What I Learned On My Summer Vacation
As lucky readers may remember, I took off all three months of summer. It was to be with my kids (ages 25, 21 and 19), here for an extended time as a group and probably the last time. They are in that stage of life when one accelerates into adulthood and leaves behind parents. The last one left the other day for his second year of college and, yes, I cried.
It was also because I was tired of the work grind. I wanted a break.
During my vacation, I learned many things:
Laguna has many more happenings than is obvious. I do not mean the Festival of the Arts, which is just a tourist attraction most locals find annoying. What I mean is the pure volume of cool stuff to do, right here.
The political structure needs to be changed. There are too many arbitrary commissions with arbitrary guidelines and arbitrary members who, frankly, abuse their power. I will not now identify any by name, but I will relate an incident. When I called one prominent commissioner to ask for 10 minutes of his time to look at something, he lost his temper, screamed at me and slammed down the phone. He did this twice and never apologized. He felt entitled.
Such abuse, I found, is rather common among the appointed members of the Heritage Commission, Design Review Board, Arts Commission (come on guys, most public art in this city sucks) and Planning Commission. One Planning Commissioner, at a session to discuss a proposed rooftop bar in downtown Laguna, had the arrogance to state he opposed it because it partially blocked the sort-of ocean view from the second level of a public parking garage. Come on, all you appointed and elected people, if you cannot act civilized, get the hell out of our politics.
I went kayaking almost every day. Actually, I have been doing this for more than 20 years and I am happy to report that the ocean preserve off Laguna (now 2.5 years old and preventing all fishing off our shores) has resulted in a startling comeback of aquatic life. Our waters are verdant again. The little fish attract the big fish. The big fish attract dolphins. Whales have returned. While at Recreation Point one afternoon I saw two 85-foot whales maybe 200 yards off the point, swimming slowly, majestically, north.
Local Greg MacGillivray of Imax fame told me fishermen usually fight new marine preserves to death, then a few years later, the same people are incredibly thankful. With GPS, they can station their boats just outside the preserve zones and what had been a fishing desert suddenly is abundant. Greg says he is spending the rest of his life with one goal: to convert 10 percent of the world’s ocean into such preserves. His wife and partner, Barbara, says they have never worked harder in their lives. And progress is being made.
The summertime trolley service, free for everyone, should be extended. It is a pure joy.
If you have a few hours to kill, have a friend drop you off at the dog park up Laguna Canyon Road, then walk all the way to Main Beach. Go slowly and check out the local action. To use an old metaphor, it is a “trip.”
Before my vacation started, I compiled a long list of chores around my house. I did not complete one. I kept saying I will do it tomorrow but today I am going to the beach.
At the end of the summer, the biggest swell in a generation hit us. The outside, outside, outside reefs were breaking, and the waves came in long, huge sets. It truly was awesome.
I became a member of a de facto “club” at a beach the name of which I will not reveal. It is a secret. The members are members by dent of going there a lot, surfing, kayaking, SUPing, and swimming. They are a diverse group in all senses—age, sex, station in life, interests, economic condition, and so on. We are kept together because we love the ocean and because we hang out.
Gang, we live in utopia. Our problems are those of paradise—simple, small and usually petty. I’ve lived in NYC, Tokyo, L.A., and have visited most major capitols and vacation spots of the world, and nothing—not one city, region or exotic location—can compare.
And finally, there is something I now tell myself. Yes, my children want to go to The City and test themselves against the best; they want to discover alien environments, go for it, challenge the edge. I know that. But this is as good as it gets. They will be back.
At least, it is so lovely to think so.
Michael Ray grew up in Corona del Mar and now lives in Laguna Beach. He makes a living as a real estate entrepreneur and is involved in many non-profits.