Friday, July 28, 2006

A moment in the sun

I saw something today that I haven’t seen in a long, long time. I saw the sun set over the ocean. I watched it disappear behind the haze of the San Diego horizon as I sat on the beach. I must have sat there for an hour just watching, taking it all in: people playing in the sand, surfers waiting for a wave, the ambient light dimming with each passing minute, beautiful brown bodies turning into silhouettes against the California sun. Just a few hours ago I made my way into the hotel bar only to find that a band and a crowd of noisy people had ruined the quiet of my former sanctuary. So now, here I am on the beach. In my head, Joni Mitchell is singing “Woodstock” (Joni, ok? Not the crappy CSNY version!):

We are stardust
We are golden
And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the Garden…

I was back in the “Garden” that is SoCal, the place I had left 8 years ago. The place where people complain of the cold when, in the “winter”, temps dip just below 60. My mind is suddenly flooded with memories of my former life here: the L.A. summers spent club hopping with Uncle Gabby, shooting pool at the Co-op, nights on the Sunset Strip which turn into mornings on Santa Monica beach, weekends at my parents’ house in the OC, those long drives to San Diego with Gina, and that day in Tijuana when I totally fell for her. I pick up my cell phone and call. “Hi Dear, did I wake you? I’m sitting on the beach watching the sun set,” I say. “Tell her to go home,” she shoots back. I laugh. There’s no one with me except Joni and her electric piano…

Then can I walk beside you?
I have come here to lose the smog
And I feel to be a cog in something turning…

I’m feeling how this long, slow moment is so different from the last few days of airport hopping and life on TDY. The business banter barked incessantly into cell phones at the airports was really starting to get to me: “Make sure you get so-and-so on board,” or “Let me do the numbers and have my people call you back, blah blah blah.” Just shoot me. I’m so glad I don’t have to deal with crap like that. As if my own cell phone banter is any more interesting: “So, the nonlinear rotational index of air for femtosecond laser pulses can be *calculated*?!? You don’t say…” Yup, any day. I thank God that 15 years ago, George Morales was able to sucker me into theoretical physics, which at the time, looked like it had no future. I remember how my dad once asked me, “You know who that is?” as he pointed to a disheveled looking homeless person. “That’s a retired physicist,” he would answer.

And maybe it is just the time of year
Or maybe it's the time of man
I don't know who I am but you know life is for learning...

As the last sliver of sun disappears into the ocean, I start walking back to the hotel. In the morning I’ll get on a plane that will take me home. Back to the life-sucking summer heat of Washington DC. Back to Gina and Sagada. Back to East Coast singletrack, epic rides in the GW forest, and those frantic Wednesday races at Wakefield. Before I go back to work I’ll take a day off and ride my bike somewhere. I’ll zone out on some long stretch of empty road and let my mind wander like it is now, thinking about how things are and what could have been, old friends, new directions, and what to do with those pesky femtosecond laser pulses. Sing it, Joni…

And I dreamed I saw the bombers
Riding shotgun in the sky
They were turning into butterflies above our nation.

As I turn the corner to go back to my hotel I stop dead in my tracks. The sky to my left is dark, while to my right, clouds are set on fire as the sun desperately throws up its last rays from beyond the horizon. It’s the most spectacular cloud burst I’ve ever seen. Other people have stopped to watch. A single star lights up like a beacon in the Eastern sky, as if to show me the way. Good night Joni, it’s time to go home.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kuya elbert or should i say joe P!

nice story back there!

uncle nori told me bout your race back in alfonso a week ago., you've a tough sagada there who trails literally behind ur back.

when you get back here in the philippines, bring your bike and i'l show you the trails from alfonso-laurel batangas, mt. maarat and many more, by the way, hows the prices of bike parts there?

by the way, a DH and XC race will be held in sagada phil by dec.,

9:29 PM


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