| 2:30 PM local time, Monday, May 26 (2130 May 26 UTC) 32 42 N 117 14 W. Temp. 71, Humidity 69%, Cloud Cover 70%. At the public dock on Shelter Island, San Diego, California.
Greetings from the crew of Maverick.
Upon reaching shore for the first time in America I guess I forgot to kiss the soil, which in any case may not have presented a pretty picture to the strangers strolling along the waterfront. Instead, I found myself among them, looking out at the sailboats on San Diego Bay, where I took my first sailboat ride back in the fifties. As I walked, I saw a boat from our marina back in the Bay Area, "Radio Flyer," on a mooring and looking neglected. The San Diego Yacht Club's "Stars and Stripes" was towed out to do some practicing or fund raising or whatever they do on that boat. Without being conscious of it, I had a big grin on my face from just being happy to be back, and I was saying hello to everyone who walked by. It took about a half hour for me to realize I was scaring people.
I went into a bar and restaurant that used to be the Kona Kai Yacht Club where I had played many gigs as a kid. Nothing seemed familiar so I went a little further to Humphrey's, a bar that features a lot of music, and saw familiar names like Taj Mahal and Maria Muldaur on the playbill. I went to the bar and ordered a gin and tonic and then sat at a dockside table and engaged in a few meditations. Before long a waitress came by, startling me out of my reverie, and asked if I needed another drink. I looked up and momentarily mistook her for the woman doing the bartending. I was about to say, "Oh, it's you!" with the same kind of unnerving giddiness that my mind had locked into since putting my feet ashore, due to a non-drug-induced, and therefore in some peculiar way natural, chemical imbalance. But halfway through saying it, I realized that it wasn't the same woman at all and, improvising rapidly on the fly, my brain searched for an alternative. In mid-stride, right after the "it's" and quicker than the beat of a gnat's wing I changed my greeting to "Oh, it's ME!" The fact that the grin had not left my face could not have but added to the picture that this perky young thing beheld of a small bearded man with the look of a manic homeless person who had just ecstatically succeeded in identifying himself. The problem for me now being, how to recover from such a statement, so in vain I searched for a remark to regain my small portion of dignity. Should I have said, "Oh, I didn't really mean it was ME, I mean it was YOU, but actually I had you mixed up with someone else!" Would that have made her feel a little more comfortable?
Soon I was joined by Don Lovas, my oldest friend and the guitar player in the earliest bands I was in. I stayed at his house a couple of nights and marvelled at his high-speed internet and digital cable TV. We don't usually talk about old times but rather are still trying to figure out how things work in the here and now. He reminded me that we've gotten to the age where "the choo-choo is getting closer to the cliff." I talked for a long time with Tanya, who is every bit the super-fox that her mother is. Tanya's mother is Sandi, Don's ex-wife and the girl singer, cuz that's what we called them, of Sandi and the Accents, the most popular band in San Diego in the mid-sixties. Tanya is now the wife of Mike and mother of Tristan, and is considerably older than her mother was when the band broke up.
When Don was returning me to the boat Sunday morning, the car broke down. In the next five minutes, two motorists and a cop had stopped to offer assistance. Don called a tow truck on his cell phone and a man rode by on a bicycle and asked if we were OK. When we said we thought we had it under control, he shouted encouragement as he road away. When people return from travel abroad and tell you the people were friendly there, don't forget that they're not so bad here either.
Then last night I had dinner with Ship's Stateside Medical Officer Frank Mannix who had ironically flown to San Francisco to visit his son the day we came into port, but now was back. We dined at the Bali Hai, where my father used to take the family out to dinner forty-odd years ago. It is just as I remember it, except it turns out that the staff, who were grown-ups back then, are now just kids. It crossed my mind that Mr. Shrode and I had, about two years ago, anchored in French Polynesia near the Bali Hai of the movie "South Pacific," that this restaurant was named after. I wanted Frank to give me a list of all his exalted accomplishments (among other things he is Professor of Emergency Medicine at the University of California) so I could pass them on to you folks, but he said, "Just tell them I'm your old bass player." Frank played bass and was the leader of Sandi and the Accents. If Frank is as good a doctor as he is a bass player, and I'm sure he wouldn't have it any other way, our medical advice was as good as it gets.
His son, who just graduated from Stanford and is now working 80-90 hours a week at a bank with a view to going to Stanford Business School, is in a quandary about whether to continue on this path or to pursue a professional golfing career. (Tiger Woods, you'll remember, also went to Stanford.) In my day, it occurred to me that most fathers would have said, "I put you through four years of Stanford, and I'm damned if I'm going to see you throw that away." But Frank said he wasn't sure he could offer his son much clear advice, except that if he tried the golf and it didn't work out, he could no doubt still return to business school, whereas if he forced himself to do something he didn't want to do rather than what excited him, the lesson he might learn may be how to not follow his heart.
It's Memorial Day today, which was originally a day proposed in the southern United States to commemorate, in reconciliation, the dead soldiers of both the Union and Confederate Armies, and now of course the remembrance is extended to the dead among US soldiers of all wars. Mr. Shrode has just returned from a grocery story in America where everything you want can be found. It's a good day to be home.
We still plan to be in Santa Barbara next weekend and will probably have the boat open from about 9:00 to 12:00 on Saturday morning the 31st in a slip in the harbor. We'll email you further details.