Saturday, March 13, 2010


For some reason, I think people often think I'm quite oblique. They're not really sure what it's like in my mind. So I'll tell you where I am some of the time.

I'm standing on the banks of a little river that's swollen with snowmelt and rain, in Cambridge Springs Pennsylvania, maybe 45 minutes away from where I grew up. I'm eighteen years old and I'm skipping class. It's the spring of my senior year in high school, though. I've already figured out that despite what I've been told I can't afford college, and anyway I haven't been learning anything important there for some time.

Opposite is something far more interesting, the remains of a resort built in the 1800s to utilize some natural mineral springs. The hotel is still standing, a mile or so down the road, at least when it isn't burning itself half-down as it predictably does every year or so, but the spring houses have long since crumbled into giant cairns of unwanted rock. One can find them by following the remains of the walkway from the hotel -- the walkway itself is gone but the supports still run parallel to the road, big pieces of stone set vertically into the swamp like a gentrified Stonehenge.

The walkway was to keep ladies and gents of the era from sinking into the wet ground, getting their hems damp and getting bogged down. I have no such reservations. I drove my shitty little station wagon here alone in the light rain on this gray day, wearing waist-high rubber overall boots, thick-soled wellies like fishermen use, and I intend to ford the little river and slog across the field to explore this remnant of whenever.

I've parked the station wagon on the gravel shoulder, such that it is, and am about to walk the five or ten steps from the car to the water. This little river is deceptively deep and it's moving very fast. It's an estuary that feeds into French Creek, where countless small children and grown men misjudge the current every year and turn up later caught in the roots of giant trees that roil past on the way to the Ohio River, if they turn up at all. I'm not a small child but I'm no grown man, I weigh maybe a buck fifteen and the gear adds ten pounds if that much. I will have to move quickly, but not so quickly as to lose my footing.

But I'm not worried. I've always been all right with the water and it's been all right to me. If it takes me, then I guess I go, and either way I'm going somewhere.

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