• Otter Views: Glimpses of Summer

    by Tom Stevens

    In honor of the summer solstice, a small stove hood light that normally marks the nocturnal whereabouts of the kitchen in this stately old galleon of a house has been switched off.

    “We don’t need it,” my housemate explained, gesturing at the luminous night mist outside. “It’s like the midnight sun out there. We’ll save electricity.”

    Russians call these the “white nights,” when the surplus light of long summer days lingers for hours in the night sky. Here on the California coast, the marine layer creeps in at dusk and enfolds leftover daylight in a soft cocoon. This Chinese lantern of fog glows faintly for hours, giving coast dwellers cat-like night vision and electricity savings.

    During the day, the marine layer is a cool gray eyelid quenching sky, land and sea of color. Through a narrow slit between gray clouds and gray horizon, a band of sunlit mountains blazes in the eastern distance. Beyond their parched, golden slopes, patches of white cloud and blue sky toss and beckon like kites.

    In other seasons, I’d be intrigued. But I know it’s 105 degrees in that sunny, colorful never-land across the bay. I’m happy to remain in this cooling blanket of vapor, and I’m starting to understand its appeal hereabouts. Fog happens. Who knew?

    The kids don’t seem to mind. A couple of dozen were at the Lover’s Point volleyball court Tuesday morning. With her back turned, the teen-age activity leader chanted “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish!” While she spoke, the kids scrambled stealthily across the sand. When her voice stopped and she turned around, they had to freeze in statue positions without toppling or laughing.

    Nearby, a couple of beachgoers admired the rehabilitated children’s wading pool through a wrought iron fence. The pool had been filled to the scuppers and looked ready for business. A bright aqua and white paint job made the clear water look doubly inviting. A chromed hand rail sloping into the pool marked the new wheelchair access ramp.

    “This pool looks a little bigger than the old one, and it’s six inches deeper on the far side now,” a gray haired woman observed. “My grandkids learned to swim in there.”

    Her friend turned and pointed to the sand volleyball court. “I learned to swim in there, back when it was a big pool.” She seemed pleased that her former natatorium was still in use, albeit for “One Fish, Two Fish” rather than “Marco . . . Polo!”

    All winter and spring, the wading pool restoration project has paced an even grander one nearby. Signs, articles and ads promise that Pacific Grove’s storied Bath House Restaurant will re-open “any day now,” and prospective customers are ready. The tall New England exterior wears new signage, new fixtures, and new beige paint.

    The interior remains a mystery to all but the construction crews. During the day, curious onlookers peer up stairwells hoping for a glimpse of the décor scheme. At night, purple and aqua lighting arrays form ghostly triangles along the restaurant’s ceiling beams. The colors are tantalizing and futuristic. One can imagine spearing “small bites” from square plates while bathed in this extraterrestrial light.

    I’m hoping the owners will pitch a sort of Czar’s Palace pre-opening walk through so all the nosey Parkers in the neighborhood can have a look see. I’ll be first in line. Food and beverages needn’t be served, but we could view the furnishings and table settings, the décor scheme and the waitpersons’ apparel. We’ll also want to admire the views from various restaurant windows. No gum chewing will be allowed, and we’ll wear cellophane booties to safeguard the carpeting.

    The opening of a grand attraction (in this case, the re-opening) is a time-honored human festivity. Various epochs have marked these occasions with cave bonfires, burnt offerings, Bacchanalian dances, chariot races, red carpets, champagne toasts or sky-piercing spotlights. Think “Gatsby” through the ages.

    I’ve never made the “A” list for a truly grand opening, but I do remember a couple of amusing ones from old Maui days. In 1975, a section of the island that had always been dark and quiet at night suddenly blazed with floodlights as a racy new Mainland import opened its doors.

    Little happened at night in Kahului back then, so 2,000 of us formed a polite but excited line for our first encounter with a Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlor. Each departed with a personal sized chocolate sundae and a mild headache induced by air horns and calliope music.

    The grand opening of Kmart a few years later drew 5,000. We sucked in our breath as we beheld its wonders. I missed the Costco opening, which was probably a good thing. I doubt my heart could have taken it.

    posted to Cedar Street Times on June 14, 2013

    Topics: Otter Views

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