Musings on the Coast

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Late In the Evening

By Michael Ray
By Michael Ray

The scene: Art Walk Laguna, August, 2016.

My mood: tired and cranky.

I had been working on a giant apartment deal and was drained. I wanted only to stay home, stare at TV and go to bed early. But my daughter, Gabby, 23, would not let me. She said I had to go see her friend Savannah Gardner’s gig at The Laguna Coffee Company. Savannah has a voice like the Sweet Bird of Paradise and the face and demeanor of an angel.

We all love her, Gabby and my son Harrison and all their pals. Everyone was going. I had to go too or face the wrath of Gabby.

So I did my yoga, showered, dressed, and reluctantly started driving.

The streets were packed and traffic at a crawl.

The nearest parking place was many blocks from the coffee shop. It was hot and sticky. And it was 8:30; her gig would end at 9. I had to hurry.

But the sidewalks were jammed. One had to slide between slow moving clusters of people, rotating sideways, being bumped, bumping, muttering pardon me, pardon me. Sweat was running down my back. My mood quickened and darkened.

Then I heard music. It was coming from one of the art galleries. It was loud, a fast beat, surging. It caused me to pause. It reminded me of something.

Suddenly and out of the blue, I flashed back to my days in New York and summer nights in the Village. The people, the music, the panoply. The elation in the air. The expectations.

Enjoy it, I thought, look around and enjoy it. Get your act together. Sit for a moment. So I did on steps leading to one of the shops. I leaned back, closed my eyes and listened.

I flashed again, now to Paul Simon’s song “Late In The Evening.” It is about NYC in the summer, the women in thin summer dresses with drops of perspiration glistening on their skin. It is about the action and it is about the music. But mostly, it is about the magic of a hot night in the city.

That was Laguna this night.

I stood, my eyes open now, walking slowly. On every other block was a band. Almost all stores were open. The people were of all ages, nationalities, families, couples, singles.   They were strolling about enjoying the animation and energy. It was Laguna and it was New York and it was fabulous.

I arrived at The Laguna Coffee Company. Savannah was jamming on her guitar and singing. She saw me, smiled her wonderful smile. I went to the outside area for a seat where a good fifteen of her friends, my friends now too, all listened to her yet talking, animated, young and alive. After each song, they clapped and yelled in applause. Some danced in place in the small spaces they occupied and I felt the same. Go with it. Go with it.

At 9, on time, the gig ended and I drifted back to my car. Now I did so in a trance, looking. The shops were bright and full of Laguna’s funky vibe. Damn, I thought, this was NYC’s Village. The same vibe. The same power. The same perspiration and the same drops. The same voluptuousness in the air. Different time, different place, but the same.

I could only smile. I was lucky. I had been in NYC at the right time for me and now I was in Laguna at the right time for me, and they both were paradise; and somehow on this hot sticky night one and the same.

Thank you, Lord, even though you don’t exist and if you do, you’re an insect or a speck or a river of possibilities from which one is plucked at random or you watch and laugh—whatever you are, thank you. Yes, thank you. We all exist here, now, and this is our bliss.


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