Sand Tales from Pebble Beach
Standing in sapphires up to my knees at a Pebble Beach cove, the
ocean’s horizon seems a dream away. Beside me, a woman is
creating a collage from multi-colored kelp, and two pubescent
girls are squealing as they plunge their sand buckets into the
water to fill the moat they have dug for their sand castle . . .
I am reminded of the interview I did the other day with actor
Ted Danson. He has been an ocean advocate for decades and we
both agreed that the vision of the ocean - toxic and fished out
- is abhorrent.
Lucky me, my girlfriend works for Oceana, the international
ocean advocacy group for which Danson is spokesman, and she
hooked me up with him.
I am not at liberty to relay the phone interview I did with him
from his Malibu home until after the piece is published in
“Carmel Magazine” in my Quotable Notables column. However, I can
tell you that if I’m any judge of phone character, this man has
really got it going on!
Humorous, savvy, grounded, he was a joy to interview. And he
shared a few fun tidbits about his love affair/marriage to Mary
Steenburgen, the actress we love to love.
Anyway, I’m thinking about and thanking him as I stand in the
clean water and inhale its lovely ozone. I gaze one beach over,
near Bird Rock, and remember the beach where I snapped a black
and white photo of my father. He was waving from a distance, big
grin beneath his straw hat that matched his polyester zip-up
jacket and cheap catalogue-ordered pants. Dad had the money to
dress in the finest wools and linens, but give him polyester any
I returned to that same beach and spelled out his name in kelp
the day I learned of his death . . . So many memories on the
sands of Pebble Beach . . .
I head down the trail back to my car with too many thoughts,
unable to be present to the moment, and just about the time I
reach Spanish Bay, I spy something on the rocks below that
rockets me back to the now: A very tan man, with longish hair
streaked gold by the sun, is skinning a couple fish on a rock.
Normally, I can’t stand to watch such things, but I figure the
fish is feeling no pain, and I am mesmerized. The Neanderthal
balances a cutting plank on the wave-splashed rocks. And, deftly
as a surgeon, he cuts the fishes with a sword-like knife and
throws one hulking fillet after another into a pile. He tosses
the leftovers to scavenger seagulls, scoops up the fillets in a
baggie, after washing them and his board in salt water, grabs
his oars and heads back to his truck where his kayak rests.
It looks like he has a week’s worth of dinner. This hunter I
It’s experiences like this, in the splendor of nature, that
bring me deeply inside myself; that ease away painful memories
or fears of the future. Nature never fails to connect me with
all that is. And it is my fervent prayer that more people will
re-discover this before our oceans are polluted and a new
generation asks, “Tell me about when you could swim in the
ocean? Tell me about trees. What were they like?” . . .
A Sizzling Pebble Beach Bike Tour
It was deja vu all over again (or is that redundant?). While
cruising around Pebble Beach, where the waters were Bahamas blue
and the golden wildflowers lit the ground afire, I spotted a
fire. Although at first, I thought it was a small white puff of
fog breeding in an area where often, and out of the blue, it can
and will form.
“Drat!” I mused. “Clear as a blue Kool-Aid sky but that pesky
chiller is already at work conspiring to devour this pluperfect
day and send vacationers running to the closest sweatshirt
It nagged at me as I circled around a few times to watch it
form. The cotton white was arising from behind the golf course
and forest beyond and traveling straight up. A bit odd for fog
which mostly spreads its octopi fingers sideways.
“Gee,” says the sleuth in me, the rubbernecker, the story
teller, “This is weird. It’s white, which I’m told is the color
of smoke when it’s non-lethal and going out.” But, oh, then
there was a telltale plume of brown.
This conjured up the same experience I had had about 20 years
ago, when dozens of Pebble Beach mansions and acres of forest
went up, killing countless forest wildlife. I had been biking
along, around 2:30 p.m., when I spotted the smoke then too. That
time I knew it was a fire but reassured myself that SOMEONE ELSE
would call in and report it.
They did - at about 2:45 p.m. - and I blame myself to this day
for not reporting it earlier. I might have subverted this
senseless tragedy. (Well, not exactly senseless, as the forest
is supposed to have fires to spread its seeds. But people don’t
like it happening where they live.)
Still in the lurch about any large scale fire that day, I
remember finishing up my bike ride and driving over to Carmel
Bay for a pick-neck with a fellow journalist. For awhile we sat
on the beach watching the sky over the entire Peninsula turn an
eerie yellow color until he got the call to report back to the
newsroom – pronto! Pebble Beach was on fire.
I felt like Nero, playing her violin while all of Rome was
burning. How could I have let this happen?
When I arrived on the street where I live, fire trucks had
barricaded it and warned me that they might soon be knocking on
my door and asking me to evacuate. Shades of my father when, at
his home in Southern California, was asked to do the same,
whereupon he said to the fire chief, “But I have already
evacuated, sir. Right here in my pants.”
I wonder what would have happened if I had used that line.
Anyway, the Pebble Beach fire gave rise to so many new trees
(the heat releases their seeds) that there was talk recently
about overgrowth and thinning them out.
Nature restoring herself – never ceases to amaze me.
As for the more recent fire it was, indeed, a fire because I
witnessed several planes dive bombing it and a helicopter
dumping water on it.
I never saw mention of the fire in the newspaper and assume it
wasn’t on too grand a scale. And, this time, I didn’t kick
myself for not reporting it, as those planes showed up before I
could get to my cell phone!