I woke up early yesterday and decided I wanted to walk over memories made in San Pedro in 1997. It was my first thought at 6 in the morning. Actually, I waffled back and forth for a few hours while in bed, thinking I would take a niece. One didn’t answer her phone and the other two were busy being productive young adults. I checked the weather report to see if those insane winds we just had would revisit and threaten my comfort at the beach. No crazy winds and it’s too hot to not wear a bikini. I’ve been to the beach alone plenty of times, but to go alone in a bikini is another thing altogether . I almost stayed home, but I noticed the toe nail polish I chose earlier this week matched my bikini and took it as a sign and finally left after 10.
The boyfriend I had in 1996-1997 was a special guy. He was German and El Salvadorean. We met through friends. He knew them before he left Los Angeles for Far Rockaway, New York where he finished out high school with his grandmother because he was out of control in gang life here. He came home with an accent that I will always have a thing for. I think it was just the way he straddled ethnicities and racial identities the way I do. He didn’t fit in one place just like I couldn’t and he felt like home. He was the type to remember every month anniversary with flowers. He remembered I’m not fond of baby’s breath and each bouquet was unique and beautiful. He designed a lot of them himself. Before he bought his Mustang, he would hitch a ride with his best friend who was dating my best friend. Once, he rode his bicycle from his home in North Hollywood to my home in Elysian Park just to see me. He always had a hiking adventure planned, or wanted to take me out somewhere special. He bought me a couple of dresses, and had a great sense of style. He once bought himself a jacket but gave it to me when he saw how much I loved it and how happy it made me. He made serious things fun, and sensual things funny. I was devastated when our relationship ended. There were other men and a whole marriage happened since then, but I had always cherished this one memory in San Pedro and it was time to walk through it with the clarity of time.
I took the 110 Freeway to the very end. I remembered when he drove and I fell asleep. Falling asleep while someone else drives is always a sign I feel completely at ease and trust the person I am with. I think falling asleep with someone else means you feel safe enough to give them your vulnerability. I remembered waking up on the way because he had decided to race someone else on the freeway and the speed change and swerving woke me. I startled awake, freaking out a bit and he laughed at me. I laughed too, and only now see I would have been justified in being angry that he was always driving recklessly with little regard for my safety.
I got to the Korean Friendship Bell and walked around for a while. I remembered holding hands and walking around the bell. He was so happy and he looked all around, but I was just focused on watching him. We stayed on the concrete path around the bell, but I didn’t yesterday. I wandered around the grassy hills all around because I wanted to explore all sides. I want to see all there is to see. I love a good view and forgot how much I do in the flow of being so much to other people.
I drove a block from the Friendship Bell and parked at Pt. Fermin Park. We had hiked down from the park almost 20 years ago, then we ate Cheetos and made sandwiches from all that he packed in the lunch he surprised me with. Today I hopped the wall like we did before. The fence seemed bigger today than it did before. The “No Trespassing” signs were everywhere. And people were still ignoring them. I wore a bikini today with a tank top and skirt over it. I put on my river shoes at the car and hiked down the way we did last time. It was steep and at times completely terrifying. I forgot about it because he made me feel safe back then. I focused on one step after another, and secure places to hold onto while the dirt shifted and wrapped around me feet, sliding me further along than I planned in many places. When I got to the bottom, I started hopping from rock to rock reminding myself of a goat, shocked and excited that I made it all the way down the cliff face without falling or injuring myself.
I walked around and looked at the life in the rocks. There were sea urchins and anemones. There were so many tiny hermit crabs in the small tide pools. In one area, I saw three sea slugs at once, and clams with long arms reaching out to hold on during the rise and fall of the tides and violent crashing waves. The High and Low Tide schedule I had gotten from a lifeguard in Malibu informed me that we were already at low tide, and as I watched, I remembered seeing millions of starfish, when I couldn’t spot one today.
At one point I saw a man hike over the rocks from the eastern side of the shore. He stood at the base of the cliff, ready to head back up and he seemed content to enjoy the waves that were crashing and flooding around my ankles as I stood on boulders and watched a rocky shelf appear out of the Pacific. I smiled his way because it was a friendly place to be and everyone there was happy to be there. He waited and when his girlfriend joined him, I could see she was wearing strappy sandals. I remembered with gratitude the last time I was there and I was warned to bring sensible shoes and had a hand to hold and constant guidance over the rocks. I could remember and feel the love through all of these years and it was a great feeling as I released that memory of his gentle kindness. I took a moment to reflect on the selfishness I witnessed today and redirected my thoughts as I saw the parallels in this stranger and my own life. It was Magic Mountain and Disneyland all over again, where we lost kids for a while.
As the rocks spread out before me, I realized that even in low tide, the water would still reach me, and wash around my ankles. It still splashed the hem of my skirt even as I could see rock formations that were completely hidden when I first arrived. It was this profound moment when it dawned on me that even in low tides, the waters will reach me, but they won’t over take me because they crash so far away from my place – my focus, that the little waves don’t matter. It was a life lesson that I could apply to the roller coaster that is what started as a marriage. Some days the waves splash much more painfully than others, but I’m at low tide, and it’s nothing like it was in those first months where everything was devastating and the water raged above me and there was no air to breathe or a sun to warm the chill of the icy waters.
I decided to hike back up on the other side where that couple had ascended the cliff. I turned and took a picture where I thought I had reached half way. In reality, I was only half way to Sunken City. Sunken City was a small community of bungalows. The cliff began to fall and the homes were evacuated and relocated. Two of the houses fell into the sea, but the place is full of bare foundations covered in graffiti. While waves lapped around my feet and sea life swayed in the tide pools around me, I could see several people up there, watching me, and I assumed it was the top of the cliff, but lower from where I hiked down. The climb from Sunken City to the park was the most difficult. It’s possible that if I had explored a bit I might have found an easier path. I reached the top and it felt amazing to do so. I kept looking back and thinking, I could have died, and how dumb this idea was because I’m a Mom.
But I didn’t die and it felt amazing to do it on my own.
I kept smiling because I did it. I did it without twisting an ankle, falling, or scraping my hands or legs. I broke the law in going past the signs that were placed for my safety. I went down, then up the side of a cliff without a buddy or even letting anyone know what kind of shenanigans I had in mind. My sister knew I was planning on going to San Pedro, but I didn’t mention the climb. If I had one of her girls with me, I wouldn’t have made that part of our adventures, but I felt fine doing it alone. I also talked to my Dad and he wanted to know what I was getting into. I told him I was on a field trip in San Pedro and he mentioned how much he wants calamari. I told him he could meet me at Santa Monica later and we could have dinner.
I arrived in Santa Monica and sunbathed for a while. I chose a spot near the pier where there is no swimming a fewer people. I had already hiked in my tank top, and spent the day sans sunscreen (poor planning) so my awkward tan lines are a product of that, but I spent some time on a beach in my bikini, completely alone. It took a while to realize no one cared what I looked like. It’s a truth I once danced in under the protective gaze of a husband and my constant vigilance over our children. Alone on the beach surrounded by other people . . . no one really cared about my stretch marks or soft parts and the ones looking sent a smile of appreciation. I didn’t bother to go in the water. I am fully aware of how cold it is, and the icy sting on my ankles and calves in San Pedro were enough. I walked up and down the pier and again saw that friendly photographer. He found a ladybug on my shoulder and handed it to me, saying it was good luck. His smile was friendly as always. He opened his arms for a hug, and I returned it with half of one. My instincts are telling me I’m not comfortable with him in that way because how I feel about a hug says a lot, and I will probably avoid that part of the pier unless I’m walking it with someone who wants to hold my hand. I mainly wanted to see what people are catching, but I haven’t seen any fish yet, so I’m probably not missing much.
I stopped in the aquarium under the pier to ask about the missing starfish. The guy charging admission told me there was a virus that attacked them a few years back and there aren’t really any in our waters anymore. He told me to give it three or four more years because the last time he was scuba diving, he saw some tiny ones and they’re coming back. He was impressed with my observation and I had a few moments of joy at the attention to my curiosity. I’m always curious, but it’s not always a good thing to be. I left and wondered if I should have flirted with him, but didn’t feel inclined to correct that. I was still enjoying the way it felt to hike up that cliff and that feeling left little room for any romantic endeavors.
It was my Dad and sister’s first trip to Bubba Gump. More than that, I was open to including them in part of my day, without altering my plans completely to make someone else happy. It was the first time I had been there since going with my family – with my ex. It was nice to see their food joy and see them enjoy the pier as briefly as they did. It was last minute, so they weren’t prepared. I walked them to their car and then walked to mine where I pulled on a pair of jeans, then pulled off my skirt. I slapped on my Uggs because they keep the sand and cold out and walked along the shore to catch the sunset before walking along the pier again where I offered to take pictures of strangers that were trying to catch their coupledom in a Santa Monica Sunset. I sat on a bench and smiled at the day I had while a musician played Greensleeves. I spent some time singing along to some K-ROQ classics with Rock and Roll Jesus, and one of these days I will take a picture of him. He sings and hustles almost every day of the week. Most of them do, and I admire that. I had a bag of cotton candy to myself. It was my reward for not drinking my calories at Bubba Gump when I had their unsweetened tea.
I left and took the streets again. This time I thought I’d take a new street, which is something I used to do all of the time and how I found my way to Will Rogers. I used to just drive and take streets that were interesting. When I was younger, I kept a Thomas Guide in the trunk in case I got lost. I got a little lost last night and when I asked Siri to rescue me, I started laughing at how far off I was. I pulled over because I didn’t trust her sense of directions, and looked at the map and saw where I went wrong. I made two left turns where she was sending me right, and I knew where I was again. That is growth for me. My greatest adventures through Los Angeles used to be in getting lost and mapping my way out of it. Then I dated gang members. My ex was the only one to get jumped into Vet status, and that was after we had started our family. No one got jumped out. They’re still gang members. They will always be afraid to “get caught slipping” in a rival gang’s neighborhood. They will avoid certain areas in the off chance someone will recognize them, and it’s not as simple as saying you have the wrong person. For some reason, it’s possibly worse to deny you’re the person that made really bad choices. I remember getting lost around the Citadel with the ex. I went into a full on panic attack. Last night getting lost gave me joy and great belly laughs. I laughed at myself and laughed at how exhausted I was, and how much I was enjoying the ride home. I even smiled through departing Dodger traffic, and decided it’s time to look for a schedule because that area affects my escape hatch trips.
It was a lovely day and I’m so glad I listened to Goddess Gloria when I met her in that child support court and she suggested I re-do that memory in San Pedro. She was right. It was a good memory and he was a great guy, but he had a cruelty streak that I saw in how he treated my younger brothers. I would never introduce him to my sons because of that. It wasn’t okay then when I was a selfish big sister, but I’m a mom now and it’s my job to protect my kids. I take that seriously. He had a problem with accountability. Nothing was ever a result of his actions, and I have enough sins of my own to cover. He’s another person not worth looking up, but that memory was special and I needed to see it for what it was and making new memories – memories of my accomplishments and my growth made yesterday so much more than what happened in 1997. And my old lady knees feel great. It’s my calves and thighs that are looking for a day of soaking in epsom salts in my jetted tub. It hurts to move but I’m smiling.