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


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