The Paucity of Gaslamp Grass
Dr. Andy grabs a favorite short essay from the archive so as to not distract himself unduly from his vacation.
Dog-owners who stay in hotels in the Gaslamp Quarter of San Diego need a smartphone app to help them find grass, or even just dirt, where they can walk their dogs. For discriminating dogs like mine, artificial turf feels like carpet, so it won’t do.
Not every city has greenbelts and numerous public parks, as Davis does. Places like San Diego make me feel grateful both to have a chance to visit and to live where I do. When I asked my wife Kate if she would like to retire on Coronado Island, home to some of our favorite beaches, she reminded me that we have too many friends in Davis to live anywhere else. There go my plans to move to Costa Rica or Thailand when I turn 67!
Speaking of time off, I am supposed to be vacationing, rather than writing newsletters, so I will repurpose here for your reading pleasure an essay about this part of California that I published on my blog on August 14, 2017, and that the Sacramento Bee published, with a color photo by Kate, about ten days later (If you want to look it up behind the SacBee paywall, search for “article169238542”). Enjoy.
As Jukie and I walked south along Coronado Beach, we could see Tijuana, Mexico on the horizon. Called the best beach in the world in 2012, Coronado Beach is home to the famous Hotel del Coronado, filming location for arguably the best film comedy, Some Like It Hot.
During our walk, Jukie and I passed a family of Frenchmen – a dad and three sons – who had made soccer goal markers out of the abundant seaweed. One of them had overshot the goal, sending the ball ten meters into the Pacific, which promptly gave it back. I could almost decipher some of their French exclamations. Perhaps ten years older than me and with a look of concentration, the father had better soccer skills but less gusto than his sons. He had opportunities to hone his skills when each new son came of age, perhaps preparing for this afternoon on Coronado Beach.
Soon we encountered three middle-aged Americans – a man and two women – digging ever deeper with juice pitchers. They were determined, but not frantic. Soon the man got out his metal detector again, and accepted the advice of the women as to where to place and how to angle the cumbersome machine. “We will just have to dig deeper,” one said. I expected that eventually they would find a metal bolt rather than a diamond ring.
Farther along the beach a Middle-Eastern couple in their 50s were walking with their daughter in her 20’s. Thinking of racial tensions in Charlottesville, I offered a friendly greeting, and they returned it. They might have been locals, or they might have been visiting from 8,000 miles away. I’m about as far from Davis as one can be and still be in California, but I still want people to know that we love and welcome strangers here. The most diverse state in the union, we depend upon the great mix of thinkers, inventors, and workers to power our state, and keep the ongoing dialogue lively and engaging.
The Middle-Eastern family had paused to take pictures, and I could see why. Well after 7 PM last night, we had reached that “magic time” for photographers when the sun’s light is diffused by the rising marine layer. It makes us all feel and look beautiful, especially on film. At that hour Jukie and I could see an engagement photographer, a family photographer, and many amateurs who wanted to take advantage of the incredible light.
Jukie lead the two of us for a mile or more on the wide beach. If it had not been getting darker, we might have walked for a few more miles until we heard the actual sounds of Tijuana nightclubs. We soon received a text from my wife Kate – I’m freezing, she said – so we started walking back, the setting sun filling our faces with light. By the time we returned to Kate, we saw the photographers packing up their equipment and nodding optimistically to their clients, we saw the French dad walking arm and arm towards the del Coronado Hotel, and we saw the middle-aged Americans climbing out of their hole to exchange a high five.
Perhaps, like Kate with her photography of Truman jumping over waves, and like Jukie and me on our walk, these three prospectors had finally found their diamond ring in the sand.
Thanks for reading. I’m a quizmaster, as well as an essayist. If you would like to receive printed pub quizzes from me every week, please support these efforts on Patreon.
P.S. Here are three questions from last week’s quiz:
Actors and Actresses. Who played the female lead and love interest in the 1994 film Forrest Gump?
Science. What five-syllable word do we use for the process of heat production in organisms?
Books and Authors. Having replaced David Souter on the U.S. Supreme Court, what Princeton and Yale grad authored the 2019 book, Just Ask! Be Different, Be Brave, Be You?
P.P.S. “The purpose of a vacation is to have the time to rest. But many of us, even when we go on vacation, don't know how to rest. We may even come back more tired than before we left.” Thich Nhat Hanh, with a warning to all of us