Saturday, December 13, 2008

Living the Boring Life

Winter weather makes me a little nervous. This house I’m living in has no wood stove, so if the electricity goes off, it will get cold, and stay that way. When I asked the owner of the house what she did when the power was out, she told me that her kind neighbors took her in for a day or two, and after that she flew to California.
I am considering whether I shall follow her sensible course of action if the electricity goes off for an extended period of time. I haven’t been to California for a while.
California is where I was born and where I grew up until my early 20s, when I moved to Vashon Island. I was born in a little town called Watsonville, a farming community on the southern end of Santa Cruz County.
Today at the store I stood in front of a large Martinelli’s Sparkling Cider display, picking up bottles and looking at the pictures from Martinelli’s history on the labels, trying to see if I could recognize anything in them.
The Martinelli’s plant was across the street from my high school. I remember sitting in Mr. Plummer’s freshman English class in the basement of the old high school building (built in 1903, now long gone), staring out the ground level windows at Martinelli’s on the other side of Beach Street. I was waiting for life to begin, waiting to be free from school, and bells, and petty tyrants, of which there seemed to be so many, both adult and student.
One day a man who looked like Gabby Hayes, or a prospector straight out of the Gold Rush, came walking down Beach Street leading a donkey that was carrying a pack. This would have been in 1962 or so. I was curious, but I never found out who he was or why he and his donkey walked by the high school. He was a character, no doubt, one of the people at whom we rolled our eyes and twirled our fingers around our ears to indicate, “crazy.” In 1962 there weren’t many characters. Characters came in a few years later when we all decided to let our hair grow.
I wish I could say that I saw other interesting things while gazing out the windows of my high school classes, but that was pretty much it, just that one guy and his donkey. Other than that it was four years of boredom.
Growing up in California in the fifties and sixties felt pretty boring. I know now that I was living a comfortable life in a place where the temperature stayed between 50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit all year ‘round. I guess that being safe and comfortable can seem boring to a kid.
My cousin and I are planning a road trip to California next spring. We’ll drive out to Green Valley to see the ranches, both my grandfather’s and my father’s. My father’s apple trees are gone, replaced by dwarf varieties that produce more apples. Also gone are the peach, apricot, fig, and lemon trees that we had for our personal use. Once the place was sold and became a part of agribusiness, no longer a family farm, those oddities had to go. Too bad. I remember how happy my dad looked when he sat down to a bowl of fresh peach slices drenched in cream.
Now when I go up to the top of the hill and look at the views I so loved as a child, I am trespassing on someone else’s land. But I go, anyway, so I can look at the flat orchard-covered floor of Green Valley to the north, and the long vista over the Pajaro Valley and off to Fremont Peak in the hazy distance to the south, and drink the view in.
I must be getting old, to mourn times and people that are no more. Makes me wonder why we want long life, when the older we get, the more losses we carry. Still, you know I wouldn’t miss it for the world.
I wish you all a warm and wonderful Christmas, or whatever the heck you celebrate. May it be safe, and comfortable, and boring. You know: enough to eat, clothes to wear, a roof over your head, family and friends, no sickness or death or other catastrophes. Boring. Let’s hear it for boring.

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