Narrative: Nostalgia, Crayola Creations, and Santa Monica Pier

It’s 4 am, mom, and I’m going to California. I can remember the times you would watch VH1’s “Behind the Music“, The Crüe’s history unfolding on the screen, dreaming of the day you’d see the City of Angels. You told me you were upset because I got to go before you, but you taught me to dream and I know you’ll see it soon.

So now it’s southwest on SouthWest, caught between the giddy anxiety of making my dreams come true and the frustrated exhaustion of yesterday’s hard day. The muted rumbling, “Carrie & Lowell“, and increased G Force rocked me to sleep. I dreamt of a time I’ve always hoped for, where I’d come home to a wife and a couple kids, greeted with flirtatious sarcasm, a kiss, and Crayola creations. Our house was yellow and we were blue like Smurfs, we were beaming with our orange smiles, holding hands in harmony.

The screech and jerking of touch down woke me up. The pictures on the fridge were fading fast as we were walking off the flight deck and into the San Diego air. We couldn’t see the ocean yet, but the smell of salt was noticeable in the sea breeze as our Über pulled up.

I can’t remember his name, but I can remember everything else. He was gullible and didn’t understand my sarcasm. I messed with him a bit until I realized he would never pick up on the joke. He asked us about Chiefs football as we wove through the city streets, changing the station from Lana Del Rey to The Band Perry. He asked us what we were doing in San Diego and we told him we didn’t know. He perked up and a smile crept across his face as he began to talk about all his free time activities. “I like to go out a couple miles to the kelp forests and spear-fish. You just sit on the bottom, release the bait, and wait in the cool water till something comes by. Then when you spear it, you’ve gotta grab it and ride it till it dies.” It brought this vivid image into my mind of the sun’s rays piercing through the kelp, casting a green shadow on the diver. The glint of the spear as it shoots through the blue, red spilling from the fish as if Jackson Pollock did water colors.

There was never a lull in conversation as he jumped from topic to topic, from the Padres bullpen, medicinal marijuana, authentic mexican food, to late nights on the beach, and second base at the club. I was annoyed at the volume of shallow conversation. He asked us what we did, Ryan explained his position with SouthWest as I fought through reluctance to share about my life. When I told him I worked with homeless youth, there was a change in his demeanor. He began to explain how he was going through a divorce. His wife had left him after his real estate business went under. I could feel the pain in his voice as he told us his wife had accused him of being a drug addict, alienating him from his own mother, and painting him as an abuser. He flipped down his visor, a picture of a girl in a pink sundress, no older than 6, was covering the mirror. “I have to do this because my wife left me with this beautiful girl.” He smiled and stroked the photo, weaving through traffic. “This is what I have left of my life.”

He dropped us off at Hertz and I felt sad and relieved as we said our goodbyes. Our rental was a tiny Chevy Spark, we had Chick Fil-a for breakfast, and it was off to Pacific Beach. You could hear the waves crashing before you could see the Pacific and the breeze was refreshing. The sand was fine and the water was cool as the surf hit our feet. There were people doing Crossfit under the Pier, surfers began filling the shallows as waves started to swell, kelp lined the shores, and birds with stilt-like legs ran from the waves. We went geocaching on the bay and I almost stepped on a jellyfish, the houses were packed together in a menagerie of color and foliage. Ryan grabbed a quick cup of coffee and we expressed our appreciation for one another as we took off to have some West Coast brews.

We went to a few breweries and we weren’t too impressed, had some In N Out and moved north to Ballast Point.  It was a nice change of pace from mediocre beer. I ordered 7, headed to the restroom and nearly exposed myself because the urinals were much further away than anticipated. I told Ryan and we laughed at my foolishness. The beers were daring and different, and I discussed them with one of the brewers. He gave me his card and told me he was interested in more of my opinions. I left feeling larger than life, the world was spinning and the heat sunk deep into my bones. I was mesmerized by the mountains and the ocean being in the same view as we drove up the 405. “This is blowing my mind. Seriously God, how the fuck did you come up with something so beautiful?” I couldn’t keep my eyes open, passing out as we were passing cars in the carpool.

I awoke and we were in Marina Del Rey, gorgeous houses lined the street and I spotted the reason we were in California: Phil. I ran across the street and wrapped him up in a bear hug. He laughed his elegant laugh as we all embraced each other, I remember nostalgia rushing over me as memories of D&D, how I used to say both with an “L“, playing Sufjan on the ukulele at bonfires, and the Cloud Atlas Sextet before bed. He invited us in as we sat down to dinner with his Missional Community. It was a Mac and Cheese competition for one of the girl’s 16th birthday and too much dairy for me to be able to eat. Everyone smiled as they went around the table, giving praise to the birthday girl for her love of people and heart of service for Christ. I wish we took more time to tell each other the good that we see. The compassion they had for one another was almost tangible in the air. It almost felt like Christmas or the 4th of July, full of excitement and wonder.

We had to leave, back up the 405, Mötley Crüe’s “Live Wire” on the radio. Phil’s complex was like a little village with cobblestone streets running through the buildings. We spent some time in the hot tub conversing about the Meyers-Briggs discussing the personalities we didn’t like. Two lovers sat with us, their eyes only on each other they giggled with each comment made to each other as if at a one man show for the others stand-up. I never understood infatuation, and I feel conflicted about being so wrapped up in one person. It’s scary and you can’t see your surroundings. I want someone to walk next to, not to be an end goal or an everything. These thoughts about the lovers kept playing in my head as I slept on the floor and my friends played Munchkin in the background.

I dreamt I was married again, only this time there were no kids. I remembered walking on the beach with her, she was leaning on my arm and the breeze was making her hair cascade around her neck. We had light hearted conversation, plotting out the rest of our day. The warmth from her felt better than the sun’s. She whispered something in my ear and kissed me on the cheek as if she knew I was waking and that it was time for her to go.

It was Tuesday now and we were hungry. We set out to find a mexican restaurant in the hopes of having authentic tacos. I programmed a place called Don Chuy’s into my maps, they had jalapeños in their salsa, reminding me of the times I’d have to eat them for “lying“, and there was too much raw onion on the tacos. We left disappointed and still hungry, making our way up the coast to Malibu.

We didn’t see Tony Stark’s house, but we stopped at an overlook, admiring the town and it’s denizens. My cold was getting to me, and I had to blow my nose in some leaves as J. Cole was singing, “That’s why I keep a cross on my chest, that or a vest. Do you believe that Eve had Adam in check? And if so you gotta expect to sip juice from the forbidden fruit and get loose.” We found a trail in the mountains and hiked it for a while. Bearded dragons and leopard geckos ran across the path, trying to soak in some heat for the day. There was a boulder that we tried to push off the cliff but it wouldn’t move. We found a dam on our way up and on our way down I picked mountain flowers for someone back home. One of them smelled like vanilla and honey. Purples, oranges, yellows, and reds I was going to press them all and send them to you, but they wilted too fast and I had to throw them away.

Our next stop was a winery, small and quaint. We came inside and a man greeted us. He was French and had been here for over 20 years. He had his doctorate in laser physics, taught classes at UCLA, explained his background over a glass of Chardonnay. The Frenchman explained how he hated socialism and inadvertently insulted my intelligence. I respected him for his honesty and was too fearful I’d trip over my words or seem pretentious if I spoke to him in his native tongue. He poured us an oak-aged Port and told me the most important thing to do in life is pursue your passion endlessly and find a lover to serve. I wasn’t sure if the air of romanticism was coming from the lilt of his accent as he encouraged us or from the 12 or so wines we’d tasted, but I felt like romance was actually plausible and those two lovers in the hot tub didn’t seem so crazy after all. I bought a bottle of wine and thanked the Frenchman for his time and conversation. I kept thinking about the dreams I had as we cruised back down to LA. Caught up in romance the traffic isn’t as bad as you’d think, you just have to carpool and be aggressive. We made it everywhere we were going early. Ryan made the comment, “So many people so close together but so disconnected.” I jokingly asked if I should roll down the window and start a conversation with a stranger. We both laughed as we passed a cherry red, 60’s Mustang that Aaron West just so happened to be singing about in the background.

We met up with Phil and hopped into his red convertible Mustang. Our destination was Santa Monica Pier, Phil and I sang out “For my prayer has always been love” and “Oh, be my rest, be my fantasy“. The parking garage kept track of open spaces and I admired it’s convenience. There was an impromptu marathon running past as we made our way west. Dinner was served on a rooftop of an Italian restaurant on the pier. I watched people ride the West Coaster as I ate my calzone, some people from London ate dinner perpendicular to us. The theme park had closed by the time we’d finished eating. It was only 8 and I bought a funnel cake because I wanted to at least feel like I went. I wanted to ride the Ferris Wheel as the street performers played melodies from the 70’s. We walked out onto the beach as the tide was coming in. We played a game where we’d see how far out we could chase the tide without getting wet. Phil sang Deas Vail’s “Shoreline” under the waxing moon, it was so peaceful. I got tar on my shoes and we started our trek back home. We talked about gravity and how hard it is to be perpendicular beings. Thoughts of humans being quadrupeds made me laugh as we drove back home to LA.

This was the last night. Tomorrow I’d be back in Missouri. Tomorrow I’d go back to responsibility. Tomorrow I’d spend my entire day on a plane as the time zones shaved off hours from the day. Tomorrow I’d be exhausted and let too much get to me.

I dreamt of a more recent time where I wasn’t married. I was working and one of my kids punched another in the face. I went home to relax but my wife from my dreams was there, but we weren’t married yet. I couldn’t ever remember what she looked like, but I still knew it was her. She saw the stress on my face and rubbed my shoulders as she told me really bad jokes to distract me. I made us dinner and we watched a movie together afterwards. I remember falling asleep on the couch with her in my dream then waking in the floor in LA.

It was tomorrow. I found myself wishing I’d had more yesterdays as the day of travel ensued, hoping those dreams were a not so distant tomorrow.