where padua street meets a turnoff that runs into a driveway before becoming the back path up the mountain that only cougars and postcollege burnouts growing dope use now, there's a big intersection with nothing around, but on the southwest corner there's an old adobe-covered steel building that was once a business or a part of someone's large and wealthy house. behind it there's a fire pit, and a cow skull.
the fire pit is very important. right before you leave, you have to burn something in it. the cops will be called but you will be gone. when there's no fire, the neighbors have no idea anything goes on there because the walls are thick. awhile back a couple of people from the women's college came through and scraped it clean so they could hold seances there, but everyone uses it. go there on a friday night and it will be like a regular club. park in the suburbs; if you don't put more than three cars within two houselengths no one can tell. it's a little walk but the california night is clear. when you go in, go around to the part where the chain link fence joins the wood fence. the last two fenceboards, flat and worn grey like overcooked meat by the sun, are on an inside hinge. you'll go through a small yard.
past an overturned bucket, a broken lawnmower, a toilet, a television set, two posts with nothing connected, a tub sink and a old key-grinding machine. there are cigarette butts in a coffee can, and there's a wooden newspaper recycling station that got obsolete a few years back and stolen, but now it's packed with empty beer bottles, dead lighters, any evidence of being there. go around to the building and all the doors and windows are boarded up. underneath one of the windows is a v8 engine block. stand on it and pull the board; it's on a spring. then you go down some black steps marked with glow in the dark tape and you're inside.
it's a big room with a bar at one end, you have to bring your own ice and water but someone does every time, throwing a party. every time some event happens, someone brings a few cases of lucky lager and the consumption of thin, watery, semi-alcoholic liquid begins in seriousness. they call it cow skull because it's a tradition to kiss the cow skull out back when you leave.
this place is part of the magic of a college town bordering on a slightly rural slacker community. out here land isn't so goddamn expensive, so you can have an open space that no one really thinks about without someone freaking out and trying to turn it into a strip mall. the people who live out here have chosen not to have city jobs, and instead they live on the vacationing people on the weekends or taking mundane jobs, surviving just enough that they can keep enjoying the thick forest, snowcovered peaks and lush vegetation. some of them grow pot on the weekends and even the straight locals don't care. the less concrete under your feet, the more you walk like you mean it.