Monday, May 23, 2005

I don’t mean to paint a bad portrait of my sister. Her excellent qualities are always prevalent, but who wants to hear stories about intelligence, responsible behavior or relentless consideration for others? In my opinion, Julie’s neuroses -- while perhaps not entirely representative -- make for better entertainment.

Like this weekend. She’s going away on a camping trip with her mentoring program. Great. She’ll have a fun time, and I’ll get a respite from some of the regular family agita, right?

No such luck. She calls me Friday night. "Where’s Zuma Beach?" It’s in Malibu, I tell her. Yeah, she knows that. She’s driving up the Pacific Coast Highway, and her directions say that the road she should turn east onto is 10 miles from Zuma Beach.

I was trying to chill out after a long week. Tomorrow I’d enjoy the nice weather, hang with my friends, see the new Star Wars movie. But tonight I’d just relax, catch up on some reading. I had just ordered Chinese food.

So I quickly tell her Zuma Beach is at Kanan Dune Road. Something like that. Did she see Kanan-something Road?


That’s another thing -- her cellphone kept cutting out or dropping calls.

She rings back and I tell her: Kanan-something. Starts with a K. Like in kangaroo.

"K like in what?"

"Krazy! Kooky! Ko-dependent."

No, she just passed Pepperdine University. I tell her she’s got a ways to go.

Then she worries that Pacific Coast Highway is gonna be one of those cliff-side roads. That’s further up in northern California, I tell her. I’ve taken PCH to Santa Barbara and the road is often away from the beach. It’s never on the edge of a cliff, okay?

"What?" The phone drops out again.

So a minute later I repeat everything, and she’s onto her next worry: Well, what about this road she’s supposed to turn onto? Is that gonna be on the edge of a cliff?

No, it goes east! As in, inland. If it went west, it would go off a cliff into the ocean. But it goes east.

"Yeah, into the mountains!" She says, "Is it gonna be scary and steep?"

How should I know? I try to look it up on the internet, but can’t find a topographical chart. She’s nervous about driving in an unfamiliar hilly area in the dark. I bite my tongue from telling her she should’ve checked a map beforehand, or that she should’ve left before sundown. What I did tell her was that my kung pao was getting cold.

She lets me eat in peace… for a few minutes. Then she calls again. I know, I should’ve ignored the calls, but when she’s this neurotic, she’d keep calling, filling up my voicemail with rants. It’s better to address her concerns.

This time, she wants me to stay on the phone with her while she drives on this mountain road.

What the fuck?

That way, I’d know if she drives off a cliff, she says. It’s only three miles.

I sigh, and settle in to keep her company and use up more wireless minutes. She starts to say something... and her phone cuts out.

She doesn’t call back. When I try, there’s no answer.

So… does this mean she’s driven off a cliff? Should I worry? Nah, I’ll just assume there’s no cell reception in the mountains.

Easier said than done. I spend the whole night tossing and turning -- and it’s not just the kung pao keeping me up. Mike likes his chicken spicy and his evenings restful.

So what ensues is a series of messages on her cellphone:

"Julie, call me back as soon as you get this."

"Hey, I haven’t heard from you, and I’m starting to have these horrible visions of your car at the bottom of a hill crumpled into a ball and you inside battered and bruised with the hands-free remote still in your ear…"

"I don’t even know where you’re supposed to be going, who’s supposed to meet you. Who can I call? They probably don’t have reception either… Ahh, the hell with this. You’re all right. Yeah."

"Maybe I should drive up and look for you… but if it’s that dangerous… How long do I have to wait to call out a search party?"

"Damn you, Julie…"

And finally, the next morning:

"Okay, I called the Malibu Sheriff’s Department, the Malibu Police, and the L.A. County Highway Patrol, and no one’s heard of an accident in the area. I’m gonna assume you’re okay."

Saturday I do all the things I was gonna do. Revenge of the Sith is excellent. Makes me almost forget that awful Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. And the Situation with the Sibling.

Julie calls me Sunday, saying that she indeed was fine -- she had said so that night, but didn't know the phone cut her off. She finally got cell reception, got all my messages and apologizes profusely for making me worry. Julie feels terrible. If the tables were turned, she’d be upset, too.

"Yeah, yeah," I say. "I don’t care anymore. I was just gonna sell all your stuff on eBay. Quit my job and party on Zuma Beach all summer."


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