Monday, January 30, 2017

jan 29 bike - PV more PV

    And then there are days with no wind at all.....literally nothing....not a breeze not a riding in the doldrums, that section of the Equitorial ocean where sailing ships could be becalmed for weeks...floating in the middle of nowhere under the sun.
    Speaking of nowhere I rode past the Trump National Golf Course down toward San Pedro, condos unbuilt 5 years ago still unbuilt but I'm sure somehow "financed".  Somebody bold had tagged the big stone sign out front, red paint over the gold letters, "puto" over "Trump". Ah well. When you get the big prize you gain some enemies.
   Climbed with my skinny little 50 year old legs. Fun trying to keep a cadence rather than a speed. Strange to watch yourself age. To notice there isnt any new muscle coming along even with all the work. Just maintenencing the old stuff. Seeing the skin on my arms crinkle closer to the tendons and the bones. The veins in the hands emerging bolder each year like they're worried this body's gonna shut down soon and they better figure out an exit strategy. Lines and the creases like sculpture. One truly does carve out a life.
   Took the hands off the brakes on some downhill corners: I thought, I know I can make these, so just trust it and lean, and how stupidly easy it all was, the bike designed to heel like that the tires designed to hang on long as your weight's in the right place. The things we're taught when we're young so many of them simple truths.
   I remember reading a David Mamet article in a mag one year, way back when it was odd that a playwright would write an "article" for a commercial magazine and he was describing a lesson he took in car racing. How to handle a performance vehicle on a track. The advice from his instructor he liked the most was, "Look where you want to go."  Look where you want to go.
   So whenever I get a little freaked about the angle of a turn coming down off a Cali hill I don't look at the yellow line Im terrified of crossing into an oncoming truck I look at the shoulder. And usually things work out.
  The larger ramifications of the metaphor ...I cant think that far.
  I've been reading a book about the first centuries of the Christian church - Syrians, Romans, Greeks, Egyptians, Armenians....almost all of them communicating in Greek, and a word they liked to use was "kenosis" which loosely translates as the emptying of the self. The hollowing out of the ego to make way for a divine will. Self become part of a Life.
  I like the emptying. I guess I should work on the belief. In needs some sort of ritual. Devotion requires some kind of labor.
  Funny,  sometimes when I'm climbing I think about pedaling like I do about a prayer wheel, those fabulous Buddhist tools the Tibetans use, mantras in the holy gear box spun round and around. The more you spin the greater the dharma. A music to it in the wind.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Bike. jan 27 - Santa Ana

   I knew something was wrong.
I took the right onto PCH and it was like catching a wave in Maui. (Something I've also done and barely lived to regret. "Will the white guy body surfing with the kids please get out before we have to retrieve his body.")
  Another story.
  The prevailing winds in LA usually blow in off the water. In the Santa Monica bay that means if you're going North or North west you're getting hit in the face by them and if you're going South or  South East you've got a tail wind. It's a iron rule.
   When the Santa Anas come in. It all spins around. Everything feels bizarre. You don't notice at first, but as the day goes by things get wider, looser, pulled apart. It's hard to explain but it's like the roof's come off the LA basin and all that's keeping anything down, all that's keeping the tenuous tissue of SoCal together is....will. It's just us and the stratosphere, way way up there.
    When the winds turn around they come all the way in from the high interior deserts that front the Sierra range and Death Valley and ...there's nothing out there but what Cormac McCarthy called our blood rite. You can't sugar coat shit in the unicorporated zones outside of 29 Palms even if you have a fortune. It's brutal country, waterless, sere, cruel, militant. And for a week or so every year its indifferent Calvinist soul breathes down upon us.
   It's a documented truth crime goes up during the Santa Anas. People stab their spouses, run the red light, throw the sucker punch, take the final step... when the winds arrive from the desert.
   I think it's all part of our manifest destiny. We built this terrible miracle that is California on the bones of the Indians and the Mexicans and the Chinese and then finally our own brutalized selves crawling in from the Dustbowl....we made a civilization sparkle, but its morality its humanity is thinly spread. The winds take that spiritual topsoil and spin it into the sea.
   Winds in the mts and the canyons of LA will reach 60 MPH this weekend. If a fire starts it'll spread faster than a landslide. Whole neighborhoods can go in an afternoon if the two coincide.
    One of LAs little secrets.
    And on a bike you'll go as fast a professional racer in one direction.
    In the other you'll be pedaling in your climbing gears to keep from falling as you go downhill.
    I nearly came off the thing 4 times. Nuts. Madness.
    Zuma Beach. 45 miles.
    On a lighter note: this is a detail of the bike that Felice Gimondi road to victory in the '65 Tour De France. Poor guy- how great he woulda been....but he had to be the same age as Merckx.
It's so beautiful I wanna lick it.
   I'm gonna sell my carbon and titanium bikes and buy some old steel frame Derosas or a Bianchi like this. Who needs to pretend they can go faster when no matter what they'll never go fast enough? Ride something you love that's gorgeous. Basta.


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Jan 25 Ride. Malibu again.....Why why why....

   There's a guy named Giles Coren who writes the best restaurant reviews I've ever read. Not that I read that many. But what's great about Giles is he sometimes barely mentions the restaurant or often doesn't get to it until he's half a column in.
   Like Anthony Bourdain with his Parts Unknown Coren makes us remember that when we go out to eat we aren't just trying to get the best scallopini or the finest sushi roll or a souffle to die for.
  We're going out. In groups. To see other groups, and gather around the fires and let our hair down and tell stories. We're searching. And more often than not the food's mostly an excuse to do so.
   Coren will tell stories about his father or being Jewish in England or his wife's reminders that he better get his ass in gear and type or he'll talk about the writing itself and then smoothly let you know you've been listening to him inside one of London's kabillion restaurants and how the subject he was going on about links up with some small one door shop's Kebab or a five star bowl of soup that smells like something that wafted up into his room at Oxford and he never found out why.
   What I'm trying to say is ....describing the geographic highlights of a bike ride in correct chronology is probably going to bore everyone to death so Im gonna try and avoid it. Or mix it up. From day to day. Depending.
   Headwinds. Back pain. The same old RPM drop at the same old corner on PCH that Ive been cursing for 20 years. The gravel. The glare. The exhaust. All to get to a hill by Pepperdine that cant be that hard to climb and yet every time I climb it I want to scream. It doesn't add up. I don't to anymore than the same sum I've seen for decades.
   So...why? Why do people sit on bikes for 3 hours at a shot?
   Well, to quote Mel Gibson...."Freedom!!"
   Not democratic freedom -which as we are so often told isn't free- not the freedom to be you and me, actually quite the opposite. The freedom to be not me. To forget me, dull the voices in my head that I call my personality.
  Biking hurts. Way down deep.
  I like the saying, On a bike you can die many deaths. What it means is more than in a pool or running on a road, when you're cycling you can hit the wall really really hard and be quite sure that you are done, cooked, fit for the uber pick up to take you home in a bag....and drift over the top of a hill, you hit a climb that's got just that canter you like, someone rips by you with a wicked smile and you find, you're back at it, you've got another life to burn.
  But eventually, cycling wears them all down. It kind of erases you. At the end of a hard ride you are boiled down to fewer of your essentials, and what a lay on the ground or melt into a chair at an outdoor cafe or watch the tide come in while your normally nagging self, ego, ID, and fears are shutting the fuck up.
   That's why I do it.
   That and the beauty of the machine. A trim bridge most bikes are, that suspension between two wheels. The simplest truss which balances only when in motion, and us perched in the middle. Get one humming and it's a perfect thing. You're a mechanical centaur. That desire wired in all of us since the first Mongol got up on a horse and held on. To be one with something faster. To get back down on all fours and No engine. No fuel but you. Sailing but by land, not sea.
   LA's been lousy with landslides recently. Four years of water fell in the last couple months and PCH is an ever evolving mud puddle that the nice folks from CalTrans keep open. Topanga Canyon is closed which strikes an almost laughable blow at many commuter hopes and dreams. But also means we the bikers can ride up and down Topanga....alone.
   I'm still too old. Knees going, thighs not rippling anymore, frickin back a mess....but WTF, onward.
    65 miles.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Jan 23 - Griffith Park

It's one of things they tell you when you first move here. 
The Griffith Family still owns Griffith Park.
The largest Park in any American City. 
One family- leases it to LA for a dollar a year. 
I have no idea if this is true. Are there still Griffiths? After they made Birth of A Nation is this what they bought? 
Was DW really a Griffith? 
Who knows? 
Griffith has lots of trails in it that you can't ride - you can't ride on any trails in LA City parks which seems a little extreme until you realize how little park land there is in this place and how many bikers. It would be war. Hikers and bikers and tourists colliding. Hills denuded by the million rock hopper enthusiasts...or not. Who knows? 
But you can ride on roads and Griffith has some nice steep access roads up and over it. 
Rained for days and then cleared today and I thought oh the sun's out it's not going to be that cold. Mistake. Hands freezing on descents, knees locking up, hamstrings -well the right one at least- letting me know it was only gonna put up with so much of this shit. But what fun. Up Nichols, down Mulholland, up into Lake Hollywood down past Warner Bros- caught the green this time both ways and up and over Griffith twice. Chased some senior citizen on a steel road bike up to the top - he pounded a big gear (which some people call little gears a term which makes no intuitive sense to me - IE he was pedaling slowly) I kept a respectable constant distance, but when I got to the top,  I thought oh look he's stopping to show me he beat me on his skinny tires I'll just turn right and go up the dirt road to the Hollywood sign, how's that buddy, feelin strong now?? 
Silly yes- cyclists do this dumb shit all the time, little pulls and tests and to see if the person next to you can take it.
Really stupid on my part as you can't actually get to the Hollywood sign this way and I was dying when I reached some water tank with a view of, the Valley. I share the bounty below. 
  But the descent down to Los Feliz was a blast and the sun came out and LA looked amazing after it's week under the pounding rain and snow, I passed two guys walking a dog that didn't look like it could have walked down the driveway but somehow got up here- determined old pooch - one of those sausage corgi type things that always seem to be smiling, like they're having a good time. 
Washes of dirt and gravel across the road, crows flipping and cruising at eye level, clucking that odd crow speech which someone told me is different in every part of the country; West Coast crows don't cluck like East Coast crows. Makes sense. 
Passed a coyote trotting the other way who pulled to the side of road but didn't give me any more deference than that. Healthy coat, intelligent eyes....probably saying to himself....."if only I were bigger..." I remembered shooting tv one night down below on the Griffith golf course late at night, ten years ago now at least. I had some time between scenes and I went for a stroll on the course under the moon. The grass looked blue. I was standing mid some fairway when I heard what sounded like little girls laughing, I turned around and 15 coyotes ran right past me, thru me really, on either side, like I wasn't there. And I suppose to them, I wasn't. Their feet a graceful drumming as they disappeared.
Just drops and climbs all day basically. And that was fine, what the hell, find the right gear and hope your back doesn't give out.
Coming back down the valley side an hour later a big fella in team gear drew up next to me, both of us splattered in LA's red mud, We'd both been cheating a little on the trails- "Definitely Mt bike weather huh? " I was sitting up blowing on my hands , "Little chilly for sure. " He laughed, "I'm from Green Bay, this is nothing." I called after him, "Then I guess we have even more in common, I'm from Pittsburgh.." And he looked back, "It's over man- the forces of evil have triumphed. No super bowls this year."  
A city of ex-pats. (Decidedly different than a city of ex-Pats, someplace I never want to go) People glancing off each other and occasionally finding moments to bridge the gap. As he went by I realized he had those little testicle things hanging off his saddle that guys with big Dualies and possibly not so big other attributes hang off their tow hitch. Had to laugh. Certainly "took some.." 
maybe 30 miles. 

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Ride- Jan 21 PV

   Palos Verdes fixates me. It's a pain in the ass to get to, and even more of a pain in the ass today, but once I'm there...I just wanna make the wheels spin. I wanna stay.
   I don't mean I wanna live there...what did MacArthur say "Old soldiers never die, they just...fade away." ? The PV pennisular paraphrase is "Old Republicans never die...they just... Palos Verdes."  I just like to do loops and feel the wind and the chill it often holds. A cloud hangs over it.
   The hills call me, there's a wildness still to the place, the cliffs on the near side of Portugese Bend -which if you come to LA are the one piece of nature you should see, LA Crest and the Santa Monicas be damned- the roads are always collapsing and houses shifting and people falling into sink holes (oddly enough the closer you get Trump's national golf course empire which owns the coast just above San Pedro - another little So Cal gem of town)- but you can ride around the place for hours and hardly see a soul not in a car. Its so odd: money and California. People just hole up. They stay indoors or they're in transit or shopping. Unfair of course but I've gotta have ridden thru PV 100 times and there are homes Ive never seen anyone in, around, or coming out of. They're investments.
  Which let me say when you're cruising around on a popsicle stick of a bike is just fine. Fewer surprises, free agents and fools, the better.
   So it's 15 miles to get there, well from my current pit of an apartment it's 25 but you do a flat warm up and then on mile 30 you're climbing 8,9 degrees and sometimes more and you can do that for ...however...and then a flat spin back.
   Shit roads, crap bike path, sand heaps blown into access roads, the usual mad melange of ear bud walkers, skaters, bozos on a stroll ( "hey try the pedestrian path where I'd be arrested if I rode my bike on- it's right there!") bikers with their dogs on a lease stretching across the entire path. Geniuses all. Liberty and its fallout victims. Learn to slalom.
   But run that gauntlet and you can climb a switchback as lovely as a ski slope and stand by the Pacific coast road and watch porpoises and seals gambol in the surf. You'll get headwinds on some of the descents that will scare you cold but you'll also get tailwinds that'll lift you right to the crest and push you home.
   Home....funny to use the word in LA.
   PV - A beauty of a place to ride thru. Got a soft spot for it and its El Rancho aesthetic.
   call it 65 miles.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Bike- Jan 20th- what you do when it's raining in the ...Southland

     I remember the first time I heard the expression. The Southland.
I must have been in "my trailer" or visiting someone's house back in the 90s and the news was on, as it so often is everywhere you go these decades.
   "Rain in the Southland and our accu weather team has it covered!!" like they were covering a natural disaster or "More Southland news than any other news channel!!" (love the repetition)....anyhow, Eastish coaster that I am, I thought, "but the Southland is ....the South, you know", like Lynyrd Skynyrd singing songs about it, below the Mason Dixon line (or in Pennsylvania anywhere within some strange invisible border where the Stars and Bars still fly) the land of Lee and Jackson, of peaches, and bad public schools and lots of college basketball, but surely NOT Southern California.
  That was before I realized that California is a nation unto itself. And that everyone who's moved here has kind of turned it into a microcosm or a substitute world for ...everywhere else.
   The most abstract and conceptual landscape Ive ever experienced is to most Californians the only reality they can work or live in. It's their safe space, where the oxygen has the right mix of fantasy and free will.
  What Im getting at is I wouldnt think twice about riding in the rain in PA or NYC or RI or anywhere else Ive lived I actually kind of enjoy the feeling, the wheels spinning up the spray and your knees hitting the chill of the top tube miles and miles in.....fewer people, cars going slower, people staring at you like you're nuts, better be smart when you use the brakes.....but back in LA.....when it rains sometimes I fall prey to the general hysteria.
    Funny, the thing this place needs the most, water, it reacts to as if a plague descended. The highways grind to a halt, the news channels embed correspondents at crucial intersections, people call off work.
  And I go to the gym.
  Or more sadly to someplace with 60 bikes crammed into an office space and the word "Soul" imprinted somewhere on the letterhead. The webberhead.
  "Indoor cycling".
   Jesus wept. At least he might have after getting his heart rate up to 170 beats a minute in the first 4 minutes of the session as a quad mighty instructor dressed like a super hero shouted at him to find his core, it's all about you, this is YOUR choice, your life, your health, now GOOOOOOOOO!!!!and 40 some millenials rabidly bounce their way into their minds eye of what they imagine the film of their life looks like.
   But don't get me wrong. I'm grateful for it. It's a good workout. (If you dont get your heart rate that high that fast and if you stay for two sessions) and previous gyms have always had the most laughable indoor "bikes". The wide saddled torture instruments designed for Victorians.
   Thank god indoor cycling ...took its stationary way.
    I used to go to one of the original joints in Venice run by a team of mean looking ladies who'd sweat their and my asses off and give me shit when I didn't do the yoga part after. Loved em and their tough lesbian love.
   But the whole...concept.....striving alone together....sitting in rows like they would at a Starbucks feeding off the wi fi, to a soundtrack, how they must have sat in elementary school when teacher taught them they were all digs at me.
   Exercise porn. The work out without the risk, the price, the personal journey.
   Take out fitness.
   The very definition of biking means getting out there, into the world, and thru it. Where someone might just flatten you or you might take your eye off the road and topple over a grate or come to a red light and ...have to wait your turn. That's kinda the deal. There are no conceptual pilgrimages.
   But hey...when you've been livin in the Southland for too long and get a little spoiled and been under the weather for three days with some odd LA bug and something's happening on the tv in DC you just can't accept.....2 hours head down in a box as The Cult screams Dionysian dreams into your soul's core....gets the job done.
   Mileage? Who the hell knows but Christ I need some water.
Try and hear this and not spin at 160 rpms!!!!!
  especially the fake ending...gets me every time....
   Guns and Roses? Eat shit and die. This is the great 80s glam band.

Jan 17 Santa Monica fire road

Pretty much my favorite ride in LA. The standby. The steady. The one and done. 
You weave thru Santa Monica and Rustic Canyon, that magic patch of streets below the Palisades that no one seems to know about still with its old ranch sites and community tennis courts and gazillion dollar cottage and craftsmen homes riffing off old designs into the stratosphere of domestic comfort. 
And a nice loud stream which runs more often than most in So Cal. Climb up out of that and somehow you get right to Sunset. Where if you want you do a quick 8th of a mile zig zag and at your pedals is suddenly 40,000 acres of bike riding. 
Boom. Like that. One minute you're crossing in front of a bar and an italian restaurant, next minute your climbing past Steven Spielbergs pad and then poof you disappear into miles of mountain nothinness. 
It's about two hours my favorite ride. Straight up from sea level to the fire lanes of Dirt Mulholland, I dont know...six mile climb?? Couple pitches are the steepest things I've ever consistently ridden up, views to both sides of a massive ravine and walking park. 
On and on, granny gear hell, sun on you face if you climb before noon at the worst parts. It can be brutal. Or it can be more often, magic. The sun setting as you reach the ranger station and WATER! at the top. There's the Pacific one way. There's the valley and the San Gabriel mts in the other. I've gotten to the top and the winds been blowing so hard the power lines moan like a rigged ship. 
Strange place. The worst and the best. Pain and joy. The mountains and the over built valley below. 
Then you take a couple rights and plunge for even more miles than the climb all the way back down to Sunset where it scrapes thru Santa Monica's northern canyons. 
Ain't a car that can keep up with you once you start the descent. A blast....and this is a bobcat I saw on the way up in a yard not a mile from Sunset Blvd. 
Gotta love the southland.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

LONNNNNGGGGG Bike RIde for a BiiiiiG Cause

   Hey folks out there in internet land- friends I've already pestered from three different platforms, pals, distant relatives, ethernet brethren.......
   I'm gonna ride my bike from San Fran to LA in June to raise money for HIV/ AIDS research.
   Check out their website
   You can pull up the main page, tap donate up above, type in my name, the rest
is simple. Please help at any level if you can.
   I'm also gonna put together a blog update thing on that site - I'll have a "personal page" - and basically I'll be writing something about each training ride I do and adding silly pictures and video. Had some laughable rides already. Lotta rain in LA right now and boy that can wreak havoc in the mountains. My landlord almost had to hose me down before she'd let me in the apt.
   Anyhow....if you would, if anyone you know has been hit by this worldwide much has been done, stunning progress has been made to retard and reduce the impact of HIV on a person but for the poor, for the inner city working class the presence of HIV is full on to this day.
   I worked with children last year, a story telling class in a small town near Pittsburgh with the largest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania and there isn't one of them unaffected by HIV. An uncle, a cousin, an aunt, a brother.
  Please help.

  'Cause all during this ride I'll be feeling the "good pain."


Thursday, January 5, 2017

Oh Christmas Tree Oh....

   I loved my parents for a lot of reasons.
   Truthfully, I didn't love them for more, but that's my fault.
   I loved, that to my mom and dad, the animals came first. The dog didn't live outside and you didn't hit him, the cats could eat your food, the snake didn't get into trouble if he bit you, the gerbils weren't used as toys.
   They had their lives. They walked around according to their odd little mammalian (and reptilian) orders. Neither of my parents expected them to act like people. If the cat wanted to come in. And then five minutes later wanted to go out. And then ten minutes later was pulling at the screen because he wanted to come back in, well that's just how he was wired. Dad might bitch, but he didn't accuse. He didn't judge.
  I always admired that in him.
  My mom might not want a cat on the table at dinner, but at breakfast, big deal.
  My parents gave me the sense to give animals their space, to let them wander and not corral them too much toward human expectation and need.
   My parents gave the animal in me a safe home. To this day, if I'm in a pet store, in a zoo, in a paddock, out on the streets following a stray, the organic lope of a cat or the hop and skip of a crow or the joyous canter of a horse make more sense to me than waiting by a crosswalk for the signal to say go.
   The other thing I'll always love about my parents is they never took down the Christmas tree in my presence.
   Some folks remember or fetishize the days that mom and dad didn't let them see the presents go under the tree, IE how long they kept Santa Claus alive.
    Wasn't a big deal to me. I had much older brothers and at a young age I knew "he" was a construct. A metaphor for generosity, and I think, when I found out the truth, I was more impressed that everyone on earth (on the Christian earth I imagined universal back then) exchanged presents on the same day than some guy ran around the planet handing them out.
    My family chose, put the tree up, and decorated it together, my brothers and I and both parents taking messy turns hanging the ornaments. An aesthetic family stew. A collaborative art work.
    But it came down in secret. My mom waited until sometime in mid January, she was a stickler for observing the Epiphany, and one afternoon I'd come home from school and the tree and the ornament case would be gone. The quiet labor of mystery.
    The Xmas tree became as important if not moreso than the gifts to come, than Xmas dinner, than gathering around dad's chair to read Clement Clarke Moore. And as I got older and bought more gifts than I got, which is really the rubicon of adulthood, the Christmas tree became for me the hot center of the holiday.
  Home from college coming home late at night both parents asleep and the house silent but for the padding mew of the cats I loved to see the tree coloring the window as I turned up our street. I loved the prismatic splash it made on the ceiling of our dark living room. How the living thing and the electric lights co-operated to make a seasonal sculpture. A totem thousands of years old standing in the corner of the first floor of a tiny Dutch colonial in East Pittsburgh.
   I say all this to explain an odd habit of mine.
   I do this ....thing.... now. I've done it for awhile.
   I used to look around and see if anyone was watching me or coming my way but now I don't care.
   When the streets and the sidewalks start to fill with abandoned xmas trees, tossed out, piled, plopped onto the corner to await the garbage men I take more frequent walks.
    And whatever tree I pass I touch, or if I have the time I stop and take a few needles from a branch and I taste them, or I fold them and rub them into my hands until I can feel and smell each trees scent, its way, its particular life.
   Some are dry as plastic but if you bend the needles in half that sharp pine smell still emerges, half nectar half urine, with varieties of taste as wide as Turkish sherbet, and one of those scents like blood or sex or shit or bread that fixes itself in your desirous reptilian brain. A vibrant arboreal boy come in from playing in the forest.
    Consider each tree, its body, would I have bought it? Is it still alive? If stood back up and sunk into a bucket would it breath a few more days?
     They're almost corporeal, pine trees. They have a sort of figure. Hips and a torso and a graceful peak. I'll admit it I find some of them sensual. Maybe it's more accurate to say they have a volume to them, a skirting, that speaks of life. Little pyramidal universes, ecosystems, minor metaphors for community, for the arboreal genius and wealth of stasis. This mystery we bring into our homes. We decorate and praise them.
   And then almost as one we toss them to the curb.
   Why we don't burn them in a deliberate ritual to end Christmas, a Twelfth Night bonfire, or bury them en masse to enrich or protect the spring harvest I don't know. There's a lot about "us" and what we throw away without a second thought that I do not and never will understand.
   You'll find me in the dog run.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Old Greenwich

     Long Island Sound's socked in. Black jetty stones tumble into a short beach. Two days left in 2016.
24 hours of rain. The constant kind without a breath I got used to in college, that I realized New Englanders were used to all their lives, that I'd forgotten about, living on the West Coast. The pacific coast where you wake up 270 days in the year to nothing but blue skies. Drowning and not waving.
  I'm 20 feet from the water. Across 15 more miles of it should be New York State, but all you can see are layers of grey and blue, washes in and across the water, above even the few houses visible on the land's narrow points. The soft shore's tree line a brushy charcoal under all the lovely hues of slate.
  I miss these colors in California. Out there they don't exist. Even a Golden Gate storm has an undertone of glitter. Fog in San Fran is primed with yellow.
  I'm frickin cold. Gets in your skin here. The core feels it and shies away, even a mile from I-95. Jogging distance to the closest mansion. One of my oldest friends and I standing here, and not speaking too much.
   I'd shelved my memories of this part of the States. These dreamy secure towns I used to pass back and forth between New York and Providence. My college pilgrimages for love and knowledge. On the trains, I'd wonder who lived behind those warm windows clicking by, how could so many people be that wealthy, that lucky? I let it go. Or I did nothing about it, so I let them alone, let them be, get on with their immaterial lives, have kids, a generation of still breeding thoughts, and so on...... but here I was again on a spit of parkland just south of Stamford Connecticut, feeling it.
  At the toe of a town settled in the middle of the Seventeenth century. Pequots giving way to Yankees and Sailors and farmers, fighting back but losing ultimately, burned and starved, erased. And then after the settlers and thieves, came the bankers and the billionaires, new thieves, burning and starving the nation and building their astounding homes along the shore.
  Fitzgerald lived briefly on the other side of the Sound. I've always wondered did he dream up Daisy's green light gazing a few hundred yards from one spit of Long Island to another or did he look across the Sound toward what he knew were the new money manses of Connecticut. Fairfield, Cos Cob, Greenwich. Green light. Greenwich.
  Gatsby dreaming across a greater expanse makes more sense to me. His inspiration growing with the distance. The challenge of the crossing. But then when F. Scott wrote the novel he realized, practically, to make the story work Daisy needed to be near by and Gatsby's madness buying literally the mansion next door became all the stronger. Art, always served by compression and release. But still I think, at the close of the book, when he speaks of the continent seen for the first time by Dutch sailors, when the inessential houses melt away, he's talking about, he's remembering, Connecticut, not New York. The distant shore he saw that gave him that smoky eternal image was here. Right beneath my feet.
  You know those stories about War veterans: the glass or the metal, the fragments of shells or bullets or deflected debris or the obliterated bones of the friend standing next to them, these splinters emerging from their skin decades later? No matter how you think you've put it to bed, overused it, gone to the nostalgic well once too often, some stuff always comes back up. You can bury your shit, you can think it's done, it's got no more half life, but once in awhile you'll be wrong, on the way home you'll be driving along a tight little suburban street lined with faux colonials and you'll pass Random Rd, "ha check that out man, a street called Random Rd" and before you can laugh and point it out, before you can say a word to your friend behind the wheel you'll remember, oh that's where she lived. Her dad's house was down that road. Literally, Random Road.
  And who was she? A girl with a Goddess' name you met freshman year but no one in your life's meander that mattered all that much much as you weren't much to hers. But there it is. The real thing. The actual road. Not even 200 yards long, bisecting an overbuilt, commuter heavy peninsula in Fairfield County Connecticut, where you spent a hazily recalled few days in 1986 with a red haired beauty and her sharp and winsome parents. Whose father built a bank in Pittsburgh you pass every day you're home. Who made love to you on a jetty in a summer storm, as she faced the water and you the shore. The breadth of the memory broader than the place itself.
   You say nothing to your buddy, who's driving back to his son, who's waiting with his parents in their summer home 20 miles up the coast, because you two have been talking about his brutal divorce and how tight the lane is with all the SUVs going by, and whether Sandy when she hit leveled this or that McMansion but what you're thinking is, fuck, memory lives in the land, its power is the land itself and you need to go there, to the place where you were when it happened even if you weren't born when it did, if you want to feel it. If you want it back. And even when you don't. It will come. And maybe it should. Who are we to try and choose.