Brooklyn is behind me, at least for the next five…six…seven weeks. OK, eight weeks. I’m still in denial about how long this cross-country adventure actually will be. First stop: the green, leafy edge of Atlanta, in a silent neighborhood of no sidewalks, from where I stage the theft of my parents’ car (they’ve fled the country, leaving behind their worldly goods, for now. A bit like rapture, but i can still talk to them via Skype). Here, no one is grilling jerk chicken out front of their house, filling the air with smoke and scents to make you salivate. No gang of ten-year-olds has taken over the streets with their skateboards, kicking yellow cabs as they cruise by. There is no man standing silently on his front stoop from the early hours to the late hours, lording over the street.
But as I walked into one of the many, many shopping center complexes that get routinely carved into what was once lush southern forest, a sound made me look up. The screech of a gull, perhaps, but not quite. I lifted my sunglasses and looked up to see a hawk, wings spread wide, as it soared by not thirty feet above my head. The birds are leading this journey. The peregrines that nest atop the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, which links my borough of Brooklyn to its forgotten stepsister of Staten Island, and the other falcons throughout NYC are there by the grace of not God, but a gaggle of mad scientists and falconers who believed they could recreate a species decimated by DDT. Like the birds themselves, the men have scattered. I am heading west to find them, and visit a whole heap of long-lost friends who live along the way. Wanna come along for the ride?