I step outside the climate-controlled comfort of my office building at 7:30 and blink dumbfounded at the surprise heat. It was like a flash fever, or as if someone left the door to hell open and the devil’s wondering who.
Mounting up and and hitting the streets, the schizo winds bumrush from all sides. They push, shove slam, yank. It is like being in the center of a gang of crowding toughs roughing you with no mercy. The winds want your wallet. And your girlfriend.
Bits of gust break off in my ears and stay there roaring like angry four-headed lions, like a dozen bombs that never stop detonating. Endless thunder.
Impenetrable walls of headwind lurk around turns to slow me to an almost-crawl. Sidewinds buffet me and make me grip my handlebars tighter. Every now and then a merciful tailwind would tease me with an assist but then another header would sweep in and kill it. The streets are an obstacle course of corpses and limbs. Dead palm fronds and broken branches litter the roadways swept clean. Anything smaller and lighter wouldn’t have a chance to stick around. And why would it want to?
The thin clouds to the south are red and dirty. There’s an almost full moon above them, but it’s retreated to the relative safety of a more distant perch. The sun seems in an exceptional hurry to be down and away and out of sight from this strangeness. The air smells of cigarettes.
It is hotter. Drier. Darkening. Out loud I acknowledge there have been few evenings more eerie and foreboding than this. It is earthquake weather. Tsunami weather. Zombie tornado riot wildfire weather. Spontaneously combustible. Apocalyptageddon.
I have come barely a mile.
Then even weirder and with no warning, as I draw closer to Ballona Creek I am suddenly and sureally subsumed in cool air and the pungent smell and taste of salt air and ocean water. Maybe there is a tsumani coming. The temperature drops precipitously and the winds stop as if having been chased away by avenging angels. All is silent and still as if I’ve stepped into a secret invisible chamber, or been released from a boiling whitewater hell into a calm eddy.
I’m tempted to stop and live there for as long as I can, but in another second I’ve been kicked out and the heat is back and the winds are in my ears again screaming at me and the perspiration is being pulled from my pores as I crank slowly onward. I feel myself wilting.
On the creek, there’s no onshore-flow to push me inland, only the same schizo winds that don’t know which direction they want to go. I catch up to another pocket of cool salty air but it’s in no hurry and I leave it behind.
Then the bugs. Massive swarms of tiny black flying things. They pummel me in waves getting in my nose, my mouth, my eyes. They tangle in the hair on my arms and legs and go for a ride. One of the hitchhikers is biting the back of my left calf and I let it. All I want is to be away from this waterway.
Not soon enough, I am.Â I’m on the streets. The bite on my leg is soon itching and I madly scratch it until it bleeds. So bizarre is this night that gunshots and screams wouldn’t have been out of place. There are none. And oddly enough motorists I am sharing the road with are almost respectful, as if they have bigger fish to fear. I try my best to return the favor, but they are the least of my worries. I keep my eyes wide for huge chunks of sky falling from above the swaying trees that seem to be trying too hard to timber upon me.
On the sidewalks people that are there move in bunches together wary, close, quiet. They stand listlessly in front yards and driveways. Having tried to escape the indoors they only succeed in getting trapped outside of them. They look over shoulders, sideways. They avoid eye contact. Everything is furtive. They are too big for the wind so there is nowhere to go. No desire to run.
Darker still and warmer I climb further up into the winded city.Â The shadows have switchblades.Â There are crows on every light pole. Raucous with glee. Dead rats in the gutters. Every house I pass looks like it’s barely keeping a nasty secret. Each is an undiscovered crime scene.Â The lights from inside them spill out dull, lifeless. Murdered.
In the last mile I get on Sunset Boulevard and finally get a tailwind that stays with me, pushing me up past the junction and down beyond 30 mph. Faster than the traffic. Too fast for any details.
Save for our house number being blown crooked I arrive to straighten it and find everyone and everything I love inside and safe.
But all else is sinister outside tonight — even victory: the Dodgers set a new major league record with the most consecutive home wins. The number? Thirteen.
All the police tape in the world is not enough.