On Thursday, October 18, Marc, Dale, and Jeff B. flew from Atlanta to San Francisco, where they were met by Mike, who flew up from L.A. They rented a Town & Country van (with a handicapped gear shift, which was actually kind of nice) and headed over towards Berkeley to pick up the key to The Cetusaurus. Mike had lived in SF, so he was able to play tour guide as we headed across the bridges.
After we picked up the key, we drove a couple of blocks over to Phillip”s studio, a converted loft space crammed full of artists, Phillip included. Phillip claimed to be a true Lichtenbergian in that he could not attend the very Retreat designed to include the West Coast members because he had work to do, but it was clear that the man is very productive.
Finally we hit the road and made our way over to the coast, where we drove up Highway 1. It is everything you”ve seen in the movies and commercials: a twisty, two-lane highway that hugs the mountains on the right and drops precipitously to the sea on the left. It is absolutely gorgeous.
It”s also slow going. The speed limit may be 55 mph, but only people in car ads drive that way. It took us a good four hours to make it up to the house. We started in midafternoon, and it was after dark when we got there. (Great sunset, for which we stopped at one of the dozens of overlooks.)
There were also road signs warning of cows. Cows. And then, there were cows. In the road, utterly unconcerned that they”d be struck by luxury vehicles careening around curves while filming commercials.
The house is exactly as you see it in the photos on the website. Not as close to the beach as the photos implied, but that was OK. We unpacked, sorted out sleeping arrangements, and opened the first bottle of wine. As usual, the Thursday night discussion was over what we hoped to accomplish during the Retreat.
Jeff made no bones about the fact that he had been so productive that he had no intention of working on anything but grad school stuff. Marc had brought reading to do. Mike had a script he needed to finish, a song to work on, and juggling to practice. Dale wanted to get back to re-orchestrating William Blake”s Inn, or failing that, to start on the “Five Easier Pieces,” and to work on The Book of the Labyrinth, a quasi-liturgical resource for meditation sessions in in the labyrinth.
Members will report on their progress in comments.
There had been no grocery store of note on the way up, and so there was no coffee for Friday morning. Dale awoke early and drove back down to Manchester, where we were assured there was a well-stocked store. (It was closed by the time we pulled through on Thursday night.) It was well-stocked, being both a grocery store and an Ace Hardware. Dale loaded up on essentials and made it back to the house as others were getting prepped for the day.
First, though, we had to go to the beach. It was walkable, but it”s better to drive. The beach was a giant boneyard of bleached tree trunk driftwood, driven there by Pacific storms. Large outcroppings of basalt littered the terrain.
We drank it all in. Jeff took a zillion photos. Mike juggled. Marc communed. Dale drew labyrinths in the sand and meditated. We climbed the outcroppings.
Finally we headed back to the house to work. (See comments.)
The evening was given over to communion and meditation. (There was no hot tub, but a there was a sizable Jacuzzi which we used for solo soakings.)
Saturday. We worked until lunchtime, and then at Marc”s suggestion drove back down the coast to Gualala for lunch and to play tourist at least a little bit. Our main objective was the lighthouse at Point Arena, the tallest lighthouse in California, now renovated as an item of historical interest. More shipwrecks occurred there than anywhere else on the coast.
The view from the top of the lighthouse—they have removed the to the museum—was stunning.
We headed back to the house for a little more work. We wanted to drive down to the beach and watch the sunset from there—perhaps sacrifice a casino online goat or something— and there was some discussion about when we needed to make the trip. Without internet, we were bereft of much information all weekend. As Dale was debating starting supper—shrimp and grits—we were startled to realize that the sun, which had appeared to be safely above the horizon, was falling without let into the ocean eternal.
We leapt into the car and rushed down the hill to the highway, watching with increasing hysteria as the planet revolved faster and faster, destroying our chances at this entirely meaningful experience. At the end, all we could do was to pull in to an overlook and lamely get out to watch the afterglow.
Back at the house, we settled in to a quiet evening of discussion. The main topic: “What do you fear the most?” Loved ones were excluded. We were honest. You had to be there.
Sunday morning, we got up and departed around 5:30 am so that we could arrive early enough in San Francisco for Mike to show us some of the sights. After negotiating the worst road in America over the mountains—we had to stop twice so we could calm our nausea—we emerged into the Sonoma valley. Vineyards at dawn, quite lovely. The landscape in general is amazingly beautiful.
When we arrived at the city, we stopped at the battery overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, which is pretty majestic. In town, we almost resisted referring to the streets of San Francisco, including that section of Lombard Street which Mike took us down because, as he put it, “We haven”t had enough twisty roads today.”
We also went to Fisherman”s Wharf, where Mike took us to the Musée Mécanique, a “collection of coin-operated mechanical musical instruments and antique arcade machines in their original working condition.” It was awesome!
Finally, it was time to head to the airport. We dropped Mike off at the Walt Disney Family Museum at the Presidio, where his sister would pick him up. (He was taking an Amtrak train back to LA.) After lunch at the airport, Jeff split off to go work on a presentation and then board the plane for Norman, OK, where he was attending a Native American conference. Dale and Marc flew back to Atlanta.
Summations, additions, and emendations in comments.