Ray are gobsmacked...the autopsy apparently states that neither of them were ill in any way.

So the question remains, or perhaps, the mystery is heightened.


Monday, September 19, 2005

Travel is a Metaphor: Somehow, Say Good-bye


I have always loved to travel. Any time, to any place. The world's my playground, and there isn't a corner of it I don't want to see.

Until now.

To explain:

My friend Kelli has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Our families have been friends for nearly fifty years. She was the older sister I never had, a woman I looked up to, admired, adored in the special way that young girls have for their impossibly golden, beautiful older sisters. She was about five years older than I, short and slender, with hazel-green eyes and long hair she wore tinted blonde.

Our families took vacations together. She was my older brother's first love. When I married, she signed my ketubah, my Jewish marriage contract, as my witness. That's how close we were.

A verbally fearless woman of decided opinions, she was brilliant, a veterinarian who'd gone on to advanced studies in marine mammals and opthalmology. She'd lived a charmed life: born to wealthy parents, she and her family had gone everywhere, and I mean, everywhere. For example, they were the only people I knew who'd toured Antarctica more than once.

Later, she'd married another vet, an Australian fellow who was equally interesting. They lived a life of accomplishment and apparent happiness. She and her husband owned three homes in two different states and, in fact, on two continents. They'd created a flourishing veterinary practice that boasted three offices in two states.

No doubt you have noticed that I am using the past tense referring to Kelli.

I visited Kelli and her husband about two years ago, driving with my golden retriever from my home in northern California to their veterinary practice in So Cal to have Kelli fix Blondie's eye. My dog had glaucoma, and our vet up here wanted to take out her eye. Kelli, contemptuous, suggested that she could save Blondie's eye, if not her sight.

So I loaded the dog into my Rav and drove eight hours down Highway Five to the OC. The trip was surprisingly easy. Though midsummer travelers also used H-5, I’d started at 4 a.m. and avoided a lot of traffic. I want to fling a laurel wreath toward CalTrans, the California state department of transportation. Though H-5 is designed to avoid towns, the state has built a string of rest stops along the road that are pleasant and well-maintained, usually with clean toilets and a patch of lawn to walk your dog.

The next day, Kelli performed a cryosurgery and saved Blondie’s eye. We left the dog to rest and went to Kelli’s home, where I exercised. Long drives leave my back in agony, and I never skip stretching while on trips. Kelli was interested, explaining she had long-standing back and hip issues. Treatment, including surgeries, hadn’t been successful.

After I went home, Kelli and I talked frequently, with Kell avoiding discussion of her back unless pressed.

And so we come to the present day. On the morning of September 17, my mother called. She was sobbing, on the verge of hysteria. “I don’t know how to tell you this…”

An icy boulder clogged my throat. My brother has cancer, but was doing well…what had happened? Then Mom said, “Kelli and Ray committed suicide.”

Details are sketchy, but a few facts have emerged. Ray told one of his secretaries that Kelli was experiencing abdominal pain. Her back and hips were so painful that she couldn’t walk on the beach. Everyone’s best guess is that they got bad, very bad news about her condition, perhaps that she had cancer that had metastasized to the extent that it was untreatable and incurable.

They rented a car and drove six hours out of Melbourne. Australia’s a big place, and six hours out of Melbourne, you’re in wilderness.

They drank. They took pills. They connected the exhaust system of their car to its interior and went to sleep. Forever.

And that’s why I don’t want to go to Australia. I couldn’t drive out of Melbourne without wondering if this highway, or that lane, was the place where Kelli chose to take her life.

Despite the speculations and the educated guesses, amidst the pain and numbness, Kelli’s family and friends are left with only one question: