Tuesday, August 13, 2019

San Diego: last evening

        “The sea is our most universal symbol for memory.”
        The words come from one of the short stories in THE STORIES OF JOHN CHEEVER which I bought through the ungracefully named but useful BookBud.
        I am not certain that the words are true, but they are worth considering.
        I knew John Cheever’s name, but had not read anything of his before THE STORIES, most of which first appeared in THE NEW YORKER and are about residents of that city or suburbs.  Some are set in other parts of New England and more than a dozen in Italy, though usually about American travelers or ex-pats living there.  
        I am not one of those who hate New York.  I lived there on the fringe at City Island for most of one year and have sailed there two or three times.  But I am also not one who thinks New York is the center of the universe.  That I read all 900 pages of John Cheever’s stories is testament to how fine a writer he is.
        Perhaps my favorite is ‘The Swimmer’ in which a man in one of the suburbs decides to swim several miles home from the house of an acquaintance, going from backyard swimming pool to backyard swimming pool.  His feat has an unexpected ending.

        I went from John Cheever to another BookBud purchase, FACING THE WAVE:  A journey in the wake of the tsunami by Gretel Ehrlich which is stunning in her intelligence, insight, sensitivity and writing ability.  
        The tsunami is that caused by the 9.0 earthquake on March 11, 2011.
        By chance the first chapter is titled, ‘The Swimmer’, a very different swimmer than John Cheever’s.
        In another chapter, a farmer who lost everything except his life in the tsunami gives his niece one of four fresh tomatoes he has managed to grow where he has been relocated.  She says, “This is absurd.  You have nothing and are giving us food.”  He stares hard at her:  “The less I have the happier I am.”

        I am writing in late afternoon and will soon go up to shower.
        Earlier a man, now 50, came by with his son and mother, whom I had met before.  He grew up in Mission Beach and on a November morning in 1978 his father walked him and his brother to the bridge over part of Mission Bay and watched CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE head out the channel to began her voyage.
        Before that I walked three miles to the closest liquor store that carries Laphroaig 10 year.  I was out—yes, all those bottles I was given upon my arrival on April 29 have been emptied.  In mitigation, I did not drink it all myself.  I shared—and I wanted to savor a sip on this my last evening on GANNET and the water for a while.
        I have been here seven weeks today and I accomplished what I wanted to.  Next time I will go sailing for a week or two.  I know not where.
        Most of my life is public, but part private and what more than a 25th wedding anniversary, so the rest of this week is for Carol and me.  The next entry will come from Evanston next week, where I will also upload two videos of the restored GANNET and her new home.
        Be kind to one another in my absence.  Be kind to one another period.