December 4, 2009
So my wife and I are going to California soon, along with two of the best-looking, smartest, and most well-behaved dogs in the world. We have three of the best-looking, smartest, and most well-behaved dogs, but one is too young to go this year so he’ll be spoiled by, er–I mean staying with his grandmother. And lest you think I’m biased regarding these dogs, let me point out that they, along with my wife, have been invited to a special event, which is why they’re going to California. I’m going along to play the role of proud father, sitting in the bleachers with a camera and cheering them on. And I’m grateful that they’re giving me this chance to indulge my love of travel. I’ll go just about anywhere, really. If someone grabbed me and said, "Would you like to go to Paramaribo?" I’d say, "Let me get my toothbrush." We’d probably be somewhere over Guatemala before I’d ask, "So is that in Trinidad or Tobago? And, by the way, who are you?" I’d probably also forget to pack my swimsuit. I did that last December when we went to California, and since the weather was nice and the hotel pool was open I went to one of those big box stores you find everywhere from California to Cameroon to buy a swimsuit. Well, technically it’s not a suit, it’s more of a pair of shorts that have a sewn-in mesh underwear that guys wear when going swimming. I know some people call them bathing suits, but I’ve never worn anything like that while bathing. And some people call them swim trunks, but I’ve always thought a trunk was either attached to an elephant or for storing treasure maps in your grandfather’s attic, but that’s another story.
I was having trouble finding any swimsuits, so I went up to one of the store workers whose blue vest said, "MAY I HELP YOU?" on the back and whose face that said, "Go away." I asked her where the swimsuits were and she said, "Do you know what time of year it is?" And I said, "Have you been outside lately?" Southern California may not be on the equator, but it was pretty warm out there. Besides, the hotel was within walking distance of the beach. And one day I did walk to the beach. The trip to California was the first time I’ve ever been that far West, and it was the first time I saw the Pacific Ocean. Looking out over it, with soft white sand under my feet and the sun at my back, I could understand why Balboa called it peaceful. I walked along the beach and smiled and said "Good morning" to several people who seemed just as happy as I was. I saw a couple doing tai chi at the top of a very steep rocky hill that rose up from the beach. There was a sign at the bottom of the hill that said, "Do not climb cliff." This was no cliff. I’d been through Arizona and New Mexico where I’d seen real cliffs. Anyone who called this steep, rocky hill a cliff had obviously never been any further East than Needles. It was on my way to the beach, though, that I had one of those experiences that, to me, make travelling so much fun. I was standing at a red light waiting to cross the street when a guy pulled up next to me on a bike. Out of nowhere he motioned toward a large white building with a green copper roof and said, "They did a really good job renovating that place, didn’t they?" I said, "I don’t know, I’ve never seen it before." I immediately regretted sounding like a smartass, so I quickly added that I was just visiting but that I thought it was a nice looking building. He proceeded to tell me the building had been built as a hotel in 1905. After being unused for some time it had been renovated in 1987, and had been recently renovated again and was being turned into luxury condos. Then the light changed. He said, "Well, enjoy your visit here!" and sped off. I really wanted to talk more, to ask him more about the history of the area, or at least to find out how he knew so much about that building, but he was gone before I could even say, "Thank you." Maybe I’ll run into him again this year and will be able to talk a little more. We’ll probably be somewhere over Guatemala before I think to ask him who he is.