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December, 2020 - Issue #195

This is why we live in California.
That was my thought as we paddled in the Ventura Keys late on a Sunday afternoon. While much of the country looks forward to months of shivering, I'm on the water wearing board shorts and a long sleeve tee-shirt and watching the sun set behind a scrim of fog.
That realization is a helpful antidote to pandemic envy. For months, I've watched other parts of the country loosening restrictions. Facebook friends in other states fill my feed with dine-in restaurant selfies, high school sporting events and myriad other activities not yet allowed in the Golden State.
But this late in the year, when a sunset paddleboarding session is out of the question for them, we slipped our boards into the water at the Marina Park dock on the north side of Ventura Harbor.
Low clouds hanging over the still water created an expectation of chill. But the air was warm and calm, just the slightest breeze ruffling flags. A few couples strolled the meandering sidewalks and, here and there, small groups gathered on decks of homes overlooking the channel. But otherwise, few people were out enjoying the afternoon.
"The remarkable effect was something I had never witnessed. Made possible, I suspect, because the flat ocean afforded an unobstructed view of the low-hanging moon. And possible to see because our weather is still pleasant enough to ENJOY BEING OUTSIDE."
Besides gawking at dockside homes and guessing their monthly payments, I always get a laugh at the creative names stenciled on the moored boats. Two standouts were Vitamin Sea and Costa Fortuna, the latter a monstrous power yacht tied to the dock of a waterfront home. The moniker was either a nod to the cruise ship of the same name, or the vessel's price tag, which likely cost a fortune.
We continued south, crossing the mouth of the harbor. A lone fisherman stood on the rocks at the waters' edge watching his line. The swell rolled in through the gap of the breakwater, rocking our boards and focusing our attention on maintaining balance. One of the Channel Islands sat on the horizon, its hilly outline visible below the gray cloud ceiling.
The water calmed as we neared the Channel Islands National Park Visitor Center docks. A lounging sea lion barked in the distance but grew quiet as he watched us approach and then pass.
This side of the harbor was mellow, too. A low murmur carried across the water from the patio of a waterfront restaurant. Deckhands hosed down a private fishing boat. A family of kayakers meandered past. The last of the Sunday sailors cruised back to their berths, red and green running lights twinkling in the twilight.
The orange glow on the horizon signaled a fast-setting sun. We turned our boards back to our launch point and our thoughts to dinner.
Driving toward downtown, we looked for convenient takeout and found Himalaya, which serves Tibetan, Nepalese and Indian cuisine in a shopping center at Main Street and Ventura Avenue.
We ordered dumplings, coconut shrimp, butter chicken and garlic naan, then drove north to park along the beach and enjoy dinner. It was all tasty, especially the butter chicken - tender, boneless tandoori chicken in a creamy red curry sauce with onions, tomatoes and bell peppers. Warm, soft and tangy with garlic, the naan was as good as I expected and validated my decision to order two servings.
Waves rolled across the beach; their crests intermittently illuminated by cars passing behind us on Pacific Coast Highway. A crescent moon hovered above the dark horizon. It was reddish, instead of white, apparently reflecting a touch of light from the long-gone sun.
The remarkable effect was something I had never witnessed. Made possible, I suspect, because the flat ocean afforded an unobstructed view of the low-hanging moon. And possible to see because our weather is still pleasant enough to enjoy being outside.
That's why I'm still thankful to live in California.
Though it lacks Tibetan food, Eric Harnish resides in Castaic.

Get Going!
Marina Park cityofventura.net
Himalaya Restaurant Ventura himalayacuisine.com
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