Weigh hey hey, it’s just an ordinary day
And it’s all your state of mind
At the end of the day
You got to say
It’s all right…
Today, I woke up.
This was a good start, really. I like starting my days that way.
However, as I was an hour late, I got my face splashed and teeth brushed and hair combed in record time. I had a date for ten o’clock, so by ten after I was in my deceased uncle’s 1970s station wagon, speeding through the mountains.
I met this girl, Margaret, on OKCupid, and after extensive chatting on meditation and writing, we agreed to meet up at the Templeton farmer’s market. When I arrived, I noticed one thing immediately – Templeton farmer’s market is full of farmers. In Morro Bay, it’s the domain of olive oil venders, butchers, specialty soap sellers – and one sharp-tongued vegetable merchant named Maria. In Templeton, all across the green, vegetables as far as the eye could see.
The second thing I noticed was Margaret. I don’t know if she’s copper-bottomed, but she’s “clipper-built and just me style and fancy,” as the old song goes. M exudes an aura of quiet, earthy strength, she could stand up in a headwind. We wandered the fair, making shy commentary, and I finally caved and bought an extensive set of herb seedlings to grow.
She hefted the seedlings back to my car with me, while I toted the meat I’d bought. M then took me to the little cramped cabin-size lending library that Templeton has instead of a public library, and then to coffee. On the wall of the coffee shop, they had a huge map of the world. I told her about China and about Senegal, she told me about the Dominican Republic and about Madrid, Spain. The conversation really loosened up after that, and she opened herself up.
Margaret’s cobbled together an income from teaching English and music, her darling love. She ran off to teach music in Santo Domingo under the care of an entire nunnery, in fact. Margaret went semi-vegetarian for health reasons not too long ago, but didn’t turn down her mother’s chicken. She’s gearing up for a degree in industrial engineering at Cal Poly, which she hopes will allow her to stay in the area and create systems that are efficient and in harmony with the human and natural environments around them. Margaret’s still waters run deep.
After promising to see about kayaking out to the Sand Spit for a picnic sometime this week, I walked back to my car whistling a jaunty love tune…
…and dialed up my friend Toni, to see if she’d be able to make that afternoon’s garden party. Toni is an old friend, a mad little musician with a grin that lights up a house. She was still in the middle of band practice, that musical Toni, so I went alone. My friend Jody Mulgrew is moving to Nashville to further his musical career, and his sister and mother threw an open house. There was much hugging (and wine) and gladhanding (and wine) and pinching of cheeks (and wine) and reintroductions (and wine). I confessed to the younger Ms. Mulgrew that she had been my first crush. She arched an eyebrow and pointed out I’d said that thrice before. I shrugged, and turned red.
Jody and his music partner Gary Garrett plucked up a few guitars and we all gathered around in a circle in the backyard and watched them play in the warm afternoon sun. The quiet creak of weathered wood, the accompaniment of Jody’s young nephew and the windchimes his mother had hung in the trees, they all harmonized beautifully. During “Til My Peace Be Made,” I wept. It was so serene, so complete, so perfect, I nearly burst.
The day was not yet over.
After the impromptu concert, I had a few waters and said goodbyes. I wish Jody luck, over there in Nashville.
Toni texted and said she was out of practice, and would I like to come over? I got back in the car and headed into San Luis Obispo, meeting Toni at her ancestral abode. She looked radiant as ever and flushed from her flute-playing. That disarming smile never left her lips.
We headed out into Saturday night in San Luis, a very strange time and place to be a part of. For once, it wasn’t random folk stopping me on the street to say “it’s been forever!” (well, aside from Chris and Sarah), they were stopping for her. Friends, countrymen, bandmates…it seems T has either befriended or jammed with everyone, or will. I was amazed that this radiant creature was on my arm.
We had a quiet dinner and talked about our future plans and our philosophies of planning, then went to the random poetry reading we’d spotted on the way to the restaurant. It was polite and restrained, and they shushed us a few times. There, we met more friends of Toni’s, including bearded Sven, gangly Wayne and his mysterious lover Marguerite. Sven and Wayne have both played with Toni, and while they talked the old days, Marguerite chatted with me. M is half-Mexican, half-Italian, and one hundred percent gorgeous, a free-spirited gypsy violinist following her feet up and down the coast.
As it was getting on, and Toni had a family date later in the evening, we took our leave. But I wanted to clear something up, so as we walked back:
“…was Marguerite hitting on me?”
“…um? Yes? And she’s beautiful, isn’t she?”
“Well yes but…does she do that with everybody?”
“Yeah, pretty much.”
I escorted her home and thought to go back to the poetry reading. As I passed the church on my way back, I heard a woman’s scream.
I spun around, and saw someone thrashing in the half-light in a car with flashing lights. Trusty fedora in hand, I ran over, and when I saw her sitting alone, I tapped on the passenger window and asked if she needed help. She alternately wept and flailed at the car, but asked me to help. Her key was stuck in the ignition, and in the on position, but she couldn’t start it. While I jiggled the key, she explained her whole story, bouncing between tears and an even voice, and several times asking me to pray with/for her.
At one point she completely broke down and said “I don’t know why God is doing this to my family…” I quoted St. Luke at her, that “I shall not burden thee more than thou can bear,” and she took a bit of solace from that. I got her key free and said “whatever you gotta do to let you be you, it might be a good idea to go do that. You gotta take care of yourself right now.” She thanked me, started her car, and started down the street.
I continued back to the poetry reading, meeting Sven halfway to our mutual surprise. We walked together, talking the philosophy of planning and the wiles and wonders of Toni, and when we got back to the poetry reading (now with snapping fingers and clapping), we found Marguerite there, standing tragic with her violin case and her red shawl and a stunned look between her eyes. Wayne had grown jealous, and kicked her out.
Moved more by the violin case than anything, I offered her use of the couchbed in the RV where I stay under the avocado tree in the back forty of my father’s ranch. She accepted, still stunned, and we went to get a burrito in her. We encountered a strange Jersey couple in search of a drum circle or Dr. Robert Green, but besides that the trip to the burrito place was uneventful. Marguerite was very appreciative, and got her wits about her as she inhaled the bean-and-cheese special.
We toddled back one last time to the poetry reading, which was by now a rock show, where she met an old friend and I met another, and the old friend offered her a place to stay for the night. Marguerite promised that we’d get together. I walked away chuckling, “easy come, easy go…” Especially for dark, mysterious, carefree gypsy violinists who’ve stepped out of the same pulp story I did.
I phoned up my old flame, the lady Jennifer, and met her for after-work drinks at our old favorite dive bar. She’s now happily married and a mighty Amazon, and I agreed to make it official in my capacity as Priest of the Universal Life Church if she and her man were interested. I unloaded the short version of my life (China, Peace Corps, life under the avocado tree, writing) and the long version of my day. Jennifer smirked and went “so, finally dating multiple women, huh?” The barman chuckled.
I got her one back when she sighed, “I like having men-friends, but it never seems to work out.”
“For a woman as good-looking as you, yeah, I can imagine.”
The whole bar applauded. Jennifer laughed and said “thank you.” She went home to where her husband had hot dinner waiting for her, with my regards to him for it.
It occurred to me on the drive home that today is not actually that unusual for me. In fact, rather an ordinary day. And to think, I was worried California might be boring in between China and Senegal.