I’m trying to figure out the deeper meaning of getting conked on the head by a San Clemente railroad crossing barrier arm. That the incident is related to a train is definitely part of it. That it’s the only place to cross the tracks to get to the beach from our hotel, unless you take the underpass, would make it more or less predetermined that it was going to happen eventually. That it involved me is what made it inevitable. Nixon’s revenge? That one had my vote when it happened.
To briefly recount, we were crossing the tracks to get to the Fisherman’s Oyster Bar for a good seat for that night’s sunset. The one the night before made the local San Diego news it was so spectacular, and the promise of a repeat was drawing an early crowd, even more so than the $4.50 Happy Hour wine. I was keen on getting there, when the warning bells and blinking red lights signaled an approaching train. Carol and I were right on the tracks, so going ahead was the same as backing up. She got across fine, but my way was blocked by a doddering old man and his stupid little yapper of a dog. I veered left. The doddering old man veered left. I swung to the right, and the stupid little yapper veered right. The clanging bells and blinking lights were berating me to make up my mind to either go forward or back. Thinking of the choice sunset seats filling up at the oyster bar, there was no way I was backing up and waiting for the train to pass. I shuffled one more fateful second before lunging forward, somehow avoiding the doddering man and his yapping dog, but not the crossing arm.
You have to experience it directly to realize the impact the immovable force of a descending railroad crossing arm has on the human skull at impact. For a moment I saw all the colors of the previous night’s amazing sunset flash before my eyes. Had this been the NFL, I would have been escorted to the little blue tent on the sidelines. I shot a glazed, angry glance at the double-visioned doddering old man and his two yapping dogs before grabbing my hat the crossing bar had knocked to ground and got out of the way of the tracks.
For a second, Carol thought I was going to take a swing at the doddering old man, who remained oblivious to what he had caused. I wasn’t, of course, but I also wouldn’t have minded if that little yapper of a dog had met its fate with Amtrak’s southbound Pacific Surfliner. It wasn’t until the second of that $4.50 glass that the throbbing from the bump on my noggin subsided, and my withering, relentless recounting of the incident with the crossing bar was finally replaced by thoughts on the upcoming setting sun.
“I hope the colors are as dramatic as the ones I saw when the crossing arm bopped me on the head,” I told Carol, who was just relieved she didn’t need bail money to release me on my own recognizance for assault and battery charges. (I do suspect I may here from PETA for my uncharitable wishes for that yapper of a dog, but I’m not retracting.)
The sunset that night was a dud compared to the night before, but the Broccolini Genovese at Sonny’s later that evening more than made up for it. And then the sunset Thursday night from the balcony of our cottage at Crystal Cove State Park easily outshone the dud on Wednesday. Dinner that night was Italian again, this time my own homemade spaghetti and meatballs.
There were no train tracks to cross at Crystal Cove either, and that may be the deeper meaning of this whole thing.