This little snippet appeared in an ancient box of files, 35 years after it was written. I was holed up in San Clemente, writing the Computing Across America book, and posts to my online community on CompuServe had slowed to a trickle. (Writing about writing gets old after a while, especially when it comes on the heels of almost 10,000 miles of wild bicycle adventure.) This was posted, after a long silence, from the trenches of my makeshift office on the second floor of a dreadful rooming house on El Camino Real… known locally as the Ha-Ha House.
by Steven K. Roberts
March 11, 1985
I’m like, so embarrassed. The last update seems impossibly remote, part of another life. I fled Palm Desert for the imagined languor of the coast, and have somehow ended up in San Clemente.
Odd place. The long-imagined California mystique is not much in evidence here, for this is a hotbed of Orange County conservatism ― a place of church, Republicans, Marines, stress, well-funded retirement centers, domestic violence, money, surfers, drugs, punks, and a scattered seasonal singles community.
I don’t particularly like it.
But that’s all outside my window anyway. I am so immersed in the book that I’m experiencing a sort of literary provincialism; anything not in the book is irrelevant and of uncertain reality. That would be dangerous if the book were not so universal in scope. My task, you see, is to be the reader’s mushroom — to elevate my travels from movement to metaphor without losing the sweat.
It’s not easy, but it’s working. It is taking me as much as the trip itself — and as you have already noticed if you are a regular reader of my irregular ramblings, it has taken over the computer as well. Sorry about that.
(Yeah, I can just see it. You select “The Latest Update,” note immediately that it is *still* from Palm Desert, curse at me, and then wait for an interminable 300-baud terminal screen while your control-C oozes slowly through the mud of Tymnet. Unless you’re on a real CIS node. I’m not.)
Anyway, San Clemente is an odd place for an experience of consciousness expansion. Hardly a day goes by without words or blows of hostility echoing on the street. I’ve seen three fights between couples, one involving a 10-inch knife. I’ve listened to a tormented soul stand outside his locked apartment door, shaking with rage and withdrawal, screaming at his girlfriend, “I am NOT a drug addict!” I’ve seen punks of all hair colors — not bona fide nihilists at all but teenagers in costume. And every Sunday night down the block there’s a spirited round of faith-healing, across the street from old-folks bingo.
Yeah. Odd place. I’m living 90% in memory and magic, 10% in the here and now. (Isn’t it odd that the big lesson of the former is the latter?)
So that’s why I’ve been slow about updating. Thanks for bearing with me.
And now, fifteen of the 59 chapters remain… then again the road, the Other Woman, lying out there awaiting the long slow kiss of my tires. It’s been too damn long.