The rest of the story

He didn’t realize it at the time, but Grant simultaneously backed me into a corner and gave me an opening the other day with his funny statistic about my dad’s music.

I’ve known almost since the moment I met him that I was going to have to tell him who I am and where I came from, but I put it off for a long time.

I’m not sure why I’m so reluctant to tell people who my dad is. I’m certainly not ashamed of him. I love him. I miss him. I’m proud of him — professionally because he was phenomenally talented, and personally because he had the courage to right a wrong that was entirely of his own making.

So why don’t I mention his name? I’m not sure. Habit, maybe — I never talked about him in front of Mom, because it was just too painful for her (and for both of us, really), and then after I lost Mom, and Dad came back into my life, I frequently found myself lost in his shadow, with people either giving or requesting favors because I was a celebrity’s daughter. I never could get used to that. Too much time spent in anonymity, I guess.

Whatever the reason, I knew that if I was going to get in very deep with Grant, I owed him some background information, but I wasn’t sure when or how to break it to him.

Mention it too soon, and you sound arrogant, like, “Oh, look at me, my daddy is famous.” Mention it too late, and he wonders what else you’ve been keeping from him. And I was scared of his reaction. Would he be impressed? Intimidated? Starstruck? Or would he think I was just making it up to impress him? Every one of those responses would be wrong. Every one of those responses had ended a relationship somewhere in my past. And coming from Grant, any one of those responses would be disappointing beyond words.

“He’s my dad,” I said, searching Grant’s face for a reaction.

“Really?”

“Really.”

Grant looked at me intently for a long moment, brushing a lock of hair away from my face. “You have his eyes,” he said.

You have his eyes. We could have been talking about any woman, any father, any ordinary family.

I stood up, leaned over the back of the couch, and wrapped my arms around Grant’s shoulders. “God, I love you,” I whispered, and I kissed his cheek, choking back tears as I realized just how happy Dad would be to know his little girl had found a man who got it.

— Sierra

Pac-Man Fever

Grant brought something to the Tumbleweed this evening that I can only describe as, like, totally awesome … or perhaps, y’know, like, bitchin’ to the max.

While he was unpacking a box today, he found an old Atari 2600 console, several sets of controllers, and about 50 game cartridges.

I wouldn’t have given you a nickel for the chances of it working, but we connected it to the old TV in my lobby, put in a cartridge, and lo and behold, there was Pac-Man, in all his blocky, pixelized glory.

Grant kicked my butt at Frogger and Asteroids, but I pwned him on Q*bert, and we were pretty evenly matched on Yars’ Revenge and Space Invaders. Joey thought it was hilarious when one of us would get shot by an alien, and the game would make a raspberry sound effect to let us know we’d lost a life. He spent about 15 minutes purposely allowing the aliens to shoot him just so he could hear the noise.

I think that may have been the most fun Grant and I have ever had together.

Maybe I should try to find one of those old tabletop Pac-Man games on eBay. That would be a great addition to my lobby. Probably not a bad little moneymaker, either….

— Sierra

Big weekend

Text conversation du jour:

GRANT: got an idea. u still got the firebird?
ME: yes. y?
GRANT: flag has consignment car lots. cld swap cars n solve 2 probs
GRANT: got a 3 day wkd. cld bring volvo & drive fbird back 2 flag 2 sell
GRANT: gd xcuse 2 c u :)

Good excuse, indeed. Excellent excuse. And I could really use the distraction, because Saturday will mark the 20th anniversary of the day one young man made the stupid, irresponsible decision to drive himself home after a beer-soaked Memorial Day weekend on the lake. That decision left a 15-year-old girl sitting in a hospital waiting room with nothing to hold onto but her absent father’s voice floating through on the Muzak while surgeons made a valiant but ultimately futile effort to safe her mother’s life.

I’m glad Grant will be here to keep my mind off of that, but part of me wishes he would just stay in Flagstaff and wait for me to come to him next week, because I’m afraid the memories will overtake me while he’s in town this weekend, and I’m not sure I want to open up all my baggage in front of him just yet. Precious few people have ever seen me cry, and I’d like to keep it that way.

— Sierra

Simple pleasure

When I was little, my mom used to take me with her to the car wash, where I would sit inside the car and watch as she hosed down the exterior. I used to love to watch the water as it hit the windows.

For some reason, washing the car seemed like a very grown-up activity — almost a rite of passage — and I couldn’t wait until I was old enough to help, because that would mean I was officially a grownup. Being a grownup was my only real goal in life. Grownups got to stay up late and do cool stuff like washing the car and cooking dinner.

I’ve never really lost my enthusiasm for the car wash. I have a whole collection of photographs of self-serve car wash bays from up and down Route 66. I guess that’s a weird thing to photograph, but it reminds me of time I spent with Mom when I was little.

Here in Coldwater, we have a two-bay car wash down the street from the Tumbleweed. I don’t use it very often (this is, after all, New Mexico, and I’d feel guilty about wasting water on something so frivolous), but the weather today was gorgeous, so I decided to wash the truck.

There’s not usually much grass in Coldwater, but you can see from the picture that there’s a little bit near the bays. I guess it grows there because the runoff keeps it watered regularly.

I love the car wash….

— Sierra

Coldwater Morning

I can’t remember whether I’ve mentioned this already, but I finally invested in Wi-Fi for the Tumbleweed. Guests were asking for it, and I was getting tired of the dialup connection’s glacial pace, so we’re all high-tech now.

The primary advantage of this, from where I sit, is the fact that I can watch YouTube videos.

I thought this one was pretty great — and very appropriate on a wet, chilly morning in Coldwater, N.M.:

I like Neil Diamond. Something about him reminds me of my father, although I can’t quite put my finger on what it is.

I always thought Dad ought to cover this song, but I never could talk him into it. I don’t know why. He just said some things were better left alone.

— Sierra

Ahhhh.

I forgot to mention it amid all the excitement of buying a truck and shopping for a puppy, but my espresso machine came in yesterday.

Tonight, I am drinking one memory out of another.

In high school, I used to cut class and spend the afternoon hanging out at a gritty little coffeehouse with cobwebs on the ceiling, stains on the tablecloths, and a dusty, faded lava lamp sitting in a ring of dusty, faded plastic flowers on one of the tables near the counter.

The coffeehouse itself was pretty standard-issue, but the barista — a gray-haired man in his late 40s, with Parrish blue eyes and a gentle smile that reminded me vaguely of Mandy Patinkin — was anything but ordinary.

At a time when most adults just smiled indulgently and nodded at the right times, without really listening to what I was saying, Richard drew me into very grown-up political conversations and asked me very grown-up questions about what I believed and why. He made me think, and he made me feel as if my thoughts mattered. I will forever cherish those conversations with him.

Richard also taught me to use the espresso machine my father bought me for my birthday that year. I am forever indebted to him for troubleshooting my first few failed attempts at cappuccino and for showing me how to move the pitcher under the steam jet to make a nice, dense froth. I think of him and smile every time I taste that first sip of espresso filtered through foam.

The cappuccino you see in the picture is a double memory, because the mug is a souvenir from the Austin Motel, where my father and I stayed when he played SXSW to promote an acoustic album he’d just released on a little indie label in 1991. It was the first time I’d ever seen him in concert, and as I listened to his voice traverse the familiar notes of a song I’d heard on the radio a thousand times, I buried my face in my hands and sobbed, for reasons I cannot begin to explain.

Maybe I should design some souvenirs for the Tumbleweed. It’s nice to think that Coldwater might be a cherished part of someone else’s history.

— Sierra