This morning I woke to find a coyote camouflaged on a rock outside my living room window. He was resting about fifty yards away from me. And for half an hour I had the great privilege to spy on him.
Coyote clans occupy pockets of turf on the East Coast, including Central Park in NYC. But in the thirty collective years I alternately lived in Rhode Island and New York, I practically never heard about them—in real terms anyway. It was Warner Bros. who set the lore of this wild dog in my mind in 1974 when they introduced him to me as a conniving fool named Wile E. Coyote.
In one of my fondest childhood memories, I'm lying on a rug in front of a TV in Rhode Island laughing at his death-defying antics. From what I gathered, Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner were a couple of characters you might encounter if you were to visit a far-away place called California.
The scenarios in those cartoons seemed ridiculous to me: rubber-band roads, illusory tunnels, an ever-present abyss…I mean, my God! What kind of place was that!? Well, forty years and presumably some sense later, I’m traversing the coastal landscape of California and all I can say is, the cartoons didn’t lie.
Drive up the coast on State Route 1. All the elements will be there; The beauty. The cliffs. The speedy characters. I felt like someone dropped me into a Hollywood film; a world where survival seemed to mean that if you weren't spry enough, you could be killed at any moment.
For twelve of the twenty years I lived on Oahu I drove a Kawasaki 600. For the other eight I put a popular bumper sticker on my car that read,"Slow Down! This ain’t the Mainland!” I’ve even driven Taiwan’s mountainous pathways where driving rains and landslides are a constant threat. I’m a veteran of death-defying road-trips. Yet I felt a palpable sense of relief upon returning our rental car last night.
So it was with a good dose of gratitude that I found myself waking up to my current perch, seven stories up a San Francisco high rise. As I looked out at Treasure Island sipping my coffee, I thought, ‘Here I am in this new place. Life’s different chapters can seem so bizarre. Some of my client’s stories came to mind; the harrowing twists and turns they've ask me to help them navigate. An inner voice said, ‘Derek as you move through life's transitions, remember to travel with awareness, attention, and a sense of humor’. That’s when I turned my head and spotted him.
He was eye level with me on the hill abutting my building.
Ironically, or perhaps due to the hours of excellent training Warner Bros. gave me, my first reaction upon seeing him wasn’t, ‘Holy Coyote! There’s a coyote outside my window!’ No. My first thought was, ‘Damn, I’m still in the cartoon. Where’s The ACME Dynamite Company?’
Instinctively, my eyes began darting about the Bay.
Hmm…There seem to be more than a few ACME Dynamite Companies out here...Uber, Lyft, Grabr, Palm, Cisco, Alza, Facebook, Google (I could go on!). All of them striving to profit by offering us ways to make life better. I wonder if any of the self-driving cars being tested throughout San Francisco will come ready to be assembled in boxes through the mail?
Life was imitating art imitating life a little too perfectly for me. Meeting Wile E. in the flesh so to speak prompted me to think about not letting that dash of dismay and derision we can have as we look out at the world turn into an obsession.
As I looked out at the bay bridge, eye to eye with that dog I had a Eureka, California moment. Ha! Perhaps I’m not Wile E. Coyote. Maybe I'm The Road Runner! Meep! Meep!
I stuck my tongue out at him and said, ‘Wile E! You can keep dying and coming back refreshed for the next episode as often as you want! Just so you know, I’m ready for you.
He licked his chops. And I stuck my tongue out at him.
I love that dog.