To Commerce Books

Commerce 9

by Thomas Edwards and Jacob Rhodes

Dear Oxnard,
     Its not you, its me. Lately Ive been seeing other cities. True, Ive come back to you many times. Youve always taken me back, from Ventura, Carpentaria, Goleta, London, Dublin, Kilkenney, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Culver City, Fukuwoka, Venice, S. Pasadena, Chinatown, Fairbanks, Colorado Springs, Ar Ramadi, Al Quim, Al Assad, Brooklyn, Skowhegan, New Haven, and Tong Du Chon. I feel like our time apart has brought about certain changes. . . We just havent changed in the same way.
     I cant overstate what you once meant to me, or how much I will always remember you.
     Ive written letters to all the things I love about you, and a few things Im not so crazy about. I drove through your streets the other day tracking some of our most memorable experiences together. I wanted to share them with you so that you would know I wont forget you.

Dear Pier,

     I came to you at night. I remember walking and seeing silent fishermen and looking in the sinks at the gruesome remains of their catches.
     Kissing girls in your shadow, you gave me a destination for late-night drives and a romantic view of the sparkling light of offshore oil rigs.

Dear Rock-side Hueneme Beach,
     We went to watch Dave smoke here. We listened to older kids talk of things exotic to us like drinking beer, Hard Core shows, fights, and girls.
     I watched a joint get passed here, but I never partook.
     Youre empty now, but you were always empty then. I first heard the Violent Femmes here.

Dear Bubbling Springs Park,
     From the age of five until the age of twelve, I would walk my old terrier here whenever I could. I remember how the distance seemed so great at the time that I would pack a bag with candy from Bill or sliced cheese. I will always remember your rich and black stinky mud that coated my legs to my knees and matted my dogs fur.
     We caught crawdads and guppies, and on other expeditions, released pet store turtles, leopard frogs, and various other alien fish.
     You were always my favorite walk to the beach, though you added distance. After every summer, the soles of my feet would be hard, dry, and painfully cracked.

Dear Other Local Parks,
     Thank you for giving us a place to hide while learning to smoke menthol cigarettes. Whenever one of us was mad, we ended up at you.
     Thank you for grass to walk on, and room to air our conflicts. Sometimes you were dangerous, and sometimes cops or gangsters would run us off on moonlit nights. This was part of your allure.

Dear My House,
     You were an anxious resting place for a family of eight. I learned to be a man there, maybe the wrong way, but in a way that I can. Your faulty attic was a hideout the way all these places are, and gave us ladder access to the streets at night. I pissed out your window. You hid porn, liquor, friends, secrets, scribbled desires, and sometimes girls. I remember Elvis Costello records warped under a skylight, but playable. Making collage books with Jake and Amy. Vlad the Rat, who lived in my box spring, was greedy with his teddy grahams, but playful as a kitten. He died of my neglect and was eaten by his girlfriend that bitch Claudia.
     Quiet house, we had so much to say and never said it. So many words, I imagine they just escaped into the holes I punched in your walls, or fell between the cushions of the couch where we would eat, or read, or watch Channel 63 in silence. You have been sold, new paint, new memories pasted over mine. You should have been bulldozed or buried under a mound of earth, Franks flowers growing up to cover you at peace.

Dear My House,
     You were a shelter for my runaway friends, closet walls to write on, and boxes to stash Baileys. Countless black books of scribbled quotes and sketched ideas. Windows with easy access to the roof, stars and cigarettes. A practice pad for countless bands. A place my mother could serve tea, offer advice and conversation that would mean more to me than anything. A place where my father watched football and misplaced his rage. Where my brothers protected and raised each other. A place where I found a family out of friends.

Dear Dead-End Sex Spot,
     She lived in Lemonwood, just around the corner from you. She was my first girlfriend.
     We probably spent more nights together, here in my car then in our own beds.
     When her uncle told me that if he saw me with her again he would kill me, he asked if I understood. I did and it made no difference.

Dear Fields,
     You were vegetables, or strawberries, or flowers. I walked through you on my way home. I stole food on occasion. Your rich shitty smells trademarked our town.

Dear Love Canal,
     I jumped off you into the polluted waters. I remember the warning signs put up by environmental activists that named you "Oxnards Own Love Canal". I remember your abandoned boarded-up houses. They looked ashamed of their sadness. In case I never told you, its not your fault.

Dear Oxnard Shores Electrical Power Plant,
     I drove by you everyday on my way to Ventura. You knew where I was going but you never said a word. I thank you for your discretion.

Dear Sand Dunes,
     You hide my selfish childhood. Stolen Cars, Lonely Lust, and Empty Trips. When I see you now I take note of those lost to us.

Dear We-Called-You-Lorelei Fountain,
     Sometimes we came here long enough to sing your song. The people living in your gated community, who never used your lawn, would call the police if we stayed too long. We forged our friendships at your fins. We always wanted to drink with you but we never did.
     I thought you would like to know, every one of us knew you for what you really were.
     A Siren and not a mermaid.

Dear Channel Islands High School,
     Fuck You.
     It wasnt a bomb.
     Mr. Lewenbergs cool.
     Mrs. Shepherds cool.

Dear Oxnard High School,
     Fuck You Too.

Dear J.D.s Place,
     You gave us a destination. A quiet place surrounded by fields where no one would bother us.
     Whether sitting in the Oldsmobile, or standing on your concrete block, we were the uncontested young masters of nothing.

Dear Oxnard Airport,
     You stood to show that escape was possible, but why did you give up on the Oxnard memorabilia? Shot glasses and postcards?
     Were you embarrassed?

Dear Train Tracks,
     "Whos that Girl" was partially filmed here. Your stretch behind Channel Islands High School was our path of choice whenever we ditched on foot. Fights happened here. Kids came here to smoke.
     We knew how to follow you or the drainage ditch behind you, to get almost anywhere in town. You hid us from police who would have brought us back to school.