Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Matter of Memory

A simple man believes anything, but a prudent man gives thought to his steps.
Proverbs 14:15

I have been in need of laughter. With the recent loss of one friend to breast cancer and a diagnosis of breast cancer in another very dear to me, my perspective had become somewhat skewed and slightly darkened. While opening my heart to renewed faith and gratitude has been a restorative, so too has been memory. In the spirit of Hebrews 12:12-13, I want to tell you a funny story. I think my family and friends would agree that my best laughs are usually those that I tell on myself.
Santa Barbara Coastline
It’s disappointing when someone or something doesn’t live up to promised expectations. But it's a double dip doozey when the let down is one's own fault. Like when you know a sales pitch is too good to be true but you buy it anyway. Or, in my case, believing the hype about a vacation destination because I wanted to believe it and didn’t take the time to do some reasonable double checking.
That being said, some of our best laughs occurred that particular week. My photos could remind me of things that might have made us angry and probably would any sane person. Instead, they serve to make us laugh all over again. I suppose it’s how we remember. Or what we remember.
It began one evening as I was reading a website about an “idyllic tiny seaside community” not far from Santa Barbara that boasted vacation homes where one could "sit and gaze out at the blue Pacific Ocean right from their own front porch." I was a goner.
"Just what we need," I told my husband.
"Sounds great," he replied. 
My mistake compounded by his. (Hey, you didn't think I was going to take the blame for this alone, did you?)
The article continued, "This little bit of paradise is fast becoming popular as a place to own a second home." Of course what I was reading was the website belonging to said tiny-bit-of-paradise, but never mind. I found a perfect house to rent for a few days and had two or three chats with the owner who sounded first-rate.
"You'll love the house and the community," he said. "The house sits right across the street from the beach. It’s a very short walk."
We mailed the payment and before one could coo "The Pigeons Cometh" we packed our bags and were off.
(I've decided to not name said "little bit of paradise" because my goal isn't to do a hit piece on the place. After all, some people do call it home. Rather, the joke, so to speak, was on us and our willingness to believe what I had read without verifying.)
Having passed through some of the loveliest coastline scenery imaginable, we couldn't wait to pull into our "tiny idyllic seaside community." As we took our exit from The 101, we were somewhat confused and greatly surprised by the sign greeting our arrival:

Yes, we discovered that our rental was in the "hazard area" and yes, we drove on in, entering at our "own risk." Why, one might ask, did we not make an immediate U turn and head back to nearby Santa Barbara or any one of the truly idyllic seaside towns nearby? I can't answer that except to say that pigeons sometimes work really hard at their pigeonness and it remains a mystery to this day why they abide double dip doozers.
We unpacked and decided to explore. That's when we felt the next jolt in our geologic hazard idyll. What had been referred to as the “street” separating our community and house from the ocean was actually the freeway. What had looked to us like empty beach in the photos that we saw of the house had cars and trucks zooming by at 65+ miles per hour!
"How is one to cross The 101 to get to the beach?” I inquired of the long-distance owner. Using my best cranky-but-want-to-remain-reasonable-pigeon voice, "Do you expect us to head north on the freeway to the next town and just suddenly turn south?!”
“Oh, no problem,” he said. “Keep walking on down the lane from the house and you will see a little tunnel that will take you underneath it.” His voice was crackling over my cell phone. Surely I didn't hear him right.

“A ‘little tunnel’?" I croaked. "A ‘little tunnel’ UNDERNEATH the freeway? Is it safe?!”
“Oh yes, quite safe.” I swear I could hear him grin. “You might have to stoop over a little bit but it will be worth it.”

Somehow, it didn’t seem worth it.
We came back from our walk thinking we might fix dinner and eat on the deck hoping to enjoy what little bit of nice beach view that we did have:

But traffic had a way of blocking the waves:

Union Pacific shared our street

The writer of the website claimed that “for privacy and peace and quiet, nothing beats (the unnamed tiny seaside community) as a vacation retreat.”  He must not have known that Amtrak's trains run right through. 

Amtrak shared our view

I just loved all the waving from the Observation Car as it clickety-clacked by. We could have handed up turkey sandwiches.

But never mind. The house did not shift under our feet, it was clean and furnished with a very comfortable bed; we enjoyed wonderful visits with great friends; the sunsets were truly magnificent and we consumed way too much delicious food in other truly idyllic seaside towns. 

Pigeons or not, a double dip doozey doesn’t have to be the end of the world—and we are still laughing. It’s a matter of memory.

Typical sunset from our idyllic tiny seaside community