To L.A. on my birthday . . . part 3!

Why Was I Born by Kenny Burrell and John Coltrane

OK . . . final part here.

I made it to the club, seeing the awe-inspiring Mr. Kenny Burrell

Kenny at the Catalina Jazz Club
But it was time to go home and I really didn’t want to go in a hurry.  Again, life is just too complicated sometimes, so I decided it was not worth driving through the flat desert lands.  I cut over to Highway 1 . . . the Pacific Coast Highway, and felt it was time to see the ocean.

I’m not obsessed with the water or the salt air or the pull of the sea.  I’m not Hemingway.  I don’t have a tug when I hear a seagull cry or a wave crashing.  I don’t really know what it is that – now for the second straight year – told me to go this way and see the water.  I did it last year on the way to L.A.  This year it’s the way back.  As I said, there’s no pull for me to go into the water or jump on a boat.  I could save myself in a swimming pool.  Take me to the ocean and sink my ocean liner and I’m one of the many sinking like Leoardo diCaprio into the icy depths.

But I think – and this is just pop analysis here – is the finality of it.  This is as far as you’re going to go.  You can walk into the water but eventually you’re hitting the end.  This is the edge of the world, at least our American world.  I can go the other direction but I’m still crossing the same paths and lands that Andrea did going that way.  She lived in the Midwest and drove home a myriad of ways.  She lived with us in Texas.  She visited South Dakota.  She visited friends on the East Coast . . . she touched everything.  But there are pieces here she didn’t, I don’t think.

But in a way it reminds me of her, too.  I stopped in Pismo Beach for lunch.  Nothing fancy, but the view was inspiring.

Pismo Beach and all the clams you can eat – to quote Bugs Bunny
But lunching alone wasn’t wise.

While I told myself all those things above, that I’ll find this cathartic and enjoy it all, it’s the finality of the coast line that reaches to another finality.  I paid for and bought the gravestone for Andrea already.  I left town to leave being alone behind but instead I just felt . . . lonely.

I know why, and some of it has to do with this picture I brought with me:

Andrea took me 0n an amazing trip on this day.  Sure, that’s Alcatraz in the background and she’s cold and wind-blown.  But on Pismo the wind was blowing crazy…and it had kind of a bite to it.  It was chilly and I kept thinking about this photo and realizing that the tug wasn’t the water or the salt it was her.  We met that weekend and I knew I’d fallen in love that weekend and my life – as I knew it – was over.  This new life with her began.  We stood there and then walked the beach, my holding her close to keep her warm, and listened to the water hit the shore.  That was what I was thinking about here.

I went down to the water and watched the waves roll on top of each other, the foam cresting on the waves and rolling under as another undulation overtook the whitecap.

Waves on Pismo
I stayed there about an hour.  I watched the kids run around in the water.  I felt the water hit my feet.  I closed my eyes and tried to imagine I was there again with her…but I couldn’t.

The realization was that I hadn’t left loneliness behind.  I wasn’t running from anything.  I just had to face that my life, as I knew it, was over.  Just like before, with her.  Then, though, I saw the change coming and felt it warm me, literally.  The feeling spread from the center of my chest and radiated to my toes.  This time, I had to force myself to abandon that feeling.  My toes were cold.  My arms had goosebumps.  I looked up and saw a different scene, a totally foreign landscape to the one on the photo.

The white cliffs at Pismo. Who knew?
It was here I decided it was time to go home.  I’d toodled around a lot, even wasted a good deal of time.  Sure, I had a good lunch, a nice piece of pie even, but it’s not the end all, be-all of my life.  I realized that I’d just set a night’s goal of hitting the jazz club and let the pieces fall where they may.

I played paparazzi…met Kenny Burrell…stayed in an amazing hotel…met some phenomenal people…and now it was time to go home.  I didn’t have to prove I could do something different.  I just did it.

After getting in the car I called Hannah and asked how her birthday went  – that’s right, it’s her birthday, too:

Hannah on her 1st birthday
She was sooooo excited to get a hardshell case for her Stratocaster.  She loved the book I gave her and the paper watch she could decorate herself.  She was . . . happy.  It was different from the apprehensive happiness of last year where she still felt empty with the happy feeling.  I understood, this year was the same for me.  She was smiling with her voice, something she hadn’t done in a long time and it made me smile.

Then during the drive home Andrea’s best friend – and one of my best – called during the drive.  I marveled how I could talk forever with her and not worry about pauses in the conversation or what was going on.  I just wanted to know and genuinely cared what happens to her and what goes on.  She’s miles away and it’s like I can talk and . . . not worry or talk about what we’ve both lost.

It’s been a long year.  This was a long trip.  I got home around 9pm, the road trip at an end.  I had my duffel bag and laptop with me and I sat on the couch and watched something mindless on the TV…then headed off to bed, thanking Andrea for an amazing birthday – because it’s like she let go just a little.

Then I prepared for the next day . . . which is today.  But that’s an adventure you’ll hear about tomorrow –

 

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