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Big Bear Lake Memories

6/26/09

This was written inside one of the closet doors, I felt guilty of killing those memories for whomever the girls were, so before pulling the door off and putting it in the dumpster, I figured I would save those memories from dying, just a little bit.

As a guy who is pretty used to freebooting and having a fair amount of time to himself, this has been challenging in a few ways. Since we are living on the jobsite and the project belongs to my Dad, there hasn’t been a lot of downtime. Dad likes to wake up early and go to work, since we are living on the site, he usually sees something right off that needs to be done and gets to it. I can’t really let him labor on while I sit and write or work on the computer and so I usually labor alongside him.

At the moment, Dad is taking care of some business in town and Murray has gone to the Home Depot down the hill, so I am taking a few moments to catch up a bit. What a relief!

My uncle Murray (named for our Irish ancestors The Murrays…not a hebrew name…) has been here for the past week or so and the upside is that we’ve been getting one hell of a lot done. The downside is that I haven’t really had a chance to just relax and explore or blog about any of this.

Murray, Mama Jeanne, and Dad relaxing on the lanai after a day’s toil.

Last weekend, my old friend James came up from the Inland Empire and we decided to take a little hike up to Gray’s Peak in our old stomping grounds of Fawnskin on the other side of the lake.

It was nice to take a couple of days to just hang out and explore this place. As you can see from the pictures, Big Bear is a beautiful place. The weather has been stellar and it was nice to get out and do a little hiking.

Gray’s Peak sits at an elevation of 7920 and we started from Fawnskin at an elevation of about 6900 feet above sea level.

The hike took about 4.5 hours and took us through the region of the Fawnskin Caverns where we used to spend a fair amount of time, then up to some Alpine Meadows, past the area where the firefighters managed to put out one of the big forest fires a couple of years ago and finally up to the peak.

I forgot my camera and the batteries on James camera were dead so we both took pictures with our phones, so I apologize for the resolution and color bleeding.

During James visit we of course talked a lot about old times, had a couple of nice dinners with the folks and even visited one of our old hangouts The Goldpan Restaurant in Fawnskin where I briefly worked as a dishwasher. It was funny to look out and see that things haven’t really changed in Fawnskin at all, the kids still hang out in front of the pizza barn, just like we used to.

Also last week I had the opportunity to spend a little time with my oldest friend on the planet, Kris Rafferty. How strange to hang out with someone that was my first friend when I was 4 or 5 and realize that neither of us have really changed very much. We instantly fell into the comfortable comaraderie we used to have as kids running around our neighborhood and causing mischief. Kris lives in Palm Desert and comes up to Big Bear fairly regularly so I think it is pretty likely we’ll be able to hang around more over the summer.

One thing that I’m not too happy about is that I’ve probably put on 10 pounds since being back in the United States, mainly because of the huge portions of food people eat here. My Dad is a real meat and potatoes guy and serves up huge steaks off the barbacue and after a day of working hard, I tend to clean the plate, I’m realizing that I need to start eating half and saving the other half for later or I’ll end up obese.
As an example of how big the food is here, check out this hamburger my friend Dave Walker made for dinner before I left Bellingham

On that plate is a full meal for my entire Moroccan family. By the way, while it’s nice to be in Big Bear and seeing old friends and family, it isn’t home to me. Home is where the heart is and for me that is in the little town of Sefrou in Morocco where Hanane and her family are in an environment that isn’t too radically different from this one, though the culture certainly is. I think about going back to her and Morocco often and look forward to finishing up the work here so I can head home. Of course, I’m also looking forward to whatever adventures happen along the way back there.

6/13/09 A trip around big bear lake


After all the free wheeling I’ve been doing, it’s been a little difficult to be confined to these apartments in Big Bear City so I decided to take the day off and get outside and see my old home town.

This is the remains of my old treefort. It’s held up pretty good for thirty years. In the background you can see my childhood home which my Dad built in the mid 1970’s.

I started walking from Big Bear City. Walked along the North Shore of the lake to Fawnskin (about 6 miles) and then found a garage sale where there was a beat up old ten speed with only one speed working that the guy wanted $20 for. I had $13 in my pocket and he took it.

Alpine Slide. This was the first job I was ever fired from. I carved my name into the fence like an idiot and they knew exactly who to fire.

So then I rode the 15 or so miles through Grout Bay, Teddy Bear Cove, across the Big Bear Dam, through the dangerous and windy roads of Boulder Bay, into Big Bear Village, through Big Bear Lake, past Stanfield Cutoff, finally along the Stanfield marsh/lake back into Big Bear City.

When I was 3 or 4 I remember being busted trying to steal a box of lemonheads from this market.

It’s a pretty nice place. The trail improvements along the road were great but I confess that riding on the narrow curvy roads in Boulder Bay was a bit difficult on my psyche. Lots of cars, no shoulder, and lots of blind curves.

Plant species diversity in Big Bear rival the rainforest with 125 species per acre. Big Bear Valley has the highest concentration of endemic species in the continental United States. Plus, there are beavers in the lake.

This might explain why I am such an odd guy. This was my elementary school. North Shore Elementary. It always got me bonus points in Hawaii to say that I went to elementry school at North Shore, I meant this though…you can’t tell by the picture but the school is round. I went to elementary school in a UFO.

Now…well, I’m exhausted.

A nice view of the lake on the North Shore.

Fog rolling over the dam. I forgot how nice the smell of Vanilla pines and Sagebrush is.

The long defunct Big Bear Drive In. This is where I went to the movies for the first time. I think it was Escape from Witch Mountain.

This bomb buried nose down in the grass has been there for as long as I remember. Nearby used to be a stable where I think I rode a horse for the first time. I also got bit by a llama there instilling a lifelong fear of llama’s and llama clothing.

I love this picture. That’s my Dad on the standup base, my mom is the brunette sitting in the middle of the foor, my uncle is the guy in glasses to her left, and the guy on the banjo is their buddy Steve Martin. not sure what year, 1968 or 1969 I would guess. Classic.

I have to admit, when the job in Alaska fell through, I was pretty disappointed, but I’ve learned that you can’t waste a lot of time on being disappointed. It’s a bit like that monk once told me in Thailand “The key to happiness is to want what you have…” So, I wanted the tickets to North America, I wanted the trip across Canada without any money, I wanted the opportunity to see what would happen, and as it turns out, things have worked out better than if I had gone to Alaska.

I’ve always liked the phrase “Luck is where preparedness meets opportunity.” It’s amazing how many opportunities you can miss if you aren’t tuned into what the universe has in store for you. For instance, there I was, sitting in Quebec City, not sure where I was going or what I would be doing, no money, and it would have been really easy to simply have a pity party or to take some desperate measure like taking a dishwashing job, or whatever. Instead, I submitted myself to the will of God like the good Muslim I am. That is what Muslim means, one who submits themselves to the will of God. I may not be a good Muslim in many other ways, but in this regard, I think I make up for all my other deficits.

I set out on my trip not sure where I was heading…not really. I spoke with my Dad and he told me that things had gone sour for him in a deal where he had sold some apartments, the buyer had defaulted on the payments, and in the meantime the apartments had been pretty much ruined by bad tenants. He got them back in a mess and because of the economy, he was forced to leave his retirement and go to Big Bear to restore them. Paying someone else to do it was not really an option.

So I asked if he needed some help. He said yes and that he was willing to pay me too! So here I am. Living in some torn up apartments (rent free), working a lot, and most importantly, having the opportunity to work and hang out with my dad and my step-mom in the town I was a little kid in. It looks like the project will take most of the summer. Imagine how easy it would have been for me to miss this opportunity! I’ll tell you a secret though…I was prepared. I didn’t know what would come up or how things would work out, but I was looking, waiting, and knowing that the hand of the all powerful was working it’s magic.

Today is Dad’s 74th birthday. He and Jeanne took a few days off to go to their house in Green Valley, Arizona. I’m blown away by my father. I’m exactly half his age now at 37 and he absolutely kicks my ass in how hard he works. I think of 74 as being pretty old for most people, but not for my father. He carries bathtubs, breaks down walls, paints, textures, frames, and puts in 10 or so hours a day. Then he drinks a bottle or so of wine and watches the basketball game. At first I thought he was becoming a little confused in his years, but I’ve since figured out that it’s not his brain, it’s his hearing. He’s always been a fairly funny guy and would pretend to mishear stuff and so it was confusing…but now I get it. As we work and pick up materials etc, I notice that he is in much better shape than guys 25 years younger than him. He looks their age and they look older than him. Anyway, I’m stoked to have this chance to hang out with him and hear stories of his years working as a parole officer in LA, leaving that to play music with an up and coming band, and then either building or painting just about every house here in Big Baer.

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Vago Damitio

Mr. Damitio  (@vagodamitio) is the Editor-in-Chief for Vagobond. Life is good. You can also find him on Google+ and at Facebook

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