My Grandmother lived most of her life in Los Angeles, coming via transcontinental train to Beverly Hills (then just beanfields) from Hicksville, Long Island at the age of 2, where she stayed until she married her first husband. The two of them moved over into the Valley and started rehabbing real estate and raising kids in North Hollywood, nowhere near the ocean. Eventually she got divorced, remarried, and relocated to nearby Studio City, where she remained until she and her second husband, my Grandpa Bob, decided to retire to San Clemente, on the southern tip of Orange County. In discussions prior to the move, my Grandmother said to her husband, ‘I don’t care where we live, I’ll set up home in a tent so long as I can have an ocean view,’ and when they finally made the move, she got it – an expansive, unobstructable ocean view to die for.
Everyone else in the bio-family – her ex-husband and three kids, including my father – are Mountain People, whereas my Grandmother and I are dyed-in-the-wool, irredeemable Ocean People. My Dad and his siblings much prefer to pitch a tent on a steep forested hillside, while Gran and I could post up in the sand at the beach all day long and then some. To my astonishment, my aunt doesn’t even like the beach – the ocean scares her, but she’s crazy for camping (incidentally, my Grandmother’s first husband dragged her all over creation going camping during their 20-year marriage, so when she married Grandpa Bob, part of the deal was that she was never to be expected to camp again, and they never did – it was the Executive Suite from then on).
When I moved to San Francisco, barely 20, I had fantasies of darling attic apartments, panoramic city views, and expansive vistas of the bay, none of which I ever got (the closest was the Kissing Porch at our flat on Fell, but you had to go out the back door and up stairs to get to it) in the series of drafty Victorians, illegal warehouses, and tenement buildings I spent my 20s and early 30s in. Finally, a few years ago, I ended up here at the beach in a flat that’s still bloody drafty but has a slice of ocean view visible from one window in the dining room. The view is narrow, sandwiched between the house across the street and a large, accursed apartment building on the Great Highway, and cut through with the ubiquitous power lines that mark this as an historically working class neighborhood built for proles, but still, I can see the horizon and when ‘the sea is very busy,’ as my ex used to say, I can see the waves crashing in a manner so spooky I sometimes expect them to just roll down the street and engulf my home.
So it’s not my Grandmother’s unobstructable hilltop ocean view, but it’s in my blood and it’s in the post, and I’ll get there one way or another.