Jay Allen Sanford 9:45 p.m., May 19
Saturday, November 28th, 2009. 8am
As I leave for a rare morning walk, unable to come up with an explanation as to why I chose to go right now, other than, “Ooh, that wind sounds awesome”, I consider turning tail and going right back to bed. It is freezing, windy, early, and I only have one layer on. I decide not to puss out and see what I could see.
This is an Ocean Beach only a handful of people see; locals and tourists alike. We all know by now that Ocean Beach is an iconic Southern Californian beach town, its lovey-dovey, artsy, d.i.y.-vibe scarcely changed since its heyday in the 1960’s. It is a surf haven, a place to get fish tacos to die for with your friends, a town where you can’t swing a cat without hitting a full bar on a Friday night, a nice nook to raise puppies or children. But what I see this morning goes generally unseen by most...if this morning is any indication. Weekend mornings in OB are virtually unpopulated. Weekend mornings are the best time to absorb nature and that quintessential timeless Ocean Beach attitude. All I see are a few joggers, a few families with young kids (whom I’m guessing have been up since 4:30 anyway), a couple walkers-of-shame, and a few people like myself; just wanting to witness Ocean Beach all alone.
Looking up as I meander along Bacon and Coronado, the palm trees are flailing about under the looming and broken sky like leather bull whips, and I am careful to watch for falling pieces as I pass under them, stumbling over 8-foot fallen fronds that litter the sidewalks, streets and a few unfortunate vehicles. Passing by homes I hear the quiet clinking of clean coffee cups and silverware, and I can smell coffee and sage and butter: someone is warming up Thanksgiving leftovers for breakfast.
Approaching Sunset Cliffs Park, the ocean is wild and angry; a palette ranging from deep grey to icy blues and greens bear delicate pearls of white seafoam, which the winds are blowing up off the water and onto the cliffs. I tiptoe around little piles of bubbles and froth and it looks like jewelry. Clouds pass in front of the sun and the contrast between the full force of the storm wind off the ocean and the warm sun at my back is delicious. As well as I know I’m probably surrendering my immune system, I cannot help but stop and stand on the outermost spits of the cliffs and let the raw storm winds try their damndest to knock me down. The pelicans are not nearly as graceful as usual in the wind. I look up slightly and there is a seagull floating motionless in the air before me. He is facing the ocean, in some kind of peaceful, avian-yogic trance when he suddenly is blown backwards and goes tumbling by me. I never considered that seagulls could emote surprise, panic and embarrassment until this morning. They can.
Walking along the cliffs I just seem to get happier and happier, as if the wind is blowing it into me. I release it back into the air. As a painter I am always looking for surfaces the paint on and I find a fantastic wood-and-white striped piece of plywood that is begging to go home with me. It’s weathered, wet, and wonderful. It is tucked under my arm. I turn and walk back the same path, and as I stop to take it all in again I look north and there is a giant rainbow pouring out of a deep cloud into the sun-lit froth in front of that overly-photographed, historical, iconic Ocean Beach Pier. Damn, I wish I had brought my camera.
Walking home and using my new treasure to shield myself from a much-lusted-after spell of rain, I consider, once again, how very, very lucky I am to wake up here every day. This experience varies in degrees of sensuality, but is available any time I want. Some people work their whole lives in order to retire in a place like this. I have a regular job and yeah, at the end of the month my bank account is usually overdrawn, but I make it work. Some people live in land-locked places like Kansas and Nebraska and some never even see the ocean in their whole lives. I live in a community that is strung together by the common love of living a wonderful life at the edge of the land, sea and sky.
So, the next time you’re hung over after a great night crawling up and down Newport Avenue, feel free to stay in bed, ask your lover to make coffee and listen to the autumn wind howl past your window. Go out later, when all the joggers and shoppers and tourists and families and dogs are out and about, when the restaurants are open, when everything that makes OB great is afoot. I will be balanced on the edge of the earth, alone, feeling the sea salt sting my face, and next time, I will take my camera for you.