I drove down to my mother’s today to help her with some computer stuff and some errands. It’s a hundred mile trip, so I stopped about three quarters of the way in San Clemente.
I lived in this little coastal community — the southernmost town of Orange County, California — for a non-consecutive total of perhaps five years in the late eighties and very early nineties. I had a few tumultuous relationships, started or played in a few bands, and generally had my early twenties there. A novel or two, some short stories, maybe a play or screenplay… any or all could come from the material and life experience from those days. It’s on the list.
Enough time has passed that I can visit San Clemente without feeling any strong emotion about my time there… time really does heal all wounds, or wounds all heels, or something like that. In any event, in the late Spring, it’s really nice there. The ocean air permeates everything with moisture and energy; it’s warm with a nice cool breeze… very peaceful. There’s life in the atmosphere, which is something I just don’t feel in the dry air of my current desert mountain digs.
I browsed through a used bookstore (don’t have one of those in my town, either, somehow) and picked up a hardcover of Death Is A Lonely Business and old mass market editions of Stand on Zanzibar, an old Phillip Jose Farmer Tarzan pastiche, and a Hugo Awards anthology edited by Asimov. I took the Bradbury book into the Sunrise Cafe, where I had a late breakfast and listened to one of the waitresses discuss tattoos, entrepreneurial ambitions, and parenting with a couple of young guys.
Twenty years ago, I ate countless breakfasts at that place. The food, atmosphere, and clientele are utterly unchanged. I found comfort in that.
I took Del Mar Boulevard down to the pier, and took that road along its winding path south to the last freeway on ramp. It occurred to me that if I had a crapload of money, I’d rent a beach hotel room with a kitchenette for the month of May and write my San Clemente novel.
(You can help with that here if you really want to.)
I like my memories, even though they challenge me and sometimes shame me. I like the fact that I’m at the point where I can benefit from their lessons at last. San Clemente holds a whole hell of a lot of lessons for me. Spending an hour or so down there was very grounding, very comforting, very energizing.
I’ve lived in San Clemente, Costa Mesa, Long Beach, Huntington Beach, San Pedro… In San Clemente and Long Beach, I lived in places where the Pacific Ocean was a short walk from my front yard. In those other places, it was a five minute drive.
What the heck am I doing in this desert town, where the ocean and its life force is a hundred miles away?
Oh yeah… the property values.
I need to make an effort to drive down there more often… recharge. It’s good for me to see a horizon that’s infinite.