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A quick trip back

Don Rogers

We returned to the scene of the crime, my wife and I. Shedding work, kids, all of those 20 years since we left Santa Barbara.We flew from snowstorm to sun and seventies. The plane followed the coast with the morning still young. It was all so clear. The mountains where I had worked and backpacked. The beaches where I had surfed and dogs had run. The park where I had proposed and she said no, try again, and laughed, light playing in her eyes. The town where it all began.We went to see our favorite musician in concert. We went for the memories. We went as tourists in the city we once owned. We went to touch our twenties again.We saw no one we knew, although nearly all of the old haunts remained, and surprisingly unchanged over decades. Oh, there were nuances. A favorite restaurant back when had become a shadow of itself; another that used to serve fine views and so-so food now had both. The University of Santa Barbara campus was rebuilding as furiously as Lionshead, although the touchstones remained, like the U Cen beside the lagoon, and bicycles everywhere. We found a new shopping center here, underpass there. But mostly, the place was remarkably unchanged. A time warp intact.The warp revealed itself in layers, a peel at a time. The terminal, adobe bus station-sized, was no different in any detail. The streets, homes, short cuts, all of it, made us right in home in our rental car. All we had to do was trust, and sure enough we found everything without a map. Synapses fired, memories returned. Our town.Dave Matthews was playing a couple of nights at the Santa Barbara County Bowl. The bowl, which lies in the city, is a pint-sized Red Rocks, built in the same era by the same Conservation Corps workers and just as cool. So old and new collided under the stars for us, as Matthews performed with his buddy Tim Reynolds. We tuned into Matthews in Colorado in middle age, and he became the catalyst that brought us back here, where our life together began.We checked into a hotel across the street from the beach and harbor, tourists in our first home together. We did things we’d done many times – driving up and over the mountains where we’d also lived and I worked, walking the harbor and beach, sailing, dining only where we’d once been regulars.Knowledge that the moment will pass too quickly changes things. So we savored, sucking marrow, each precious moment. Friends we meant to see were out of town, or we missed from being becalmed in our rented boat, another cherished memory relived. But no matter. We had ourselves, and we met others: a Ventura firefighter who rode his bike to the end of a harbor walkway where we were taking in the view; the girl at the boating store who was studying journalism; the couple from North Carolina we met riding bikes who were out for the concerts like us; the lady at the restaurant with a second home near Durango, where our son now goes to college. Lots of interesting connections.Whether true or not, I choose to believe in meaning behind coincidence. So there was a lot to ponder from that trip. Along with a promise between us, my true love and I, to not wait so long before going back again.We were on our favorite beach together, one where we could let the dogs run free back then, and they sure did, generally in the late afternoon bending toward dusk, full moon rising on one side while the sun settled toward setting on the other, salt and kelp tang, small waves clapping and hissing, as we walked in cold, wet sand, alive, dogs at full tilt.This stroll came in the morning shortly before we needed to get back to the airport, turn in the rental and fly back to the snow. It was so much like the walk one special morning on another nearby beach when two young people had their first inkling that the other might be special – and of course no idea of the journey to come.”It’s time to head back,” I said, finally, reluctantly breaking the spell.”I’m not leaving,” she said.”You don’t understand. We have to go now.””No. You don’t understand. I’m not leaving.”Of course she was joking. And she wasn’t. Either way, we had to let go for now. Let our perfect weekend pass. Back to the snow, back to work, back to today’s life. I consider all this while sitting just below the Avanti lift, gazing at the Gore Range and cinching my snowboard bindings for another run, another perfect moment. Everything in its time, sure. But if you can’t truly go home, it’s sure great to visit. Managing Editor Don Rogers can be reached at 748-2920, or editor@vaildaily.com. Read his blog at http://www.vaildaily.com/section/BLOGVail Daily, Vail Colorado CO


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