Tuesday, January 8, 2013
I stumbled upon the real California.
Yes, I live in San Francisco, but it's different. It is a great place, but it is not the California I dreamed of when I was in my teens, the California I hoped to make my home one day.
The discrepancy between San Francisco and my original vision of California is so vast, for years after moving to San Francisco it had me slipping up and telling people any trip I made to Southern California was a trip to California, as if I wasn't aware I already resided in the state.
The land of tiny pastel beach cottages standing shoulder to shoulder, so close, packed tight like tinned sardines, was what I originally imagined, and recently found. I found the California where surfers ride their bicycles barefoot while toting their boards, low key neighborhood spots crank out spectacular fish tacos, and cramped little cafes with mismatched mugs serve buckwheat pancakes. A place where you can walk beside the ocean for miles, even at night along a well-lit pedestrian path, no cars, the only wheels are on cruisers meandering past, locals resting their rumps on fat seats.
In the midst of family visits, gift giving, monopoly, and ginger pudding, I snuck off early one morning and took my café au lait to the beach. I headed toward the first lifeguard watch tower I spotted, climbed up the ladder, and sat on a shallow deck surrounding a small empty hut, wrapped my arms around my knees, and watched an array of wetsuit clad men of all shapes and sizes arrive, stretch, surf, and head home.
I became transfixed by the scene and decided to settle in for a while. The sun was bright and sharp, but it was winter sun and there was a definite chill in the air. I was scooting around the side of the hut, positioning myself so I could shield just my face from the sun while keeping my legs and feet beneath its warmth, when one of the wetsuit clad leaned his board against a leg of the tower beneath me and began to stretch. I looked down.
He nodded and said "I'm mentally preparing to freeze."
I responded with a grin and "I'll feel sorry for you when you surf Bolinas in December"
"Where's that?" he asked.
"Just north of San Francisco" I said.
"Oh…brrr…and sharks too" he said as he walked toward the waves, with his long curly sun streaked hair, appreciating his length of beach just a little more.
I wanted to be out there, duck diving, getting tossed around by the white water, and maybe even popping up a time or two. The rush of adrenaline I'd experienced just one time before, I wanted it again. I started pondering how good I might be if I'd started in my teens or 20s. And why didn't I? I have good balance.
Regret is useless unless you use it to move forward. Both the waves and I are still here. Mastery might be a little far fetched, but the rush, the one you feel with your entire being, I think it's still out there waiting for me.