San Diego beachLife Is Orchestrated

Randy Hasper

    On the fourth of July, we rode the San Diego trolley to Weiler, Germany.  We bought our tickets at the E Street Station in Chula Vista. The station glowed in the Southern California summer sun, the wind washing over us from the bay, the palms shinning and bouncing above us.

Samuel Trefzer and Johannes Sattler bought their tickets just behind us. We helped them, setting down our giant cardboard monster and ice cooler to counsel them on communicating with the ticket machine.  They pronounced their “w’s” like “v’s.” We had made contact with Weiler.

We jumped on the red trolley together, standing up in the isles because the seats were all filled, Weiler, Germany incarnated in Sammy and Johannes, and San Diego, California, incarnated in my wife and daughters,  side-by-side, at the same place at the same time with the same destination.  We were linked, German tourists and San Diegans both out for a day at the ball park.

We jerked forward on the tracks, rocking toward Petco Park. We talked and jostled and laughed. We put our monster on the floor and people eyed it with wry smiles. We explained that we had acquired our flat friend from a movie theatre. He was a lobby add. We had rescued him from the trash bin and  given him the name, “Kooz.”  We  planned to hold him up at the game when Padre slugger Kevin Kouzmanoff came to bat. We wanted to add to the festive, positive mood of the day, and just maybe a camera man would point three seconds of video fame our way.

But the monster was already working. He was our social glue on the trolley; making connections for us and helping us contribute to the profoundly local and colorful social milieu that adds a nonnegotiable value to a ticket on MTS.

A young man sitting below us called up, “Art, $5.” He waved some pictures he had colored with pencils.  I recognized him. I had seen him in church a few months ago. “Hey, I  know you,” I said. He peered up at me. He stuffed his pictures back into his back pack. “Just trying to make an honest living,” he defended. But it wasn’t necessary. We shook hands.

When we got off the trolley at Petco Park, Sammy and Johannes were behind us. I waited for them. “We heard you talking to that guy,” Sammy said.

We chatted briefly, but we were at the gate and everyone was eager to get into the game.

“Here’s my card,” I said. “It has my email, phone. And come to church tomorrow. It’s at 10:30.” I gave them the address.

“We will,” they enthused.

They were at church at 10:15 a.m. the next day, having spent the night in their car. After the service, they chatted it up with the band and took away chord charts of the songs they liked.

And they came home with us, two kids from Germany, touring the West Coast for four weeks, living in their car, eating too much fast food, looking for the California of they imagined their peers living – surf and skate and beach and left-over 60’s hippy culture.  I suggested we stop and pick up some pizza, but my wife knew they needed a home cooked meal. And they did. They had been eating fast food for weeks and were good and sick of it.

We sat on our backyard patio in East Lake, the cool Pacific breeze in our faces, the water lilies on the pond glowing in the West Coast sunshine , the queen palms waving, our deep green  square of irrigated grass shining in the dry heat, discussing the game we saw yesterday. The baked chicken and stuffing and fresh green salad disappeared at an astonishing twenty-year-old-boy pace. It was summer in the USA and Germany was meeting the real California.

When I was in grade school, I had ridden an historically early version of the skate board with steel wheels, in college I had worn a white arm band with a blue dove on it,  I had written my freshmen comp paper on the “War Ravaged Children of Vietnam,” and I had surfed at Sunset Cliffs in Ocean Beach in the 70’s.

We fed them stuffing as if it was Thanksgiving, and they told us about Spaetzle with layers of cheese on it. We grabbed a laptop. Off we went to Weiler and Lindau in southern Germany. We looked at pictures of Lake Constance and historic town-hall buildings. Back and forth we flew between San Diego and Weiler.

We explained why, when they woke up in their car at 7 a.m., at the beach parking lot, on the fourth of July, people were streaming by them with boogie boards and coolers, families everywhere, filling all the available space. They were mystified. But, we knew the answer.  Who doesn’t go to the beach on the fourth of July in San Diego? We told them about being in Rome in a few years back when the Pope came to town, and how we took the train to Ostia to avoid the crushing crowds. In California on the fourth of July, it is always as if the Pope is at the beach. Everyone wants to see the grandeur.

We talked about their  choices to go to Yosemite and Sequoia, why in San Diego they would want to walk along the beach by the Hotel Del Coronado at sunset, visit La Jolla Shores to kayak and snorkel at La Jolla cove. We recommended they not spend too long in Las Vegas when they went next week. And we let them take showers upstairs, knowing that living in your car was great fun but lacking in offering certain pleasurable daily living-at-home rituals. They were grateful we insisted.

They left in the evening, off to the beach again, to see the palms trees that have so oddly absented themselves from southern German hometowns, to see the California gold puddle in the salty water as the sun set over the West Coast yet again, to see the real Southern California.

I told them they had to email me when they got home, so we would know that they made it back okay. We sat back out on the patio satisfied. On the 5th of July, without leaving San Diego, we had gone to Germany and come home again.

Friendliness is underrated.

Life is orchestrated by unifying forces.

  1. beautiful writing about a beautiful union of fates. i’m excited to see the other beautiful people and things that are coming your way…

  2. Sammy says:

    Hi Randy
    here is Sammy from Germany. Wow I’m overwhelmed that you put our story here on your website. It was so cool to meet you in San Diego (Oh I love this city!) and hope to see you soon somewhere – perhaos here in Germany. Enjoy your day and mail we what is going on in your church or in San Diego or how the Padres play!

    Much Love and blessings from your german sons

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