Teaching John Steinbeck, Part 6, Salinas and Hurricane Sandy

Lois blogsMargot and I leave Los Angeles.  We drive north to Avila Beach.  We will celebrate our 25th year together; a miracle.  We arrive at Sycamore Mineral Hot Springs Spa, a throwback to the fifties. Our room has not been renovated since the fifties.  The rag rug in the living room area has that familiar, faded green and yellow hue.  The mini refrigerator has not been defrosted since the fifties.  The bathroom reminds me of the blue and white tiled ’50’s bathroom I shared with my sister while growing up in Larchmont, New York.  The living room fan has that grinding, low hum, almost broken sound to it.  We walk into the bedroom area.  We realize Margot will need a step ladder to get onto the bed.  I call the front desk.  They send a Rubber Maid step ladder.   These minor accommodation issues do not matter, because the sulfur mineral hot springs jacuzzi is right outside our bedroom door.  It is plastic, it stinks, but it is ours for the week-end.

The week-end is filled with laughter, love, and celebration.  I do not think about the teaching.  Instead, I celebrate the miracle of surviving 25 years in a relationship.  Margot and I eat great food.  We soak.  We walk beaches.  We ride bikes.  Most important of all we laugh at and with each other

On Sunday we drive the Pacific Coast Highway north to Monterey.  Once again we act like George and Lenny.  As we drive the winding roads, the great Pacific ocean to our left, the majestic mountains to our right, I am in awe of nature’s magnificence.  I am in a trance.  If I do not pay close attention, I could drive off a cliff, into a gully.  Danger.  Margot points out that each turn looks the same, that the ocean is still the ocean, that the road ahead is endless, that we could have driven the direct route in half the time.  Practicalities be damned.  I, like Lenny, prefer the winding road, pull over to the side of the road, get out of the car, touch the tall trees, gaze at the ocean, forget where I am going, forget that I have to get somewhere, to work a job.  I forget the job completely.

On Monday, when I stand in front of The Salinas High School students, I wish I could forget about teaching in Salinas, altogether.  But, I can not, can I?

And now… Hurricane Sandy.

On October 29th, 2012 Hurricane Sandy hits the northeast.  Margot is booked on a flight to Kennedy Airport.  Margot is unable to fly on that day or any subsequent day of that week.  She is stuck with me in a Hilton Garden Inn hotel room.  It is a room for one.  Though I am charming and petite, I need space.  I am like two people, especially in the vitamin/organic grocery/general well being departments.  Margot has a large aura.  She is like three people.  Between us we are five people in one room.  The room is not big enough for five people.  Also, the bathroom is a handicapped bathroom.  In a handicapped bathroom you wheel yourself into the shower.  When you turn the shower on, the water should seep underneath the shower curtain, empty into a drain in the middle of the bathroom floor.  Brilliant.  If you are handicapped, and you understand the system, it is an exceptional solution to a difficult problem.  Margot floods the bathroom floor.  I call for six, maybe seven bath towels.  That is the first days excitement.

For the next four days Margot tries booking a flight home.  That is the ultimate excitement of the week.  Each day of that school week, when I leave the hotel room, I leave Margot in the room, on the bed, on the telephone, trying to book a flight back to New York.  New York is submerged under who knows how many feet of water, without a working subway system, or a drivable road.  Each day, when I dash out of the room, as I run down the hallway, I hear Margot yelling at some, poor, overworked, underpaid, unsuspecting, travel agent or airline satisfaction representative.  I thank god I am not on the other end of the line.

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