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Killing time in the bay

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Killing time in the bay

Popeyes has a place where you can get fountain drinks.

Popeyes has a place where you can get fountain drinks.

Sam Hosmer

Popeyes has a place where you can get fountain drinks.

Sam Hosmer

Sam Hosmer

Popeyes has a place where you can get fountain drinks.

Sam Hosmer, Staff Writer

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Take I-92 to Highway 1, like you’re going to Half Moon Bay, but turn left instead of right at the intersection. Follow it for a while. Somehow, without leaving the county, every trace of urbania will slip unobtrusively into the horizon, subsumed by sweeping vistas and lush green fabrics, and the right side of the road will graduate from a forest into a cliffside, and the only thing separating you and your car from the ocean will be common sense and force of will and small roadside capital improvements budgets.

Do that, but do it at 6:30 in the morning. Put on some music for early morning drives to nowhere. Wake up early. Bring coffee and a bagel. Follow Highway 1 until you get to Pescadero Road. Drag a friend along for the ride. At 7:11 a.m. — but of course your mileage will vary — the sun will poke over the eastern hills, and it will refract over the Pacific Ocean (you’re parked at the beach across the street from the intersection mind you), and you and your bagel and your friend will agree that it is one of the most gorgeous things you’ve ever seen.

Assuming the road isn’t waterlogged, although this tends to happen, you can then follow Pescadero Road for a few miles until you get into “town” — a gas station, a bakery, two churches, a few art studios, a boutique coffee place, and a big old fashioned tavern. Keep following the road and you’ll drive past an old-timey cemetery, although that stretch gets boring fast and soon you’ll be tasked with the challenge of completing an Austin Powers-style three or four or five-point turn to get back into Town.

Another idea. Head back to Pescadero Road (as if you’re returning from the cemetery) but instead of turning right to get back to Highway 1, turn left. Follow the road for a couple of minutes and then bear right, then take the first left. What you’re seeing on your left is Pescadero Middle/High School, an enterprising little institution of exactly one hundred students as of 2011, which was originally planned to have three wings but was only built with one because it turns out sparsely populated rural communities don’t produce that many pupils, or at least not enough to fill the hallways of an institution of middle-and-secondary learning.

I’ve spent a few hours just wandering around this place. There’s a big polygonal sphere adjacent to the gym called the “Thunderdome” which has two tiny always-covered windows and only one door in or out. SFGate tells me that it’s a “weight lifting and wrestling facility.” Sounds to me like the sort of thing John Carpenter would use for character development. Or maybe — wasn’t there something like this in Idiocracy? Perhaps it’s how they keep their student body so small.

Behind the gym, there are two tennis courts. It’s clear that nature and time have had their fun, but it seems like it would be perfectly functional for a quick game of doubles, and next to them on the fence separating it from the school field is a plate of metal. Further inspection reveals it was once a set of rules and regulations restricting court use (like “only use white-soled shoes” and “don’t have fights”) — it’s written in the sort of New Frontier cursive that suggests it was put up in the 60s sometime. A lot of happy Pescadero High kids have seen that sign.

Another thing I’ll do sometimes: go to Popeyes. I’m a fan of Popeyes. I didn’t think I was — in fact, it was one of the few family traditions which I remained obstinate towards — but as I grew older and divested myself of my pretentious random tweenage dislikes-of-things-my-parents-like I decided that it’s some of the best fast food in the world.

Problem is, there aren’t that many Popeyes near us here at Carlmont. If you’re possessed by the insatiable and implacable need for fine fried Louisiana gourmet right effing now it turns out your best bet is to take 280 to Woodside Road (or El Camino if you’re a fan of blighted areas that should be high-density housing) in Redwood City. It’s a drive; probably about 25 minutes on a day with average traffic, and the Woodside Road-280 interchange is a bit nuts.

I make the pilgrimage about once a week. It’s worth it. Not just for the chicken, although there is certainly merit to that as well, but for the ambiance.

I’m serious. This place is fantastic. I derive genuine enjoyment from ordering takeout here. It’s an incredibly diverse place — all walks of life can appreciate Popeyes. Families of every shape, color, and creed. Businessmen in from downtown dressed to the nines. Government workers. People whose best is ahead of them. People whose best is behind them. Kids. Geezers. It’s like an unspoken congregation of our drastically diffuse Bay Area culture. I once ran into somebody I worked with at the county there and he gave me a writing assignment for a local magazine. We self-segregate in many ways, but Popeyes is not one of them.

Last time I was there I broke the door handle. A guy who barely spoke English helped me tape it back on and then gave detailed instructions in Spanish to the folks behind the counter describing the variety of allen wrench they needed to fix it and what they should do in the meantime.

Also: Aaron Sorkin (or some other amphetamine-fueled screenwriter) wrote this Popeyes. The banter behind the counter is smooth and witty. Seriously. Whoever scripted this place was on high doses of stimulants. These folks are genuinely funny. And it seems that they genuinely enjoy working there and enjoy each other’s company, and, what’s more, they fill my order and have yet to make a mistake doing it.

There’s a big TV on the wall. Last time I went they were playing an episode of Dr. Phil in which the esteemed non-physician interviewed a guy who couldn’t stop hijacking Walmart intercoms. Everyone in the place was digging it out of its own effacing absurdity. Dr. Phil takes himself so damn seriously.

Being bored is totally voluntary and there is beauty in everything around us. Seeing as most of us seniors have found ourselves burdened by less stress than we have previously, go do a spontaneous outing. It’s a bad platitude, but there really is subtle beauty in even the most banal things. And I can take a bit of comfort in knowing that the uncertainty of our lives in this day and age can at least somewhat be counteracted by the stability of little cultural trivia that won’t go anywhere anytime soon. I can always take a trip to Popeye’s and it will always be that, and at least into the foreseeable future Pescadero High School will exist and a Highway 1 sunrise will always be breathtakingly gorgeous, even if we fight over other subterranean minutiae till we pass out.

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About the Contributor
Sam Hosmer, Staff Ranter

Sam is a senior at Carlmont High School and will continue his journey at Columbia University next year. He is an active member of the local political community...

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Killing time in the bay