Before the Fall


Now that I can type with 1.2 hands, and being as it’s too hot to venture outdoors in these Central Texas August middays, I can get back to San Pedro in my imagination – where I really ought to be in this break between summer school and the start of fall semester.

Mary and I opened our visit with lunch at the 22nd Street Landing, because salt air and white wine. Traffic coming out of LAX at noon on a Friday was just as you would imagine, and I always need some sea breeze when I first arrive.

But this post is all about images from a day’s typical walk and the kinds of things that capture our attention.IMG_4953

On my first morning I need to walk down to the ocean to make sure it’s held its place, and not too much of the edge has fallen off. You don’t expect brilliant blue skies on a SoCal morning in June, but rather a rich monochrome that blurs the boundaries of sea and sky and keeps Catalina in memory only. Fine with me: plenty of sun where I live the rest of the year. Down along Paseo Del Mar the scenery is blue and gray. Along one stretch a number of people – some with tripods and impressive telephoto lenses – were waiting to catch a glimpse of young falcons.


We ventured out onto the cliff and peered, but weren’t treated to a falcon sighting. Just thinking about walking so close to an impressive potential fall makes me a little nervous at this point; at this point my hands sweat at the thought of tripping over a kitten while I’m fixing my coffee. But I was whole then and thought nothing of it.

Of course I’m going to waylay Mary up a block and into the Corner Store for pastry and coffee any time I have the chance, and on this visit I did. As many times as I could.


Although the beach store of my childhood was a pale shadow of this one, there’s something very evocative to me about a little shop full of salt breezes, old-fashioned candies, and the murmur of voices that seem to have been present for decades. It often happens that someone or some group will be performing music. Local bike clubs stop by mid-ride. People know each other by name.


This year I paid some attention to an entire wall of jewel-colored beverages. On one walk Mary and I selected icy bottles of lemonade to keep us hydrated on the trek home. One day maybe I’ll try sarsaparilla, a non-alcoholic beverage that somehow seems too potent to drink during the day.

Outside, just past the umbrellaed tables and chairs that seem to tilt precariously on the sidewalk, there’s a good sized take-one-bring-one library.


It’s one of my favorite things about vacationing in a very familiar place: that sense that you can do exactly what you want to do, at your own pace, for as long as you care to do it. Take your time. Drink a coffee, eat a bear claw piece by piece, pick out a detective novel.

Next to the Corner Store is a little shop that I’d never seen open until this year. Of course we had to venture in; it was a small space with about a dozen tiny corners in which an array of objects had been placed as if to tell a story – to be interpreted by the visitor.


It didn’t occur to me until I was sorting these photos that browsing shops like this one brings me back to a childhood in which attics and basements were our playscapes in rough weather. Since we lived in a neighborhood of old houses, there were countless fascinating things to discover and to evaluate according to whatever imaginary world we decided to occupy that afternoon. Would we need dresses, lamps, picture frames, perfume bottles, dance costumes?

Some of the treasures I found in our attic are with me today. So browsing through old things is a very relaxing experience: there’s nothing I need or even much want to buy. What matters is that every object has a story; every object was once chosen, possessed, treasured by someone. Mary and I can wander such places for hours, bringing this piece or that to one another’s attention.

How do a person’s treasures end up in a tiny, artful space between a neighborhood store and an old diving shop?




Shutter Speed of 1/60

I’m not sure how I feel about my “possessions.” I’m at a point in life at which I like to think of my kids and grandkids picking out some things they’d like to have; many days I daydream that as soon as they’ve driven off with everything they want, an estate sale outfit would come in and sell everything they can the following weekend. After a while, people who picked things up at the sale would wonder what the heck they ever saw in that vase or knick-knack or frying pan, and put them in their next garage sale, or out at the curb for the next bulk pick-up.

Late one afternoon I decided I hadn’t had enough walking, so I set out vaguely uphill along streets that zig-zag upward and intersect in various forms of the letter Y. As I walked the June air cooled in a very distinctive way. Sure enough, the marine layer was coming in for a landing. I walked straight up to the park, hoping there would be some light left by the time I got up there.




The marine layer in June is a cool blanket pulling itself over the landscape, settling down over everything for the next fifteen or twenty hours, creating a kind of enormous cave that can cause the blast of a ship’s horns to blow through the house as if it had taken a wrong turn and come right up 13th Street.


Like someone’s lost possessions in a dusty shop, it’s haunting and a comfort, all in one.





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