Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Cold Spring Afternoon

Sunday I just needed to get out for awhile. It was drizzly, too cold for the bike, so I walked. These have been tense, and busy days and each one of them seems to call out almost all the juice that I have leaving nothing in reserve. Working early. Putting in a full hard eight, and maybe a bike ride to the corner. Up at midnight. Too much computer. Too many clicks, e-mails paypals and fedexes. Try to get back to sleep. Up at four for work. It won't last forever.

I got in a good ride and a good walk on Saturday, so I wasn't up for putting out some great athletic feat on Sunday. Nonetheless, I needed to just get out, and move. So I went down to the tracks. This year we've been lucky. Despite some pretty heavy rainfall (for So. Cal.) the trail along the easement has been spared attack from the Goofballs of four wheel drive. The dirt road heading east is mostly healed of the tire track scars from last year. The foot flattened path is easy to walk on again. The mowers haven't torn through here yet, and the wild grass enclosing the path is a good three and a half, or four feet high. It smells sweet in the cold gray wind.

There is a bunch of wheat that grows in the tall grass there along the railroad easement. I have, on occasion, taken the ripe kernels home, and planted them in pots in the yard. They grow; they produce kernels which ripen in turn. They taste OK too, but I've never had the impulse to gather a bunch of it, and then cook it, or make some sort of bread. Nonetheless, watching it grow interspersed with the weeds along the tracks, you feel like you can witness the first impulse to agriculture. Eh- maybe I will try gathering a bunch of it later on. It isn't nearly ready yet.

An old creekbed turned storm channel crosses the path along the easement, and there is a low trestle where, twice a day, the freight train crosses the dirty stream. A depression in the creekbed just before the trestle has created a small, dark pond. Enough water remains there year round to support a thick stand of false bamboo and a small forest of cattails where the black, murky water spills over into the stream under the bridge. You can't tell how deep the pond is, but you can tell it's deep enough to drown in. Kids have been sitting under that trestle, sneaking cigarettes, beer, weed, and sex since long before I discovered the place in 1966. Then the trestle was bolted together from heavy, black, creosote saturated timbers, and pilings. You couldn't stand up straight underneath it. It was hairball as all hell to sit under the trestle, feeling the ground shake, and watching tanker cars lumbering over the ties barely twelve inches above your head.

You gotta' go under there stoned on acid, man. It is sooo heavy...
I went there with that chick, and we...

Thanks 1968. Glad you reminded me.
The railroad rebuilt the thing some years back. They raised it up, a good eight or ten feet above the creekbed, and, of course the trestle is no longer made of wood, but concrete, and paved all the way across. It's no big deal to be there when the train goes by now. Kids still taste their first forbidden fruits under the trestle, but rather than pad discretely behind the houses at night to meet there, they advertise their presence with spray cans and paint sticks. The city hires a full time graffiti abatement worker to paint over the tagging on that bridge, and elsewhere along the easement.

When I got to the Beach Boulevard crossing I looked up the street the half mile or so to the corner. Go get a cup? No. So I just turned around, and headed back. I just didn't feel like walking up to the corner for coffee- head's too full of stuff, and while there are people I talk to up there, there is no one I really share anything important with. You know how that is. You want to talk to someone, but there just isn't anyone to talk to. Except for old John, that is. And I don't say anything to John that I don't want well mixed, and repeated. So I re-traced my steps, but when I reached First Avenue I still didn't want to go back home. So I walked back down to Beach again. Now what? Take the sidewalk through the neighborhoods? Go up Beach? Down? Feeling like the distilled essence of indecision, I just turned around and started scuffing back along the tracks again. What is this? What's wrong? What is it that I want?

When I got back, my mother let me know that opossums had come to visit. My mother likes possums. There were two of them snuffling around in the geraniums by the block wall. The one old guy had lost a tooth, and it looked like some cat had given him a bad scratch down the snout. One lip was kind of hanging open in a sad imitation of a tough-guy sneer, but like all opossums he just couldn't even do a bad imitation of tough. They're harmless, not very bright, and so pathetically ugly that they're endearing rather than scary. An opossum usually doesn't even have the good sense to run away. The big guy with the missing tooth looked up at me like he expected me to give him a snack. I didn't have anything to give him. The smaller one hung back a little, and peered at me from under the geraniums. They decided I wasn't much of a threat, waddled back to the corner of the yard, and climbed up the shefflera trunk to the block wall. They were good enough to pose for a couple of pictures before leaving.