Thursday, March 28, 2013

No Fish, No Games

The itch under my shirt sleeve threatened to distract me in my favorite San Simeon chair, pillows and blankets arranged to optimal comfort.  I ignored the crawling sensation, deep into a Janet Evanovich novel checked out from the Cambria library. 

The sensation returned, just a muscle twitch.  

The book was light fiction, but I was hard pressed to suppress the kind of raucous laughter that would shatter my wife’s concentration as she pounded down cards on her Smart Phone Solitaire Game.

How does this Evanovich lady, do it?
If only I could write something so funny and exciting!

The sensation relocated, higher on my shoulder.  I reached under my shirt and pinched a small lump.

Reluctantly, I got out of the chair and went out to the front porch, and opened my fingers.  A brown spec with a familiar cream pattern landed the white railing and started to creep away.  I flicked it hard with my fingernail, hoping to send it to oblivion never to be seen again.

The walk in Cambria that morning had been wonderful, with old growth forests that provoked fantasies of a Hobbit movie.  The hill top ocean vistas made me with a wish for the steel nerves takes to climb into a hang glider.  We had taken Ardath to the Trenton road trailhead-- maybe you’ve been there?

A couple of our dear friends were visiting us in San Simeon and I wanted to impress them with my choice of  hiking route.  After dropping down into the Fiscalini ranch area, I pretended to be momentarily lost (only half untrue).  Then we climbed a steep grassy hill.  Between rapid inhalation and exhalations, I told one of the friends, Andrei, about how some wrong decisions on an ATV nearly resulted in disaster.  I asked if anything like that had happened to him.

Several weeks ago he was driving with his brother on a rain soaked section of Highway 99 at 75 mph and his vehicle began to hydroplane.  He felt the car slide from his control and immediately braked to disengage the cruise control (good decision).  Then as the car continued to glide toward the shoulder he turned the wheel left, against the direction of  of the slide (bad decision).  The car spun around  two and half times, crossed the median, and cars were approaching head on as they sat in their stalled vehicle.   Fortunately, the suprised drivers coming at them were able to break in time.  Andre started his car, nobody hurt, nothing hit or damaged and made a U-turn.  He took the next offramp and returned to the highway resuming his previous direction.  
"Sort of makes you appreciate little things after something like that, doesn't it?"
"Yep, it sure does," I said,. and about that time we crested the ridge.

Before long, we all piled into the car, still a little out of breath.  I hoped our friends had enjoyed a memorable hour and a half of light exercise and worthwhile conversation.  

Food was next on the itinerary.  I felt the lump in my right pant leg, horrified at the realization that is was not a wallet but my camera.  The trip back to San Simeon to get my wallet was an embarrassing 25 minutes of apology, accompanied by various suggestions about how we could pool our resources and have enough money for the cash only restaurant.

Eventually, we enjoyed an excellent lunch at our favorite al fresco Mexican eatery.  Our dessert cravings led us to the den of the Red Moose, a fabulous cookie shop in the quasi-industrial collection of aluminum buildings known to Cambrians as “Tin City”.

Our friends, tired and full, were homeward bound somewhere between San Simeon and Fresno when I catapulted my tick friend into the middle of Avonne Avenue.  Going back inside, I was met by my wife's expectant stare.

“Yes,” I admitted, "it was a tick.”

We knew what had to be done and had done it before.  Time for “tick lockown”.

The front door was locked and bedroom door closed.  One of us began to disrobe and having reached a state of complete nudity, a full body scan was intiated, all cracks and crevices carefully examined.

Nothing, so far.

Then the other person disrobed, the routine repeated itself.
If no insects are found, this ritual often leads to playful groping, typically initiated by a partner I refuse to identify.

Negative, no ticks, nothing undesirable.

“Still we really should notify our friends, let them know.”
“Absolutely.  How can we pass up an opportunity like this?”  

“That’s what I’m thinking.”

“Just removed a vicious tick,” the message began, “Suggest you remove all clothing immediately and inspect each  thoroughly before they burrow in.”
We laughed ourselves silly thinking about their reactions.

But, alas, no text response.  People really need to learn how to take a joke, I thought.

We sat in our chairs and read a while until a low tide that afternoon.  Time to head north, another collecting (and farming) expedition for me.

I gathered the necessary materials, rock hammer, rope, two beers, and a can of sardines.
I kissed my wife goodbye.  She warned me again not to do “anything stupid.” 

There was a gradual up tick in my pulse.
If you’ve read “Fish and Games” parts 1 through 3, you know why.

But all went well.   That is, until I saw the CHP unit on the side of the road.  Panic mode nearly took over before I realized that the black and white was nowhere near my special beach and wasn't lying in wait for me.  Still the rear view mirror commanded my attention.

After another ten minutes, I parked where recommended (as suggested in Fish and Games, Part 1), and  dawdled a while getting my gear together.  Then I rechecked everything, half expecting a law enforcement car to pull up behind me.  Didn’t happen.

I was still nervous as I stepped over the barbed wire fence and caught by the inner part of my pant legs, nearly destorying my man parts.  Probably quite a scene viewed from cars that zoomed north and south while I untangled myself.

Familiar and upside down black funeral flowers surrounded me as I walked the sloping field that ended with a cliff.

I went down the guide rope without incident and began a forced marched to the far beach where I immediately made a contribution to future generations—again, a task best understood in the context of previous “Fish and Games” articles, all absolute fiction in case someone wearing a badge might be reading this.

On the way to my destination, I stumbled over slippery seaweed but managed to avoid another knee injury. Right away, I found a rock with obvious flecks of jade.  Who says you have to go all the way to Jade Cove to find this stuff?

Tired as I was from walking with friends that morning, I slogged on and tried to enjoy the moment.  

Today was abalone day, I realized, finding a whole shells and many nice pieces everywhere, some ocean- polished to perfection.

Along with the shells, I collected some decent rocks and popped open my first beer.

So after an hour of collecting I made my way back to the rope, my spirits greatly improved.  Giddy with last minute success, I decided some sort of ritual was in order like Native Americans who offer a pinch of tobacco to spirits of the wind. 

So before climbing up the rope, I ate a tin of sardines, thankful for the bounty of  the sea, and drank the second beer, grateful for fruit of the land, hops.

I even documented the happy moment with a photo.  Afterwards, I looked around, found a for a few more  worthies, and climbed up the rope.

I peeked in the direction of my car and ducked back down.  Nothing.  I raised my head again, quickly looking left and right.  No rangers on the cliff, no distant observers with scopes and, amazingly, no cruisers parked behind my car.

I stood up in plain sight, hearing neither helicopter nor jet, no holstered folk telling me to "face the fence" while they searched my bags.  What the Hell was this?   Where was the welcoming committee?  Had word gotten around that I was not worth hassling?  I felt ignored and unimportant.

I opened the back hatch of my car and sorted my gear in record time still expecting a cruiser to roar up, red and blues blazing. 

Deprived of such stimulation, I drove back to San Simeon waiting for something that never happened.

Crossing the Pico Bridge I turned left into peaceful San Simeon,surprised to find myself "home free".

Nothing wrong with a day without drama, I told myself.  Place more value on simple moments, that's what Andrei said.

The next day, I opened the Tribune: six cars involved in a chain reaction accident eastbound on Highway 46, 2:15 pm.  Right after we said goodbye to our friends.

A quick text confirmed they were unharmed, but close enough to experience a two hour delay as mangled steel and broken parts were removed from the roadway.

I paused to thank the One True God for everyday events and everyday mercies, like the delay of a forgotten wallet.