Since Friday, I've spent 41 hours in Seattle and 38 in Southern California, along with 30 total hours of travel time. I say this to explain why, despite the cliff-hanger of my last post, I have been silent for almost an entire week. I duly apologize to all 11 of my readers.
Sadly, my full schedule prevented me from fulfilling my duties as a father. I learned this Tuesday, when the following discussion took place:
Jawa: (glum) Hi, dad.
Me: Hi, Jawa. How are you doing?
Jawa: Sparky's dead.
Me: (empathetic, but still noticing that it's kind of funny to dive right into "Sparky's dead" without any kind of setup) Oh, no! I'm sorry.
Jawa: She had heart disease.
Me: (thinking, "Well, I guess that's appropriate, given that it runs in the Another Lefthander side of the family.") How are you doing?
Jawa: (thinks about it) I'm okay.
Jawa: I want to get another hamster in two and a half weeks. I'm going to name him Fiesta. Or James.
When I finally returned home, after seven hours driving up I-5 in the dilapidated Subaru, fighting sleep the entire way, the Jawa met me at the door and said, "Dad, I'm sorry to say that Sparky is no more."
So there you have it. Sparky is no more. Well spent was the $160 to euthanize her in the Jawa's presence, rather than have someone at S. Bullock's sophisticated biotech employer do it for free. Sparky now lies in a shallow grave in the front yard, because the backyard is way too rocky and besides, is at a 45 degree angle. We joke that no one can break into our house from the back because we'd hear them fall off of the backyard, but we don't want a deceased Sparky rolling down into our bedroom one night unannounced.
All in all, this has been a good lesson for the Jawa. His introduction to the idea that living things die came in the person of a small white hamster whose death was not tragic and who suffered only for a few days. Sandra Bullock told me that the Jawa was brave and stoic at the vet's. "He was crying on the way there, but once we got there he was very helpful, telling the vet what he'd seen and how she was acting," said Bullock.
Now Sparky's corner is quiet. We've saved her Crittertrail Revolution (the gigantic exercise wheel / cage that we bought when she got too big for her original wheel), and her food and bedding sits, waiting to serve Fiesta or James in two-and-a-half weeks.
My trips are complete. We flew to Seattle and wished the extremely tattooed Butter Goats a happy 40th birthday, then I drove the dilapidated Subaru to Los Angeles to interview a famous lawyer for a magazine article. I had to eschew my usual jeans and black t-shirt uniform for the Century City-based meeting, on the good advice of Roger A. Hunt, Esq., who informed me that "Century City is the epicenter of all L.A. lawyers." Good on you, Hunt!
And I am reminded again of how strange and yet strangely compelling Los Angeles is. Bathed in smog, surrounded by traffic-choked freeways, L.A. is a jungle. Yet its harshness is easily forgotten in the presence of its blinding glamour. Two blocks away the Crips are fighting it out with the Bloods, but on this stretch of Pico, high-powered attornies are guarding famous people's secrets. Fascinating, but also very easy to leave.
I arrived home last night covered in the grit of automobile travel. This was the Subaru's final long trip. 1000 miles in 54 hours is a young car's game, not the domain of a vehicle that makes strange grinding noises every time you steer left.
It would be cold and inhuman to compare the Subaru's slow decline to that of the beloved Sparky, but I have to admit that this is one vehicle whose best days are behind it. We bought it three weeks after the Jawa was born because S. Bullock's aging Corolla was suddenly too small. Its first road trip was Seattle to Portland, a few weeks after that. We have pictures. One I remember was taken on a Portland side street. It shows a young, smiling, post-partum Sandra Bullock, lying on her side in the back of the Subaru, having just fed the infant Jawa, who lies next to her, still mostly with pink, ambiguous baby features but unmistakeably already the Jawa.
Back then, the Subaru was a shining symbol of our new adult life. It was solid, safe and grown-up, the automobile equivalent of the big green couch we'd bought to replace our collegiate living room futon.
Nine years later, we no longer need a big station wagon. We live in San Francisco, so don't really need all-wheel-drive, either. That part of our life is over, and feeling the poor old Subaru struggle to get up I-5 in the heat was no fun.
So will Fiesta's trip home come in the Acura, the Subaru, or some as-yet-undetermined vehicle. Dad, can you chime in here?