The other evening, in the greyish-blue twilight, we escaped from home and drove a couple brief miles to the old part of town. We parked my car along the waterfront, drifted over to a bench built for two, and we snuggled in. The heat of the day still lingered heavily in the air, yet the fresh, cool breezes off the bay and the anticipation of watching the sun dip dramatically below the horizon made us disregard that heat.
I detected that the breeze and the lateness of the day made the usually bluish-green hue of the choppy water turn blackish. As I stared at one particular spot in front of me, it didn’t really look like water. Instead, it appeared to be undulating tar. The more I stared at the water, the more it became black, the more it looked like tar, the more it undulated.
We got up, held hands, and wandered in a westerly direction along the railing next to the bay. Pelicans inaudibly flew overhead and over the bay – not one stopping on the lawn or sidewalk to plead for a nosh, as they usually do. Instead, that night they were making a beeline for the ships in the harbor. Perhaps dinner was a guarantee there.
A large, fat gull was sitting on the railing facing the sunset, long enough for us to admire his feathery goodness. With a stretch of his wings and a push off the railing he was out over the water, but not before I could snap a picture of him.
In the distance, a lone sailboat bounced in the bay.
Serenity prospered and offered to all who would take it, the pacific beauty in an otherwise insanely troubled world.
Tuesday mornings are ideal for a serene walk around the still-sleeping town, hours before the sidewalks and streets fill up with the din of cars, buses, and crowds, and well before the sun fully awakens.
One of the quirky things about this house I am renting is that every time I come home from work, I must play that garage door opener like a castanet – click, click, click, clickety-click, click, click, click.
All right, maybe that is not so funny to the average reader, but I know you are NOT an average reader. You have a good imagination and an inquisitiveness that just won’t stop. Well, at least I do.
There I am, sitting in the car in the driveway, in front of the closed garage door. I reach for the door opener. I aim it towards the solid part of the door. Click click.
I move it in the direction of the little windows. Click, click, click, click.
Again, nothing. I aim it towards the middle of the door. Clickety-clickety.
Nothing once more.
I aim it at the upper windows of the garage door. Click.
Now run this scenario quickly in your mind. Add a little finesse in the wrist movement, hear me say, “What the heck?” about seven times, and “Ugh” about fifty.
One thing I am learning about living here in this part of the country is that everything moves in its own time.
Last night, on the spur of the moment, my date and I drove downtown to the community theater to see the play, “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.”
What an experience.
The production was dreadful. Not only did the leading lady sing off-key, but the actors’ performance was also appalling. It was high school talent at best, and I overheard fellow patrons express their disappointment at the performance and the hot stuffiness of the theater. It seemed that the air conditioning was turned on only for the adjoining café. Perhaps this was a cunning move on the theater’s part: Leave the air off in the theater so that patrons can buy cold drinks in the café during intermission. It makes good business sense, upon which I am sure they capitalized, because the line in the café at intermission was long, and it snaked out the door.
So we left the theater at intermission, as did many others.
We walked the sidewalks around the playhouse. We discovered tiny frogs that climbed the walls of the Cultural Center. We walked the side streets and main streets, enjoying the old historic neighborhood and its long-standing houses. We even walked up the stairs of an old historic house, which is now a museum. We peeked in every window until we saw a mass of brown fluffiness by a door. Was it a dog? Was it a raccoon? Was it a pile of towels? We didn’t get close enough to find out.
We continued walking the streets. There was a wedding celebration at a restaurant We listened to an Elvis impersonator from the sidewalk. There was an early 1950s Packard automobile parked on the parkway teasing me with its still mysterious story.
We found ourselves in an ice cream parlor and had icy lime coconut gelatos. The parlor still had the shadows of the old house it once was: tall baseboards, wide trim, and plaster walls. Barely visible were the ghosts of walls where once were bedrooms and the like.
As we continued down deserted sidewalks, we marveled at the clear night and the quarter moon. It was late – practically midnight – and we returned home, ready to face another adventure as it would present itself, knowing that a dirty rotten play could turn into an evening of silver and gold.
Slept in this morning – 8 o’clock! Well, my day is shot. Ha ha. Took a shower, had a quick breakfast of buttered toast and Earl Grey tea, then we were out the door. I didn’t bother to take my jacket since the temperature would hit the low 80s. My sweatshirt would be enough.
We drove out about 7 miles northwest to the Apacheland Movie Ranch in Apache Junction, by the Superstition Mountains. What struck me the most here were the massive mountains – let me say: Oh! The colors! Violet-brown with touches of orange-red, the dry land, and the menacing greyish-green Saguaro and Prickly Pear cacti. Jeanne complained she overdressed and was “too hot.” We stayed for a few hours, casually walking around the buildings and taking in the fresh air. I noticed some corralled horses, so we wandered over to a thin, weather-worn man wearing a lopsided cowboy hat who took care of the “for hire” horses. We talked awhile about Apacheland while I petted a gentle roan. I found out that this is where the television shows “Death Valley Days”, “The Rifleman,” “Gunsmoke,” “Wagon Train,” and “Have Gun Will Travel” were filmed. And – get this – the Elvis Presley’s movie, “Charro!,” was also filmed here. The white wooden chapel in the movie was here, too. (I don’t know for sure, but I took his word for it.) Alas, we didn’t horseback ride today but resolved to do that another time.
Before returning home, we stopped and had lunch at Superstition Skies restaurant. The BBQ beef sandwich and baked potato were good and hot, just right for a hungry appetite after all that fresh air and walking.
We returned to Gold Canyon, there was time before the next activity, so I decided to climb the cacti-covered hill behind the house. It was still warm enough to go out without a jacket; my sweatshirt and jeans were enough. I heeded Jeanne’s warning to make sure I didn’t step on a cactus because they are dangerous with their spiky needles. The hill was steep, but not enough to deter me. A couple of times I slipped slightly on the gravelly dirt and watched carefully for cactus. Evidently, I didn’t watch that carefully, because near the top of the hill, one of the short and nefarious cacti bit me. The nerve! Its needle pierced my left boot and stuck ever so slightly into the side at the arch of my foot. It stung and hurt terribly. I carefully stooped down, then found a nearby rock to sit on. I grasped the needle with my left thumb and forefinger and pulled it straight out. Yes, it hurt, even after I removed it. I rested awhile, then I put my boot back on and limped a few more feet to the top of the hill. I took in the scenery for miles around, then hobbled back down the hill and to the house. Once there, I took off my boot and sock to see the damage. The spot on my skin was red and a little puffy; I soaked it in Epsom salts and put some Bactine on it. By the time I went to bed, it was getting better, and I didn’t limp anymore. I really don’t know how that needle got into me, since I was very cautious. Who knows?
Anyway, Tim and Vicky came by around 5 o’clock. They are a very talkative couple; mostly him. Very. Like an endless loop on a tape recorder. They brought a couple bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon, and before we knew it, the five of us were on the patio grilling steaks and imbibing. Orrie lit the piñon pine in the chiminea and the aroma mixed well with the grilling beef and asparagus. I had an extra helping of asparagus with my perfectly done rare steak. A second glass of red was my limit, and we talked and talked until it got too chilly to stay outside. We decided the five of us are going to Tucson and Pima tomorrow.
The neighborhood is a strange place, with a strange atmosphere and even stranger people.
It is enjoyable to sit in the plaza on some afternoons and early evenings and watch the comings-and-goings of the hoi-polloi and hoity-toity whist drinking a hot coffee. This neighborhood is one of the most curiously interesting in the area.
There is the group of chubby women, giggling and bouncing to the pool for water aerobics, darkly tanned, save for their pitted and pasty white legs.
A group of neighbors sit at one table in the screened in patio, laughing and yukking it up, slinging profanities, and ordering another round of drinks.
The men’s softball club comes rolling in their golf carts, whereby nine men file into the diner one by one, hollering and shooting shots, eager to make their grand entrance.
Near dinnertime, the decorated and sports-themed golf carts arrive, one by one. Alighting from them are the bleached blonde women with alligator skin and too much Mark Kay make up. With them are the men, beer belly dripping over their stretch belts, checkered shorts, and heavily perfumed with Canoe or Stetson.
There will be the occasional single woman, poured into stretch pants and her cleavage popping out.
And when one walks into the diner itself, all eyes turn to judge the newcomer, followed by whispers and glares.
These are the people who are the keyboard commandos when they are home, sniping at each other, calling names, deriding one and all. They are the ones who always have some gripe, whether it be the security gate, who uses what profiled picture on social media, complaining about this and that, going in circles and never resolving anything. They will criticize neighbors’ names, not knowing that the names are real, in a sense.
Without much forward and extroverted interaction with the public, I go about my business, being the quiet and unobtrusive type of person.
Last week, I was at the grocers with my companion, minding my own business. Whilst we stood in line to pay for our goods, what a surprise to me when a woman, sitting in a motorized cart, creeped up and tapped me on the arm.
Startled, I took a half step back, thinking she needed to get past me in the checkout line.
She touched my arm, then spoke.
“No, no,” she smiled. “Don’t go. I just wanted to say to you how nice you look. It’s so refreshing to see someone actually dress up these days. You look so nice. And your companion, too. You both look good together.”
I relaxed and smiled back at her. “Thank you. It’s so nice of you to say that. It’s nice that there are a few friendly people left in this world.”
She laughed. “Oh, there are a few left!” And she zipped away on her motorized cart. I watched as she happily went on her merry way, her grey-white hair neatly coiffed, blouse and pants pressed, and her black shoes polished.
How refreshing that encounter was! It makes up for the rudeness and short tempers that seem to have festered over the world in the past eighteen months, during this, the longest flu season in history.