I’d accepted a dinner invitation from an acquaintance. I’d met Sarah two weeks previous at the Alternative Café when I was video shooting Tom Faia and The Juice performing their original songs. Part literary gothic counterbalancing Emo nerdish fashion, I’d given Sarah my card without judging, told her I was a writer and videographer. She said she was a tattoo artist and that my fit body would be the perfect subject for her next project. What was her next project? After her big smile she didn’t tell me and I didn’t ask.
That evening her breath was adrift with the fire of peppery vodka. She giggled whenever I looked at her. She touched my shoulder when making comments. My mind was focused on my video job, but there was a cunning fragility about Sarah and a deliberate vulnerability to be studied. Overall, her actions suggested something about her I was missing.
I didn’t expect to see her again.
She called the next evening and said she’s made reservations for dinner at the Mission Ranch Restaurant in Carmel on Monday at six. The locals hiding place was known for its American cuisine and piano bar. They served the best hamburgers in town. Can you please join me?
How could I not accept the invitation; burger, fries, salad and a glass of aged Merlot, nothing could go wrong with that culinary Feng Shui. Besides all of that, Sarah was an enigma I wanted to follow-up on, and the Mission Ranch Restaurant overlooked the Carmel River, where a charming estuary slept, where sheep grazed and the sun set rainbows upon the distant Pacific Ocean at dusk.
My personal magnetic compass pointed toward the good qi; the perfect location for the axis of time at the Mission Ranch, a resort in Carmel consisting of 22 acres with 31 hotel rooms located in 10 buildings, all preserved and restored by a former Carmel Mayor.
After all, this wasn’t going to be a real date with a half-gothic half-nerd tattooist, I was certain it was a business proposition. What the French call le désir d'aventure, the desire for adventure, I’d decided that was my decisive Yin and Yang theory.
Sarah said she’d pick me up and I’d resisted, telling her to meet me on the corner of Jefferson and Pierce Streets downtown Monterey, in front of the Monterey Institute of International Studies. Look for something special in green, I’d said.
Sometimes I’d rented flashy cars for special occasion, not as a prestigious thing, just for an adventure badge. A Smart Fortwo car was my green choice for this social with Sarah, a convertible worthy of driving over Highway 1, down Ocean Avenue central Carmel then over to the Mission Ranch Inn, where a splendid nature view, delicious hamburger and a sumptuous glass of merlot were in wait.
While I sat in the little green thingy in my black Armani fitted suit, burnt orange shirt without a tie, waiting for Sarah to arrive on the street corner, my cell phone rang. Sarah’s voice was filled with despair, like she’d been rebuffed after asking someone out.
Sarah: I can’t make it. I apologize.
Me: Are you okay?
Sarah: Women, they’re all alike. My partner won’t cut me loose this evening.
Me: Your partner?
Sarah: Sorry. Sometimes Melody can be smothering. Can we try this again next Monday?
Me: Perhaps a meeting isn’t a good idea if Melody, your partner, is so repressive.
Sarah: You’re right, I shouldn’t cheat. Drop into my tattoo parlor and I’ll treat you to a tat.
Me: Did you cancel our reservation at Mission Ranch? I’d still like to go.
Sarah: It’s still good.
Me: Thanks, Sarah, perhaps I’ll stop by for a tat.
My relief was tenfold. That something I’d missed about Sarah when we’d met must have been the time she feigned honesty.
I carefully maneuvered the smart fortwo into traffic up Munras Avenue, merged onto Highway 1, skipped over the pine forested hill and turned down Ocean Avenue. It cut the town of Carmel in half. At the bottom of Ocean I coasted on Scenic Road above the gorgeous crescent Carmel Beach, cruised around the dangerous point, glided past the white sands of Carmel River Beach, slid by picturesque Carmel River Lagoon and Wetlands Natural Reserve, capered through a quaint neighborhood, and just before the Carmel Mission Basilica, I’d turned into the Mission Ranch Restaurant parking lot, sauntered inside and sat on the only vacant barstool. After surveying the crowded restaurant I ordered a Michelob from the overly hygienic bartender.
The restaurant’s country style ambiance felt pretentious yet relaxed. All tables were filled with stylish customers. A few chic couples were waiting for tables to free up and a group of three Rachel Zoe fashionably dressed, deliberately noisy women came into the bar area. Every seat was taken and the painting-the-town-Zoe freebee women were eager for someone to give up their stools.
I’d quickly decided not to eat but to finish my beer and split, leaving the bar to the attention deprived women and the delicious culinary fragrances to those who bathed in food. My smile to the ladies was gracious as they nodded and tittered when I vacated my stool.
My Feng Shui attitude directed me to the entrance door. It swung open before I’d touched it. An older man stepped inside and said excuse me, trod around me, stopped, turned around and looked down two inches in my eyes. I thought he was distracted by my orange shirt. Dins inside the restaurant went silent. The voice of the former mayor of Carmel was a whispering growl.
Former Mayor: Have we met?
Me: Yes, we’ve met.
His cowboy boots shuffled. His white wispy hair hovered. His right eye squinted, his head tilted to his right shoulder. I knew this elderly man. He always dressed meticulously in Tahama golf wear slacks shirt and sweater. He looked me up and down as if I wear a new dog in town.
Former mayor: Where did we meet?
Me: I nodded to you when we were both dining at Peppers Mexicali Café in Pacific Grove.
Former Mayor: Oh, yeah?
Former Mayor: Than I might see you there again sometime.
I pulled a card out from within my jacket pocket and handed it to him. His eyes were unfocused and he squinted as though he was trying to read my card.
Former Mayor: What does it say?
Me: It says firstname.lastname@example.org.
Former Mayor: You write books?
Me: I write reality fiction as much as you make movies.
Former Mayor: Is writing books your Feng Shui?
Me: Is making movies your Feng Shui?
The Former Mayor sneered then smiled, turned away, and while his long legs strolled toward the bar he waved my card overhead then put it in his pants pocket. When the chatter began again inside the restaurant I floated to my rented smart fortwo green car in the parking lot.
I sat for a few minutes in the tiny folds of the smart’s seat, knowing that I’d return to the Mission Ranch Inn Restaurant for a burger, fries, salad and a glass of aged Merlot. Clint Eastwood, owner of the Mission Ranch Inn, is one hell of a Feng Shui artistic engineer, and perhaps I’d nod to him again at Pepper’s or he’d be at his Mission Ranch Restaurant to greet me next time.
I reveled in my own Feng Shui geomagnetically induced current.
I was in need of a qi tattoo, and compelled to call Sarah and ask if she’d ink one on my right shoulder of Dirty Harry aiming a 44 magnum. I wasn’t really that compelled, so I’d regressed, drove over the hill and along the scenic drive of Ocean View Boulevard in Pacific Grove then jumped on down and cruised along Cannery Row, parked then entered and explored the Steinbeck Wax Museum.