Sunday, September 27, 2009

Saturday's goings-on

I've noticed something unexpected about this place: there isn't any wind. Every other shoreline I've ever been on has almost constant wind, caused, I believe, by the ability of air to move without restriction across large expanses of water. But the palm trees out on the beach are motionless; my cigarette ash from Thursday afternoon lies unmolested on the balcony; the bit of litter someone dropped on the esplanade Friday morning has been stepped on and sniffed at by dogs and otherwise ignored for two days. There's no scent of salt water in the air. It's a little eerie.

Saturday was Jeff's birthday. I went the whole day without teasing him about getting old, because I feel sorry for people who are aging while I remain forever forty-nine.

We watched the tail end of the Portsmouth-Everton match on TV and took a walk up the shoreline as far as Tourmaline Surf Park, a small bay which, I guess, has reliably good waves. I've noticed that surfing is as popular with aging baby-boomers as with Gen-X'ers, but there seem to be very few younger people out on the water. This is a disappointment, because the attraction to me is being able to watch the hot young bodies and reminisce about when I was that age, and more or less fit. (I never really was that fit, except in those memories, denied to me here by all those fifty-something men and women -- mostly men; I'd say 20-to-1 -- dragging their sorry asses up the beach, and standing in small groups on the shore, talking about the surgeries they and their friends have had.)

Our first destination for the day was the USS Midway, the big aircraft carrier that was retired to San Diego harbor as a museum. I missed the driveway, so we turned into Tuna Harbor Park, the next pier on the shoreline, and took some pictures of the statues celebrating the great Allied victory in World War II. Then we went to the carrier. It almost turned out to be our only destination; we spent much longer touring the ship than we expected, and I still had to skip the last third of the tour.

The ship is, of course, huge. By naval standards (according to Jeff, who spent time on a destroyer), it's quite roomy, but seems to have been built for short, skinny people. Perhaps not coincidentally, all the servicemen in the hundreds of old photos on the walls are short and skinny. The officers are a little heftier, but still on the short side.

When I was in my teens, I gave some thought to joining the Navy. Someone with more sense talked me out of it, and after seeing the galleys and laundry rooms on that ship, I'm glad they did. Because I know that that's where I would have done my time. Jeff assures me that the engine room would have been worse, but this doesn't make me any less sure that I made the right choice in bypassing the service as a career.

I suppose it's natural to compare the Midway to the Lexington, the older, smaller carrier moored in Corpus Christi. The Lex is more interesting to me as an artifact of history, as it actually served the glorious cause in World War II: the Lex is a bloodied spear, where the Midway is a laurel wreath. But the people in charge of the Midway have done a much better job at making the tour interesting, informative and educational. Maybe the Lex's layout doesn't lend itself to the sort of self-guided tour available on the Midway, but I'm inclined to think that the real difference is in funding: the Midway is moored in a big Navy town, and a wealthy one at that, while the Lex is moored in a smallish, out-of-the-way city with little Navy history.

Once we tore ourselves away from the ship, we rushed across the harbor to get to Cabrillo National Monument before it closed at 5pm. There's a beautiful view from there, and we got our National Park Passport stamp (the most important thing), but since the monument is on a nuclear submarine base, everybody gets thrown out at closing time. Another stupid post-9/11 panic measure. The fog rolled in, obscuring the lighthouse on the point, then hiding the point itself. There was a ceremony taking place at the statue of SeƱor Cabrillo, celebrating the 467th anniversary of his landing to claim California for Spain, and when that was over, the rangers politely asked everyone to return to their cars. We drove home, fixed dinner (Nancy cooked southwestern mac & cheese, one of my favourite recipes. Yummy.) Afterwards we took Jeff out for birthday ice cream, then came back and played cards until no one could keep their eyes open.

Another good day.