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The Ether at 7264 Topanga Canyon Boulevard
By Rodger Jacobs
from Glendale,CA

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I can remember when going to Jack in the Box was a family experience, mom and dad piling us kids into the back seat of the Impala, driving the three blocks to Ventura Boulevard, then we would hang a left turn and there it was: that big, smiling jack-in-the-box looming atop the simple square faÁade. My dad would steer that big old Impala around the semi-circular driveway and up to the speaker to place our order Ė only us kids didnít know it was a speaker, we thought it was an actual talking jack-in-the-box. That was the novelty.

This was back in the day before they sold salads and chicken sandwiches and egg rolls. Jack in the Box fare was basic then: hamburgers, cheeseburgers, fries, onion rings, shakes. Sort of like the old A&W drive-ups but I canít find any of those around anymore. The fact that Iím not allowed to wander beyond this one block stretch of Topanga Canyon Boulevard in Canoga Park has something to do with that.

Thank God the Jack in the Box drive-through window is open 24 hours or I donít know what I would do with my time. Dodge in and out of traffic and scare the hell out of drivers but then I would get a reputation as a malevolent being instead of the benign apparition that I am.

I canít turn it on and off, you know. Itís just that some people are more sensitive than others. One night I was standing there at the drive-through window in my red sweat suit and a lady in a black BMW drove around the corner after ordering her Chicken Supreme and she practically stood on the brakes to avoid hitting me. I doubt she could hold her secret sauce down after that. As for me, I just smiled at her and walked over and sat down on the curb.

I heard the lady in the BMW say something to Maria Ė sheís the cute Salvadoran girl who works the window on the midnight to eight a.m. shift Ė and Maria laughed and said, ďThatís just our ghost.Ē

Maria has never seen me, though. Sheís Catholic. You would think with all that voodoo and incense and chanting in Latin that they would be a little more sensitive. You would think that but you would be wrong. Most Buddhists can see me but whenís the last time you saw a Buddhist at the Jack in the Box on Topanga Canyon Boulevard?

Thereís another like me who hangs out not too far from here. He lives Ė well, okay, Iím using that word loosely Ė near one of those hair pin turns up on Laurel Canyon. He has this trick he does with a carriage and a team of white horses. Frightens the crap out of drivers zipping through the canyon, he tells me, and has even caused a near fatal crack-up or two. I donít like him but I canít stop him from paying me a visit whenever heís inclined, which hasnít been very recent lately as heís got some hot thing going with Peg Entwhistle over in Griffith Park. Why he gets to wander all the way over to Griffith Park (is Travel Town still there?) and Iím stuck in this one block triangle at Topanga and Sherman Way is beyond me. The first rule here is donít ask questions. The second rule is if you must ask questions, donít expect answers.

One night there were a couple of kids sitting in their crappy car in the parking lot wolfing down Jumbo Jacks and fries. One kid tells the other kid this story about some lady in Mexico who wants the better life for her and her youngsters here in the U.S. So sheís sneaking across the border with her two young ones in the middle of the night and they come upon this river swollen with water because there had been a storm the night before. They start to cross the churning water and - you guessed it Ė one of the kids falls in and gets swept away. The mom struggles to rescue her kid but nature isnít cooperating. She begins praying to God but the task still isnít getting any easier. Finally, she yells out to the night sky ďHelp me! I know you can hear me because youíre God, for Christís sake!Ē And right after she utters that oath the kid slides out of the water and into momís arms with the ease of a knife through butter.

Nice story. Gives you faith in a power beyond our grasp. Now let me provide an addendum: Letís say youíre plowing down Topanga Canyon Boulevard in your brand new Maserati late one summer night. Youíre coked to the gills and youíve had enough bottles of champagne to launch an entire armada of ships. Youíre not happy. Youíre miserable. The studio just tore up your four-picture contract and wiped their asses with it. A lot of things will be going through your head as the car rolls over and over and the windshield collapses in your once-pretty face and the steering wheel punches a gaping hole through what used to be your chest cavity. If youíre anywhere near the vicinity of Sherman Way and Topanga Canyon do not gaze upon the neon glow of the Jack in the Box there. Do not let that be the last thing you see. I donít want your companionship.

© 2004, Rodger Jacobs
All Rights Reserved

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