My last stop in California was Newport Beach to visit David, a writer I’d met in Fiji and asked for advice every so often since then, and his wife Jan. Their house was quiet and soothing, often open to the sunlight and the air, full of art and books. David turned out to be a phenomenal cook, making lamb caramelized and then slow-cooked; delicate vegetables, hearty potatoes. He kept chickens in the garden and there were fresh eggs for breakfast.
In the guest shower, there was also a fragrant small bottle of shampoo left over from Royal Davui, flowery and exotic without being cloying. I used it, assuming that it was there as a mark of exceedingly astute hospitality. Then I mentioned it to David. “That surprises even me,” he said “but I like bringing those bottles home.”
Newport Beach, the Beach itself, is probably best on a hot weekday in October when the weather is still warm enough to swim, but not so warm that everyone does. So after breakfast I went out and played in the surf, and when the water hit my hair it would release the rich overtones of the shampoo I’d used, mingled with sea salt, mingled with the sleepy, cheerful adrenaline I feel in the calmer parts of the ocean. It was enough to transport me back for a brief moment, as smells and sensations do, with a sharp flash of nostalgia.
The next morning, an odd thing happened. Everyone who had been in Fiji with me, minus Elina, showed up to breakfast. Chris, in town from Australia on business; Jennie, having just moved from San Francisco; Marguarite, dressed to kill on a Saturday morning. And of course David and I. We talked, multiple conversations at once cross-hatched over the table; press trips, gossip, stories. “You should move,” they said “get out of Sandpoint.”
“Well,” I said “I do like Newport Beach.”
On that note, we all trooped outside for a group photo.