The Middle Ages: On a road trip up the coast, I linger too long over lighthouses and eat way too much pie. Surprised?
I don’t even know what dreams I have left. They are diaphanous, semi-formed and live under the stairs. When I was 30, I had a long list of dreams.
At 60, they are written in Hi-Liter on the back of my hand. You can barely make them out: I dream about my wife getting healthy, my kids being content.
Unfortunately, contentment is nothing we really preach. Our nation started as Pilgrims, and we are now a jump-up-and-down, I-won-the-lottery sort of society. We lust for uncool things: fame, fortune, fashion, faster phones….
Trust me, finding contentment is winning the lottery.
Been a funny week. My sister in Chicago misspelled my name on a check (it used to be her last name too). How quickly they forget.
And I finally sold the Camaro, a car that had been for sale for seven years and was about to be buried in the backyard.
I lost my phone charger, then found it, then lost it again. Everything seemed misplaced. Two idiots wouldn’t return my calls. The 300-pound beagle wouldn’t take his kidney meds no matter what.
“You need to be more patient,” Posh suggested.
“I invented patience!!!” I screamed.
What followed was a 20-minute argument over whether I invented patience. Which I did.
So when my buddy Siskin invited me up the coast for a day or two, my wife was glad to let me go.
Off I went, in a cheesy rental car, ugly as a fire truck, on airless tires that rattled over every road seam. Stopped at Rincon Beach, then stopped for a steak so massive it should’ve come with a bell around its neck.
Just before sunset, I rolled into Cayucos, which is below Cambria but lots less artsy. If there’s anything I like about a place, it’s that it is less artsy.
Eating an oyster, as Tom Robbins once noted, is ‘like French-kissing a mermaid,’ so we ordered way too many.
Wow, what a place Siskin rented. Not that it was big — I’m so done with mansions. I can barely afford the one I have.
Siskin’s place was just right, with a living room that zoomed out to the sea. Perched on a bluff, it wasn’t a house so much as a hang-glider.
Like me, Siskin is a talker. We talked about books and the troubled relationship between hope and truth. We talked about the Clippers, the future of football, the birds bristling along the beach.
Siskin was certain they were snowy plovers. To me, they looked like common gulls with gym memberships — a little sleeker, a little more careful about what they ate.
“Yep, those are plovers,” Siskin insisted.
No one can quite explain my buddy Siskin. Or the ocean either. There are all sorts of theories about the positive vibes released by crashing waves or the psychic rewards of staring at the horizon.
Part of the reason California is such an asylum is that it is full of people who fixated on horizons, then set off to explore them. I like that in a place.
As the sun set, we sat on the deck and watched a parade of sea creatures. Is that an otter or a seal? No one could tell. Might’ve been a surfer. This far north, even the sea lions wear wetsuits.
In the distance, humpbacks spewed. Close to shore, a family of dolphins slipped through the waves; they were shiny, as if just painted.
Who doesn’t love dolphins? Do they deserve it? What have they really done? To me, a dolphin is a celebrity without merit, the Macaulay Culkin of the sea.
Siskin’s wife, Jenny, joined us, and we took long walks to nowhere. After that, we ate all the oysters in the ocean.
Immediately, I felt better.
Eating an oyster, Tom Robbins once noted, is like “French-kissing a mermaid,” so we ordered way too many. You either love oysters or you don’t. Jenny watched in horror, but she was a good sport about it. She hurled only twice.
After the hike, the September sun was warm on our necks and our legs still burned.
Amid its difficulties, God still has a crush on California. It has restorative powers that we often take for granted. There is medicine in the sunlight.
And, in California, the year gets better with every month, not worse, as in most states. September is better than August, and October is even better than September.
If I had my way, October would be 90 days long. Yet November is even better. Leave it said we’ll enjoy a damn fine harvest.
Later, I drove farther up the coast to do my usual dorky activities — lingering too long over lighthouses and eating too much rhubarb pie.
Like oceans, no one has ever sufficiently explained our love of lighthouses. Probably Longfellow came closest, noting that lighthouses are “steadfast, serene … a quenchless flame.”
Really, aren’t we all?