Yesterday morning we walked to the beach and sat with a friend while her son built a driftwood house with George and Paul. The ukulele band played “Over the Rainbow”. A Portuguese man we know was a few benches down. He’s browner than I remembered.
The sun gradually dissolved the morning mist. The man that lives behind us came out to stand on the beach and watch the waves break. He returned in his wetsuit with his board under his arm. His friend wore a bikini top under her half-peel and had her board under her arm. Ocean filled their eyes.
Wave hunger grew inside me.
“When should I drive to Oregon to pick up our wetsuits and boards?” I asked Robert. Maybe I’ll go when the thought of twelve hours up and twelve hours back doesn’t overwhelm me.
“Soon,” Robert said.
By noon, my face and throat were pink from the sun. I already have the inverse-raccoon-face look: a wide white expanse around the eyes from my sunglasses and a cooked red nose and cheeks. There’s a wide-brimmed sunhat in the thrift shop window I ought to invest in.
There’s a big difference between the 45th parallel and the 37th. Portland Oregon and the French Riviera are on the 45th parallel. Santa Cruz and Sicily are on the 37th. Even in winter, sunlight has puissance (power) here.
In the afternoon, another friend walked down to meet us for the “maybe” Sunday afternoon Hoop Jam. She brought her video camera in her pull-cart with plans to do a hooper interview for a class she’s taking. But no hoops spun-jam into existence for us.
Instead, we hung out on a low concrete wall and watched the ocean. Paul raced in circles on the beach with his latest collection of small children. They played zombie-apocalypse tag with their arms held out in front like sleepwalkers. All was right with the world.
Things happen here that could never happen in France.
A man with midnight skin sashayed over to entertain us. He was Halloween incarnate and smiled like a jack-o-lantern. He wore a pumpkin-colored t-shirt over his pumpkin-shaped self under a black leather vest with his black jeans. Black and orange kerchiefs fluttered from his iron-toothed belt. A thick chrome chain clinked between his wallet and his hip pocket. A black leather cap was affixed to his shaved round head. Later, he peeled off his cap and had me read the black and orange insignia on it.
He told me he’d just arrived from Zimbabwe. Then he said he was from Nigeria. He had diamonds in his sack and he wanted me to keep an eye on it for him. I suggested he take long walk while I watched his diamonds for him.
Then he told me that the blond woman over there with the black German Shepherd was his sister.
“She’s your twin sister,” I said.
I looked them both over.
“She’s your identical twin sister.”
When he went to stand beside her, she plucked an orange scarf from his flutter and tied it around the dog’s neck.
“That’s our child,” he said. He put his arm around the blond.
I thought it would have been more perfect if she’d dyed her hair orange to match his outfit. But I could tell she wasn’t as into “the look” like he was.
I studied the dog.
Mr. Halloween’s delighted American thunder filled our side of town.
Okay. He fessed up. He wasn’t from Ethiopia. He was a Harley rider from Oklahoma. When I asked after his tattoos, he said he was too old for tattoos. I offered to show him mine. He ducked away when I pretended I’d peel up my shirt front to show him.
He started to walk away. Then he walked back. He pulled out his orange phone so I could squint at a picture of a row of motorcycles. His phone told me it was down to 11% of its power. He stood close enough that I could smell yesterday’s alcohol in his sweat.
Things happen here that could never happen in France. Other things happen in just the same way they did in France. Some things straddle the line between this and that.
Lunch and dinner were almost exactly as they would have been in France. I boiled yellow potatoes for lunch. Then for dinner, I fried the leftover potatoes in olive oil. The main difference was that these were American potatoes from American soil and the organic olive oil was not labeled with country of origin.
Bread straddles the line so far. I found a good-enough baguette at a bakery we can walk to. It costs three times what a baguette cost in France. So we won’t be eating six of these a day. Once the oven is working, I’ll go back to baking my own batons of bread. I never got the knack of the dense crisp chewy crust of a good baguette. But I can work on this. Baking my own bread is the only way I know that we can afford to eat well-enough here.
There’s a lot of things marketed as bread that have too many strange chemical ingredients in them to trust. The soft damp stuff wads into lumps when eaten rather than cracking, tearing and chewing properly.
I’ve also found small jars of our usual French jam. It costs three times as much as it did in France and the label’s in English. But it tastes almost as good.
I’ll start fermenting my kim chi again soon. Other than the soil the Chinese cabbage is grown in, this will be much the same as France. I brought two large French canning jars home. They both made it here in my suitcase.
Homeland security muddled through all our personal papers and old piano books in their efforts to make sure we’re not terrorists. But, this time, they didn’t break my jars.
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Thanks for reading.