Then, it happens. The sun comes out, the rain stops and look, there is a rainbow.
“Comes,” “stops” and “is,” even though you’ve grown used to the rain. Grown to like it. Appreciate in a rainy-day sort of way.
The world opens up again and for me it was takeout from Jake’s — it might be time to experience Herb’s belcher spuds, cowboy potatoes topped with real meat chili, cheese and onions — and four friendly, generous chocolate cookies.
Later, takeout and chicken piccata from Uricchio’s.
How about a visit to the Bakersfield Racquet Club and a light hit with friend Eric Falk. It had been 12 weeks, hopefully enough time to have forgotten all my bad habits and remember the good ones.
Even though the club had been stripped of tables, chairs and umpire stands, it looked good. No wiping that smile off my face or anybody else’s. Fifty-five years of memories. Let’s hit on court 3, the court where I was playing Hank in the Central Cal Championships and his mother, Florence, took him off the court and defaulted him because he was letting loose a stream of invective. That made me feel good all over again.
We hit for about 10 minutes and talked for 40. There would be time for hitting later but maybe that’s what sticks after 12 weeks — visiting, talking, the pleasure of not getting on with it.
I drove to Ventura to surf with a buddy. There was my old friend the Grapevine. Tall, green, beckoning, I don’t think she has ever looked better.
I was on a road trip, 24 hours long, but a road trip. Frazier Park, Gorman, Pyramid Lake, good to see you again. I have missed you.
Who doesn’t like a road trip? I felt like singing. So I did. I didn’t look around because I was belting it out but if I had, I might have seen some other people singing in their cars too. It could have been the opening scene of “La La Land” where people are dancing on top of their cars.
The Pacific Ocean. You’re still there and you look bluer than ever. Could it be like the canals in Venice, Italy, that are healing themselves absent of man’s not always delicate touch?
There was no parking on 101, but there were slivers of dirt alongside the houses that were OK as long as you didn’t touch the white line and stayed clear of the bike path. Several CHP officers drove by and waved. Waving is good, isn’t it? Waving means “I’m not going to circle back when you’re in the water in a la-la state of mind and ticket your car and then tow it to Arizona,” doesn’t it?
We scrambled down the rocks to the beach without slipping, doing a header into the sand and planting ourselves like an umbrella and then paddled out.
In five minutes, we were tired. We caught waves, missed waves, slid on our boards, did somersaults and fell off our boards for no apparent reason. The action would not be featured in the next surf video but two guys never had more fun.
Unless they were the two guys next to us (surfers invented social distancing), the three teenagers next to them and the father who was teaching his red-headed daughter to surf close to the shore.
Look, there are the Channel Islands. They are still there. There and clearer than ever.
“We must have surfed for three, three and half hours,” I said, when we were back at our cars peeling off our wetsuits.
No, two. You’re just out of shape buddy. Two can feel like four when that happens.
Two, four, six, eight, we know who we appreciate. Freedom to move, to get on the road, to resume the familiar rhythms of our lives.
It’s coming back, and if not now soon, most of it, a lot of it, enough of it. When it does, we will have decisions to make and they are not bad ones. The same decision that the lost traveler and the old woman who took him in did when they made stone soup.
With a stone, hot water and maybe some broth, an old carrot and a dried-up onion, you can make a decent soup. Then meat, potatoes, cabbage; how much do you want to add to that soup?
We’ll be making soup again and this time we may choose to leave some things out. Make one that is more nourishing but if you want to make the same old soup because it tasted pretty darn good, why not.
My guess is that no matter the recipe, nothing will ever taste better.