So where was I? Oh yes, the most fun I have ever had trying not to snore up lead paint. You see I was staying with dear friends at what HDTV would lovingly refer to as a 1929 California Bungalow. James and Rich had recently purchased this place and while indeed charming, she had a few years on her and was in need of some cosmetic surgery. They took this adventure on with gusto. While I was busy being ridiculously unsuccessful at managing my life, these guys were my age, renovating a house and open to houseguests. What better environment for me to rebound under? Seriously, going from Dallas in December to Pasadena California is in itself transformative. Even the sun is transformed, it baths every plant, every human, every building in the most flattering light possible. Everything simply looks happy.
So it was in the glow of happy that I arrived at the bungalow. James apologizing profusely for his solid dirt yard, apparently the victim of a vicious chinch bug attack; home ownership, the joy. We walk inside and he apologizes for the lawn furniture, they haven’t picked out furniture yet and I think they have just finished redoing the floors, ripping up silly gross carpet to reveal these gorgeous floors. I get the full tour, the house is cool and breezy. It is California, I forget, they can open their windows without millions of bugs taking up residence. Wait, hmmm, there do not appear to be windows. James apologizes and explains the complexity of fixing 1929 panes in the 1990’s. Not a lot of people do it, they got the windows off, started and apparently the craftsman working on fixing them has gone AWOL. Now getting the original windows back on is proving difficult because everything shifted and now they won’t go back on. He ominously states the first person to get up in the morning claims the one real chair in the living room. I think to myself, I am the guest; I have no problem with plastic lawn chairs. Not to mention I am recently divorced. Recently re-employed. And currently residing under my parent’s roof with a giant scarlet “L” tattooed on my brain. To me, everything about their place was wonderful. This is how it is suppose to be when you start life in your twenties. It is exciting and wonky and I feel unbelievably lucky to be standing in the middle of it. Of course there are going to be the chinch bugs of life killing your sod; but the upside to that period of life is that you don’t let a bald yard keep you from doing fun stuff. You explore the cool coffee houses. You eat at the new Thai restaurant. The itinerary that awaited me would make the Prince and Princess of Windsor jealous.
We started with a hike. They had great hiking right out their front door but we decided to go to “real” mountains that were not far away. One of the downsides of being young and immortal is that you don’t think about practical things like packing trail mix and water. In fact, you don’t pack. You just head for the hills. I think we got a later start than we intended, but the day was our oyster; we saw no need to hurry. James and I were flat-landers. We weren’t thinking how quickly the sun falls out of the sky when it slides behind a mountain. We started up and over, and talked and walked, walked and talked, and suddenly stopped to look around. Wow. It was later than we thought. Wow. It was getting kind of cold. Hmm, we could not see the parking lot. We had better start walking down. Quickly.
After about 15 or 20 minutes, the trees cleared so we were able to move to the side of the mountain and try to figure out where we were. This side was fairly steep and rocky. In fact, it looked slightly daunting, still, in our current predicament, time was not on our side and going down this way would probably give us an important extra 30 minutes of daylight. We had no food or water, it goes without saying we had no flashlight. This was the pre cell phone era so flashlight apps, gps apps, anything useful to knuckleheads had not yet been invented. Rich took off down the side and made it look, if not exactly easy, doable. He stood looking up at us from the bottom trying to give pointers. I sat down on a large rock and could see my path down. I had just climbed from the large rock onto a gravely section right below it. There was something wrong. The path I had just seen disappeared as all the rock that had been sitting there for God knows how long decided to go for a roll. But it wasn’t finished. I don’t know how to describe it but there was something that felt like rumbling underneath me. I was in scoot position when I put one arm up to James. “Something is about to happen.” “What do you want me to do?” he asked. “Just hold my arm with all your might.” And he did, thank God because everything underneath me just went.
So back up on the big rock I went, thankful not to be in the new pile down below. Now James and I opted to go the long way round and Rich was stuck waiting for us on the other side of the mountain. The thing about hiking is that the first half is so glorious that by the time you decide to head back, it is too late. The blisters are already forming. The warm air has turned to a chilly wind that pokes at your chapped lips and sunburned nose. Suddenly you are aware of muscles that did not exist a mere three hours ago. The trek back could be completely miserable were you not in the company of friends. James and I had each other to take our minds off these minor irritations. Rich did not. When we discovered him he was wandering around a stream trying to find his sock. You really would not think a sock could get up and run away from such a tiny area. Rich had walked in the direction he figured we would pop out at and there happened upon a small stream. One can only wait alone by a stream for so long with fresh blisters without succumbing to the temptation to plunge feet into what Coors has always taught us is the most magical water on earth. No doubt other creatures find them magical as well. Like the snake, a.k.a. cleverly disguised stick, which caused Rich to drop his sock and run for his life. We looked and looked for that darn sock. Somewhere on that mountain I picture a giant glob of single socks, a memorial to the snake stick.
By the time we got back to the car there was only a tiny shred of light in the sky. We were dirty and exhausted and ridiculously high on surviving. I went to my cozy little room in the bungalow. Ready to stand for hours under the shower head in the petite shower attached to my room. This bathroom was a huge benefit to the house. I think it started its life as a closet and perhaps the owners before had up'd the market value 10 fold by turning the house from one bathroom into the coveted two. However, at this moment, the shower was working only slightly better than a leak. It was hot. I will give it that. But the water only came out in a trickle so I had to wait to gather a handful at a time and throw it on different body parts. I did get to spend my hours under the shower head but only because it takes a while to get hike filth off a handful at a time. I lay down grateful for my sleeping pad on the floor. James poked his head in, said something deep and meaningful about me being there. My heart swelled. Then he looked around the room at all the interesting white and silver flecks that coated the floor like snow all around me. “Oh, try not to breath any of that in, houses built in 1929, lead paint. We are in the process of scraping it all off. Good night.”
In two minutes I was out like a log. Not that I have any desire to go back to being under 30, but I would love to be able to sleep like a log on a floor, with no windows, no fear of intruders and lead paint all around me. Now, the hoot owl in the woods keeps me awake. A beep on the other side of the house wakes me up. Peeing every morning at 4am wakes me. Perhaps I would go back to my youth not to party but to sleep.
I guess this post is going to have to be a trilogy.