The Boring Volcanoes, 1: Mt. Tabor, March 28, 2020


My first summer back home here, I walked up Mt. Tabor at least once a week. It was—and is—a little over a mile from home, and a quick walk would be the perfect divider between a day of avoiding my dissertation and a night of… also avoiding my dissertation.

People would set out picnics and blankets, bottles of wine and clear plastic glasses from REI. It felt very close to paradise.

I—sometimes we—would sit out near the top at sunset, watching the lights of Hawthorne and downtown flicker on, one by one, then the slow lines of stately traffic, all perpendicular to the river.


It still feels like paradise today, if you squint. Late blossoms and frolicking dogs. Two squirrels chase each other through the early spring flowers. But the people: we’re all masked now—at least, those of us who could find masks are—and no one’s chatting. Head nods at a distance.


Here and there groups of two or three have set up in the grass, clandestinely drinking bits of wine or beer, already seeming starved for company. I interrupted a couple high school kids canoodling in the woods. It felt like a beam of light that’d snuck into an otherwise sealed room.


Given the complicated web of trails and ways and roads, it’s impossible to count definitely, but there are something like ten separate ways to the top of Mt. Tabor. And today I’m trying to walk them all. Because… what else am I doing?


Most are well-trodden. I remember sledding down this one with friends a few winters ago. Has it already been five years? And I remember walking up that one in college, listening to the end of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot as loud as my Discman would go. And I remember some canoodling of my own. That girl from geology. She did the headphone thing from Garden State. But with Merzbow. I couldn’t stop laughing.

That feral life feels a thousand miles away.


But some trails are completely new to me, hidden by brush or a gate you had to know you were allowed to go through, and it makes me feel wild, if just for a second. There’s a bird’s nest above one of the more remote paths, chicks squawking. A little chaos to shake the habitual.


I keep crisscrossing with another guy doing loops. He’s a bit older—maybe my dad’s age—and with one of those old walking sticks that definitely began as a fallen branch but is now living a comfortable domestic life with the shoes and umbrellas and maybe an errant raincoat. Every time we meet, I try to step aside, but he insists. “I need the damn rest!”

The last time, I notice a faded PCT sticker on his pack, the logo they used in the 70s, before the thing was really finished.



There’s a broad, lightly wooded meadow on top, usually fully of people But it’s strangely empty. The only people up are a family—two kids and a couple of dads. The kids are making a heroic effort at climbing the unclimbable trees; the dads are drinking a bottle of rose, passing it back-and-forth like we did when we were kids.

Looking down I see the streets we saw when I first moved back here, but they’re empty now. They still glow in the sunset, but the lights are still. Streetlights. Every few minutes a car will come up, perpendicular to the river, but the boulevards feel like backcountry roads now. One could imagine grass growing along the sides, deer grazing. The whole city slowly going back to wilderness as we all stay home.


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