Fairfax Marin


By Diomedes | Robert O'Reilly | 18 Apr 2023



1*8PEJhOig24CeoldMpUr9fQ.jpeg Norma

It was on the last day of March that I picked Sanita up at the airport, mid-morning. It was a beautiful Spring day. We were in the best of moods seeing each other again and we were in my sports car. My original plan was to drive her back to Piedmont and unpack. But the day was so nice, as we were driving towards S.F. I thought, why not take a little detour and I’ll show her the Golden Gate, Marin and some redwood trees. Once there, winding up the roads to mount Tamalpais, I told her I once lived in this paradise seven years earlier, in the small scenic town of Fairfax, nestled in a forest.

We drove there too, after the fine views of the ocean from Mt. Tam. We stopped at a deli for lunch and while there, and just out of curiosity, I went to the phone booth and looked up the name of Norma Baker. Sure enough I found it, her number and address different from the one six years ago. I called, she answered and invited us over, just minutes away and excited to see me again, just as eager as I was to see her.

She now lived in a large wood-shingled house nestled in trees on a hillside. There were four other houses in a circle, and a large dirt circle of a parking lot in the middle, each house in its own clump of trees and no other houses or signs of the town visible, as it was on the western edge of town facing the ocean. It really felt like being in a forest, camping.

After a warm reunion she showed us the place, a large single room upstairs with slanted ceilings, all decked out in hippy fashion, with strings of beads for doors, (even the bathroom) and her bed draped with tie-died sheets like in some Persian scene, and incense burning in the middle of the day, probably for our visit.

She lived there with her five-year-old son Daniel (whom I’d never heard of) and her boyfriend Ross (not the father). Her daughter Amaris, now thirteen, had a bedroom on the main floor. There was a kitchen and a long living room and two empty rooms which she told us she wanted to rent out, as Ross had no job and she was always near broke, living off child support.

Sanita and I talked a few minutes, viewed the two rooms, both at one end of the house with a bathroom in between and both with large windows looking out into the green woods, and we instantly agreed. I would rent both rooms from Norma, one for a study and the larger one in back, with a king size bed in it, our bedroom. The four hundred for each room I agreed to just as instantly, glad to relieve Norma from her financial worries, (it was probably rent enough for the whole house). I always carried four one-hundred-dollar bills in my wallet at the time and I gave her two to secure the deal. I still consider it as one of our luckiest days, for both Sanita and I and our happiness, and all on a fluke detour. We moved in two weeks later, as I had a trip to Canada planned with Sanita for the next week. I still remember how fresh the air felt as we stepped out of the car, with so many trees surrounding us. It was oxygen rich.

I realized right away that this was the change I’d been vaguely dreaming of and needed so much. Now I could disappear from all the people I didn’t want to see anymore, like ‘C’ and ‘Mike’. Fairfax was a one-hour drive from Berkeley and only three of all my acquaintances, Bones and May and John Seebach went back so far as to know Norma and her last name. The only two friends to visit us in the six months we lived there were John and ‘M’, at my invitation.

Amaris was now thirteen. I was delighted to see her when she came home from school that day and she also, especially upon hearing I’d be moving in with them with my new girlfriend. Daniel showed up too, a quiet and shy five-year-old, and a little later Ross, (we’d been sitting at the kitchen table all afternoon talking away and waiting for them). He was Norma’s latest live-in boyfriend, long-haired, handsome and knowing it, with a gigolo swagger exactly like Kim’s, pleasant and polite in conversation, not as bravado but also not as sparkling in wit and curious information as Kim was. We stayed for dinner and bonded into an instant, happy family.

Ross had been with Norma for several years, a part time carpenter, like Kim. It’s amazing how Norma picked the same types for boyfriends, and she did the picking. But he also had one other means of emolument. He had an old, beat-up ford truck and would drive around late at night in the affluent hills of Marin (the second richest county in the U.S.) and picked up all the rich booty leaning against the Salvation army boxes which were locked up at nine p.m. T.V. sets, golf clubs, nice clothes, leather coats, shoes, these were his common finds. The rich, when they threw away items, didn’t abide by the box hours and simply parked what they no longer wanted beside the boxes if they were locked. Ross would load them up at three a.m. and hit the pawn shops the next day and made quite a bit of money at it some nights. He even gave Sanita and me what looked like brand-new silk sheets for our king-sized bed as a moving in present. Obviously, some millionaire’s wife didn’t like the shinny, gray color, but we did.

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B.A. in Latin and Greek from U.C. Berkley. Writer, Blogger and retired Electrician.

Robert O'Reilly
Robert O'Reilly

I am educated in the Western Classical Tradition, B.A. from U.C. Berkeley in Latin and Greek, English major, one year at U. of Toronto, studied under Alain Renoir and Northrop Frye, read most classics full time for many years after university in French, English, Latin and Greek to the modern day. I am interested in the near future of technology, what changes it imposes upon our heritage and character as humans. Short stories and Essays are my medium.

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