How wonderfully idyllic, right? The Santa Barbara Pier. I mean, who can have a bad time there?
You're reading him right now.
Last Sunday, I told you about two ill-fated trips to Six Flags Great Adventure with a would-be girlfriend that ultimately was a never-was girlfriend. And I was better off that way. So you would think that, after the rotten time I had in Jackson, New York, there would be no other contact?
Wrong-o. Proof positive that there is often no threshold for self-punishment.
Yeah, nothing ever really happened with this girl who ultimately settled elsewhere on the east coast and married. Strangely enough, we kept in semi-contact. Don't ask. I even got invited to her wedding which I brought another girlfriend to as my date. Indeed, she and I spent a lot of the reception in my car in the parking lot. Definitely don't ask.
So, we flash forward to a lot of years later. I'm living in Los Angeles and one summer day, a call comes out of the blue. From this pesty friend.
As it turned out, her hubby was going on a business trip and she had a week to kill. Why not visit me and another college chum out of the West Coast?
Um, okay. Luckily, I had no room at my inn for her and our mutual college pal had a couch to spare.
Now if you are to visit me as a tourist in Los Angeles, you should know that I will treat you like royalty. I give the best tours in town and will have you do all the summer things I enjoy in Southern California. There's absolutely no way you will have a rotten time.
I should have known better, as the Beatles once said. And the first clue came when I picked her up at the airport. Now, mind you, I hadn't seen her in some time. But, even with that lapse, I was not prepared for what I saw as she walked down the long hallway to baggage claim. She was a year younger than me, but, somehow, had turned into my grandmother. Seriously, she looked like she was at least 70. And I was equally not prepared for her first comment.
"Do you like what I wore on the plane?"
"It's a fabric that is flame retardant so, in case there are terrorists on board, there is less of a chance that I would burn to death in a fire."
Yeah, I was already counting the days to when I would be dropping her back off at LAX for her return trip the hell out of here.
The tone was set early on and she delivered consistently.
"There's way too much traffic here."
"The car air conditioner is too cold."
"Have you got the car air conditioner on? It's stuff in here."
"I can't believe you live in this place."
I felt so badly for my other friend who was going to be her hostess. But none of this negativity seemed to surprise her.
"She's exactly like I remember."
Hmmm. Maybe I never saw it. Perhaps I was blinded by a cuteness when she actually looked like her age and not somebody in a senior care facility.
The complaints never ever stopped for the entire week. We went to the Hollywood Bowl.
"How do you walk up this hill?"
"These are wooden seats. They don't have cushions?"
"Couldn't you park closer?"
All of a sudden, one of the sights I wanted to show her was Forest Lawn Cemetery. Not as a visitor, but a resident.
The worst was yet to come. We were planning a road trip with my other friend up to Santa Barbara. A wonderful place that is impossible to dislike.
As the three of us walked down the pier you see up above, I realized I was as miserable as I could be. How could somebody be as negative and unhappy? How could I have possibly even been friends with this dullard, let alone be attracted to her?
At one point on the pier, there is no railing over the ocean. I was on the cell phone looking for solace from my writing partner when I noticed her peering over the side. I told him what she was doing.
"Push her over. Push her in now. It will be an accident. I'll cover for you."
I didn't, of course. Ten minutes later, I wanted to all over again.
There are old codgers at the end of the Santa Barbara Pier and they fish there every day. This is their life. Tossing their reel in the water and enjoying life. As we watched these guys, one of them got a bite and reeled in a nice sized fish. His pride was revealed with a face-wide grin. Of course, my visitor, a staunch devotee of the ecology, had something to say.
"Well, you're going to throw it back, right?"
The guy was missing a few front teeth, likely from a bar fight. His glare towards our visitor was destined to remove a few teeth from her mouth as well. Undaunted, she continued to indoctrinate this poor man on the environment.
As we escorted her away, the old dude exchanged a glance with me. It was very telling. It was to say....
"I hope you're not married to her."
I don't know who I got through the rest of the trip, but I did so with the fakest of smiles. Especially when we were in restaurants dividing up the dinner bill.
"Now you should pay seventy five cents more because you had the extra Coke."
Yeah, that's the way the rest of the week went.
And driving her to the airport was a joy usually only experienced by a six-year-old on Christmas morning. As I watched this former friend enter into the terminal, I doubted I would ever speak to her again. And, since an annual Christmas card doesn't count, I haven't.
Dinner last night: French dip panini at the Arclight Cafe.