It seemed like a wonderful plan. Sherod and I would leave from the ARAA reunion to catch a train at 8 in the morning that would take us to LA. There, we would get to spend about 4 hours with Len before coming back to San Diego. For a time, when we lived in Fort Lauderdale, Len and his now husband, David, were neighbors. We became very good friends and fell into an easy rhythm of going back and forth between our homes for Sunday supper. They live in LA where David is a highly regarded psychotherapist and Len is an artist. We have missed them since they left Fort Lauderdale in 2005 and though we wouldn’t get to see David, because he was out of town, we were simply thrilled to get to see Len.
We got to the station in San Diego about 20 minutes before the train was supposed to come through. At 8:04 (departure time), no train. Forty-five minutes later? Nothing. More time goes by, no train. And then some more. Now it’s starting to get dicey–we’re not going to get to spend hardly any time with Len because we have tickets to come back to San Diego at 3:00 pm. Do we go or do we stay? Go. It matters too much to get to see Len. Finally, 2 hours late, the train came in. The ride is lovely as long as the train goes along the shoreline, much duller once it curves into the ‘burbs of Orange County and LA.
We got to Union Station in LA, which is a magnificent building. We tried to use the Uber ap and at each and every step, it gave us problems and meantime, the time was ticking. We finally caught a cab but we barely had an hour to spend though Len had prepared the kind of vegetarian feast like he used to prepare when it was his and David’s turn to have us over in Fort Lauderdale. Finally, the Uber ap worked, the Uber car got there too fast, and before I felt like I could blink, we were back on the train, heading back to San Diego.
I rode back south with a huge knot in my throat. I have a hard time describing the friendship I have had with Len for so many years. Len is a brilliant artist and perhaps because of that, has a way of seeing the world and a way of being a friend that has made my life so much better, richer, more meaningful. My grandmother and mother both had their brokenness and issues and both also understood the place of beauty. Len does too, in ways even more profound than I had known before I met him. I still have the hand-me-down cutting board he gave me when he and David were moving west because it is the most perfect blue. Whenever I take it out to use, I smile. To have had to rush through lunch when we used to sit for hours around the table, talking, laughing, and breaking bread together was absurdly, heart-breakingly wrong. I kept telling myself, at least I got to see my friend. But it wasn’t enough.
We got back to San Diego, got settled in the Airbnb we’re staying in for the remainder of our time here and crashed early. This morning there was a text from Len and then a flurry of texts back and forth. Schedules were rearranged and Len, together with the two pug girls he got from a pug rescue organization in Korea, Rosie and Viola, drove down to hang out with us. The traffic he encountered was minimal and we ended up having this big, beautiful chunk of time together that just made my soul sing.
We ate at a lovely Lebanese restaurant close to Balboa Park, with the two dogs amusing us and laughter abounding. Then, Len, Viola, Rosie and I walked to Balboa. It was beautiful. Because the two sweet girls were with us, we couldn’t go into the museums we would have spent hours walking through under different circumstances. What Len did urge me to do was walk into the Botanical Building. It was like walking into my mother’s garden in Cali. It was so beautiful, and so alive, and so, both exotic, and so familiar, to this woman who is now every bit as much Alabama as Colombia, it left the kind of stillness of the soul that only comes with great joy.
We came back to our Airbnb, Len fed and walked his girls, allowed us to babysit them while he went for a run. A little more conversation and then it was time for him to head back to Los Angeles. Here’s what I see about the time we spent in Del Mar on Saturday, and in San Diego today: it’s about time. The kind of time that comes with shutting off phones, with letting time go where it will go, quickening and slowing down in ways that are so mysterious and open to the Spirit. The Spirit blows where it will and there’s a kind of time that only comes with trusting there is enough of it. And that’s at the heart of the matter, isn’t it? That we live as if there is not enough time, though we really, we don’t have to live like that, at least not all the time.