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Road Trip to Alberta, Ch. Four

road trip to alberta 4.3

I’ve found a hotel, well, an inn or something, near the 710, which I admit will not be much progress, but at least we are out of Gardena, where Soh Ju and his minions know to look for me.  I’ll admit I’m a little frustrated, if only because I don’t want to disappoint Grandma. She’s stoic and quiet, as usual, but from the way her head is tilted onto the seat, I know she is tired. I’m sneezing still and running out of clean shirt sleeve.

The first day of travelling has not been easy.  A long trip might be harder than I thought.  I turn on the radio, listening for clues to traffic, the weather, life.

To be truthful, I would have loved to have stayed forever in Gardena. I have a lot of memories that are good here, post-divorce and living in Grandma’s basement. Shooting hoops at Fukai Park. Drinking Michelob Ultras on the Victoria Links. That bet with Hunter.

And the food is way better than you’d think! I especially love that Italian specialty shop and basically live on those long soft bread sandwiches they make. Heaven. What about spaghetti at the Spoon House? And of course, breakfast enchiladas at El Café Cambio Climático after the late-night poker games at Gila’s beach house.

So many great people, crazy people. Burke. Half-Man. Elivia. Cordon Chew. Hunter, of course, I mean before the press made him into a monster. That advantage roulette couple, Tai and Asumi. Labrador Louis. That senorita at the Climático. So many I can’t even begin to think of their names.

And of course, Soh Ju: I really do still have some love for him, despite what’s happened.

Ah well. The journey far from home teaches us to appreciate our lives and people around us.

Still, Long Beach is not exactly where I imagined us being this evening. Our place for the night, the Arlington, looks good though, real nice reviews so far. I sort of anticipated being out toward the mountains on this first day, and it is beginning to worry me that it’s going to take a lot of money to get us all the way to Alberta.

I’ll need to get Grandma into her wheelchair and into the room. She’s not very strong so this is always a challenging part of the day. I can tell she’d be willing to sleep in the car if push comes to shove, but I wouldn’t do that to her. She’s a trooper but I’m not taking advantage of her, wouldn’t even think of it.

Of course, if everything was different, if Soh Ju was not hot to find me and I only had to take care of Grandma, I would have looked for something like the Hotel Gardena. It’s Japanese-owned, which means it’s really well run and full of nice touches that are good for elder care. The toilets have bidets, which would be a huge break. And even if that doesn’t do the trick, the shower heads are the flexible handheld kind, making it really easy to clean someone.

Well, I hope the Arlington at least serviceable. I’m getting uneasy reading the reviews on the second page – surely there are no bed bugs if the reviewers have complained – but I can’t change the reservation now. It’s non-refundable, and besides, traffic is moving again.

Traffic is people, I like looking around and seeing what’s out there. I like these big SUVs that dominate the road. So large and safe, and probably comfortable. I’ve got a bit of a cold and my right leg is about to cramp – we keep stopping and starting, and it’s wearing my legs out. I can’t get careless, though, not with Grandma in the car.

I watch her from the mirror. Sometimes I remember how she got me into rehab and I get a little teary. I don’t really want her to go, to die. I’m not ready. At the time, no one else was looking after me; my ex-wife wouldn’t even be speaking to me until two years after the divorce. With my brother in Calgary, I was alone except for Grandma and ready to fall apart.

Hang on, I see the Memory Hole Public Storage sign and I know I’m almost to the exit before the exchange. There’s a bumper on the road and lanes closed ahead. Getting off now is lucky timing; thanks Grandma.

(No, I’m not crazy. I talk like this, even at the poker table when I run hot. I believe in gratitude.)

The sky is warm and rosy in the evening when I pull off on Wardlow and immediately see the bright red top-down Cadillac of Mwin Stache, Soh Ju’s right-hand man, staking supervisor, debt collector and tournament lover pulling out of the Italian donut shop on the corner of Cameron.

Mwin’s fierce bald head shines in the late day Pacific sun and my heart sinks into my scrotum.

Dread. This might be a very short road trip, I think, as I follow my heart’s lead, sinking into my car seat as deep as I can.

Grandma, can you save me one more time? Save us?

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