Some tiny creature, mad with wrath,

Is coming nearer on the path.

--Edward Gorey

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S. Outlying Islands

Writer, lawyer, cyclist, rock climber, wanderer of dark residential streets, friend.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Night, Snow

Northside is buried and hushed; turning onto Northern Avenue too fast, the rear end kicks out like a movie radio car in the rain, and your hands instinctually steer the proper aspect into the slide, foot unwavering on the throttle, as the car easily negotiates itself into conformity with the manichean insistence of right angles. Along Northern Avenue only the streetlights are wakeful. The park, the library, the aviary, the children's museum, the brownstones and row houses of irregular statures, girths, and setbacks, the Garden Theatre restful and darkened after the night's raft of pornography, all bathed in shades of indigo left and right, through which bores a tunnel of sodium light. The car crabs and revs on the snow, wide tires catching and releasing the slick pack like tooth-broken cogs.

Past the Garden Theatre, the Light of Lite Ministries, denoted by a flapping vinyl sign as impermanent as its residents' tenure. How can you reconcile the odd melange of restored historical brownstones, park, porn, and halfway-houses, not to mention the YMCA? The hospital, however, imposes order with its tumble of orthogonal rectangles reigning over the neighborhood -- or perhaps just dominating it in the way that a man head and shoulders taller than a crowd does a room.

Turning right to continue skirting the park's perimeter, the skyline is nearly eclipsed by aggregate precipitation, whether falling down or blown up by the small-hour bluster, leaving only the various signs in Mellon green and blue to suggest the buildings they crown and the metronomic pattern of the tallest building's red-blinking constellation, an encrypted message from a ship foundering in the night.

At the 16th Street Bridge, waiting for the signal to change is no more rational than carrying an umbrella in sunshine, though the sun is no more than a faint recollection of childhood and baseball fields and windsprints and the reverberant clank of taut hide-bound spheres on aluminum. Route 28, however, is hardly empty; you spy with your slitted eye the hulks of old commercial buildings mouldering under the burden of winter, devoid of human congress for years, perhaps decades, squatting as close to the highway as cats to a window, squinting myopic through jagged pupils in shattered irises.

It's not so late, though: in bars, people are still drinking; in houses, people watch television through heavy-lidded eyes, heads nodding in mute imprecation, invitations to slumber; in houses, people make love, spoon against each other in REM, fingers and toes twitching in time with their eyes's dancing like marbles under sheets. And then there's you: in limbo between 2d and 3d gear, wakefulness and sleep, sunset and sunrise, Chicago and New York, here and there, driving patiently forward, searching the road ahead for the least dangerous path, but yearning to reason the snowpile between the lanes, to press the pedal to the floor and hold white-knuckled and grinning on for all you're worth.

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