i stand here looking around in amazement, as the sun plays rose colored games against the mountains, as the shadows stretch further into the distance…i’m jealous of this dirt colored city with its über scenic panorama surrounding this elevated bike path. i can only hope to see something like this when we get to seattle. i decide to ride south, towards route 66…towards my destiny.

a dreadlocked cyclist passes me with a nod as our fixie’s chains gnash salutations to each other. the air is so much thinner up here in the high desert. i checked the weather earlier. 75 degrees, 12% humidity, 5310 ft above sea level. it was a stark contrast to where i was 4 days earlier in the rain soaked, tropical stench pit known as central florida. i stop at a traffic light, lomas blvd., and catch my breath as it tries to escape back towards sea level where it belongs. the air surprisingly chills me as i wait in the shadow of some buildings for the light to change.

back in the land of green dreams and black beans, we had some hills…okay, so they’re called bridges. anyhow, the worst of them was nothing compared to the one i’m heartattacking up right now as i roll onto the unm campus. stop sign. near death. fuck that hill. i finally lose the urge to vomit as i ride up to this lovely oasis of green known as the duckpond. smiling faces, beautiful people lounging in the grass, kids throwing bread crumbs to the waterbound ducks and geese. one dares not lie in the grass south of the georgia state line unless suicide by fire ant is the end goal.

i was in new mexico years earlier during a cross country hiking trip and subsequent visit to a friend in las cruces, mark. we sat next to a small fire in his small weber grill, as the bitter december night chilled our backs and kept our beers cool. i was telling mark and dee, the old mexican squatter/shaman who did mark’s yardwork in exchange for a place to park his tiny airstream, how i was so enamored with the whole new mexican state of mind and such. dee said, “if you like it here, you should check out seattle, if you ever make it up to that part of the country.” he went on to tell us how you could live there damn near for free on the kindness of others like some steinbeckian cannery row daydream. “we would go to the soup kitchens for lunch since we looked the part in our work clothes,” he rambled on, “it’s a beautiful place where anything is possible.”

nearly nine years later, here i am back in new mexico, a mere pitstop on the way to the great unseen…seattle. i’d been stalking the emerald city for years. planning and plotting, studying maps and even listening to it’s radio stations over the internet. all of our furniture, my dj equipment, everything bulky, sacrificed to ebay and yard sales for our exodus to the northwest. 4 days, 1800 miles, 32 rubbermaid bins full of our lives and a uhaul trailer later, i’m straddling my fuji at the corner of central and yale, looking disdainfully towards the bane of the american mindset…mcdonald’s. i used to love that shit when i was a teeenager. now the thought of it makes me as sick as the thought of bombing that hill on yale with a brakeless bicycle.

the light turns green and i pull into the intersection. i’ve got my left arm out as a signal, patiently waiting, and now this guy pulls up to a green light, stops, and motions me through…. i know i must look completely pissed as i sit here thinking, ‘what a dumbass,’ as this dude breaks southeastern car/bike etiquette with this grand taboo. ‘he’s got to be tricking me,’ a voice in my head says, ‘he’s gonna smash me just like that old lady did.’ so i’m gesturing this fool to go and he’s mouthing something to the effect of, “i insist.” i hold my ground and wait. then he looks at me, pissed, and finally rolls past as the light turns yellow. i just make the light and start heading east.

greek restaurant. pizza joint. satellite coffee…the frontier? what kinda cowboy hellhole is this place, with it’s crazy yellow barn roof and herd of scraggly, sun-dried bums at the bus stop bench out front. looks quite busy as i briefly look through the windows.  there sure are a lot of students walking around this late in the day. the shops, the crowd, looks vaguely familiar…like the imagined version of my ideal seattle neighborhood, fremont, which of course i couldn’t afford to live in. i wanted to be in the artsy, quirky part of town since it matches my personality and is just plain fun to be in. what i can afford is west seattle, on the other side of town from exactly where i want to be. i suppose you have to start somewhere.

college named streets radiate away from the college as cars and buses cruise smoothly past me. the wind roars peacefully in my ears while the road flows me eastward like a gentle river. laughing couples and tattooed freaks wander the sidewalks with well dressed families and dependence encrusted vagrants. neon lights and boutiques, and another tat shop. kelly’s brewery, with it’s crowd of beer-wielding, patio dwelling, people watchers…fuck you starbucks…hey! the bike coop, alright… more patio people in the nob hill business center. the mountains are beginning to match the shade of the purple sage flowers i’ve seen on my ride. darkness is coming.

the deal sealer in my turnaround point decision is the group of obvious transvestites catcalling me as i ride past ‘the pulse’. yup, i’ve seen enough. i turn right on sierra, then again on silver. one more right and i’m back at the mother road. waiting for the light, i realize how cool it’s getting since the sun dropped below the horizon’s edge. i also notice that i’m going downhill. hell, i hardly felt as if i was climbing on my way up. now the wind chills my bare arms as i chase the remnants of dusk back to my family and future.

it’s been 4 1/2 years since that night. i live 100 yards behind that gay bar now, although it hasn’t been that for the past three years…it’s the copa cabana, bent cowbot hat, super pointy boot, mariachi nightclub. amazingly, it seems much gayer now. i won’t go into the details of the battery charger and the clutch, or how albuquerque made us decide to forget our dreams of northern, mist covered mountains and made us love her rugged beauty and call it our home. it’s just strange how my bicycle carried me to my new home, before i had ever considered this place an option. it’s strange how my original interest in moving to washington came from my professed love for new mexico.

this damned state sucked me in!

that has to be what happened…and i don’t regret that it did.

 

j.m. 2.19.2012

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