Seen yesterday: at least a dozen spry old guys in their late 70s, at various points on the beach, trotting along in wet suits, with long boards under their arms, flirting with bikini-clad women five decades their junior. Silver-chested endless summer. Jimmy Buffett lives.
Surf culture, which was once young, cheap and rebel-spirited is now the vocabulary of gentile interior design. A triptych of surfboards adorns a wall in our hotel — each cut from marble. Under the valet’s porte cochere a restored surf wagon with vintage boards looks too impossibly gorgeous to actually use. My brother-in-law believes it would fetch $150,000. The more mythological and iconic a thing becomes, the more expensive it gets, even if it was once the expendable junk of its era. Vinyl records. Ivory piano keys. Leather football helmets. Butter churns. Things that were once employed in daily routines are now put atop walnut pedestals with brass plaques.
Forgive me, but back to those women and those waves. Wet suits are the original yoga pants. The surfer beach is full of black-clad female power, lioness after lioness rising up on the horizon, armed with shields under their arms and in grim possession of their life-bearing beauty. Some rule of nature keeps them focused and reserved, as if to acknowledge that angels shouldn’t be cheap with their smiles. It would knock too many men over and leave us sprawling in the dirt. The women in my own life think I adore women too much, but, really what choice does any man really have?
We travel up to Pacific Coast Highway and debate valet parking at the restaurant. An obvious rhyme occurred to me. “Ballet Parking.”
“Could we offer ballet parking at the farm?” I asked. “Car pulls up. A ballerina toe-steps out to the car. Ballet parking. Get it?”
I’m sure this joke has been made before, but I can’t stop making it. “That would be rough. Toe stepping all the way back to the valet station. Maybe she just greets you at your car?”
Lunch is long and indulgent. Wine and halibut. Possibly the best halibut I’ve ever been served. My in-laws, trading memories, try to figure out the one year their parents were separated. Clearly, that one year represented a dramatic scar they are still trying, in some ways, to heal. The older teenagers had to be parents for a year, and they feel cheated of their youth. They love their parents, and there is no lingering resentment, but they are trying to determine in what ways that year changed them. We’re all getting older. We talk about knee replacements and back injuries and finally deciding, at age 61, that it might be time to start saving for retirement.
“I should have been a civil servant,” I confess.
“Not really,” I said. “If I had to sit through a government HR sensitivity meeting, it might result in a hostage situation.”
We adjourn to the pool and speak of small dogs and their health issues. My sister in law adores her pet and I torture her by asking her why she insists on pulling its hair out. This is not true, of course, but her Maltese is losing its hair, sight, and hearing. (If you have an animal lover in your life, imply that some small measure of their pet’s care is being neglected; it will drive them crazy, until they realize you are joking.)
We watch the sun setting and share beef jerky and cashews. Mary finds a place for dinner. The waitress is a jolly, chatty jewel of a woman and 10 minutes into dinner, as I look down to check my email, she launches a pile of serving plates onto our table, knocking over our drinks. I am relieved in this, not to be the one who made the entire restaurant look over at us, and I yell “earthquake!” which earns a laugh from the woman at the next table.
The Caesar salad at this place is as bad as the afternoon’s halibut was good. I mean — it was awful. Wilted, warm, lettuce. Freezing cold chicken. Stingy, flavorless Parmesan. I shoved it to one side and I debated not complaining about it, but, in the end, was not near so noble. The disappointment of the meal, for some reason, left me complaining about Fauci to the extended group, who, with the exception of Mary, didn’t share my disdain for the man. (Some people still watch network news.) It can make for an odd exchange when one half of the group sees the little human wart as “America’s doctor” and the other sees him as a bloodless Dr. Mengele. I did draw the attraction of the restaurant this time — something about accusing the man of treason and deserving life in Leavenworth.
Felt like a bit of an ass. Complained about “f*cking Biden.” My sister-in-law complained about “f*cking Trump.” Went off in a huff to our hotel room. Did not sleep well. Miss all of you.