I can't really figure out if the technology I use on a daily basis is a luxury or a hindrance. I see it off the highway in flashing billboards a hundred feet tall and luminous. It's in the dash of our car in the form of a disembodied robot woman who shows us, often times incorrectly, to our destination. I withdraw myself from the world with my headphones several times a week. It all gets tiring. I needed a break from the worn exhaustion in my thumbs from text messaging, the soreness in my wrists from sitting at the computer in an ergonomically incorrect position, the red mark on the side of my face from my cellular telephone. Today was simply a day where I needed a rest. More than that, I needed to spend the day with J.
I unplugged myself and we went driving. On the other side of the bridge we stopped at a beach I've never seen before. I plunged my feet into the sand, which burned until the weight of my body sunk them deeper into the coolness. There was a chill in the air and I was glad I brought my jacket. I stared with wonderment at the Golden Gate Bridge. I closed my eyes and listened to the waves hit the beach. We tried to pick out Robin Williams' home from the front line of mansions on the rocky cliff just West of the Presidio.
I took a picture in my head, then on the camera. How many times have I found myself flipping through the digital lineup on a camera when everything is right in front of my face? I tried to shake the feeling, putting the camera away. The wind got colder, pulling my trench coat open.
Over my shoulder I took a last glance at the spot where Kim Novak took a clumsy and trance-like tumble into the ocean. We drove on.
The streets are lined with eucalyptus trees and for the first time in a while I regret having lost my sense of smell. I rolled down the windows and desperately inhaled the air for some hint of it but couldn't find it. Later the highway is surrounded by wild dill, which I think I can faintly smell but I wonder if it's just my memory serving me well.
Nineteen thirty two brought the Bixby Bridge into existence and something like forty years later a couple of beats put it on the map, at least in my mind. [The bridge] came and went in a flash. I was staring over the edge the entire time at the rocks on the beach and the water violently crashing into them. I didn't know it was the Bixby and I didn't know we were over Bixby Canyon until we got to the Big Sur visitor's center and I looked on the map. I felt foolish like I had missed some signal or important call down to me from some dead poet.
Big Sur is a lazy little place with lots of tiny rental cabins and a gas station about the size of a toilet. There were unoccupied lawn chairs outside of the gas station which I can only assume become filled with locals on weekends, laughing at the tourists who drive out of the city to get some fresh air or become one with nature, or whatever the hell San Francisco yuppies like me are searching for. I did want a break from the city. I'm sick of the noise, I'm sick of the people, I'm sick of the concrete and I'm sick of driving around the block thirty seven times to find a parking spot. I think more than escaping the city I convinced J. to drive to Big Sur because I wanted enlightenment. I wanted, as a friend suggested recently, to meditate in the woods and come out feeling like a lighter, happier person. We filled our tank at the tiny gas station with the small handwritten sign stating "Pump first then pay."
Passing over Bixby Bridge on the way back made me hold my breath. I wanted my first trip across it to be magical. It was lackluster for the first time because of my idiocy, and subsequently lackluster the second time because, well, I'm not quite sure. I imagined Kerouac and Cassady living in Big Sur, staying near the subtle but somewhat breathtaking charm of the Canyon (so long as you know when to look and steal that moment.) I thought of their hard living juxtaposing the beauty of those woods. I thought of Cherkovski's Bixby Canyon Meditations and I repeated a mantra to myself, get it get it get it. Some spoke of it like it would change my life. I didn't get it. I turned on the GPS system to assess the quickest route home and to see how many miles we'd gone from our front door. One hundred and forty three miles. The robot voice instructed us to take a left and I half expected her to instruct another left after that, then another, and another until we end up right where we started.
Just as the sun starts to set, a brilliant round orange over the ocean, the regular aches of fatigue start like clockwork. On our way South earlier we passed a gentleman who had parked his red sports car on the side of the road and was camped out atop a bluff sitting in a foldable chair with a bottle of beer pressed to his lips, staring out at the ocean. Forty minutes later, now heading north, we pass him again. He is slumped in his chair, sleeping or perhaps passed out drunk. My headache slowly creeps from the back of my head to the front, my cheeks feel flushed, my body warm. My joints start to stiffen and my lungs want to stop. My cough produces phlegm that matches the green Army surplus bag I've pulled tissues from to spit in. I lay my head back and thank J. for driving.
In a tiredess I can only compare to inebriation, while I find it hard to put sentences together in my head let alone verbalize them, I realize just as J. exits the freeway to the city that Bixby Canyon did work its magic on me. It is miniscule and took a lot of consideration on my part to realize but it was there. That bridge brought a few moments of mutual awestruck silence between us, him and me. We drove across that bridge and both times, didn't say a word, just stared at the ocean and the rocks and the sun touches both our faces through the tinted windows of the car. For a split moment, that Canyon gave us something that has felt so distant for some time, but is warmly familiar.
Of course in my late realization I welcomed it with open arms and in response I give a silent nod to the writers who put such a ridiculous idea in my head in the first place.