04 July 2009

Pike's Peak Behind The Clouds

"If thtose clouds would get out of the way, you could see Pike's Peak."

So said the cab driver who brought me to the hotel in which I'm staying tonight. It had been raining heavily just before I arrived here in Colorado Springs, and from the window of the cab, I could see some of the lower peaks that surrounded Pike's.

The highway on which he drove me stood over 6000 feet above sea level, he told me. "If you start to feel winded when you walk up a flight of stairs, that's normal," he advised me. "And, be sure to drink a lot of water: It's drier here."

At that moment, I don't think he knew where I came from; he knew only that I'm not from this place, or any near or like it. He told me he was originally from Alaska: "another beautiful place," he said.

He was responding to my query as to whether he came from this place. I guessed that he had; if I had to pick any other place as his native land; I probably would have chosen, if not Alaska, another part of the Rocky Mountains. Or some other mountainous and relatively wild area: Somehow I could not imagine him having grown up in a city or a coastal region, or just about anywhere in the US that's east of the Mississippi River.

It wasn't only his rather gaunt body and face or his beard that clung to his face as it hung from it that said "mountain man." Nor was it only the way he wore his tatoos: Somehow it seemed as if he always had them, and that he didn't have them burnished on his forearms to rebel, or to seem as if he were rebelling, against whatever it is the trust-fund anarchists or the ones who get tatooed at the local mall want to seem to be rebelling against. I say that as someone who for so many years rebelled but didn't know what I was rebelling against.

The chief reason why he struck me as someone who belongs in this place, or some place like it, is that he got me to where I was going quickly and efficiently without seeming to rush to it. He was not fighting time; it was moving him--and me, as he drove me in his cab--exactly as it should have.

Now, I don't mean to criticize all those immigrant cab drivers one finds in most cities, including New York. They, like the one who took me to LaGuardia Airport this morning, often work very long hours and make not a lot of money. However, some of them could spend the rest of their lives in the cities (or nations) to which they've emigrated and never be integrated into them. Some have to learn languages very different from their own; most have to adopt a way of life that is completely different from the one they left. Some of them, perhaps, were neither born into the environment nor were inculcated with the rhythms that were best suited to them. Perhaps some will never find those things; all they can do is to find whatever way has the best chance of ensuring their survival. If they're lucky, they find ways to turn their survival into life and can ascend from merely making a living to living.

Somehow I suspect the cab driver who drove me past the clouds that shrouded Pike's Peak has, in some way, done the latter. He seemed very intelligent and articulate, yet he didn't seem to yearn for some other life. I would be happy for him if he were come to New York or go to Paris, if he really wanted to see those places. But I wouldn't try to goad him into it--because, interestingly enough, I didn't envy him for seeming to have happened into his element without having to search, yearn or fight for it.

However, I still can't help but to wonder how he saw me. I don't mean what he "thought" of me; to wonder what someone thinks of you is to assume that someone has made judgments--which is, in fact, a way of judging that person.

He was, in fact, very polite without being obsequious, helpful without being condescending. In other words, he acted in a way a considerate man would act toward a middle-aged woman who's in a place she's never before seen. I honestly don't know what more I could ask of any man who's a stranger in a similar situation.

In spite of my tiredness and the headache that seems to have been a result of eating a strudel and a piece of chocolate on an empty stomach, I am happy about this day. I can even say that, even though I spend most of it in airplanes and airports, it's one of the best birthdays I've had. After all, how can a day go wrong when it begins with Tami, my choreographer friend-neighbor paying me a surprise visit and giving me a couple of suprise gifts. Or when it's followed by a visit from Millie, who saw me off, or when I have my mother's encouragement at the end of the day.

Tomorrow morning I will get to see Pike's Peak. At least I know it's there, behind those clouds.

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