Half Memory North America

Buddy can you spare a dime?

Los Angeles: 34.052242, -118.251919

He said to wait outside.
In the hot smog outside the tall glass bank, a thin man with a grey beard says, “Buddy can you spare a dime.”
My father comes out of the bank relieved. “Sorry,” he says, “For all I knew they might have had a bunch cops waiting in there for me. Look at this, American dollars!”

20 Bucks For 20 Minutes

West Hollywood: 34.096254, -118.358733

At the bathroom sink, I try to turn the tap but knock over a small bottle of something, maybe mascara. All around the taps is crowded with bottles, tubes and jars and the basin is streaked with beige and black, red and blue tones. Glancing over at the bath tub every corner is also crowded with shampoos, conditioners and washers. The top of the toilet, every flat surface, even the corners of the floor near the bathtub is crowded with containers and cosmetics. How can they afford all this? They only want to be actresses. They aren’t yet. I carefully put the mascara back, not wanting to disturb anything, turned on the tap and washed my hands. Back in the living room I rolled up the sleeping bag and Dad came and said, “Here’s some money, go up the shop and buy some milk.”
And he added when he was closer, “Hey, ah, could you stop boiling eggs? The girls are a bit worried about their electricity bills.”
“Ok. What should I eat then?”
“I don’t know, that’s just what they asked so don’t. Maybe just boil a few, instead of one at a time.”
I went out the front door, out the front gate, and up the road. I knew the actresses didn’t like me but it seemed stupid. I knew they thought I was perving at them and they thought that was creepy, but they were wrong. They were just ridiculous. Like when they were getting ready for that party and one of them came out all worried about her hair which was wrapped up with a bit of cloth into long tube sprouting out the top so it looked like a palm tree. She was asking everyone to say whether it looked good or not, but Dad told me I couldn’t say what I thought. Why don’t they just wear what they want to anyway. Who cares? There as a wire coat hanger on the ground, so I picked it up and started bending it. Years ago my brother brought home shanghai’s he’d made with my best friends older brother. They’d made them from coat hangers, bent and folded into the shape of a Y, then wrapped in electricians tape. They’d linked together rubber bands, doubling and tripling them up, attached to a small bit of leather to put the stone in. They were strong and hard to pull back. Lethal. I tried to make them but couldn’t make them nearly so well. So I bent the coathanger into a Y shape, remembering the mulberry trees over at their house and how they were covered in spider webs in summer with spiders as big as my hand in them. The first corner took me to the main road, one block away, Sunset Boulevard. There were three lanes of traffic in each direction and the smog was so thick you could see it just looking straight across the road. There was nothing fancy about Hollywood. I dodged the traffic across to the shops and bought a carton of milk.
I was back on our quiet street coming home, when a red convertible passed by and pulled aside to park a few cars ahead of me. It was a rich car, shiny red and with white seats. As I was passing by the man driving it turned to look at me and said, ‘Hey kid.’
Being polite, I paused. He had long black hair and was wearing sunglasses, and his shirt was unbuttoned to show a gold medallion resting on his hairy chest. I couldn’t tell if he was dressed up like a joke from the 70s or for real. “Yes?” I said.
“Do you want 20 bucks?”
“Um. No.”
“You don’t want 20 bucks? 20 bucks for 20 minutes.”
I kept walking.
“It’s a dollar a minute. Easy money.”
I kept walking, glad it was only a few more houses down to our gate. I went in the gate, relieved he hadn’t followed me. I didn’t want to go inside yet, unless my father saw there was something wrong and I didn’t yet know what I wanted to say about it. But I didn’t want to stay where he could see me if he drove past, I looked at the ground and knelt down so he wouldn’t see me over the hedge. What could I have done if he’d grabbed me? What if he’d pulled me into the car? What could he have done? Did he really only mean 20 minutes or would I have ended up dead somewhere? He must do that because he’s done it before. Does he just drive around from place to place asking kids if they want 20 bucks? Who would say yes? If he keeps doing it must be because sometimes someone does. What could I have done? I remembered I was holding the coathanger wire. I could have bent it and broken it and stabbed him. Crouching there, I saw some ants crawling. Worried only about getting their crumbs and taking them home. They don’t care about any of this. If Dad came out and saw me and asked what I was doing there on the ground I would just say I was watching the ants.


Texas Panhandle: 35.0376503,-101.2065623

After waking in another truck stop in the cold morning, after an hour or so of driving across flat open pale grasslands, the James Taylor tape reaches it’s end and automatically clicks over to the other side. As Sweet Baby James plays the road is suddenly lined on each side with leafless crystal trees, shining silver in the morning sun. We stop for a break at a truckstop. After taking a piss I walk over beyond the carpark to figure out the trees and snap off a twig from a branch that’s reaching over the fence. A half centimetre of clear ice, melted and refrozen and layered in frost again surrounds the dark wooden core.

Shocks Gone On The Causeway

Louisiana: 30.044031, -90.355081

The road changed to a long cement causeway, elevated a few meters above a long stretch of water. “We’re coming into New Orleans.”
“Put on the Animals.”
Dad put my tape in player and House of the Rising Sun started playing.
The rear of the old brown Chevy station wagon started rocking up and down. There were joins in the cement and every time the car bounced up and down, and at the speed we were going the car hit another one just at the right time to bounce up even further in a rhythm.
“The shock absorbers have gone.” B said.
The car was bouncing up and down so much the rear started hitting the ground.
“Slow down. It’s the rhythm. You’ve got to get the right speed.”
“Like this. This is too slow. I’ll piss of the other drivers. They’re passing us.”

New Orleans Cool

Bourbon Street: 29.955468, -90.068467

A young man sat leaning on a second floor corner balcony overlooking the crossroads watching the people pass in the street lights and neon signs where the songs from different zydeco and jazz bands in different bars collided. He wore just the blue grey waistcoat and pants of a suit with no jacket and a shirt, seated on a stool with his lean muscular arms resting on the railing to look down. Was he there for the benefit of tourists, looking like he stepped out of another time, or was he really that cool, just presiding over his place?

Guys and Dolls at the Y

YMCA, New York: 40.744380, -73.996309

In our room at the YMCA I finished another Damon Runyon story, one about a guy with a nickname ‘Feet’ because his feet were too big, who sold his body to a doctor before he was dead and the doctor wanted to collect. I went to the window and looked down at the flat grey roof of the next building and the brown brick walls. Looking to the right, far down in the street, I noticed one of the shops was a pizza shop. There was a story in the newspaper where some mothers of some kids who’d died of a drug overdose banded together and caught the dealer. One of the mothers worked in a pizza shop so they put the dealer in the pizza oven and cooked him to death. It could be that same pizza shop down there. We had seen the statue of liberty and Wall St. We’d seen where the rich people live and I’d left the cheesecutter hat Pop gave me in a diner. I left the room and wound my way around the corridors to the toilet. Making my way to the end of the urinal I glanced left at the cubicles, and there with the door wide open was an old man sitting on the toilet jerking off. I only caught a glimpse because I looked away straight away. I was confused for a moment. Did I really see that? Why didn’t he close the door? Is he going to get me? With people around? In that brief impression he didn’t look menacing at all, just very sad and I needed to piss and didn’t know where there was another toilet, so I stepped back to a point at the urinal where he couldn’t see me and pissed. As I went back, at an intersection of corridors, coming along another corridor and turning at the corner a woman came, dressed only in a small white towel wrapped around her chest and just reaching her legs. In a place like this, I thought, wandering around only in a towel, it’s as if she wants to be raped, but that doesn’t make sense, rape means you don’t want it. Could she want sex with just anyone? Straight away with the first person who saw her? What if it was that old pervert? Does the danger give her a thrill? Or did it mean she was a prostitute? But who here could afford a prostitute? Thinking again it could also be a man. I didn’t see her face. She was very tall. Maybe a man looking like a woman.
Back in our room I went to the window and looked out again. A warm breeze blew up in my face. At the Empire State building one of the signs explained that people who try to commit suicide by jumping off the top are often saved by a strong updraft, strong enough to sweep the weight of a human body up and onto a ledge. The plaque sounded as if it was a good thing they were saved, but if their life was that bad they would kill themselves, wasn’t it cruel to make them live it? I took away their choice. Wouldn’t they feel ashamed that they had failed even at this last thing they ever wanted to do? That would be about the most embarrassing thing that could happen to somebody who already felt that bad about themselves. I could picture a suicide saved in this way thanking God for the miracle of lifting them onto that overhanging ledge and giving them a second chance. But it seemed more like God’s cruel joke. On the other hand the grim determination of those who jumped again was terrifying to think about. To have the surprise of being lifted up and surviving despite everything. To be given a second chance that you didn’t want, to have to think over that final decision all over again. And to decide again without a doubt. But then also, if most people didn’t jump the second time, that meant most people who killed themselves made a mistake. If they could think over it again they wouldn’t do it. I looked down at the concrete. Imagine taking that one final decision. Actually making that step. You’d swallow your breath for a moment. There’d be a few moments, enough time to realise what you had done before you hit the ground. What if you thought at that moment it was a mistake? One you couldn’t take back. What thought would you have in that one brief final moment, with no more thoughts to come, that you could not say to anyone? And when you hit the ground, at what angle would it be, which bones would break, would you die instantly, or would you be lying there in extreme pain for a little while before your life dribbled out?
I tore a page out of my notebook, made a paper aeroplane and threw it. The updraft was good, lifting it higher and further over onto the grey roof. I tore out more pages and carefully ripped them around the edges to make spirals, like a Minties wrapper, and weighted the middle bit by scrunching it into a small ball and putting spit on it, dropping them out the window and watching them float up and back out of sight over the top of the building. One failed suicide after another flying up over the roof.

Authentic Replica

Boston: 42.351864, -71.051126

The sign in front of the boat said, “Authentic replica.” I cracked up laughing.
“What are you laughing at?” Dad said.
“That sign, ‘Authentic replica.'”
“That doesn’t make sense, doesn’t that mean, like ‘original copy’, I mean, like, ‘real fake’? It just says everything about America. I can’t believe they put that.”

Ocean Of Grass

Montana: 48.086313, -111.893236

The hills were low and undulating like waves, and on them the tall stalks of young green wheat swayed in the wind, rippling like those smaller waves you see on the waves of the sea. There hadn’t been any sign of human habitation for hours, just the two lane road cutting through the ocean of grass. I couldn’t remember at what point it had started being just green fields and nothing else, and it showed no sign of having an end. The sun was getting low and there was something by the road up ahead, an old wooden shack. We pulled over. Dad went in first to check no-one was already there. I followed close behind, trying to tread quietly on the creaking boards, listening. Half the roof had fallen in, and half the floorboards were broken. We set up a small cooking fire inside and ate our baked beans looking at the stars through the roof. Lying there waiting to sleep the air was cool and there was nothing around but the wind and the grass and I wondered if the owner of the place might come, or someone would see our car and I’d wake in the middle of the night and see a silhouette against the sky and not know what kind of person it was.

Can Can

Dawson City: 64.061565, -139.430286

At the front counter of the old style saloon hall the ticket man was in discussion with my father. I wasn’t allowed in, too young. Over 18s only. Adult show. I stopped listening and waited. To avoid staring rudely at the women in 19th century corsetry and feathers I looked out the door at the dirt road, wondering where I’d wander to kill however many hours they were in there. Maybe out of town up the road in the hills. When they finished the discussion, Dad said they wouldn’t budge and wouldn’t let me in and they’d only be a few hours, we’d meet back at the car later on and he went in. With nowhere in particular to go I stood a moment and slowly started to walk out but before I could leave, one of the women, walking by, said quietly to me go round the side. She looked over her shoulder, gave a smile and was gone. I went out the door and around to the side where there was just an alley and a tall stair case leading up to a closed door. I stood there wondering if I’d understood correctly and why I should go round the side anyway. Which side? I wasn’t sure if I should go up that staircase since it was out in the open and if anyone saw me they’d wonder what I was doing climbing up there to a locked door and coming down again. Just as I was deciding I hadn’t heard properly, and to walk away wondering what she had really said and why, the door opened. A woman with a tall red feather in her blond hair looked out and waved me up. So I did understand. I climbed up the steps trying not to look at her garter. She put her hand on my shoulder to draw me inside the door. She leaned toward me, pointing down towards the stage, held her hand up to tell me to stay put and ran off. From up there, in the dark where the audience couldn’t see me I watched the chorus line troop out and dance the can can. When it was over, she came back in a hurry, sweat on her arms, and chest, and on her forehead, and above her lip, and she pushed me out the door into the daylight. It was the kindest thing anyone had done to me in a long time but I couldn’t get a word out of my mouth to say, ‘Thankyou’. I wandered up into the hills behind Dawson and looked down on the town.

Chicken And A Wolf

Chicken: 64.073134, -141.938451

We crossed over the border from Canada into Alaska and stopped at a little place called Chicken. Where we stopped there wasn’t anything but a small pub. Maybe that’s all Chicken was. The car pulled up. It was made of wood, built on the side of a steep slope looking out over an evergreen wooded valley. There were utes parked. Dad said to wait in the car so I waited a long time till I got bored and went inside. There was only a couple of people there, old guys. Grey beards. Dad was playing pool, looking drunker than he’d usually get. That’s probably why he’d let me sit there too long. I wasn’t sure what to do. Someone said, “No kids.” I went and sat on a stool at the bar. An short Indian man in a blue shirt and grey hat came over to me but said nothing. He didn’t look happy. I didn’t know what he wanted.

“That’s his stool.” said the man at my left with the long grey beard.

“Oh, sorry.” I said and got off. But he waved his hand that I should stay. I didn’t want to take his seat but stayed because he said to and I didn’t know what else to do.

While I waited and watched the game the man with the grey beard quizzed me about my father.

“What do you think of you’re old man?”

“Um, I dunno.”

“What do you think of your old man?”

“Um, I dunno. He’s ok.”

“No I mean, what do you think. I’ll bet you think he’s a flake.”

“Um, I’m not sure. What’s a ‘flake’.”

“Oh you know, er, someone who’s going to go here and there, and do lot’s of different things.”

“Well yes.”

“Haa, ha ha! He thinks his dad’s a flake. Ahh ha ha!.” It didn’t seem fair to laugh like that, since I didn’t really know what a ‘flake’ was. I wanted to take it back.
When Dad had finished it was my turn to play against the Indian man. Pretty soon after the break I sank a ball. I was very pleased at myself. I could hold my own at a pool table. But the man said no, no and took the ball out. I didn’t know what was going on and looked around. He mumbled something I couldn’t hear. “What?” But he mumbled again. Finally, someone explained, “You’ve got to call your shots.” I went to the bar and asked Dad what that meant. “It means you have to say what pocket you’re aiming for before you sink it, or it doesn’t count.” It seemed unfair to me that a kid who didn’t know this special rule shouldn’t be granted a point. Then I felt like shit for thinking I should get special treatment like some kid. I should get over it and play on. I hardly sank a thing then. I would point with the cue where I was aiming, which I quickly gathered from my opponent was the way it was done if you didn’t like saying things out loud, but then kept forgetting and lost. We stayed only for as long as it took dad to finish his glass. The Indian man had taken his own stool back but after sitting there for a few minutes fell off it onto the floor and climbed back up onto it.

In the car Dad said, “I made a mistake back there. Every place has someone who thinks they’re the best at pool. They win against everyone at the pub and they think they can beat anyone who comes, but really, they’re not much good. You shouldn’t win against that bloke. It hurts his pride and he has to go on in that place having been beaten in his own place. I beat that fella too easy. He was pissed off.” I thought it’s a game and the point is to try to win. If you don’t it’s dishonest. And who would hang their pride on a game anyway?

Outside the window in the distance were mountains. The road was on an elevated stretch overlooking a vast expanse of tundra threaded by streams of crystal clear water splitting and rejoining across beds of grey stone. In the distance a grey-white spec was moving. I watched it for a while, and getting closer saw it was a wolf, trotting alone across the plain. It’s rare and lucky thing to see a wolf. I’d never seen one before. It was a clean and pure thing to see. I wanted to be standing out there alone, far away from anybody’s worries, far from the road, away out of sight in the open tundra, listening to the wind and watching the pure cold water flow.


Tijuana: 32.519871, -117.001152

Low sun, yellow in the hot dust and car exhaust. Cars lined up, stalled in all directions. Telegraph wires, glinting windscreens and mirrors. People walking. Cars edging along. Horns honking. Buildings half built. Buildings half broken.

Salt Beef

Sonora Desert: 31.522735, -112.723657

Nothing for hours in the desert until a small single story building with a flat roof on the side of the road. Might not be another for just as long again. Inside we order enchiladas. Nothing but tough salt beef wrapped in an tortilla and a coke to away the salt. Hard to chew. Hard to swallow.

Heaven and Hell

Tropical Highlands 21.056812, -104.227889

Winding up the mountains. Lush jungle, broad green and wet palms. Vendors on the side of the road selling coconuts and softdrinks. The road just keeps winding higher and higher, and disappears into mists and fog. Suddenly we break free above the clouds, pull over to the side of the road and get out. Below us, stretching out all the way to the horizon is an undulating layer of cloud. Another terrain floating above the world. “It’s like heaven.” I say. Strange to have said something.
“So where’s hell?” Dad asks.
“Tijuana.” Everyone laughs, even the two daughters. Strange to have made a joke. Strange for people to laugh. When did I last made a joke? Can’t remember. This view, these jungle highlands, is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. The fresh air fills my nostrils, fills my chest, fills me. Beautiful. A place to stay and live, just breathing that pure, cool, moist air and making inventory of the different kinds of leaves and seeing what insects crawl on them. We get back in the car.

The Sound Of Birds At Dusk

Guadalajara: 20.674860, -103.341353

The sky is orange and blue. The air is temperate. We are on our way to see a mariachi band, walking on the footpath under a simple colonnade with low wide arches. There is the sound of a flock of birds, each screeching, but there are no birds to be seen, just a tall, round tree. The leaves are broad, thick and dark green and nothing can be seen in their shadows. Inside the tree there is just the fluttering and deafening scream of countless hidden birds.

Acapulco Diving

La Quebreda: 16.845971, -99.915251

Walking down steps after steps down the cliff, from there to watch the divers leaping from the cliff, tumbling, splashing into the sea and climbing up again, each out doing the other. S is shining in her white blouse and blond hair in the bright sun. She starts to sway, gripping the railing. She almost collapses, managing to sit instead. “Are you alright.” her mother says, kneeling down to her. “The heats’ got to her.” Dad says and, picking her up, carries her up the steps. In a resort bar at the top we sit in the cool on a lounge. She sips at a cold drink, regaining her strength. Other people have strange cocktails. How can they keep the alcohol in such well defined layers, stripes of red, blue, brown, orange, white? Why don’t they mix when you pour one into the other? They have slices of fruit and umbrellas sticking out of them. I always wanted one of those little umbrellas.


Acapulco: 16.847921, -99.907896

On a footpath by the beach, just me and S, walking together, 3 boys pass by and make some comments about her in Spanish, smiling and nudging each other. One of them says something right to her. We don’t know what he said but we know what he meant. For a moment I think I might have to fight them, but they keep walking, looking back, laughing. They are all a little bit shorter than us. Seem too young for machismo.

Decoding Sign Language

Roads in Yucatan Peninsula: 18.833393, -90.754556

I haven’t spoken to anyone for a long time. I don’t know how to any more. How do people know what to say?
Looking out the window, palm trees, tall grasses, small huts with rounded ends, pastel walls, chickens scratching in dirt patches fenced in with sticks and cacti, a palm leaf roof and a coconut vendor under it. Wouldn’t it be good to stop for a bit, to have some coconut, sniff the air, taste the dust on the wind, the humidity on the skin, but on and on the car drives. Picking at the wart on my right index finger till it bleeds. It bleeds and a scab forms and picking another scab away bares another layer of wart. “Stop picking yourself. It’ll get infected.” Dad says from behind the wheel. Don’t know how he noticed me picking in the back seat if he’s watching the road. “Well, that’ll get rid of it.” I reply. “Yeah, it might get rid of you too.” he says. How else is there to get rid of it, except by picking it off? Otherwise it would just grow and grow. It’s disgusting and satisfying at the same time. I’ll get it all eventually. It must gross out the girls though so I stop.
The two girls beside me are gesticulating. Making signs with their hands. Each taking turns. It’s sign language. Where did they learn sign language? What are they talking about. Looking out the window, the most common letter in English is ‘e’. ‘The’ is a common word. And they are probably talking about me. Otherwise why talk in secret? I watch out of the corner of my eye whenever they sign. S sometimes has to go slower or repeat for C, which makes it easier for me. I get the ‘e’ and because it’s the second finger of the hand, and they often also point to their other fingers, I get all five vowels, and because ‘s’ is like an ‘s’ with pinkie fingers linked, and some other letters look like the letter, and ‘h’ and ‘t’ because ‘the’ is common, and from that I get half of what they are saying and the rest is filling in the blanks. I try not to let them see I’m watching and don’t tell them, but they figure it out. They make me show them the alphabet and I run through it with my own hands.
They have horses. Their father must be rich. C has a pinto and S has a palomino. My favorite colouring is bay. C’s horse bit her once. It hurts. They can be mean to each other. A bad horse will try to bite another on it’s withers. That’s the bit of the spine between the shoulder blades. A horse can kill another horse by biting its withers. They feed them hay dipped in treacle for a treat. They explained you have to comfortably fit your fingers between the saddle strap and the horse or it’s too tight. They explained the Western style of having the reins is hanging loose. There is a kind of horse called a Trakehner that was bred somewhere up near Russia, on the sea. It has some Arab in it. Arabs are beautiful horses. And some draught horse for strength. There was a war and they had to escape by swimming across the water. Only a few survived. Only the strongest. It’s from those few that all the Trakehner’s today come from. I draw a horse in my sketch book. It looks all wrong but I don’t know why. They say the rider is too big, the feet shouldn’t be down below the stomach. I draw a bay horse without a rider. It’s better but there’s still something wrong with it’s stomach. I draw silhouettes of Etruscan horse sculptures.


Mexico: 19.420737, -99.176431

Stopping at the lights kids come up with trays of small packets of chewing gum as always, chanting ‘Chiclets, chiclets, chiclets!’ If these kids can, then maybe I could leave, go on my own and make a living selling chiclets. It’s called economies of scale, where you get a discount for buying in bulk and sell individual packets for more than they cost. That’s how you profit. Where do they get the boxes? Do they have to pay protection money to some chiclet boss?

Plaza In The Sky

Monte Albán: 17.042106, -96.768164

The guidebook explains some things. Monte Albán, the Zapotec capital, is one of the oldest cities in Mesoamerica founded around 500BC and lasting for 1000 years, it is not known why it was abandoned. It is at the crest of a mountain commanding views across broad valleys on all sides, surrounded by ranges.
In the middle of the valley the land reaches upwards and we climb to walk in the plaza in the sky. The light is so clear and bright sometimes everything is saturated with flashes of red and blinking, floods of blue. There are black eagles and white clouds, black and orange wasps, green crickets, and yellow and blue lizards scuttling over the cut stone. In the open space you can clearly hear someone explaining Monte Alban from the top of the towering steps.
In the middle of the perfect right angled and symmetrical layout of the site, the observatory is skewed into acute and obtuse angles. Rounding some corners, there are entrances, either raised on a terrace or recessed into the ground, leading only a few steps deep before turning into a hidden darkness, suggesting that those who enter soon find them self lost in a confused labyrinth of chambers and corridors. The angles of the observatory don’t align with human plans. They align to other other things, the motion of the sun, moon and planets and the gods inside, gods of darkness.

Throwing A Shoe

Something wakes me. A sound. A movement. Lying on my side, the covers over my cheek, I don’t move but listen. The room is faintly visible, bluish grey. To my back are the two other beds where the girls are sleeping and beyond the foot of bed on the other side of the room is Dad and M. It’s there the sound is coming from. A quiet repeated rustling of sheets. A barely stifled sigh. They are doing it again. I try to ignore it, hoping the girls don’t notice, but I can’t. I remains still but tense with rage, listening. They become a little noisier. In a while I hear another sound. It’s S stirring in her bed and I know she’s awake and she hears it too. I can’t stand it. I can handle it if it’s just me, but not somebody else. Not these girls, so beautiful, innocent and pure. I have to do something. I quietly reach down beside my bed and pick up one of my sneakers. Lifting my head just a little I steal a look to take aim. She is lying on her side, facing me and he’s behind her. I put my head back down and concentrate everything, all the hate, into that shoe, and looking up again, and fling it at them. It hits her right in the gut. A perfect shot. I go back under the covers. They fall silent and say nothing, but don’t start up again.


When everyone is out of hearing for a moment, she says quietly, ‘Thanks’. Finally, I did something. It’s the greatest thing I ever did. Noble.

Christmas Gifts

Christmas morning. It’s a much nicer place to stay. There’s a living room with bedrooms coming off it and a courtyard surrounded by high walls topped with shards of broken bottles set in concrete. The girls get white blouses with Mexican embroidery. I get guide books for ancient sites Chichen Itza and Tulum and a collection of old Mexican coins set on cardboard.

Chac Mool

At the summit of the pyramid Chac Mool reclines, knees hitched up, holding a tray over his stomach ready to accept offerings. Connecting two parts of the site a path winds through the jungle. Half way along the path two boys have a strange animal, some kind of anteater, strung upside down by it’s feet from a branch. They look strangely at the tourists passing. I don’t understand what they mean to do with it, or what they expect from the tourists. One of them picks up a stone, preparing to throw it at the animal.

Knott’s Berry Farm vs. Frank Sinatra

“Let’s vote on it.” Dad said. “We can either go to Knott’s Berry Farm, or see Frank Sinatra in Las Vegas. He’s pretty old. It might be the last chance anyone ever gets to see one of the greatest singers of all time.”
M and Dad vote for Sinatra. The girls vote for Knott’s Berry Farm.
“It’s up to you then. Which is it?”
He has a good point, that it’s a chance that might never come again, to see Sinatra. Don’t know much about him, but he’s big. But fuck him. Let’s make the girls happy. “Knott’s Berry Farm.”
“Jesus.” he turns around complaining, “Only the last chance to see Old Blue Eyes, the great Sinatra, a living legend.”
… There’s a ride running on a long yellow track, like a roller coaster except it doesn’t nothing but go miles in the air at each end with one loop in the middle. It’s one of the most terrifying rides in the park. It’s one that her friend told her about in Australia, one of the reasons she wanted to come here. S and I both go on it, but C doesn’t. It’s just me and her. Sitting next to each other. The ride starts. She’s flying home after this. Next week she’ll be back at her rich private girl’s school in her straw hat, white blouse and long navy blue skirt. It’s my last chance. The last chance I might ever have to let her know. The ride cranks backwards up the track, getting ready for the plunge down. Our hands are gripping the railing as the ground clunks further and further away. I should just move my hand over to the right. Till they are touching. Put my hand on hers. Then she would know. Though it might scare her. It might annoy her, or disgust her. When the ride lets go and we plummet through the loop. It’s my last chance ever to touch her. And she’d know I love her. The ride releases and we plunge to the earth, through the loop and up the other side, and back again. More than once. We’ll be on opposite sides of the world tomorrow.