There are rare moments in life when you hold cards and simply can’t believe the cosmic tumblers have flipped such a great hand your way. Yesterday’s journey mostly up the bending heather-green hills of Southern California were lit by the glinting sunlight bouncing up off the Pacific and darkened by a ghost tour on the majestic Queen Mary.
The fact Kyle doesn’t draw a firm line between fantasy and reality (must be genetic) makes a “scary ride” like that on the QM all the better, and when water began crashing through the hull a la “Titanic” and my boy buried his face into the protection of my armpit, he was done with the ghosts and I was happy the ride was over. After refusing to participate in the “huck a lungee off the side like Jack taught Rose” part of the tour, the boy and I returned to the safety of shore and the Pacific Coast Highway.
The coast hugging path has spectacular moments of what seems to be mountains sloping right into the sea, and others passing through towns off the coast the Beach Boys never wrote about. There’s just nothing lyrical about crawling from red light to red light, past Walgreens, McDonalds and Carl Jr’s. After an hour of that, I bolted for highway 101N where other than passing an accident, the vastness of California agriculture could be observed at 75MPH.
At about 6:20PM, the GPS still had us an hour from the hotel near Pismo Beach and Kyle was hungry, so I exited at Highway 246 in Buellton, CA, drawn in by a sign that claimed it was the home of Split Pea Soup. As I scanned the ample commercial signage adorning this rural route, a mustard yellow sign stood out: “The Hitching Post.” No, it couldn’t be… As I turned into the entrance, the perspective changed and as I looked back to the restaurant on the left and the sign on the right, I swear I saw Paul Giamatti as “Miles,” stumbling out toward the orange setting sun. I was giddy. Could this really be “The Hitching Post” from one of my all-time favorite films, “Sideways?” It was, and the cards I held were the wine list and menu.
At about the same time I received a reminder email regarding an off-site meeting for work in Newport, RI on September 17th. I quickly looked up another email and confirmed what I suspected. The 17th is the date of an “NEC Reunion” for employees of our old facility in Boxborough, MA. That’s when the Led Zeppelin song popped into my head. “What is” was sitting at the “Hitching Post” having dinner with my son, “and what should never be” is the haunting of old ghosts.