28. Dear ______, March, 2016

I am thinking of you, or more precisely (since we have not met) of the idea of you.

Life is meant to be shared; to be laughed at and cried over, to be turned over (like a rock on the beach) and marveled at, to be observed and learned from with the assistance of a wise friend/tutor.

I have just come back from a walk on the beach. It was lovely, a coincidence of low tide and late afternoon. The western sun hung low but still intense in the sky, illuminating the foibles of southern California and its inhabitants.

[Digression: when we first came to San Diego people would invariably say, “Welcome to paradise.” Susan would grind her teeth. Too many (as she put it) “Buttons and bows” for her Amish ancestry. I on the other hand, being more shallow, was fine with it — perhaps because I was ensconced within the cocoon of a university.]

It is a Saturday afternoon. Were it Tuesday the beach would be deserted, but this afternoon it is full of southern Californians. You can tell the tourists: ghostly pale, camera in hand, (but then I am also camera-in-hand); they are a distinct minority.

The beach is a symphony of exhibitionism: testosterone and estrogen run amuck, old men with cordovan-skin-stretched pot bellies walking shirtless, middle age women wearing the wrong shoes, worried that a wave will catch them.

It would be such fun to enjoy this spectacle together, to share the joke, to appreciate the warmth of the sun and the simultaneous coolness of the breeze. To perhaps feel a bit superior.

And yet, I like these Californians in spite of their fixation on appearances. They are outside enjoying the beach and the Pacific — often with kids in tow (sand pail in hand). By and large these people are healthy and appreciative of a Saturday afternoon at the beach.

[Second digression: Speaking of healthy bodies, I may have told you: Susan and I moved here from upstate New York where it was hard to tell the men from the women (since both sexes were typically shrouded in quilted down coats). That was not true at San Diego State; sexual identity was quite clear/evident. One evening I came home from the office and said to Susan, “You would not believe the bodies on that campus!” She smiled and replied, “Yes, and the women aren’t bad either.” PERFECT.]

Let me share some pictures, just to give you a sense of the scene:

We start by walking down to the beach.

Looking back, that break in the bluff is where we entered the beach world.

“Bluffs” are ubiquitous in California. (Pun intended.)

We pass this lovely rock, looking bit like a green monster

… and walk to this swell of sand where people are gathering for a wedding:

The bride and groom:

I have the feeling he will wear this outfit again; she, perhaps not.

Were you here with me we could have stopped to extend our best wishes. But being accosted by a single old man has a completely different (and not all together savory) feel about it. Sigh.

A proper wedding bouquet hangs from the cliff nearby:

And, of course, when we tire of feeling superior we can always remind ourselves that there are others who feel superior to us:

Wishing you, whomever you are, were here.

As I re-read the above (over a Sunday morning bagel) I am concerned that it may sound lonesome. If so, I have not communicated well. I am not feeling lonely so much as selfish. This sort of stroll ought to be shared. There ought to be twenty toes with sand between them and not just ten.

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