Monday, November 3, 2008

Sometimes Wind Stops

Two days before my 21st birthday I am hardly thinking about any kind of celebration. It is 6:30 am and I am driving in my '59 black VW bug through the wasteland of the East San Fernando Valley about to traverse Beverly Glen Canyon. I have an 8:00 class in the Social Science Bldg. at UCLA. I am on schedule, but driving like a zombie. My eyes are forward, the radio is on but I do not hear the Beatles recording of "A Day in the Life" that surrounds me.
It's foggy, both outside the car and inside my mind. I can't see the smoke that may be twisting up from South Central toward the Valley. I can't see going to any classes today. My fear supercedes my anger. In my mind, I keep seeing the one car careening around the UCLA campus the evening before. Holed up in a poetry seminar for the previous two hours, I learned of the death of Martin Luther King by watching this car's mad dashes stopping only for people of color. I wasn't able to put that together until I asked an African American student walking my way in the growing twilight what was going on.
Just before I cross Ventura Blvd. onto Valley Vista to make the climb to the top of the canyon, Peter, Paul, and Mary's version of "Blowin' in the Wind" comes on the radio. I am not prepared for what follows. Every fiber of my physical and mental being responds and I began to cry. Those tears enable me to survive the day.
That moment in time helped me make some formative decisions the next year and throughout the years to follow. Sometimes these moments form stone pieces of a wall that gets built over time. Carefully placed for size and balance the wall forms and takes shape. Another piece will soon join my wall. Sometimes, on rare occasions like today, I feel above this wall.

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