Our plan had been to camp for a couple of days in Idyllwild, where we’d once celebrated AK’s birthday in a luxury cabin and where, longer ago, I’d gotten a cheer-camp sock tan that made the remnants of my radiation burn look like nothing much. Then Idyllwild caught fire. It seemed tacky to complain about the dissolution of our vacation as people and animals’ homes were getting charred.
Meehan offered her dad’s house in Carmel as an alternative, so on Friday night we drove north instead of east. A couple of weeks before, Meehan’s wife Sally had told me, “Meehan and I were talking about how great you’ve handled these past months. So many people would have shut down, but you opened up and weren’t afraid to ask for help.”
I’d almost cried right there in the middle of C.C.’s graduation luau. Lots of people had expressed admiration for my stamina during cancer treatment, but most had viewed my vulnerability as a sort of understandable evil. Well, of course she’s emotional. She has CANCER. A couple of people had treated it as the disease itself, and stopped speaking to me altogether. For a friend to say what only my therapist seemed to believe—what I only half believed myself—was HUGE.
So I was especially happy to climb into a Subaru with them and head up the 5 and across the 46 where James Dean was killed and up the 101 and through the foggy hills until we touched down in the Carmel Valley. It was a land of golf courses and shops that sold Victorian birdhouses, but it also happened to be Meehan’s ancestral home, the place where her great-grandfather once built a house out of stones with his bare hands.
We woke up in her grandparents’—now dad’s and dad’s wife’s—fifties ranch house and ate eggs and fruit and tiny artisanal toast. We hiked uphill, among wind-whipped coastal trees and butter-white cliff-side remnants of spring waterfalls. Meehan remembered a salamander pond around here somewhere, but the one we found was populated mostly by medium-sized fish with shimmery tails and dark spots on their cheeks like gothic blush. A bullfrog croaked behind some rushes and we joked about the ghost cow in our midst.
We sampled $40-a-bottle wine at Chateau Julien, and AK and I remembered that actually we liked wine, which we often forgot when drinking from Trader Joe’s bottom shelf.
|Making their best wine snob faces.|
Wealthy Carmel ladies were shedding their high-end stuff, and there wasn’t a hipster with an eBay store in sight.
I came away with a pair of J Crew shorts, a silk scarf, a fringed capelet and a wide-shouldered striped dress that made me feel like I was about to plug a glass IV into the arm of a wounded sailor.
Back at Casa Rasch, Meehan’s family was grilling. Her mom and her newish beau came over; you’d think Meehan’s parents were lesbians for how friendly they were with their exes. We ate salmon and pesto pasta on the deck and drank the mom’s beau’s home-brewed beer, which was thick and chocolaty, my favorite kind. Exhausted from the hike and the sun and the alcohol, we all lounged like cats in the living room, playing word games until the parents dispersed and we could watch Orange is the New Black.
We probably spent a good ten percent of the weekend discussing OITNB. Which characters did we identify with? (Meehan was regal and reserved like Alex. AK was Piper—good at making the best of the moment, but easily distracted by feral chicken sightings.) Who would we hang out with? (“Nicky and I would have fun being loud together,” Sally said. I thought I would have some good talks with the intellectual tranny firefighter who was pissed off about hormonal injustice.)
All of us who’d put up with The L Word—its bad writing and ripped-from-the-viewer-letters-file attempts at diversity—were finally being rewarded for our patience with a show about real women with real problems doing real things and sometimes having super hot sex.
We went for a morning run on Sunday. Sally and AK peeled off and I walk-ran by the golf course and thought about my novel—whether Kate would tell Serge about her pregnancy during her holiday trip to Chuckwalla, or whether she’d put it off and inadvertently set a bad example for Tilly. I used to frequently puzzle through plot problems while I ran, but for years it seemed the plot I’d been obsessed with was my own life.
And it still is—on the drive back we talked relationships and possible parenthood and crazy exes and crazy selves. You’re never free of those things. But you can get away from them for a couple of days.