He drove through the middle of the beach and the magic bus got stuck in the sand again. I was half-asleep in the van, happy and relaxed. The Italian stepped on the accelerator and the bus just got more stuck in the sand.
He said, "Better you get out."
"Huh," I said with a smile. "Oh, ok."
I got out and helped him push. He said, "Push harder. Harder."
"I'm trying." But I was kind of tipsy.
He started taking more sand away from the wheels. He said, "You help too."
So, I did.
Then three older Americans, two in their sixties and one in his fifties, came and helped us push the magic bus out. We parked it on stable land.
One bald guy, who had a very fit body, said, "My name is Ron."
I shook his hand and said, "Pleased to meet you."
A fatter guy with curly grey hair said, "I'm Don."
Then there was the blonde guy with greying and drying hair. In his twenties, he would've been a surfer boy. Now, that he was in his fifties, he looked like a fifty year old hippie surfer. "I'm Dave."
We introduced ourselves to them. They all went back to their camp sites.
During the heat of the hot, hot day, I sat in the magic bus and read Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises. I read through it quickly and badly as a junior in college ten years ago. Since then, the book has been stuck on my shelf. I didn't like it then because I didn't understand it well. I knew I had to re-read it. On my last trip, it was Steinbeck and Orwell. Now, it was Hemingway and various piece of stunning journalism pieces. As I was appreciating the read, Georgio asked me, "Do you want a coffee?"
I said, "Sure."
Then he raised his voice and asked, "How come you never make it?"
"Because you always do it."
"But you need make to."
I did, I thought.
"Well, sure. Why didn't you tell me?"
"I no need to tell you, man. You just know."
"Uh . . ."
"AND WHY YOU NEVER COOK AND CLEAN?"
"I asked you if you wanted me to do it. You said, 'No.' I asked you if you wanted me to clean the dishes. You said, 'No.'"
"You not ask, man. You just do."
Really, I thought. Oh dear God. This is like New Zealand all over again. People say what they don't mean. And they do what they don't say.
"Well, just tell me that you're hungry. I can cook. I cook well," I said.
"I'm not your mother. You just need to know."
In my defense, one reason that I didn't cook was for a number of reasons. One, I felt uncomfortable using his kitchenware. He was very possessive of it. Thus, I had no ownership over any of the process. For you managers and supervisors (present or future), remember: people need ownership of the process. Two, he had a fussy way of having things done. I didn't know how to do it that way. For instance, he wouldn't let me buy cheese for the risotto.
So with me thinking all this, I had this feeling. (If we were French - we'd have some clever one word phrase that sounded beautiful to describe this feeling. But we're not. We're English, and don't have those words that weave beauty and passion and nuance in one trinity.) It was this feeling: "You just don't understand."
Instead, instead of reacting, I just listened and tried to understand what was really happening. Obviously, he wanted to do more work. He also didn't want to tell me how to do it. He also didn't want to communicate what he needed.
I just asked him, "If you don't tell me - how am I supposed to know?"
"You just know." I got that feeling again: you just don't understand.
"Ok, I'll cook dinner tonight then."
"No, no. You don't have to. I'm not your mother. You're not a robot."
"No. I will. What time do you want to eat?"
"I don't know, man. You just know."
Oh how the hell am I supposed to know?
I said, "In America, we usual just say what time we're going to eat together."
"We're not in America. And I don't like this."
He told me once he had an American girlfriend and they just recently split. I thought to myself, I know exactly why.
I just said, "Hey, I'll just cook dinner. Don't worry about it."
To blow off some steam, I saw Ron - the sixty year old who was in shape. He was an electrician he takes 3 months off of the year to set up camp on this beach. He had lawn chairs facing the ocean. He sleeps outside in the summer with a sleeping bag so he can fall asleep to the roaring ocean. Whenever I saw him, he would say to pull up a chair. And we chatted about diet, food, exercise and healthy living, which included a lot of vacation. He was a father of two daughters. He came to the same camp site for 30 years. I really liked him. He was really nice.
Don's girlfriend was not too far away. She was in turning fifty. She was a short and plump lady with dyed hair. She spoke with a strong American accent. She was from Reno. She wore a blue summer dress, but sadly, it made her look fat because she wasn't sexy but she tried to be. She was holding onto a time that left her but refused to believe it.
She beckoned me to come to her.
"What's your name?" She asked.
"Where are you from?"
"Oh, I never been there. I'm from Reno."
"Oh. I need to go and cook dinner. My Italian friend's not too happy with me."
"Oh, I was married to an Italian. Divorced now. Let me tell you Italians are never happy."
I explained to her what happened and she made sense of it for me.
"Oh, you're just supposed to do what they expect. They're crazy! My mother in law was the same. How do you know what they want if they never tell you? Listen," she said, "you were supposed to watch everything he was doing and from that know what to do."
"Oh," I said.
"Yeah, just go and do what he does. He's not going to tell you. They just explode when things don't get done their way. Then they calm down."
"Ok," I said.
"I'll come see you after dinner, ok Babe."
I thought, I'm not your Babe. But I just said, "That's fine."
I cooked a beautiful risotto in a tomato sauce. I asked how much rice was enough for two people. He said with bad intent, "I don't know. You figure it out." Nonetheless, I know how to cook. I added beetroots in there as well and the whole meal tasted wonderful. He took second and third helpings. It was an accomplishment, considering that I was cooking on the beach with a small gas grill.
So much so, he asked me, "What'd you put in here?"
I told him.
Then he noticed the pan a little charred on the bottom and he said, "Man, this pan, I have four years. Burn now."
"I'll clean it in the morning."
Then, the plump lady, at night came. I didn't know her name. I never learned it. I'll call her Heather. She looked like a Heather. She asked, "Do you boys have any cigarettes?"
I gave her one. Then she told us how she used to be a hair stylist. How she hated living at the beach for 3 months already.
I asked her, "Why are all these people here?"
She said, "Because, they're the surfer community, old hippies. They're looking for that perfect wave. That's all they do."
"They're all Americans."
"Pretty much," she said.
She kept talking. About how she was trying to do art. She wanted to write. She wanted to introduce me to her 18 year old daughter, who was a model in Reno.
She asked for another cigarette.
I said, "I think you smoked the last one." I lied. There was more. I just wanted her to stop mooching. She picked up on my irritation.
I then walked to the shore and said, "Hey Ron. You there?"
He said, "Sure buddy. Pull up a chair."
We talked about what guys talk about. And its usual really about nothing. We looked up into the sky and saw thousands of stars shining in the infinite sky.
I came up with one line of Spanish poetry too. Miles de estrellas brillaban en el cielo infinito.
In English it translates: Thousands of stars shine in the infinite sky.