Friday, Dec. 7, morning, San Francisco – I have 18 minutes to write. I meant to have 30, but getting set up took longer than I’d set aside time for. No matter, here I am, writing. For weeks now, ideas and words have flooded my head, yet I have not sat down to let them out. I’m failing to properly plan my upcoming travel. My brain aches from all the unreleased thoughts. I want to better track all I’ve done, where I’ve gone, what has been happening, let the ideas conceived be birthed. But I have forgotten how to write, so I will start, as I do in these cases, with where I am now, here:
My legs stretch out under the tan sheet, cream duvet, heavy blanket striped turquoise, yellow, pink, a darker blue. A pillow under my knees and another atop my thighs helps the laptop balance. Four walls surround me, the color of brown eggs and adorned with art, surf- and California-themed – bears, surfboards and the celebration of San Francisco, which is the city where I keep a home-away-from-home. (I must always, with that statement, offer the additional information that I can only do this because my husband pays the rent at our Humboldt house and the San Francisco room comes to me far below market value.)
Also on the wall, plopped atop the smoke detector, hangs a hat – is it a baseball hat if it doesn’t have a baseball team logo? It’s that style, but reads, in a 3×3 panel, C-A-circle-anchor-R-V-E-square-square. Carve, see? I wear it all the time to keep the sun off my face. On the back of the door, two hoodies, two pullovers, two towels, one white Patagonia raincoat, one forest green Patagonia vest.
On the wall left of the bed, across from the door, is the window. The blinds are down, but I can see the barest pink through the slats, indicating the sun’s imminent rise. A red desk sits in one corner, a red ottoman in another, a nightstand the color of fog in the third. The fourth corner is behind the door and is where I leave my rolled up yoga mat. Which is purple. So that, plus a closet, is my room. I am placed. The pink glow increases and I must move onto the next task on my list: a walk. I want to catch the sunrise.
Saturday, Dec. 8, morning and afternoon, San Francisco – Daybreaker yoga-dance-ice-skating party at the winter park in front of City Hall, lunch at Mel’s Kitchen, all with SF housemates, ALO peeps.
Sunday, Dec. 9, early afternoon, Salinas – I’m one of four passengers in an Amtrak bus, four hours into an estimated 15-hour journey from San Francisco’s Outer Sunset/Parkside district to the Southern California hills of San Juan Capistrano. This method of getting from point A to point B was the least expensive with the smallest carbon footprint, so I decided to give it a go. We’ll reach King City in about 20 minutes and stop there for a half hour “meal break.” When making this announcement, the driver declared that although King City gets a bad rap, “it’s actually a magical place.”
How exactly I’ll get to points C, D and E over the coming days remains to be seen, but for now, I’m enjoying the relative ease of someone else driving. The bus is fine, no less comfortable than my car, although if I’d driven, I could have brought my surfboard and yoga mat along (I reek of California). If more people filled the bus seats, the hours might pass more slowly and less pleasantly – certainly the environmentalist in me wonders how a bus carrying so few people affects my impact equation – but I’ve been too busy finishing a novel (Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sikaran) and now tapping out words to feel anything other than content.
Monday, Dec. 10, morning, San Clemente – Coworker picks me up in San Juan Capistrano. We spend the day mostly in meetings at Surfrider HQ. I instigate a lunch excursion (for tacos, of course!). I’m delirious from what turned out to be 17 hours of travel and little sleep. Coworker drops me off at my boss’s house, which is where I’m spending the night.
Tuesday, Dec. 11, all day, San Clemente – A different coworker picks me up at the boss’s house, carpools me into work. I spend the day at HQ, eating mermaid cookies, then break down and rent a car because I can’t keep getting around like this.
Wednesday, Dec. 12, morning, Oceanside – I clamber along a jetty, take photos of surfers making the most of a fading swell, get breakfast at Swami’s, where the hostess is appalled by a homeless guy pissing on a wall across the street and even more upset that the cop cruising by did nothing. I move on to the Department of Fish and Game Commission meeting, reconnect with colleagues I haven’t seen for a while, speak to the commissioners about how California’s marine protected area network is being considered for placement on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Green List, leave.
Wednesday, Dec. 12, evening, Irvine – I’m walking through the lobby to the little marketplace and suddenly realize I’ve stayed in this hotel before.
Thursday, Dec. 13, all day, Newport Beach – Long day at the Coastal Commission meeting. Three of us present on sea level rise and the need to adapt proactively to it. We get lunch at True Food Kitchen. I devour kale guacamole, power down a glass of kale-ade. Back at the meeting, a controversial item drags out over the afternoon, so I wander into the nearby library’s Friends of the Library bookstore, buy books I do not have room to because they are all only a dollar or two. One of them is titled, “50 Jobs That Are Worse Than Yours,” and I give it to the extremely competent woman I supervise because I think doing so will be funny. “You got this for me?” she asks as I hand it to her. “For a dollar?” I didn’t bother to remove the price tag. It is funny.
Friday, Dec. 14, morning, Newport Beach – More Coastal Commission.
Friday, Dec. 14, afternoon, San Clemente – More HQ.
Friday, Dec. 14, evening, San Clemente – I return the rental car, meet my boss, his wife, our staff scientist for dinner. More tacos! I crash at my boss’s yet again.
Saturday, Dec. 15, morning, San Clemente/San Onofre – SanO surf excursion with my boss.
Saturday, Dec. 15, afternoon, San Clemente – My stepmom drives over from Riverside. We get lunch on the pier and walk most of San Clem’s beach path. I’m wearing boots and a thermal. I could have worn a sundress and sandals, what little sense of winter coming having evaporated in the sun’s warmth. I catch the Amtrak north, Uber to a hotel upon arrival.
Sunday, Dec. 16, morning, Los Angeles – A car alarm blares outside. Again. Wire checkers the window, a break-in deterrent that seems unnecessary up here on the sixth floor. Beyond the window stands the parking structure for the Little Tokyo Mall. I’m in Los Angeles, on the edge of Japantown, still blinking sleep from my eyes, the morning blurry through my contacts. The hotel room boasts the usual hotel room furnishings: the bed on which I recline, nightstand on either side, a fabric-covered chair in case one wishes to sit elsewhere than the bed, a desk and chair in case one needs to work somewhere other than the bed, dresser, flat screen TV.
I just realized two chairs sit tucked under the desk. One is hidden by the beach towel I draped across the back to dry. My wetsuit hangs from the shower curtain bar in the bathroom. I didn’t wash it, too rushed, didn’t want to travel with it dripping, so when I pulled it out of the bag, San Onofre beach sand fell everywhere. A week in Orange County and only one surf to show for it!
The hotel room includes a coffeemaker. I would very much like some coffee about now. If only I took it black instead of requiring cream. If only the room came stocked with half-and-half or a box of soy milk, something less filled with filler than the powdered option available in the “condiments” package. Fulfilling my coffee dream requires I go to the lobby and I’m loathe to leave the bed, start the day, interact with other humans. I’m in such a place between lonely and alone lately, hungry for socializing and yet climbing into bed as early as manners will allow.
I considered strolling around yesterday evening, taking in the sights of this neighborhood I don’t know. The sound of live music traveled up the hotel walls and through the hotel room window I’d opened to let in the outside air. Instead I made tea, watched a show on Amazon Prime, took some Tylenol PM. I kept my loneliness trapped in the room instead of setting it free on the streets. Without boundaries and distraction, desire to be sharing the moment with someone would grow to matter more than the moment itself.
I’m silly to think I’m lonely. All week I shared space, lunches, dinners, presentations with people I like. I threw my boss a shaka while riding his wife’s board down the face of a wave yesterday and spent the afternoon walking the beach with my stepmom, all in December sunshine warm enough I could have worn shorts. I have a husband, kids, friends waiting for me back home. The whole coast of California has become my backyard. I’m spoiled – greedy! – truly, and if I’m honest, I’m glad no one is here right now, interrupting my attempt to write. (I wouldn’t mind if someone was fetching me coffee, though!) And a friend is coming over for breakfast and a walk, so I’ll get that neighborhood stroll after all.