Saturday, April 14, 2012
At night, it gets extraordinarily dark at the foot of the hills.
That which might be deemed basic requirements in other towns, we consider afterthoughts.
Our street lights, those that we have, now and again, work when the mood strikes and lightning doesn't. And every few blocks there’s a street sign -- a warrior wounded by a Santa Ana wind, or a driver, angry or drunk. The signs don’t point so much as suggest several possibilities -- east and west, of course, but also down below and to the sky.
If you try the sidewalks, you’ll get derailed; our sidewalks start somewhere mid-way down a street and end at someone’s garage. Then pick up again, oh, maybe three or ten houses later, which folks find whimsical or irrational, depending. When it comes to gentrification, we blow hot and cold.
Because I walk at night, cars often slow to turtle speed and ask directions.
Some people are born knowing the earth’s coordinates, I really believe that. And no matter what, no matter when, they just somehow know where they are on this earth.
That’s not me. Though I have perfect pitch.
What I don’t have, among many other things, is a sense of direction, so when people ask directions, I can’t visualize where it is they want to go or, when they ask me, where we stand.
If it’s very late, their questions often have a desperate urgency. And I feel compelled to offer something. Forgetting for the moment that accuracy isn’t beside the point, it is the only point.
So I respond, say something, throw forth a north and south. Is this a desire to help my fellow man? Or just an automatic reflex to have an answer for every question.
When they speed away, I promise myself, never again will I tell anyone where they’re not and how far they are from where I’ve never been.