Posted on Wednesday, August 1st, 2007
I just caught myself doing something extremely odd; something that I’ve done habitually for years. It’s in the general class of little quirks which we tend to notice especially in generations older than us. I suspect that’s because the original underlying cause of their habit is obscured by time and “progress” and made to seem all the more out-of-place as a consequence.
My specific quirk concerns those plastic rings which hold together multipacks of cans and bottles. Whenever I’m about to dispose of one, I always take a pair of scissors and snip through every closed loop in the plastic so that none of them are joined together. I can remember very clearly why I do this, although I couldn’t tell you when it started.
At some point in the past, I heard a story about scavenger birds (seagulls and the like) who were getting their heads caught in the loops of plastic can-holders and then slowly choking themselves to death. I believe that the story specifically mentioned cutting the loops apart to avoid their suffering. I wouldn’t class myself as a rampant “animal lover” exactly, but something about the story hit home. Et voila, many years later I find myself standing in my kitchen cutting up plastic rings. Each time I do it, I remember the original story and ponder its veracity, even as I snip snip snip away.
The really crazy thing is that I then hopefully deposit the plastic in with the recycling, telling myself “well, I snipped it in case they reject and landfill it regardless.”
I fully expect, many years from now, to be standing in some kitchen snipping away whilst incredulous offspring or offspring-offspring (should such people ever exist) ask me “why the heck are you doing that?”
“Seagulls, dear. Seagulls.”
I’m not even particularly fond of seagulls…
Posted on Sunday, December 18th, 2005
I haven’t felt so apprehensive in quite a while, but as I wheel my case out through the deserted customs lobby and into the arrivals area of Heathrow Terminal 4 it turns out that my fears were unfounded.
Posted on Saturday, September 24th, 2005
I’m still wondering why the hell I decided to do this – waking up at 5am in order to drive nearly 400 miles to Los Angeles. Having wound my way through the quiet streets of the South Bay, I’ve been barreling through the early morning fog on highway 152 with other early-morning motorists. I’m betting that they’re equally bewildered.
As the road gets towards Interstate 5, it winds gently up into the hills above the San Luis Reservoir. And just as I’m cresting the hills, the rock strata of the lake’s shores clearly visible away to my right, the sun crests over the peak directly in front of me.
It hits the last remaining wisps of fog clinging to the landscape and the roadway, turning them gold in sharp contrast to the blood-red of the rising sun. Everything is bathed in a multitude of colours.
It feels like someone rammed this 2-lane highway right through the middle of a newly-born Earth.
It’s magical, and it reminds me again of one of the biggest reasons that I love California. It’s big, and it’s truly beautiful.
All of a sudden, the drive feels like an adventure again.
Posted on Sunday, June 26th, 2005
I can feel the city humming from over the horizon, before we get anywhere near. Occasional sparks of light merge slowly into an organised gridwork of towns until finally it’s there just below us, stretching in every direction endlessly.
The winding ribbons of the freeways are so bright it hurts the eyes.
It’s almost too much; too crazy. I’ve never seen anything so out of control, so wanton, so… American.
At this height, as the plane begins its final descent, the City of Angels wears a halo; a filthy crown of smog encircling countless square miles.
It’s not the picturesque hills and “Victorians” of San Francisco, and it’s hard to fall instantly in love with LA. Even from a distance, she’s clearly a filthy whore of a city.
As I step out of the plane at LAX I’m wondering what new tricks she’ll be able to teach me.
Posted on Saturday, June 11th, 2005
San Francisco vanishes at night, like a modern Isle of Avalon.
All of her lights and her shapes, the loves and despairs, the smiles and the tears are veiled from view.
As the sun descends and the fog rises, 49 square miles dissolve into a gentle orange haze.
From the city’s hills you stare down into nothingness. You are alone. You are quiet. You can sleep and dream quiet dreams.
Because the city is there when you need it; waiting for you to dive in and swallow the full force of life.
But it also knows when to leave you alone.
A perfect balance.
Posted on Friday, June 10th, 2005
I’m just cresting the first bend above San Andreas lake, swinging the driver’s visor to the side to block out the blinding rays of the sun, and for a moment I’m confused.
There’s a mountain range out there which didn’t exist this morning.
All across the forested hills a few miles to the west, the clouds have gathered and risen in majestic snowy peaks, spilling over the dark green foliage and glowing in the evening light.
It’s breathtaking, and I have to make an effort to keep my eyes where they need to be – on the road.
Another five miles and the fog has gathered fully. As the traffic races down the curves of the freeway ahead of me, it’s momentarily lit by a fan of Jacob’s Ladders.
I want to take a photo, but I can’t possibly do it justice through a windscreen at freeway speeds. It’s probably dangerous too.
Instead, I just drink it in; commit it to memory.
Big scenery in a Big Country.
Posted on Sunday, May 22nd, 2005
The sky is a classic – splashes of peach, burnt orange, magenta and purple arranged around vivid stripes of clear turquoise. Long, ragged grey clouds hang listlessly in the sky, catching the colours as the sun falls.
And then the bells and the engines and the mournful horns blaring so loud they’ll be heard half a mile away. Three yellow engines, “UNION PACIFIC” scored across their sides in red, and the huge clattering freight wagons which could only be made in America. All of this thunders past, ten feet from where I’m standing, and I realise that this is it – all my childhood dreams and imaginings of the vastness of America compressed into this moment.
This is somewhere I was always meant to be.
This is a strange new contentment.
I climb back into the Jeep and drive home through the last dying light of the day, smiling.