You work hard. You play even harder, and when it comes to playgrounds, few regions have more to offer than Sacramento. From the granite and basalt monoliths of the Sierras, to the winding ribbon of the American River bike trail, to the labyrinth channels of the Sacramento Delta, you’ll find a setting for your ultimate summer adventure.
You’re on your own for the summer, but finding your inner self isn’t necessarily easy. What you need is a little direction. Head over to Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, hoping to get centered and discover your summer destiny inside the candlelit labyrinth room. Barefoot, you step onto the canvas mat, placing one foot after the other along the winding lavender path. As New Age music hums, you reach the labyrinth’s center and sit in the lotus position. Closing your eyes and breathing deeply, you hear a small still voice inside.
“The way to summer bliss is the silence within,” it says. “Turn away from the noise and haste. Create peace.”
Or maybe not.
Maybe that little voice belongs to your inner skeptic. Maybe it detects the slight whiff of patchouli, and doesn’t like what it smells. “New Age chanting?!” it asks, incredulously. “Candlelight? This place is way too hokey. Let’s get out of here!”
The thing about kids is you can get them to do just about anything as long as they think it was their idea first. Unfortunately, you neglected to do this before loading up the SUV and heading out to Lake Natomas and the Sacramento State Aquatic Center. You’d think they’d be happy knowing they’re going to spend the summer sailing, windsurfing, canoeing, kayaking, wake boarding, water and jet skiing, rowing, whitewater rafting—if you can do it in the water, the Aquatic Center has a camp to learn how to do it right. You know if you were a kid, you’d be ecstatic. But not your sullen brood. No siree. Ungrateful little scamps.
However, that’s beside the point. You’re here for one reason and one reason only: to buy you and your spouse some peace and quiet this summer. If your kids learn a little about teamwork and getting along with their peers through the center’s special programs, that’s a bonus. The important thing is to get them out of sight and out of mind. It’s gotten to the point where you no longer feel guilty about it.
You sign them in and are about to give yourself a big pat on the back when a convertible pulls into the parking lot. The couple driving it reminds you of simpler, happier times. They’re young, beautiful and clearly in love, unburdened by the stresses and strife of modern family life. They kiss, and you smile at the thought that soon you’ll be rekindling similar affection with your spouse. And that’s when you see your oldest is also ogling the couple in the convertible, a mischievous glint in his eyes. You’ve seen that look before—once, right before he “accidentally” burned down the neighbor’s shed—and you know it spells trouble.
OK, so it’s not like the couple can’t fend for themselves. They are, after all, adults. Nevertheless, you have a decision to make. You can leave this lovely, young duo at the mercy of your children, thereby guaranteeing you and your loved one some significant quality time. Or, in what most people would interpret as a humanitarian gesture of Nobel Prize-winning proportions, you can cancel the whole Lake Natomas thing and head back to the house, where you’ll ensure the safety of greater Sacramento by keeping your kids under lock and key for the rest of the summer.
Congratulations. You’ve escaped the Blue Lamp‘s intoxicating atmosphere. Apparently you have some semblance of self-control, because here you are, walking in McKinley Park‘s moonlit rose garden, strolling hand-in-hand with the one who could quite possibly be the one.
It’s a lovely evening. there’s a palpable energy emanating from the roses and other plants, and, by gosh, it seems you have everything in common, a mutual interest in the same music, movies, art, restaurants, exercise regimens, spiritual experiences, bad TV shows and even old cars. You’ve just met and you’re already finishing each other’s sentences. The conversation is magic. It’s warm. It’s a river of emotionally charged fireflies.
It’s late but, oddly, neither of you is tired—you both have the same hopes of transcending mere words and connecting on a much deeper level. But how to get to that level? Your companion breaks the ice first by casually mentioning that a friend was married just last week in this very garden. Who knows? Maybe the two of you might be getting hitched here someday soon.
There’s your opening. Hints of potential life-long compatibility often are interpreted, and not always wrongly, as a coital invitation. Are your signals crossed? Up until now, your reception’s been working perfectly, but you have had a few drinks tonight and you are, after all, still recovering from being beaned with a skillet. You’re horny as hell, but you’re hungry for companionship, too. Do you need one, but not the other? Can you have one without the other? There’s only one way to find out.
The top’s let back and the sunshine’s shining as you and yours jet east on Highway 50 toward Lake Natomas and the Sacramento State Aquatic Center for an afternoon of kayaking. You’re proud of yourself, really. You haven’t ventured out on the water since your dad intentionally tipped your canoe over at Lake Solano when you were 7, so today is something of a milestone. It helps that the center hands out life jackets with the rental kayaks. Delusions of nautical conquest are already swirling in your head when sweetie pre-empts the program."Breeders.”
Sure enough, a family in an SUV has pulled into the parking lot ahead of you. It’s not like you expected to have the place to yourself. But this family looks like trouble, especially the kids. You swear the oldest is the same brat who once burned down your neighbor’s shed—and he’s giving you the evil eye. It’s pretty clear what’s going on here: Mom and pops are dropping off the little twerps for the day so they can get in someone else’s hair for once. Yours, for example.
Confrontation is the last thing you’re looking for, yet here it is. Your honey, a notorious misopedist, immediately opts for retreat. You love kids, but you have to admit this shed-burner smells like trouble. Fortunately, you do have a Plan B in the ready: tandem bike riding in Davis. But that would be backing down, and you hate backing down. You want to respect your muffin’s needs, but your own self-respect is at stake, as well. Your decision will potentially affect not only the rest of your summer, but also the future of your relationship. Hey, but no pressure!
Look, no one said you had to know what you’re doing. Your honey has been so understanding. Your friends and your honey’s all have gotten so fed up with the two of you and all your drama that they’ve decided just to have their summer without you. It has been an adventure, hasn’t it? Anyway, you know they’ll come around. In the meantime, it’s nice to have some time with each other, and to better appreciate it now more than you ever have. In a mini-getaway, to share some no-frills, non-religious spiritual nourishment, you sit among the lotus leaves in the gorgeous gardens of the Vedanta Society of Sacramento in Carmichael. Your beloved seems especially lovely and in good company among the statues of the world’s great saints. Does it mean you’re soul mates after all? Who knows? But you’ve been through a lot, and now your companionship has grown even deeper; you can cherish each other that much more.
There’s no way you’re going to let a couple of unruly kids ruin your plans, which is why you and your beloved are skimming across the placid surface of Lake Natomas in a yellow plastic tandem kayak. You’ve packed a gourmet picnic basket of wine, cheese and crackers (purchased at Corti Brothers, natch), and when you reach the center of the lake, you pry off the cooler lid and prepare for a delicious mid-afternoon snack.
It’s those kids, having seemingly come out of nowhere, bearing down on you in their kayak, which is traveling at a truly phenomenal speed. The shed-burner is standing up in the back, waving his paddle like a pirate sword. Just before impact, you recall that you don’t really swim well.
The kayaks crunch with a loud plastic thunk. You, honey-bun, your lunch and the kids go flying. You hit the water, go under and the cold takes your breath away. “So, this is how it all ends,” you think. Then you bob back up to the surface, buoyed by your life jacket. Your kayak is upside down, sinking. Your hon, who is an excellent swimmer, has you by the wrist, tugging you to shore.
“Help!” someone screams.
It’s the smallest kid, clinging to the side of their capsized kayak. He’s not wearing a life jacket. Neither, apparently, is the big kid, who is nowhere to be seen. That’s because he hit his head when the two kayaks collided and sank like a stone to the bottom of the lake.
You’re close enough to shore to stand, and even though you probably could have made it in by yourself, you’re filled with love and gratitude for your pumpkin.
“You saved my life!” you say.
But pumpkin already is swimming back out to the kids. The young’un clings to the upside-down kayak, screaming. Pumpkin reaches the vessel and disappears beneath the surface. The kid keeps screaming. Seconds go by, then minutes. It’s taking too long! Then your sweetie breaks the surface like a whale breaching and, with the older kid under one arm and the younger kid under the other, tows them both back to shore.
The big kid, now stretched out on the beach, has turned blue. Your honey wraps the kid in a bear hug and squeezes. Water gushes out of the kid’s lungs. The kid takes a huge breath then bursts into tears.
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry!” the kid sobs.
“It’s all right, kid,” your honey says.
That night, after the best lovemaking session you’ve ever had, you discuss the events of the day.
“You’re my hero!” you coo.
“It wasn’t anything that anyone else wouldn’t have done,” sweetie demurs.
You hold your lover in your arms and feel closer than you’ve ever felt to anyone. Strange—that’s exactly what you were looking for this summer.
“You know, those kids weren’t so bad,” your honey says. “Maybe we should have some of our own.”
You take that thought to sleep with you, a smile in your heart.
There’s no way you and schnookums are taking a chance on those punk kids, so you flip the convertible around and head west until you reach Davis, a.k.a. “Bike Capital of the USA.” The truth is, you never really wanted to go kayaking anyway. You haven’t gotten over your childhood bout with hydrophobia. Thank god for Plan B. You breathe a sigh of relief as you pull into Ken’s Bike and Ski, which offers city, road and tandem bike rentals.
Soon, you and your soggy little biscuit are pedaling a tandem through the quiet, smooth streets of Davis, which thanks to the summer break is remarkably devoid of students. It’s your first time on a tandem, and you can’t help but marvel how it serves as a metaphor for relationships. Both of you must supply energy and balance to the equation. You’re handling the steering chores and, as you lean the bike together around a corner, you understand the tremendous amount of faith and trust your honey’s placed in you. It’s upon you to know and obey the rules of the road for the both of you. So, of course, you run a stop sign.
Now, in any other town running a stop sign on a bicycle is no big deal. But this is Davis, home of the pansy-ass bike cop. Naturally, there’s one waiting right at that corner to nab you.
“Pull over,” the cop says.
“No matter what, don’t pull over!” your partner says.
“What are you talking about?” you ask incredulously. “Of course I’m pulling over!”
You pull over, and the bike cop asks to see both of your IDs. Your honey is really reluctant to do so. “I wasn’t driving, why do you need my ID?” your baby says. “It’s just routine,” the cop says. “Now hand it over.” The cop calls the information in, and honey bun is really sweating it. You’re staring at the cop, wishing this was all over, when the cop suddenly yells, “Hey, you! Come back here!” And there’s your lover, running at breakneck speed down the street.
“What the?” you ask the cop.
“I don’t know how well you knew your friend, there,” he says. “But your partner’s wanted for the illegal distribution of prescription drugs.”
All you wanted this summer was to get closer to the one you loved. It turns out you didn’t know them at all.