4th Apr 2012
SoCal to Boston (Duncan)
Touched down in SoCal on a fairly balmy evening; it was at least balmier than the -10C we left in. Over the course of the Canadian winter (which, of course, the locals say was so mild it doesn’t even count) we decided to spend sizable chunks of time in warm southern sorts of places. Our old sailing friends Ron and Suzanne live in San Diego, so we emailed to organize a visit. My fingers had surged pink at the prospect.
We were picked up at the airport by Ron, who’s the mellowed out version of a dude that was quite well laid back to begin with. He has a Buddha facing his favorite chair and listens to music of rain falling. However, behind the wheel of a car those decades of placidity slip off like an old buckskin jacket. “Bitch! Com’on! I’ll miss the light!!” And drive hard…that little Kia spent half the ride in the air. He does, in honesty, drive well…well, but crisp.
Next morning, after having awoken with thoughts of St Christopher in my mind, I went for a run down by the beach with Irene, and Ron, as calm as Methadone, rode his bicycle alongside. The Pacific lived up to its name. Long glassy swells come in and pods of surfers waited for the right wave. The actual town we stayed in is called Cardiff-by-the-Sea and it’s about twenty miles or so north of San Diego. It’s a friendly, athletic, healthy, posh little community. Property a quarter of a mile back from the beach will get up into seven figures very quickly. Everybody walks dogs and runs and sips lattes al fresco. It’s an enviable lifestyle perched on bluffs between San Diego and even larger Los Angeles. Suzanne feels right at home: she knows every store within a radius of 20 miles of her house!
LA is beyond argument big. But it was the expressways that impressed me. They are rivers of cars; great shiny, roaring torrents of cars, all going elsewhere, day and night. We wanted to see the Getty Museum in LA so Ron drove us up one beautiful morning. We made good time, even though we didn’t get over into the far left lane where those Bastards! were doing 85.
The Getty is a striking museum and houses a world renowned collection of Renaissance and Classical art. But to be frank, my tastes run more through the Impressionists to the present. Allegories and crucifixions wear thin quite rapidly. I do well with landscapes over any period, but I’m done with mythology, nymphs and fat arsed nudes. Notwithstanding the limitations of my appreciation it was a brilliant visit, chiefly because of the architecture of the actual buildings of the museum.
Credit goes to Richard Meier, the architect. He drew and oversaw the construction of the Modernist structure, which sits on a dramatic hilltop in the Santa Monica Mountains. Large portions of the building are clad in squares of split travertine, a light beige limestone sprinkled with fossils. The stability of the stone anchors the soaring Modern lines. The flow ways for humans are effectively executed; getting around is logical and easy, spacious and open. Unlike other examples of the style, this structure serves the final client not the indulgences of the architect. The grounds are methodically designed and flow from level to level…even the trees seem Modern. I loved the entire effect: wish I hadn’t spent so much time inside with the antiquities and varnished saints. www.getty.edu/visit/see_do/architecture.html
Conveniently dovetailing with my interest in the fine arts is my passion for beer. I made a stalwart effort to try every offering of craft beer in SoCal – but it was simply too much. San Diego alone has 38 micro breweries. I had to organize myself and commit to one brewery: Stone. We actually went out to their facility in nearby Escondido; and the tour was good. Yes, the usual stainless steel tank farm but the guide was a believer and the tasting was superb; slick little gift shop too. The 10% alc/vol Old Guardian barleywine was as smooth as a liqueur and the full range of IPA’s are indisputable hop fests. We finished with the “You are not Worthy” Arrogant Bastard. On a zymurgological note my tastes have left the pale and golden ales and landed amongst the big-bodied IPA’s with hop profiles over 75 IBU’s. Before we digress into yeast types let me just say that Stone is a church - www.Stonebrew.com In fact I managed to haul Irene over a tortuous steeplechase in Boston buying Stone beers to take back to our little fastness in the hinterland of New Brunswick.
Boston is a city that has flowed and crept out around a half dozen bays with little room to sprawl or grow freeways. It is very much the antithesis of SoCal. You really don’t want to drive in Boston; I’ve never seen so many squirrely intersections. But it’s a better city for all this. We walked the obligatory Freedom Trail, and took in the architecture of the revolutionary days; tough cold houses for people cut from very different cloth. Even today Bostonians seem poles apart from Californians. They are very friendly, and also very full-bodied and robust. I can just imagine them pounding cannonballs into the Redcoats!
Apropos of cannonballs, we went to see the USS Constitution…and what a marvelous ship that is. The oldest, floating, commissioned warship in the world; in principle you could loose her lines and unfurl a sail and she would head off down the harbor. The rig is not authentic, it’s real. Irene really enjoyed the experience particularly after her reading of Patrick O’Brian. Boston was also very agreeable in terms of weather. We walked in T shirts and loafers; I’d forgotten the wool hat with earflaps that lay in the back seat of the car.
As we drove back north, through Bangor and on toward the border, snow patches became more common on the side of the road. The rain that had been falling all day became thicker, went through slush and turned into flurries. By the time we hit Raccoon Hollow we had a minor snow fall.
Today I went to the doctor for a sinus issue and she asked me if I had chills. And I told her, “Yes, they started last September…”