I really don’t quite trust what I am about to do here, but I’m going to do it. A few of you — a very few — know Road Angels, my 2002 book about travels down the West Coast. In it I tried something very different from my other books, both in tone and in content. I wanted to take a look at the American dream at the turn of the century; to paint a series of pictures of people and places from the Canadian to the Mexican border that, when added up, formed a snapshot of our national psyche as revealed by the coast that I call “the end of hope and the beginning of dream.”
The book received some strong critical praise, then disappeared like a stone in the ocean. But such is a writer’s life, and one moves on.
The reason I am going on this long prologue is because I am going to post here an unpublished section that was meeant for that book. It never got included because the length of the book necessitated cutting off the coastal journey at Big Sur. This has to do with La Conchita, California, which is just south of Santa Barbara. It is where the devastating mudslides are taking place.
The reason I say that I don’t quite trust this posting is because the tone seems insensitive in light of what those people are suffering. But it also seems tremendously relevant in a dark sort of way.
Know this as you begin: this piece was actually written in 1996. La Conchita had experienced devastating mudslides the year before, though without the loss of life.
What follows is the unpublished essay, “God’s Bowling Ball — La Conchita, 1996.” You are the only folks ever to have read it.