I had an interesting ride yesterday to downtown LA. A friend from years back, Kenny, had reached out after reading about my travels and offered to buy me lunch at Tokushima Men-Oh, a seriously delicious Japanese ramen shop in Little Tokyo.

The ride to DTLA was different. It’s the same route I’ve taken countless times but there was more trash everywhere, mini-dumps in places that looked like families had piled up everything they didn’t want and just left. There were more homeless people, too. The underpasses that in the past had only one tent or two were now packed. One entire stretch of Main Street was an abbreviated tent city.

And the cars and the people in downtown simply weren’t there.

The general rule has been that if you leave the South Bay later than about 6:30 to ride downtown, you will fight ferocious traffic all the way there, and especially there. Not yesterday. We had relatively vacant streets en route and a downtown more or less to ourselves.

It was fill-in-your-favorite-adjective-describing-something-eerie-or-weird-or-unsettling.

But the biggest transformation wasn’t the city or the obvious economic and human shock, it was me. I’m not the same.

And who could be? Once you’ve spent three months outdoors under the stars, once you’ve gotten a vague acquaintance with the astounding natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest, once you’ve considered your life in the tiny confines of a tent, on the saddle of a bike, atop the grandeur of a pass, beneath the silence of a sequoia, next to the melody of a creek filled with glacier melt, and most critically, once you’ve loosed the bands that bound you to the meat grinder, there’s no going back.

Or is there? Who says we can’t re-live our lives? Who says that we can only go forward, that the past is inaccessible, that, in the words of Anaxagoras, “You cannot step in the same stream twice”?

What if we can re-live our lives? What if the past really is accessible, and what if we can go forward by going back to the future?

I had an idea.

I got back home, went online, and bought some maps. The architecture of the rest of my life seemed to have fallen into place.


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Three months of forest, an afternoon of concrete.

3 thoughts on “Transformations”

  1. “He’s just a country boy, money has he none. But he’s got silver in the stars and gold in the morning sun.” As sung by Alison Krause. Heading out for more silver and gold soon?

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