That time of year

I don’t think I had realized what jasmines were before the summer of 1989, when their violent scent made me twitch my nose every time I passed by (or entered, which was also very frequent) the McDonald’s restaurant on El Camino Real in Palo Alto. I found it nauseating, and one of the reasons was probably that on our first afternoon we had decided to walk all the way there from Barron Park – a walk that took our European legs forever to accomplish, and probably also left us quite scorched by an unusual sun. That walk became familiar very soon, and such familiarity made it feel shorter and shorter every time we took it.

To me California is about walking, because that’s what I used to do all those summers. Walking to California Avenue for language school. Walking to Page Mill Road to wait for the 7F bus to San Francisco (which has since changed its name, but that new name means nothing to me). And walking in the city, being a tourist, and being a kid. I did that for years, even when, ten years later, ten years ago, my perspective became centered on the East Bay, and my colors changed to blue and gold – what better colors, anyway, than those of the Californian summer?

So every time I go back I feel as if I were cheating on—on what? on myself, probably, if I prefer the comfort of a rented car to that endless waiting and sweating. Still, this stupid jasmine season never fails to take me back to that first walk, when I had no idea how long the way was. I’m glad I do now.

(On the 20th anniversary of my first flight – a flight to California.)