Tamika, Money, and moi

Vallejo has always been a sprawlsome wasteland, a car-and-condo intensive no man’s land that  impeded a quick return to Marin via highway 37.  I’ve never spent a minute there, unless it was gassing the car. So now it’s my home for the next 18 hours.

Bryan Reckamp  put it best:  “this must be the supply depot for all of America’s parking lots“.

We’re so close to the ocean. The bay (and Mt.Tamalpais) are already visible from the hills we came out of…

Half the gang has fled Vallejo: Arianna to see a friend in the hospital, Chris to leap into the ocean, much centrifugal  force pulling the 21 of us out of our little electron cloud. God knows how they’ll get back on track, but my tea party at Taj Mahovel may not have any comers….

Tried to find a supermarket w/in lazy woman walking dist. from this Ramada…no luck; just Target, Super Nails, Radio Shack, and a dozen other useless to me stores. Marked contrast to the dead-empty malls of the East and the Midwest…has no one told California we’re in a depression? Or are we so inured to living in a parking lot/mall that we just didn’ t notice?

I spent my last cash the previous night at a great Thai place (bikers LOVE “Thigh food”) in Sacto. But I’ve never been afraid to ask for a barter.

Sauntered into Mountain Mike’s Pizza (sounds so close to ‘mountain bikes!’) and almost immediately a be-dreaded young man came over and said “we’ve been admiring your dreads!”…

“Thank you! I am but a poseuse in the house of dread….say, I have a wild proposal to make…”

“I will trade you a pint of beer for a story”.

His eyes narrowed.

I grinned at him.
The last time I tried this was in 1979, before I was a racer. I found myself on an impromptu century when I chased down a guy in a red and white jersey, it took me half an hour…and when I caught him, asking where he was riding, he said “Marshall”.

“Can I come with you?”
I was just learning the terrain around San Francisco.

Uh, OK, if you can keep up“.

We rode a loop that is pretty much the most gorgeous (and arduous) ride in the county. I had no money, no food, no clue. I was wearing running shorts, and riding my too-big 23” Peugeot…he offered me a fig bar at the start of the Marshall “wall”..but I turned it down. Didn’t want to impose!

Thirty miles later, coming back through Fairfax —which would become my future home–I staggered into Gaylord’s old fashioned ice cream parlor and said to the young woman at the counter: “If you give me  an ice cream cone, I ‘ll tell you a story”.

“What flavors?” she asked.
Saved my ass, that cone with three flavors..although there were lots of ice-chips in it (sloppy manufacture?) I was in heaven, and the 500 or so calories got me down the road to Sausalito where I lay down on the grass verge by the condomoniums on Bridgeway.  Slept for two hours.

When I reached home (Lake Street S.F. where I was a nanny at the Gay’s house), I fell into bed at five p.m. and woke up at about noon the next day…
Ah, fast forward to thirty years later, I’m a wizened, dreadlocked bat without her change purse standing in a Vallejo pizza parlor, scheming.

“Honest. A real story!  Once upon a time an old bat rode her bicycle  from New York City to California, just to show off her incredible cycling prowess and wake folks up to the idea that bikes are incredibly useful tools, not just toys for kids…”
“Motorcycles, right? You mean motorbikes.”
“Nope. Push-bike. I’ll go get it and show you. But I gotta get to my conclusion…. So she rode and rode, day after day, week after week, and none of the young lions she rode with could quite out-ride her. She stuck on their wheel like a flea on a dog.  And now she’s standing before you, wondering if it’s a good enough story to earn…”
He reached under the counter and pulled out a pitcher. Tilted it under the tap!  Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, purveyors of fine brew to the bicycle cog-noscenti.

The young  man plopped a pint glass down next to the golden pitcher and said, “What size pizza do you want? I ‘ll bring it over.”

“Small, sausage? THANK YOU” little hearts beamed out from my face as I looked for   a seat .
A slim young woman followed me.

“How long you had those dreads?”

“Four years, I think. I’m Jacquie, who are you?”

” Tamika.  Let’s go in the ladie’s room so we can talk about your hair”.

She showed me her extensions, sewn into the tiny braids on her scalp. I let her examine my Chaos-In-Search-of-A-Coiffeur

“I’m just a  poseur whitey”.

“Go on! They look cool, they just look real different…they got kinks in ’em…”

Then we went to a booth (this place was nearly empty: there were five people in the kitchen, all smiling when I came in,  and about seven people in a joint built to hold sixty or so) and she told me the story of her life.
I been in prison. I been on the street. I come from a good family, too. My mama was always  too busy at work though, and my daddy too…two jobs, nobody home…I needed my mama but she was never there….so I got into trouble…My other life, you gotta put it in a book, sell it, make us both some money… My brother, he’s at Pelican Bay for life, he’s got a book he gotta write, too….maybe you can do it..That guy that poured you the beer?  His name’s “Money”. He could tell you a book, too…”
Money not only had fine, perfect black dreads the size of #4 yarn–he wore a solid metal version of a dollar bill around his neck on a poodle-worthy silver chain.  I got a picture of us both.

I also took a shot of Tamika Darnes in case I find an agent for her….
Reader, my heart splits in shards hearing stories of other people who somehow scramble together a version of a life with what’s been available…

Raced back to the hotel (minding the parking lot traffic, I am sure there are numbers backing up my belief that they are more dangerous than the roads..), grabbed my bike, and rode it into the pizza parlor (amazing how a two minute run converts into a twelve second bike ride) to show it off.

Tamika, Money and the rest of the crew touched the little black and white furry thing that used to be the tail of a skunk, and the little red haired one with black hairs at the tip that was all that the scavengers left of a red fox in Nevada on route 722…and the real rose (Double Delight, great fragrance) and the fake morning glory….I held my breath and prayed the health department wasn’t going to pay a visit…no one said anything about dead animal residues in a commercial eatery, so I just dove into the steaming platter (size medium! They just comp’d me a fat pizza, so I could have left overs!).

(Bryan would say :”Pizza me. Beer me.”)

It works, sometimes. The royal Prerogative of Victuals actually works.

~ by jacquiephelan on August 15, 2009.

13 Responses to “Tamika, Money, and moi”

  1. Pizza and beer for a story next time you’re out in Pt. Reyes.

  2. I’ll be coming your way next fall. I’ll come for tea. A treat after riding from Nova Scotia. Place to pitch a tent in the backyard?


  3. I am one envious WOMBAT wannabe!

  4. Man, I gotta get me some good stories and then go try that…

  5. JP! young PW and i visited the manor today and were sad that you weren’t there. i’ve been catching up on your blog- amazing stories. i’m jealous. i have a friend (bennett) riding the southern route- i suppose you’ll meet him in LA?

    will you be in SF tomorrow? it’s martha’s bday so we will be at dolores park all day, but i will try to find a way to run in to you.

    sounds like you’re doing real well.

  6. I LOVE stories like this!!

    Here’s mine: years ago I was helping a friend get wedding for a wedding at the 24-Hour Church of Elvis. We walked into a vintage clothing shop, where she spied a shiny gold vinyl envelope clutch that she HAD to have. It would match her wedding shoes perfectly. But she was broke, and I didn’t have the 13 bucks cash the proprietor was asking.

    However, I DID have a stack of play money left over from a visit to my preschool-aged nieces. I took the clutch, walked up to the counter, and asked the proprietor if she would accept play money for the purse.

    She blinked, smiled, and shot back, “How much?”

    I pulled out a roll of play bills, big and fat like drug money, peeled off two hundreds and laid them down on the counter. She looked, fought hard to keep a straight face and said, “Make it four and you can have the bag.” I peeled off two more hundreds, plus a fifty for a tip. My friend stared while I shot her a look that clearly said SAY NOTHING.

    I thanked the lady, took the bag and we walked out. We said nothing until we’d made it back to our bikes, locked up half a block away, where we collapsed on the sidewalk in spasms of near-terminal laughter.

    Of course, I’ve never been able to repeat this trick, but my friend looked absolutely fabulous at her wedding.

  7. Show me you read these comments. I just don’t want to tell an empty space that you’re awsome, and that storry was good enough for me to bit your style. Beth H I’m going to try the play money thing too.

  8. Great story Jacquie! Loved Beth’s story too!

  9. I am a new reader of your blog. Great story and beautifully written.


  10. Omg ….i loved this blog. Mainly because its about my favorite cousin Tamika. If you really really got her life story….you could write it and make millions….im writing this reply in hopes that i can get a copy of the picture you took. An yeah my cousin Ty in prisons story would leave you sad and confused….please respond….asap…

  11. I am Tamika Darnes I did not know their was a story about me. Wow.

  12. I grew up with Tamika in California.. she use to babysit me when she stayed with her aunt during desert storm. Wow the memories of her and her bothers, the music, lessons learned and laughs.

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