Going Coastal

I used to think living by the beach was all about the water, that proverbial patch of blue. The Holy Grail of all water to watch, sense, smell and best of all, hear. But you know…its so much more than that, Way more.

Just the sky as a daily changing canvas is worth the adoration. It is as if a painting constantly in the works is presented for you, from sun-up to sundown. Just in the last 45 minutes, I have noted the clouds go from white to cream to pale blue, and they are on their path toward slate gray any minute. Some evenings, a smidgen of lavender has melded into the closing colorful pallet. Often, this celestial blanket spread above appears soft and textured and elicits one’s imagination to wonder about the tactile feel of it all, if it were possible.

In my semi-circumference of view, are palm trees whose windy waltz interplays against the warmth of golden light that has been a constancy for eons. This bright orb that travels the coastal sky from dawn to dusk has been the subject of myth, folklore, history, science, music, art, dance, poetry, architecture, sculpture, lecture and even fashion. Every single culture that has existed on this earth has paid homage to our Sun and has revered her to the height of appointed Deity. Without our Eos, our beaches and sand, our hills and mountains, our greenery and flora, our creatures who walk the land would just not be. How poignant each day becomes at the behest of our great Star, the star from which our very own elemental existence simply could not even have begun. And what a backdrop for that shining globe- the expanse of shimmering sea!

To live by the beach is to adopt a lifestyle. First and foremost, is attitude. A bit of Hawaii in your every reaction. Is it the roll of the waves, the lull of tide, the hush of the breezes? What is it about a surfside town that makes her inhabitants so relaxed and calm? Take things in stride…”Cazh” is the word, its all cool, it’s all casual. Upon arriving to settle down and live in a beach town, the first person I encountered was a real estate agent. When he heard I was new and looking, he spilled forth: “Well, welcome to town!” Mind you this is a city, but there is a hometown heart here. My neighbors are openly friendly. Smiles, offers of aid, first names shared. Wow. Am I still in Southern California? Even my plumber who came to check out my sink the other day wore Bermuda shorts, sneakers and a t-shirt that read: “Have you hugged a Plumber today?” I mean, that’s just cute. Seriously! Cute. There’s hints that this is an ocean town…Surfin’ Donuts, a tall standing surfboard flanking an outspread hung USA flag in a post office lobby and a taco joint that has a surfer dude riding the waves for the logo. When one contemplates surfers, one thinks of the sort who take the time to ride the curl and hang a ten. These things take finesse, and devoted, carefree time. It seems that’s the seaside lifestyle. Prioritizing one’s life to commune under the Sun and in the water.

Is it coincidence that everywhere I look, I see people wearing Hawaiian shirts, sandals and sunhats as the clothing options of choice? Now, it isn’t easy to lose your temper with someone when either you or they or both are dressed in this manner. I mean really…how can you get angry when giant hibiscus flowers on a field of green are advertising peace, beauty and nature on one’s shirt, or their shirt?! Everyone has one skin tone here, regardless where they are from…it’s HEALTH tone! There’s appled cheeks, kissed from the sun noses, tans and browns of every degree. Plus, as you walk the sidewalks, a scent of suntan lotion drifts about every so often. Only those with a happy disposition spending time in the sunshine could acquire such robust coloring. A women’s clothing shop sign claims how it caters to the “Bohemian Lifestyle” with flippy, swishy skirts and sundresses. There are restaurants entitled with Patio, Lounge, Grill, Bistro, Nook and Corner on their marquees.  All these terms evoke relaxation, no hurrying…tarry awhile. References won’t let you forget you are in a laissez faire setting…there’s cabanas, coves, barbecues, and there’s even dolphin inns and seahorse shanties. The maritime whimsey is all around. It coddles one’s mentality. It navigates the disposition of the people.

Everything about living along the shore is a positive. Who wouldn’t want to live where the weather is temperate, with predictable morning and afternoon cooling zephyrs? But, in my coastal oasis, the desire to succumb to afternoon siestas is an overwhelming  indulgence. I can see how Spain, Portugal, Greece, Italy came to adopt this integral part of the day. It is taking time to relinquish one’s thoughts to what naturally feels good. A nap in a sailor’s hammock will do quite nicely, especially if outside in the open air. To appreciate these kindnesses from nature is important. After all, we pay enough attention to the opposite phenomenons in nature- the tornados, floods, and earthquakes. Why not engulf oneself in the sweet gift the ocean offers us every day- those winds from the big blue?

I notice in my new locale, there is a wide variety of people not only from varying walks of life, but from many ethnicities. As I strolled into my new bank the other day,  I saw patrons whom with normal ease were conversing with one another- each quite oblivious to any difference of any kind. This made me stop and think: why did I even notice this in the first place? Have I been living in THAT sheltered of a place in the past? I don’t think so, but there is an added ingredient here. I think it is the forward thinking acceptance. Everyone is just happy to be hangin’. Period. Living in a cosmopolitan place is definitely inspiring. Perhaps, this conglomeration of folk hails from a populace garnered from arrivals by boat, train and plane. Not too far down the coastline is a Marine Base. Some of these citizens might be veterans or relatives of those in service. No matter why people are here- they find themselves along for the wave of ease, happenstance, thrill and adventure!

Then there are the birds. At first, I thought there weren’t any. But, the other afternoon, as I ascended my outdoor stairway, I heard a mourning dove in the distance. When I reached my landing, I heard his mate answer back- and then the conversation ensued for several minutes. Funny, I felt invasive, so I stepped inside and a bit later noticed outside my door, on the closest wire to my home, sat the two birds. They were doing just what everyone else here seems to do…just hangin’ together, checking out the scenery- and perched, facing the ocean. I thought, “Wow, even the birds are romantic!”

There are many, many dogs. They are beautiful. Always on a leash and with a fit as a fiddle owner. Because where I live is quite hilly, people slip on their sneakers and  everyone’s “Best Friend” leads them along, as they trudge up and over the undulating land. The day I arrived, my neighbor in the house next door introduced himself, and his dog felt he must do the same. Maybe the pooch was excited, but I did hear his dog bark quite a bit for several hours. It has been nearly a month now, and I have not heard him since or any other dog. I see plenty of them, just not hear them. So living here are content four legged ones as well? Great! People, birds, dogs…everybody is happy!

Originally, the land that comprises much of this modern-day municipality was owned by a Spaniard. All of it, for miles far beyond what the eyes can follow, was his Rancho. Then, in the 1930s, an out of place Norwegian decided he wanted to build a “Spanish village by the Sea”. He bought la tierra, and immediately set to paper a few hard and fast rules. Mainly, he wished to expound on the adobes with red-tiled roofs that were already a long-time complement to the virgin landscape. Thus, he decided to create a city ordinance stipulating that all new buildings must reflect this historic, Spanish style. Eventually, some infiltration of other forms of architecture dotted the cityscape, but for the most part, the original adobes and the initial builds for his Spanish hamlet have survived and been untampered.

The earliest village “Ole Town” streets are still here, and in fact, my home is on one of those streets. They twist and turn and there is absolutely no rhyme or reason to them. Creating a grid to follow, just did not happen. Authentically, as in the days of past centuries, roads were created more as foot and cart paths threading amongst cottage-size homes; not streets for the modern motorcar. I love this aspect, because it trains my brain to be observant and to imprint pictorial paths in which to go hither and thither. It makes living here a bold enterprise every time one sets out to go somewhere! However, in my travels, I have found a few long, intersecting -across the village- thoroughfares that do help. Out and about, are residents walking, biking, skate-boarding, as well as driving. No matter how you traverse this town, the views of homes clifftop-perched at every angle to catch a glimpse of Sun and Ocean, is breathtaking! In panoramic breadth, contemporary homes somehow harmonize with the echoing of architecturally historic visuals of young California. This serves to entice and entrance those who gaze upon it all- as they pass along. It would seem they are under a spell, perhaps long-ago cast by Neptune’s rolling waves of the sea.

Throughout the city are Spanish detail references. Over-reaching some main boulevards arch wrought iron Spanish frilled street signs and lanterns. Colorful tiled homes and buildings are in abundance.  They often have original ceramic tile as exterior decoration, or in their inner courtyards. One can glimpse painted tile designed as borders around windows and doors. There are crafted large, inlaid mosaic-tile medallions set into low walls along the village main street, while others name beach access tunnels. I have even noticed old “cobblestonesque” sidewalks up and down the rows of shops. There is some stained glass, but it is that familiar red roof tile and crisp white-walled adobe that adds Mediterranean flair to the surroundings.

A colorful brush has painted this seaboard town. Blue, white, red, and the nearly chartreuse green rounded hills with abundant mustard in bloom, create a primary color feast for the eyes. In addition to these rich hues, are the violet spires of Echium Candicans, and the purple clusterings of Limomiun Statice Perizil. Orange beaked Bird of Paradise or Flower Strelitzia are everywhere. Cranberry red Bougainvillea grow prolific and spontaneously along the coast.  Much of it is planted to add rich contrast to the white-washed walls of the adobes. Also, indigenous to the coastal shale soil and climate, and growing with profusion, is the Malva (Lavatera) maritime bi-color blooming shrubs, showcasing pale lilac and deep purple. Just gorgeous! Look closely, as one can see red Calistemon, or wild growing bottle-brush in clusters of ground cover. Remembering childhood, my eyes have zoned-in on the hot pink and magenta Carpobrotus Acinaciformis, a native succulent to the shoreline cliffs and crevices. With such a splash of color on every turn, it is no wonder as to how California became the land of dreams.

Having officially set anchor in this new “berth”, I’m certain there will be a bounty of discoveries in the next upcoming months, after all, summer is around the bend. I have read there are surfing contests, bowlings on the green, street fairs, farmers’ markets, festivals and outdoor concerts in the works. Meeting people and relishing the fine weather are expressions of daily routine. My gratitude for having this new zip code in which to dwell is immeasurable. It all began with the Pacific as my magnet. Yet, living by the ocean is so much more than mere gazing at the azure jewel sparkling out to the south, west and northwest. Knowing this, I still pinch myself to prove it is real.

 

 

 

 

Yin and Yang,Though Mostly Yang

Yesterday, I experienced the yin and yang of life.

Since my life has been teetering on a most abrupt precipice of late, the day began in the new “normal” style: one slated for adventure. I jumped into my Sun Goddess, started her up and took off for the beach. After all, it was a glorious, crisp, California-winter sort of a day! I knew the ocean must be looking spectacular with the skies awash in bright blue. The divergent cloud clustering sprinkled sporadically here and there could only add to the panoramic skyscape. Well, needless to say, I was not disappointed.

I took the 57 to the 5 which is not a route I drive usually. Why not? There’s ocean south of Malibu! Once I reached Orange County in a flight of vehicular fancy only Southern Californians dream about, I spotted a strip of blue just a bit past Los Osos, I believe. Next, I noted the artistic carving of swallows on wing in the freeway side walls as I commandeered my wheels past San Juan Capistrano, down the 5 which courts the coastal lands.

And then- I spotted it! My muse. The Pacific. She lived up to her name, all smooth like a blue plane of glass-an azure shimmer at peace. Not a sailboat on the water, no mark of humankind, just outstretching calm.

I was grateful the freeway, itself, was flowing like a body of water. That allowed me to appreciate the beauty. But after many miles I hit cities that were further inland and the 5 no longer hugged the shore.

But, still, even as cities these people were so lucky to be so close to feel the ocean air. Maybe they can’t hear the pounding surf, but the air is quite different than inland. I knew this was why I was driving on a whim. I was in quest of sea songs carried on sea winds. I think my car has a “Seaward” button to press for immediate automotive splendor.

Further on, the 5 lined up with the coast again. The long stretch from well before San Onofre through and past Camp Pendleton, slicing through Mission Viejo, has that bright blue platter of water-served up as an irresistible feast for our eyes…Oceanside, then Carlsbad, Escondido, etc…a reception line of communities welcomed me all along the way.

Finally, on impulse, I veered off the road taking an offramp to somewhere… I just made sure my trail was headed west. Well, I drove to the beach. Kids were just coming out of school and skateboards were at play, getting riders to their destinations. A friend’s house? After-school tutoring? Music lessons? Grandma’s? The burger joint? Starbuck’s? Home to hug their mom or the family collie?

I then spotted a place that might be a good place to live one day. I zipped into the driveway and had a look around. A realtor was there showing it to interested potential residents. She was very sweet and quite willing to explore any question or concern That popped into my mind. I admired her savvy. She knew her facts and knew what people need to know. After a fairly short look around, I walked back to my parking space. All the while I was thinking… imagine living down by the beach?!

Well I backed out and shifted my sweet ride into Drive. As I moved forward about 75 feet, suddenly to my dismay, the engine turned off. Just shut off like the snap of one’s fingers. This has happened a few times before in the last three months. Same scenario. I go from reverse into drive and then the engine decides to take a hiatus!

Well, the bad thing was, I was in the middle smack dab of the driveway…cars could not leave nor enter as long as I was a sitting duck. Not even a swan. A duck. Of course I panicked! Of course I tried over and over to start up the engine! But to no avail.

Now, the realtor with perspicacity drew lines from point to point with a mental pencil and straight-edge ruler. She determined before I even call for AAA, that I secure myself and my little roadster off to the side. I thought, “Sure, Brilliant! Who has my I dream of Genie bottle? Where did I last pocket my Bewitched magic nose?” I suggested we go ask a neighbor to help push the car.

In a flash she went to elicit help and a gentleman flatly denied saying he had back problems. Well, “Mavis, the Marvelous”, returned to say she was going to push me herself. I told her no, that she will injure herself! She replied, “So what? I’m 78!” I countered with a pleading that was laced with wonder as to how anyone could think so cavalierly about their heart and Health? I implored her to just let me call a tow-truck. I was too fraught with worry for her.

But folks, there are miracles in this world. Mavis the magnificent told me in all of her senior citizen shrewdness, to put my car in neutral. I did. And before I could get out to help, she commanded me to stay put and steer to the right. Her hands placed on my side mirror and door were primed for action. You know, that fierce “I am Woman, hear me roar”, feistiness fueled her to move me and my wheels just a few feet to clear a drive path!

With my jaw dropped and queasy stomach churning in anguish for her well-being, I witnessed a bonefied miracle. She HAD to get to her next appointment- and by golly she mustered the strength to get the job done so she would!

I wanted to thank her and pay her and exchange information— but she hopped into her own car, carefully eeked it past me looking straight ahead, and took off for location unknown… in a dash of time.

My friends, if ANY of you say being older is debilitating, please eat your words. Mavis was Superwoman yesterday as well as Supercitizen. She proved women can do what we set our minds to do. Her determination became my miracle. I am EXTREMELY indebted to her. But most of all, I’m in awe. What a gal! Thank you, Mavis!

After much incongruent cell phone communication, and a time lapse of about 40 minutes…my car simply started up on a first try. I had no choice but to just go- GO!

You can all guess the ending. It took me nearly 3 hours to get home to our snowy San Gabriels. It was pretty much the most horrific, frightening, nail-biting, topper of all driving experiences driiiive home of my long life. But, I’m here, in one piece.

The Sun Goddess? She’s here, and on punishment. Shame on her. I need to solve this problem. But, I will ever be grateful for a Mavis, a woman with Chutzpah to have crossed my path in a HUGE , important way.

 

Those Eyes

A while ago, a relative of mine, posted something that caught my attention on social media. It was a very fine photograph of a VERY fine lady she and I both have loved our entire lives. Our grandma. Seeing that photograph got my synapses firing. I clearly remember when and how that picture was taken. My grandmother had come to visit me. She was with her only son, my uncle. He snapped a shot of the two of us sitting on my bed with my harp behind us. Grandma had come to hear me play my Troubadour Lyon & Healy harp. I remember absolutely nothing in particular about this “command performance”, but I do recall the walk with her afterward. I lived in a beach city at the time, and it was fitting that she came to see me there, especially since she is the one person who cemented my love of oceanside living.

While on our deliberate and visually fulfilling constitutional, my grandmother chatted about this and that…the trees, the flowers, the baby strollers, the birds we could hear over the din of cars on a nearby main boulevard. As I listened, I drifted off at times, to snatch bits of thought I kept in the ‘hallways of my memory’, always being easily available to ponder and enjoy. My uncle walked along with us, and eventually we wanted to reach a landmark diner to have a delicious meal. Grandma was in her mid-eighties but, didn’t really seem to be. She stood and walked straight. Her upright stance was as demonstrative as her upright attitude. She exuded quiet confidence, and could flatten a naysayer in their tracks within a matter of a phrase. It wasn’t malicious, just setting the record right, that’s all. We all knew that. Thus, our conversation was often punctuated with these characteristic pieces of wisdom. Oh, if only I could hear her say more….For now, it’s those remembrances waiting in the wings of my mind that will have to suffice.

How sweet those hallways of thought can be, with her in them! Most of my memories of Grandma center around her darling duplex home in Southern California. It looked just like a bungalow with a sloping wide A- line roof. It had front criss-cross paned windows bedecked underneath with cheery window boxes spilling forth her favorite, red geraniums. Her home also had prolific, lush front and inside gardens that most certainly were prize-worthy. Her house was painted a soft, deep tan; the hue enriched by a tad more brown tone, than a yellowy tone. This was such a pretty color that made a perfect backdrop to all of the foliage and flora on display. Her small plot of lawn was continuously vibrant green. It was a rich color that beckoned you as a child to lie down on it and feel the coolness below your skin. This natural “carpet” brought soothing relief on even the hottest of days. Bordering the grass area were plantings that brought delighted smiles to anyone who took the time to inspect. My favorite plant was the Fuchsia, or the “ballerina bush” as I would childishly call it. Hers had vivid purple and magenta flowers that danced in the breeze like ballet gowns swishing across a stage. She had several species of Azaleas, and they yielded a feathery, almost gossamer-like accent of pinks and lavender. Tantalizing to the eye, for sure was this beautiful bounty out in front, but the magic continued up the walkway and back to her inner side-yard oasis.

In my grandmother’s inside garden, were serious plants that seemed to command respect due to their sheer size and vigorous presence. Two of these were the trumpet vine and the honeysuckle vine. They had been borne from her gardening enterprises; from cuttings dipped in Root-tone F to the magnificent adult climbers on fence and post that they were! She loved her vines and would let us taste the honeysuckle from the blooms, which made us feel quite cavalier! There were several massive vines at work, having set their tendrils out in quest for further heights and expanse. The trumpet vine was really one for fascination. I never saw it devoid of a profusion of flower. They would hang down almost as if they were a string of musical notes in a composition. Though all the names of her vines escape me, I am positive she had flowering shrubs as well.

At one’s shoulder-level, I recall the showy camellias. There were at least three varieties, some double petaled, even! I could never mistake the signature scents of the lower-thriving gardenia and her night-blooming jasmine. She had heliotrope and hydrangea, spires of goldenrod and giant, statuesque gladiolas. If that weren’t enough, bordering her flower beds were lobelia and begonia. It was such a thickly endowed garden, that there was just enough room for her glass picnic table with wrought iron matching chairs. Grandma loved serving us lunch out on the patio, amidst all the greenery, fragrance and dazzling color.

To sit at a transparent glass table impressed us as children. We could watch our feet dangle and play footsie with one another. Grandma always thoughtfully set the table in style. Placemats were a must, and very often they were bright, happy colors and either made of woven cotton or straw! The napkins came with napkin rlngs of course, and our grandmother loved her colored glass! Thus, our goblets were made of glass and usually a translucent color in which to visually enjoy her homemade pink lemonade. Sometimes, we might drink out of her equally festive 1950s style colored-aluminum tumblers. Teal, magenta, red-orange, chartreuse and yellow….a feast for the eyes every gulp of the way! The “pieces de resistance” were the unique sipping straw stirrers. The tippy top of them had a tiny round ball with a hole in it for a mouth piece to sip on.  It was lavender colored and infused with silvery speckles,. The ball shaped mouth piece was connected to a thin silver metal straw, which joined at the bottom to a matching lavender/silver speckled and slightly pointed well of a spoon. We thought this was the best invention next to our dad’s Osterizer! We each had our own sipper straw spoon and we probably spent more time stirring and giggling and sipping and bubbling than she probably would have liked. But what are summer visits at Grandma’s in her beach cottage garden for? Being silly and carefree of course!

Further back in our grandmother’s inner sanctum was a narrow walkway flanked by her clothesline. That’s where our bathing suits and damp towels would end up. We would also line-up our pails filled with claimed seashells and starfishes, for surveying and comparison, later. We would walk all the way to the back gate. This led out to where Grandma’s garage and tiny plot of green alongside it opened up into her back alley. Now, here, quite nonchalantly placed, so as not to cause too much attention, was the prize of all prizes.

Her fine horticultural specimen sat indiscriminately all year long. Then, once a year, this jewel of a plant would have its moment of glory. In the night, well past sundown, Grandma would take us in our pajamas, robes and slippers out to see her secret. She would tell my brother to hold the flashlight to mark our path as it was quite dark. We would follow single file, in stealth-like, soft footsteps. Once we were exactly there, stooping down in hushed, fragile patience, she would shine the light on her epiphyllum oxypetalum; the “Queen of the Night” flower! As if worshipping the nocturnal luminescence, it would fully open its bloom to the moon. All white itself, and surrounded by blushed at the base slender, pronged petal adornments; it had lacy stamens and pistils which seemed to float upward from inside the blossom. Her petals appeared to glow as they spread wide with frilled edge…a most dramatic exhibition! The “oohs” and the “ahhhhhs” could not be kept at bay. Our eyes stared in wonderment, and I absolutely know this was the solidifying factor in all our lives that made us become stewards of the Plant Kingdom. Having us partake in this annual event speaks volumes as to the kind of person our Grandma was.

Looking back at that picture posted on social media, I reminisce fondly. My Grandma and I were sitting in tandem. shoulder to shoulder on my bed, with my harp prominently in the background. You see, I believe my grandmother brought many splendid things into my life. She was the one who played her piano and accompanied my violin playing. She once walked me to a neighbor’s house who was a member of the Philharmonic to have him hear me play, (even though he was gone that day). Never fear, she let me read books for children about Beethoven and taught me to play along with her, Mozart’s “Minuet in G”. This attentive lady believed in me, and I believed in her.

Beyond that, there is something even more. Philosophical, really. Grandma’s eyes that were caught so well in that photograph ~~ say it all. Her soul behind her eyes was a Knowing Soul. She knew life was music. It could even be a symphony! Not only was music the expression of tune and rhythm, but, it was an essence we could all “see” if we just looked hard enough. Music is in the curling “melody” of growing vine, the “toned” fragrance of flower, the “dancing” curve and shape of leaf and patterned petals. Music is not reserved for just our ears. Our eyes can “see” Music, too. This is what I learned from my precious, sweet Grandma. This is what upon occasion, brings little ‘dewdrops’ to my own eyelashes; when I see the gentle beat of a butterfly wing, a hummingbird’s blur, or a medallion-shaped silver dollar Eucalyptus leaf twitching in the breeze. Thank you Grandma May. I love you.

Chasing Down the Past

Just when life seems to be fairly ho-hum, a snippet of one’s past zips by into view, sending you into an emotional tizzy. Such is as follows:

“Oh! That’s my car! My VW bug! 1974! It HAS to be! Nobody else thought to have Earl Sheib paint it an aquamarine-blue back in the day! It was one of a kind! Oh, my gosh, I have to follow this guy!”

Well, I had just exited my garage in a quick quest to purchase some potato bread. I love potato bread almost as much as I love egg bread…thus, when the whim came over me, I hopped into my Red Thrill and zipped out and down my driveway. Thankfully, out of sheer habit, I stopped at the sidewalk to press the garage door down to close. That’s when in my rearview mirror, the Blue Wonder put-puttered on by…

Is there anything so fun as a Volkswagen Beetle’s engine sound? It’s just plain “cute” sounding, although I suspect some other descriptors must be famously held in place because a large cross-section of society loves their Volkswagen Bugs. By the way, we are talking the original engines, not the newly revised, this last decade, engines. Uh uh. Not the same animal. Or insect.

Vintage VW owners tend to personify their idea of what the Volkswagen sound is to them. Almost any age person and gender might call it a sporty, spunky, “in yo face”, sweet, cool, funky, upbeat, humble, nostalgic or California-surfer-free-spirited-unfettered “athlete’s life-style”… sound. Certainly there’s even more! Obviously, this is because the era the Bugs took flight was the 60’s, just when Creativity was King.

Since the earlier decades up to now, VW owners have gotten involved. THEY “personify” their car’s sound by “fulfilling” the role. Thus, you might STILL see little old ladies wearing a sunhat and shades with hippie beads dangling from the mirror. Daisies might be spilling out from the front wing windows, too. One might see male drivers of all ages, wearing Hawaiian shirts, with their own set of sunglasses and, of course, donning scruffy, willy-nilly beards. But the aura doesn’t stop there.

It used to be: to have a Volkswagen; must have a rack on top. Though today, the racks seem to be used more for bicyclists, rather than the two surfboard minimum, considered “hip” and “with it” back then. Today, if you keep your eyes peeled, you might STILL catch VWs en route with Indian Bells tinkling and incense swirling in time to the rhythm of the put-put sound or the sitar strains emanating from the 8 track cassette player on the dash. You might also spot those owners who still love anything from the ’50s, so you’ll see pony tails and greased up waves in the profiles of these drivers. The point is, owning a Beetle is often a thematic experience.

Now, to love your car, is to drive your car. There is the group of owners who know the TRUEST joy of a VW Beetle, is not to hug the curvacious bends of the PCH, but instead, the whiplash mountain roads, where the Volkswagen automobile itself, was born. These exultant travelers are merry, a tad fierce and blazingly adventurous. They are the ones who can be seen tossing the map out their window in reckless, carefree abandon. They WILL follow the ROAD LESS-TRAVELED. This is how VWs became loved by all of America. They have put-putted over hill and dale across this widespread country; careening ’round the curvy switchbacks of elevated mountain peaks in Montana, to the leafy, lackadaisical swish of the Smokey Mountain Range in the South. As they do, they bring with them their owners’ own views on life.

It’s that driver’s spirit that has driven this fine bugger of a car all over Creation. The love of our planet and the fresh outdoors has lured the VW enthusiasts to motor their car right up to the ski lodge, rather than take the cogwheel train, or village shuttle. This is what “cool” Volkswagen owners do! Why be a passenger, when you can be a DRIVER? Even more fun, is the work involved shifting the gearshift or nailing your foot to the floor, as you try to eek out a few more mph from the buzzing little bug’s engine. Anyone who has driven a VW up in the altitudes, knows it takes sheer chutzpah to get that sucker up over steep inclines. Once you’ve made it– there is a moment of cheerful accolade, always involved with congratulating the adorable little contraption you love to covet so immensely.

And that’s the thing- the impetus for why this entire piece got started. I DO love to covet memories of my Volkswagen. After all, my ’74 aquamarine “Blue Bit of Magic” had a way of perking up my day. It felt uplifting to get into my car, turn the key, and hear her start up. If I must put gasoline in her tank, well, it was quite inexpensive. I knew I was always paying a third less than everyone else. It was my own kind of “elitism”. Once I was going, the wind wings in the front seat were the best! They were a natural air conditioner that I relied on way more often than I did the actual heat and air system. It was really fun to drive my car for a variety of reasons.

In retrospect, I think the put-put sound reminded me of the sound the roadsters make at Disneyland’s Autopia Autobahn Ride. Maybe, that’s what taps into our inner-child and makes so many of us love that sound! Hmm? Another point is the fact that when someone was driving a VWBeetle, you knew it. If you were in your house stirring the spaghetti sauce, you knew a V-Dub was driving by, because your ears would catch its signature half purr, half rumble and your brain would conjure up all kinds of ideas. If you were awaiting the return of someone using your own VW, then it was a lilting feeling to hear that car come into your driveway. In all these ways, my ’74 Volkswagen sounded happy to me: that is simply the crux of it.

That Volkswagen “Iridescent Blue Beetle” I drove, had quite a “life”. It all began when my brother brought home his own vintage VW that was a stick shift model from the early ’60s. I tried to learn to drive it and kind of failed miserably. My dad tried to teach me how to do all four steps at once, but this pea-brain just couldn’t handle it. After my younger brother accidentally drove my older brother’s car into the avocado grove, in reverse, my folks started to think about purchasing an automatic.

When I was truly in need of a car, and for me it was after my first year of college, my folks surprised me. They drew up an agreement to partially fund me with a $3,000 Automatic-Stick Volkswagen. I had to first work that summer to pay my half, which I did, gladly, and hence, I returned to school in the fall relying on four wheels rather than my Dr. Scholl sandals to get me around. A lot better!

“Beetle Bug” started off her independent life in the very “happening” coastal town of Malibu. The Native American Chumash name means “The Surf Sounds Loudly”, and boy, did my car know what the ocean call was. I was supposed to be living in Malibu earning a degree in Education! Well, I have to say, collegiate life in Malibu with my venturesome little car was really, REALLY “tough!” How hard it was to NOT drive down the hill from “Peppy-Tech University” to go and “study” up the highway at Coral Beach. Many a free afternoon was spent reading on the sand with the waves pounding their song, and my car parked within earshot, surveying it all.

Additionally, I recall how “frustrating” it was to have to incessantly drive my flock of friends down to Malibu Colony and check out the cute waiters at Beecher’s Cafe, while pretending to be engaged in a “Study Group”. Oh, sure👍, we were studying, alright. Still other times, the “poor” VW had to drive up through the canyons to take me to my community service credit locales. Often, her wheels zoomed us northward up the Pacific Coast Highway to Trancas, so we could accidentally “run into” surfers while researching the California coastline and its many inhabitants (ahem: habitats)…yes, very hard to do that “research”… Friends along for the ride, we would make trips to Zuma Beach or Paradise Cove and take in the “scenic” beauty. We saw surfers all the time, and sometimes movie stars. We knew which notables lived in which houses. All this was “fact-finding” material for this “academic” throng. To think of all the work involved, having to drive with best buds in tow, to Santa Monica, so we could look up information at the local library on Sixth Street.  Oh, “the information” we gathered!

Further endeavors led us to Point Dume, or the inspiring overlook spot at Point Mugu. (Such “arduous” tasks to endure as a college student, utilizing the wheels of freedom! So much “responsibility”!) You get the idea. Those newly acquired set of radials burst open my world. It was sheer dazzle and dream. The experiences with friends were treasures, and the gorgeous scenery was unparalleled. When I think of these things, I gratefully think of my zippy, put-putting automobile. And maybe vice-versa?

Not wanting to belabor every detail of my car’s life, I can tell you “she” has been there for me in the best of times. I owned her 13 years. She wasn’t perfect. She needed an entire rebuild after I stupidly drove her into the ground. What can I say, I was a girl who didn’t know much about automobiles. It was a unique car, too. One experimental year, the fine engineers at Volkswagen decided to build a car that looked like a stick shift, pretended to work like a stick shift, but without the extra pedal. . In fact, this one of a kind “automatic shift”  had a set of fuses underneath the glovebox that had one fuse which monitored the transmission. When parked, if it was removed (in a split second action–a quick easy), the car’s transmission would lock in place and make it veritably thief proof! This came in quite handy, I can tell you!

I had a good friend who enjoyed my vehicle to the hilt, would fiendishly make my car “flinch” while I was driving, simply by touching the gearshift ever so lightly. He would crack up every time. He also had a hilarious way of hanging on to the window bar that separated the wing window from the passenger window, by rolling the side window down, and pretending he was clinging onto it for dear life if I reached a maximum speed of sixty. Very funny are my memories connected with this particular “on the road” companion.

If we ever were on an outing making our way home from Ventura or Santa Barbara, and were taking the 101 inland route south, we’d have to tread up the “Great Incline”, or the “Conejo Grade” between Camarillo and Thousand Oaks. He would act as if thrusting his chest back and forth, while grunting in the process would help me “make my car” get enough “oomph” to reach past the maximum speed of 40 miles per hour!

Essentially, …the effort would begin at the bottom of the extremely steep 7% grade with an onset speed of 60; (if there weren’t other cars in the way). Our ascent was tenacious! Gradually, as we drove up the incline, the top speed would DECREASE steadily down to forty, after I had made it to the halfway point on the hill. With foot pedal pressed to the floor, I would hope and pray and pay homage to “Mercury the God of Flight”, while cracking up at my passenger’s protruding and flexing of his Alpha-Male chest! We would not lose any more speed before the summit was reached. It was actually an awful lot of excitement and drama which made for a most “far from boring” ride. Yes, that Beetle had nosed and trudged its way through many a taxing terrain.

This same car has been my “wanderlust traveler buddy”. She is the one who took me to a number of places that have filled my soul with all those memories I have alluded to. I can say that without her, I may never have known some wonderful things about our country and our earth, for that matter. With the “People’s Wagon” wheeling me to places unknown, life has been a richer palette for sure.

One of my earliest adventures was to drive over the Golden Gate Bridge. Overwhelming and almost other-worldly, it was. Massively huge, too. The engineering marvel is connected to the sea in an uncanny way. I only drove across, regrettably, though. I know the real magic lies well outside the window. To plant two feet on the bridge itself, beholding sheer panoramic view of the bay- now that is something yet to be experienced! Still, to drive across that immense engineering triumph was very inspiring.

Another excursion, when one of my brothers married for the first time, entailed driving my Beetle up to Idaho. Along the way, I learned that Nevada has a lot of repetitive desert space, with the best parts near its corners and borders. This was a terribly long time ago, thus, my observation may be outdated by now. I just remember one small plant cluster after another on caked, dry, dusty, flat land. I couldn’t wait to see what lay beyond…

Idaho was really a beautiful state. First, was seen golden farmland, acre upon acre of shimmering ripples brushed by the breeze. Then, came the mountains and forests; all a painter’s dream come come true! Destination: Sun Valley. My Blue Bugsy took me to my brother’s wedding and to meet his lovely, sweet bride. The cozy comfort of the chapel in aspen woods replete with natural beauty all around comes to mind. I recall footbridges over ponds, ice-skating rinks (I could not master), and the youthful promises of faith and love pledged heart to heart.

That trip was a gutsy, reckless one, which I took with a couple other siblings. They dared me to drive way faster than the speed limit when we were out in those wide open spaces. Well, sure, of course I did! Youth. Untamed and unchecked. Oy vey! To behave differently or to test the borders of obedience, these can become one’s mindset. The acting on a whim seems integral to being a Volkswagen Bug owner.

How fondly I remember, lest I ever forget, the 8:00 pm decision to “cruise” on up to Sequoia National Park and camp out overnight! My boyfriend and I threw blankets, canteens, an ice chest and a picnic basket into the backseat. Up we went, getting there well past midnight. It was the first time I had ever seen the giant redwoods. They loomed large and majestically out of the moon drenched snow. The Sequoias were tall pillars that had a way of putting one’s existence into humbled perspective. We pitched our tent right on the snow, and “roughed it” like the frontiersmen and pioneer women would have done. Parked nearby was my car “who” seemed to “watch over us” as we slept throughout the night.

Perhaps, most cherished of all, was when “Miss Wanderlust” drove me to my own wedding destination, in a high mountain terrain, up to a waterfall that cascaded not only water, but wishes. That adventure had many aspects–one of them of which was the fulfilling of dreams, and eventually, some were not. But, no regrets, ever. How could I regret experiencing my first snowfall, or hearing the crunch of snow under my Sorrel boots? How could I have not been overjoyed while discovering gem-like colorful pebbles in streams, or feeling what the hush of the quiet feels like when living in a sequestered canyon village? How could I not be amazed at driving through winding mountain highways to get to the next town, after circumventing whole mountain ranges and changing elevation?  My V-Dub made possible cherished memories of hiking up to old silver mines, and hiking solo in the crisp morning air while picking wildflowers for my later in the day wedding bouquet. I could not have experienced all these treasured things, if my Beetle Bug hadn’t taken me all the way from shores of California to the mountain peaks of Colorado!

When I think of my courageous little car, I remember the joyful journeys we made together. Sometimes, my drives would be borne out of despondency, and just to get behind the wheel, have a good think and witness the world flash by was a therapeutic escapade. Escaping the doldrums, I would embark on adventure, my Bug and I. For you see, when you drive a Volkswagen, you are never really alone.

Years later, I  transformed  its original beige color to the personally chosen aquamarine blue. I loved that paint job! The color had a sparkle, as if it were an ocean jewel. It wasn’t long before my firstborn son’s blue eyes were gems to behold as well. He rode home from the hospital in that car. Best of all memories? Perhaps?

Even so, Beetle Bug and I drove to visit my grandma’s on many a weekend for tea and kibitzing, and once in awhile as far as San Diego to surprise my eldest brother- to see what he was painting lately, and what music he was performing. I prized these trips to locales afar, where my favorite persons lived. Isn’t that the real purpose of a vehicle, anyway? They are meant to take us to people and places that add layers upon layers of meaning to our story. Then, for the rest of one’s life, when you see that particular make of car you used to own, you are halted and suspended in memories dear. Huh. Is it you that owned the car, or did it own you?

Getaways, college, weddings, births, pivotal moments, sentimental bliss…these are brought to mind at even the flash of sight of one’s well- loved “V-dub”. Thus, that morning, as I idled frozen in thought at the end of my driveway, the “focal point” made a left turn down the nearest side street and I followed suit. He was being a typical VW driver. He was scooting along as if he were in the Indy 500, careening around street corners and driving with fearless ambition! I shifted gears and took flight after him. I kept hearing in my head: “I hope he gets stuck at a traffic signal, then I can pull up alongside him. Don’t get a speeding ticket! Watch for baby strollers or four-legged animal friends!”

Well, I managed to tail him for another four blocks, upon which I prayed he would make a right turn into a driveway to a gas-station. Yes! He did! And so did I. Luckily, there was an empty filling-up spot adjacent to his. I watched a very young man, probably in his middle twenties, get out of “his car/my car”, to which I proceeded to tell him my business.

“I’m so sorry to have been following you but, I must ask if your car is in fact, my car from long ago? It was an automatic stick.” He replied that yes his car is the same type. I excitedly said, “Well is it a ’74?” He quickly said “No, it, is a ’75.”  My heart sank. “But, it’s the same unusual color I had custom painted back in the 80’s!” He replied, no, he was sorry. However, he did exclaim, “I love this car! It has a life of its own! It drives and drives and drives!” I countered with: “Don’t you just love those wing windows?” And he said, “I sure do!” I finished with, “Well, thanks for jarring my memory, because a sweet one it is. Enjoy your car!” That’s when he concluded our conversation with: “Oh, I will, I’m taking it up to Obispo to go camping under the pines by the sea.”…

Hmmm. Maybe, whom he bought it from was wrong about the year? Maybe, it really IS my Blue Wonder…?