We left Monterey, Frog nursing her broken fender, and before long were immersed in the beauty of the California Pacific Coast and eventually Big Sur. About eleven in the morning I decided it was time for a two Splenda latte and before long found a roadside restaurant that advertised Espresso. I pulled into a large area for parking, separated from a front patio area by a low rock wall. The same wide spot in the road housed a grocery store with identical architecture as the restaurant. I didn’t bother to inquire if the whole was the same operation, didn’t really care.
As I went into the restaurant for my latte I noticed a man sitting in the sun at one of a number of outdoor tables, avoiding the shade of the table’s umbrellas. He was eating what appeared to be a breakfast burrito. Our eyes met and he nodded and I returned the nod. When I came out, coffee in hand, our eyes met again. I walked toward him and he motioned for me to sit down. He commented on Old Blue’s Washington license plates and the unusual nature of Frog. Before long we were trading our life histories and thus passed a very pleasant and illuminating hour and a half.
Jerry, that is his name, another graybeard like myself, lives in his truck, moving from one campground to another as the time limit for occupancy expires. It was a routine broken only by an occasional trip to Monterey to visit his daughter and to pickup his social security check. He is an artist, one of too many to count with talent but no luck and no sponsor. Actually he never said he was an artist, only that he drew pictures, but the life history I extracted from him included an unfinished engineering degree, time spent as a draftsman, until CAD (computer assisted drafting) made that profession obsolete. He had held various positions in the corporate world but nothing that held his interest for long. He then became a set designer and painter, and described a litany of jobs and experiences including more than one wife, several girl friends and at least the one daughter he spoke to me about.
At one point I went to Old Blue to let Charlize out to do her business and give her the opportunity to meet Jerry. Charlize came directly to him and made friends. Most dogs are good judges of character and I’m beginning to trust Charlize’s judgment in this regard.
Jerry was a little deficient in hygiene. I was careful to stay upwind. Most would probably classify him as a bum, at the least homeless, which technically he was, discounting the truck that I never saw. But he was easy to talk to, a terrific listener who quickly found out why I was on the road, how I came to be at that place at that time and what Charlize’s role was in our odyssey. His story was as interesting to me as, to all appearances, mine was to him We were two strangers who sat comfortably in the sun and talked of life and philosophy and politics, both corporate and academic. We solved no problems, came to no decisions, found no solutions, nor even consensus about those problems that we discussed. We parted as friends, only knowing first names, probably to never meet again, but satisfied with the hour and a half we spent together in gainful conversation. At least Charlize and I were.