It took me three tries to get into the States, and even then I had to fake the papers. They wanted to know that I was going to come back to Canada—that I wasn’t going to stay down there. So I got someone to write a letter saying I had paid rent two months in advance and that I was coming back to work in Vancouver.
But as soon as I got across the border I didn’t feel great; I didn’t feel like going very far after all. Somehow it was just the challenge of getting across, not that it should be a big deal for a Canadian to go to the States. So I just stayed in Birch Bay, barely across the border. I felt more at home there, not being too far from Canada.
I ran into a guy digging clams and he asked me if I wanted to join him. I said I had nothing better to do and sure, I’d join him.
“I’m looking for pearls, man,” the guy said to me.
“I thought pearls were only in oysters,” I said.
“That’s where they’re found most of the time, but I’m going to find one in a clam. ‘Cause that’s all we got, man. You gotta look in what ya got.”
After digging up about half an acre of sand bars we had found very few clams, let alone any pearls. So I went back to have a snooze in my van.
On the way I met a young woman sitting on a bench overlooking the sea. She was friendly and I think I impressed her with my fine speech, which I can turn on when I want to. She said she had never been to Canada, although she had grown up near the border there. “I prefer just to read about it,” she said. “Then I can imagine it to be just the way I want it.”
“It’s better to go to a place,” I said.“Then you really know what it’s like.”
“I’m not interested in reality,” she said. “I want deep meaning.” She put her book down beside her and carefully folded her hands before going on. “Do you have a good ontological explanation for this bench?”
I said I did not.
“And for the sun and the sand bars? And for pearls in apple cores? I found a pearl in an apple core once. Ever since, I have not been able to eat an apple without being apprehensive about cracking a tooth—yes, a very mundane concern.”
I drove then to Santa Monica and had a hamburger.