Friday, September 9, 2011
Water, Water, Everywhere, and You Get Fries With That
Hypnotism. That seemed like a good way to put behind me a rowdy week of happy/sad/regretful/eager emotions and plenty of work. Who does hypnotism best?
I stuffed a sweatshirt, a windbreaker, a hat, sunscreen, water and a book in my splendid huge “Moby” tote bag (courtesy of Gail, re-gifted from the Encore Network, which just aired a new version of Melville’s masterpiece), grabbed my beach chair (courtesy of P&J) and climbed in the car.
I did not go alone. Fortunately, Luciano Pavarotti is always on call in the car’s CD player. I ordered “Che Gelida Manina.” With Pavarotti’s magnificent voice lifting me ever higher, the two of us set off for the sea.
The journey was not long. After years of just dreaming about it, I now actually live less than four miles from the Pacific Ocean. From my living room window, I could see the fog hanging over Ocean Beach, but as grownups all know, we take whatever weather we get.
At the beach, I set up my chair, donned the pale green sweatshirt as well as the navy blue windbreaker and pulled the bright orange hat low over my ears. Few people were on the beach – though one person was “sunning” himself in shorts and a tank top in the brisk wind. A woman walked by, barefoot, taking a business call on her cell.
The water was slate gray. The water was deep blue. The water was pale green. The waves rolled in, over and over, stealing sand, returning it to the bottom of the sea.
For a few minutes, the wind made my eyes teary. When they dried, I noticed a cluster of gulls, a dozen or more birds, huddled a short distance away. All of a sudden, they rose into the sky, where they were joined by at least three dozen other gulls, all whirling and calling and carrying on. After a few minutes, some of them landed close to my chair while the rest flew off.
What do gulls talk about when they hang out at the beach?
Just after I imagined a humpback whale breaching out beyond the surfers (it could happen), I imagined the gulls debating who in town has the best French fries.
“I prefer the truffle-oil fries from the Cliff House,” said one gull. “Sometimes you find them in the sand behind the trash bin.”
“Truffle oil? That’s nuts,” said another. “Give me the garlic fries at the ballpark any day. Truffle oil is just too fussy for me.”
A voice piped up, “I really like the sweet potato fries at Mel’s, and Burger Meister does them well, too.”
That was me. Talking to sea gulls. About French fries. The birds did not reply. Soon, a huge crow came along to pick a fight with a gull, and they all left together.
The hypnotic rhythm of the sea calmed me. I forgot about deadlines. I forgot about politics. I forgot about chaos and confusion and hate, all present in the world but no more permanent than a wave breaking on shore. It’s all real but it’s not real, too. All of it is like passing clouds. (I learned that in a Tai Chi class.) I looked up to admire some passing clouds. All I saw was thick fog.
The waves rolled in, over and over, the roar of the water filling my ears. Fully relaxed, I fell asleep. On the beach. In a blue jacket and an orange hat, sitting upright in a chair.
No one cared. Certainly not the Pacific Ocean, which had yet to notice that I was there. Or even to notice that I exist at all. I love that about the sea.
The wind was up again, and my eyes were damp. I said goodbye to the whales, the sharks, the molas, the translucent jellies – everything you don’t see when you stare at the sea. I said goodbye to the waves, which kept rolling in.
When I returned to the car, I requested that Pavarotti sing “Nessun Dorma.” He did. Three times.
It was hypnotic.