23rd Post March 8th, 2018

Congrats to me, I finally graduated. I had my last shoulder therapy session today. No more twice weekly torture. Now I am just responsible for strengthening old lefty. Some pain remains if I get too frisky with my workouts, but I can see the light, and it looks like the first tee on a warm spring day.

I hope March is finding you folks as enlightened as it is me. Easter is just around the corner, the boys of summer are training in Arizona and Florida, Go Crew; and Sunday starts Daylight savings time once again. More sunlight is a good thing in my book, even if it’s cloudy.

March holds special purpose for me. I am Irish. So, bring on the corned beef, cabbage, potatoes and Guinness. We don’t celebrate St. Patty’s Day like we used to, but the “We like Shenanigans” Shamrock is hung on the apartment door for our neighbors to see.

March 20th is special because it is the first official Day of spring. That would be enough to be happy for most of us, but not me. It also marks my 69th birthday. Wow. 69, that’s almost 70. What am I so happy about? Just kidding, I have lots to be thankful for. I am alive and well and blogging my brains out.

But there’s more. March 26th is our 41st wedding anniversary. My good wife always teases me for remembering our wedding date without fail. I simply remind her that on March 26th, 1977 the Marquette Warriors made it into the final four in the NCAA basketball tournament. I hope her punch doesn’t land on old lefty this year. OUCH!

I am sure that daylight savings has started way earlier than in the past. Allow me to take you back, way back to April 8th, 1956. I was in second grade at St. Benedicts Catholic grade school. It was a Sunday and the night before was when we set our clocks ahead one hour. Or did we?

It was my first Communion Day, which meant I was to be in the church basement for staging at 7:00 sharp, to be ready for a processional into church for 8:00 mass. I needed to be bright and shiny in my blue suit, polished black shoes, white shirt and my special white tie.

At 7:15 I was hoisted out of my bed and carried to the bathroom by my screaming mother. It is still quite blurry to me, as to what exactly transpired over the next 30 minutes. I remember a face scrubbing, teeth and hair brushing and two panick stricken parents dressing me as if the house was on fire.

Luckily, we only lived a short block from church. When we arrived, the procession was heading down the sidewalk toward the church. Sister Mary Aurilean spotted us scurrying up the street. She grabbed my arm and inserted me into my place in line. Whew, just made it.

I hope you will all remember to Spring ahead on Saturday night, and avoid any undue stress.

*****

Please enjoy the next chapter in my retirement trip, as we continue down the Pacific Coast Highway toward Carmel?

 

Carmel-by-the-sea

The 17-mile drive in Monterey ended at Carmel-by-the-Sea. We really didn’t know much about Carmel, except that Clint Eastwood had been Mayor in the past, and it was a popular tourist stop. It was a very, very popular tourist spot. We arrived around 2 o’clock, and quite frankly were under impressed.

Perhaps we were in the wrong end of town. It was quaint, and pristine, but not all what we had expected. Driving was slow, and traffic was heavy for a small town. Of, course it was a warm Sunday, and all the beautiful people were out and about.

Our goal was to stroll around for a while and have a leisurely lunch before doing the 21/2 hour drive down to Cambria. Parking was a real treat, as we squeezed into a space that only took four or five tries. We decided to wing it and walked towards what looked like some shops and eateries. The small city center was like a village with fairytale cottages and galleries. We stopped and browsed for a while in a small shop that was filled with paintings, pottery and figurines. This was a look don’t touch shop for us. Everything was exquisite and priced accordingly.

I asked the proprietor what a first-time visitor with limited time might do? She suggested taking in the Carmel Mission or a museum. I asked about a good restaurant for a late lunch. There were quite a few, but if we didn’t mind a short drive, there was a very nice place called Café Rustica not too far down the PCH. I googled it, and it looked like a winner.

We did a bit more window shopping before heading back to the car. Dar’s knees were acting up, so we took a slow drive around the Mission. It was a pity that we didn’t have more time or the energy to take a tour. Mission San Carlos Borromeo de rio Carmelo was a step back in time. It was an 18th-century church featuring five museums and a beautiful courtyard.

Our stomachs were growling, so we pointed our Jeep south once again and arrived at the Café Rustica in a short 15 minutes. I guess when in Carmel “The Rustic Café” sounds chicer if you reverse the words and make it sound French. I am also sure it will allow them to jack up prices. The building was dark wood with a large outdoor patio. You know, Che Rustic’. We had an online reservation, and after ten-minutes were seated at an umbrella table toward the back of the Patio.

There was no doubt we would see someone famous, so we started right into our people watching game. Dar pointed out a young version of Jack Nicolson sharing a bottle of Pinot Noir with Ivanka Trump and I was sure that in any minute Tom Cruz and John Travolta would join us and try to convert us to Scientology. After all, it was Sunday, and they had to beat out the Jehovah’s Witnesses. I assured Dar that the server who took our order was Morgan Freeman in drag. Yes, my friend, today we were rubbing elbows with the elite.

We started with some iced tea and steamed clams. It was a generous order, served in white wine sauce with shallots, tomatoes and basil, accompanied with crisp sourdough toast points. They had a wood fired pizza oven, so we also split the best Margherita pizza ever. We could tell the ingredients were super fresh, and the edges of the cracker thin crust flaked off as we picked up each piece.

We clinked our glasses, as we enjoyed the feel-good mood we were in. So, far our journey had been wondrous. We chatted for a while about how blessed we were, and thankful to be able to experience all that we have done. It was a very good day.

It would have been nice to spend the rest of the afternoon in the Carmel area, but we needed to get on the road to our next stop. We had booked an over-night stay at the Moonstone Cottages in Cambria, so we got the check from Morgan. Dar complimented him on his choice of nail polish, and we were off.

*****

 

Moonstone Beach

The ride to Cambria was wonderful. Traffic had lightened up, so we were able to enjoy the breathtaking Pacific views. Dar had started out driving and didn’t want to hand over the wheel. She felt safer on the cliff-side of the road. When we stopped at a scenic overlook, I tried to convince her to let me take over, but she insisted, so I became the tour guide, and had to describe the awesome panoramas.

We arrived at Moonstone Cottages at 5:30. The hotel had just three cottages and each one closely reflected the coastal influences that appeared outside their doors. Garden Gate Cottage was warmly decorated, with hickory floors and crown moldings. It’s lovely garden surroundings, were set up for relaxing to the comforting sounds of the Pacific Ocean. Mariner Cottage was detailed with nautical accents, and a classic oak floor with Cherrywood accents.

We booked the Seascape Cottage. It was closest to the ocean. It had a lofted ceiling and Cape Cod style furnishings, and its oceanfront porch was a perfect place to enjoy a sunset or watch for marine mammals and pelicans. It also included a picnic breakfast to enjoy in our room or take to the beach.

We were still satisfied from our pizza and clams lunch, so I grabbed a bottle of wine, we donned our sandals and headed for the beach. Moonstone Beach had a great coastline, teaming with marine life and tidal pools. We watched the sea otters and seals playing as we strolled along the boardwalk. The evening was warm, and the breeze off the Pacific allowed the gulls to glide effortlessly overhead as they searched the waters for dinner.

We stopped at a remote part of the beach, towards the end of the boardwalk, and plopped down in a couple bright yellow Adirondacks. I placed our wine and glasses on the small matching table between us. The gigantic bright red sun was still about five feet above the horizon, and the purple and orange cirrus clouds that hovered above super-enhanced the scene. We once again clinked our Rieslings and toasted to our good fortune.

It wasn’t long before our tranquility was disturbed by a shrill, crying sound.

“Did you hear that scream?” said Dar

Yea, I think it came from that clump of rocks.” I said

It happened again and again, like a panicky distress call.

Dar jumped up and shuffled through the sand as fast as she could, and I was in hot pursuit. If there is an animal in peril, Dar ‘s motherly instincts take over. All other concerns leave her senses, including her own safety.

We approached the rocks from the beach side and saw that they were starting to submerge with the incoming tide. There was a deep, six-foot tidal pool on the ocean side of the formation. It was filling up more and more with each incoming wave. The sun was getting low in the sky, and it was dark in the pool.

Suddenly a small, brown, whiskered head breached and gave the same desperate cry we heard earlier. Its wide-open ebony eyes seemed to beg for help. Then it went under again. It was a baby sea-otter.

“Woody, help me, it’s going to drown!” yelled Dar

I couldn’t see, as Dar’s body was blocking my view.

“Be careful. What is it?”

“It’s a baby seal or something.” She said. I can’t reach it. C’mon baby, come up again.”

“Let me try.” I said as I maneuvered into a leaning position.

The frightened creature emerged again, and I lunged to grab it, but the hole was too deep and narrow. Then it disappeared again.

“I can’t reach it, honey, I think it’s an otter.”

“Move! Move, dammit!” Dar was in her super focused, I need do something mode. I knew I just had to stand back and await further instructions.

Then it came to me.

“Use your scarf. Hold it like a strap and lift it out. Use both hands.” It was the only thing I could think of.

Suddenly I heard a hoarse dog bark. It was momma, accompanied by her whole family. I didn’t know if sea otters were dangerous, but I did know that they had sharp teeth. I could see them quite clearly. Hey, I watch Nat Geo, and one thing I have learned is that you don’t mess with mamma’s baby.

Dar was head-first in the tidal pool holding her chiffon scarf stirrup in both hands.

“Hold my feet. I can reach her. C’mon baby!”

I saw my wife of 40 years, stuck ass up, possibly submerged up to her neck, giving mouth-to mouth to a furry, super cute, fish breathed sea otter. Go for it, you crazy badass!

Momma otter was barking, and closing in, but her sounds were less intent, and I swore she understood the situation. I grasped Dar’s calves as if my life depended on it.

Several young beach comers had heard the commotion and came running to try to help.

“I’ve got you, honey.”

“Pull! Pull me up!”, she screamed.

Panic creates adrenaline. My strength increased to an 18-year-old, as my torso constricted, but I just didn’t have the strength or leverage. Two young men came to my rescue. Each of them took a leg as I grabbed onto the back of Dar’s belt and we were able to pull her up. She had hooked the tiny mammal under its arms with her scarf. The squeal from baby sounded like a cry rising from the dead.

Dar tried to hug the infant, but she was the wrong mother. Baby brown eyes scampered over the rocks and dove towards mamma brown eyes. With their family intact, the otters disappeared in the fading light. It was over. I am married to Wonder Woman.

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