By lex, on October 8th, 2007
Your correspondent, being an employee of the federal, was happy to take the day with pay today. The rest of the family must ought to report to their several places of education and employment, the state of California having decided in the last several that perhaps Christobal Colon was not quite the thing. He didn’t discover anything you see – there were people already living here and every culture is exactly the equivalent of every other.
Oh, you may argue that on one side of the Atlantic artists of a sort were daubing their skin with clay and dancing around the campfire in preparation for a slaving raid while, over on the other side, Michelangelo was lying on his back painting the Sistene Chapel, but this is all very much beside the point: The implicit lesson is that we ought to be a bit embarrassed about ourselves. For being.
Now, it’s entirely possible I suppose that the Iroquois Confederacy might have buckled on their armor and crossed the ocean in 1917 to help put down the threat of Prussian militarism. And they might have come back again in ’41 after that “arsenal of democracy” thing didn’t quite live up to its billing, to put postage paid to genocidal fascism. And perhaps they would have even manned the ramparts for nearly 50 years and opened up their wallets to rebuild liberal democracy when a different kind of totalitarianism sought to enslave the minds of 400 million people in the name of a stern, Utopian ideology.
But I remain unconvinced, and thus unembarrassed. Find me perfection on this side of the veil and I’ll acknowledge every imperfection with a sincere, chest thumping mea culpa. Until that point, noli me tangere.
Work I had to do, but my spirit declined to be oppressed on such a beautiful day in San Diego. The tourists have decamped at last, and the sky was absolutely cloudless, as though it denied the possibility of there ever being a cloud. As though denying that any cloud had ever existed. As if denying knowledge of clouds. And the air, gentle reader? It was as fine champagne. Cool, sophisticated and just a bit intoxicating. Perfect day for a motorcycle ride.
First things first and it was Cardiff and Pipes, for to breakfast like a king, the hour being already well advanced and my hunger a very palpable companion. I took the Five northbound, the 101 being more scenic but my need being great. There’d be time for touring after.
Pancakes and bacon and eggs too, and would I like cheese on them? Of course I would. You will not leave there hungry. But you will have to leave.
Up then, and back on the bike. It’s good touring on a motorcycle – driving in a car, even a convertible, frames the scene. Isolates it. It is better than watching the world go by on TV, but not much. On a motorcycle you’re a part of all you see, in it, of it. In a way you’re not in a car.
Motorcyclists exchange greetings with others of their ilk on the road, you may have noticed. The left hand off the clutch, two fingers pointed down: “Keep it rubber-side down.” We’re in this together. Harley guys are less reliable allies. There are some who ride the big twins because they think doing so makes them bad asses – they’ll blow a guy off who waves to them from a BMW or rice rocket. But others give it back to you with interest. Hand waves and a big smile, they’re just happy to be a part of it.
I always wave to the Harley guys. The flashing smiles are worth it, and I like the fact that the guys who don’t wave back owe me some karma.
Sometimes you take what you can get.
Encinitas is the next town up the coast from Cardiff – “Cardiff by the sea“, it ostentatiously announces. To disambiguate itself from that other California Cardiff. Where ever that might be. The southern entry to Encinitas is guarded by one of those tidal basins that are the saviors of Southern California. They push the houses back from the sea, up on the bluffs.
The first thing you see entering Cardiff is the “Self-realization Fellowship,” otherwise known as Swami’s. Across the street, a storefront is pleased to announce the imminent opening of the Self-realization Fellowship Book and Gift Store. It’s good to know that you can buy some of that self-actualization. Give it to others as a gift, like. The town itself, at least on the 101, is Italian restaurants and coffee shops, yoga salons, art galleries and wine bars. Encinitas is mature, serenely self-confident, funky. You might want to live there. You’re pretty sure that if you did you’d look with pity on those who didn’t. So long as you didn’t have to commute southbound on the Five in the morning, or northbound in the afternoon. Either one of which is pretty much a daily look at the seventh circle of hell.
North of the main part of the town is the community of Leucadia, which takes the Encinitas funkiness and raises it exponentially. You get the impression that the Encinitas town fathers saw “Reefer Madness” back in the 30′s, swept up all the likely suspects and deposited them on the city’s northern boundary, knowing that depositing them on the southern boundary would have fouled the beach views. It’s the kind of place you’d like to get off and walk around in a bit – it’s almost otherworldly. Such examples of the entrepreneurial spirit as “The Plant Lady” exist in 500 square foot proximity with tattoo parlors and the “Screams of Passion” hair salon. Tiny surfer flops offer rooms at the weekly rate of only $299! Out of native gentility, I wave a splendid specimen of North American womanhood across the road – she’s hoping to cross the 1o1 in front of me, away from the crosswalk. There are many moving parts as she jogs past, smiling and waving gratefully. I smile back inside my helmet thinking, “No, no: My pleasure.” All men are, to a greater or lesser degree, pigs. Nosce te ipsum.
Leaving town northbound another tidal basin, another relatively unspoiled beach vista and, of course, the ubiquitous surfers. They have a special intimacy with the sea, these coastal boys, and a unique language for describing it – a lover’s patois. In a way I envy it of them, but for my own part I have seen the ocean naked and unadorned, sprawling lazily in every direction as far as the eye can see, and I do not stint them their own brand of familiarity.
Next town up is Carlsbad, which – and this is only my opinion – appears to be trying a little too hard. It is the California coastal town imagined as a kind of theme park. South of town Victorian B&B’s, multi-million dollar mansions and 50′s era bungalows elbow for peek ocean views, a power plant juts jarringly into view and then suddenly we are on streets of Bohemian inauthenticity. Carlsbad beckons for you to explore its tidy side streets, but having just passed by the warrens of Leucadia and Encinitas, this traveler remained untempted.
A small bridge, a salt marsh and the whole world separate precious Carlsbad from sturdy Oceanside. It is the anti-Carlsbad, crass, commercial, common – Bakersfield by the sea. It thrusts itself at you almost wantonly, liquor stores and chopper shops, used car lots and the obligatory surf shops. It is as though it could not decide what to be and decided to be everything. Middle class men in shirts and ties walk by hard looking young men with ballcaps pulled down about their ears. It’s a military town, and looks it – except for the fact that the Marines themselves are not out and about on this federal holiday. They must be elsewhere.
Oceanside’s side street don’t even beckon, and your correspondent turned the bike around with few regrets. I’m now very nearly late for a therapeutic massage I’d booked that I wanted more than I needed. Having too much dawdled in my adventures, I’m strangely rushed to go and get relaxed. This is the nature of things.
I guess it could have been worse: I could have been working.