Articles
Riding Blind

(On radio for NPR, Morning Edition, and in print for SF Chronicle)

 The request was simple enough. A friend wanted me to take him body-surfing the next time I was in LA.
     Easy.
     I loved body-surfing and made the trip from Berkeley to LA once every month or two to visit my girlfriend. The only problem was that the guy who made the request weighed over 300 pounds, was living an unathletic bottle-to-mouth existence, and was blind.
     Worse still, he wouldn't take no for an answer.
     Philip was an up-stairs neighbor of mine. At the time, I was a studious senior at Cal and living in the cheapest housing I could find -- a run-down apartment building just to the west of campus filled with frugal students and the desperately poor.
     Philip was one of the latter. He supplemented his meager disability checks by playing a mean harmonica on various street corners around town. If there was cash left over after buying the barest essentials, he'd venture off into the night to the toughest/most tolerant parts of town in search of adventure. He'd usually find it -- sometimes in jail, occasionally in the hospital.
     Still, other than love, the BIG ADVENTURE he dreamed of was to swim in some warm and jostling surf. This had been one of the last things he'd done before losing his sight at age eight. Almost twenty years later and completely blind, he wanted to do it again and I was the one who needed to make it happen. And so, after months of entreaty, I reluctantly drove to LA with a giddy Philip by my side. Somehow, sometime over the weekend, I would have to take this blind leviathan into the not-always-so-pacific ocean and turn him loose in the surf.
     The evening before the experience, I worked myself into quite a panic. Although I was a "certified lifeguard", the certification was only for pools, not ocean rescue. And though I was a good body-surfer, I was mediocre at best on a board. Truly, if this three hundred pound fellow got into serious trouble out there, there wasn't going to be a whole lot I could do about it.
     The next day when we got to the beach, my fears went from bleak to worse. The surf was moderate, four to five feet from trough to peak -- big enough for a good ride or a bad roll. All the while, Philip remained either oblivious or utterly unconcerned. Dressed in nothing but an immense pair of blue trunks and holding his white cane, he blithely stepped onto the sand and started to chortle. He hadn't had warm sand between his toes in over fifteen years, and he wasn't going to let a little imminent disaster ruin the fun.
     With a surfboard under one arm and Philip lightly holding on to my other arm, I walked to the edge of the water. As I deposited our towels and discreetly started to hyperventilate, the lifeguard in front of whose station we'd stopped sauntered up. With his eyes dancing from Philip's cane to Philip's girth, he said to me,
     "You know there's no board surfing here."
     "Yeah," I replied as nonchalantly as I could, "I'm taking it just in case he needs it."
     "How far is he planning to go out?" asked the lifeguard, now, definitely on guard.
     "I'm gonna go body surfing - Yeah!!!" exclaimed the exuberant, obese, blind man with the unbelievably white skin.
     After a moment of incredulous silence, the lifeguard put words to disbelief, "No way. No way."
     "Oh yes I am," said Philip and with no more than that, he put his cane down and started into the water. "Danny, you coming?"
     I looked at the lifeguard. All he could do was shake his head and say, "Man, if that guy gets in trouble, there's no way I can help him."
     "I know; that's why I'm going out with this old aircraft carrier." I raised the nose of my ancient surfboard. "I'm also a lifeguard," I exaggerated, "and a surfer," I stretched it. "There's nothing to worry about," I lied.
     "You guys are crazy. Crazy! And you're on your own."
     That's as good as I'd hoped to hear. With Philip up to his chest in water and alternatively laughing and sputtering, I took my board and started in after him. I pulled up about ten feet to the side and ten feet to seaward -- just past the break. I told him where I was. He didn't care. He was too busy whooping and hollering and clapping his hands.
     For the next few minutes, I kept one eye on him and one on the swells. Whenever a larger wave approached, I'd let him know. About the fourth or fifth time I told him, he did more than just listen to me. He responded, "I know."
     As I was wondering how in the hell he knew, he began to turn his body. His face scrunched up in pure concentration, he backed seaward a few steps, and then, just as the leading edge of a relatively large wave sloped into him, he took off.
     It was an unbelievable sight, heightened by the raucous noise he made over the foaming wall that pushed him shoreward. In fact, it was such a sight that by the time he galumphed back out for another ride, there were over a dozen people on shore on their feet watching him.
     At first, I was impressed with Philip's courage. He wasn't an experienced body-surfer or even an experienced swimmer. And yet, here he was, up to his neck in the Pacific Ocean riding waves he couldn't see. The more I watched him, though, the more impressed I was in his skill. For the next half-hour, he caught almost every wave he went for and he only went for the larger waves.
     He was experiencing the ocean in a way I had never really experienced it. In a sense, he was more a part of that great sloshing medium than I had ever been. He chose the waves he would ride by the feel of the waves he would ride -- those gentle tugs and touches the rest of us ignore. We, who see, see the "outside" waves, see where they'll break and how they'll break long before we feel them. They are objects we assess, admire, and eventually, if we've liked what we've seen, ride.
     Philip, too, was assessing all the information he was feeling -- how hard did the undertow pull at his legs, how far did the trough move down his chest, how steep did the incoming swell feel at his finger tips. But there was nothing "outside" about these waves. Instead, to do what he was doing, Philip had to be essentially "inside" these waves, to become a part of their complex and fluid geometry.
     When he rode his final wave on to the beach, I realized I'd been treated to a strange and private surfing lesson -- how not just to choose the wave but to become a part of the wave. So I closed my eyes and waited for the feel of the next good swell. I let two go, then, my eyes shut tight, I turned, paddled a couple of times, and started down the face. I'd intended to ride all the way in with my eyes closed. After all, Philip had done it over and over again. But as soon as I felt the board slide down the face of the wave, as soon as I needed to jump up and actually ride the wave, I couldn't help it. My eyes popped open and in that moment of readjustment to the comforting/distancing sense of sight, I fell.
     Justice, I figured. It was Philip's day, after all. 

The Tempest in the Trivium

(Published in two Academic journals: Connotations and Upstart Crow)

     To the delight of his audiences, both past and present, Shakespeare rarely created names of stubbornly obscure origin. In his last play, however, it seems he did just that.   I refer, namely, to Sycorax – witch-mother of Caliban and arch, though absent, enemy of Prospero in The Tempest.  Minor and unseen as she is, she is mentioned by name seven times and is a major topic of dispute between Caliban, her son, and Prospero, her rival.  Over one hundred and twenty lines are devoted to Prospero’s wrangling, first with Ariel then with Caliban, about the nature and effect of “this damned witch Sycorax”[i].  She represents nothing less important than the island’s other magician to whom Prospero is implicitly compared. 

 

     In naming his characters, Shakespeare typically either found some well-known historical and/or mythological precedent, used a clearly allegorical name, or coined a name from recognizable parts or sources.  Such audience-friendly habits, however, are definitely not what recent scholarship tells us helped Shakespeare coin the name ‘Sycorax’[ii].  Far from common-knowledge, we are told it is Classical Greek for sow (sys)[iii] and raven/crow (corax),[iv] heartbreaker (psychorrhax),[v] fig (sukon)[vi] and spider (rax),[vii] “Es kórakas,”[viii] “Go to Hell”[ix] (all of these despite the fact that there is no evidence Shakespeare learned Classical Greek), Arabic for ‘deceiver’ (shokoreth),[x] a thematically significant misspelling of Scythian[xi]… and the list of  recondite improbabilities goes on.

 

     There is, however, a simpler, funnier, and more thematically pertinent solution and one that fits what Shakespeare was wont to do so often in his preceding plays: poke fun at pedants and pedantry. The target of his scorn this time is no less than the first “trial lawyer” and the typically acknowledged progenitor of the art of “rhetoric.”  This “magician” of language, this witch of rhetorical exercise, was the 5th century Greek, Corax of Syracuse. Snip a syllable from one word, snap it on another and, ‘quick and home’, Corax of Syracuse becomes... Sycorax, a portmanteau of significant jest.

 

     Because Shakespeare got at least most, if not all, of a grammar school education, he would have studied the famous and inescapable Trivium (logic, grammar, and rhetoric all taught in Latin), the three subjects most basic to the “liberal arts” – subjects in which Prospero claims to have excelled “without a parallel.”[xii]

 

     The Ad Herennium, and the works of Aristotle, Cicero, and Quintilian were the principle sources for grammar school rhetoric and the latter three mention Corax, the Sicilian, as the sole founder, or, with his student Tisias, co-founder of the first ‘systematic’ rhetoric.[xiii]  He is also mentioned by Plato who, along with Aristotle, questions the logical soundness of the rhetorical “reasoning” (the doctrine of είκός)[xiv] he supposedly taught to various citizens of Syracuse who hoped to persuade the courts of their property rights after the fall of the Tyrants, circa 467 B. C. E.  Not only would Shakespeare likely have known much, if not all of this, but much of his all-important audience would have known this, too. The name “Corax of Syracuse”, or anything significantly like it, reverberated with all sorts of recollections… and not all of them pleasant.

 

     Such a reference, as well, enhances certain thematic concerns, especially in Act 1, scene 2.  This entire scene is either exposition or verbal jockeying for position. When it becomes the latter, when, that is, Ariel asks for his liberty and Caliban asks for his land, it becomes a forum for Prospero’s oratorical wizardry.  And this is precisely the moment of Sycorax’s “nominal” entrance.

 

     Much of the important business at the end of The Tempest’s long second scene deals with establishing who has the better claim to the island in a dispute over “property rights”, AND who can present that claim most persuasively.  It is because of Prospero’s superior skill at rhetorical manipulation that he wins the argument.  Clearly, his claim is based on his superior “nature” — he is the civilized one and brings to the island superior qualities. And although it is not the possible cacophony of Sycorax’s speeches (“terrible/ to enter human hearing”[xv]) that bothers but the vile nature of her sorceries that is most offensive, it is, nonetheless, clear that some of the threads Shakespeare braids into his web of motifs explore the use and abuse of rhetoric and the magical/poetical art of language. The “nature” of good and evil may be the most important aspect, but its fundamental, inextricable relationship to the art of persuasion shouldn’t be ignored.

 

     Prospero reaches the pinnacle of rhetorical skill, and such skill is truly magical. He -- and by extension, Shakespeare

-- bests the best, the very founder of one of the three liberal arts of the Trivium. In The Tempest, Corax of Syracuse, the “inventor of rhetoric”, is unseated by the “upstart crowe” on the Jacobean stage.

The Other Side of Solitude
The Other Side of Solitude

(Published in the LA TIMES Sunday magazine)

(Published in the LA TIMES Sunday magazine)

     Truly, there’s no place in the West where you can learn to be alone better than in LA.  You learn, for example, that unless you look like – and I mean REALLY look like – Sharon Stone or Brad Pitt, no one you don’t know will look at you.  (Why waste a good glance at a nobody when sooner or later, a real somebody will happen by?)  Even more formative is the sort of high speed, lonely closeness you get used to if you spend any time on the freeways.  (At seventy miles an hour, you don’t really want to get very close to any of your ballistic neighbors.)  As well, in a place where absolutely anything goes, you learn to project a certain cool detachment, a sort of “thanks all the same but I’m going somewhere else” that appears as a slight tightness at the sides of the mouth. 

     

     Indeed, born and raised in the wide-open spaces of LA, I’d learned not just to accept but even, at times, to enjoy my aloneness.  I was a city kid from a town of challenges that stretched, horizontally, over an area bigger than the whole of Denmark.  So when I moved to a cattle ranch a little to the north and a little to the west of town, I thought the solitude would be the least of my concerns. 

           

     I was wrong.

 

     I’d wanted to live something different from what I’d ever lived before but I hadn’t expected the differences to be quite so complete.  There were, of course, the obvious ones.  I knew, for example, how to enter a freeway and cross four lanes of traffic in a single move… but I’d never ridden a horse before in my life.  I knew how to wake up at the last minute and make it to an early morning (9:30!!) class at UCLA in an acceptable state of semi-sentience… but I’d never had to get up to the sound of a pre-dawn breakfast gong and be thoroughly ready for a day of labor by 7 – at the latest.   I knew how to make a ten-foot jump shot in the middle of a crowd… but I’d never dug a series of three-foot post-holes in the middle of nowhere.  These, however, were mostly mechanical challenges and so, with a bit of practice and a few calluses, easy to get over.

     What wasn’t so easy to get over -- what became, in fact, an almost insurmountable challenge -- was the terrifying, utterly inescapable solitude.  Aloneness I knew.  After all, I had done the freeways, had ignored the propositions, had been ignored by thousands of people every day.  But solitude…?  That, I discovered, I really didn’t know.

It’s not that there weren’t other people out there.  Four cowboys and a cook on 6,000 acres.  Not exactly high density, but at least there were a few other folk you could run into once or twice a day, maybe. 

Furthermore, I didn’t go out there alone.  After I’d accepted the job, I began to worry that I’d made a terrible mistake and that I needed company in this miserable experiment.  So I convinced a childhood friend that becoming a real cowboy in the real west would be one of the most important experiences of his life.  A month into that “most important experience”, however, he left.  Getting “a better offer”, he joined a group of college friends (one of whom, I recall, was a girlfriend) for a somewhat crowded camping trip to the Pacific Northwest.  To hell with stringing barbed wire.  To hell with being razzed by surly cowboys at the beginning and the end of every working day (all six of them).  And most definitely, to hell with all that solitude. 

     Having no better offers myself, I stayed.  As well, after a month of the experience, I was beginning to discover some things about solitude that weren’t half bad. 

 

     Place has a whole lot to do with it and the Cojo Ranch is a very special place.  Fifteen miles of private beach wrap around the ninety-degree angle of Point Conception –seven miles of rugged coast to the north, eight miles of gentle coast to the east.  Here is where the relatively cool Japanese current slides southward past the point not to hit land again until somewhere past La Jolla.  Here is where the Chumash Indians believed the souls of the dead finally and forever departed for Similaqsa – the invisible Island of the Dead.  Here is where the worst peacetime Naval disaster occurred when the commodore of the Pacific Fleet made an eleven-mile mistake on the foggy night of September 8, 1923.  Thinking he’d rounded the point, he ordered his convoy of destroyers to turn abruptly east -- smack into the western shore at full speed.  As neighboring ranch owner, Jane Hollister-Wheelwright, once told me, “It’s one of the roughest damn places in the world.  Lots of wind.  Always fog.  And all those wrecks.” 

     It is also about as far from the dubious comfort of crowds as you’d ever care to get.  The Transverse Range – known locally as the Santa Ynez Mountains – push along the long south shore from Ventura to the west until, at the western edge of the Cojo, they seem, simply, to give up and sink into the Pacific.  That’s the north side of the ranch – a steep, impenetrable wall of chaparral and sandstone.  To the west is the Pacific Ocean – next stop, Japan.  To the south is the Pacific Ocean – next stop, the Antarctic.  Only to the east can you glimpse a bit of the stuff of human comfort; the barbed wire fence that separates the essentially unoccupied Cojo from the barely occupied Hollister Ranch, and a smudge of smog above an otherwise invisible Santa Barbara. There are a lot of places a lot further from civilized life than the Cojo but nowhere I’ve ever been has felt so far away.

 

     After that first month, it was clear that I’d survive the obnoxious tests of manhood and truly earn the right to make a dollar thirty-five an hour plus room and board (a small cot and a lot of potatoes).  But was putting up with that disconcerting solitude really worth it?  After my friend left, I still had a couple of months to go.  If things had been lonely before, they were now positively solitary.  With whom could I argue the relative merits of Kurt Vonnegut and Jane Austen?  To whom could I show my calluses with pride?  With whom could I commiserate about the relentless work, the lack of female company, and the redneck notions of our ornery foreman?  I was alone now in a foreign, hostile, seriously under-populated world. 

 

     And yet, with the underpinnings of familiarity removed, I made a frightening discovery.  I actually began to like being alone, really alone.  I’d take long walks, sometimes on foot, sometimes on horseback, along the miles of untraveled beaches or up one of the canyons and along the ridge.  My companions were the scurrying shadows of a bobcat in the brush, the paw prints of a mountain lion, the bark of a coyote, the sharp screech of a red-tailed hawk.  I was a guest -- and not a wholly welcomed one, at that -- and the experience was wonderfully sobering.

     There is a reason why the prophets would go to places where only the gods they saw saw them.  True enough, when these “prophets” came down from their mountains or back from their deserts, they were often a little out of touch if not downright insane.  Ah, but the things they’d seen… things only such immense time and space and quiet will allow the mind to imagine… things one can imagine only where one can be thoroughly UN-selfconscious and hence, more conscious of other things.

     Not until I’d lived with that solitary immensity for a couple of months could I begin to appreciate it.  With no television, no radio, and no telephone but for the pay phone in the mess, I was, myself, a little “out of touch”.  I got no news of far away tragedies to which, because they had happened to humans, I was expected to respond – shocked, saddened, or publicly outraged.  I heard no music to which I could tap a foot or troll, emotionally, for meaningful lyrics.  I watched no sports.  I heard no weather forecasts.  Hell, I couldn’t even see a time-consuming sit-com if I’d wanted.  In short, I got none of the yammering stuff the world’s come to depend on for excitement, news, and reality. 

     When I rode out to that solitary point for the last time, it was a more difficult moment than when I’d said goodbye to my buddy.  I suppose I knew I’d see my friend again though I was not at all sure I’d experience that windy, isolated spot ever again.  (Truth be told, I’ve seen more of it in subsequent years than I’ve seen my friend.  I even snuck out there one afternoon with a girlfriend, got to the point at about the time a full moon was rising into the April sky, and asked her if she’d marry me.  Seventeen years and two kids later, we’re still at it.  Point Conception, indeed.) 

 

     I got back to LA a few days later and noticed that some of my old habits had changed.  For a few weeks, I drove a little slower.  For a few weeks, I didn’t comb my hair.  (Not only was I not going to look anything like Brad Pitt but I wasn’t going to look like anything anybody would ever want to see.)  And the tightness at the sides of the mouth was replaced with a surly grin.

     Luckily enough, time and the seductions of civilization eventually wore down the edges of my arrogance.  Much too quickly, I went back to driving too fast. A little while later, I started combing my hair again, though I still didn’t look a thing like Brad Pitt.  Eventually, even, the surly grin gave way to the tighter mouth – poised, as it had been before, to disagree.

Still, even now I have to be careful.  If things get too quiet for too long, I can forget not to care and be lost for hours… and hours…….          and hours.

     Truly, there’s no place in the West where you can learn to be alone better than in LA.  You learn, for example, that unless you look like – and I mean REALLY look like – Sharon Stone or Brad Pitt, no one you don’t know will look at you.  (Why waste a good glance at a nobody when sooner or later, a real somebody will happen by?)  Even more formative is the sort of high speed, lonely closeness you get used to if you spend any time on the freeways.  (At seventy miles an hour, you don’t really want to get very close to any of your ballistic neighbors.)  As well, in a place where absolutely anything goes, you learn to project a certain cool detachment, a sort of “thanks all the same but I’m going somewhere else” that appears as a slight tightness at the sides of the mouth. 

     

     Indeed, born and raised in the wide-open spaces of LA, I’d learned not just to accept but even, at times, to enjoy my aloneness.  I was a city kid from a town of challenges that stretched, horizontally, over an area bigger than the whole of Denmark.  So when I moved to a cattle ranch a little to the north and a little to the west of town, I thought the solitude would be the least of my concerns. 

           

     I was wrong.

 

     I’d wanted to live something different from what I’d ever lived before but I hadn’t expected the differences to be quite so complete.  There were, of course, the obvious ones.  I knew, for example, how to enter a freeway and cross four lanes of traffic in a single move… but I’d never ridden a horse before in my life.  I knew how to wake up at the last minute and make it to an early morning (9:30!!) class at UCLA in an acceptable state of semi-sentience… but I’d never had to get up to the sound of a pre-dawn breakfast gong and be thoroughly ready for a day of labor by 7 – at the latest.   I knew how to make a ten-foot jump shot in the middle of a crowd… but I’d never dug a series of three-foot post-holes in the middle of nowhere.  These, however, were mostly mechanical challenges and so, with a bit of practice and a few calluses, easy to get over.

     What wasn’t so easy to get over -- what became, in fact, an almost insurmountable challenge -- was the terrifying, utterly inescapable solitude.  Aloneness I knew.  After all, I had done the freeways, had ignored the propositions, had been ignored by thousands of people every day.  But solitude…?  That, I discovered, I really didn’t know.

It’s not that there weren’t other people out there.  Four cowboys and a cook on 6,000 acres.  Not exactly high density, but at least there were a few other folk you could run into once or twice a day, maybe. 

Furthermore, I didn’t go out there alone.  After I’d accepted the job, I began to worry that I’d made a terrible mistake and that I needed company in this miserable experiment.  So I convinced a childhood friend that becoming a real cowboy in the real west would be one of the most important experiences of his life.  A month into that “most important experience”, however, he left.  Getting “a better offer”, he joined a group of college friends (one of whom, I recall, was a girlfriend) for a somewhat crowded camping trip to the Pacific Northwest.  To hell with stringing barbed wire.  To hell with being razzed by surly cowboys at the beginning and the end of every working day (all six of them).  And most definitely, to hell with all that solitude. 

     Having no better offers myself, I stayed.  As well, after a month of the experience, I was beginning to discover some things about solitude that weren’t half bad. 

 

     Place has a whole lot to do with it and the Cojo Ranch is a very special place.  Fifteen miles of private beach wrap around the ninety-degree angle of Point Conception –seven miles of rugged coast to the north, eight miles of gentle coast to the east.  Here is where the relatively cool Japanese current slides southward past the point not to hit land again until somewhere past La Jolla.  Here is where the Chumash Indians believed the souls of the dead finally and forever departed for Similaqsa – the invisible Island of the Dead.  Here is where the worst peacetime Naval disaster occurred when the commodore of the Pacific Fleet made an eleven-mile mistake on the foggy night of September 8, 1923.  Thinking he’d rounded the point, he ordered his convoy of destroyers to turn abruptly east -- smack into the western shore at full speed.  As neighboring ranch owner, Jane Hollister-Wheelwright, once told me, “It’s one of the roughest damn places in the world.  Lots of wind.  Always fog.  And all those wrecks.” 

     It is also about as far from the dubious comfort of crowds as you’d ever care to get.  The Transverse Range – known locally as the Santa Ynez Mountains – push along the long south shore from Ventura to the west until, at the western edge of the Cojo, they seem, simply, to give up and sink into the Pacific.  That’s the north side of the ranch – a steep, impenetrable wall of chaparral and sandstone.  To the west is the Pacific Ocean – next stop, Japan.  To the south is the Pacific Ocean – next stop, the Antarctic.  Only to the east can you glimpse a bit of the stuff of human comfort; the barbed wire fence that separates the essentially unoccupied Cojo from the barely occupied Hollister Ranch, and a smudge of smog above an otherwise invisible Santa Barbara. There are a lot of places a lot further from civilized life than the Cojo but nowhere I’ve ever been has felt so far away.

 

     After that first month, it was clear that I’d survive the obnoxious tests of manhood and truly earn the right to make a dollar thirty-five an hour plus room and board (a small cot and a lot of potatoes).  But was putting up with that disconcerting solitude really worth it?  After my friend left, I still had a couple of months to go.  If things had been lonely before, they were now positively solitary.  With whom could I argue the relative merits of Kurt Vonnegut and Jane Austen?  To whom could I show my calluses with pride?  With whom could I commiserate about the relentless work, the lack of female company, and the redneck notions of our ornery foreman?  I was alone now in a foreign, hostile, seriously under-populated world. 

 

     And yet, with the underpinnings of familiarity removed, I made a frightening discovery.  I actually began to like being alone, really alone.  I’d take long walks, sometimes on foot, sometimes on horseback, along the miles of untraveled beaches or up one of the canyons and along the ridge.  My companions were the scurrying shadows of a bobcat in the brush, the paw prints of a mountain lion, the bark of a coyote, the sharp screech of a red-tailed hawk.  I was a guest -- and not a wholly welcomed one, at that -- and the experience was wonderfully sobering.

     There is a reason why the prophets would go to places where only the gods they saw saw them.  True enough, when these “prophets” came down from their mountains or back from their deserts, they were often a little out of touch if not downright insane.  Ah, but the things they’d seen… things only such immense time and space and quiet will allow the mind to imagine… things one can imagine only where one can be thoroughly UN-selfconscious and hence, more conscious of other things.

     Not until I’d lived with that solitary immensity for a couple of months could I begin to appreciate it.  With no television, no radio, and no telephone but for the pay phone in the mess, I was, myself, a little “out of touch”.  I got no news of far away tragedies to which, because they had happened to humans, I was expected to respond – shocked, saddened, or publicly outraged.  I heard no music to which I could tap a foot or troll, emotionally, for meaningful lyrics.  I watched no sports.  I heard no weather forecasts.  Hell, I couldn’t even see a time-consuming sit-com if I’d wanted.  In short, I got none of the yammering stuff the world’s come to depend on for excitement, news, and reality. 

     When I rode out to that solitary point for the last time, it was a more difficult moment than when I’d said goodbye to my buddy.  I suppose I knew I’d see my friend again though I was not at all sure I’d experience that windy, isolated spot ever again.  (Truth be told, I’ve seen more of it in subsequent years than I’ve seen my friend.  I even snuck out there one afternoon with a girlfriend, got to the point at about the time a full moon was rising into the April sky, and asked her if she’d marry me.  Seventeen years and two kids later, we’re still at it.  Point Conception, indeed.) 

 

     I got back to LA a few days later and noticed that some of my old habits had changed.  For a few weeks, I drove a little slower.  For a few weeks, I didn’t comb my hair.  (Not only was I not going to look anything like Brad Pitt but I wasn’t going to look like anything anybody would ever want to see.)  And the tightness at the sides of the mouth was replaced with a surly grin.

     Luckily enough, time and the seductions of civilization eventually wore down the edges of my arrogance.  Much too quickly, I went back to driving too fast. A little while later, I started combing my hair again, though I still didn’t look a thing like Brad Pitt.  Eventually, even, the surly grin gave way to the tighter mouth – poised, as it had been before, to disagree.

Still, even now I have to be careful.  If things get too quiet for too long, I can forget not to care and be lost for hours… and hours…….          and hours.

©2019 Dan Harder