Kittens, I was procrastinating again. I was pushing the anniversary of the Pocket Call to September 6th when it’s actually the evening of September 5th. I thought I had one more day. Thankfully the fine folks at Angele in Napa provided the cocktail recipe for our soiree just in the nick of time.
Here it is, spa water with booze in it:
CLEAR CONSCIENCE RECIPE
8 slices cucumber
½ orange cut into 6 slices
1 oz fresh squeezed lime juice
1 oz ginger simple syrup (recipe follows)
4 oz vodka
Muddle cucumber and orange in cocktail shaker until broken up. Add ginger syrup, lime juice, and vodka. Add ice and shake vigorously. Strain into tall Collins glass over ice and top with ginger ale. Garnish with a cucumber wheel.
Make 2 drinks
Ginger Simple Syrup:
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
½ cup peeled and sliced ginger
Bring sugar and water to a boil. Add ginger and steep for 1 hour and up to 3 days. Strain. Makes several cocktails 😉 Must get ginger…must get ginger…
Seriously, could this cocktail be any more appropriate? Due to my date error, I will be making one each night just in case some of you don’t check in till Thursday. I will post both nights, guaranteed.
Now, I have much to share about the past few days.
The Blue Moon lit up the night like a global carnival. I expected it to come rolling down my hill it was so close, so touchable. Its light hot and blinding white, like the flash on a camera in a pitch black room. As the light fell to earth it softened, leaving everything below it glowing. I could have counted the ingrown hairs on my self-shaved bikini line by its luminescence.
Remind me to never take that short cut again.
The Blue Moon shared much with me that evening. For now, I will just say that it’s a lot to live up to, and I’m intimidated by the tasks. Excited, but intimidated. Which is exactly how I felt when I was one-third the way through an open water swim from the Venice Pier to the Marina in Los Angeles.
I was in Los Angeles to celebrate the 90th birthday of my Aunt Awesome. The Firecracker dark chocolate icing on that cake was spending time with my Mom. The 1983 Offley Porto Boa Vista Vintage port wine was spending time with my cousins. There were highlights galore, but one encounter really stood out. The one that scared me half to death.
It all started when my cousin invited me on a swim in the Pacific. A two-miler he does regularly. The day before, I swam about a half mile in a pool in Santa Monica. It felt pretty good. So, why not just say yes to a two mile swim in the ocean? It’s only the longest distance I’ve swam to date and the first time out in the wild Pacific. Why not?
The San Francisco bay has its quirks and assorted marine life, it’s just that the Pacific’s are bigger. Lots bigger.
My cousin shirked off the shark question. There hasn’t been an attack in forever, he’s never seen one, and when it’s your time it’s your time. Agreed, but I can insure my time doesn’t involve the world’s most frightening mouth clamped around my core, shaking me around like a pom-pom celebrating a touchdown.
I said yes anyway.
And then proceeded to wake repeatedly throughout the night (including once after an earthquake) with thoughts of Great Whites thrashing through my head. If it doesn’t feel right I’ll just wait for him on the beach, I thought. Which was quickly followed by, You are so doing this.
The surf leading up to our swim had created excitement up and down the coast. I swam in the pool on the day I arrived because the ocean was simply too fierce. But when we arrived at the Venice Pier at 8:30 Labor Day morning, it had calmed down. As we walked toward the water, my cousin casually dropped that he had forgotten to tell me about the sting rays.
You have got to be kidding me.
You just shuffle your feet along the bottom. They’ll feel your vibrations and move away. You sure don’t want to get stung by one.
We paused at the water’s edge and he demonstrated the sting ray shuffle. Then he scanned the waves for signs of a rip tide. Present and accounted for. He cautioned me against being drawn to the stretch of highway that juts out into the ocean, also known as the Venice Pier. I winced at the sight of its barnacle covered concrete pillars. There weren’t many boats to be wary of, but as the morning progressed that would surely change. Probably some jet skis, too.
Anything else you want to tell me to deter me from doing this swim?
If you decide to come in after a mile try not to touch the sand until you can feel it with your hands while still swimming. The sting rays love to congregate down by the Marina. The surf’s not too bad down there so you shouldn’t get thrown about when you come in, but you don’t want to put your feet down.
We waded into the ocean, moving through small waves and waiting out the bigger ones until we finally had to dive under and make our way through the surf to our starting point 200 yards offshore. Then we banked a left and got on with it. As I expected, I was not entirely comfortable. I felt vulnerable. In a shark-attack kind of way, not the open, loving, sensual kind of way.
I settled into my stroke, and gazed into the blue-green water, but not too deeply, feeling unprepared to face what might be looking back at me. It was not as murky as the bay, which proved to be unsettling. I prefer low visibility.
I’ll deal with it if it happens, but until I come face to face with a shark I’m just going to enjoy this morning swim and look forward to walking out of the surf, intact.
I came upon my cousin treading water, waiting to check in on me.
Are we halfway there? I looked toward the crane, hoping the answer was yes.
Well, it’s only been about 10 minutes, so more like a third.
10 minutes felt like 30. Back at it we went. After a few hundred yards, my cousin was just a marble in the water up ahead. I was completely alone. Or so I thought. As I pulled my left arm out of the water and rolled my head to the shore to breathe I saw the arch of a massive back slicing out of the water 5 feet off my shoulder. I froze, my arm cocked over my head, my mouth open.
Dorsal fin or flipper feet? Dorsal fin or flipper feet? Days passed, or time stood still, I’m not sure. And then the flippers of a seal broke the surface.
I sighed salt water. And then laughed. Until I saw how big he was. Then I screamed my cousin’s name, demonstrating my inability to remain calm under pressure in situations involving wildlife. I motored to my right, looking much like wounded prey, and then shot back to shore as if I could fake out a seal. His head popped up once. It was the size of a 20 pound turkey.
Cleo, you’re not in Aquatic Park anymore.
I’ll deal with it if it happens. Whatever it might be. At that moment I became acutely aware of how easily that seal could take me down. But he’d have to chose to do so. Instead he chose to swim off, likely laughing at me all the way. I didn’t dare look for him under the surface. I’d rather imagine him as all head and no body, even though I am sure he was at least six feet long. Instead I looked behind me to see if the food chain was forming at my rear.
At the crane I blew a kiss to the sting rays and turned back to the pier to take on the second mile. I can’t say I ever got comfortable like I did in the bay, but eventually the feeling of being cradled by the sea as my body worked with the water to cover ground felt invigorating. Challenging. Exciting.
The surf picked up, and the surfers showed up by the dozens. Everything had come alive. The empty beach was now in full swing. Great. An audience to watch me stumble out of the water, a sting ray stuck to my ass. My cousin was right. This wasn’t going to be easy, but it’s part of the lure.
The concrete pillars of the pier would only become a problem if I made it through the surfers and SUPers that congregated to its south. At that point I really didn’t want to go all Wonder Woman on a Monday morning, national holiday or not. I decided to depart a half-mile shy of the finish line. I felt fine with my decision. Until I looked out to sea. The fact that surfers wanted to be on the waves that I had to take to shore should be an indication of their size. It had been years since I had dealt with waves this big. Back then I thought it was cool to get tossed to the bottom of the sea by rushing water. Back when feeling invincible was a survival tool. Now I revel in my mortality.
I rode the swell of a few waves before they broke, getting a little closer to salvation. Then one broke on me, but I got under just in time to swim beneath it. I surfaced and started toward shore again, a little too soon. One look back and I knew I had to swim for it. The wall of water, not the beach. I dove under as it came apart over me. It threw me to the bottom and lifted me up like a puppet on a bungee cord. My bathing suit bottoms shot to my two knees which I made into one by force in an effort to remain partially clothed.
This was my most graceless exit from the ocean ever. So why was I laughing?
Because I made it.
And I will make it through the anniversary of the Pocket Call no matter the waves of emotion I ride or the barrage of angry texts I receive, with my Clear Conscience in one hand and the other on the keyboard.