Some surprises I don’t like. A prime example involving my new van. Which explains why I wandered out of the live octopus display at the Monterey Bay Aquarium yesterday just to make sure. That the van was still there. It was. So was my bladder. Naturally, I hastened back inside. The real question, vis-à-vis surprises, being did I make it? After all, the psychodynamics of several million gallons of fluid circulating all around one in vast oceanic tanks, well, that sort of thing can have its effect. But not to worry. Back inside just in time. Reassured that the red Dodge was still where it had been the previous evening. As was I.

And were there surprises? Not the ones I feared. The centrifugal force of the curious 20 mile-per-hour cloverleaf junction of highways 156 and 101, well, that didn’t knock me out of driving position. Not at all. Of course, I had asked Jane to strap me in tighter than a rubber band around the Sunday Times. My torso could be thrown anywhere, but it wasn’t going anywhere, that was the thing. I was going north, and that was the other thing, the transition smooth as can be. And within moments I was in San Benito County, wasn’t I? And looking for the railway line, the one that conveys the Coast Starlight north and south. So where is it, this vital rail conduit? Couldn’t say. It appears at the last minute in a shallow canyon beside the motorway. But not for long. I must take it to Los Angeles, this line, before I am gone, or the line itself is gone, the latter being entirely possible. And what is marvelous is that I have enough mind left over to ruminate on these matters. Thus the new Dodge. And me, the Artful Dodger.

I even got the hang of the little warning lights built into the side mirrors. They tell the wary driver when a foreign object, such as a car, has crept up alongside. The blind spot now illuminated by this all seeing Dodge radar. While the old Southern Pacific line, now Union Pacific, drifts east and out of sight. But not of mind. As I say, the latter had neurons to spare, the fear level being sufficiently low, and many of these were devoted to the coast railway line. Note that this is the major conduit along the western edge of California. Note also that trains pass each other, going in and out of sidings, because some guy gets in a Union Pacific truck, drives to the nearest switch and turns the thing by hand. This is late 19th century stuff, please note.

In truth, my shoulder was beginning to hurt along about the last motorway junction. But never mind, there I was merging for the final time. The sense of the final time having been with me from the moment we pulled out of Monterey. That we did pull, then we rolled, and here we are home, parking. It’s over. But I am not. That is the miracle. And I can’t believe either fact.

But it’s time I did. I mean, I have made it this far. What did I expect?

Not everyone has a nice new red Dodge. Take the giant octopus, either one of them, on the ground floor of the Monterey Aquarium. The accompanying video explains, among other things, that octopi change color with emotion, that they recognize people through their suckers. One trainer they like, one they don’t. And they are highly intelligent. A baby one famously crept out of its tank at night and went marauding around the title pool displays, snatching the occasional crab and sea anemone. And they only live a few years, that is the sad thing. Very sad, to some of us. In fact, the mobility of the current octopi on display has something to do with their age, one aquarium staffer told us. The closer they get to breeding, the more jumpy they get. No wonder, they are also getting close to death. Jumping with fear? Jumping for joy? Or just jumping because they’re jumpy? I don’t know. It’s been a long day. I am jumping into bed.

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