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Silver River

While biking down the decaying Wharf No. 2, I come across an awesome sight. Men in yellow slickers are shoveling truck loads of snow into huge rhinos’ lunch boxes to pack mountains of six-inch long sardines. Gargantuan trucks idle on the pier, awaiting their loads.

From the womb of the rusting fishing boat, Lady L, (must mean luck) hundreds of thousands of sardines are being sucked through umbilical hoses and disgorged into a chute. From this chute a gleaming silver waterfall of fish cascades into the awaiting bins-on-wheels. The water at Lady’s belly is stained with blood.

“It’s a miracle!” I shout to anyone who’ll listen. “The sardines are back.” I am stunned by the numbers of them – so many that there are plenty of leftovers for the workers to toss to gluttonous gulls.

Just then, a crusty old salt says, while adjusting the suspenders that hold up his flagging jeans, “Oh, I remember the days. I’m from a fishing family and they owned the Western Flyer.”

“You mean the boat that Doc Ricketts and John Steinbeck took to the Sea of Cortez? Really?” I say, onto the story like barnacles on a whale.

“Yup,” he says. “There was the time when . . .” and the yarns unravel as I continue to marvel at the silver stream and the men rushing madly to capture it and get it to market on ice.

Then my mind drifts to a sparkling summer day about 32 years ago in this same place, where a lovely young girl, clad in jeans, a burgundy sweater with the sleeves casually pushed up, and Cleopatra style sandals – the kind with just a flat leather bottom, straps and a gold chain threaded between the toes – leaned against a pier piling on that same wharf. Her butt-length brown mane was swept around her in the wind as she grinned for the photographer.

He was in chino pants, an unbuttoned shirt and wearing a headband and a big Chicolets grin. He was a ballet dancer built exactly like Baryshnikov and an architecture student at the same college where she was getting her teaching credential.

He taught her Haiku and gave her the book “Siddhartha.”

We were in love . . .

So many memories on Wharf No. 2 . . .



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