Tuesday, August 23, 2011

American splendor

So you pass under the arch announcing the Santa Monica pier and stroll upon its thick timbers past the hot dog stands and guys fishing and skeeball booths. Kids lick ice cream cones and point at the old indoor carousel. Carnival-style facades, with their gingerbread and racing lights, hide oily compressors and pulley works. The trickery does not fool you, but you let it fill the world with possibility nonetheless--if only for a night.

The lazy Ferris wheel traces circles of light amid the roller coaster and the Scrambler, which looks exactly like the one that thrilled you some 35 years ago in a humble park 2400 miles away from where you stand right now. You sigh.

"Come on, kid, let's ride the Ferris wheel."

And then you float up into the purest American ether, with the Pacific breeze billowing your hair and its waters rolling far below. You ride the vertical circle to its crest. The Santa Monica mountains sculpt the horizon before you as the ocean reaches for the end of the world behind you. You sink down. The dusky sky illuminates the bluffs of Santa Monica as they nobly define the western edge of this troubled and beautiful land.

You travel again and again around this ethereal circumference. The three other people in the gondola, to whom you are so deeply connected that even the word love seems inadequate, swoon along with you.

The smooth glory rolls on until it comes to an end in our realm of time, but you will carry it deep inside you from now on. In doing so, you quietly defy your mortality. The tears well inside of you. The American dream spills over you.

You realize you have never understood the word rare until this moment.


Ken Houghton said...

Whenever we hear "Santa Monica Pier":


Bill said...

Damn Erin. Powerful writing my friend.

danb said...

There is nothing better than a well written ode to a fleeting moment. Thanks.


DogsDontPurr said...


Leslie Morgan said...

What a beautiful, powerful, evocative write, Erin! Man, I'd give anything to walk to the pier and ride the carousel.

LoDoKid said...

That's a helluva curveball, Erin. Here I was expecting Harvey Pekar snark, and instead you give us Woodie Guthrie and a blissful scene in the California twilight.. Nice touch.

twinkly sparkles said...

Lovely words and images, Erin. Thanks. I could feel the air and you make me think California is the Garden of Eden (American style), which is also what Woody called it. We are headed to our own ocean tomorrow. You know I love Woody Guthrie, as much as I love anything else I love, which is to say a lot.