The next morning I woke up before my hostess and walked through the house to look outside. The sight of the big fan palms was so unreal that I had to go outside and take a look. The grass was the same springy type that  the institute had growing there and I walked across it in a haze. There were also holes all through the lawn that I later learned were gopher holes. I mean, yeah, she might be annoyed by them, but they were GOPHER holes. Not chipmunk holes, not rabbit, not groundhog, not God-only-knows-what-lives-there-but-don’t-step-in-it holes, but GOPHER holes. I had walked into Caddyshack country.

I walked over to the big fan palm and touched it. The leaves were stiff, almost like the leaves of a pineapple plant, and I ran my finger across them wonderingly. The bark was also weird with triangular scales that were hard and sharp to the touch. One apparently does not climb palm trees to escape bears. Score one for deciduous trees. There was also an orange tree bearing some limp fruit, and a few other plants that looked familiar, but weren’t really. The canyon country around me looked oddly out of place, but that was probably just me.

Back inside the house, I found that my hostess had woken and we chatted quietly over coffee about her job and my job. It is odd that I run into teachers where ever I go. (We just stayed at another AIR B&B listing this past weekend in Amherst, MA and it turns out that not only is she a music teacher, but she is studying to be a reading teacher as well.) We talked about the conference and I asked her about the weird grass. apparently it is drought resistant and very tough, to the resilient bouncing is normal for that type. I told her how odd it was for me to see palm trees and hibiscus trees just growing outside.  She traveled a lot and said that she could see where I was coming from.

It’s a little messy, (my fault) but it was home.

After coffee revived me sufficiently to drive, I got back on the highway and drove the easy way back to Pacifica for breakfast. I ended up parking way up the hill by a weird abandoned storage outbuilding that had no roof and looked like a scene from a horror movie. I walked down through the nice overhanging trees, crunching their leaves underfoot. It was weird to see trees in full foliage but still have leaves on the ground. Apparently these trees (California Live Oaks) are intermittently shedding and growing their leaves all the time. I passed through the amazing garden of flowers and fig trees, and made it to breakfast.

Again I sat with Jeffery and he commented that we seemed to be dressing alike. Yesterday had been the blue day, apparently, and today was the red day. I told him that tomorrow would be purple, and he laughed, saying that we must be on the same wavelength. The food was again beyond compare. No runny eggs and cold sausages here! Gourmet sausages and eggs scrambled with cheese and bacon. Fresh orange juice. Coffee. I had died and gone to food heaven. Not that my life is about food, but I have been to some conferences where the food is godawful, and it makes a difference.

After breakfast, Jeffery went to a discussion and I went…to the beach! I had planned to go to the Pacific ocean sometime during the events that weekend and the only time that there wasn’t a class I was dying to go to was Saturday morning.I went back to the horror movie set and peeked inside. No one. I looked around for camera. Nothing. Grabbing my bathing suit, I dashed inside and began to change. No one came near except a very nosy hummingbird who flew down, gave me a skeptical look, and buzzed back up into the trees. Apparently, I was not a threat in my partially clad state!

Properly attired, I followed my nose back to the highway and into Carpenteria. Following the signs to the state beach, I found that to park cost $10, something I did not have with me in cash. The attendant was great, however, and pointed through the park to a little area of parking, mentioning that it was early enough that I could probably find a free spot. I did and soon was dipping my toes into the surf. The water was a little rough, however, so I did not go swimming much; I made maybe three strokes to satisfy the conventions of swimming and then just waded in the water for a while. It was cold, much like New Hampshire in August, and I was surprised. By the way, the seagulls looked mostly familiar, but the giant brown pelicans flying low overhead really did not.

I got out and rinsed off at a public spray post (we have those at Hampton, so it wasn’t a shock to see them), and it was as I was toweling off that I saw the sign. I was alternately amused and horrified at the sign. It was the kind of sign that does nothing for the confidence of the viewer and makes one wonder how much good it would actually do.

Honesty, this made me giggle, but also made me think twice about my attendance at the beach that morning. Talk about taking your life into your own hands.

My return to the institute was marked only by the fact that no one at McDonalds gave me a second glance as I dripped my way into the bathroom to change. They probably see sodden tourists all the time. The rest of the day was marked with wonderful sessions, a fantastic lunch, and more wonderful sessions, including one discussion on the Tower as an icon that appears throughout history in fiction like LOTR and in fact like 911, and a great talk about manhood rituals. It was a lot like a New Age conference, but more collegial and less flaky.

Dinner time rolled around. Jeffery and I talked again about the local community and the one here in NH. I got a really good impression about  what things were really like and how different the attitudes were. It was amazing. New Hampshire, while not outwardly adverse to the community, more or less turns a blind eye to it. California seems a bit more open, not to mention it does not get cold and rarely rains.

By about 9:00 PST (which is 12:00 our time!), I had had it. I bid Jeffery adieu and started to head back to Ojai the way I had been going. It was a full moon, and I was suddenly wide awake. Without much time to choose, I took the alternate route, the one I was told not to take at night, through the canyon by Lake Casitas. The lake is a man-made lake that winds through the bottom of the canyon and the road snakes along its shore in a very dramatic way.

It was then, in the darkness of the canyon road where there are no streetlights and no houses, that I found out that my high beams would not stay on without me holding the lever. Great car, no high beams. I also discovered to my dismay that the local traffic does not find the lack of streetlamps to be a speed deterrent. So there I was with one hand on the wheel, one hand on the lever, and a bunch of raving lunatics flying by me at every turn. These are not the gentle turns of New Hampshire. Take the hairpin turn out by North Adams, MA, remove the guardrail, and have two of those back to back over the edge of a precipice that leads straight down to rocks and a lake. Add several maniacs determined to take them at speed and bad lighting. That was the ride around the Lake Casitas. It was awesome.

It did become less awesome some time later when I made the wrong turn. It was like cute blue worm scene in Labyrinth.

Cor, if she’d gone right, she’d have gone straight to her lodging.

I went left, but had I gone right I would have been at the house within five minutes. Instead, I drove through the lovely town of Ojai and out the other side, driving back into more canyons and eventually stopping at the Thomas Aquinus College to ask a very confused college freshman for directions some ten miles past where I should have tuned. Never say my life is boring.

I did make it back, about an hour and some more wicked hairpin turns later. It was now 10:00 PM (1:00 AM my brain insisted), and I finally turned in for bed. I slept soundly, and nothing bothered me until daybreak.

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