Last time I was in Altadena I was blood-shot and weary after having been MEDEVAC’d off the Angeles Crest 100-miler course. Severe dehydration getting the best of me at mile 89 -a DNF. Real life-changer.
This week I’m back for my youngest brother Joel’s wedding. But I hadn’t geographically put 2 and 2 together until having flashbacks as Katie and I drove past Loma Alta Park, less than a mile from our Airbnb. This was AC’s finish line. In 2010 I took a truck there instead of run.
My race memories are vague, but nostalgic nonetheless. Dusty and Rita bribing me with donuts to get me to smile for a photo in the medical tent. My face locked in something akin to bliss. Heading to the hospital was recommended by race docs, but the thought of Dunkin brought me back to life. So off we went, memories reshaping with the passing of each minute.
It’s funny how a place can fit like a tailored suit. That’s this place to me. Which makes me think about Joel and his wife-to-be, Brittany—a perfect fit.
At the rehearsal dinner yesterday I watched the wedding party unload carloads of beer, champagne, and centerpieces. None came prepared for hard labor, but graciously anointed their crisp semi-casuals with buckets of dry heat sweat. Laughing all the while. Made me think of togetherness. Of love. With familiar mountains looming overhead, smog adding a new allergy to out-of-towner’s throats, it felt just right.
Today is Joel’s big day. Loads of connected, estranged, or otherwise disconnected family members converging on a random place like it’s been beckoning forever. I guess in some way it has. I am briefly saddened by hearing folks say, “Too bad it takes a wedding to bring us all together,” but I am also thrilled that our circles will be fuller than usual.
This morning I’m considering walking down to Loma Alta Park to see if that piece of my past is laying around somewhere amongst the dry grass and shadeless dirt patches. Maybe the old me is still there, these days taking up space on a park bench or building a desert garden. I’d like to say hello to that part of me I left behind, maybe let it know that I am a better person without it. Express my gratitude for it being a part of my coming up.
And in a round-about way, this is exactly what I’m wishing for my little brother. Because really, it’s what a guy like him deserves. He’s a kind, warm man who I still think of as “Joely” even though my mouth knows to say “Joel.” His enthusiasm and earnestness is unavoidable, often under-appreciated. His eyes tell the world how much he’s in love with it. And it’s not uncommon for his love to mysteriously attach to anyone around him. Friends, strangers, whatever.
He’s an uncommon sort of Jedi—the one everyone goes to and leaves feeling better about themselves. A Yoda amongst us Lukes.
It’s a forceful day of new beginnings in our little Los Angeles universe. All of us circling the baking sun as it locks in an abundance of love.