It all started in high school; Hollywood High to be precise. I would gather some friends together and we’d go Laguna Beach. We’d drive past Knotts Berry Farm where they sold delicious berries, long before it became a theme park.
After crossing Aliso Creek on the Pacific Coast Highway, we’d trod down a secret stairway to an isolated beach. For dinner, we opened a can of Campbell’s pork and beans and built a fire to roast wieners. As soon as the sky filled with stars, we’d spread our sleeping bags out and listened to the surf as we fell asleep. We lived the life of vagabonds - then we graduated and grew up.
So, does this kind of carefree existence ever happen again? In my case, yes, but it had to be earned. I became a choreographer and travel was part of the job. At the moment, I am on the Italian Riviera.
I get off the bus in San Remo. The beauty of the city is jolting. A palisade has been chosen to place a statue of Persephone, Goddess of Spring. She stands in a plethora of purple, red, and white petunias, with an explosion of palm fronds in back of her.
Our dancers are performing at a government-owned casino. They have been on tour for months and it’s time for clean-up rehearsals and classes. The group is happy to see me, and we all dance full out. “Full out” happens when body, mind, and spirit are in synch, working up a sweat while holding nothing back. It’s simple. The more you sweat in rehearsal, the easier your dancing looks on stage.
By the end of the week, the cast and I need a break from each other, so we take Sunday off. They sleep in. I explore. This is when I discover San Remo’s “Funivia.”
Long before multimedia captured people’s minds, nature was a source of entertainment. San Marino entrepreneurs built a long line of stanchions from the edge of town to the mountaintop behind the town. A cable was then strung between them and an observation car is attached. I have to try it.
I buy a ticket and, as soon as I am on board, the attendant hooks the car to the cable and I soar into the air. It feels strange to see nothing beneath my feet. Everything happens so fast and, suddenly, a gluttonous number of carnations is beneath me as I find I am riding above a commercial nursery. Acres of flowers surround me. The swath of color is enormous, but not nearly as impressive as the fragrance wafting up to me. Unlike roses, which have a medley of perfume-inspired scents, carnations get right down to it and add spice to each whiff. This year’s crop is in full bloom, while a salty addition from the sea adds more flavor to the mix. Next door, Monte Carlo, with all of its opulence and sophistication, comes in a distant second to these fabulous carnations.
The air cools as we arrive at the top of the mountain. The observation car slides softly into the disembarkation platform. The inevitable refreshment stand is nearby and I have a raspberry pastry, with a dollop of whip cream, and a frothy cappuccino. Ahh, life is good.
Thinking back for a moment, Laguna Beach and San Remo are not so different. Each is a celebration of nature. When Tioga Pass opens, the Sierra will be another opportunity to indulge in a celebration of nature. I hope you will join me.
Ron Walker can be reached at email@example.com