Opinion: Outside In

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There’s Just No Telling

By David Weinstein

It was probably the fault of that Western movie I watched the night before on TCM. “Red River” — the one where John Wayne and Montgomery Clift embark on an epic cattle drive north from Texas. No, I’m not a cowboy, I’m from Cleveland, but the movie created a hankering in me to get out into the wide-open spaces—or at least out of the house. So, when I bought a fly-fishing reel from a seller in San Diego, dreaming of a time I might get back out on the water, I told him I would drive down to pick it up the next day. The practical thing would have been to ship it, but these aren’t practical times. I guess I’d just been corralled for too long. The seller said he would be fishing the incoming tide by Scripps Pier in La Jolla. We made a date.

I woke up at 5:30 a.m. the next day to go to meet him. I went out to my parked car and brushed off the pine needles that had accumulated from disuse. A Mercedes CLS 500, Bordeaux Red: even at 15 years old it was still a beautiful car.  The well-mannered appearance of this four-door sedan belied its aerodynamics and 300 horsepower engine. Step on the gas and it gave you the sensation a pilot might get when they jammed down on the throttle of a jet fighter.

The morning air was crisp, and I opened the sunroof. My route would take me south on the Coast Highway through Laguna and onto the 405 Freeway at San Clemente. I drove past the early morning walkers heading for coffee. Past the runners, cyclists, and the scuba divers hauling their gear to the beach.  The sun was coming up as I reached Camp Pendleton. Driving 75 miles per hour, I was lulled into a quiet calm. The tawny sage covered hills on my port, the boundless blue Pacific on my starboard, and the smell of salt air wafting through the window. It was just me and the open road. I loaded a Steely Dan CD and “Babylon Sisters” began playing. It was one of those rare moments when everything felt perfect; pandemic be damned.

My reverie didn’t last long. I was jarred by a BMW traveling half again my speed that raced past on the right. Driving it was one of those new creatures this pandemic has spawned – Hundred–Mile-an Hour Guy. In normal times, I would have ignored him, but these weren’t normal times. My primitive brain took charge as a shot of adrenaline surged through my veins. Suddenly, I was Montgomery Clift looking over 3,000 head of cattle that needed to be moved up the Chisholm Trail. And with that passing BMW, I swear I heard John Wayne from high on his horse yell, “Take em’ to Missouri, Matt.” I even let loose a “Yee haw” as I stamped on my gas pedal.

Suddenly, I was catching Hundred-Mile-an-Hour Guy as my speedometer needle moved towards 100. He glanced at me as I passed, me an unshaven septuagenarian with a demonic grin and thinning white hair. This was too much for even a testosterone fueled young man. He pulled off the next freeway exit in Oceanside.

Was this a bonehead and immature response? You bet. But I plead temporary insanity, or maybe permanent insanity depending on how long this pandemic lasts. Give a man who’s been penned up for nearly a year some freedom, set him out on the open road, and he’s liable to do just about anything—drive a herd of cattle across a thousand miles of open prairie, or race down to La Jolla to pick up a used fishing reel. There’s just no telling.

David lives in Newport Beach and is an avid fly-fisher. A few of his clients reminded him after last week’s column that he hasn’t completely retired from the real estate business.

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