Walter Mencken 4 p.m., May 3
- Community Blog
Restless dreams kept me tossing and turning this weekend, lying about in my comfortable place, doing whatever I pleased. I'm too old to pick up girls, and always found the process intolerably tedious anyway. An old friend, also in his mid-to-late fifties, knocked on the screen door Saturday night, knowing I would just be splayed out in a beanbag chair with a jug of wine, watching TV or my fireplace or aquarium videos. We saw a 30th anniversary presentation of "An Officer and a Gentleman," commenting cynically from time to time about the female protagonists. 1982 doesn't seem like all that long ago...
We're both comfortable and good at what we do, and since women don't seem to show much interest in either of us we've got plenty of money to eat and drink what we like and do just about anything else we wish. Life has evolved into a kind of pleasant rut. He complains about it too much, but I lend an outwardly sympathetic ear and try to seem like I actually know what I'm talking about when I tell him it isn't all that bad.
After the movie, he left and I nodded out for awhile in the chair. Then I moved on to the futon in my sea grass floored, wicker furnished bedroom. It seemed like I slept a lot, though I kept waking up. Once in awhile I'd put on my Japanese robe and go out to the steps of the condo along University Avenue, listening to the quiet, wistful sound of an occasional car passing by on a slightly dampened street. If I stood out in the street a bit I could see Mt. Helix in the distance, marveling at how I used to want to go to the top of it when I was a little kid growing up just a mile or so away, how it seemed like the outer limit of the small world I knew then.
For reasons too tedious to recount but as a quick explanation for my state of mind, I'm back with my best gal from high school days. She's actually a few months older than I am and quite nice looking for her age. Like me, she never really hit it off with the opposite sex, claiming I'm the only guy she ever loved. The real kicker to this whole thing is that she lives nowadays in Southern Florida. I go there a couple of times a year, and the time between visits really seems to fly now that I've been doing it for a year and a half. My place has taken on a vaguely South Beach theme, with several framed posters and such from the Art Deco Museum there.
She doesn't seem to know much about or take much interest in that stuff, while I've become quite interested in the history of the area, all the entertainers who performed and partied there in the fifties and early sixties, when I was barely old enough to look at the advertisements in Life Magazine and Readers Digest and think it must be really cool to smoke and drink and drive around in new cars on a highway near the coast.
Good things have always come in 2's for me. That's what's always screwed up my love life. Now I've gotten used to holding a pretty woman close, and I miss it. She's far away, and there's no getting around that. I'm not going to pack up and move to Southern Florida anytime soon, and anyway it strikes me as a nicer place to visit on a relaxing vacation than to live permanently.
There's a nice gal at one of my teaching jobs. I've been friendly with her for years, and once in awhile think I just might... She'd probably act real surprised if I did, but I doubt she really would be. She's a bit older than me too, like the one in Florida, and sometimes I think I'm going to be 90 and in a walker and pursuing a 92 or 93 year old female, if pursue is really the word for it. She looks exceptionally good too, though. It isn't hard to understand my thought processes when you see either one of these gals. Once in awhile I'll take a quick, impartial look and realize that neither of them are spring chickens, but then neither am I and... honestly, I'd rather be with either of them than with some airhead half my age who'll never age as gracefully as they have and whom I'd have to work at figuring out rather than just feeling comfortable with as I do with these two.
It's funny how your mind--mine anyway--seems to go off into another dimension when you think about the possibilities. At different times in my life I've felt the essence, the spirit perhaps, of places I associate with women I'm attracted to. Then people start thinking I'm all spiritual or such. It's happened in the Washington DC area, in Lima Peru, in Sapporo Japan, and in Southern Florida.
I'm back to random memories, happenings one year's time ago. It was state conference time this past weekend. In even years it's in Northern California, and odd years it's in the south. I don't bother with the even years at all, and every decade or so it's in San Diego, which makes things not particularly interesting though as a local I'm usually coaxed into doing some modest volunteer work. In 2009 and 2011, it was in the LA area, first Pasadena and then Long Beach. I don't get up to LA that often, but through cumulative infrequencies have come to know my way around it pretty well. Last year I drove up the Coast Highway to the conference, and looked around a bit at offbeat things only I would notice, like the hall where the Beach Boys gave their first paying concert in 1962. I stopped on the way home to get a look at Grissom, White, and Chaffee Islands, and even got misty-eyed for a moment on recalling the Apollo I tragedy in 1967, when I was a 12 year old kid in 6th grade at Henry Clay.
Then I realized that the average A-holes frequenting the beach I'd parked along would have no idea of the significance of those names, and wouldn't care if they DID know. My mood went back to its usual state of mild annoyance at Our Dumb World.
That was a year ago this past weekend, and the thing that got to me, I guess, was that it doesn't seem like more than about half that. Time just slips away, slips away, while life doesn't seem to change that much except that I keep getting older.
Pasadena in 2009 was three years ago, which REALLY bummed me out. It seems like all of a year ago, and I can remember almost every moment of that weekend. Several of us from school got together there and really had a good time. The gal and I were friendly, as we've been for a long time. I wasn't trying to accomplish anything and nothing much happened, except that we enjoyed being around each other and several co-workers that we get along quite OK with. Everybody's married except for her and myself, but until this very moment I hadn't really thought about that before.
I drove back from Pasadena to Long Beach that year on surface streets, before hitting the freeway to go home. It didn't seem to take forever, and wasn't the first time I'd crossed LA without going on a freeway. My mood was happy, almost spriritual I guess, as I thought of the good times with my colleagues and how much fun it was to relax in a different set of surroundings. I stopped in San Juan Capistrano for lunch and a look at the outside of the mission, one of those places the folks used to like to take my siblings and me on occasional day trips close to fifty years ago. Yet I have no desire to go out of my way to do such things in those particular places again. It wouldn't feel the same, and there's really not that much up there that isn't better in San Diego anyway.
The folks had friends in Newport Beach in the '60s, and we used to go there a couple of times a year. Several times the two families would all go on to Disneyland, which by my own teenage years I was rather tired of visiting. I remember that family, with four sons quite a lot older than I was. They seemed like classic California teenagers, which they were, the suntanned crewcut all-American males of the song whose title I borrowed. They wore jeans and white T-shirts, listened to rock 'n roll on the radio, and drove cool cars. Two of them had girlfriends who tolerated me well, I guess, as a little kid who had to tag along and be taken care of. Maybe they, and some of the babysitters the folks would hire when they'd go out together on weekends when we kids were small, got me started on this older woman thing. Two of the brothers are dead now, of a rare form of cancer that runs in the family. Their old girlfriends, for their parts, are probably grandmothers long married to someone else. Perhaps they wonder sometimes, as I do, at what a magical era that was, how good it was to be young when you could go to the beach and not be confronted by ten feet of Do-Not signs on every lamp post.
So, this past weekend I was there in my cozy little place, mildly drunk and drifting in and out of uneasy sleep. I saw in my mind all the places I had been, and the people who had made the places special. LA now is special in its own way, I suppose, because it's not that far away and some neat things have happened to me there, even though I've only visited it sporadically, mostly as a little kid and as an over-forty adult with little in between. I couldn't sleep soundly because I wasn't sure where I was or how old I was as I drifted in and out of reality, with vague thoughts of Disneyland and the Coast Highway in the '60s and conferences in Long Beach and Pasadena in the New Millenium running through my head. Then there were those images of two older women--which nowadays means my age or just a bit more--who still look pretty darned good and think I'm a fine fellow.
My gal would be really pissed if she knew what was going through my head, and I can't say I blame her. I so much don't want to screw things up between us, and like to hope that I've finally figured this stuff out in late middle age. Yet when it comes to being lucky, I'm cursed...