Towards the end of the same summer of that very worst date, I was treated to the very best date of my entire life. A young man, new to LRY, asked if I’d liked to go on a double date to Catalina Island. Sure. I hardly knew him. I’d never been to Catalina but, all in all, it sounded like a good adventure.
It WAS a good adventure.
Richard picked me up only slightly past dawn. We wanted an early start. Richard’s friend, Bruce, and Bruce’s girlfriend, Trixie, were already in the back seat.
We drove about 45 minutes south to San Pedro, where we got the Catalina Express transport boat to Catalina. Plenty of other passengers were leaning on the rails anticipating a great day ahead. There were fishermen with poles and gear boxes. There were scuba divers with wet suits and tanks. Children jumping up and down with eagerness ran in and out of the crowd. Parents called them. Bicyclists and hikers and day adventurers of all sorts looked forward to the mountainous beauty of Catalina. Gamblers came for the casino. Later in the afternoon and evening romantic dates would come for dancing and music and fine dining.
We came for fun.
The boat docked at Avalon. This picturesque village is tucked into the mountains, surrounded by sea and sky. We walked the narrow streets, looking at everything. We had brunch on a patio hung with flower baskets. Sea birds called for crumbs. We talked and laughed.
After the meal, Richard rented us a four-seater motor boat. What a brilliant touch. We changed into our bathing suits and stepped into the boat. It was a small boat and lay close to the water. We could reach out and trail our fingers in it.
Richard steered. He toured through the relatively busy waters near Avalon, then headed around the island’s southern tip.
We passed a few fishing boats. Beyond them, no more boats. Just us on the west side of the island. Us and sea lions. We puttered into a herd of them perched on rocks or flopping into the water where they transformed from awkward landlubbers to graceful marine divers.
We saw the grace of the sea lions’ underwater swimming because the water was utterly clear. We looked through water at “jungle trees” of seaweed growing up toward the light. We saw the rocky, mountainous floor of sea around the island. We saw schools of fish and a sea turtle and swirling underwater sand dervishes kicked up those sea lions at play. The massive lions swirled and glided and frolicked underwater. Above water they roar/barked at us from the rocks. It sounded friendly. In their own roaring way, they sang along with our motor boat.
Richard brought the boat north of the sea lions. It was quiet. We were tiny in the enormity of ocean and sky. Even Catalina shrank to a minor detail in the sweep of air and water.
We chattered in the boat. We exclaimed over the clarity of the water. Below the surface, flora and fauna carried on amongst the architecture of rocks and sand. I could have wished to be a mermaid, at home in that underwater world. I didn’t even think of it though. Legs are too important. I put mine to good use. I scrambled out of my motor boat seat and onto the hood of the boat. I grabbed the mooring rope to steady myself and stood tall. I felt like a goddess, traversing speedily over the top of the ocean, under the bottom of the sky.
After we all got used to me standing on the front of the boat, Richard initiated a little game. He sped up and slowed down. He swerved sharply right and left. He tried to dislodge me.
My bare feet gripped the hull of the boat fiercely and the mooring rope held as I lunged from side to side. Water sprays splashed over me. Bruce and Trixie applauded my staying power.
Actually the game was a piece of stupidity for both me and Richard. He could have succeeded. I could have fallen in. Dangerous possibilities lurked, like getting mangled by the boat propeller or clunking my head on the sharp underwater rocks. We weren’t worried though. We knew that one can’t easily dislodge a goddess.
After awhile I offered the mooring rope to the other passengers. No one wanted the spot. I stayed. It felt great to skim along the water; to blow, like the wind, under the cloudless blue sky.
Eventually I climbed back into the boat. The four of us rode on, comfortable and happy. It took several hours, but we circled the big island. We returned the boat in Avalon and changed back into shorts and shoes. It was late afternoon. We walked around a little more before we headed back to the mainland transit dock. We were a little sun-burned and very tired. We had fought for places to stand at the rails when we’d come in on the Catalina Express that morning. At the end of the day, we were content to sit in the seats. Almost everyone was. Smiling day adventurers slumped in their seats. Small children slept soundly.
In San Pedro we retrieved Richard’s car from the lot and he drove us north up the coast. Bruce and Trixie lived inland, near Richard, so he dropped me first. I hated to leave them all.
In the house, the family was getting ready for dinner. “I had a MARVELOUS time,” I told them. I would have danced around the room, just to show them how marvelous, if I hadn’t been exhausted by all that fun. I told the family about my new friends, the enchanting island, the noisy sea lions and the interesting tourists.
My lifetime Best Date wasn’t quite finished yet. Richard called. The three of them had hatched a good idea. Let’s all go to a movie. “Could I pick you up in a half hour?”
“Of course. Great!”
Mom fretted a little. “But aren’t you too tired, Honey?”
“No! No! Not at all!”
When Richard came by for me only Bruce was in the car. It turned out that Trixie couldn’t come. I sat between the boys. We went to a drive-in and barely had time to get popcorn before “The Days of Wine and Roses” started. Sad movie. Black and white.
We’d spent too much time under a wholesome, happy sun to be able to connect to a movie like that. All three of us fell asleep. Despite the despair and disappointment coming from the car speakers, I dreamt I was a strong goddess racing across the water into the sky.