101, Day 5

July 29: Redding, CA

I’m in the food court of a mall in suburban, small town America. It’s the morning, and most of the seats are empty, save for the tables occupied by local seniors in baseball caps with coiffed, freshly permed hair.  At the Chinese Gourmet Express, a blond-haired girl serves the number one Chinese combo bowl to a floral print lady. Meanwhile, two partially paralyzed teenagers are wheeled through. One starts screaming/howling, and the lady eating by herself behind her American Eagle bag and the portly boy waiting for his father quickly turn their glares. The father arrives, the lady crosses her legs. There are giant plastic fish hanging from the ceiling. Two girls try out the hurricane simulator: a metal tube where forced air blows their hair around, to the laughter of their friend waiting outside.

There was a heatwave in Redding. My cousin left for a conference in the morning, while my brother and I toured downtown Redding, which seems like one medium sized road. We met up for lunch at Olive Garden, where the unlimited servings of salads/soups/drinks was a reminder about the bottomless  possibilities to over-consume in America.

I’m at the Olive Garden. The young busboy at the other table is a cartoon caricature. He is that lanky teenager with oversized arms and lengthened legs, a hunch and a rhythm to his table wiping.

My brother joined my cousin in the afternoon for the conference while I hiked through Turtle Exploration Park.

Designed by Spain’s Santiago Calatrava, the sundial bridge is one of the city’s major attractions.

A swirling structure made out of branches. More importantly, some relief from the sun.

I walked for hours under the midday 38*C sun. Everything was so dry, save for the chocolate that had melted in my pocket.

I’m at Lim’s Diner, where the tagline reads: Chinese and American Food. Our waitress’ name could be Darlene, or Susan, or both. She tells the man at the bar that she used to work at Dennys, where cops would frequently show up. She says she ended up marrying one. “Lim” has recommended a “chow mein” for us. I eat a dry turkey dinner, with a ranch dressing salad with a few specs of vegetables. This place is trippy. I stay a while, alone, watching customers arrive and leave, watching the man beside me raise the soup spoon to his mouth ever so cautiously, watching the waitress tend to him like her father. Heading back to the motel, I pass a gun store that has a sale on jewellery.

Music: john denver – sunshine on my shoulders  |  ayub ogada – obiero


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