Bittersweet Drive – 2nd Installment

July 1997

Yesterday I sat on the beach with my journal and my book, Tales of Burning Love, tanning under the warm California sun. I watched a woman with five children arrive and plant themselves and their belongings about fifteen yards away from me. She spread out the blanket and they all dropped their coverups along with what looked like a large grocery bag and headed down to the water. Moments later the unmistakable sound of seagulls filled the air and pulled my attention away from my reading as they descended on this blanket. There must have been thirty of them. Like flies on shit. They tore this bag to shreds until there wasn’t even a bag left. The family only returned after it was all over.

I did nothing but watch. The frenzy of these birds and the ruthlessness of their descent on what ultimately was a situation left to chance. Probably their lunch for the day. I mean, the family’s lunch. I kinda feel bad but really – was I really going to go after that bag? Are seagulls food aggressive? I mean, how hard would they fight a human for food? I’ve seen them snatch food right out of people’s hands, but if I ran full steam ahead screaming and waving my arms, would they have scattered or would they have pecked me to death over a freakin bag of sandwiches and Goldfish crackers?

When it was over I returned to my book and enjoyed the sun and the sound of the Pacific waves hitting the beach. There is little that brings me more peace and solace than the sand and the ocean. The family eventually returned and discovered what was left of the apocalypse that befell their encampment and I felt a pang of guilt for having seen it all unfold.

I left the beach around four and headed into town. I parked the car around the corner from State Street and walked through the Farmer’s Market, easily as glorious as a day on the beach in southern California. The street is closed and lined with popup organic produce stands full of gorgeous strawberries, peaches, fresh herbs and vegetables… potatoes, broccoli, red beets, Bugs Bunny-sized carrots, corn, beans, artichokes, sunflowers and long-stem white roses (my fave).

I popped into the Greek deli to pick up dinner – because I love their spanakopita. You get a huge piece of spanakopita with a salad and pita, it’s so much that you can’t finish it. I saved half of it for Daniel. Later, parked outside the school with the windows down waiting for him to finish, I noticed the apartment building across the street. Enormous floor to ceiling windows – the sounds of the Dodgers game wafted down from a wide-open window with no curtains. What is this bucolic place I find myself in?

I have walked along the beach; the sidewalk separating the street from the sand with the occasional passersby on roller blades or toting bags and towels. I have walked Stearns Warf, peered into shop windows, watched a father teaching his son to fish, inhaled the salt air and the occasional acrid scents of seafood, closed my eyes and remembered who I was. Who I wanted to be.

I’ve eaten some marvelous meals including, by not limited to, wine-pairing menus at Wine Cask. Savored Mexican food and margaritas at a sidewalk table. Watched a movie in the breathtaking Arlington Theatre. Meandered around the Santa Barbara mission, literally stopped to smell the roses and admired the architecture of an historic landmark. Felt the spiritual stillness of the chapel, walked the ancient cemetery, admired the large-scale chalk paintings at the annual Street Painting Festival.

I sat high on the bluff overlooking the sea on a single park bench, contemplating my life up to this point and where I want to see myself in the future. I could live here. Just like New York – I could start over again.

So many mistakes and bad decisions have led me here, after many twists and detours. Here, the mental place I find myself in. I don’t want to make the wrong choices again. I lost four years in a deleterious and immoral world, sacrificing my virtues and surrounding myself with people of questionable character, bordering on criminal.

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