In the photo above, I'm walking to the edge of its southern shore. The stench was oppressive, which was no surprise, given the temperature was 110 Fahrenheit, and the rotting fish were rolling back and forth in the tiny waves that lapped up onto the sand.
"It's all the Mexicans who moved in," was the response. "They just kill a goat in their yard and drink in the garage."
"Maybe you should get into the goat business, then," I suggested playfully.
Both ladies threw disapproving glares my way. A waitress walked in. Unfortunately, there wouldn't be too many folks to serve as the barkeep's phone announced that the wind was coming. It would come to sweep up the fishbones and throw them onto cars and anyone who might be interested in walking to the bar.
"He came here twenty-five years ago to die," said the barkeep. Even morbid dreams didn't seem to come true in these parts. He just wandered the land with a big stick, with an assortment of feathers on top. He had become blind, but was in surprisingly good spirits.
He asked if there was anything to eat, and scoffed after he learned the only thing on the menu that day was a Cobb salad. On his way out he gestured to Dan and me and said, "Good afternoon gentlemen ... though I use the term loosely." Off he went into desert, past salt-encrusted remnants of spent dreams, frozen in time.
In any case, Dan and I still dig the place. It has a tranquil beauty, especially at sunset. I bet it's beautiful in the cooler months, from that bar which has a window to the water. The barkeep seemed only to pretend to lament the old man's appearance. On the outside, she seemed as salty as the nearby sea. But on the inside she was a gem. She was almost bashful about the fact (or at least my suspicion) that she gave some money and a cold glass of water to the old wayfaring stranger with failing eyes and a quarter-century battle with cancer.
Instead of blame, maybe its better to meet interesting people, walk through life in the setting sun, and do the best we can to be the faithful masks of God to everyone we encounter. Dan and I at least remember this trip with genuine grins. If we can find virtue in the wasteland, maybe there's hope for the rest of our towns too.
Even when things seem bleak, we can sit back and enjoy the sunset over the wasteland, dreaming of goodness, truth, and beauty. A toast to humanity with all its penultimate flaws; raise a glass and enjoy the post-apocalyptic beach party!