Inside the brewery, we sipped our beer floats while outside, the sun disappeared. Two beers later, it seemed like a good idea to ride our bikes to Shannon's house in Burbank. We took the L.A. river path north, five miles or so. We rode alongside the river in near darkness, save for the white and red flashes of our LED bike lights. A fence separated our bicycle train from the cars barreling down the I-5 to our left. To the right, the river sludged along in its concrete bed, reminding me of the omnipresent canals that slice the Phoenecian landscape. The water was black, and from its oily surface, defiant trees sprouted. It seemed impossible, but there it was, an urban bayou. Tendrils of smoke rose from the factories to our east, swirling in the starless sky. It was beautiful and sinister and in that moment, I felt overcome with joy. I thought: I'm so grateful I don't have children.
In Burbank, we collected Shannon, and rode south to an art show in Studio City. It was a tattoo art show, but I didn't know what this meant. The tattoos were rendered on paper or canvas, framed, hanging inside a gallery. I wasn't sure if the work had been created exclusively to be hung. Or if these hanging pieces were renditions of tattoos that existed elsewhere in the world, on an arm or leg or neck. Or maybe the works represented the artists' dream tattoos, which they waited to inscribe onto a worthy body, should one ever present itself. I didn't feel like asking so I never found out.
I was eating a chocolate-covered strawberry when I heard, "You're my librarian." He was Latino, looked about 22 and wore thick glasses. He was a student at one of my colleges, but I didn't recognize him.
The thing people always ask librarians is for the names of our favorite books or authors. That's what he asked me. We kept trading the names of writers until we found one we both knew and liked: Raymond Carver. The whole time we spoke, I worried that I had chocolate on my teeth. Later, when I smiled at my reflection in the bathroom mirror, I was relieved to see that I did not.
Our bike gang relocated to the bar next door for more beer and food. Around us, the Grammys flickered on four televisions, and we watched Lady Gaga hatch from an egg, a yolk hat balanced atop her head. Drunk, I shared my L.A. River epiphany with the group -- about how happy I felt to be childless, unencumbered.
"It's funny," Weezy said. "Because I had the opposite thought." She revealed that she and her long-time boyfriend were contemplating children. She said: "I kept thinking, would I be able to do this if I had a kid? And I thought, sure. I'll put a seat on the back of the bike, bring the kid to the tavern." I wasn't sure if this was realistic, but I recalled the formative years I spent on an Oyster Bay barstool, drinking Shirley Temples alongside my father. It wasn't so bad.
After the bar, the gang broke up, out of steam, and accepted a ride back to L.A., cramming their bikes into a vehicle. I rode my bike back to Hollywood alone, over the Cahuenga Pass, a dangerous route I'd never attempted sober. The 101 pulsed to my left, the main artery into Hollywood. The lights of Universal City illuminated my path, and as I sailed past so many palm trees, I thought, My life is good. If I die here on this road, that's OK -- a fine ending. I am nobody's mother.