I'm writing this from a shack in Nipomo. Where is Nipomo and what's up with the shack are the obvious and immediate questions. To answer these questions, Nipomo is small town up the Central Coast of California between L.A. and San Francisco. And no, Nipomo was not named for a Japanese Internment Camp, but is an American Indian name. Or so I've been told by my ex-husband who has tons of information from all of the magazines and newspapers he reads.
He, being Chinese and having been brought up in Japan, would be happy to share that internment camp information had it been the case, so I believe the American Indian story.
My ex-husband has introduced me, or rather our family (which now consists of me, my new husband of 19 years, our 16-year-old daughter and the 23-year-old I have with my ex-husband, who is himself a part of our family) to Nipomo where he purchased a five-acre parcel of land several months ago and envisioned what the shack on it and the grubby excuse for a garden could become without much work. He's into painting everything white and keeping it cotton and washable, and chillin' in the rock garden, which was the first thing he did with the place; turn the grubby excuse into a Zen rock garden.
He closed escrow on the house Thanksgiving week. My 16-year-old had the week off, so we (my current husband and 16-year-old) drove up the coast to Cambria for a few days and stopped off to see E.H. (ex-husband) and the house on the way home. His land is only 10 minuets off the freeway, then down several long stable-filled country roads. I find it slightly funny and totally perfect that his property is on a dead-end cul de sac named "Sunny Brook Lane." That this six-foot-and-shrinking Chinese guy with a shaved head, who speaks Japanese, wears faded Comme des Garçons sweaters and a weird straw hat, would finally land a place on Sunny Brook Lane!
Driving up from L.A. yesterday was the easiest three-hour drive. The dogs were in the back, listening to Botticelli in Central Park and NPR with me, the traffic was all heading in the opposite direction into town, not out. It's a beautiful drive up the southern California coast at any time, but in the morning with the crisp winter sun, it is spectacular. The hills roll you out of L.A. towards what I always regard as western country. Rolling hills and green pastures take you up to Ventura where you hit blue water on the left. The water is with you past Santa Barbara and into Goleta and then you cross over into wine and horse country. There it flows and rolls for miles in greens and browns. It is breathtaking. The phrase God's country always comes to mind driving through this part of the Central Coast of California.
Here's another plus for this paradise. Anyone who knows E.H. will appreciate it.
He texted me to meet him for lunch at a restaurant that was 30 minutes from his house in a town called Los Alamos. The place is only open weekends and Mondays. As a restaurateur and painter and a guy who likes to chill, a restaurant that is only open three days a week is so up his boulevard! In the three quaint cowboy country blocks that make up the town of Los Alamos there are several antique shops, a couple of wine bars, a few "spas" and three excellent places to eat. No one is leaving civilization behind here in Los Alamos!
We meet at this place called Bell Street Farm that is so totally cool it has the straw bags from Spain that I love, the simple v-shaped ones with the little red leather handles, hanging on the wall. The guy behind the counter who looks very spiffy indeed and turns out to be the owner of this beautiful and brilliant restaurant/gift shop/cool place, drools over E.H., while I drool over the salad selections in the display case and homemade chocolate chip cookies near the cash register. The owner compliments E.H.on his hat and smiles at me only as a courtesy because I'm with exotic-looking tall guy. Some thing's never change. The boys all love E.H. No, it's true. He and I were together for almost 10 years, shocking as it is to our daughter. I'm used to this. He's a long, lean, handsome guy who wears clothes really well. Many years ago he was even in GQ on some eligible bachelor or best-dressed list. He's got this languid walk and an artistic demeanor, so he gathers fans from every church. Our years together were sweet, growing years, and I learned a lot about art and how to look at things differently. There weren't turbulent or mean-spirited times ever. The way I look at it, which is so L.A., and another reason to love it, is that we were brought together so we could have this incredible kid. Which we have.
People have remarked about our extended family dynamic over the years. Complimented each of us parental units, E.H., my husband and me on how well we all get along, how great that we are all good friends, which in fact we are. Personally, I take no real credit for it. I am glad that I live in a time where going to therapy and working out ones shit is the norm, as well as a necessary luxury item, and striving to be conscious is promoted. When people say to me that I'm lucky to have this kind of relationship with my ex-husband, I say it's not luck at all. It was and is a decision. We chose to take the high road for the good of our daughter.
Here is the deal, if you do something for the highest good, it doesn't have to go low brow and nasty. For E.H. and me, leaving each other as kindly and as amicably as possible for our daughter's sake, was the goal. The divorce was about us, not her. Her well being was what we made our common priority. We also had an unspoken agreement that neither of us would utter a bad word about the other to our daughter. I've seen that kind of selfish, damaging behavior more times than I'd like to count and find it incredibly sad. It shows a complete lack of impulse control and maturity and is so unfair to children. It should be avoided at all cost. We had one fight in front of her. When she was 16, in my kitchen, about a car for her. For a feisty Irish Jewish girl and a Chinese Prince that's not bad. That kind of thing happens all the time in "normal" families.
The moral of this story is; keep it clean for the kids, and you will be richly rewarded. Twenty years later we have grown into dear and loving friends who respect each other and who both derive enormous pleasure and pride from the daughter we share.
It's been a hectic December, as it usually is. January is always daunting to begin with, a mini flu and a cold both worked their way through our house, and an old and dear friend lost her husband. I am in need of a couple of days R&R. I need to write, and I need to read the George Sanders book of stories I've carried around for the last two weeks after reading the New York Times Sunday magazine piece on him. I've cracked it open once. So I am here in Nipomo with my boys, the woofers, Turtle and Petey at E.H.'s shack reading, writing, resting and saying me prayers. It's cheaper than Canyon Ranch and with a great play list streaming from his iPod all day!
Forgiveness is a key component in this scenario also, more truth be told.
As Don Henley sings so well, it is all about forgiveness. (There are better people to quote but that song is just so great!) They all sing or preach about it, the enlightened masters, the balladeers of love and the genius humanitarians. They've discovered the key; every day in every way we all F-up and need to say sorry from the heart. It really does take two to tango, and, in most cases, we all come from our own damaged perspective and are doing the best we can in accordance with the amount of that damage. A heartfelt "I'm sorry" can move mountains. Understand that and you too might one day have a little R&R in some groovy spot like Nipomo with a dear man who has become like a brother to you making you pasta Bolognese for dinner while Elvis Costello croons in the background while your loving husband's busy keeping the home fires burning.