Sunday in the Park
In a town of folks of varied means, I have always been blessed to have friends who share their toys. My vacations for decades have revolved around someone, who knows someone, who has a house or a boat or has an in at a great resort. Some dear friends have had a house on the beach in San Diego for some time and for some time they have invited me to go there and stay. And I meant to. Last summer but there was no time, in the fall, it didn’t work. In the winter, there was no time. So a few weeks ago, when my friend told me he had sold his beach house and it would close the second week in May, he insisted I should spend the last long weekend it was available, there. Insisted to the point of buying my plane ticket. So I juggled a few obligations and dug out my flip-flops and visor and flew away.
San Diego is familiar territory. Not much from my adult life but from the summers of my youth. Each year, I would spend weeks in Oceanside, where my mother’s parents had a funky little beach house. A three story place with giant glass windows to watch the changing sea and a deck to sit on, long after the sun sizzled into the ocean at night. When I arrived in San Diego it was late, after getting the luggage, rental car and losing my way on the freeway, and finding the house, in the dark, it was 2 a.m. to be exact. But when I opened the car door and heard the ocean crash, time and space suspended. The ocean smelled of discovery and calm and seashells and gulls. I threw open the windows right away and let the beach in for the night. I slept in a kind of time travel sweetness.
In the morning, I walked up on the roof deck and sat in the giant director’s chair and watched the passing parade. It was Saturday and the level of activity was like some crazy fast-forward, time-release photo. On the sidewalk promenade next to the sand, there were joggers of all ages, walkers, some with walkers, kids and dogs and roller bladers and combinations of all the above. My favorite was a beautiful young woman, regal and tall, on a skateboard holding high in her hand the reins to her giant Dalmatian. Think the goddess Diana in her chariot and you get the picture.
I forced myself to find the market to stock up for the next few days. Fatigued by such mundane chores, I walked around the corner to the dive, joint, whatever you call a neighborhood bar/burger place, The Liar’s Club. As promised, they served the perfect, messy, juicy, burger and the smoothest margaritas.
Naptime followed shortly there after.
Long walks on the beach with my camera in hand were followed by more deck sitting, day after day. And day after day, the entertainment was constant. Most evenings I witnessed dolphins leaping right in front of the house having their own sunset cocktail feeding hour. Early mornings brought the pelicans, dive bombing into the waves for breakfast. The weather, the locals kept telling me, was unseasonably perfect.
On Sunday afternoon I ventured across several freeways into another part of town which was called Normal Heights and was anything but. I had learned a singer I was interested in bringing to Park City, would be performing in a church there for just one night. When I arrived at said church, in the afternoon to buy a ticket, the Methodist Church was a-buzz with Russian worshippers. Men in ill-fitting suits and women in babushkas, honestly, all speaking Russian. I learned the Methodists rented the place in the afternoons to the Russians who had no idea who took over the building at five o’clock. So I drove around for a few hours and came back to find a white haired guy dragging sound equipment into the narthex of the church. He was the promoter of the concert and hadn’t printed the tickets yet, so could I come back at seven? I assured him I could/would.
Which left me time to find dinner at a neighborhood Italian place filled with the kind of B cast of "Goodfellas" characters you had to laugh at. The guy seated behind me kept telling the woman he was with, "see, we’re outin public I’m taking ya to a nice restaurant for dinner, I’m being seen with you", was right out of central casting. When he told the waitress he wasn’t really complaining, he just thought the eggplant parmesan should have more eggplant, "you know what I mean, doll, the sauce is great and all, but more eggplant, ya shoudda had more eggplant in there if you’re gonna call it eggplant parmesan," well, I was laughing in my napkin. Too much Tony Soprano for me. The spectacular singer-songwriter made me almost forgitaboutit.
The day I drove up to Del Mar, where my grandparents used to have a box at the racetrack, proved to be a series of twists and turns in my search for the famed old Del Mar Hotel. Finally I just pulled up next to parked cop car and asked where the mythical place was. The door of the patrol car swung open and out stepped a deputy sheriff in walking shorts with both a cell phone and pistol on a belt. When I looked up and noticed the perfect French manicure I realized this officer was a pretty hip woman. She had me follow her down back alleys until we reached a dump of place on the beach, which I knew couldn’t be right. So she jumped out, left the car running, walked on the beach and asked a longtime lifeguard if he knew the old hotel. He left his tower and walked on the hot asphalt to my car and explained the place had been torn down in 1969. A new hotel had built on the spot. He told the cop which one and she had me follow her on side streets until we reached the swanky joint, where I thanked her for her kindness. She waved me off and left in her black and white. Yes, a black and white. The Jimmy Durante Bar at this place is no place Jimmy would have been caught dead in. But I had lunch and thought briefly about what a couple of swells my grandparents must have been in their day. And how the seemingly little things we do with grandchildren, like teach them math, logic and intuition all at once, by betting at the track, can have lasting impressions.
the time I got back on the plane, just a few short days later, I had had a full measure of adventures. I had perfect sand dollars to bequeath my grandchildren, and my leg muscles were pleasantly sore from the long walks on the beach. It was lovely to be away and touch emotions of a far away time when the livin’ was easy. It was a generous gift I will treasure all the coming days, even those working Sundays in the Park
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