Sand Sharks

On my trip back from Colorado yesterday, I sat by a guy who was traveling with his siblings to spend a week in San Diego. The guy is in his early 40s. He was from Fort Collins and had never been in San Diego.

As we went over the Grand Canyon, I pointed it out (it was INCREDIBLY clear and for the first time flying over the canyon I could see the river winding and threading its way).

The guy said, “There are LOTS of canyons! I thought it was one big canyon!”

Since I’m not a teacher any more and I’m really NOT wanting to be one of those retired teachers who goes on pendantically about “read this, read that” (that will take a while) I just said, “Yeah, amazing, isn’t it!”

Then we got to the desert and flew OVER the Salton Sea. He asked about the agriculture below us and I said, “Strawberries, lettuce….” and then we went over the mountains where I live, mountains that, the first time I flew here, looked like hills. I told the guy sitting next to me the story of how, on my first flight to San Diego (from Denver), I’d listened to some girl explain to the stranger sitting next to her that these were her mountains. I’d looked out the window and laughed smugly to myself, “Mountains? Ha. I’ll show you mountains.” And now? I pointed out our highest peak (7000 feet), our ONE mountain lake (reservoir) and my town. The guy was very interested.
“I had no idea there was any landscape like that out here,” he said.
“It’s not Florida,” I said. “You know, you can take surfing lessons on any beach. Just look for a tent or you know, one of those patio cover things with dozens of surf-boards under it and a sign. And the water is really warm right now, which is awesome and rare. Just be sure to shuffle your feet when you go in because the rays like the shallow water and come up to shore when it’s warm.”
“Are they dangerous? How big are they?”
“Oh, they can be pretty big, but the sting isn’t usually serious. Just shuffle your feet so they know you’re there and they’ll go away. It’s no big deal. If you get stung, just go to the lifeguard station and…” But I could see for him it WAS a big deal.
“Are there sharks?”
“Oh yeah, but the big ones are uncommon. More surfers are using long boards now. A lot of the attacks came back in the day when the surfers were using smaller boards and from below they looked like food to the sharks. If you have good eyes, you can see a lot of cool stuff. Jellyfish…”
“It’s OK, they’re not Man-o-Wars. Sand sharks…”
“There really ARE sand sharks?”
“Yeah, poor things. I just think they were up there and God goes ‘You get to be a shark!’ and the little soul goes ‘A Shark! Yay!’ then God goes, ‘A sand shark,’ and then God laughs. They are only about this long,” I spread my hands apart about a foot. “They’re cool to swim around, though. But if you go to La Jolla Cove you can swim around and see lots of beautiful stuff. I can’t because I can’t see for shit, but my friends have told me. There are also families of sea lions there.”

Then he asked about the climate, “Is it very hot and humid?”
“No,” I said, “seldom. We have a desert climate, even near the ocean. It’s usually very very comfortable, but winter can be cold — 40 degrees in San Diego. Of course, it’s colder where I live.”
He looked at me like, “That’s not cold.”
“We don’t have heat,” I said.
“You probably don’t need it,” he said. I didn’tanswer that since I had the same thought 30 years ago when I thought long johns and fleece were for skiing and not for simply hanging around in your house after work…

Much of this WHOLE conversation was almost word-for-word the conversations I had overheard and in which I participated in 30 years ago when I first came to San Diego to check out the city. I just didn’t know.

Once I had the idea that words — conversations — are already hanging in the air. People just walk through them and say them.

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