Easter Sunday 2001
Today is one of those kind of days that reminds me of why Southern California is such a wonderful place to live - and why Laguna Beach is quite possibly, one of the most charming little towns on earth. Oh sure, the nouveau-riche are trying to claim it for their own these days. But with the recent catastrophic events in the stock market and the continuing collapse of the dot.com empires, Laguna may well be handed back to its natural inhabitants - the artists, the surfers, the "boys" and the laid back, easy going Southern Californians who've made it what it is and are still trying to hang on there. It doesn't take much to figure out why it's such a wonderful place to live and hang out - today for example, in the middle of April, the temperatures were in the eighties, the sun was warm, the air clear and the ocean a rich and spectacular palette of blues and greens. Paradise could well be defined by Laguna on a day like today.
My sweet, sweet Paige sent her husband off backpacking for the weekend and drove down from San Francisco to spend the Easter weekend here in Southern California. I delayed my traditional Sunday morning in Laguna so that she and I could take a walk on the beach together this afternoon. We stopped for coffee at my favorite little cafe` and then walked across the street and down the steps to the ocean where we ditched our sandals, rolled up our pant legs and took off for a long and leisurely walk on the beach. It seemed like summer, what with all of the people there sunning themselves, building sand castles and strolling along the beach with their shoes dangling from their fingertips.
As we stopped for a moment to talk and look out at the ocean, a seal came bobbing along and we watched as he approached a surfer, not twenty feet from where we were standing. The two of them exchanged some quiet pleasantries, the surfer playfully slapping his board to get the seals attention and the seal swimming up close and nodding his hellos and then moving on. Paige and I discussed the mysteries of the universe and the mysteries of our day to day lives as we walked along the beach and found solutions for just about everything. The ocean seems to do that for you - making everything seem so easy and uncomplicated. It's nice once in awhile to look out over that vast expanse of water and feel that everything is OK, even with Monday morning looming out there somewhere on the horizon.
Later on as we sat in the shade on a deck at the Surf & Sand Resort, looking out over the ocean, a nice-looking young waiter came up to take our order and pulled us off in an entirely different direction. His name was Damian - the patron saint of doctors as he quickly explained to us when I asked him if that was his real name. Paige and I turned to each other and not so subtly said something about the fact that that wasn't exactly what came to mind when we heard the name Damian. "Oh, that's spelled differently," he chided us. "My mom wanted a doctor..." his voice trailing off and leaving us to wonder what his mom got instead of a doctor. Then he mumbled something about having to go up and down the stairs to the beach all day and left with our order for beer, bread and a bloody mary.
I turned to Paige and asked, "What was that all about? That thing about the stairs?" She laughed and before we knew it, Damian had drawn us into his world - a world that now had something to do with his being a supervisor. It paid more money but meant more work and that he liked letting down his guard and being able to talk like he was back east again. "Is that what Paige and I do to people," I thought. "Make them feel like they can talk like they did back east and tell their life stories to strangers?"
As soon as Damian was out of ear-shot, Paige and I began trying to decide which of the two of us he might be interested in. We rehearsed a couple of questions to pose to him when he returned; "Let's say, for the sake of conversation, that you might be interested in one of us Damian. Which one would it be? It's OK, you can be honest - our self-esteem is good." And we proceeded to entertain ourselves at Damian's expense for a good ten or fifteen minutes till he returned with our drinks and bread, at which point he broke into another recitative about his life and times, such as they were on a Sunday afternoon in Laguna.
As we left the hotel about an hour later, we were still trying to figure Damian out. Seems that Paige and I had drawn Damian into our world as surely as he'd pulled us into his. "Maybe he enjoyed being treated like something other than just an anonymous waiter," I said to Paige as we stepped out onto the sidewalk and left Damian behind to deal with all those steps down to the beach. "And maybe people just love it when you actually see them, instead of through them or around them," I thought to myself, remembering how it was when I first met Paige.
She walked into the office on a busy workday afternoon and looked right into my eyes and in a moment, I knew that she had seen me. Maybe every last little part of me. She smiled that radiant smile of hers and by the time she had spoken five or six words to me, I knew that I loved this woman. Her voice had a warm and familiar sound to it and I was certain I had known her before. But in the year that I've known Paige now, I haven't been able to figure out where or how and have finally quit trying. It's more than enough just to have her in my life now, regardless of where our paths might have crossed in the past. Paige is one of those people who sees you when you're talking to her - you know she's listening and she's taking it all in and that quiet "hmmm" of hers at the end of your thought reassures you that her response, if there is one at all, is coming from her heart.
And so it is that Paige was the perfect person, the first person actually, to share my treasured Sunday walk on the beach in Laguna with. As I sit here and think about it now, I know why Damian let down his guard and shared his life with us this afternoon. It was because Paige was sitting there and he couldn't resist her anymore than I'd been able to. I'd like to think that maybe I had something to do with it too. And maybe I did. But probably only because I was hopelessly under Paige's spell. And because it was just such a beautiful day to be flirting with waiters on the beach in Laguna.
From the water's edge...