By Pia Kraus Aitken
Convergence is strange… a little disorienting. It wasn’t like I was a dedicated jogger. I was mostly running off excess energy or tension, depending on the day. Carmel Beach was a great place for it – a long stretch of clean sand in Carmel Bay. When I ran one way, I looked at Point Lobos ahead of me. The other direction, Pebble Beach and the Beach Club shone bright white in the sunlight on the north edge of the bay.
I had tried jogging at Point Lobos, the state park just south of Carmel that Robinson Jeffers called “the greatest meeting of land and sea on earth,” but the paths were dangerously uneven. One could trip over tree roots, rocks, or fall down an incline into a canyon. Plus there wasn’t anywhere to stash my kids. Carmel Beach, on the other hand, had a grove of bushes at the top nearest Ocean Avenue. They were perfectly safe building sand castles there, protected from the chilly Pacific fog breezes by their hideouts in the bushes, while Mom headed down the beach for a few minutes solitude.
It wasn’t often that I saw anyone else running. A few Frisbee games spontaneously erupted among high school kids; people sat by fires they built in the sand to roast hot dogs (yes, that was allowed in the early 70’s); but mostly people just sat and gazed into the ocean. I jogged by, thrilled with the deep breaths of ocean-fresh salt air and the freedom I felt with the wind blowing my hair and my feet pounding the sand in rhythm with my own heartbeat.
One spring afternoon, another jogger ran up beside me and started chatting. “Hi, do you run here often?” I looked over to my left and saw a very handsome young man in shorts and a t-shirt jogging in perfect time with my own.
“No, just when I happen to be down here and have the time. How about you?”
“I come down sometimes to get away from the city and I try to jog here every day while I’m here. It’s a great place for it, isn’t it?
“Indeed it is. So you’re from San Francisco?”
“Yes. Carmel is a breath of fresh air in a thousand ways. I love the peace and quiet, the rugged beauty . . .” he said, leaving his thought incomplete. Sometimes the beauty of Carmel’s beach is indescribable.
We chatted about the area; he asked about a restaurant and I told him how to find it . . . small talk. As we approached the point where I headed toward the bushes, I said, “Here’s where I get off. Nice talking to you.” I waved a quick goodbye and turned up the steep beach incline.
I wasn’t a big football fan, but now and then my husband watched weekend football with friends. He loved the San Francisco‘49ers but would pretty much watch any game that happened on Sunday afternoon. I had no emotion about the game, but I loved football food – popcorn, nachos, beer, and the female chat between wives while the guys were totally focused on the game. I watched, maybe, 30 percent of the time.
One afternoon late that fall, sprawled on the floor with nachos in front of me and girlfriends beside me, I glanced up to see a close-up of the ‘49ers quarterback, Joe Montana, appear for a few seconds. I jumped up. “Oh, my gawd, that’s the guy I was jogging with on the beach!” I shouted.
“No way,” my friend Deborah yelled back. “No bloody way! You met Joe Montana?”
“Not only met him,” I said, “I jogged from just above Carmel Point to Ocean Avenue with him. I had no idea he was Joe Montana. He just seemed like a friendly guy who wanted to chat.”
Now the guys tuned in. “Oh please,” one of them said, “you jogged with this cute guy for a quarter mile and didn’t even ask his name?”
“No,” I said. “Why would I care? We were just jogging down the beach together casually!”
‘Well,” the guy stuttered, “for Christ’s sakes, you should have recognized Joe Montana. He’s about the most famous guy in California.”
“In football,” I retorted. “I know very little about football, just a few players.”
But I did have to capitalize on my moment of fame. “Furthermore,” I said, “I want you to know I also jogged once at Point Lobos with Franco Harris. I knew who he was.” Actually it was more like he jogged past me . . . we were only side by side for about two feet as he ran past me and he never said a word, but I didn’t tell them that.
(Ed. Note: Franco Harris was a famous running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers, easily recognizable by his Afro-Italian good looks, black beard and mustache, then anomalies in pro football.)
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- March 2023 - February 28, 2023