Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Meandering Thoughts About a Santa Catalina Island Journey

Catalina's Avalon Bay.
"Twenty-six miles across the sea
Santa Catalina is waiting for me ..."
Words and music by the Four Preps

I think I've just about talked my college roommate, Phyllis, into going to Catalina Island with me for a couple of days.  Phyllis grew up in Southern California and now lives with her lawyer husband in Santa Monica, not far from where we had our first apartment when I was a graduate student at UCLA.  But she's never been to Catalina. Water journeys don't always agree with her.

I too grew up in California, though in the North, and have never been to Catalina. I've never had a motion sickness problem of any kind, though I suppose if I had ever flown with the Blue Angels ... it might have happened then.  Reporters I know say that is the worst. G forces and upsidedownness usually lead to upchuckness. But I digress.

Phyllis read that if you take the ferry from San Pedro on your birthday, they let you go to Catalina for free.  And so, with her birthday approaching--Phyllis being the thrifty sort--she might be willing to risk the mal de mer for the free trip.

Errol Flynn on his yatch the Zaca went often to Catalina. This signed photo belongs to a friend of mine.

Santa Catalina has a great history with Hollywood and Hollywood history is one of my hobbies.  Errol Flynn, Humphrey Bogart, Douglas Fairbanks, John Barrymore and Ronald Coleman--all the swashbucklers--used to take their yachts out there for the weekends to get away from the stress of the Hollywood grind and the Hollywood social scene.

I think it also included a lot of adult beverage imbibing, with the effects then confined to the boat, precluding visits by police and photographers and other unpleasantness.

I think islands have a very special pull for those of us who grew up near the sea. There is something about islands that attracts eccentric residents who love living in a kind of isolation from civilization.

I once fell in love--maybe it wasn't love actually--with a guy who lived on an island off the coast of Vancouver Island--this was so very long ago, I think it is okay for me to talk about it now.  He was very funny and attractive and smart, and I was young and foolish. But honestly, I think it was the island I fell in love with most of all. All kinds of interesting kooks lived there--herbalists, and massage therapists, communists, anarchists, writers and head shop owners and general reprobates of all kinds.

Once the ferry stopped running in the evening or in bad weather, they were all there together--what with the so called normal people being stuck over on the mainland.

Of course, I later discovered this gorgeous, athletic, anarchist/communist/communal farmer made a little extra income by growing a recreational drug.

"You grow dope?"

"Well, just a little.  I only sell it to my friends."

"You sell it?

"Uhya. It brings in an extra $10k a year and helps out when my apple crop is bad."

I was sorry to have to take the next ferry home, but we all have our limits. As for him, having had romances with all the herbalists, massage therapists, stewardesses, and waitresses on the island, the supply could no longer meet the demand and I heard he had obtained one of those brides from Korea you get out of a catalogue. Well, whatever.

Anyway, fast forward a lot of decades and now I'd like to see this other island--Catalina--for its rich history and environmental beauty.  I mean, we could take dates except Phyllis husband would frown on her taking one, and I don't have one to take, being the lonely widow woman that I am--so the two of us, who often said when we were in college we would probably end up in rocking chairs sitting on the same front porch--plan to go exploring this interesting place.

What is it that made me want to go?  Once I was walking to the United Airlines gate at San Francisco Airport and they had a museum exhibit, the way they do at that wonderful airport, and it had miles of glass cases filled with things from old Catalina--dishes from the old hotels, and souvenirs people used to bring home from visits there.

It has stuck in my mind ever since.  So I guess it still is a sort of romance that pulls one to an island. When you are young it is one kind of romance.  When you are not so young it can be the romance of history and environmental beauty and isolation. Seeing the stars from many miles off the coast of California. It all balances out in the end.  Anyway, it almost does.

Robin's brief experience in island adventure.  I believe that shadow is my friend, taking the picture, who in real life was a grower of exotic plants.  I actually did catch that fish, though it must have been an accident.

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peretzklein said...

Robin! Really nice picture of you.

Robin Chapman said...

One always looks one's best at the age of 26!

peretzklein said...

Silly me, I thought it was yesterday.

peretzklein said...

And I never looked like that when I was 26....

Robin Chapman said...

But you did look your best, and that's what we all do at that age. If only we could have the wisdom ...

Don Meuler said...

I remember her...