Day 3 Buttonwillow 5:45pm, then Tejon 6:49pm: A Strange Aroma at the Taco Bell Outlet.

5:45 pm Buttonwillow

Up until now, I have been faithfully stopping and writing at every stop I have made. I have tried to convey what I felt, to bring people into the conference. All along, I am aware I am the only one in this I-5 DIY Queer Literary Conference on the road, but the fact people have been reading these posts helps me feel a lot less silly about the whole enterprise. But today, as I was in Buttonwillow, I thought to myself, I have actually missed a lot of stops. I missed Gustine, Patterson, Westley. I missed Jayne. And even in the stops I went to, the reflections became highly highly personal. I am sure others will come with vastly different topics, points of focus, observations…

I pee at Buttonwillow rest stop and think–”darn, why am I back here, when I could have been someplace where I’ve not yet peed before?” But i think, “gee whiz, you are only one girl.” Yes. There will be next year, and this was the best I could do. I am beginning to tire, to be honest. The heat has been rough. The emotions have been rough. Not enough fresh vegetables. I am achy from the road and coffee has gotten to that point where it doubles back, bonks you on the head and says what do you think you are doing?

So, I am leaving many many many empty places unwritten stories to the next conference, next year, perhaps, with a few more people meeting and sharing on the road. I will be there, too, because I swear it has been so wonderful. To take a trip in this way, to take the road and make it home, even for this short while.

6:49 pm Tejon

So here I am at Tejon. Above me is the Grapevine, and over that all my favorite LA radio stations will be there. Jim Svejda on KUSC with his thoughtful pauses and quippy snarky comments about Mahler. Max and Marcellus passionately discussing something very unimportant about the Lakers. A pledge drive of some sort, just because. It is just over the Tejon Pass.

But some culture passes over the Gravevine. Politics, for example. For this is the Tejon Outlet Center, and it exists because the people here make a lot of money on road traffic and vehemently oppose the high speed rail that will bypass the area. It is a very slick looking place–far more urbane than Bravo Farms or Andersen’s. But then, one must think–is there any less artifice here?

Maybe the outlet will draw people. Maybe the outlet can be a train stop. But as far as I can tell, no one really asked for it. I mean it looks like an outlet center, at least in signage. But the outlets are peculiar? Seriously, I get putting a  Taco Bell in the Food Court, but to put in on the main marquee? Serious? Taco Bell Outlet? EWWW!!!!

Doesn’t anybody actually read this stuff?

But the outlet is not here because it is an outlet. It is here because of political expedience. It is here to give a somewhat friendly face to an otherwise unpopular viewpoint. (When you are backed up for miles in traffic on the I-5, a sign that says “Trains or Dams?” is funny in so many ways. Why, yes. I’ll take the dam, please. And can I have a side order of constipation with that? Are you kidding?)

I think of other things that don’t make sense. Some farmer has posted a “Another Farmer for Trump. Water for Farms and Families.” Huh? How did we get from here to there? It has a strange smell. What on earth was Ben Carson about? Or Carly Fiorina? Really, did anyone really think either would become president? But hey–person of color! Woman! We have them! Look! They are on the sign! But it wasn’t serious. It was just window dressing. It’s fake. No one cares. Here’s a Taco Bell Outlet.  Don’t think about it too much. Just eat.

I think of the political campaign right now, of what lies back over that hill–oh yeah, people around me having Bernie and Hillary debates. But what are they debating? I hardly ever hear discussions about policy. I hear people sounding like they are debating. But where’s the debate?  And there they go.

There’s that strange aroma again. Taco Bell Outlet!

As for poor Hillary and Bernie–what about their actual ideas? They don’t get addressed. The candidates themselves seem to have become proxies for people snarking at each other.  I think about our queer community, our own histories and stories. What looks like activism–is it activism? Is it really helping us? All of our battles, discussions, demonstrations. Which ones help us? And which ones are like this outlet–something no one really asked for, taking up space and diverting attention from thinking and planning and building something that could  really help get us out of this oppressive relentless heat?