I’d been searching for a perch, a roost, a place to sit and watch activity on the beach and its environs ever since the parking lots in town closed down, and I finally found one at the north end of Studio Drive overlooking the beach from above a steep incline of ice plants.
It’s windy season. And on the first warmish, very blustery clear Sunday afternoon in weeks, I secured a spot along the ice plants facing north, turned off the engine, put on some Motown, reclined my seat, and began watching.
Many years ago on a vacation to Lake Tahoe, my parents left my sister with a babysitter in a motor court and dragged me along to the casino when I insisted on going. When they prepared to leave me on my own while going in to watch comedian Milton Berle, I asked my mother, “What am I supposed to do?”
“Go sit over there in the lobby,” she said, “or walk around, and watch the people. You should never be bored as long as there are people to watch and think about. People watching can be the best entertainment once you train yourself to watch and see.”
I was 12, and this was my start.
So, on this Sunday, I observed a couple who had parked their medium-sized RV a couple cars up from me (There was hardly a car space remaining along this strip.) and brought out high-end reclining chairs, a small cooler. and sat side-by-side nibbling sandwiches and drinking wine from stemmed glasses.
They had California plates. Were they local or traveling? Were they doing what I was doing—escaping their confinement and killing time the best way they knew how? They were possibly late 50s or early 60s, and dressed in hoodies to ward off the wind, and sun hats to protect their facial skin. They were probably retired, which meant they had succeeded at some job or profession, and were well-off considering their RV was new and a top brand with all the accouterments, including recumbent mountain bikes attached to the rear.
Those who could not fit in along the strip, parked on patches of dirt on the other side of the road: SUVs, a van, a red four-door Toyota Prius.
From two vans, young people popped out, followed by dogs. No Goldens, Labs or pedigrees. All mutts weighing between 25 and 40 pounds; definitely pound dogs, rescues, happy, bouncing around, ready to go. The people who had adopted them seemed to be the kind who look out for those less blessed than they, and possibly work in social services.
Down on the beach, quite a ways away, a couple on side-by-side blankets partook in yoga in a near synchronized rhythm, as if copying one another. They wore the kind of scanty but baggy clothing I recall during my 3 1/2 years of going to morning yoga classes, where I felt somewhat out of place among the gentlest, most spiritual, nonjudgmental, sensitive to others, and creatively iconoclastic people I’d ever come across.
I quit yoga class because the physical duress of the second half of the poses were destroying my right hip, and these days I indulge in my own 25-minute morning routine learned from Tim Costa, my nurturing, patient and compassionate instructor.
Watching the couple execute a difficult variation of downward dog that involved exceptional strength, flexibility and balance, which I could never accomplish, I said to myself, “They’re the ones who drive that red Prius. Most of the people who took yoga drove cars designed to stifle pollution. Yoga people care about fellow man and the future of the planet, and are unfailingly considerate and mature, and so civilized they will not admit to hating Trump.
I had to hold my tongue during happy talk before yoga sessions and refrain from spewing occasional hatred at a number of targets. And Tim, extremely perceptive, often glanced in my direction when a particular heated subject arose, and shook his head at me slightly like the knowing guru he is, and I always nodded back, behaving myself.
Thank you, Tim.
Meanwhile, a bearded man — perhaps 35 — and a woman of the same age, both heavily bundled and wearing ball caps, returned from a walk on the beach; stashed two average sized mutts a piece in each of their compact sedans and carried on what appeared to be a serious conversation I wished I could have listened in on. They seemed like such nice people, their faces beaming benevolent expressions as they talked in a rather earnest manner, often gesturing.
I guess they were friends, perhaps worked together and walked dogs together but were not a couple, a good thing these days. The conversation went on and on, gaining in intensity, as if both had much to get off their minds.
A few cars up, two pairs of healthy young men were changing into wetsuits after dragging out their kite surfing gear and laying it on the ice plants. No lock-down was going to forbid them from pursuing their passions with palpable excitement.
A middle-aged couple in wide brimmed sun hats trudged up a path among the ice plants, the man leading the lady by her hand, and approached a smallish SUV parked on the dirt path.
Down on the beach, a pack of seven dogs chased each other around while masters tried vainly to corral them.
My yoga friends were drawing down, and I was surprised the larger man was as limber as his girlfriend.
I counted 11 kites flipping and flapping around in the ocean, avoiding collision, with a lurch here, a lurch there.
The two young people with four dogs finally parted after a platonic hug and drove off, and a long pickup with camper shell moved in, and two kite surfers got out to observe the ocean before preparing to hit the surf.
The windblown couple in their recliners were pouring more wine.
Folks trudged up from the beach among the ice plants and moved carefully down.
The yoga couple, after completing their hour-long session with a five-minute utterly motionless Savasana on their backs, rose and began collecting their blankets.
The wine-drinking couple from the RV were now more animated than ever as they talked and laughed, and it occurred to me they were a couple, who, for decades, enjoyed boozing it up a little and then going home and jumping into the sack, even after all these years.
Or, perhaps, they had recently met as divorcees or widows and widowers, and were relishing a second romance.
The yoga couple trekked up the ice plants without seeming to have any conversation, and I realized as they emerged on the road that the person whom I thought was a man was instead a woman with a tight man’s haircut. As she headed along with her partner toward the Prius, her face held an expression that said, with conviction, “Don’t hand me a bunch of bullshit!”
They slipped into the Prius after tossing blankets into the back. The big gal took shotgun as they drove off.
It was time to go. I’d been at my new perch for two hours, and listened to Marvin Gaye, the Stylistics and Amy Winehouse. I was totally entertained and stimulated and somehow my spirits, downcast from confinement, were lifted.