I am 40 now. 40 and 5 days to be exact. I entered my 4th decade on 11/17/11, which is a pretty cool date. It was a pretty incredible week. I didn’t do anything outrageous, but at this point in my life outrageous does not a good week make. So what makes a good week? Apparently solitude.
After 5 rigorous years of child rearing, I decided to open my birthday week with a few days of alone time. I am currently infatuated with Kirk Creek campground up in Big Sur and having a new tent trailer definitely helps with the infatuation. So I thought it sounded nice to go up there for a few days all by my lonesome. However, I must say I was a bit freaked out at the prospect. After all, after 5 years of family mayhem, you get used to the mayhem. Would the solitude make me totally depressed?
As a hedge against depression (and solitude), I invited my friend Jake to join me on the first night. He is my best friend from high school and he happened to be in town at the time from Portland. I called him about 2 hours before I left and told him that he had better come with me. It was kind of a test for him. After all, he has a child who is almost 3, so a night away for him was just as precious as one for me. But the question was, could he extract himself on such short notice from the sticky web of domesticity? The answer, to my relief, was yes. So Jake lumbered up Highway 1 in his Econoline and met me just as the winter sun was setting over the Pacific. We wasted no time in trying our best to reconstruct a typical night of high school revelry. Too much beer: Check. Sitting in the van listening to loud rock-n-roll: Check. However, this time around, it was our rock-n-roll. Yes, we played our very own homemade rock music. Jake played songs from his upcoming Heavy Sweaters release which consists of him on heavy guitar and vocals and his friend John on tasteful yet pounding drums. I played selections from my as-yet unnamed release. And, of course, as big, grown-up 40 year olds the beer in our hands was now tasty microbrews rather than low-grade American lager. Oh, how we have moved up in life.
Jake left early the next morning, which meant I was finally alone. And I soon discovered that being alone was AMAZING. Granted, nothing particularly amazing happened, but that is why it was so damn fun. I did a lot of nothing. I slept in. I made coffee. I read. I took a bike ride. I hiked. I watched the sun set. I cooked a steak. I drank beer. I stared at the fire. I strummed my guitar. i listened to music. I did lots of normal, mundane, ho-hum, everyday activities, but I did them alone, at a gorgeous campsite, in gorgeous weather, without children. It was profound.
But after a few days I was ready to come home. Well, I was ready to come home because I knew I had three more days of fun and games ahead of me. The plan was to come back home, watch the boys for a night while my wife taught, and then leave with her the next morning for ANOTHER 3 day trip to Big Sur. But this time the kids were being left with the grandparents and we were going to stay in lodging that was a step up from a tent trailer. We had reserved a studio on VRBO that had a great view and was a stones throw from Nepenthe restaurant, the classic Big Sur haunt.
The rental was a splurge but was really nice. Most importantly, it had a hot tub. I love hot tubs. I especially love hot tubs late at night when it is cold and my body aches. But the coolest thing about the studio is its hiking trail that leads down a canyon, through a redwood grove, and up to Nepenthe. So on the first night we donned our headlamps and navigated the terrain under a pitch-black sky. The redwoods were gigantic and beautiful and a brook bisected the canyon and the soft ground. We followed a tributary stream up the other side of the canyon and it spit us out at Nepenthe, where a fire burned on the patio and red christmas lights cast a glow that harkened back to a hippie heyday. And I longed to travel back in time to that hippie heyday, where I imagine a total free-for-all of dancing and revelry. But Thursday night post-millenium the place was dead. After all Big Sur will forever be a time capsule, with the edifices intact but the cast long gone. A couple trustafarians slinked into the bar and ordered $7 drafts, while a downtrodden gal with a brown grocery sack solicited rides from neo-hippies whilst stealing nibbles from a 1LB Hershey bar to stave off hunger.