I tend to make plans to attend social functions, only to back out at the last minute because I’m tired/preoccupied/lazy/old/whatever. When I moved into the van, I hoped and fantasized that it would force me to be more social, to not use the excuse of distance and geography to back out of things. But old habits die hard, and I opted to not attend a party I’d been kinda looking forward to for a couple of weeks. The upside to this decision was that I ended up spending some time with some very dear friends I don’t see nearly often enough. We spent the afternoon together catching up and making each other laugh. I gave them the now oft-repeated update on how my life in the van is, but I don’t mind. It’s part of the package, and people seem to be genuinely interested and excited for me.
I drove south after a dinner in town, heading to West Sonoma County to connect with my bestie and his family. I arrived late, but we still got a great visit in before we had to drag our tired old bodies into our respective beds and crash out. I did have to wonder if I’d missed out on something really fun by bailing on the party, but I ended up on the doorstep of some of the people I love most in the world, and that’s never a bad thing.
Woke early this morning and the two of us took a walk around the loop, which is a couple-mile-long walking route around his neighborhood in rural West County. We start down a curving paved road then up a narrow dirt one, then cutting through an organic farm situated on top of a majestic hill before dropping into the newly planted lemon orchards (that used to be ancient apple orchards) that surround his house. Our talks are always enjoyable, covering as many aspects of our lives as possible in the short amount of time we spend together. Back at the house, he left for work and I got to hang with his kids and wife for a while, catching up on their lives and getting the latest news. This family and I go way, way back… one of a handful of friendships that have continued on for over 20 years. We’ve watched each other’s kids grow, shared deep and intimate moments of our lives, counseled each other, consoled each other, supported each other, and had many, many joyous times together. I cherish them and my time with them deeply.
I shoved off from their place mid-morning and made my way out to the coast and headed south, through Bodega and the little town of Tomales, past Point Reyes Station and around the bay through Inverness towards Tomales Bay State Park. I stopped at the Life-saving Service Cemetery, situated on a hill surrounded by a grove of eucalyptus trees. The trees were alive with a riot of chirping birds, who gradually quieted as I walked closer, and resumed their racket once I’d left the grove. I walked among the small cluster of refurbished headstones, marking the graves of men who died while serving as rescuers at Point Reyes in the 1890s.
Just inside the State Park I parked just off the main road, a perfect flat spot on the bluffs overlooking the coast. I cooked myself some lunch, walked the hills making a few photos, and enjoyed the coastal breeze and sunshine for a couple of hours. I sat listening to the squawking calls of the crows and sporadic bird chirps drifting through the quiet afternoon. I spotted a hawk, swooping and stalling in the air as it scanned the ground for another furry meal. I drank the silence in when it came. I imagined how it might’ve been before the European invaders landed on these shores, when there was nothing but land and time out of time, and the human visitors were few and they themselves were only a small part of the timeless cycles of life and death.
I eventually headed south again, past Bolinas and up through the Mount Tamalpias State Park which was choked with cars and bicyclists and tour buses and hikers. As I dipped down into the hills outside Mill Valley, I marveled at the modest but stylish homes that lined the ridges, their picture windows doubtlessly framing a vast and expansive view of the forest below that stretches to the coast. I imagined those places were once homes to hippies and other outlanders back in the day. Who knows who lived there before them, or if there were even houses there. And what did those early residents pay for those houses, either in rent or the cost for raw land on which to build? I’m sure it was a pittance compared to their inflated worth now, which guarantees inaccessibility to the working class of this golden state in this era of tech zombies and the carpetbagging neuvo riche. Lord knows I’ll never live there, unless fortune falls into my lap or a technological apocalypse levels the playing field a bit.
Final stop was San Francisco, this being the first time I’ve driven the van into the city to visit my girlfriend. The van did NOT like the steep hills and Sunday traffic, though it did its best. I opted to park in a nicer neighborhood to leave it overnight and got a ride from her back to her apartment in a, uh… less nice part of town. We’ll have to figure this one out a bit better as time goes on, but I have no doubt we will.