I met a girl today.
But actually, that happened pretty late in the day. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s put the horse up front there.
The vets in Lincoln City were finally open today, so I took Stray Boy in for a once over. I’d already bought ear mite medicine, and the vet gave him some worm medicine. Apparently kittens are basically born with ear mites and worms. Other than that, he checked out great. About 10-12 weeks old, they guessed. Born on the Fourth of July, maybe. So I felt pretty good about that.
The pancakes from the night before had gone down relatively smoothly, so I figured a patty melt wasn’t too far out of line for lunch. Wash it down with a nice smooth milkshake. So far so good.
I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. The vet and lunch had ended up taking a bit longer than I had planned, and I had knocked around the ideas of shopping (at least one guitar store and no less than three used book stores had caught my eye. Plus there was one of the omni-present Outlet Store Malls, and the Toy Liquidators and the Starter Outlet signs were tantalizingly right there on the freeway. Starter does the Dolphins’ uniforms, so I figured I had a decent shot at getting a non-Marino jersey there. Not that there’s anything wrong with a Marino jersey, it’s just that they’re everywhere. I kind of like to get the oddball numbers. I’ve got a Mark Clayton era #83, for instance. Would you believe there’s not a #83 on the team this year [unless Gadsden picked up 83. He was added to the roster after I last checked it. That would be cool, he's going to be something]? I’ll have to web crawl around to see what I can find once I get home), or going to see Keiko off (the whale from _Free Willy_ has lived in the aquarium here for some time, and as of tomorrow, he’s off for his new home in Iceland), or stopping at several of the numerous State Parks dotting the coastline to see if there were any cool places to take some pictures.
I decided on a combo shopping and picture trip. The Starter Outlet and the Toy Liquidators were busts, but there was also an Eddie Bauer outlet and I got a great fleece jacket. I found a graphic novel at one of the bookstores, one I almost paid full price for at San Diego. I got it for half cover, here. I also got _Dianetics_ and _Dianetics Today_ for a buck apiece, both of which appear to be internal editions printed from within the Church of Scientology. The _Dianetics Today_ looks for all the world like a first edition. I have such problems dealing with my life that this type of book, that gives you the straightforward answers to everything, fascinate me, even when all external evidence points to it being a fresh steaming load.
I started getting into the scenery as I left Lincoln City. The day was rather overcast (which, as far as I can ascertain, is par for the course in this area at this time of year), so I’m not entirely sure my pictures will come out as well as I hope. But I shot places with such colorful names as Boiler Bay, Foulweather Point, and Devil’s Punchbowl. Hopefully, the photos will live up to the names.
Along the way I stopped at a music store I’d seen. No Napa Valley tape shelves (sorry, Dad), but they did have one of the Epiphone Firebird re-issues. I was sorely tempted to just slap that puppy on a credit card and go, but good sense (or chickenshit, I can never tell the difference. See below…) prevailed.
The last stop was Yaquinto Head (I think I’m spelling that right). The sign along 101 says “Yaquinto Head Outstanding Natural Area” and has some government seal on it, in what about amounts to a challenge, in my book. So I gave it a shot.
The main thing that everyone sees is the lighthouse, and, hey, it’s a lighthouse. But some of the views elsewhere on the promontory are eye-popping. Right out from where I parked was an inlet where the bay had cut holes in the cliff walls, so there were tunnels and pillars of stone with surf pounding through them. On the other side, you could actually walk down to the beach, which in this case was covered entirely in small black rocks worn smooth and round by the waves. Dozens of yards of them, in every direction, who knows how deep. It was like walking in a sandbox full of marbles. At the far end of the beach, away from where the stairs were, was an area where two huge rocks guided the surf a particularly long way up the beach. As I got closer, I noticed this… sound. As the waves receded and the undertow pulled at the beach, hundreds of these little round rocks clattered and bounced their way back into the ocean. The sound was like being inside the biggest rainstick ever. I felt very alone realizing that there was no way to even take a picture of this, no way to share even a shadow of it. You’d just have to go there, I’ve never heard that sound anywhere else.
So, after agreeing that this was, at the very least, a noticeably Above Average Natural Area, I started to leave. There was one road off down the side that I hadn’t taken, so I did. Something about tidepools. I parked the car.
And there she was.
There was only one car in the parking lot, presumably hers, and she had on blue sweatpants and an overshirt that matched, so I assumed that she was a park ranger type getting ready to tell me this area was closed for the day (it _was_ getting late).
She was stunning. Tall and thin, dark skin and eyes, with unweidy amounts of black hair that moved as though she had conscious control over it. She walked as though she’d been outside all her life. She talked as if I was her oldest friend.
It didn’t take long before I realized she wasn’t a tour guide, she was just there looking at cool stuff. She confessed to touching the wildlife, in spite of the signs. Well, there were great reds, and great greens, but not in the same picture… so she improved upon nature somewhat.
Her name was Cherie (I’m assuming the spelling. She did say it was French). We talked about the things she’d seen, and where she’d traveled. When I say “we talked” I of course mean that she talked and I stood around with my mouth half open. She talked about the tidepools, how they didn’t seem to have as much life in them as she’d thought they would, about how one of the plaques had said this was an experiemental area, about how she thought these were man-made.
I regrettably added little to the conversation. She seemed so excited, so full so life, so thrilled, just to be… there. I felt so small, so far away, so insignificant compared to what was… there.
I have friends who would have stayed in touch with Cherie for years, have traded letters and hostel addresses, news of low airfares and names of people who’d let you stay in their garages for free. I have other friends who would have slept with her right there in the tidepool. I was there, she was there, I could have done any of those things, if only…
If only… If only I knew what I’d wanted to do. If only I had any idea what I was doing.
She was there talking to me and I felt as shallow and lifeless as the artificial tidepools.
We walked back to the cars and I managed to say something about loving to travel and see things but being hamstrung by fiscal realities. She talked more about youth hostels and places in Norway and Guam and Guatemala that would pay your way in trade for some small amount of work restoring castles, digging for fossils, or even shearing sheep.
I think we both realized at that moment that she was in a place I can’t yet comprehend.
I have not found my middle road. I do not understand where necessity ends and sacrifice begins. I cannot see the difference between a calling and an impulse. I celebrate the trivial and fail to believe in the meaningful.
I drown in what I don’t know because I can’t stand on what I feel.
We got into our respective cars and drove off. I turned on the radio so I wouldn’t have to hear myself think. Steve Winwood told me: “When some cold grey wind is blowing, and there’s nothing left worth knowing, and it’s time you should be going…”
I’m leaving Newport tomorrow.