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By Tom Blake
One of the best aspects of taking a long trip is coming home. Such is the case for my partner Greta and me. After being gone for 48 days, we are home and were quickly reminded how fortunate we are to live in South Orange County.
Although very jetlagged from crossing six time zones, being on airplanes for 15 hours and logging four hours of sleep, I stopped at the Dana Point Post Office to ship some books.
Lisa and Bill were behind the counter. They’ve been there forever, it seems. They’ve always been friendly and efficient.
Lisa cheerily said, “Loved your recent travel articles in the newspaper, especially the one about Glenn Miller, the penguin you saw in Chile.” I walked away thinking, wow, what nice people we have working in our community.
I also stopped at Pacific Western Bank, where I’ve banked since 1988. After entering the door from the parking lot, teller Sherie said, “Welcome back Tom, I can help you!”
Rosette, a vice president and branch manager, has assembled a great team of employees. Mimi, a former international flight attendant, wanted an update on the Copa Airlines flights we had taken from Rio. The other tellers, Monica and Larrisa, listened intently. Denise and Fermin are always friendly. The bank visit reminded me of why it’s great to be home.
On our second day back, still “out of it” from our long trip, Greta and I walked in Dana Point Harbor. It was just before 4 p.m. when we passed Harpoon Henry’s. We’d been walking for only 15 minutes when Greta said, “That’s enough exercise for now; it’s happy-hour time at Harpoons.”
So, in we went. Speaking of a socializing place for seniors, by 4:30 p.m., the upstairs lounge is always packed with white-haired people. We enjoyed a glass of wine, some of the restaurant’s famous calamari and then headed home to sleep. After all, it was nearing midnight, Brazil time.
On the third day back, I decided to walk from our Monarch Beach home to Salt Creek Beach, as I do a few times a week. I always pass by the Monarch Beach Resort golf shop to get to the public sidewalk that takes you under PCH and to the beach.
As I approached the pro shop, I noticed a bright yellow Audi sports car parked there. A promotional sign behind the car read, “Welcome to the Basketball Hall of Fame 2017 Golf Classic.” The sign listed several sponsors including the Los Angeles Lakers.
As I walked down the steps, I noticed several golf carts lined up at the first tee with big, tall men in them. There was a sign listing the foursomes who were playing that day: Julius Erving (Dr. J), Rick Barry, Clyde Drexler, Gary Payton, Artis Gilmore, Alex English and many other former NBA greats were listed.
I saw Jamaal Wilkes sitting in a golf cart. He was on four NBA championship teams including the Golden State Warriors and Lakers. Without thinking, I blurted out “Silk?” That had been his nickname because he was smooth as silk when he played.
He said, “Do I know you?”
I said, “We met the night the Golden State Warriors made the NBA playoffs in 1971. After the game, you and some of your teammates came into the Victoria Station Restaurant in Oakland. I was the manager. We all partied pretty hard that night.”
Silk said, “I remember that. By the way, Rick Barry is here.” I looked around but didn’t see Barry. He was also a great player for the Warriors, and known for his underhand style of shooting free throws.
Then, I saw Ralph Sampson remove a club from the golf bag on his cart. Hard not to recognize Sampson, the Houston Rockets Hall of Famer, he’s 7-foot-4-inches tall. Again, without thinking, I said, “Hit the ball hard Ralph!”
He looked at me with a big grin and said, “I hope I can even hit it.”
Since the golf gathering was a private event, I left and walked down the path to Salt Creek. My thoughts: Everybody living in South County is fortunate to have three incredible hotels here—the Monarch Beach Resort, the Ritz-Carlton and the Laguna Cliffs Marriott—that represent our community so impressively.
By late Saturday afternoon, Greta and I had nearly overcome our jetlag. “Let’s go to the new movie, Murder on the Orient Express,” she said.
She and I had been on the Orient Express from Venice to Paris via Prague 10 years before, and we were curious to see if the movie replicated the actual train. It did. As we left the theater, we saw Ward, a South County friend we’d known for years.
Ward said, “Saw in the paper your trip articles. Where to next?”
I said, “It’s so great to be home, we’re staying put for a while.”
On Sunday, I did stand-up paddling in the harbor with Russell Kerr, my SUP buddy, who a few years back was the board chairman of the Dana Point Chamber of Commerce. Ricky, an old-timer from San Clemente, who paddles nearly every day, said, “Hello, brother,” which he calls everybody. Fun for me to be back paddling.
At home, Greta said, “I think you need a haircut.”
“Yup, you’re right. I’m looking like a worn out, silver-haired hippie. I’ll go see Alex (the Sports Barber stylist who has been cutting my hair in Dana Point for 23 years). He’ll want to hear about our travels.”
It’s the beauty and the people here that make coming home so great.
Tom Blake is a Dana Point resident and a former Dana Point businessman who has authored several books on middle-aged dating. See his websites at www.findingloveafter50.com; www.vicsta.com and www.travelafter55.com. To receive Tom’s weekly online newsletter, sign up at www.findingloveafter50.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.