Monday, December 29, 2014


    A long lens from Gail and David's captures the panorama of Cayucos and Morro Bay framed by the iconic Morro Rock, Hollister Peak and some of the other "Seven Sisters" peaks that spine the Central Coast toward San Luis Obispo.
      It was one of those spectacular days for a walk along the coast. 
     Hidden away on a quiet cove is a "Chinaman's house," a remnant of local history.
     There was a time when Chinese settlers lived in homes on the shore, often hanging over bluffs.  They harvested and dried kelp for export to China. Historical accounts say George Hearst, father of William Randolph Hearst, forced many of the Chinese to leave by pushing their homes into the sea after he purchased property where they had resided. 
      The current owner has improved the historical building as an isolated get away cabin.
       This stretch of coast offers pristine nature.

  There is a simple joy in an invigorating and mind clearing walk.
     Selfie ops for our eldest Kristin and her fiancĂ© Richard.
  Or a quiet meditation and breather as evidenced by "Ducky," Gail's trusty companion.

Ours that is.
     It was our first Christmas season after being married in April. It was also my first trip to California. We arrived on the 29th or 30th, enough time to get in the swing of the "pickin" New Year's eve party. 
Photo Courtesy of Jim Cahill
On the Strand in Manhattan Beach California

      Setting the Scene:  We were lodged at the above house in Manhattan Beach, occupied by our friend Jim, who shared it with a few other guys. We got a room made empty by the travel of one of the musicians who lived there.

     It was directly on the beach and the sidewalk strand. This Indiana boy had never seen anything like it.  Bicyclists, skateboarders, runners, walkers, roller skaters, people on stilts, hand walkers and more and all in a continual parade.  The beach was a show unto itself.  Volleyball players, Frisbee fliers, boogie boarders, picnickers, and all of this in the glory and full tilt life you'd expect of 1969 California beach life. I was indeed a long way from home Toto!
     Some how we had survived the first day and were in the mode of setting up the house for a party. Jim had given Lana and I an assignment to walk to the grocery and liquor store to pick up a few supplies. We were heading up the hill away from the beach when we were stopped in our tracks by blood curdling screams and then a series of what can best be described as whoops and growls. In a flash, from an alley way came two figures running down the street. Both were nude males, that was obvious. Their identities were not.
     One of the lads was wearing a kind of Tasmanian devil mask and he was the creator of the screams. Behind him and in apparent pursuit was a fellow in a Richard Nixon mask, carrying a kind of spear and offering the war whoops. 
     "New Year's eve in California" I said to Lana who looked entirely confused.      

       It was an era when Jim, and our artist friend C.W. spent hours a day playing. Musicians drifted in and out of the house on the strand, and some of the folks in the neighborhood have gone on to stellar careers and fame. The party was to be a gathering of many of the players from the beach community. The music was indeed wonderful, the crowd was mind boggling and the best I could manage was to sit back, lean against a wall, be amazed and enjoy the whole scene.  
       During the course of the evening we met an older fellow who had done a "little singing and little acting" and said he had been "trying to leave LA" for more than ten years.  He said "it's impossible. You just can't get away." He told us he had "left 25 times" and was "always drawn back."
       Lana and I thought a lot over the years of how we might get to LA, particularly to the beach communities where friends lived.  We visited a couple of times a year for many years, but life's flow did not include a Southern California address. Of course we've all added a few orbits around the sun and many of the crowd have dispersed. Those funky beach communities have gentrified.
     Jim is still a SOCAL resident. He's the guy who opened the door on the Central Coast to us, all of those years ago when we made the first of many trips with him to Big Sur. We stopped for coffee and a snack in a little coastal village named Cambria. The seed was planted, the bait was set, the die was cast. 
     We are closing in on 8 years as Cambria residents. I think I'm like others who sometimes take offense at how quickly it is all passing. There are times when I wish my time machine was in working order, just to go back for a visit. 
Thank God the memory file still works and there are photos that now accuse us of youth but also remind us of how rich  life has been. 
      A variation of the California dream, inspired by that first trip, has come to fruition. We come to the end of the year in a place we consider beautiful, laid back, peaceful, full of creativity, wonderful people, eclecticism and eccentricity. Who knows, those Manhattan Beach revelers in masks could be fellow retirees up here. Another escapade like that might get the locals talking, but then again….

    See you down the trail.


  1. I can not believe it has been 8 years since you relocated. Happy anniversary and happy new year.

  2. Coming up on our 9th California year in March...

    1. Best to you both in your new home in the new year.

  3. Wow, brought back some memories. It has been and continues to be a journey for all. Glad you ended up heading west as I always believed you were more of a west coast guy than a Floridian. As for me, I'm kinda like the guy you mentioned who tried to leave. I took a couple of looks but in the final analysis I'm a southern Californian and am were I want to be and need to be. That said, I'm so proud to be from California. I'm glad that one summer in the late 60s, CW and I, in a VW, with a guitar, banjo and about $300 between us, headed west and landed in that ol' house at 800 Strand, in Manhattan Beach. We Californians take a beating sometimes but I'm used to it. Now, I just kinda smile. The whole state is my state and there's no place I'd rather be. Thanks for posting that bit of our shared history.

  4. I was road-tripping and camping up and down this beautiful state in 1969 and remember wonderful things about Big Sur. Thanks for these reminisces, Tom. By the way, your friend C.W., he wasn't a banjo-playing impressionist, was he?

    1. Actually he is indeed! A virtuoso with both paint brush and banjo.

    2. I guess reading your post on a Monday must have clicked something phonetic in my memory.

  5. Replies
    1. Larry, Happy New Year and continued literary success in 2015.

  6. I've enjoyed your pictures and commentaries this year and look forward to more in 2015. I'm glad you're so happy in your location. It's funny how quickly time passes sometimes; we've been in Portland for 35 years and I often shake my head and wonder about the passing of the years. I think we still have one major move left in us...but where? Maybe the Central California Coast?

    1. Stephen, Thanks for the kind words. In return, I am always fascinated and entertained and frequently informed by the Chatterbox! I've also wondered what you make of the TV series Portlandia? It's one of our favorites, but we aren't sure what Portlandians think about it. Best to you in 2015.