When I was in Vegas a few months ago for the Saveur Awards, I got a ride from the airport with a female cab driver with rose tinted aviators and a turquoise manicure. She sang along, shamelessly, to “I’ve Got You, Babe” as we zoomed along the desert highway and looked back just once in her rearview mirror to say “honey, if you can tell me who sings this… ride’s on me.” I drew a blank. She laughed. Really? I was so embarrassed. Sonny and Cher. I thought about that one year we went as Sonny and Cher to our Sadie Hawkins dance in 2005, I burned the song to a CD to play in the car and we sang it ourselves in the parking lot near the swimming pool at our High School.
The same song was playing yesterday when I stopped for breakfast at a cafe in San Luis Obispo. It was Saturday. Couples in workout gear moseyed in and woke up over coffee and acai bowls. Oh, California. A familiar scene and characters that Shaun and I could have lived out had we never left. I carry a Colorado driver’s license now and and am taking in the California coastline alone as a visitor. Campsites were full the two nights prior so I slept in the cab of my borrowed truck parked in a hotel lot away from the lights. This was a whole new level of vagabonding. I had a hard time falling asleep and my mind began racing with questions of the legality of my makeshift homestead. Squinting with one eye open on my side, I googled “is sleeping in your car legal?” on my phone which led to a series of other searches for murder records in Pismo Beach, the addresses and pictures of registered sex offenders within five miles of where I was parked. I closed my eyes, said a little prayer, and didn’t wake again until 5:54 am. I lunged over the console to the drivers seat and peeled out for the beach.
They say we’re young and we don’t know, we won’t find out until we grow. Well I don’t know if all that’s true, You’ve got me and baby I’ve got you.
It’s funny how much has changed since we took turns with those lyrics in our costumes. Shaun and I started our relationship fighting the dogma that we were too young to “get it.” Truth is after all these years I don’t know if I’ve “gotten it” any more than I did then. We grow up. Time wears on our idealism, the ego plays its hand, we lose our perspective, we hurt each other intentionally and not. This is the human experience, in relationship, really. We try, we fail, we work, we regroup. I loved us then, I love us more now, despite the ways time has blemished our story. I’m sitting on a cliff watching the waves crash on the rocks in Half Moon Bay right now, journaling. A wise friend’s ashes were spread here many years ago… he was, and I think still probably is, Shaun’s and my fiercest cheerleader. I haven’t cried this hard in years. We haven’t always done it right, Hayden, but we’re still here. I wish you could see this love, now. I hope you’d be proud.
I drove to my brother’s place in silence later that night with the windows down. The sun was just beginning to retire and there was that sort of glow about the road that made my life feel oddly cinematic. I had gone back through When Women Were Birds over the course of the trip, transcribing passages to my journal and hashing them out in the mornings from my sleeping bag. It rested in the passenger seat atop musky beach towels, a half eaten loaf of bread, and a pile of seagull feathers I started collecting in Santa Monica. In the distance I could see a flight of birds moving up the coast along the road, I admired them for a few seconds until I realized they were flying straight toward me. Drifting. Drifting. Drifting. Yet was sudden. A single bird did not follow the the others and slammed into my windshield like a bullseye. I screamed and watched, horrified, in the rearview mirror as it bounced to the ground and other cars passed over her grave. I looked at the book and the feathers in the passenger seat and felt like I couldn’t breathe. WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN??!!? I felt like in accidentally killing the bird, I had betrayed every intimacy with Terry Tempest Williams’ words and thoughts on women and birds over the past month. It was hard not to to feel auspicious or look for symbology. Why did the bird stray from her friends? I have so many questions. I should write Ms. Williams a letter. Maybe it’s not time for it all to make sense yet…They say we’re young and we don’t know, we won’t find out until we grow. Well I don’t know if all that’s true, You’ve got me and baby I’ve got you.
I’m finally home in Denver. It feels right and good, I’m finding out, as I grow.
Inspired by the menu of a swanky bar in Los Angeles that friends Mike and Mel took us to a few weeks ago. I like a cocktail that’s a real kick in the pants, this one takes first prize.
Recipe for a single cocktail. Increase quantities as necessary for your guests.
- 2 oz (1 shot) tequila reposado
- 4 oz (2 shots) ginger beer
- 4 oz guava juice
- 4-6 round slivers of fresh jalapeño
In a cocktail shaker combine liquids, a few slivers of jalapeño, and a few cubes of ice. Shake. Pour over glass filled with ice. Garnish with more jalapeño.