1. Avalon, Catalina Island
2. Neptune’s Net, Malibu
3. Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles
4. Santa Barbara Zoo, Santa Barbara
5. Chick-fil-A, Oxnard
6. Thousand Oaks Library, Thousand Oaks
7. The city of Solvang
8. Santa Cruz Island
9. Lake Arrowhead
10. My house, Camarillo
In a good way.
There is always something to smell in Uganda, whether it’s burning trash, a freshly cut pineapple, or wet dirt after a torrential downpour. Living here in the United States I miss that. Once in a while I’ll catch a whiff of someone grilling burgers or a full trash can but it’s more of a “one off” than a constant. In Uganda your 5 senses are on full alert. It’s always noisy, you’re almost always sweating, you can taste the dust that gets in your mouth, there is so much activity and color your eyes are constantly darting back and forth from sight to sight, and then there are the smells. I loved walking through the village smelling the dawn of a new day. Chapati and eggs frying on a skillet greeted me each morning, car exhaust and body odor carried me into the afternoon, and fresh fruit and the scent of rain said good-night to me.
I miss Uganda, I miss Africa. It’s the little differences that make the big difference. It’s the greetings shouted your way throughout the day, the thrill of a boda boda ride through a traffic jam, the exhaustion of a 3 hour soccer match that stand out. Africa makes one feel alive, truly alive, and that’s something southern California just doesn’t do for me.
One stretch of beach along the PCH is unique because of the giant sand hill that has built up over time against the mountains. This was my next stop. The memories here are more recent than others. In fact, it was just over a year earlier that I had been here on a day off from work. Jenny and I brought our dogs to the beach to start filming the opening scenes for a movie we were and still are working on (Houndward Bound is the title). While filming we found a seal sunning itself on the beach, a tidepool full of starfish, and the dogs discovered their love for eating seashells.
As we were walking back along the beach towards the car I realized my cell phone wasn’t in its normal pocket. I quickly checked all my pockets and the camera case and sure enough it wasn’t anywhere to be found. The phone was last seen being used by Jenny as a prop in one of the scenes we were filming further down the beach. I headed back in that direction while Jenny stayed with the dogs and after a few minutes of searching amongst the rocks and tidepools I found my phone lying on the sand, wet and dead. Ooops. It was a small price to pay though for a great day at the beach. One of these days we’ll actually finish the movie that has been so long in the making.
Another memory I had of this beach took place about two years before the cell phone incident. One evening just as the sun was setting Jenny brought me to the sand hill for the first time. We brought Grace (the oldest Basset Hound) with us and decided to climb up the hill and watch the sun set over the Pacific Ocean.
About a third of the way up the hill Grace decided to call it quits, but Jenny and I kept trekking to the top. We finally reached where the sand meets the rocks and we sat down and watched a gorgeous sun setting into the ocean. Grace had dug herself a resting place in the sand and watched the sunset from a little further down the hill, but she waited patiently for us as we soaked up the view.
On this rainy day there were no seals, no sunsets, and my cell phone was safe and secure in my pocket (except for when I was taking the pictures). We weren’t filming and I was all alone, but the beauty of the waves crashing against the shore and the way the diffused sunlight shone upon the sand hill still made for a memorable moment.
I drove a short way down the PCH (about 100 yards) and pulled off to the side of the road next to a very large rock that stood guarding over the Pacific. The mist was even thicker now, almost to the point of possibly being called rain and even though it was morning, standing there I was taken back to a night in 2006.
I was on tour (still) with a choir from Uganda and we were staying in Camarillo that night. All of the children and adults were being hosted at one very big house. After the children went to bed some of us adults decided to take a drive out to the ocean just for the fun of it, so four of us got into a car and drove to this very spot. One of the staff who was there with me was a girl I had come to love and as we stood there in the moonlight watching the waves crash against the shore I looked over at her and was mesmerized by her beauty. Forget the ocean, forget the starry sky, she was the object that caught my attention.
I didn’t try to hold her hand, I didn’t whisper any sweet words in her ear, I just watched her. Of course, when she turned her blue eyes towards me I quickly turned my head away and glanced out at the Pacific! I was still nervous around her, when she looked my way my heart would begin to pound and I couldn’t think of any words to say. So, I said nothing. I kept everything inside, to myself. It was a cool night and after a few minutes we piled back into the warmth of the car and drove back to the house where we were staying. As I stood there 4 years later I couldn’t help but smile remembering that moment.
That night was just the beginning of things. We both knew how the other felt, we had talked, we had opened our hearts up, but little did I know that we would soon start dating, eventually become engaged and ultimately get married.
On Monday, July 5th I had a day off from work and decided to visit my old friend the Pacific Ocean. I don’t live that far away and can actually see the ocean from my backyard when the air is clear. So, we were due for a date. I made 4 stops on my journey and each stop holds a special memory for me (mostly involving my wife). This is part one of a four part series about each stop I made and what it means to me. Enjoy!
It was not a typical Southern California summer day. In fact it was quite the opposite: cool, cloudy, and misty. I stopped at a small stretch of beach that held a specific memory for me dating back to my days with the African Children’s Choir. In 2003 I was working with a choir that was composed of children from Uganda and Kenya and we happened to be singing at a couple of churches in the Ventura/Oxnard/Camarillo area. One Saturday morning (on a day off) the host family that some boys and I were staying with offered to take us to the beach. The boys loved swimming and any excuse to go to the beach was a good one so we happily accepted. It was to this very stretch of beach I was standing on this cool, cloudy July day that we were brought to 7 years earlier although that day was much sunnier and warmer.
I don’t remember much about our time at the beach except this: Kepha (one of the older Kenyan boys) and I walked along the beach down to a point where an outcropping of rocks jut out into the ocean. There were “No going beyond this point” signs so we stopped and just stood there watching the waves crashing against the rocks. Neither of us said anything, there was no need for words. Plumes of water would spray high into the air as the waves relentlessly pounded the rocks. After a few minutes we both turned and walked back up the beach to where the host family had set out towels and blankets.
It’s funny the things that a mind remembers. I remember the beach, Kepha, and that moment. I don’t remember the host family or even what other boy from the choir was with us. Those were good times, special times, and I was taken back this July 5th to a single moment in time that will forever be etched in my memory.