I didn't have to look at the weather forecast to know that a storm is on the way; I could feel it with the first step I took outside this morning with my dog.
As I stood on my patio and watched the steam rise off my coffee and swirl up through golden shafts of golden morning sunlight shot through a cloud-filled sky, I remembered a day like this one fifteen or sixteen years ago.
I'd just gotten home from Nice, where I'd lived and worked on a film called Mister Stitch for a few months. It wasn't the most pleasant movie in the world to work on (the other lead actor was an unprofessional nightmare) but the time I spent there working on it remains some of the best time in my life. I'd been acting since I was a child, but it wasn't until I lived in Nice and worked on Mister Stitch that I truly felt like an artist. I was fundamentally changed by the experience, seeing the world - especially entertainment - differently than I ever had before.
The day I got back from location, sometime in mid-January of that year, my friend Dave picked me up from LAX, and we went directly down the road to Manhattan Beach, to wait out the terrible rush hour traffic which stood between the airport and my house. After ten hours on an airplane, another 120 minutes to crawl 40 miles up the freeway wasn't exactly an appealing notion.
We parked in a mostly-empty lot and walked down toward the water. There was a winter storm on its way, driving powerful waves ahead of it that were so huge, they crashed up against the bottom of the pier and occasionally broke over the end of it. Wrapped up in the irrational immortality that's endemic to 22 year-olds, we walked dangerously close to the end of the shuddering pier, angry waves boiling beneath, and dared the Pacific Ocean to reach up and touch us.
I don't recall specifically what we talked about - I'm sure I regaled him with slightly-exaggerated tales of glamor and excess and artistic awakening along the French Riviera - but even now I can I clearly recall the terror and exhilaration I felt whenever foamy, freezing sea water splashed up through the spaces between the planks and soaked into the tops of our shoes.
Since I grew up and became a husband and a father, I've gone out of my way to avoid anything more dangerous than driving on the Los Angeles freeway system, so I can't imagine defying a Pacific winter storm like I did when I was in my early twenties ... but standing on my patio in my late thirties, not really defying as much as tolerating the morning chill, I was grateful for the memory.