Aug 172011

A wrong turn bounces the borrowed car onto a riverbed of Old West cobblestones. Buildings around my bubble of idling modernity exchange their sheets of non-committal waterfall glass for wooden faces straight out of a John Wayne movie. I am lost in an antique downtown scissored into a maze of one-way streets under the immense shadow of interstates overhead whose omnipresent ramps lay in wait to whisk the unwary explorer to unlabeled otherwheres in a wink. I have taken a wrong turn into the past, rolling into the Twilight Zone with a cracked windshield and a slipping transmission. This is a ghost-town, large as life and stuck like a sepia stamp onto this forgotten corner of downtown Sacramento. One lone cowpoke leans with leathery authority against a post outside the General Store. I can just see a pickle-barrel and bags of flour piled in the doorway’s shadows behind him. Next to the General Store there’s a blacksmith shop and livery stable, but no horses lounge at the hitching rail shooing flies. Perhaps the four-footed citizens of this past have been seduced onto the open road by the interstate’s hydra-headed entry ramps, just as I have been sluiced to the sidelines to find myself in this pond of the previous century-and-a-half–a pond so still its surface refuses to reflect the curious face bent close, for the tar-dark waters have been sprinkled with a fine, obscuring dust. I let the car decelerate the last mile-per-hour as if letting time out of the tires, dropping the reins until the old gal finds a spot to stop. I crane my neck and periscope around, disoriented and downtrodden. Worn saloon doors swing empty in the empty breeze. Time’s sandglass lies on its side, being without advancing. Perhaps there is something for me here; something in getting lost and in staying lost. Something in Old Sacramento where the wind plays with my untucked shirttail and my glasses slip on the sweat of my face. Something. I almost feel the false assurance of meaning patting my back. But then I realize, unstuck in time as I am, that I do not know where “here” is.

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