Horses, Patti Smith
Arista, November 2, 1975
Track Listing: 1. Gloria: In Excelsis Deo/Gloria, 2. Redondo Beach, 3. Birdland, 4. Free Money, 5. Kimberly, 6. Break It Up, 7. Land: Horses/Land of a Thousand Dances/La Mer (De), 8. Elegie, 9. My Generation (bonus track)
Anywhere? No, not anywhere. Nowhere else but here, Redondo Beach, California. U-S-A, down by the ocean, backdrop for lovers and addicts alike, at least on this day-turned-cruel epitaph for boy/girl—a pairing that should have otherwise been reserved for dime store postcards, holding hands along the sand against a nuclear sunset strolling south, perhaps on their way to the Palos Verdes Peninsula, if not for how it was written.
Reggae’s playing, and it sounds cool, real cool. Anxiety be damned, as a happy-heavy-double-thump vibration wallops the stresses of the world away. But sounds that should have been monogamous to the sun and the sun alone make their way to the dark side of the moon, in requiem, triggered by a silly argument over something or another. He will not be able to remember accurately it all in the passing, save his last words.
It is day at the ocean like any other, the kind often captured with a click to be later boxed-up in an attic in a chest of memories. In this shot, draped over the khaki sand, exotic floral patterns and bright neon stripes of beach towels mark the lines where vacations begin and end as browned bodies weave happiness through seagull summer days and the moonlit sonatas of flawless summer nights. . . .
Midday continues, scorching sublime. Strong Pacific waves make suds out of footprints, leaving behind trails of gold dust to shimmer in the sun along the perfect miles of California coast.
It is therefore very unexpected, completely out of place—downright rude actually—that a useless argument should think to surface here, not that it doesn’t happen of course, from time to time, a random scene-stealing quarrel rising out of the serenity with pointlessness its customary spoiler.
However inane the fight, it will remain nothing else but real, and after she is gone gone it will remain impossible to forget (and not very easy to believe for that matter), that a few shady seconds should be allowed to trigger such grave consequence. But, disbelief over verdicts and cruel sentences aside, the universe has its say.
Many many hours before the sky’s nightlight can shine her hippy peace-beams over beach bonfires, it starts with an innocuous stirring by the shore that on any other day might be the result of a crowd admiring a particularly impressive sand castle or else gathering to witness a rare leatherback sea turtle sighting, but no, not today. This buzz turns quickly frantic, infused with confusion and panic, before finally, an awful hush. The ocean feigns concern, as if it hadn’t been at all responsible for washing up the lifeless body just moments before.
And even if you only happened to see the scene play out from the opposite distance of the surf, say from the vantage point of The Strand as you walked your bike along the path, you would still submit to that same dark feeling that arises in the gut when intuition sounds her sickening alarm.
A gasp of disbelief can seal any moment and deliver into eternity. Here, a man, no more than a boy, walks and then runs to the crowd, stumbling across the sand in the forever distance that now seems to separate the beach from the water.
This is it. This is the moment, as it shall be engraved.
-from “Redondo Beach”