Wednesday, September 25, 2013

"Only Connect." - E. M. Forster

Home for now.

We are staying in a house of a woman we've never met. Talk about generosity of strangers. Doreen's house is a charming bungalow two blocks from the beach. She's my sister's next-door-neighbor in Leucadia, a little slice of paradise just north of San Diego.

Being here is one of the many sweet coincidences--or serendipities or synchronicities, call them what you will--that have peppered our journey. Dave and I had planned to come here in October to stay at my sister Ann's house while she and her husband surfed and siesta-ed at the tip of Baja.

But--and here's where the details get fun--while Dave and I were in Australia, Doreen and Kit (another neighbor) went to see the Ellen show. And there they won a trip to...Australia!

As a result, Doreen and Kit traveled to Australia shortly after Dave and I had been Down Under. And Doreen offered us her house.

A short walk from the house.

Now we get to spend a couple of weeks next door to family. Doreen happens to return the day after Ann and Bruce take off for Mexico. So we will just pack up and move next door.

Getting here was another matter. Our drive from L.A. to San Diego was fraught with traffic. Silly us, we'd thought the freeways wouldn't be packed on a Saturday mid-day. But we'd neglected the little detail that this is the land of the always-packed freeways.

Combined with the fact that we'd driven from Northern California to L.A. the previous day, we were a bit bedraggled when we hit Leucadia. Imagine how we'd have felt if our lives weren't filled with such generosity.

Uncle Gort
In L.A., we'd spent a night with Nancy and Andy. We've been there so much in the past few months it feels like we should call Gort (the huge robot in the front yard) "Uncle Gort." Nancy had stocked the house with some of our favorite things: yogurt, fruit, coconut milk. We also had a sweet, teary moment when she thanked me for not dying. No wonder she's been my best friend since high school. (For a picture of us at a Doobie Brothers concert in 1980, click here.)

Scarlet and Ann

When we hit Leucadia, my sister treated us to one of my favorite all-time meals: her famous beer-can chicken. Oddly, you impale a chicken on a partly-filled can of beer and BBQ it. I bet this insanely delicious way to cook a chicken originated in trailer parks. Thank god for drunken innovators.

The next day was another BBQ with extended family: Bruce's nephew Bryce, his wife Amber, and their two Uber-adorable children.

Mother and daughter adorables (Ava and Amber)


In a short few days, the theme of this trip has become communal gathering around food and drink--oh, and dogs. The next day, Dave and I felt sufficiently rested and settled into Doreen's pad so we made dinner. The tribe this time included Ann, Bruce, their son Beau, and Judith, a family friend. Dave made his blue-ribbon ribs, the smell of which tortured the dogs.

Digging in.

Bex being tortured.
Kit (the other Australia trip winner) lives just a house over with her husband Mark. They met up with Doreen in Australia and returned the other day. Although still a little jet-lagged they threw a party last night in their lovely yard, a field filled with fragrant lavender and fringed with grape vines.

At dusk, we enjoyed the company of the tan, flip-flopped, friendly group. In keeping with coincidences, one of the party guests was Sharon, an Australian. Another was a hilarious, frenetic story-teller named Guy. He was leaving the next day for Europe. He bought a round-trip ticket to London but had no specific plans. It sounds like he's going to show up at the door-step of friends in England, France and Sweden.

In the past I would have lived vicariously through him. Now we're living just like him. Guy is our kind of guy.

His huge slug of a pitbull--the adorable Ivan--roamed the field with the two other guest dogs. The three canines wove around our legs then burst out in a full run, butting bodies like bumper cars.

When the the sky darkened, Kit lit candles. A large screen was set up to show slides from their Australian adventure. And there was Doreen. Dave and I marveled at the fact that she stood in some of the same places we'd just traveled through two months ago. We've never met. We are separated by thousands of miles. But we are living in her home and surrounded by her friends.

It was as though there, under the stars, all of life magically converged. My sister laughed. A dog yipped. Dave's hand touched mine. I was at peace.

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