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Old Chain of Rocks Bridge

(north of St. Louis)


Things weren't going well for James. After a fruitless year, his job search was leading him to Seattle. No more forebodings of "leaving this dying city." His bags were packed.

James was a man prepared. We met two women along the bike trail, one of whom had a flat tire. Twenty minutes later James sat cross-legged, surrounded by two bicycle pumps and a variety of other apparatus he'd retrieved from a nylon bag fastened to his Cannondale. Miscellanea lay everywhere, yet nothing got accomplished. After much talk, monkey business, the girl would return home with the same flat tire, beating her back rim to a pulp as she rode.

That he couldn't fix the bike was uncharacteristic of James. He is one of the most useful people around -- intelligent, clever, excruciatingly knowledgeable about all manner of bizarre subjects, masterful at spontaneous good ideas. It seemed impossible that someone so capable couldn't find a job.

When we got to the Old Chain Bridge, we looked across at the stone towers standing skyward against the flow of the Mississippi. James said I should write about them -- he was always suggesting things to write about. I should write something about their solitude. It might be a metaphor for something, he said. Yes, I thought sadly: of you, James.

"But that might be a little obvious for my taste," he concluded on second thought.

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