Saturday, March 8, 2008

A Vespa by Any Other Name

I picked up my bitchen new Vespa on March 6. Together we rode off to Monterey, with the scooter strapped in the bed of my pickup like the M half of an S&M couple. The occasion was to meet up with friends and support our mutual friend, Allyson Sanburn Malek, who was showing her art pieces in a three man show of abstracts in the upstairs gallery at the Monterey Conference center, which to this day people call The Doubletree-- even though the adjacent hotel has been the Portola Plaza Hotel (now Portola Hotel & Spa) for several years. I guess the tide turns slowly. A few people still think Clint Eastwood is the mayor of Carmel when in fact he was mayor for a single term twenty years ago and the current mayor, Sue McCloud, is in her fourth term.

Mary Titus and Johnny Apodaca were the other two "men" in the show. I don't buy art as a rule, but I am proud to say I have two of Allyson's original works from the "Perfect Pair" series. They are paintings of two pears, by the way, not me and my Vespa. What struck me was a piece from Mary's collection. From across the room I just knew it was going to be called "Moonstone Beach." I was wrong. It was untitled.

I had just been to Moonstone Beach in Cambria the previous day and was struck by the wonders of this coastal hideaway and the user friendliness of its long, flat beach. It's a "deep" beach both front to back (dry land to water's edge) and deep as in ankle deep. You sink down when you walk on it. Even though I had lived all those years on the coast--in Carmel with its steep dune of white sand, and Pebble Beach whose pebbles you can count on a dozen hands, the rest of it beige wet sand--I had never cozied up to the beach part of coastal living, primarily because of the sand. What a messy thing sand is.

Moonstone Beach is a true pebble beach. It is a marvelously pebbly beach. The messy kind of sand is a few layers below the smooth surface stones, with a layer of teeny tiny smooth pebbles in between, providing just enough of a barrier to keep the sand off the surface of the beach and you. On Moonstone Beach you can lay flat on your stomach, or flat on your back, or up on one elbow without benefit of blanket or towel and arise sand-free. The stones themselves are as smooth as hard candies that have been sucked for 10 minutes...when in reality they have been sea-buffed for decades. They are jade, moonstone, somethingacite, and every shade of black, brown, grey, green, rust, and tan rock, with occasional bits of opaque white tumbled shell, and translucent sea glass in very cool man-made colors like Seven-Up green and Milk of Magnesia blue. In a way, thank heavens for the slobs who leave their trash on the beach for the waves to pulverize it into these colorful gems. Now stop it!

Mary's untitled abstract was pale like the color you would imagine a moonstone to be if you had never seen one, but only heard the name. And there was a suggestion of a horizon, with a hazy, lone rock out to one side, like Morro Rock. And it was brightly lit, like daytime, warm and pink like sunset yet cool like the shore. And there was just enough brown, not enough to make the painting dark, but to give a nod to the dark brown of the pebbly beach. Untitled or no, that was an abstract of Moonstone Beach.

Yeah, about Bruno. After bringing my Vespa home, and releasing it from its bondage, I rode it up and around the back of the house and parked it by the pool. Almost IN the pool, whoops. I wanted to see it when I woke up the next morning, sunning itself out back. This morning I realized I can't name my new scooter-toy Bruno. For one, it is disrespectful to the real Bruno, who is not an object, a toy, or in any way own-able by another person, and for another, my Vespa is obviously a girl! Pearl white, with a red leather seat, this sexy little scooty patooty is without a doubt a girl Vespa. We're talking Vegas show girl, girl. Country western singer girl. Beauty pageant girl. She's all girl. And from what I have told you Bruno is not. From my observation I would say he is, as multi-dimensional a man as he is, utterly devoid of a feminine side. If you don't believe me now, you will the first time you see him, or more convincingly, hear his voice. If you ever find yourself needing a name for a male German Shepherd, Bruno is a good bet.

To take the naming of the Vespa one step further I have come to question this whole gender bended humanification of an object path I started down. I find it is throwing a bit of a monkey wrench into my spiritual awakening. In "A New Earth" not only is the notion of stuff ownership challenged, the notion of labeling things is too--a notion until now foreign to me, as I actually labeled my label maker if you must know.

To appreciate the fragile, fleeting beauty of a flower is not to know its botanical name, its growth habit, nutritional needs or propagation schedule, no. To appreciate its fragile, fleeting beauty is to be present, and not think about it. Just be. Perceive it for what it is at this very moment, the present moment. See the flower as it is, not think about what it is called. Not what it WILL be, or was. Or reminds you of a time it a good time or a bad one. Appreciate its beauty right now. Don't plan to see it tomorrow. Don't regret you didn't see it yesterday. Don't put so much of your identity into it that when it is gone, you feel you have also lost a part of yourself. Don't suffer a personal sense of loss when it wilts, or a deer eats it. Don't yank it out of the ground, wrap its stem in a paper towel, drive across town, and hand it to someone with an expectation that they will be grateful for all you have done, for sharing the beauty, for braving the traffic, for thinking of them. Just enjoy the fragile fleeting beauty of it with a still mind, in the present. It is remarkably easy to do, and the enjoyment you get from the exercise will surprise you. You don't need to drop acid to see magical colors and hear trees speak.

My Vespa, and I suppose I can say "my" because my name is on the title, is sturdy, fleet, and beautiful and when I ride it I will enjoy the freedom of an open air ride. And if anyone asks, "Where's Miss Daisy?" I'll have to say "Well, I'll tell ya. She's gone, but before she left, she bought me this-here scooter. Wanna ride?"

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