Out West (The Last Day — For Now)
It has been an involved and productive three weeks, presiding as a military court-martial judge during motions sessions in the ramp up to two trials, one set for May, the other in June. Since my body is still on east coast time, I get up early, get in early, try to get as much work done as possible during the work day, then try to exercise and decompress a bit in the evening. I’ve been out here three weeks, but it seems like much longer than that.
I’ve gotten as much done as I usually do during work hours, and done and experienced even more than usual in my downtime. Part of the reason for this is I’m not grabbing my Iphone or IPad every three seconds to check social media.
I deactivated all my social media accounts two weeks ago. I don’t know if it’ll be permanent. But I was saturated, and I needed a break, badly. And it’s amazing how much more you can actually experience after you’ve done that; you have no reason anymore to reach for the phone. Deactivate and delete the apps. It makes it easier.
When you don’t have the device in your hands, you actually engage people more. You take notice of your situation and surroundings. You think more deeply and seriously about real issues. And when you look around, you notice how many people have their faces buried in their phones or notebooks. And you begin to realize why society now bases reality on what comes out of an electronic device as opposed to what people actually see and hear with their own eyes and ears. More importantly, you recognize that what we used to call a relationship has turned into a “connection” over electrons. (And if you look into this phenomenon enough, you learn you’re not really connected to anyone.) When you unhook from this “matrix” and look around for a few minutes, it’s very interesting what happens.
You leave the phone on the table; maybe even turn it off since there’s no reason to be constantly checking it anymore, and you begin to notice a few things. You look out and see the eucalyptus trees swaying outside your window. You hear and see the fighter jets taking off and landing nearby. And off in the distance, you can hear the faint collapsing of the waves as they come ashore just south of Point Loma.
And now you can see the sun setting imperceptibly into the same landmass, its otherwise blinding light now tempered, filtered by the leaves of those same eucalyptus trees, their branches hanging and drifting on the Pacific breezes like the weeping willow. All the while you’re aware your friends on the east coast where you live most of the time are approaching the bedtime hour, in full darkness, and those in the central time zone aren’t much different.
Yet out here, on the edge of the continent and the country, the light still reigns, and it’ll be a while before it wanes. Your senses are almost as attuned as they were when you woke up this morning, fully rested, buoyed by this energy from some unknown source, reenergized for the new day, just like it has always been out here. Like no place you’ve ever been before. That energy. That mysterious, strange, untraceable energy. You’ve still got some time to tap into it before the strong western night finally descends, after another day that is longer than days anywhere else.
The band America spoke of these days and nights in the immortal “Ventura Highway:”
“Ventura Highway in the sunshine
Where the days are longer,
The nights are stronger
Since you’re pondering this situation, you have several ideas come to mind you haven’t considered before. For instance, you’ve never been down the Silver Strand to Imperial Beach and spent any time there, other than that one 20K race you did when you were younger and crazier, a race that finished down there in IB, and you wonder what it’s like down that way.
So you and your better half jump in your car and head down that way. You drive past the Navy SEAL training areas and arrive about 15 minutes later. You park and make your way down Seacoast Drive.
As you look around, you think to yourself, “This must be what Pacific Beach was back in the day, before everything got so … new.” The entire state is trying as hard as it can to turn into trite, overdone, and ridiculously congested Santa Monica or the pretense of Malibu or Santa Barbara, and you hope against hope that someone — anyone — will do something to stop this madness from infecting the last vestiges of, well, California.
But right now, you make a mental note: Your current position is as close to old California as you can probably get these days, and you wonder why you’ve never been here before. You walk down Seacoast and you meet the great folks running Mike Hess’s new beer garden, an eclectic place that looks like Mr. Hess just decided to find himself a beachfront space, build a one-story, perfectly functional building that raises two sets of rolling garage doors to let the ocean breeze pass through from west to east, and plopped down a few picnic tables inside and out. Presto. Instant, awesome place to sit down and spend a languid, sun-drenched, late Friday afternoon. Even in the dwindling daylight, the breeze isn’t too cold; it’s that San Diego perfect temperature.
And as you are taking all of this in, you look across the street to see that Coronado Brewing has decided to get in on the same action. Their contractors are finishing out their outdoor patio that opens onto Seacoast Drive, but their taproom is open and humming. Maybe you’ll head over there when you’re finished here at Mike Hess’s place, but not just yet.
That’s because you promised to walk out onto the Imperial Beach pier.
So you reluctantly leave and continue down Seacoast until you get to the next destination. And as you make your way further out on the pier, you notice something else: Waves coming in. Actual waves. In the afternoon. Arriving in sets. SETS. Why hasn’t anyone ever told you there are waves down here, waves that come in sets? You observe for a few minutes. This is something new. You note it.
Before walking back down to Seacoast Drive and checking out Coronado Brewing’s new place, you make a mental summary of things. Imperial Beach is a clean, orderly town. That’s refreshing. And it looks like what a thousand old surf communities probably looked like in the fifties, before everyone found out about California. Old school. And it has great craft beer, made even better by the fact that Mike Hess is a former Navy man and gives all active duty personnel a military a discount.
And then there are those waves. The waves that come in sets.
And then you think to yourself; you never would’ve found any of this out if you hadn’t put the phone down, tuned it all out, and unplugged.
Glen Hines is the author of three books that make up the Anthology Trilogy — Document, Cloudbreak, and Crossroads — available at Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble. His writing has appeared in Sports Illustrated, Task & Purpose, and the Human Development Project.