Here is how Christmas goes: We drive to Southern California to spend it with my sister + Walden + the kids. We drive rather than fly so we can take Rodney with us. It’s hard to find a sitter for Rodney.
Dashiell used to have a set-up with his ex, but that stopped working. A friend around the corner took Rodney once, but then he bit her friend and barked too much. Dashiell’s family lives out of town, so that is a pain to make work and then it’s like, just because his sister and her wife can add Charlie to their menagerie of two Thai rescue dogs and two cats doesn’t mean they’re into it.
Same goes for Dashiell’s mom. She’s got her own miniature cat to take care of, and if there’s anything more fun for Rodney than chasing cats it’s chasing miniature cats. Plus, Dashiell’s childhood pet, an elderly bird living out his golden years in a cage in the TV room, is also a worrisome object of fascination for the dog.
So we stuff Rodney into his crate in the back of the rental car and drape a beach towel over it, like putting a bird to sleep for the night, I always think. We set off for Los Angeles.
The whole way down is rainy rainy rainy, and it has been for days. When we hit the Central Valley we pull off onto some small side road, a farm road, to pull over and let Rodney pee. There is the shoulder of the road, and then it dips down to the edge of some sort of orchard.
Dashiell drives the rental down the embankment, and a look of pure horror flashes across her face. She literally goes white. People -- white people, going white from fear is real! And Dashiell is already very white so she turns pretty much translucent as the car sort of slides down the muddy ledge and becomes immediately stuck.
Whatever desperate maneuvers she is doing with the wheel and the gas pedal –- I don’t drive so I have no idea what is happening, other than it’s bad –- they don’t work. I can actually feel the car sort of settling into the mud. The wheels spin and make a concerning noise. Rodney is whimpering and barking, part because he has to pee and also because he detects danger pretty much all the time, like when there is zero danger, so now that we are in some sort of legitimate situation he is going nuts.
Even though the highway to Los Angeles is not so far away from us, we’re kind of in the middle of nowhere. There are no services over here, so it’s not like anyone is likely to come by. Except we are near the 5, and so it’s not totally crazy that, say, a car carrying a couple of baby dykes on a road trip from Portland, Oregon would have pulled off to find a place to pop a squat, and find themselves stuck as well, but less so, and being hardy baby dykes they would have pushed themselves up from the ditch. And being kind, loving, genetically helpful baby dykes, offer to help us as they pass us by on their way back to their roadtrip.
WHAT is the likelihood of this happening????
“Do you need help?” one of them hollers out the car window and Dashiell shrieks YES and they park and walk over and I quickly let Rodney out of his cage and take him into the orchard so he doesn’t try to kill the helpful strangers.
The orchard is full of the same think, man-eating mud that is sucking our rental car into the earth, and I am wearing my new Rag & Bones boots. I just want to say that. I just want to say that even though I got them for literally half the price as when I first fell in love with them at a Barneys in New York City, they were still not by any definition cheap. The mud claws at them. I try to tiptoe, to walk lightly, but it’s not possible. Rodney pokes distractedly around the base of a tree but he’s too worked up to pee.
I walk deeper into the orchard, half to keep Rodney away from the hoopla, half because I can spy the muddied Converse of the girls pushing our car from the mud, and I feel ashamed for not helping and don’t want them to see me. I cower in the orchard. I can see huge clumps of mud flying in the air, tossed from the spinning tires. They splatter against the legs of one of the girls. Her legs are clad in acid-green acid-wash skinny jeans. Through the mud on her feet I spy rainbow shoelaces in her sneakers. That is when I begin to understand we’re been rescued by lesbian elves.
And we have been rescued! With a terrible screeching noise, a noise that revs and flags as if the car is near it’s bursting point, the pair manage to push the car up the embankment. I hear everyone cheer and sheepishly emerge from the orchard, hanging back with the barking dog.
See, the dog is barking! I had to stay back with him! I couldn’t have helped push the car out of the mud, even if I hadn’t been wearing a new pair of Italian leather thigh-high Rag & Bone boots that I just got in the mail half-off like two weeks ago. Really.
Dashiell gets out of the car looking like a person who just survived a near-death experience. She has that sort of New Lease On Life radiance, and asks the baby dykes if she can hug them. Dashiell isn’t a huge hugger; she’s clearly moved. Everyone hugs. I mean everyone except me. I hang back guiltily with the dog and tell the girls how amazing they are and thank them a hundred times.
“You saved us!” I cheer. “You saved our life! You’re amazing!”
Even Rodney recognizes them as heroes and chills out. The girls get back in their car and drive back to the 5 to find more hapless victims of circumstance and stupidity to rescue. Dashiell and I linger at the side of the road, our car thickly frosted in mud and smelling burnt.
Every light on the console is lit red and flashing. Did we break the car? Should we have given the girls money, we wonder like bourgeois assholes. They saved us, and we let them go.
We’re dazed and high with adrenalin and other bio-chemicals. The car eventually cools and we complete our journey to Los Angeles, where we are staying at a quaint motel in Santa Monica a block from both the beach and my sister’s house.
After catching our breath and grabbing take out from the Italian joint across the street, we say good bye to Rodney and go with Madeline to see Skyfall. The motel accepts dogs but asks that you do not leave them alone, like all hotels that accept dogs. Do people really obey that law? Don’t you bring your dog with you so you can leave them and come back for walks like you do at home?
Twenty minutes into the movie, Dashiell’s phone vibrates. She lifts it, and in the dark of the theater I can see a glowing Santa Monica exchange on the screen.
“Answer it!” I whisper. “It could be the hotel!”
Dashiell whispers a hello while getting up and moving through the aisle to the exit. She’s back in a minute with a pained look on her face.
“It was the hotel,” she says. “They said Rodney hasn’t stopped barking for two hours and he’s gotten all the other dogs at the hotel to start barking too!”
Have we really been gone for two hours??? We did take a tromp through Nordstrom’s with my sister, and then strolled up the Third Street Promenade to the theater, pausing to watch all the children being pimped out by their show-biz hungry parents to do back-flips flips and sing Motown for the shoppers.
I once nicknamed the Promenade The Promenade of Broken Dreams, after passing some sad child performers, an elderly disabled man playing a busted violin with an empty soda bottle, and then ‘Psychic Cats’, another old man who uses wet food to trick drugged-looking cats in Renaissance garb into grabbing a scroll printed with a fake fortune, in quick succession. It was too much, even though I did participate in the feline slavery of the Psychic Cats ring because I am not strong enough to resist that particular combination of cats, costume and the occult.
Anyway, we rushed back to the hotel and thus began our holiday of bringing Rodney around to live in the backseat of the car while we looked at things we couldn’t afford at Opening Ceremony; leashed and barking while we waited for the car to come back mud-free and sparkling from a car wash, and barricading him in the bathroom and lingering in the hotel parking lot beneath our bathroom window so we could, like, go to Xmas dinner and whatnot. It was a bit of a stressful trip.
On the drive home, as we just started out from Santa Monica, I announced, “I have two great ideas.”
“Awesome, what are they?”
“First, we should stop at Whole Foods so we have actual food to eat on the drive and aren’t tempted to stop at In-and-Out again.”
“That is a great idea,” Dashiell affirmed.
“And we should have Quentin be our sperm donor.”
“Yes,” Dashiell nodded, aiming the rental car toward corporate health food. “That is a really great idea."