25 February, 2022

Sunrise, Sunset

They clouded one's vision with red, or they practically deafened you with riotous orange. Some sweetened the world with honey and gold. Still others spanned the sky in thick waves of vermillion, violet, and peach so vibrant as to make a person weep with joy at witnessing such beauty. I remember the best sunsets.

All of them were seen in Picnic Point, New South Wales, Australia, the suburb of Sydney, where I lived from ages ten to eleven. I was a lucky kid. Just a few hundred paces down the street from my house was the perfect place to sit and watch the day dwindle. A stand of trees terminated abruptly at a cliff face overlooking a couple of tennis courts. Young Byron rode his bike down there at least a couple of times each week. A particular weatherbeaten boulder offered a perfectly butt-shaped contour for watching the sky-show.

On a different bluff, halfway around the planet and a number of years later, friends and I sometimes watched the sun come up over Kansas City railyards. We called the place Pendergast Point, because of a statue of renowned Kansas Citian William Pendergast that stood there. Its actual name was Case Park, but I didn't learn that until years later, when a fit of reminiscence prompted someone I know to google the location. It had been a place for lookouts. Because of an elbow in the Missouri River to the north, Civil War soldiers – and, before them, watchful Native Americans – could see for miles up- and downstream.

Case Park's wrought-iron benches sat all in an arc along what felt like the literal edge of the city. The kind of steep embankment that only an earlier, less litigious age would leave unfenced looked down at humming patches of interstate. After a very long night of activity, a couple, sometimes a handful, of young adults could sit there and be soothed by the gentle rise of another day. We sat in silence as the sun came up before our eyes. Its amber glow rimmed the hills surrounding railyards and reflected off the tracks, like veins of gold crisscrossing the city that we called home. The sunrise was our curtain drawn, the end of our revels.

While awaiting trial for first-degree murder, my neighbor in the county jail was a grizzled biker who went by "Frenchie." He'd shot a man dead for sleeping with his girlfriend, then beat and kicked the body until his own boot flew off. It was hard to make that violent image of drunken-rage Frenchie jibe with the man I ate meals and watched Survivor: Africa with. He had showed me pictures of himself snuggled up on the couch with Rootin' Rudy, his potbellied pig, and with the son he was so proud of. I watched him break down in tears, saying, "I'll never get to watch another sunset."

Years after our legal ordeals ended, Frenchie and I stood on the yard at Crossroads Correctional Center, where we both ended up, and I pointed to the sky. "Remember when...," I asked him, and he nodded. Through the chain link and razor wire, we saw the sun glowing poppy red at the horizon. It dipped lower and lower as we watched. I thought of Australia. I thought of friends come and gone. When the announcement came that the yards were closed, neither Frenchie nor I moved right away. We waited, each lost in his own thoughts, until the just-right moment came. When it came, we went.


Byron does not have Internet access. Pariahblog.com posts are sent from his cell by way of a secure service especially for prisoners' use. We do read him your comments, however, and he enjoys hearing your thoughts very much.