Tuesday, August 15, 2006


When I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, I used to take day trips all the time… Santa Cruz, Monterey, Napa Valley, Tahoe, Redwood forest…. For me, the ultimate expression of freedom is getting in the car and driving with the windows down. And while I stay active in San Diego, I rarely drive outside the city limits. It's not because I don't have the desire, it's quite simply because I don't know where to go. In the Bay Area, you could drive an hour in any direction and be in a completely different world to collect new adventures. In San Diego, day trip destinations are not as obvious to me. You have ocean immediately to the west. Mexico immediately to the south. Extensive desert to the east. And the continuous metropolitan entity of Los Angeles to the north.

Aching for a day-trip on Sunday, I chose Laguna Beach for my destination. It's an hour north of San Diego.

Laguna began loosely as an artists' commune, and for this reason I have a desire to connect with it. But I have problems making this connection. The town always seems continuously fleeting, aloof, and evasive to me.

I blame one thing: parking.

However, the town is not completely at fault. Mostly it is, but I will take part of the blame. Now I am willing to throw money at a problem if I can make it go away. With that being said, I'm not sure why this is, but I absolutely hate paying for parking when I don't think that I should have to. As a person, I'm rather lax and laid back. I accept things at face value and don't take an opinion of them either way. But the one thing that affects me adversely is if I feel like I'm being taken advantage of. Paying for parking can sometimes hit that singular nerve.

Now my paying for parking issue is purely contextual. When I go downtown, I am content to pay. That is expected. When I lived in San Jose and drove up to San Francisco every three weeks for fun, I was perfectly resigned to park in the Fisherman's Wharf parking garage for twenty bucks. There is a Stoic saying that goes, "Is a little oil spilled or a little wine stolen? Then this is the price to be paid for happiness and nothing is to be had for free." The cashier at the pay booth drank some of my wine and I was fine with that.

But let me tell you why parking in Laguna is evil. There are parking meters absolutely everywhere. And I do mean everywhere. Along the beach. On sides-streets and alleys. On thoroughfares from the beginning of town to the end. Along the narrowest of streets to the widest. Like plastic cups at a frat party, they are absolutely everywhere. Well, why don't you park in a neighborhood and walk a ways, you ask? Nope. All residential parking requires a special permit.

I went up on a Sunday so of course the next logical thought is that the meters must be free on Sunday. Nope. Not true in Laguna. And not only are they not free on Sunday like they are in every known corner of the world, but they operate from 8am to 7pm. Everyday.

Now you're saying, just shut up, Bryan, and put your money in the meter you cheap-ass. Well here's the next problem. I have issues for sure. But let me highlight one of them. I am always conscious of time. It doesn't matter where I am or what I am doing or what I have to do, but I am constantly aware of the ticking of the clock. Here's where this becomes a serious detriment in Laguna: all of the meters have limits on how long you can park there. And not only that, but the parking officers patrol the area with ubiquitous aggression. I parked my car in a space, and before I even got out of it, a parking Mafioso has marked my tire with chalk to ensure that I moved my vehicle before my time expired.

So as soon as I maxed out the meter at three hours, the countdown began in my head.

If you think that oil companies have a racket, they don't hold a candle to Laguna's parking mafia. It is unreal. And during the entire day I didn't see an entire cop, but I did see loads of parking enforcers. I'm convinced that you could commit any crime you wanted in Laguna and as long as it didn't involve parking, you would easily get away with it.

So here is what I did over my three hours in Laguna. I ate lunch at a good French restaurant called C'est La Vie where I ordered a mighty tasty ahi tuna sandwich. The waiters and waitresses were all French which added to the ambience.

I dashed in some art galleries – a thing that Laguna is famous for. I found a few things that caught my eye but nothing that impressed me greatly. I must rant a bit – please skip this paragraph if you're tired of my art expositions. There is an art reproduction printing method known as Giclee (pronounced gee-clay). Back in the day, if you bought a Giclee print it meant that it was produced using a special technique, equipment, and process. It had some weight. The problem is that the term has now been diluted to nothingness now. It is abused by artists who use the term to describe anything that they turn out of their ninety-nine dollar printer at home, and this abuse has filtered up to galleries and printmakers. This leads casually to this observation. I was absolutely amazed by how many galleries I walked into that sold prints for a very high amount of money (some ranged in value from $2500 to $10,000 for what amounted to a poster). I saw very few originals hanging up on the walls. Now prints are good economically for artists. If you can paint one thing and sell it an unlimited amount of times, that's good financially. It's like printing money. If you only sold originals then you got paid once and it disappeared. But I can't understand why someone would walk into a gallery and buy a poster for $5,000 instead of an original. It makes no sense to me. And everything now is Giclee this and Giclee that. It seems like it is 95% of the market and I find this unfortunate.

After perusing a few galleries I walked along the beautiful path that lines the beach.

If you ever see a painting of Laguna, there is a 90% chance that it is of this view:

At one point along the cliff-side boardwalk, I descended stairs to get close to the rocks.

Waves crashed.

This image always conjures up a story that I find terribly haunting.

The waves in Northern California get big. Halfway between San Francisco and Santa Cruz sits the town of Half Moon Bay. Just a short distance out, when the winter storms come down from Alaska, waves reliably reach heights from twenty five to fifty feet tall. Waves pack unbelievable power and they crash against the rocky coast in dramatic fashion.

When I lived in the Bay area there was a story on the news about a newlywed couple who were exploring the Northern California coast, near Monterey, on their honeymoon. They had driven down the coast and got out of their car to take pictures of the incredible ocean view. The man wanted to take a photo of his love set against the scenic backdrop. She perched herself on the rocks. Suddenly a wave crashed against the rocks with mighty force and swept her into the sea. The man instinctively, yet dangerously, dove into the frigid water after her. His attempt was futile. She had drowned. Again, I find this story to be so hauntingly sad, and I'm reminded of it whenever I see waves crash forcefully onto the rocks. (I had originally seen this story on the local nightly news, but have been able to locate the article on sfgate.com.)

The cliff-side boardwalk casually winds about the coastline. It was warm and humid outside. To obtain temporary solace from the weather, I dipped inside the Laguna Art Museum which had a nice display of artwork by early Monterey artists. I found myself frequently glancing down at my watch, trying to determine the latest time I could leave the museum and still make my car in time. As usual, I arrived at the car much earlier than I needed to, so I zipped into some additional art galleries before departing.

I don't know how many times I've driven south on the 5 from Los Angeles. But whenever I do, I'm always anxious to get home. This is unfortunate, because there is a scenic rest area right after San Onofre that I want to stop at but either miss because I'm not paying attention or am too eager to get home. This time I took the exit.

I then continued home.

(The odd thing about this journal entry and many like it is that I just wanted to say that I drove up to Laguna in three sentences and include a few pictures. I'm always amazed how these entries grow and evolve as I'm writing them. This is good for me as a writer… I'm not sure how it is for you the reader.)

No comments: