Six forty-five on Sunday morning was an opportunity to be especially whiny. It was a private kind of whine where I twisted my body against soft warm sheets and made a cry-baby face silently. Then I got up. I'm a meticulous prep girl. My clothes and sneakers were already laid out in the bathroom. I put them on, brushed my teeth, grabbed my packed fanny pack and I was out.
Outside, it was quiet and some kind of gorgeousness was building. It was mild, barely cold, a breeze was laced with California springtime already. The monster ficus trees that dominate Santa Monica sidewalks and canopy over the roads were lit peach and gold. Turning up 24th Street the ficus line turned into a procession of thick and unruly pines. Across Georgia Avenue and up Moreno, the trees turned into a neat, clean-poled row of skinny palms, standing high and arching west; they look molded like stretched sugar. Mina always worries about the tall thin palms, that they'll fall down in the wind. I reassure her but wonder myself. They look precarious, bending too easily towards the ocean. This part of Santa Monica is luxurious. Every home on these streets is different, most are over sized and overindulgent. I sniff my nose at the excess, but sometimes I find myself stopped in front of a large California Craftsman staring at the dark brown porch spanning the facade. I look at the the wide heavy wood door with the grand sage wreath and a twisted black iron knocker in the shape of a leaf, and I let myself accept that it's a fantastic house. I breathe in one coveted wish, and that's it. I always steal looks into the bevel glass windows of these houses and peep out paintings and bookshelves and grand pianos. I die to see the kitchens or the dining rooms; sometimes I get the corner of an island under a perfect cluster of hanging copper pots or the antique curve of a dining table's leg. I know many of these houses by heart. I've schlepped and stolen looks at this neighborhood since I was a kid. What I don't see hardly are the people who live in these houses. Sometimes I see someone be-robed sneaking out to snag the paper that is thrown on the sidewalk many yards from the front door. But other than that these residents seem locked away from each other, which keeps me from wanting any of it that badly. I'll take my crammed and crumbling courtyard and constant neighborly interaction gladly, gratefully.
I have grown up worshipping the gigantic coral trees on San Vicente. They are the royalty of our local trees. They stamp their way in the grassy median from Brentwood down to the ocean like dinosaur tracks. The scarred grey-white trunks are certainly impressive but the roots are the thing; they wave up and around and settle in the dirt wherever they like, tripping up runners and walkers. They are big enough to pose as benches. The trees' leaves are waxy and the size of my face. And the ignition of the coral blossoms in spring is spectacular.
On San Vicente I finally plugged in my iPod to find that the battery was dead. I got a little nervous because twelve miles is a long way without the distraction. I wrapped the headphones around the iPod and shoved it back into my fanny pack. I turn up Barrington to trek the hill up to Sunset. It was getting warm.
Maya told me about Devon on Friday. Devon is a girl Maya danced with in hip hop last year. Devon's mom died on Thursday night of lymphoma. At first I didn't catch on to Maya's extra clinginess. She told me that a few of her friends had sat around and talked about what they'd do if their moms had died. I've been reassuring her all weekend. I mean, I can't guarantee anything obviously, but my girl has been worried and extra lovey and the only right thing to do in my mind was to lie to her face and say that I'd never die.
Sunset hardly has a sidewalk. I walked on a thin, crude pouring of asphalt. A couple patches had wood boards. This part of the boulevard is curvy and beautiful, lined with sky-touching eucalyptus trees. I imagined it's what another state looks like, but I couldn't think of which. Every car on Sunset sped. It was nerve wracking and I did this part of the walk faster than I had intended. Down Allenford the houses are neat and meticulously manicured. On one lawn there were lifesized iron-cast statues of three children playing: A boy frozen while pushing a laughing girl on an iron swing and one girl reading on a bench. Each statue had a wool cap awkwardly placed on their heads, the owner's touch. Some days I laugh when I pass it, but most times I walk by eyeing it suspiciously.
I tried to avoid overthinking my work situation. Or what I'm trying to do next. This is a constant mental wrestling match. Baking is a form of advocacy . . . save the world through baking? Uh, I don't know. Every time my mind wanders to writing, my stomach hurts a little. A guilt-type hurt. My written stuff feels abandoned. I can't help but think it's all tied together some how. I just have no clue how right now. It will take hours more of walking to sort out.
By the time I reached Ocean Avenue, it was after nine. Locals and tourists were out ogling the view from the bluff, walking dogs, carrying sleeved hot drinks. Homeless were maneuvering their way through them; politely carrying rolled packs and trying to seem invisible. We all want to get our answers from the ocean in peace.
When I hit Wilshire, I was fidgety. My hips and every muscle around my thighs were so tight that I went up and down curbs with a grimace. With much relief my feet were golden though. I had put gel inserts in my shoes and since the balls of my feet don't feel like they'll spontaneously combusted after an hour. I started to ask myself why I was doing this. Who plans to walk for three hours on a Sunday? Who walks 12 miles? If this had just been one of my hair-brained ideas to yet again reinvent my exercise regime, I could've justified punking out I'm sure. But I had tricked myself. The idea of doing something this extreme when it was for something other than myself was exactly how I would stay dedicated. And for the last mile I had to convince myself that this was worth it. Using my own health to promote awareness, fundraising to relieve just a small amount of suffering -- for the simple fucking sake of thinking beyond myself . . .arrgg, I said all these things over and over during the last few blocks.
The sun was pretty strong when I leaned my hand against the ficus tree in front of my apartment building. This particular tree drops an excessive amount of olive-sized fruit that pelts the sidewalks and parked cars. We can't avoid stepping on them and they get jammed in our tread. I let myself into the front gate and already felt some tension ease from my legs. I waved to my downstairs neighbors before I limped up the stairs to my girls who were still in their pajamas.