The main character of this tale shall remain anonymous for reasons to become very apparent by the end of the story. The actual events may have been a little different, but this is his how the story was told to me.
Through the years, day trippin' and traveling has been the source of many fond memories for a very dear friend of mine. Of course, as in most human endeavors, exploring new places has also been the cause of some embarrassing moments for my friend. Probably the most embarrassing moment in my friend's life happened recently while he was on his honeymoon in Monterey, California.
He and his new bride had spent a very enjoyable three days exploring the Central Coast of California when they stopped at a small restaurant for breakfast. About midway through the meal, the three days of eating well and often caught up with my friend. He grabbed a newspaper and headed for the restroom for a morning constitutional.
In the bathroom stall he made himself comfortable. About halfway through his purging someone came in and used the urinal. The urinal user, not realizing he had company in the restroom, turned off the lights as he walked out. There my friend sat on the porcelain throne in a strange room so dark that he couldn't see his hand in front of his face.
Gingerly my friend tried to wipe, but unnoticed in the darkness he had pinned a paper tail on himself. Using the newspaper and matches from his pocket, he fashioned a torch to light his way to the light switch. The newspaper burst into flames brighter than he had expected. As he waddled out of the stall with his pants around his ankles toward the light switch, the smoke and heat from the torch set off the smoke alarm.
Just as he reached for the light switch next to the entrance to the restroom, the door burst open. Crammed into the doorway was most of the kitchen staff coming to investigate why the fire alarm had gone off. There he stood with a smoking newspaper torch, his pants at his ankles, and a white tail trailing back to the stall. The only words he could make out as the cooks and busboys yelled in Spanish was "Que paso?"
"No lights. No luz. No lights," was all he could think to say in his sixth-grade Spanish as he stood in the now fully illuminated restroom. When they finally seemed to understand, the crowd of restaurant workers burst into a chorus of laughter. One of them pushed a button on the smoke detector to stop the shrill alarm as the rest went back to work.
After he had adjusted his clothing and returned to the table, my friend's wife greeted him with: "Everything come out okay?" Not missing the irony of her question, he smiled weakly and reached for the check and beat a hasty retreat from the eatery.
Two weeks later when he told his wife this story she wondered why it took so long for him to tell her. Frankly, I'm surprised he told her at all and even more surprised that he let me tell you.
It seems like there has been an lot written in the Texas press about the Central California Coast. That is probably because as Texans simmer through a scorching drought this summer, the California coastline has average daytime temperatures in the mid to high seventies.
Texas will always be my favorite place to explore, but on a couple of recent trips to the Gold Coast I have found some wonderful attributes in the state at which I once scoffed. A few of my favorite things about California and, to be fair, a Texas equivalent:
* San Francisco is a great international city to explore. There is so much to see and do here that I can't imagine every running out of places to go. (Texas equivalent: San Antonio with a tour of the Mercado. A tour of the Alamo is worth the time and a lot cheaper.)
* The Monterey Bay Aquarium is one of the best educational facilities in the world. They even have an exhibit on the Texas shrimp industry. The town of Monterey is a nice place to visit, but it is rapidly losing its Old World charm. (Texas equivalent: Corpus Christi and the Texas State Aquarium.)
* Highway 1 from San Francisco to Santa Barbara is always included in lists of Top Ten Drives in America. The winding road along the edge of the continent offers spectacular views of the blue ocean meeting the sharp cliffs. (Texas equivalent: The Big Bend and the Fort Davis loop taking farm-to-market roads 118, 166, and TX17.)
* The village of Carmel by the Sea is a very cute place to visit despite being taken over by swank galleries. You can still see remnants of the old artist community that made the town famous. Visiting Clint Eastwood's restaurant, the Hog's Breath Inn, and having a Pale Rider Ale brewed by the Celis Brewery of Austin is a lot of fun. (Texas equivalent: Fredericksburg and a Lone Star Beer at Luckenbach.)
For more information on visiting California, call 800/862-2543 or http://www.sfvisitor.org. For more information on finding the equivalent attractions in Texas, call 800/452-9292 or http://www.traveltex.com.
Coming up this weekend...
Gartenkonzertes is an evening of concerts by local German bands in the garden of the Beethoven Home in the King William District of San Antonio, Aug. 21. 210/222-1521.
"Everybody's Somebody" in Luckenbach with Pickers Circle on Friday and Saturday nights, 7-10pm; and Hill Country Musicians Jams on Sunday, 1-9pm. Look for the Texas Uprising with
Robert Earl Keen coming on Labor Day Weekend. 830/997-3224 or http://www.luckenbachtexas.com.
Gillespie County Fair brings pari-mutuel horse racing and grand champion fun to Fredericksburg and the fairgrounds south of town on TX16, Aug. 21-23. 830/997-6523.
LBJ Birthday Commemoration includes a wreath-laying ceremony, free bus tours of the ranch, Aug. 27; and an ice cream social, Aug. 29. 830/644-2241.
Ballunar Liftoff Festival at NASA/Johnson Space Center in Clear Lake matches hot air balloons with rockets, Aug. 28-30. 281/488-7676.
ArtWalk in Galveston's historical downtown area keeps the galleries open late for a combined opening night as various artists display new shows, Aug. 29. 409/763-2403.