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12/24/98 The Parking Lot
12/10/98 Mountains
12/01/98 Garage Sale
11/12/98 The Car Salesman
10/29/98 What Is Money?
10/15/98 Sick People
10/01/98 Baseball
09/17/98 Dollars and Sense

Mountains

I grew up in Newbury Park. It's where I hunted fellow reptiles as a boy. It's where I cracked open my skull on the jungle gym. It's where I developed my Weltanschauung, or worldview.

The other day, I decided to jog into the mountains of Newbury Park to nurse my soul. I had become a trifle bitter in recent weeks, detached from my own life. I had seen too many commercials.

I began my course at Amgen, which recently purchased 3/4 of the city. There is Amgen Boulevard, Downtown Amgen, even the Amgen Mini-Mall. In case of war, the whole place folds up into a nuclear-resistant box where the Amgenians can live out their days. No one really knows what they are doing in there. They could be defrosting Walt Disney as we speak.

I jogged past a structure that I hadn't seen before. It had a great big bulls-eye on it. There used to be horses here. They had turned into a Target. So it goes.

That's okay. I was headed for the mountains, the fresh air. I put it all out of my mind.

I jogged until the road tuckered out and became dirt again. This is what I remember of Newbury Park. This is why I came. The land squished beneath my feet and smelled of ... childhood. I breathed it in to my bones. Man, I needed that. Extract o' nature.

I continued my climb from civilization, pursuing a narrow path that filled my socks with those prickly things that we used to throw in each other's hair on the way to school. You could pick at those things for days and never get them out.

At length, I arrived at a clearing in the wood ... a big clearing ... an unnaturally big clearing. What was this? It looked like a wanna-be street, a symmetrical byway suited for two-lane travel.

Okay. These things happen. It could have been a freak of nature like Stonehenge. Or Mount Rushmore.

Further on I saw what appeared to be gutters. Why would a forest need gutters? I noticed a series of wooden stakes flying tiny red flags. It was growing exceedingly difficult to move my legs.

The path opened up unto an expanse of endless destruc- I mean, construction. Tractors as far as the eye can see. Trees being hauled off like bodies from a holocaust. The foreman of the fiasco stood beside his new Ford Bronco, admiring the work.

He looked at me as if to say, "Run along now, boy, you're in over your head here. And how did you get here anyway."

Looks can say a lot.

It raised a good question: Did anyone know what was going on here? I pay attention to building plans, even attend public hearings, and I didn't know about it. You couldn't see this place from the street. I had to stumble upon it in my idiotic way.

Newbury Park. My home. My mudwamping grounds. I had gone for a jog in what I thought were mountains and ended up in the middle of another city. The mountains were just a façade, signage to attract home buyers.

Everywhere I turn, I find myself in the middle of Los Angeles. Slowly but surely, it extends its filthy fingers over creeks and dales and the scent of my childhood. Once upon a time, there were oranges in Orange County. There may even have been a river in Riverside.

I turned back from the site, trying to find some humor in it all. My lips didn't want to smile. My legs didn't want to move. I bid farewell to my old digs, unlikely as it was that I'd ever return. I wanted to carve a riddle into the foreman's Bronco. It would say, "If a tree fell in the forest but no one knew about it, did it really make a sound?"

 



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