October 14, 2006


I wake up early in the hotel room near the shore and, before going to the airport, I take the time to walk the beach for a few minutes and gaze at the big ferris wheel now dark and motionless on the Santa Monica Pier, all the kids, friends and lovers it hoisted into the Friday night sky now sleeping at home. I think for a moment, but only a moment, about the last time I rode the wheel up into the night. Then I file that memory away and turn back to my day.

Lincoln Boulevard is almost bereft of traffic in that dawn haze that defines so many of the mornings I have spent in Los Angeles. I detour down Palms Avenue in Venice and take a quick glance at the small house where the smaller marijuana farm grew unattended long ago when we walked the beach, made love under the pier, and listened to 3-Dog-Night rehearse in their garage. The house is still there, but the small patch of ground is long ago gone under concrete.

They say that if you can remember the sixties, you weren't there. But my curse is that I was and I remember everything.

Then it is on to the airport and the early flight that will hurl me across the continent. A full plane and everyone thinks it is quite unremarkable, boring even, that we are raised up to a place high above the earth where, exposed, we would freeze and die before our fall was barely begun. Unremarkable that the coffee is hot and the wine chilled as we receive them in our seats that move through mid-heaven at more than 500 miles an hour.

People drowse, stare at computer screens, read movies scripts that even a passing glance reveals as impossibly banal. Below me the great American desert morphs into the circles, squares, and broken grids of the vast mid-west. We slide down the side of the sky and into Detroit where the airport boasts a train along the length of the concourse. It whirs along above the proliferating food courts and shops selling luggage and lollipops simply to keep the travelers from walking a block or two.

Another plane and I rise up again and glide over a flat landscape that gradually roils itself into hills and hollows, immense tracts of woods and the glinting meander of rivers. Then down into Charlotte, North Carolina, where I can select any one of more than thirty models of new automobiles for my personal use. The whole transaction takes only a moment and then I'm moving south towards Charleston.

Over the vast roads I move at speeds above 80 miles an hour. In about two hours I pull into the gravel drive of my old friend. He's there with a glass tumbler full of cranberry juice from the bogs of Maine mixed with a vodka made in Finland poured over ice-on-demand from the door of the refrigerator.

Then we walk downstairs and over the berm and out onto the tidal flats under a sky smeared with stairs as Orion rises in the north east. And I take off my shoes and, at the end of this one day begun at the Pacific, I wade into the Atlantic. Completely unremarkable. Happens all the time.

Yes, I know. I know better than most of the wars, and the killing, and the despair and the madness, and the betrayals, and the outright insanity of the damned human race doing its best -- as always -- to muck up the most impossible miracle ever to exist and ever likely to exist. I know all that. I know. I know.

Still, I wouldn't have missed it for the world.

Posted by Vanderleun at October 14, 2006 11:07 PM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Nothing like getting your feet into the water of a place to truly be there in the moment. Splashing both oceans in a day is not only the ultimate American Experience, but because of our prosperity and freedom it's available to almost every one of us.

Thanks for the beautiful reminder.

Posted by: askmom at October 15, 2006 11:58 AM

Congratulations. You've discovered God's mantra. (Or is it man's Godtra? Same thing.)

Posted by: Gagdad Bob at October 15, 2006 2:22 PM

I spent 12,000 hours of my life transporting human beings across the United States and the world in airliners, and never lost my awe of what I was privileged to do for a living.

Posted by: Cap'n Billy at October 15, 2006 3:12 PM

Creation is such an incredible reality; thanks for the reminder. I very often stop and marvel at the world around me (or the basic automobile that gets me where I want to go; what an incredible machine!) and how so many of us take creation so completely for granted in our hurry to bitch and moan about everything under the sun.

Hmmmm, vodka and cranberry; a favorite of my long-dead father. A mighty fine toast to you, Gerard. I haven't checked this page in quite some time and couldn't be more pleased that I stopped by this evening.

Posted by: RattlerGator at October 15, 2006 5:36 PM

One of the smaller miracles in life brings gratitude for the greater gift. Whatever gets you there, grateful to be wherever your feet happen to be.

Thanks for the plane ride.

Posted by: Dennis at October 18, 2006 2:17 PM

You say: "They say that if you can remember the sixties, you weren't there. But my curse is that I was and I remember everything."

That is a truely great paragraph....

A while back when I checked out your site, you had a photo up where you looked like Hemingway. Now, you sound like him from his book: The Moveable Feast. I think you're channeling Hemingway. ;)

Posted by: Heroic Dreamer at October 19, 2006 8:42 PM