Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Hard to believe it's been a week since the walk ended. I have nothing to push me along now. Leisure time is best savored when it's stolen from a rigid routine--weekends or short vacations. I know now better than ever that I need that dialectic of duty and dalliance that makes each seem more valuable. Even now I'm writing this against a deadline, albeit self-imposed, and it's easier because of that. For me pure self-discipline is unattainable. But for all that I've been doing a few things.
On the day after I finished walking I began making phone calls to try to secure a mooring spot for the motor home for a few weeks. There aren't as many campgrounds in the northeastern suburbs of Los Angeles as I thought there would be. I did find a KOA in Pomona and another nice place up in San Dimas, and there was one high up in the San Gabriel Mountains, the ridge that runs to the north of all these towns I walked through. I'm sure they're very nice, but their rates rivaled those of a motel, which somehow didn't seem commensurate with the idea of camping. This is something I've always found mystifying about the whole RV thing, which I wouldn't embrace were it not for my walking project. Why would people spend a fortune on a huge RV, not to mention the cost of gas and maintenance, only to then pay forty to sixty dollars a night to park it and plug it in on top of those other expenses? I admit I'm spoiled after a year and a half of camping mostly free in Walmart parking lots, but if I'm going to pay that much I might as well get a room with a kitchen at a weekly motel.
So the criteria of my search were that I was looking for a relatively inexpensive spot close enough to the action that I wouldn't have to drive twenty miles down a mountain, or sixty miles on the freeway, just to get into the eastern reaches of LA. I assumed it was possible, but didn't really know, except that on my last two or three walks I'd gone past a few trailer parks that offered several spaces for transients with RVs. But as I began to call I discovered that most of them rented by the month and not by the week, and charged a month's security deposit plus the cost of utilities above the monthly rate.
Finally by accident, as usually happens with me, I called a trailer park that had five spaces they rented by the week for a very reasonable price, utilities included. And they had a spot open! I was about to hang up and go over there when the woman I was talking to asked me how old my motor home was. I told her it was an '88 and suddenly things changed. She said they only took motor homes that were ten years old or newer. Really? I wondered. A trailer park? What kind of luxurious place was this, over in Azusa? I envisioned a classy lot full of gleaming new megacoaches. Well, I wheedled a bit and finally the woman said I could call the next morning to see if her boss would be willing to waive the age requirement.
Next day I called back and talked to the boss. I pitched it to her, telling her about my walk and how I was writing a book and needed a place to stay while I did research. I may have hinted that she'd be in the book if she let me in. This is southern California, after all, and everyone in some recess of his or her mind is hoping for fame or fortune. It's just part of the culture. She was sympathetic, but said she'd have to "talk to corporate" about waiving the age restriction on the motor home. She really said that. Then she told me to call back in an hour. I thought, "corporate"? Sixty minutes later to the second, when I called back, she told me that corporate had said she could use her discretion, and let me in if the motor home was in "excellent condition." I told her I'd be right over.
In my opinion my motor home is not in excellent condition. It's 22 years old and has been through its share of the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. But neither it is falling apart. Just about what you'd expect, I think. And considering the alternatives I knew I had to give it a shot. Besides the motor home park was only about eight miles from where I was at that moment.
When I arrived things came immediately into focus, as often happens, and I relaxed. The low white brick wall on Gladstone Avenue, just up from El Palenque sports bar and billiard hall and Duran Auto Body, and across the street from a place with a totem pole out front, read "Caravan Mobile Home Park," with, impressively, all of the letters present. I pulled to the curb. As I got out the boss herself emerged from a little yellow building next to a small swimming pool. She was a wraithlike middle aged woman, about five feet tall, all black hair dye and glasses. She called to a male assistant to go out and walk around the motor home and give it the critical evaluation. Out of the iron gate sourrounding the pool walked a man who looked like a hairier biker version of Gene Shalit. Huge black handlebar moustache merging with outrageous 19th century sideburns and a neck that hadn't been shaved in a week or two. He took a fast walk around my humble home away from home and called over the wall to the boss. "It's fine." I was in! Gratefully I chose my spot from among the three untaken ones and went in to pay the first week's rent.
Notice I said I was grateful, and indeed I still am. So no one will think me ungrateful or insulting if I say that after having cruised through the trailer park itself a couple of times I think my 1988 Winnebago brings no discredit upon the permanent trailers in the park, and indeed raises the class average, as it were, considerably. I'm still puzzled about the RV age limit, though. Except that I can see that if the Manson family came in with a fifty-year-old converted school bus painted in psychedelic colors, loaded on top with all their earthly possessions, even the Caravan Mobile Home Park might want to reserve for itself the right of refusal. In any event, here I am. It's reasonably quiet except for the yipping dog in the trailer next door and the occasional subwoofer bass of a passing motorist. Home sweet home.