ALONG THE WAY TO THE TOP OF L.A. Almost sunrise. I hear my breath and — when it’s cool enough — see it. With every step. The dirt road crunches. How crazy to make this ascent. Five hundred feet. Up. There are others like me. Not like me. White. Brown. Old. Young. L.A. comes. Just us people. To hike. To climb stairs. We want to look good. Feel better. The doctor said so. Or vanity insists. A gopher peeks out. A runner speeds by, earbuds lodged to filter the noise. Listen. The sounds of morning traffic fall as the wind and birds and footsteps harmonize. At the crest. Breathless. The amber glow grows above downtown. In the west, the quiet blue Pacific. In between, the vast playground of my childhood. My knees remind of middle age. And work to do. Downhill. Passing clusters of stripped-shelled snails mating on a branch. Yellow wildflowers. More come. Crazy to want to leave.