It’s the name of the dining area I’m at with my kids on the stern of the smaller mega-cruise ship coming into Victoria. The fruit is ripe today and the captain announces it’s sunny. Fresh ground coffee from the machine. Breeze light across my face as the kids play on a computer. Some magic happens and I later think this moment on the deck came after Victoria. There’s nothing after Victoria — we wake up and we’re on the dock in Seattle again and the electricians are tearing open the ceiling panels in the hallways and the show has ended.
Back in Oakland remembering this trip — I mainly feel a desire for a vacation (vacation from the vacation), to sit by the pool at a Mexican condominium, to walk past the pool in the 9 AM morning cool and see a caretaker cleaning and know I’ll be able to sit next to that pool later, in a languorous early afternoon with a drink. The kids, happily playing… There may be a discussion of heading downtown to the beachside cafes. There must be a way to not complain that pools on cruise ships are crowded and not relaxing. Part of the Mexico vision I’m having is the ground doesn’t sway under my feet and it’s quiet, so quiet and empty in that condo complex, except for that one worker tending to a hose, or probably walking off to check on something elsewhere. Probably not even around, in the cool morning uphill from the beach resort, with the fresh-cut grass and the little broad-leafed plants everywhere about the pool.
Had a gluten-free waffle in Berkeley after my seventeen-day trip to Seattle and Alaska. Good enough. Main thing is my choice to go there — I don’t usually get to. The Heirloom where I got my waffle is particularly disliked by others in my family. It seems there isn’t enough salt. And true, some or most dishes are odd, even undesirable. So how can I complain if they complain? The problem is I’m seeking an experience significantly about anticipation and the process of discovery. So knowing a lot of the dishes are wacky doesn’t stop me wanting to go in, appreciate the manicured garden, sip their yellow turmeric digestif and anticipate the gluten-free desert and waffle. Found medium-rare meatballs to eat with the waffle. More than good enough.
At a place in San Francisco I haven’t previously liked, Volta. In the city officially to get a new wallet because mine’s falling apart. Truly here to reclaim sanity, the process of coming to Volta shaded by intent different than culinary pursuit, intent to survive emotional hits, intent to establish a beachhead of sanity. Pretty sure that’s what I do most of the time. Is that what we all do, or am I different? A song plays here by Carla Bruni; I don’t understand a word. That’s the point of it being French. Someone told me that I’m only happy for ten minutes when I’m sipping Cabernet — was that the same person who told me, earnestly, that I’m much more easy to get along with when I’ve been drinking? I have found a good Cabernet and I enjoy Volta. And I’m certain that I must sometime more thoroughly evaluate that statement from years past about the drinking. There is a Buddhist teacher who says your neuroses come to light when you drink? All right well we all know it is used as a social lubricant… Laughter from another patron coming in with her partner mingles with a song, Autumn Leaves, still no English. Volta is a concept and they have a good playlist. I could live a long time on Dr. Who episodes and the Volta playlist. So what if their herring tastes like it comes from that same Costco jar at home?
And the trip? Seventeen days, maybe more, following several in Santa Clara for the Olympic Trials. And the Intel museum. Busy month. Wondered the whole time whether my job was bringing me forward in life. A good question not necessarily best asked while traveling, but then again what better time? The answer, now I’m back for the first day in weeks? Not nearly enough. Daniel Amen, M.D., publishing writer, says we’re supposed to think positive thoughts. My thought is I’m not accelerating in my career. A seventeen day trip tells me that. Tells me I must get moving again, and faster. Who knows, with a few gluten-free waffles, an occasional trip to a Mexican poolside, and lots of writing and reflection, I may become more productive and successful in real estate sales.
Out of the frying pan into the fire. Instead of travel now it’s the day-to-day. If I write quickly, eating this halibut chowder supposedly-not-full-of-cream at Volta, listening to their music skipping forward when a song comes up the powers-that-be don’t like, will that save me? I remember wanting to go on the submarine ride at Disneyland and I was too small. The image of burning blue flames from a little highbrow bar-restaurant on College Ave in Rockridge right on the border of Berkeley and Oakland reflects the locus of desire for beauty imprisoning me. Burning. On my way to a pricey restaurant I didn’t previously like, passing two choices closed up or at least not open on Mondays, I walked over so much human urine and past so many lost homeless and was asked over and over how to get somewhere or buy a BART ticket, and so came to doubt my quest was valid, began to feel myself a tawdry lost soul wandering in the 11:40am August heat, the stink of urine rising up to the sun and the gods and the empty wasteland of the sky.
While I ponder, the soup I just ate sits for the moment happily in my stomach and I buy a copy of the song Birds by Emiliana Torrini and remember being in Florence writing for a month and can’t help wondering whether I can just write and somehow all will be OK. My client who has corresponded with me for three years about selling his building texts me that his knee is much better. Real estate brokerage is such a tease. Can I work for several hours and then write, suspended amongst several pinion points — kids demands: travel, activity and dining options limited by them. Work demands: time and life choices limited by those?
Victoria was beautiful. I got my family to go to a little gastropub in the young Canadian suburb with only moments (hours, minutes) to stop before our cruise set sail. Ended up a late night on the ship. We made it back. Our final stop, bracketed by breeching orcas and pushing my chair in on the cruise deck for the multitudes to pass while I sip my coffee while the kids delve into their videogame. A whole pod of orcas, by the way. But Victoria, so small, so green and humble, the pub in a nondescript shopping center. A second or third rate musician singing live while we ate mussels and I sipped red wine. That moment with wife and kids, bracketed, but invisibly, by other events, remains in my memory as a moment of departure. Perhaps because it was my one true venture into Canada in a seventeen day trip on its borders. Canada was different, even more different than Alaska. And this was the European trip called off and re-planned as Pacific Northwest because of terrorism. And the cruise ship was the same. So amidst the taxidermy, the outdoor passion and the nativism of Alaska, the urbane, San Francisconess-with-beards of Seattle, the hollow, cattle-run opulence and excitement about what’s on stage of the cruise ship, rests this tiny gem of European flair. And upon my return it falls to me to choose celebration of that which is worthy or losing myself in details that don’t matter in the end.