Dreams we all have; comfort, love, and health, peak through the brown stalked winter trees, through the blinding white cloud cover pushing through icy winds, and snow storms that settle on the lonely sidewalk, and rise to my drape-less window.
On such a Saturday, I am slacking on the downstairs sofa with a tray of coffee, and all that separates me from my dreams is the rustle of fear. The windows reflect snippets of promising outcomes to developing friendships, travel, a script in progress, and properties on the edge of default. Overlapping these is a mirage of life experiences tucked into memory prescriptions you take on a stormy day. A relic of my history rises, and reminds me of the fear I once broke through.
It was 1982, and I was poised on a terrace overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Venice Beach. It was March, the month my father died, and I stared at the horizon at dusk, and imagined my freedom taking flight. Where would I go? Without his presence in Los Angeles, and my sister who had already moved to New York, I was terribly alone. The replacement came in summer flings, with men who had crossed my path; a photographer, a New Jersey computer technician with a brassy voice and Joe Pesci humor, and every few days, Kenny, a former boyfriend, dropped by to smoke his pipe of philosophy and blow long-winded ideas on where I should move.
“I really want to move to Canada.” I said.
“For what? To go ice-skating?” He said between puffs.
“I have family in Vancouver.”
“What family? You’re an orphan now.”
“I am not. I have cousins in Vancouver. My father’s nephews.”
“Oh Yea. When was the last time you saw them?”
“When I was twelve.”
“Terrific! That’s a solid-ass plan. So what will you do in Canada?”
“Get a job in real estate.”
“Lue! Wake-up. You can’t get work in Canada unless you’re a citizen. Forget that idea. You’re better off staying here; look where you are; Santa Monica, the beach at your feet. Are you crazy?”
“I don’t belong here any longer.”
“You don’t belong to anywhere; what you need is to stop trying to be a big-shot like your father.”
“I am not.”
“When was the last time you left the country; when you were eighteen? Go to Rio, you’ll have the time of your life, or Italy, or Greece–it doesn’t matter. Just take the chance and see how you land on your feet. You’re a dreamer, it’s about time you made one of your dreams come true.”
In the next few weeks, I met with Larry, my boss, who was liquidating his real estate portfolio to retire at forty-five years old. Larry wasn’t just an investment visionary; he was passionate about social, political, medical, scientific and human interests. He was a genius.
“You can stay here another year–I’ll find something for you to do, but you’ll be bored.” Larry told me.
“Larry, I don’t know where to go.” I wiped a tear. He ignored it.
“You have to get out of LA. You’ll never meet anyone here. You think you’ll be introduced to someone riding up and down the elevator in Century City. I’ve spent a lot of time in Del Mar, and Rancho Santa Fe. They’re nice people. You have a chance there, go down and spend a few days and tell me what you think. I’ll help you. Now, stop crying. “
I drove down in Dad’s black El Dorado, and parked at Del Mar Beach right next to the life guard station at the Poseidon Restaurant. I opened my suitcase, took out a bathing suit and went into the beach bathroom. The tile was wet and smelled of seaweed and salt. I walked barefoot down to the beach. It was early spring, the sand was unmarked. A few surfers jogged past me, blonde and bronzed like the Beach Boys. I followed them down to the seashore. In every direction, there was this untouched canvas of light and color; even the beach houses retained their natural sandy simplicity.
After I swam in the ocean, I went back to the bathroom, changed into dry clothes and walked into town. A man with a beard rode past me on a horse and waved. I picked up a Reader and read the rental advertisements on the patio of Carlos n Charlie’s, corner café. A roommate advertisement caught my eye; “Roommate Wanted to Share large two bedroom overlooking Torrey Pines Reserve.” I called and a man who went by the name of Smokey answered the phone. He invited me to come by for a look. His voice was predominantly ranch friendly, so I took a drive over. It did occur to me on the drive that I was taking that chance Ken was blowing in my ear, and I was listening to Larry who told me that people in San Diego were different.
“Hi, I’m Smokey. Come in—would you like something to drink? Too early for cocktails, unless you want one.”
“No thanks. How long have you lived here?”
His eyes were animal alert, his face tanned and his hair cut short but made to look long. His smile was unfiltered with hidden motives, and he was bull-legged.
”I moved from Pittsburgh; I’ll never go back except to see my folks. This is paradise. Don’t you think? I’ve lived her two years. I rent out one room, because I hate full time work. I’m more entrepreneurial. You don’t have to worry about my motives. I have a girl-friend, and I’m in love with her. She doesn’t stay here. I go to her house. You’ll have your space, and if you need a friend I’m here. Come out on the balcony.”
I followed Smokey and we stood on the terrace overlooking the lagoon and marshlands of the reserve. To the west, the ocean and the stump of Torrey Pines Mountain.
“Wait till sunset; you’ll never want to leave. Come look at your room. I can help you move if you want.”
The room was downstairs, his upstairs, and a stairway of trust in between.
“I’ll take it. When can I move-in?”
“Whenever you wish.”