Autumn in San Diego, California, 2014
The sun dips into the sea earlier each setting. Summer flings are winding down. A tidy sorrow, fine and knit of tiny mistakes collected over many seasons of living, wraps itself around you… Paris, is a vivid recent memory and you tend to it by reading the history, the canned memories, and the predictable novels set in the twenties, when Hemmingway was a young buck, pushing a pen around with the force of a bayonet. The reading soothes… yet… longing for those little plastic-wicker chairs outside cafes where people sit and read and people watch… how I miss them!
Frau Kolb is in San Diego, California, gripped by a bad case of Paris Nostalgia. POST-PARIS BLUES threatens to strangle our pleasure in being here. How is that? I mean, Paris… yes… is wonderful. But, hummingbirds and butterflies are not at home there! In contrast to the urban wonder of Paris, San Diego is defined by its still unspoiled open spaces and natural beauty. Blue sky triumphant like a blanket of possibility, stretches across the rusty mountain tops in the distance. Nature, wild and inviting, canyons and mountains, call out to those that love to hike. Usually, this bounty of being enthralls me. Yet, now… I keep thinking of the little bookstores in every neighborhood in Paris, which invite a different kind of bounty, an internal exploration, which I so enjoy.
Thank goodness for a perfectly timed visit from a best friend based in Boston, Massachutes. Constantine Finehouse, concert pianist, multi-lingual, multi-cultural, friend to Frau Kolb, long time supporter of The Talkinggrid, POPS into San Diego TO THE RESCUE!
He brings with him urbane sophistication, offhand knowledge of many subjects, and a self reliant independence that makes him the perfect guest. His only need is to practice piano. To this end, he heads out… coming and going like a semi-feral cat. The prey he brings back from his excursions are telephone pictures of another San Diego. The San Diego of under used upright pianos in churches and universities… so foreign, and near!
Daily we make our way, to safety, to the familiar port, the secure harbor with a “little help from our friends.” Whenever we care about another that feeling gives us strength to move forward. Friendships are necessary for mental health. Yet, fitting IN is NOT my strength. I struggle with normalcy and haven’t experienced it much in my life. I’ve given up on the normal, because I don’t understand them and I don’t think they have much patience for us either.
Fortunately, we gather “a little help from our friends,” who aid us in getting on with, “the business of life.” I’m grateful that my most sophisticated and sensitive, Male Muse, a friend for more than a decade of meaningful connection, pianist Constantine Fineshouse, came to visit for a long weekend which helped me transition from being the Parisian Frau, to the well adjusted Southern California Beach Bitch, that some believe to be the real me.
Our conversation flows mostly in English, although we met in an advanced Spanish (grammar) class at Columbia University in New York City. Although, Constantine’s German is nicht schlect, we rarely speak in German or Spanish. We met while were students. Our friendship sprang up immediately and has endured various incarnations. We have matured yet we always allow ourselves a little silly surrender to childish playfulness. The initial spark, which animated the first part of our friendship, a was a delicate little flame, which lasted only a few weeks, snuffed by a small difference in age and my need to go find the real fire to light the hearth that is my heart, capable of warming my soul, for fifteen years going on forever. The small spark, however endured and has survived. Today it is used to maintain the spark of the small torch toward the path of this lasting connection, a trusted and cherished platonic friendship, like a temple built on a solid foundation, which also serves to build up the part of me that needs support and maintenance, which gives me strength to find my little patch of cultivated peace in this ever sunny land. How pleasant!
The fact is that every city, every location, has its merits and San Diego is a town with many fine qualities, besides its beautiful beaches and picture perfect weather. Finehouse, for example, worked his magic on his smart device, (kept hidden, unless needed for specific purposes, Finehouse is NOT one of those people that is constantly fidgeting with his obscenely smart phone). Reading reviews, he finds the perfect a hole-in-the-wall sushi house, next to a parking lot, in an ugly strip mall that serves sushi so good that a line snakes out their door everyday at lunch time.
San Diego offers dreamy sushi! You know what else…
In La Jolla, we visited Cafe La Rue at the Hotel Valencia. I needed a dose of Parisian pleasure, no matter that we are so very far from France, the source… Paris, inspires. The decor invites comparison with that of a traditional Parisian Bistro or Cafe, it has sweet paintings of Parisian Life, done in 1947, the food is good, hearty, my favorite breakfast they serve is the Toad in a Hole, which is totally delicious, not particularly French, and totally the right kind of comfort food to banish the POST PARIS DOLDRUMS alas the waiters, elegant as they are, speak no French what-so-ever and somehow… here, in Southern California, I am an exotic and strange in my demands for a little sip of sparkling ambrosia, whereas in Paris, everyone seems to understand me, my secret language, my arcane tastes, and hidden expectations. I settled for a glass of, always pleasing, Vueve Cliquot and a nibble of charcuteri and
(pasterized… American versions of) French cheeses… all was edible enough, even almost ideal… what is missing is that open ended ease of Parisian Cafe Life. One is not expected to rush off after a meal, from one thing to the next, in Paris. In the United States eating is something that simply happens for the most part. It is not taken seriously as a pursuit, a focus. People often eat in their cars.
Cafe La Rue, at 1132 Prospect Street in La Jolla, California is a far cry from being fast food. Yet, one is expected to eat, pay, and move along. There is no personal touch, no sense that you matter, that your preferences or presence count. Even though all the waiters and bartenders there are handsome and friendly enough… The missing ingredient, in American cuisine is TIME. People here rush from one thing to the next and savoring doesn’t happen in the context of coming and going. It takes time, conversation, expertly prepared fresh food, and a culture that supports the lingering soul to make meals truly touching like the splendid Lunch for One, I had at Cafe Constant in Paris or the incredible marathon evening at Je Thé… me with Jacky and The Muse and Hartmuth Kolb in Paris, France.