I just took my nightly ride along Pebble Beach up to Point St. George and back, the muse now calling once again.
The Christmas season never fails to open up certain literary portals, this year being no different. Ubiquitously, Gaspar, Melchior and Balthasar arrived, along with O’Henry’s young newlyweds, among them, Bedsworth with his inimitable talent of converting life’s sourest lemons into lemonade.
Somewhere in the pitch dark and gale winds, just south of Fran and Terry McNamara’s cattle grate, I find myself thinking of another lawyer, weary and longing to leave something akin to Sandburg’s footprints in the sand. I think of this man named Max, scrawling in pen, on a rainy night in Terre Haute, Ind., in 1927.
“Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.”
Which brings to mind a story about a young man just up the road apiece, 70 or so miles north of Brookings. Jake, I’ll call him, was just home from serving in Afghanistan and working at the family gas station and convenience store. A young couple in a packed-up, ’71 Dodge Tradesman van pulled in. Jake, ever friendly, struck up a conversation, asking where they were headed.
The man, near Jake’s age, said they were headed south, looking for a new place to live, saying good riddance to the town in their rear view mirror.
When Jake asked what their town was like, the young man and his wife intermittently scowled, saying the police were always hassling them to turn down their stereo or tone down the cussing and fighting. There was no night life. There was no place to shop and no jobs worth taking. When the driver finally tired and asked Jake what his town was like, Jake just shook his head, shrugged and said, “Pretty much the same.”
A couple hours later, a fifth wheel with a shiny Airstream pulled up. A husband and wife, senior citizens. Jake asked them where they were going. The lady said they were retired and had just sold their home back up the road and had decided to see America while they “were young.”
Waiting for the tanks to fill, Jake asked what their hometown had been like. The man replied, “Well, it was kinda quiet, not much to do at night, but we had good friends we kept up with, we had the ocean and the rivers for fishing and camping and Lord, raising four kids — between helping with their homework, carting them to their school games and scouting events — heck, by day’s end we were tired enough.”
As the pump stopped, Darlene asked Jake what his hometown here was like. Jake smiled and replied, “Pretty much the same, ma’am.”
Which brings me back to Bedsworth and what he taught me almost 30 years ago and again this year, about how most things in this life are kinda like Rohrschach tests, lemons if you will, that can end up sour as all get-out — or lemonade if you just take the time to make it.
This past year, I got to see Bruce Springsteen perform in San Jose and work his magic in one of his three-hour shows that are nothing short of revival tent religion.
I watched as Giants catcher Buster Posey returned from a career-threatening homeplate collision to lead his team to another World Series champsionship and win the National League MVP award.
In 2012, we got to see another back alley brawl we call a presidential election. And if you got past the venom and vitriol we go to battle over every four years, you looked around when the smoke cleared and saw you lived in a place where you got to take that side you swore was the right one — and your parents and their parents many times before.
I looked around my hometown and saw a country doc named Greg Duncan, somewhere between David meeting Goliath and Jimmy Stewart in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” bucking overwhelming odds while taking on corporate greed and big-city Sutter Health Group—and still standing tall as he enters the fourth quarter.
And just this week, Tana Bachmann and the Humane Society, working with Ken Smith and Animal Control, found homes for every one of the 19 dogs rescued from the B Street “puppy mill.’
All that and eight days in October in San Francisco. The mist in my eyes, from the lobby in that foreign place, still returns as I recall several hundred people who gave up their hard-earned money and time to fly or car-pool 700 and more miles or write letters to stand by me.
Dr. King once wrote, “In the end, we will not remember the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
For those eight days alone and the people that filled them and my life, Dr. King’s lament will never be mine, and no matter how the cards are stacked or fall, I will continue to consider myself a very blessed man.
About this time, I’m pedaling back onto 9th Street, where I can see the Christmas tree in my front window and I can hear Bedsworth. And Max …
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.
Jon Alexander is the Del Norte County district attorney.