Call of the somewhat wild

I have been spending more time birdwatching lately. You know, getting back to my roots because I am too damned old and tired all the time to be racing every weekend. Except last weekend, and next weekend. And there are some other races coming up, too, later on.

But anyway, I love being surrounded by nature because it is very peaceful. When riding I often scream like a lunatic, curse at complete strangers, and behave like a raging steroid pumped up on bicycles.

A couple of weeks ago I went out early to Madrona Marsh, in Torrance. It is 48 acres surrounded by chain-link fence set behind the largest shopping mall in America, the Del Amo Fashion Center, where people go to purchase things that by virtue of being in a giant mall cannot possibly be fashionable. The marsh is a tiny postage stamp, all that remains of the thousands of acres of wetlands that once provided incredible habitat for wildlife in the South Bay.

After a few minutes I had drifted off into the other world of misidentifying birds and scratching my head over impossibilities. Rufous or Allen’s? Western or Cassin’s? What’s making that funny chirp?

It’s amazing how quickly time goes by when you’re looking at critters, exactly the opposite of how slowly time goes by when you’re on the fucking rivet going up the Switchbacks and some young punk is plucking the skin off your balls with a ball-peen hammer.

Anyway, it was really quiet except for the bird racket. Then across the slough I saw this dude dressed up like he was heading out on an expedition up the Congo. No joke, he was wearing full green camo, heavy utility vest, giant floppy adventurer camo hat, hip waders, and was carrying a giant pole that he stuck down in front as he walked as if he were navigating a giant crevasse field at Base Camp 12 of Chomulungma.

Keep in mind that the slough that feeds the pond is about ten feet wide and the water is about a foot deep, with lots of tall grass along the edge which is perfect dragonfly habitat; the bugs crawl up out of the water and onto the grass to shed their skin and spread their wings.

So I watched Dora the Explorer walk off the path and into the slough. I was about a hundred feet away. “Hey!” I yelled. He looked up quizzically, his massive waders crushing entire sections of fragile grass. “Yeah, you, you dumb bastard!” I shouted.

“Me?” he asked.

I walked over to the edge of the path. “What the fuck are you doing out there in the slough?”

“I’m, uh, researching,” he said.

I looked at his Amazonian explorer get-up and noted that he had a cheapo pair of $50 non-carbon field glasses dangling from his neck, binoculars that you couldn’t have examined your own navel with, much less a bird or a butterfly. “Like fuck you are,” I said. “Get your sorry fucking ass out of the slough, for fuck’s sake.”

“Why?” he asked.

“Why? You’re CRUSHING THE FUCKING DRAGONFLY HABITAT, you stupid sonofabitch. Does the slough look like a fucking walkway?”

“I suppose you’re right,” he said, backtracking.

“You’re damned straight I’m right. Stay on the fucking path. If every jackanape in a clown suit who came here tromped through the fucking slough with those rubber snowshoes the whole damned place would be mashed flatter than a fucking pancake!”

Dora walked off, rather briskly.

I sank back into my quiet reverie, happy to have finally found such a peaceful activity devoid of all conflict and anger.



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24 thoughts on “Call of the somewhat wild”

  1. I really need to try this sort of thing more often myself. It seems to me as though the attendant stress relief would be be therapeutic, as well as cathartic.

  2. It sounds like the Westridge dog and motocross park. Stay on the trail and carry out your (not-leashed) dog’s waste, people..

    1. Oh, you mean I can’t tromp around, pick flowers, scare the birds to get a better look, and hop over “Sensitive re-growth area: Please do not enter” signs?

  3. Just glad you have found a way to get rid of all that pent up anger, caused by cycling…

    1. Yes, and I’m pleased to be doing something that lets me interact peacefully and non-confrontationally with others.

  4. Well if your New Year’s resolution was to be rude & confrontational you are nailing it my friend! Keep up the good work & remember, when you don’t have anything nice to say come sit next to me & we can make fun of people together.

    1. My resolution was to be kind, gentle, accepting, and loving in all ways. Then, on Jan. 2 …

  5. As I was exiting Sullivan Canyon on my mountain bike last Sunday, a gangbanger walking pitbull was smoking a cigarette. I politely pointed out that smoking was not permitted in this area to which he replied “I don’t give a fuck.” I replied, ‘Up to you” and rode away. Probably not the smartest move I’ve ever made but why do people who don’t respect nature want to go to it.

    1. The same reason that people who don’t respect women go to prostitutes. So they can get what they want, treat them like shit, and leave.

    2. Unfortunately folks who disrespect the sanctity and purity of their own bodies by doing something like smoking will never give an owl’s pellet about the planet.

      1. That is true. I was always amazed going to Pedernales Falls outside Austin and spending hours picking up cigarette butts.

    3. gangbanger walking pitbull

      In Brentwood? Very likely not a gangbanger. They tend to have a very narrow view of the universe that does not include leaving the neighborhood for a hike.

  6. WM, stoked to hear you’re enjoying bird watching. It was one of my main hobbies when I lived in New York’s mid-Hudson Valley. I do it sporadically now, here, as time allows. We’ve taken my daughter to Madrona and also hiking in PV. PV offers a ton of great bird watching, especially on early Friday mornings when one can situate their rump on a MTB with Dave, Dutchie (more recently named Dutch-Oven), myself, and Hines. Just sayin 😉 Seriously, though, we’ve seen many owls and hawks on our dirty morning romps.

    1. Trying to imagine seeing anything other than my own slobber if I go out riding with you maniacs.

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