Avalon, So Long


Thursday. We are departing Chicago O’Hare at dusk and I am reminded of Oedipa Mass looking down at San Narcisco in The Crying of Lot 49. The grid below seems to have meaning, like a huge semi-conductor with pulsating rhythms of traffic, all packets of energy with purpose – but the purpose remains obscure.

I am sitting in row 12, which means that I am obliged to help in the event of an emergency. Fine by me. Leg room. In front of me sits a 12 year old girl who is constantly hounded by her obese parents, who sit opposite her, across the aisle. I am reminded of Harry Potter’s step parents. “You don’t know what straddle means?” says the mom. “For cryin’ out loud, it’s only an hour! And don’t squash my muffin!” It occurs to me that this is the first time in a week or more that I have heard anybody use the word “smart alec”. “I didn’t think my muffin was gonna look like a paint can!” Crimony!

Our connections have been “knapp”, as the Germans say. We had to run to make our T.C. flight in Chicago, having been slightly delayed during our flight from L.A. and having a tight schedule in the first place. It seems the entire Midwest is beset by thunderstorms, necessitating our rerouting over Wisconson. But we made it, the last ones to be seated on the plane, all spread out like marbles come to rest. The gangway doors were opened for us, and people had a good look as we made our way down the aisle. Somebody important? Perhaps.

I am in the nether world between vacation and real life world, hoping to prolong the vacation mind set for as long as possible. Travel is good for the soul, and maybe something sticks in the long run, if we’re lucky and smart enough to let it. The physical constraints of Catalina Island impose their own reality after a while. Part of the beauty of the place is entailed in the prospects across a crowded valley which is peopled with a strange array of houses and balconies, jutting out in facets which catch the sun. The canyon view consists of other people’s private spaces. Climbing through the mazes between the houses, up stairs and down, leaves you feeling like you have stumbled into a less nefarious version of the Casbah. Each cubicle is a protected world unto itself. You could throw a stone over the spaces of ten houses, yet it’s all very private and mysterious.

Outside the town the wide open landscape is controlled by the Catalina Conservancy. In order to do any hiking you need to apply for a permit on the day of the hike, and you are likely to be discouraged or prevented for the slimmest of reasons. Yesterday, for example, the trails were officially closed because there had been rain the night before, and the trails might be “unsafe”. Nonsense. I went anyway and had a glorious 8 mile hike through the hills and made it to the other side of the island, where I saw turquoise shallows and white foam breaking amongst the rocks far below. I had the whole place to myself, and the brilliant sun made for great pictures. Oh, and the trails were fine. The conservancy …. grrrr. The mafia, more like.

So… I am not a slow writer, but already we are descending for Traverse City, with some roller coaster blips on the way, so must finish. I have started …

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