Tonight we went to ground at the Holiday Inn in the tiny town of Le Bec, California. The town is barely a wide spot along the freeway at the top of the Grapevine, the single highway route that connects LA and its harbor to the great agricultural Central Valley. The heart of Le Bec’s economy is servicing the big rig trucks that haul farm produce south out of the San Joaquin Valley, and haul imports north out of the harbor. In both directions, the trip can be difficult. The Grapevine is a precipitous, and quite spectacular, passage over the Tehachapi Mountains, vulnerable to weather, landslides, earthquakes, and vehicular mishaps of every variety. The route was closed earlier this week when a freak rainstorm sent a wall of mud cascading down onto the highway, choking off this essential link for a few days. And reopened as quickly as possible.
Usually, we drive straight through here on our trips to Southern California. But, like many of the truckers, we decided to stop overnight so that we could time our entry down into the great, congested, bloody pain in the arse nexus of LA freeways during the elusive, dare I say mythic, traffic gap between morning rush hour and afternoon gridlock so we can get to our destination in Orange County without too much psychic wear and tear, and before my grandson goes down for his afternoon nap. In theory, the trip should take about two hours. With traffic, we could double, triple, quadruple the time.
We had no expectations for the night, other than finding dinner somewhere and the usual Holiday Inn accommodations. But the enterprise around trucking here is truly interesting. There must be a hundred big rigs in the travel center lot across the street. Big rigs line the road in front of our hotel and fill the graveled field at the end. Gas, repairs, towing, food, free Wi-Fi, a movie, a shower and a nap, or a hotel room, and then the truckers are back out on the road. We found a terrific family-owned Mexican restaurant next door, from which we watched trucks begin streaming out of town toward the onramp to reach the LA Basin after bedtime for other commuters. Equal numbers pour in off the highway to take their parking places. I think there’s story material here. Of course there is.
Other than grandchild cuddling and spoiling, the purpose of our foray into the Southland is to join fellow contributors to Jewish Noir, an anthology edited by Kenneth Wishnia, for a series of stellar events. The first event is Thursday evening at Book Soup in West Hollywood, followed by a discussion Saturday afternoon, at 2:00, at the Brentwood Library. Sunday morning at 10:30 we head down to Book Carnival in Tustin, and then immediately race down to San Diego to regroup at Mysterious Galaxy at 2:00. Some of the authors who conspired to write Beat, Slay, Love will also be at Mysterious Galaxy Sunday, so there will be a regular feast of writers. The following week we’ll be in the San Francisco Bay Area, and writerly camaraderie and merriment will continue. If you’re in the Bay Area, ask me for the schedule.
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