Skull Valley

... I remember being just legal drinking age, parked on a mountain overlooking Skull Valley early one morning after the Palace Bar closed. The woman with me was Swedish, a little older than me, and very uninhibited. I remember our bodies in the moonlight, and the valley below us. And a few years later I remember looking her up and she was in the hospital, having been in a car wreck.

Her hands were being ruined by factory work. I felt an intense sadness, even though this was only our second meeting. I remembered being in Japan, and having a book called "Sato's Famous Sayings." One of them was, "Taking a Japanese wife to the United States is like putting a flower in the middle of Route 66." I guess Swede's get run over by life on the road, too.

There were hot summer days down in the Valley itself, in my orange Army jeep where the dust swirled inside as easily as out. I had a case full of camera gear, and the dust got inside it, so that I had to clean everything carefully when I got back into Prescott. I was a working photographer.

Mostly I remember the desolation implied in that name, Skull Valley. In truth, the town of Skull Valley itself is a picture postcard town with huge cottonwood trees and lush farms along one side of the two lane road, and desert vegetation on the other. But in its own mythology it is a place where on the arid surface bones bleach in the summer sun, while underneath it there is one of the best aquifers in the area. This place has the potential to evolve into the abstract.

There's one little cafe in town, one garage, one store, and that's about it. It's a place I used to pass through at least once a month, on my way to the coast. Now I take a different route. Today I was driving a black Nissan four by four truck. I took Linda to Kirkland, a few miles on down the two lane, for lunch. Mostly I wanted to drive the truck a little before I leave it here tomorrow and fly to the Bay Area.

Behind all the memories of the desert below the pine mountains where we live there was the idea that my life is marked by vehicles, and that sometimes I develop a special relationship with them and sometimes, I don't. This one promises to be something special.

The last truck I owned is now in Hawaii. Diane has it there. When I drove that truck I had such strong connection with it that one night I dreamed some people were fooling with it. The next day I found that one of the screens on the camper window was cut, somebody trying to see if there was anything inside it worth stealing, or maybe somebody trying to find someplace to sleep.

At another time I was working on a client, and suddenly knew somebody was fooling with my truck. I dismissed it because it doesn't seem logical to know things that you can't explain how you know. When I got to my truck the window was broken and the radio was gone. Twice when it was stolen I knew it was going to happen. But I didn't believe what I knew. I dismissed it because there was no evidence for it.

I think a relationship with a power object, like your truck, begins when you put some of your energy into it, because you know it's like you.

I resisted getting another truck for a long time. I told myself I didn't need one. Then I resisted getting a four by four, because I don't really need it. And then I resisted getting the supercharged engine because it wastes gasoline. I resisted getting a black one because it absorbs heat and is hard to keep clean.

And then I thought that I may or may not pass this way again. But if I do, on this particular day, I'll be in love with my ride, and there will be clouds in the sky to the North, pregnant with electricity and cool water. And Willie Nelson will be singing, "She's not for you."

"So she told you that she found heaven, in your eyes?
I think it's only fair to warn you -- sometimes, she lies ..."

Sometimes I realize that resistance is futile.

Posted: Sun - July 25, 2004 at 05:20 PM