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Winter 2002, Volume 19.2

Essay

 

Kevin HoldsworthPicture of Kevin Holdsworth.

St. Edward of Hoboken


Although he lives and works in southwestern Wyoming, Kevin Holdsworth maintains a "rude and rustic hovel" in Wayne County, Utah. His work has most recently appeared in
Weber Studies, Post Road, Junction, Hard Ground and Mountain Gazette.

 

1.

In 1981, I graduated magna cum laude in Skiing from the University of Utah. To achieve such academic distinction, one had to ski two or three times a week during the season, as well as in October and into the summer months. I kept my skis (at least one pair of them) in the trunk of my car, a 1970 Plymouth Scamp—a "sporty" yet wandering little gutless number with a white vinyl roof, curved back window and deluxe wheel covers—ready to head to the slopes at the drop of a Peruvian hat. To graduate with honors one also had to ski in several styles: downhill, cross-country and hybrid. Snowboarding was hardly even invented: the big-clothed, foul-mouthed, skier-striking, rut-leaving, knuckle-dragging hoards had not yet washed upstream from hey-dude Surflandia to vex the pure in spirit with their attitude—another reason to look back on those salad days with tender, wistful fondness.

I lived with my parents during those years because I liked them, generally, and they asked few questions, because they lived eight miles from the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon (front door to chairlift, 43 minutes), and because free room and board made it much easier to major in Skiing, rather than something practical and career-oriented such as accounting or engineering.

While at the U. of U., it is true, I did dabble in the Humanities, studying languages, philosophy and literature. For example, I used to read Beyond Good and Evil, Ecce Homo, and The Birth of Tragedy while riding the chairlift at Solitude, and it helped me control my edges. When I was not skiing, I spent a good deal of time in the Marriott Library. A library can be the gateway to the edge of the world, but one thing is sure as gravity: too much time in a library will make a person desperate for skiing.


Wallace Stegner writes of how it feels to be an unwashed westerner—of the burden of assimilating 2500 years of civilization in one lifetime—as well as how it feels to catch the edge of one's own cultural inferiority and the resultant overcompensation that often sends one facedown into the snow. With Stegner the assimilation stuck, there's no question of that. He delivered a Tanner lecture while I was at the U. I remember the sonorous voice, the white hair, the big-time dignity: St. Wallace was haloed (or at least laurel-wreathed), handsome as hell, and just reeked of self-made authority and wit and learning and Stanford, and I knew that if I ever managed to put my boards down, I would want to be like him.

In the meantime, at 21 one was omniscient, unquestionably. Yet behind the veneer of all-knowingness, it was still possible to feel inferior, western, provincial, green, stupid and contagious, and still possessed of an underdeveloped civilization in those days. If the University of Utah did anything for its budding undergraduates—at least the Department of Deep Powder and English—it was to reinforce the feeling of inferiority—an institutional goal. Civilization was somewhere else, surely not in the valley of the Great Salt Lake. The Humanist Tradition had no place in Utah, except on their hilltop, looking down on the most bourgeois, practical, thrifty, good-at-business, Republican, and heaven-headed society possible.

I fancied I should go to Europe, the very opposite direction my ancestors had come (all of them ardent Mormons who crossed the Great Plains to find the New Jerusalem), to find the real thing and perhaps graduate-level skiing as well.

In the process I negotiated several Black Diamonds of culture and love, schussed runs so challenging that they led to wipeouts called Yard Sales wherein one's earthly goods were spread out on the snow—poles and skis and hat and goggles, tender notions, sincerity, hope and well-made plans—scattered from Hell to breakfast for all to see. "Hey dude, you like lost a ski." Uh huh.


Eventually I found myself in Hoboken, New Jersey, in the Carnegie Library, rereading Desert Solitaire. I found myself in good company and on familiar ground.

Because I was teaching ESL in the evenings, I had mornings and afternoons free to write and research. I was writing…a western. It proved to be a western that got away from me.

It was partly the fault of a pal, Rick Moody, who was working at a publishing conglomerate and purloined me copies of Zane Grey in trade paperback. Excessive use of Zane Grey leads to parody. The formula is simple: Orphan boy goes West. Boy sees transvestite virgin. Love at first sight ignites. But wait; complications ensue. The couple fights. They part. Love grows. Complications demand action, resolution. The "slip of a girl" must be humiliated and lose her headstrong ways. Boy finally gets girl. Ding-a-ling-a-ling-ling-ling…

Before I knew what was happening, I was writing a parody of a western. Then, far worse, a parody of a parody. Sometimes even a parody cubed. My manuscript had a few good scenes, but clearly it was a story that got away, a story not really worth [re]telling. RIP.

In trying to breathe arid air into my Babylonian Captivity, I read Abbey, other western writers as well. They made me homesick. I skied when I could, sometimes in the Catskills with my girlfriend who hailed from those parts, and Catskill skiing was perfectly tolerable, for skiing on hills lower in elevation than my home town; I had nothing to complain about except lack of snow, New Yorkers, low altitude, the drive, and too damned many trees.

Turns out, skiing could even be had in Hoboken. After big snowstorms, it proved possible to ski on the track at Steven's Institute, on the hill overlooking the river. I also rode the little make-believe lift at Campgaw, NJ (maybe eight short-swings and a brief straight-run). It was not good skiing, granted. Sometimes…frequently…it pained me to know that my buddies were back home in the Wasatch, ripping it up in Days Fork or Silver Fork or Mineral Fork or Mill D or Gobbler's Knob or Wolverine—and counting their turns in dozens, scores, hundreds, rather than not, but bad skiing was better than none, and I was not in the Garden State to ski, but rather to be punished for the excessive skiing of my youth, and to discover that there…might be…something in the world more important than light snow and kinesthetic freedom, something deeper than yo-yoing white hills from a late lunch into the gloaming.

One day while in the Carnegie Library I ran into Shiff Davis who had gotten a formula western, Hard Words at Tonopah, published. We talked and compared notes. I was reading the journals of Lewis and Clark just then, and raved about the good, heroic stuff contained therein, particularly how they ate horse, then dog, then nothing for weeks. I asked him if he knew it. No, he didn't. Abbey? He'd never heard of him. I explained how St. Edward had written the introduction to the book, Desert Solitaire, a classic, here, in Hoboken, and who knew, maybe the whole damned thing. Abbey had also penned an essay, "Manhattan Days, Hoboken Nights," or something like that. Shiff Davis was not suitably impressed. I asked him if he'd been out West. He had been to Wyoming one time, he said.

"With NOLS? You know, out of Lander? Hiking, backpacking, Paul Pezoldt?"

"Nope, just visited."

"Wyoming… Um, Big Piney?"

"Don't remember that one."

"Jackson Hole?"

"Oh yeah. And Yellowstone too. Wow! We didn't see any bears, but what a place."

I reckoned I was following the wrong trail.


And so it was that having swapped my birthright for the petrolific swamps of Secaucus, the dead bay of Bayonne, the Pulaski Skyway, the backside of Lady Liberty, without prospects or a good view, possessing, it seemed, only a book bag full of second-hand west, full of formula west, displaced, and trying to squeeze virgin fluff from tar and tunnels, when, at last, after four long years of penance I could take it no longer, I steered my Oldsmobile the right direction and tried to leave all that behind. Ithaca could not have been more inviting to a king's twenty-year-older eyes…no tin-can astronaut could look upon blue earth more lovingly…the Rockies finally appeared like clouds above the dun horizon.


2.

Access to Arches, Abbey Land, was my birthright. One of my earliest memories is of my father carrying me there—I remember the color of the rock, not exactly shapes and certainly not arches, but the color—RED. (I have returned the favor for my son. He was conceived… well, let's not go into that…but Christopher was only three months old when he was introduced to the Moenkopi.) Imagine my smugness, then, finding myself in Hoboken, and truly knowing the Arches—and so many other places Abbey wrote about. Arches…don't talk to me about Arches! Don't talk to me about sea-green clouds! Hell, I had even altered the Arches landscape one particularly altered night, rolling rocks…somewhere. My inside scoop made it hard to walk around town, even though, sniff, no one cared.

Not at all. It seems that in New York almost everyone was from somewhere else, but in those days before the boom, before the modem cowboys, before the dreaded Olympics, no one had even heard of Utah. Maybe it was better that way, but I did get tired of fending off one of either two questions: No, polygamy was actually under control in my immediate family, and, yes, I had had a torrid affair with Marie Osmond.


Everyone who loves the canyon country owns a copy of Desert Solitaire. Many people also read it. Its ubiquitousness is one of the main reasons for Abbey's sainthood in the environmental community. The book is not without its faults, but style is not one of them. Saint Edward, at his most beatific, possesses a piquant style, part Hemmingway, part Whitman, part Henry Miller, part sass, and part Budweiser. It is the type of style that people should imitate. St. Edward excels when telling a story, a mostly true story, without trying to fictionalize. His novels tend toward the heavy-handed and didactic.

Many, if not all, desert lovers pass through a St. Edward stage, like not eating red meat for a time. The Abbey stage is characterized by a detestation of all dams, a contempt for all things respectable, lovely, or of good report, as well as a Nietzschean transvaluation of all values—a feeling not uncommon during the second six pack. Followers of St. Ed often refer to most rural people and all western politicians as "shitheads," which may not be inaccurate, but is right unfriendly. As raven/gadfly, Abbey is thoroughly provocative, and not without his detractors.

Boosters don't like him. St. Edward is justly famous for his critique of Industrial Tourism. Yet what has happened to Moab is far more complicated than Industrial Tourism. A combination of factors led to the horrifying present state of red-rock trend-town: avarice and greed, word of mouth, the development of chrome-moly bicycle frames, lycra and Spenco, a proliferation of outdoor magazines and outdoor retailers, lower standardized test scores, and too damned many kids who wear Birkenstocks and own copies of Desert Solitaire. Industrial Tourism takes on a new meaning in Moab on a spring weekend…Rage on, dudes.

Fact is, the Industrial Tourist is less of a threat than people who may be like us. No busload of Gumbies is going to ruin anyone's wilderness experience, unless one finds a wilderness experience in a visitor's center, scenic turnout or parking lot. No, the real threat comes from the magazines, retailers, and us. Here the information age rears its ugly head: it will now be simple enough to access gear, maps and exploitation articles from an on-line outdoor retailer near you. And while you're at it, why not e-mail your impressions from the top of Muley Twist.

Back to the point, feminists also tend not to like St. Ed, seeing the pendulous I Phallus behind much of what he says, and they take umbrage at his mockery of tender, sincere, sacred or goddessy things. Behind his technique, though, is simple anarchy, which is really just subjectivity refined. Interestingly, one of his followers, Terry Tempest Williams, assuredly a feminist, captures the Abbey credo perfectly in her Refuge command, "Stand by your impression." Abbey's take might have been, "Your impression is fine, but stay the hell away from mine." Or, to put it more clearly, "I'm right, and you're (they're) wrong."

On the other hand, St. Edward has done some good for rural literacy. Recently the good leaders of Garfield County, Utah, said that Abbey's books should be banned. (The Abbey canon has been burned and his Holiness hung, then burned, in effigy in Escalante. But burning in effigy is not exactly uncommon in Garfield County: Bill Clinton, Robert Redford, Bruce Babbitt, Jane Fonda, Wayne Owens and others have enjoyed that fete…er…fate.) Banning something inevitably creates interest. Therefore, read on, Garfieldians.

Why all the hard feelings?

Well, part of it starts with Earth First!, the easiest target in the environmental world. Proposals to blow up (or raze) dams, for instance, or advocating tree-spiking, billboard elimination and sundry monkey-wrenching, are going to run into significant public and taxpayer outrage and are probably not the best way to win support from the general populace. "Intercourse the general populace," say members of the clique. "We're right, and they're wrong." There we go again. Fanaticism, regardless of the justice of the end, is still fanaticism, not that different in Tucson than Teheran.

The idea to peacefully dismantle Glen Canyon Dam strikes many people these days as either certifiably insane or simply senile. Regardless of how swell Glen Canyon was, it's long gone now, drowned and changed and lost, and it cannot be brought back. What can be brought back is hundreds of feet of bathtub ring, as well as a vast collection of beer cans, baseball caps, boats, bait wells, and batteries, now submerged. The electrical generating capacity that would be lost would have to be made up, most likely by burning coal, and that's a dirty business. No, the Drainers' proposal makes normal people think environmentalists have lost their marbles.

Fact is the conservationist side needs to do a better job of picking its battles. Dinosaur was the right battle, the Burr Trail was not, and in fact, the battle over the Burr, while it did not cause the hatred of outsiders so common in Garfield County and much of southern Utah, certainly aided and abetted it. For starters, there was a road (the Burr Trail) to begin with. What was the big deal about chip-sealing it? In their hysteria, the environmentalists made it sound as though ten thousand bulldozers were going to rip out the heart of the Circle Cliffs. Despite the handwringing and cry-ins and letter writing and lawsuits, ten years later it is hard to say that the "fragile" area has been "destroyed." It has not. True, visitation has increased, but environmentalists paint themselves into a corner—Abbey's corner—by trying to deny access, and they begin to sound like multiple users or grazers or miners. Our uses are right and yours are wrong. Whose land is it, anyway?

Maybe confrontation is inevitable, compromise impossible in land use issues today.

Closer to the center, the environmental movement has recently, and successfully, moved into the courtroom. It's all about having skilled lawyers and good briefs. This is the way things get tied up and stopped.

Speaking of tied up and briefs, the man from Hope, Arkansas, probably did more for the future of southern Utah than anyone carrying a placard or appealing an EIS. No, all the lawsuits in the world didn't do as much as the insiders who convinced Bill Clinton (who was about as familiar with the area as with Mars) to lock up 1.7 million acres in southeastern Utah and most of Garfield County. Viva Escalante-Grand Staircase! Atta boy, Bill! And by the way, thanks Ken, Monica and Linda. You helped show a lard-assed, saxophone-toting, internizing, uninhaling Southerner the best way to secure his place in history—by his diversionary southwestern lock-up-o-rama.

Maybe, ironically, proximity to political power is the best way to truly influence the process, closeness to the center the best way to save lands furthest away, although that may be the result of luck, or accident, or going to the right schools, and not really a matter of virtue.


3.

Following Nietzsche's advice, Abbey may well have died at the right time, though we miss him terribly. We've already mentioned Moab's appalling transformation into gear-head-heaven, hey-dude-a-go-go, but what is happening to the entire Beehive State, or at least the Wasatch Front, though it would not surprise him, would have given him cause to rant. Perhaps I'll do it for him.

Utahns have always had a knack for mixing the sacred and profane. This tendency surely began about 1848 when, after a few harrowing seasons in the wilderness trying to establish a working theocracy in the Great Basin and very nearly starving in the process, it was the influx of gold-greedy gentiles headed for California that ensured the survival of Zion. The Mormons of Great Salt Lake City would be delighted to trade with the gentiles. Who knows, they might even try to convert them, although the proselytizing streak of Mormonism is decidedly more of a twentieth century phenomenon. Nineteenth century Mormons, especially after their tribulations in Missouri, crossing the plains, practicing plural marriage, and the Utah War, tended to exhibit signs of well-earned paranoia.

We see the same thing today—the mixing of the sacred and the profane—with the Utah Winter Olympics effort. In fact, the best evidence may be found at any Utah border. A cheesy twin collage of gorgeous, centerfold photos of Delicate Arch and Salt Lake Twin Peaks (sacred locales to any green-blooded Utahn) greet the visitor, along with some sickening red-suited ski jumper, skis spread in a geeky vee, sailing between them.

Of course they'll sell the scenery! And not just Wasatch scenery. Utah may have the "greatest snow on earth," but is it not the red rock wilderness that sets the state apart? Powder…I've skied powder just as swell as Alta's many places, but there is truly just one Delicate Arch. And the corporate angel reflected in a Uinta Mountain lake, the speed skater silhouette at Bonneville—don't get me started! So let's pimp the scenery until it becomes a rancid cliché. Delicate Arch, already appearing on some license plates, and soon coming to an Olympics souvenir stand near you, will devolve into the same state as the sacred Matterhorn in Switzerland: you see it two hundred times before you even get to Zermatt. And surely the Olympics boosters and the TV networks will try to figure out other ways to have biathletes or hockey players, figure skaters or curlers, doing their thing around Delicate Arch, maybe even bobsledding down to the river, or how about a staged, pucky brawl at Dead Horse Point, speed skating at Island in the Sky, with an interactive simulcast chat room, in real time, all sponsored by the Golden Arches, Kodak, Pampers.

Just what are the Olympic goals? In addition to all the corporate revenue and television contracts, which might, might, pay for the party, clearly one goal is that by showing spectacular aerial shots of the Wasatch on bluebird mornings after a big dump to the entire bleeding world, and while we're at it, getting up close and personal in Moab with some gnarly dudes in bright lycra riding the Slickrock Trail, it will entice more pocket-bulging gentile tourists to visit the remarkable scenic wonderland, Utahna—Sis-boom-badda—ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching. This effort may backfire. Just how this helps the average Utahn escapes me.

For instance, all those citizens who cheered that dark day in June when Juan "Would You Like That in Stripes?" Samaranch opened his magic envelope, revealed the lucky bid, Por Lago Salado, ought to take a good, long look at the ticket prices for their Olympics. Getting into the opening ceremonies, to name one, will cost only $885.00 for a good seat—no problem for the average Utah family of four, six, or twelve.

Change isn't always easy to take, and certainly the Olympic mania to pimp the scenery has accelerated the process of change. Some of us can even remember when Park City was mostly a cattle ranch, or in the early 80s when having a P.C. condo was like having herpes—you just couldn't get rid of it—when there was no Deer Valley, in the good old days before the Stein Erickson Lodge, before Mrs. Fields, before the bloody Olympics, before Sundance. And even if one doesn't wax nostalgic about the old Park City (hardly a wilderness), it does rankle to picture the cameras whirring and snapping, to have one's backyard shown, profaned to the world. We don't take videos inside your temple; please keep your cameras out of our Church of the Open Sky. It's hard not to get huffy, possessive, about it, and in this respect, Abbey certainly left many cairns, knocked other cairns over. These days it seems that Utahns have traded fine freeway mountain views for concrete walls with cookie-cutter cutouts of mountains on them, and if they are not happy about it, periodic UDOT ads will bless them to be.


St. Edward detested Cal Black, a southern-Utah county commissioner, uranium miner, who proudly wore a chunk of the ore around his neck (He died of throat cancer.), booster and shithead par excellence, so intensely that he immortalized him as Bishop Love in The Monkey Wrench Gang. Today, looking around for a model equal to Cal Black, we find Louise Liston, spokesperson for Garfield County. It's hard to hate Louise in the same way one could hate Cal Black. She's too, well, different. No, if I could take my cue from San Eduardo, as well as a famous exiled Florentine, when I write my Inferno, Earl Holding will have to occupy a special circle of Hell.

Earl Holding will make more money from the Salt Lake Olympics than any other human being. A long-time behind-the-scenes Beehive mover and shaker, former member of the Organizing Committee (Even the Governor, Mike "Teflon" Leavitt, saw the flagrant conflicts of interest and eventually asked him to resign.), Holding's brand new downtown hotel, "Big America," will be the unofficial headquarters for the games. His ski resort near Ogden, Snowbasin, where half the Olympic ski races will be held, is in the process of being transformed from everyone's favorite secret to the new Deer Valley, almost entirely at public expense. Behind the we-need-it-for-the-Olympics smokescreen, the International Olympic Committee and the United States Olympic Committee have underwritten the cost of new lifts and new snowmaking equipment at Snowbasin, and they will even pay Holding a hefty rental for using his resort. The National Forest Service traded 1320 of the most valuable acres of prime real estate in Northern Utah to Holding—real estate which will be worth, after two weeks of free, worldwide advertising, hundreds of millions of dollars—for less than a million dollars' worth of useless sheep grazing land. Thanks, Smokey! Holding and Sen. Bob Bennett have arranged to have the road from Trapper's Loop Highway to the resort, the linchpin of the entire development scheme—a road traversing private property to a private ski resort—constructed at taxpayer expense. It goes on.

In the old days at Snowbasin one stood next to a kid from Clearfield who wore an orange hunting hat, booger-green gloves, a BYU t-shirt and blue jeans. Now one is likely to ride the gondola with some fresh-faced chirpy-boys from the Swiss National B Team.

Oh yes, the world is welcome here. And don't forget your Visa.


4.

A few years ago several cattle were found killed in the Escalante country. Even [then Representative] Wayne Owens blamed environmentalists—you know, Earth First!ers, the !Kung Bushmen of the movement. The most satisfactory explanation, however, was that the cows had committed suicide, perhaps out of shame for their excessive grazing and generally bad manners. The truth finally did float to the surface: the cattle had been killed by a rival rancher in an attempt to even old scores and pin the blame on tree huggers. This was by no means the first time the good people of Garfield County had tried to put the hurt on outsiders, backpackers and hippies, and there's a lesson in there somewhere; just what it is, I'm not myself certain, except that it's probably not a good idea to try to live in Garfield County, and it is certainly not a good idea to tell them how to live by raising designer beef, increasing tourism and making furniture. Problem is if you read the book, you might just want to live there.

The "Author's Introduction" to Desert Solitaire was written in 1967, already a generation and change ago. It is certainly an error to blame an author for his or her followers. Maybe Saint Edward drank too much and had too many wives, yet he certainly blazed a trail for western writers. Today, when nature writing and environmentalism are all the rage, it's worth tipping a Stetson to St. Ed. He was by no means the first of either category, but with Desert Solitaire modern western open air writing comes of age—certainly not old age and assuredly not wise—but vigorous and outlandish adolescence.

Abbey's greatest accomplishments arise from his contradictions. We need to recall that St. Edward loved to drive around in a mammoth Cadillac. He was the NRA and owned weapons aplenty. He professed that tossing beer cans on roadsides gave employment to the less fortunate. And he liked red meat with his whiskey.

On a commercial level, mixing the sacred and profane while professing goodness, can lead to hypocrisy, as in the Olympics bid business, and let's face it, the bribes didn't begin and end with Welsh and Johnson. But intellectually, it is possible, indeed it may be a good thing, to find alchemy in our opposites.

Because of the intensely moralistic view so deeply embedded in American life—seeing all conflicts as being between good and evil—we've had sanctimonious nature writers by the bushel. There is a Nature is holy/the World is evil vein, as well as an evangelical streak, in American nature writing a mile wide—from John Muir and Mary Austin to Barry Lopez, Rick Bass and Terry Tempest Williams. Gary Snyder gets off the hook by looking east and being incomprehensible, Abbey by laughter.

Now, granted, if you carry a backpack for ten days at ten thousand feet, it becomes very hard not to be smug. Also, waging war against the developers who rule this land makes it hard not to see things moralistically, or at least in black and white. Still, it is possible to poke fun at liberals, at Sierra Clubbers, at the National Park Service, at Viviano Jacquez and Ray Scobie, at those who would grow hemp and live in straw bale buildings, at yourself. It is possible to look into the face of a horse and know that it is ugly, that God made it so. It may be necessary in these digital times to embrace our antipodes and smile: to hug a tree and own a chainsaw.

Abbey brought his nature writing back into a more fruitful streak of American dark humor that runs from Mark Twain to Sherwood Anderson to Annie Proulx. Too, compared to the great range bulls of Western intellectual life of the time—St. Wallace Stegner, Brother Bernard de Voto, Father Walter van Tillburg Clark—Abbey brings us the welcome antidote of levity.

Perhaps all of this seemed likely in Nelson's Marine Bar in Hoboken on a breezy April day a year before the Summer of Love—maybe none of it did. It's possible St. Edward had tanked up with beer for breakfast, took a bracing stroll along the waterfront, and, feeling properly inspired, had slipped into Nelson's to write it down before it got away, for Chrissakes. Saint Ed had a manuscript, a damned good manuscript that needed a setting up.

Sometimes you just need to get away from the things you love—maybe things look better at a distance. Even Hoboken.

Even Manhattan. The great gray grandeur of it seen across the river in funeral hues could not have looked more wondrous with a load on, unreal city, brightening as night fell—blue, silver and gold—unspeakably lovely and sublime, the great towers of ambition, the canyons of commerce, the stillwaters of street culture, the theaters and galleries and cheap restaurants, the walks in the park or through polyglot neighborhoods on miasmic summer nights when the people drank Old English 800 and Colt 45 and smoked Parliaments and fights broke out and knives flashed and mongrels barked and in the morning light stood the burned-out husks of automobiles, the drafts from the subway—a bouquet of piss and vomit and fester on Sunday mornings—the limousines with heiresses and limousines with executives and limousines with diplomats, the jelly fish seen in the water off Battery Park, the feral goats that lived on the Upper East Side, the curves of the buildings on Riverside, and looking for Grant's Tomb, and looking for 52nd Street, and looking for the best slice of pizza in the entire world, and maybe let's take the number seven to Shea, and maybe let's go to the Punjab on East Sixth, or maybe let's walk down 5th Avenue in eyeliner and black dresses, or maybe let's just stand here and let the perspective do the work, because it was possible to be an urban naturalist and note proliferation of phenomena in the street scene, and feel the breeze, and hear the roar of it all…from a safe distance…across the mighty Hudson, the ocean breeze that tinkled the leaves on the hill at Stevens Institute, the roar like the roar of Rio Colorado, the buildings like the walls of Marble Canyon, there on the grand belvedere with the gun from two centuries past, a weapon used to nick tall ships that could have sailed all the way to Albany, the tall ships that once sailed everywhere.

Sometimes it just made you think of Arches.

Sometimes it made me want to click my heels and go home.

"There's no limit to the human capacity for the homing sentiment." Yes, Ed. Yes, but…

Yes, but, sublime though it was, it was not my home and never would be. There was nothing left to fight for. 

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