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.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Eagle Rock

Saturday, I was home in New Jersey. In the morning, I headed out to explore the town in which I was raised. It was a bit cool for my shorts and jersey, at least for a while, but as I leaned into the ride it grew more comfortable.

Once away from home, I pushed slowly southwest into the corner of my town, which backs up against Eagle Rock Reservation, a sizable patch of woods embedded in the suburbs atop a cliff at the edge of my town. I schemed to evenly distribute a substantial climb, aiming to avoid any of a host of near-vertical hills, drawing on my imperfect and fading knowledge of the roads I once drove incessantly as a teenager.

At the foot of the Reservation, which sits atop the cliff at the western edge of town that shields us from thunderstorms and denies us a view of sunsets, I climbed the switchback road I once spun my 1980 Mustang on as a seventeen-year-old, and made my way out to its breathtaking overlook. The view isn't stunning because of extraordinary height; perhaps 150 feet below the vantage point one can see the road at the edge of town through the winter-barren trees below. There are houses. And cars passing. Rather, the view is extraordinary for the unimpeded panorama of all the meadowlands and Manhattan beyond, laid bare, impossibly close.

The old stucco and spike wall that deterred the young from plunging down the cliff on a Saturday bender has in substantial part been removed and replaced with a marble memorial, complete with modified traffic pattern and statues in bronze, to those who died on September 11, with a large bronze book containing the names of those many residents of Essex County who died that day, several of them from Montclair. And were the memorial -- seventeen tablets lined up below the view, five columns of names, towns, and ages per tablet -- insufficient to evoke the tragedy the City's emasculated skyline just beyond the wall would stumble to the task.

I spent perhaps ten minutes up there, sweating, catching my breath, drinking all but the last few sips of my water, planning to head home fairly directly from the rock . . . it was a lovely day, and the unmanned skyline was sprouting new growth, construction cranes visible at lofty heights in several locations, the Freedom Tower soon to begin to rise from the ashes and restore to the financial district its virility.

Riding home, I did not dwell. A couple of the downhills were so steep I found myself skidding just in trying to minimize my speed; and so I slid down one hill, and skipped down another, praying on both occasions that my chain wouldn't choose that moment to let go. I have grown accustomed to New York's loss in some fundamental way, but views of the City still affect me, still, as perhaps they always will.

In the Dumbo section of Brooklyn (so identified do to its location Directly Under the Manhattan Bridge), Saturday night, my friends' gallery proved to be an inviting space, and their stable of artists impressive given how new said friends are to the business.


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