Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Naked Ladies Survive Fire

Prized real estate where egrets and clapper rail tip-toe in the pickle weed; a place where a Marbled Godwit is your next-door neighbor and mustard plants create a fence line. Waterfront property and a home with a view of the San Francisco Bay puts the *fine* in the define of location. I look for the human directional to paradise.

The only sign advertising this location: East Bay Park District. No motorized vehicles. No firearms.

A protected habitat I enter the Pacific Flyway and wetland area. My iPod plays George Strait and I pick up my step. My stress clears and characters and dialogue whip through my thoughts. Midway between a fight and torrid love scene, I stumble on remnants of a grass fire.

Off the trail, I wade through the charred shrubs, the grass crunches underfoot. The smoke and spent embers outline the skeleton of the home that once was and wasn’t. The dry grass the carpet and the thistle the decorations, the open d├ęcor an understatement at best.

I study the charred remains of a ten-speed. Upside down, the wheels barely move with the whistle of the afternoon wind. Licorice bushes and a small tree provide shelter in place of mortar and brick. Driftwood borrowed from the nearby wetlands, the only visible furniture.

A vagabond.

An avalanche of cracked bottles – Vodka, cheap wine and mediocre beer – the scrapbook of someone’s life. Didn’t do Martha Stewart proud I note. Empty cans of tuna, beans and soup rust in a heap. A bottle of Gatorade is buried under the garbage. At least, the homesteader was trying to be healthy.

Under the ash a singed box of cigarettes. I kick the open carton and frown – the dropped-cigarette-on-the-couch syndrome. Only here the couch was red flag flammable, a tinder box of ripe twigs. Too bad.

I take a closer look at the far southwest corner. By the stench, I find the deposit zone for human waste. An untidy bowl moment, I move north and try to cough the odor away. A sweet aroma tempts; a familiar exotic scent that lures men to kiss behind our ears. Intoxicating and aphrodisiac the fragrance begs me to come closer.

What’s this? Naked Ladies dance.

Pink, fringed on the tips, they sway with a rhythm of beauty and grace.

Survivors of the fire.

Beyond the scorched bulbs the ladies sweet perfume fragrances the area. Surprised, I stroke the flower and run my fingers along the trumpet shape. I change my music to Chris Botti, sit down on the blackened earth and reflect.

For now I can forget about the price of gas, foreclosures and traffic congestion. With my hands I form a box and frame the image. Yes, this is the perfect place for a window. Maybe a table to my left. Wonder if I can get free WiFi? A tiny field mouse scuttles nearby. Definitely not part of the deal.

Warned of my presence, a jack rabbit lopes through the brush. His intentions clear, he has no plans to be the guest of honor at my next meal. No problem. I hear rabbit taste like chicken. So just what does chicken taste like I wonder?

The Naked Ladies trumpet touches my shoulder and I hear the petals sing, “Stay.”

I recall the sign at the entrance to the shoreline park: No motorized vehicles. No firearms.

Doesn’t say a thing about a tent and a sleeping bag.

Or better yet a two-man tent. Maybe even a naked man. A theme I learned from the Democratic convention – dream big and make it happen.

I nod to the Naked Ladies and say, “Thanks, I think I’ll stay awhile.”

One can dream. Big.

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