We went to Lake Tahoe on week-long vacations three summers in a row:
my ninth, tenth, and eleventh summers.

Summer school had ended and there wasn't much left to do around the neighborhood
except ride skateboards down the steep hills,
clack-clacking faster and faster over the cracks in the sidewalk.

Highway 395: there was no reason to look out the window.
I was trapped in the hot backseat of the Chrysler,
the folks engaged in a ritualistic squabble over my father's driving:
how fast was safe, how close behind a truck was prudent,
whether to stop for gas or wait for the next station.
It was their catechism. Next to me, my baby brother
smelled like a cantaloupe gone overripe in the sun.

"I don't know how you can read like that in the car,"
my mother turned around to look at me over the back of her seat.

"I'm not going on vacation with you guys any more," I told her.

We stayed in Best Western motels that had three stars in the AAA guidebook
and ate three cheap greasy meals a day at Harvey's casino;
I had hamburgers with lots of catsup and onions for breakfast.
No one even tried to stop me.
My father lectured to me about methods for selecting random numbers
and paid a dollar so I could circle numbers on a Keno card while we waited for our food.

The lake was way too cold to swim in.
The folks had little use for the piney air and nature trails,
but they didn't want to take us kids to Las Vegas.
They gambled at night while I watched TV in the motel room
and my brother slept.


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