beach as Heaven
Sunday, February 6 2000
The developers had another PL/SQL lesson today, but it was a sunny day and our hearts weren't in it. At around noon we called it quits for the day. Since I'd come to work neither stoned nor with a hangover, it hadn't been all that bad. I realized today that these PL/SQL lessons are a charade, exactly like the sexual sensitivity seminar we attended some months ago. It's all a big show so the managers will have some evidence to show the investors when they make the remarkable claim that our staff can actually run an Oracle-based website. In truth, though, the topics are being covered too quickly for anyone to actually learn anything. We won't learn this stuff until it comes time to build applications.
Kevin the DBA suggested that we go up to his place and ride our bikes all the way down the beach to my place. He's been trying to get me to ride a bike with him for weeks, so today I finally said okay.
First Kevin drove us to his newish apartment up in Pacific Beach. It was remarkably like his old place in the Schteveishly upscale gated community at La Mirage, except it wasn't gated and the utility guys had marked up his walls with little messages saying where the cracks, pipes and calk ran. The downside of Kevin's place is the price: almost $2000/month for two bedrooms. Even with a DBA's salary, he's desperately trying to find a roommate.
We soon found ourselves leisurely biking the boardwalk along the Pacific from the vicinity of Crystal Pier in Pacific Beach down the entire length of Mission Beach. The boardwalk (which is actually a concrete path) was crowded with skaters, strollers, walkers and bikers, forming their own kind of low-stress gridlock. But since there were no lanes to restrict our movements, it was rarely difficult to blow by even the worst pockets of congestion. Every now and then there'd be a long clear swath of boardwalk and we could gain some ground. I was continuously conflicted between my desire to get the fuck through and my simultaneous desire not come across as an asshole. Every now and then Kevin would see an especially attractive young woman and let out a cat call.
Though the air held a slight chill, in concert with the heat of the sun, it felt unbelievably nice. Too nice in fact. The scenery in front of me closely resembled a 15th Century artist's idea of how Heaven must look. To my right enormous waves were crashing sublimely (yet benignly) against flawless beaches thickly occupied by suntan enthusiasts. In from the beaches, the happily crowded residences weren't especially different from a great linear medieval village, gradually receding into the white, misty, infinite flat-world distance. The fact that there were no cars or other vehicles in this landscape further bolstered the timeless ambiance.
This was the first time I'd ever beheld reality through an intensely Christian prism. It was a playful thing for me, with no real religious connotations. I let my mind whimsically wander over the idea of the traditional Christian Heaven, especially in its capacity as a metaphor for human aspirations. Heaven has traditionally been depicted as a place up among the clouds, a place people go when they can advance no further here on the funky old earth. In its place just above the clouds, traditional Heaven resembles a beach, with the atmosphere above our heads being Heaven's ocean. Furthering this metaphor, the ocean beside the beach known as Heaven represents the easiest access for Heaven-bound souls back to mortality-plagued earth. Despite all their harp-strumming piety, some among the souls resident in Heaven must be curious about the experience of being a mortal. In the heaven I saw before me, these renegade souls were the surfers foolishly rowing the boards out to meet the gargantuan waves. There was a very real menace to this Heaven I beheld, the same menace I got as a child from medieval depictions of Heaven, the same menace I sense buried in the damage done to my father by his traditional Catholic upbringing.
Kevin led me all the way to the rocky man-made shores of the oceanic inlet to the artificial harbor known as Mission Bay. As he parked his bike, Kevin told me that he frequently stops here to thank God for the beauty of the Earth. Indeed, despite the fact that everything before me was entirely man-made, it had a sublimeness about it that pushed the limits on available clichés. The waves coming down the inlet from the ocean were enormous, yet small sail boats and little fishing vessels tottered along on them all the same. One of the small boats was a San Diego police ship, and as I looked at all the other sketchy little ships coming in off the untamed no-man's Pacific, I wondered about all the illegal aliens and drugs smuggled into this harbor. It is, after all, the first genuinely low-key harbor north of Mexico. (What with the military bases, Coast Guard, etc., I can't imagine many drugs get smuggled into the natural San Diego Harbor to the south.)
Every now and then a mid-sized boat, its decks thoroughly crowded with passengers, would forge down the inlet into the huge waves of the Pacific Ocean. For a brief time it would look like it was about to be ripped apart by the waves, spilling its vast human cargo into the sea. But then the boat would make a U-turn and quickly come sailing back into Mission Bay. Then another boat, similarly crowded with people, would make another brief excursion. It must have been some sort of tour for thrill-seekers, at least on this particular day.
We doubled back up the east side of the Peninsula all the way to the Mission Beach roller coaster and then headed south across the Bay Channel and San Diego River into Ocean Beach. As we crossed the San Diego River on the Sunset Cliffs Bridge, I saw three or four seals down below in the river barking up at the bridge. I wondered for a moment if perhaps they had been elected by their brethren as representatives and been sent to petition humanity here at the bridge. It was a creepy thought; though this might well have been exactly what I was witnessing, no respectable political leader would ever seriously respond to such an overture.
Back at home, Kim had yet to arrive from Michigan as originally planned. [REDACTED] Kevin had received some cryptic message on his phone, but there was no message at all on my answering machine. This didn't sound like the Kim I knew, so I grew worried. Kim was still checked in at the Ritz Carlton in Dearborn, so I left a message on her voicemail there. Then I called her step-dad, who said she'd changed her flights. Then it turned out that even the neighbor girl Lisa knew that Kim had changed her flight. [REDACTED]
Kim came home at around nine in the evening. After the usual post-separation angst & vitriol, everything pretty much returned to normal for us.
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