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