I departed the Bay Area midday for Morro Bay. Arriving late that afternoon at the seaside hamlet I shopped at Sunshine Grocery mingling with my kind, all of us in social isolation behind our masks. My tribe arrives by Volkswagen micro bus to shop here for organic vegetables and dry goods. Shoppers know each other by temperament, culinary tastes, and the cheerful scent of patchouli oil. Here is a place where the smell of time stands still.
Along the waterfront there are clustered a wide range of gin joints, eateries, and trinket shops. Seafood restaurants are popular with outdoor decks situated so patrons might admire the fishing fleet inbound with their fresh catch motoring up the entrance channel. Unloading mournful gulls quarreling with each other burdened with an unquenchable hunger for even a scrap, a tasty morsel, a fin would do fine, anything—- please, before I lose my seagull faith in mankind—- Right minded mariners know to share their bounty with the animals that they go to sea with. You can tell the gulls and fishermen are attached, the gulls want nets, and the men wish for wings to soar upon.
Standup paddle boards are available by the hour, motels by the day, and a lifetime can be purchased at the local real estate offices. Most of the eternity in Morro Bay types hike up to Main Street where vows are sworn, escrow waits, and closing documents are signed. If foggy days are your pleasure this is your home.
Returning south by sailboat later this year I intend to rent a mooring ball off the waterfront. Discussing the notion of tethering hopes and dreams in Morro Bay’s lagoon this weak-willed sailor spoke with Tom Varley sailor-surfer-skateboarder friend and it was quick work to see that a month-to-month drift in the rising and falling tides would sate the thirst for the other piece of what wayfarers crave. In Morro Bay mortgages, marriages and drifting on mooring balls is an improbable right decision.
Plunging further south picking up my wife at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, my tempestuous life partner having escaped Colorado’s Front Range spring weather, the two of us made a quick dash on the interstate and shoehorned our lives into our friend’s Glassell Park bungalow. Dodger Stadium is nearby, the Los Angeles River closer yet. There was this odd certainty that we had entered the belly of the congested parking beast. Breaking free from our pandemic solitude, now choking on a humanity that numbers in the tens of millions, the big city hum audibly present not imaginary, we relished the inconvenience of the Southern Californian traffic choked quagmire.
Nina and Martin, mariners and mongers of dreams whipped of creams derived of long voyages would surrender their guest room. All of us, four pandemic weary survivors were intoxicated with the vaccinated companionship.
This is a meringue of four rascals that want vegetable gardens, unbound horizons and lives made of not having to think twice because it’s alright about their children’s lives. Martin continues to prepare his sailing vessel for drifting off La Paz. From spinnaker to water maker there is fitted onto his center cockpit sailing sloop all manner of apparatus, appliance and labor saving device.
Nina wishes to be puttering about beneath her hat in her vegetable garden in Glassell Park and then on weekends dashing south by jet to toss away day upon day away aboard their sailing vessel Gratitude. Never mind the contradictory web of complications, I predict both will happen and to each end their hopes will find waiting the reward of a lazy Sea of Cortez cruising life mated to the bustle of a home in LA.
Holding two places in our imagination, being present in one while imagining the pleasures found waiting at this other is the essence of gypsy soul. This is what I term the penitentiary of wanderlust, a kind of intuitive boneheaded knowing that you are not suited to remaining still, and digging in, that you’ll need to cure restlessness and your walkabout craving, that you will be sentenced to a life of changing latitudes and longitudes all in the daffy search of dispelling the demon of sameness.
Monday I was in Oxnard skateboarding, more properly termed, skating with the talented Tom Varley. Tommy is a great one, great skater, great sailor, great dog caregiver. Happy his Jack Russell howls at his Tommy Varley itch. There are more greats to Tom’s greatness. Most important to know is that Tommy loves his work, and he doesn’t have a job, at least no job in the conventional sense, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t work, he is likely the hardest worker among the whole fool bushel of us.
Tattoo artist, mother, wife, and roller skating lifelong Californian phenomenon Alma joined us at the skate park. Our meeting was a first encounter. I whittled away my non-skate time learning about Alma’s soul and inspiration. Latina, piercings plenty, tattooed with abandon evermore youthful in looks, all of 27 but could pass for 16, two boys, a husband, her spouse she has known since 7th grade, this is a kindred West Coast spirit. Twice she had tried leaving. First was a job in North Carolina, but racism was annoying so back she came. The second time she tried Klamath Falls but boredom and long winters finished that dream off. Skatepark patron Alma born in Oxnard has an inner bell that chimes to be center ring dancing with a thousand clowns.
With sunrise on Wednesday Waldo landed at Los Angeles International Airport from Hilo. We bivouacked along the edge of the San Gabriel Mountains; the Jet Propulsion Laboratory was a stone throw further east. Dinner, drinks and debriefing ensued.
In the morning we drove south to Compton. Wally’s car arriving by ship from Hawaii had been delivered to a logistics operator. A long drive north back up to the Bay Area would eat our day. Tomorrow’s itinerary was full and growing fuller.
Waldo because of the virus ended up stuck on the Big Island on a surprise extended stay package. Technically the retired juggler could have comeback to the mainland but to what end? His remote home carved into the heart of the island’s rainforest was an ideal place to wait out the pandemic. We should all be so miserable and lucky. As bad as island fever can be, how awful the trap of going incessantly in circles can irritate, there’s being stuck dodging the potentially infected living virus carriers here on the continent too, and this having to avoid the living is its own kind of annoying restrictiveness.
John Park once from California now living in Toronto was back in the Bay Area for work. Fred Anderson has lived his entire life on Nob Hill in San Francisco. Dan Holtzman another juggler and East Bay resident dropped everything to swing by. I am another juggler here too. All of us have circled the globe scuffing up a buck working gigs for our supper. Pro’ jugglers spare no moment with mindful silence, it isn’t possible. Worrisome signs of age are all about. There is hair loss and worse still there is this glacial sense that we are becoming better at listening.
Wally lingered another day before rolling east for Illinois. He tried Nevada’s Highway 50, that put the fear of solitude in his soul, and because of this terror of loneliness he has changed course and gone south through Kingman, Arizona where he is now east in Gallup, New Mexico.
I am back for the moment. I’ve chores to do, a van to wash, food to buy and a spring journey across the Great Basin to embark upon. The garden is planted, and I’ve news my spouse is weary of Denver’s turbulent spring. I’ve been tasked to buy a new umbrella for the patio, as if that might keep us home more, my wife and I both have our doubts, but we’ll try to be still, for as long as being still lasts, until the want of change overtakes our being present here. The penitentiary of travel has us hook and line, ball and chain. People can be like swallows, we are sheepherders, nomads. Horizons are for chasing, stillness is for towner’s, and as our instincts so often tell us, the long-long road is wanderlust’s surest destination.