Today I’m turning 38. Mai got up at dawn and is on her way to the office. When she asked me a few weeks ago what I wanted for my birthday the answer was easy: getting together with a small group of friends, sharing a good dinner and going dancing in a club. I look at my watch: 8.15am. The party starts in 705 minutes (or 42,300 seconds). I sit at the desk and begin my morning ritual, laying on paper last night’s dreams and this morning’s thoughts and emotions. What do I feel like doing today? I haven’t seen the Ocean up close in months, and I miss it. The crashing sound of the surf, the feeling of the marine breeze on my skin, the soft warmth of a winter sun… Manly yawns and Biela gives me her mind-control stare. These dogs have a clear way of making me understand it’s walk time.
On the flank of Tank Hill lays a patch of grass, dirt and rocks with a priceless view of San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge and the Pacific coast beyond: this is where my dogs take their human on a walk twice a day. A man dressed in black is sitting on the spot where I usually hang out and take in the view while Manly and Biela sniff around, run around, and go about their canine business. What is this guy doing here? This is MY secret spot, MY view, MY morning treasure. I ignore him and stay at a distance, waiting for the intruder to leave.
“Hey brother, do you know what that first point is, the one we can see over there?” The man raises his finger towards the horizon, just beyond the North end of the famous red bridge that has become a symbol of The City I call home. I look around, hoping the stranger is talking to someone else, but there’s no one else in sight.
ME: “I’m not sure. Maybe it’s Point Reyes.”
MAN: “You think so?”
I get closer to him and observe the Pacific coast, trying to answer this simple question about a landscape that’s been right here in front of my eyes twice a day for the past six months. I’ve never wondered about this before.
ME: “Actually no: Point Reyes is further North. It could be Stinson Beach.”
MAN: “Oh yes, I think you’re right. It must be Stinson.”
MAN: “Tomorrow’s my birthday, and it’s the first time I have weather like this.”
MAN: “You know, normally it’s cold and rainy.”
MAN: “I’m thinking of going to Stinson tomorrow. I have friends there and I haven’t seen them for a long time.”
I don’t believe in coincidences: there’s a reason why this stranger is crossing my path today.
ME: “Good idea. Actually my birthday is today and I’m thinking of going to the beach too.”
MAN: “Really, yours is today? Happy birthday brother!”
ME: “Thanks. Happy birthday to you too.”
MAN: “I’m Adam.” He smiles, unbothered by several missing teeth, and holds out his hand. I shake it.
ME: “Nice to meet you. I’m Cedric.”
ADAM: “Nice to meet you.”
ADAM: “I just need to figure how to get the money.”
He said these words softly, his eyes set on the horizon. It seems he’s talking to himself. The dogs are now sitting on our side; they like Adam. He’s petting Biela gently; I do the same with Manly.
ME: “How much do they charge for a bus ticket to Stinson?”
ADAM: “I don’t know, maybe $7.50 each way, something like that.”
I take a $20 bill out of my wallet and hand it to him.
ME: “Happy Birthday Adam. Please go to Stinson and visit your friends.”
He hesitates for a few seconds before taking the bill, smiling his toothless smile.
ADAM: “Really? Thank you brother. Thank you.”
So many times have I started a day with good intentions that never turned into actions… like picking the guitar that has been feeling so lonely in a corner of my office these past few months, like walking in the forest instead of staying stuck on Facebook. Like going to the beach.
Today Adam was here to remind me how lucky I am to have the means to do so many of the things I like. It’s so easy to get caught into a routine and give up on the simple things that give us joy. Today I’m giving myself some time off. Today I’m opening the convertible top, crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, and driving on California Highway 1, along the Pacific Ocean.
Today I’m going to Stinson Beach. Thank you Adam.