One night this week I went to Dana Point to say goodbye.
This is a harbor town about an hour south of our office. The Mercy redemptive gift makes it wonderfully different from the drivenness that marks most of So Cal. It is where we often take our out of town guests when we are done with business at the office.
My first experience with Dana Point was when I took my brothers sailing there in a borrowed 15 foot Coronado. I successfully capsized the boat twice that afternoon. Obviously we all three survived, but I smiled inside as I thought of the young, dumb, intense person who just HAD to live on the edge, back then.
One of those descriptors has changed over the years.
When Megan came to California, her father came with her, ostensibly to help her move, but mostly to check out this guy she was coming to work for. After she was settled in her new digs, I drove down the 55 to Newport Beach and then drifted all the way down PCH to Dana Point so he could have some exposure to the vagaries of the California coast.
We had dinner there at the Wind and Sea, for the first time. When he left for Michigan, he told his daughter that he was feeling comfortable leaving her in my care.
Every once in a while, I pass a test the first time.
I remember when Hanna was with us for a while, she, Megan and I went at the end of her tour. Hanna and I were planning a scouting tour across Europe at that time. Hanna knows I am pretty picky about eating out and she was thinking out loud about restaurant options in Holland.
Megan got caught in the crossfire of our humor that night, in a fairly memorable bit of repartee.
Serina was much more interested in water than the hundreds of millions of dollars worth of tax write-off boats that were moored in the harbor. I remember four dolphins that almost jumped out of the surf to hug her that early morning.
That was before we knew of her anointing for fish. Later we looked back and just marveled. How did those fish out in the big ocean know there was a big spirited fish lover on the rocky shore?
I remember walking the harbor for a few hours with a mom and daughter who met me there. The daughter had just come out as gay and the mother was distressed. I asked the girl to share her journey, and she gladly did.
It was a memorable experience. On the one hand, the girl was rejoicing in having someone actually listen to her and not try to argue her into a corner. On the other hand, her mother was struggling with all the stuff that came out to me, that she had never heard before.
We have probably made a couple dozen trips down there with some guest or another over the years. Some were memorable experiences. Some had faded into oblivion long ago. Most included a stroll by the slips, savoring the wordsmithing of boat names, followed by dinner at the Wind and Sea.
Last time I was there the service was atrocious and the food not noteworthy as well. This was quite a turn from the history of the past twelve years.
This is an ordinary consequence of the economy having an upturn. Food service industries have a harder time getting good staff when there is a full employment economy.
I wandered down to the beach for a while, when I first arrived. It was the only time I had been there at high tide. A fun view. I had selected that night because it was full moon, but the sky was overcast, so I missed the benefit of moonlight on the water.
Based on the dud of an experience last time at the Wind and Sea, I tried a new restaurant to close out the evening. It was high on the bluff, overlooking the whole panorama. Both the waiter and the chef were a remarkable downgrade from the previous one. It is ironic. The more people have the money for fine dining, the less fine the dining is.
I dawdled over dinner, not really looking at the details of my many visits there. I just soaked in the gentle joy that marked the flavor of that file in my memory.
I wondered briefly where I would find an equivalent safe place in South Carolina. And what my firstfruits visit there would be like.
As I drove away, I gave the city one last hug, knowing I will likely never be back.
It has been a kind place to me in an unkind season of my life.
Copyright May 2018 by Arthur Burk