I hope you’re sitting down. What I’m about to relate will shock and unsettle, for you see, Gentle Reader, all of our lives we’ve been lied to.

Since we’ve crawled out of the cradle we’ve been brainwashed into believing that we live in a rational universe dictated by scientific laws and principles. A universe in which effects are preceded by causes; where Newton’s laws of motion, i.e. a body at rest tends to stay at rest; a body in motion tends to stay in motion; E=MC2; the laws of entropy and thermodynamics; what goes up must go down- and vice versa. Lies; all vicious lies!

THEY want us to believe there is order in the universe. Oh, how much easier we are to control if we accept this. There is a rational explanation for everything. We must believe this or chaos and anarchy will reign, and we will start questioning everything and mass madness will ensue. And you may ask, oh Gentle Reader, the genesis of my horrific epiphany? Let me introduce to you, if you dare to continue reading, that horrific place- that terrible thing known as The Slater/Magnolia Vortex.

I live on a bluff in Huntington Beach, California, off a street named Newland, just south of another street named Talbert. Newland runs north and south, Talbert east and west. Traveling south on Newland from the bluff will take you to the Pacific Coast Highway. I know, as for years I’ve ridden my bike down to the beach, the descent downhill from the bluff being hair-raising- white knuckles clutching desperately to the handlebars.

Halfway on my return, I am imbued with a sense of dread as I approach the hill en route to the bluff, and home. As I switch gears and begin to peddle with a determined fury, I can almost hear the lactic acid saturating my quadriceps. It becomes an act of sheer will as time and speed slow nearly to a halt. This is agony- the agony of martyred saints; the agony of Sisyphus and all others cursed by the gods. But, amazingly I prevail. And I accept my bicycling lot, for as all of us know, that which goes down must come up.

On occasion, perhaps out of whimsy, I will vary my route and instead of returning on Newland I will veer east on a street named Hamilton, then north on a street named Bushard, whereupon I will head west on Talbert and, as I approach Newland, the dread and loathing rear their ugly heads as I approach the hill- not the same hill as on Newland, but one, logically, of equal grade. And I know that regardless of what route I take, from any direction, if I go downhill at some point I must return uphill.

Then came the fateful day last week. Returning on my bike ride going north on Newland, I noticed road construction just before the approach to the dreaded hill. I was required to take a detour. I turned right on a street named Ellis, then headed north on a street named Magnolia. Of course at some point I would encounter a dreaded hill. But there was none on Magnolia. I continued, absentmindedly bypassing Talbert (absentmindedly? Perhaps providentially, or worse, guided by some irrational hand). And so I came to a street named Slater, and turned left, steeling myself for the inevitable hill. But, all was flat. Was I hallucinating? There had to be a hill before Newland- if not, then I had gone downhill leaving home, and was about to return without ever going uphill. Is this the harbinger of madness? Or perhaps worse. What, oh Gentle Reader, if I had discovered a wrinkle, a crack in the facade of scientific reality?

In the next two days I repeated the route, by bike, by car and by foot. I went down the bluff and returned home never commensurately going back up. Could one of the streets have a barely perceptible gradual grade? I tested that thesis. If true, there would be the perception from one end of Magnolia or Slater to the other end of cars disappearing as they went up or downhill. Nothing. All was flat.

I began to obsess. I called the city’s road department. The young lady who answered was initially pleasant, but her tone became disturbed and somber as I described my experience. Quickly, she transferred me to an “engineer.” When I related to him the disturbing phenomenon, he interrupted before I could finish. “NOW YOU’VE DONE IT! DO YOU REALIZE THE CAN OF WORMS YOU’VE OPENED? THE PANDORA’S BOX!!” Then he hung up.

I felt panic. I stepped outside for some air, and my neighbor Daryl walked by. Yes, Daryl! In addition to being one of my kinder and understanding neighbors, he was a seasoned bike rider who knew the city’s streets like the back of his hand. I would confide to Daryl.

As I shared my experience with him, his normally affable and compassionate expression and demeanor slowly changed. There was something in his eyes- something reptilian and irrational. Then he pointed at me and let out a blood curdling, high pitched screech. The other neighbors were alerted and the pursuit began.

And now, oh Gentle Reader, I’ve gone into hiding, living desperately amidst the shadows. And I beg of you- I plead- study the streets of Huntington Beach, and use alternate routes if you approach the Slater/Magnolia Vortex, or you too will join the hunted!

2 thoughts on “Listen, Oh Gentle Readers

  1. You must have found one of the rare inequitable locales in the up/down rule. I pity you now, having to continually look over your shoulder. M. C. Escher was persecuted by the church and other up/down tyrants for his depictions of similar anomalies he discovered. I think you’ll be safe as long as the face mask is in fashion.


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