Swept Away By Imagination
Growing up in La Crescenta, one of my most vivid memories is of a huge, smoke-belching monster that would crawl along the gutter of the sleepy street where I lived. The glow from its sickly yellow, predatory eyes would slice through the pre-dawn mist and darkness on my street. If I remember correctly, this chilling encounter happened at least once every couple of weeks. When the monster came those mornings, I would lie in bed at our family’s home on Harmony Place, just a few driveways away from Two-Strike Park, with the covers pulled up over my head. My bedroom faced the street, so I could all-too-clearly hear the thing approaching, prowling up the street towards my house – a low, muffled growl, rattling my bedroom windows as it came closer and closer.
Beneath the menacing rumble, there was also a continuous sound of hissing that conjured images of a huge cauldron roiling with snakes and vipers and other angry, nasty things.
If it was particularly foggy morning, and if I could build up the courage to leave the safety of my blankets and draw back the curtains, our street would take on an eerie yellow glow that announced the coming of the creature before it actually rounded the corner and roared up our street. The jaundiced light would cast frightening shadows that moved across the walls and ceiling of my room as the beast passed by.
Somehow, all of the parents on Harmony Place would know which mornings the creature was expected to appear and would move their cars off the street the night before so the snarling thing could pass by unimpeded in the early morning hours. If a car inadvertently got left on the street overnight, you could see a wet, slobbery trail left behind where the monster had to swerve around the obstacle. Creepy.
Okay, by now you’ve probably figured out that my monster was actually the county’s lumbering, diesel-drinking street sweeper. But even long after I “matured” beyond imagining that the street sweeper was a living, malevolent creature, I continued to tell myself that it was a mechanical contraption hell-bent on my destruction, its all-consuming purpose being to lure me outside and drag me under the massive, whirling brushes of death mounted behind its front wheels.
I haven’t seen a street sweeper on the avenues and boulevards of the Crescenta Valley in a long time. I’m told they still occasionally make their rounds through the foothills and every once in a long while, if I have to go somewhere very early in the morning, I will drive past the wide, wet, telltale trail of one of the illusive creatures. But as for actually seeing one? Not much chance of that happening. We live at the end of a private driveway that’s so far off the street, even trick-or-treaters rarely find our doorstep much less those clean cut young men in crisp white shirts and ties who roam the neighborhood in pious pairs. I do miss the trick-or-treaters.
But even if I never ever see a street sweeper pass our house, I would hear it. And the kid who still lives inside my head would instantly recognize that low gear rumble and snake-like hiss of whirling brushes. I have no doubt the sound would wake me from even the deepest sleep and send me to the window searching for a yellow glow in the darkness, coming closer and closer.
Unfortunately, these days it isn’t imaginary monsters growling past my house that make me want to pull the covers over my head. It’s the frightening reality of things like mandatory, government-run health care and a punitive, petulant President who would gladly spend gobs more money to keep Americans away from national treasures than it ever cost to let us in. Scary stuff, indeed. But nothing a good street sweeping of Washington D.C. can’t fix.
I’ll see you ’round town.