Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Last Exit in New York

I woke up on the adventurous side of the bed this morning. Not burdened by classes or breakfast crew and having not having to hurry and get to work (I only have to put in 2 more hours this week) I took the morning to loung around, make some future planning phone calls, have an early lunch at a Chinese resteraunt, and gingerly drive into the city.

When you come off the 87 and onto the 95 headed towards Riverside/Hudson S., there's the exit to 187 (I think?). On a big yellow sign with black lettering drivers are warned "Last Exit in NY".

Now of course the reality is that this only means that if you bypass this chance it's $6 and New Jersey, but that's besides the point. The real gift of this sign on such a beautiful Wednesday sun thawing morning was that it got my imagination juices flowing. The sign sounded less like a toll road warning and more like a post-apocalyptic or fantastic adventure. It's like staring at an ancient map of the world. After all the charted lands they would draw a sea monster in the blank space and it would read hic sunt dracones, or in English "Here be Dragons".

I felt less like the Roland trapped in this lameness and more like my counterpart in Stephen King's Gunslinger series as he crossed into the badlands and prepared to face the green goblin hordes, or my namesake, Charlemagne's nephew who single-handedly help the Pyrenees pass against an entire army of Moorish invaders.

Of course there are some differences, not the least of which is that while the character Roland and the medeaval Frankish mythic hero Roland are both bad to the bone, I'm a poser. But I think it was close enough.

When I finally parked I could see the Hudson river to my right and Ulysses Grant's tomb atop the hill to my left flank. Fallen warriors and majestic rivers; the perfect setting for a heroic exploit.

Between Grant's tomb and my car lay a steep hill, tree-shielded from the sun, still frozen solid with ice that was once slush and snow. I tried to plant my heel in the ground to no avail, the ice was rock hard. With an Off-duty cabby looking onward I tried my first push up the hill. While I made some initial progress by utilizing two footholds formed by the shoeprints of walkers from a time when the ice hadn't totally hardened, I finally came to the end of my leverage. Now was a steep hill with a thin, branchy tree a few feet from the last shoe print. Leaning forward I tried to explode out of the shoeprints like a canon and use momentum to gain enough ground to grab the branches and pull myself up.

While the attempt itself was successful, the branches were too thin to hold me. Now, without a toe hold of significant I fell, cushioning my fall with my hands and skidding straight down the ice to the bottom of the hill. The grainy ice chaffed my hands pretty well, like sliding down concrete. The trip was not pleasant. The cabby laughed. Godless NY cabbies! They've got a special place in Hades next to people who talk in movie theaters. I vowed to redouble my efforts.

The next ascent went smoothly for a while, much like the first time, and again I was soon faced with the same challenge of no footholds, and now I knew that a mere branch would not do. I needed the branchy bushes' thin trunk. I braced myself, knowing that is was grab or bust on my first lunge. Failure would mean not only bringing shame to the name of Roland, but also hysterical laughter from the cab driver.

I leaned forward into the shoe prints, left leg in the higher imprint. Springing from the back leg I shifted my weight forward and then out- 'bioioioioioioing'! Now I'm not exactly a graceful jumper at the best of time, and especially not when I have awkward footing on sheer ice, going uphill, and having to break through protruding branches. I decided it wouldn't do to win style points, so I lowered my head and crashed through the branches with the top of my shaven skull and my bulky shoulders. I grabbed blindly with one arm for where I thought the thin trunk of the bush lay... I felt nothing until my hands came together and brushed against the bark, further roughing them up. BLAM! I plopped to the ground forcefully, stomach first. It would have knocked the breath out had I not prepared by using the boxing technique of breathing out quickly. I could still breath and wasn't cut anywhere.


From there it was a small matter to stand up, hop to a series of connected rocks, look at the cabby (who was still laughing) in triumph, and plant an air-flag on the top of the hill. I'd done my dity. Flag or no, Roland's once again stood victorious. Yeah that's right, Roland Pride!


Blogger Blogchik said...

That is freakin' hilarious, Ray. You are just as funny in print as you are in RL.

Mad props.

9:17 PM  

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