Friday, June 24, 2011


Not duel. Dual.

There was so much luminosity on the night of the almost longest day of the year that we needed two fires to contain it.

And each had its own undeniable charms: you could choose the indoor club with its closeness and café society or the out-of-doors, with all its windswept “Wuthering Heights” wildness.

But you had to accept the downside of your choice, too: claustrophobia and smoke inhalation under shelter or spitting rain just steady enough to make you feel like a Russian peasant standing out in it.

I found myself going back and forth and often splitting the difference, seeking Aristotle’s golden mean between the two, beneath the trees, where I could view both cheery conflagrations in relative comfort under the branches while still enjoying fresh air and the feeling of freedom that comes from standing by a huge body of water near the edge of a continent.

You could see how societies develop their own mythologies and how positions become ossified simply out of habit, so while I admired those who were loyal to their own flames all evening, I also acted the emissary, inviting the easterners to visit the west and vice-versa, with some success.

It was an evening on which accidental traditions were considered, but rejected in favor of old favorites and what I found most remarkable early on was how remarkable a stream of several dozen bicycles on the road appeared to so many people. Tourists leapt from pastry shops to snap cellphone pictures of what one loudmouth termed “The Bikealists!” At least three different not-quite-right folks shook their fists at us, including a toothless hag who shouted, “I hate you motherfuckers!” And a pitbull lathered itself into a frenzy barking as we pedaled by.

And wonder of wonders: no broken collarbones (as far as I know) leaving the park, although admittedly, I wasn’t the last to depart, and both fires were still slightly aglow when I headed out.


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