I’m on vacation in Southern California, a place I used to pooh pooh in my younger days. I worshipped the intellectual gods in the Athens of America, which was on the east coast, the only coast I recognized for way too many years. I have generous, rich friends, all of whom have MBAs from eastern universities instead of Ph.Ds in obscure world literatures. One of these millionaire couples loaned us their house on the Balboa Peninsula. The first morning I heard boat noises and sat up in bed to look out the window to see a barge being pushed by a tugboat down the channel toward the Pacific Ocean. Tom was already up playing with his Nikon and snapped the event. Aren’t the curtains pretty? Isn’t the room pretty? That’s the sun shining through the window. Remember the sun?

I said, “Look, it’s like the barges on the Hudson!” Puleeze Louise. The Hudson in June, maybe, not the end of February.

This is, aesthetically speaking, a perfect community. Every house is freshly painted down to the mullioned windows, and every garden is filled with snapdragons, roses, violets, even calla lilies backed by waxy green euyonymous bushes. Large pots of lemon trees flank Dutch doorways. It’s Switzerland on the water. It’s a Mauve Binchey novel. I am happy with all this sunny beauty, with this perfection. I am happy.

When Goethe’s Faust makes a deal with Mephistopheles, he agrees to go with him to the underworld if he ever becomes content and quits striving. If he ever says, “Verweile doch, du bist so schoen.” (Stay here; it’s so beautiful). And I’m reminded that I’m only on vacation and I’ve dropped my cares and strivings for a week. One week. Next Sunday night, I’ll be back in my own home, which isn’t too shabby, and will begin retching about what I haven’t written, that three doors need a second coat of paint, that I need to clean out the closet, not to mention the garage, and that we need to do the taxes. I will wonder if I should get a part-time job or find volunteer work. Am I reading enough? Am I tracking what I’m reading or am I losing my mind? I will struggle with getting it right.

But at this writing, it’s still Wednesday and a pink light tints the water. Tonight, maybe we’ll ride the ferris wheel on the harbor. Tomorrow, we’ll go to the Getty Museum. Tom hasn’t seen it. I will keep saying, “Isn’t it amazing? Isn’t it fabulous? Isn’t it perfect?” I am happy.