A Bad Nite at the Station
I was in a strange mood on this particular day during which my family and I were driving on the I-5 highway through central California. The horrid communities that whizzed by our car were like repetitions of the same dried-up stamp that kept impressing itself on the landscape. Bakersfield, Coalinga, Visalia, Fresno, Clovis, Modesto: each town was separated by miles of agricultural fields that spanned out into infinite tiny rows of soil.
Our destination was unknown to me. We pulled off onto a seemingly random exit at which stood the old standards: McDonald's, Super 8 Motel, USA Gasoline, and a Quick n Easy convenience store. Rather than stopping for a bucket o' fries, my father continued to drive on a straight desolate road that seemed to lead nowhere. I stared out of the window at the tilled soil that lay waiting for this season's crop to be planted and then harvested when autumn came round. Elongated moss green mountains wavered past my window and I remembered that when I was young, I used to think that these types of low, rolling hills were the skeletons of large dinosaurs, like the brontosaurus or brachiasaurus, covered by hides of compressed dirt and grass.
Finally, we entered a residential area and I knew that this was where we were going to stay. We arrived at the track housing development about midday. Every house had been painted a shade of beige or taupe or light mauve. In front of each garage door lounged some sort of pickup truck or off-road vehicle. Occasionally a parked petered-out boat broke the monotony. Lawns were sparse and dry due to the heat and dry, dusty air that blew around in circles over which ever community it chose for any given week. Hoses lay in the yards like a tangled mass of garter snakes swarming on warm rocks. Some homes had vicious or lonely looking dogs chained to posts, confined to backyards by a chain link fence, or housed in splintered, unfinished dog houses. I wondered if their owners felt the same way as the dogs seemed to feel: lonely, angry, stuck and bored.
I had lived in Fresno for five years of my childhood, so I was somewhat familiar with the landscape that was out there. My old house had been right by fields of unturned, dried-out soil and tall, rustling weeds. One night around the time we had moved in, I awoke in a sweat to find that my entire five-year-old body was covered with fire ants. As they stung my young flesh, I screamed without moving which consequently awoke my parents who, horrified, threw me in a cold shower to rinse the translucent red ants from my body. After the ants had had their way with me, I looked like a gigantic version of one of them: red, puffy, nervous and hungry.
Finally, we pulled into a driveway of a house that seemed newly constructed. The new lawn had barely started to grow and young sprouting trees had been freshly planted under mounds of red bark and granite pebbles. The automatic garage door opened and a large family came out to welcome us into their abode. This dark-haired, fair-skinned family seemed to be of Greek or Slavic descent. I was not sure if my family knew these people, but apparently they were going to put us up for a while. I felt very awkward, so I made my introductions quickly and swiftly took my bags to my new bedroom. After I closed the door, I flopped myself down onto a springy mattress covered with a white down comforter.
Since it was the afternoon, I did not turn any lights on so that the sunlight could glow behind the upwardly closed blinds. I threw my bag to my side, sat up, and started sifting through my clothes to find my underwear. I spread each silk or cotton article out over the blue, fibrous carpet. After I untangled stockings and garters, I began to organize the pile of bras and underwear by colors. Darks, whites, red tones, blue tones, warm or cool colors; I was completely neurotic about this. Soon, I started staring at each piece to carefully study its material: silk, mesh, eyelet, lace, satin, elastic, cotton, Lycra, stripes, flowers, solids, embroideries. I had such a variety of styles, I could hardly contain myself. After closely studying the pieces, I held each one close to my midsection which was now bare aside from a black bra. I lay on the carpet, eagerly awaiting each new sensation a piece from my collection would inflict upon my skin.
Lingerie madness came to an unexpected end when I noticed the door was ajar. Getting up to close it, I saw an adolescent Greek boy streak past the room in his tidy whities. Suspicious of his spying, I ran out after him, but he had taken refuge in an adjacent bathroom. Defeated, I decided to take a stroll through the living room where a social gathering was taking place. I felt a bit more comfortable and bold having rolled around in my lingerie. Middle-aged couples, very ethnically diverse, sat or stood within a contemporarily decorated, naturally lit living room. Most of the socialites were in their thirties or forties, so I immediately replaced my blissful expression with one of sophistication and debonair. Caterers walked around the rooms with trays fine crystal flutes filled with white wine and decadent platters covered in hors d'oeuvres. There were shrimp puffs, pate pastes, crab rolls, oysters in the shell, and salami on crackers. As I reached forward to grab a few puffs and rolls, I immediately flew back against the wall from which I had stepped forward.
Lurking in the corner and feeling very uncomfortable, a sudden dread overcame me. To my shock and horror, I realized that I was wearing a hot-pink 1980's style spandex shirt that was four sizes too large for me. When I looked past the shirt, I saw that I was wearing no pants nor any underwear. Staying in the corner, I felt absolutely trapped. The hallway that had once led to my bedroom was now an impenetrable wall. I knew I had to stay in that room; there was nowhere else to go. On the contrary, I was half-naked amidst of a crowd of well-to-do, mingling, fully clothed adults. What could I do in this situation? The most humiliating thing was that I was half-naked, as if I were trying to make a fashion statement or I had forgotten to put on some pants. I had a hot pink shirt draping barely enough to cover half of my butt and crotch. I felt like a two-year-old toddler who decided to flee the training potty to crash mom and dad's party. Feeling very self-conscious, I grabbed a glass of white wine and fled to the nearest chair.
I sat myself down on my bare ass, pulled my shirt down as far as I could to cover my crotch, and thought, "Maybe no one will notice." Maybe no one would notice that I had no pants on. I grabbed an hors d'oeuvre platter and placed it on my lap. It was cold, but maybe it would cover enough to evade suspicion. I looked straight ahead at a glossy black baby grand piano and made absolutely no eye contact with anyone. I wanted to sink into the poofy plush chair, but unfortunately, it was out of the scope of reality.
After this embarrassing scene at the get-together, I found myself in a makeshift radio station that was also someone's bedroom. I was thankfully fully clothed. My program was on next and I had an "indie" rock theme in mind. The girl programming before me showed me all of the new spiffy broadcasting equipment. Everything was now run through a computer rather than a console board, which was my forte. There was also a new CD player that resembled a clear blue ziploc bag or pencil pouch from which glowing red lights emanated. The small Mexican girl put on her last song, then left me to my own devices in the studio. I scrambled around trying to uproot all of CDs from my shoulder bag. Throwing them around on the table, I became increasingly nervous at the thought of broadcasting on this new equipment.
As the previous programmer's song came to an end, I played a few announcements and promotions while getting ready to take the mic. I then proceeded to introduce my indie rock extravaganza and started the show with Cat Power.
Although I was ecstatic to be programming again, I had absolutely no fucking clue as to what I was doing. I could not figure how to use the ziploc CD player and the red lights kept brightly shining in my eyes, momentarily blinding me so I could not see the remaining time left in the song playing. That song ended and I had nothing in the other CD player, so I frantically played a few more public service announcements while placing a new CD in the player. Dead air continued to plague my radio show and at one point, I was so desperate to get something on, I accidentally started playing a Black Crows album, a mistake for which I have never forgiven myself. I kept bumbling around, trying to play long songs, dropping CDs, turning off the wrong CD player in the middle of a song, hitting the fast forward button when a track was broadcasting, tripping up on my comments.
My show was a disaster and I knew it. There was more dead air going out than music being played. I was furiously ashamed. Not soon enough, the previous programmer returned to resume programming. She sat on a metal stool, perused the music shelves, and took over the program to salvage the airwaves I had so thoughtlessly ruined. I was furiously ashamed as I stormed out of the studio and I knew from that day forth, I would never recover from the disappointment that overcame me that day.