It was November 2014. Mark and I were anchored in the remote, but beautiful atoll Maupiti in the South Pacific. Bora Bora’s sister island stole our heart and we thoroughly enjoyed our time there aboard Irie, in the lagoon waters, and on shore.
One day, a booming voice startled us.
“Hello! Are you American?” A man on a panga had seen our American flag and investigated.
“Yes! Well, one of us is.” Surprised to hear English in this French territory, we stuck our heads out.
“Hi. I’m Johnny Coconut,” the Caucasian man sporting a white beard and local tattoos introduced himself.
A new friendship was born and John proved to be as hospitable, generous and genuine as his Polynesian neighbors. We exchanged stories, had dinners together and stayed in touch.
Meeting John (who had moved to Maupiti in French Polynesia thanks to a Cruising World article he read in the eighties) and other expats who settled on this special island, resulted in an article I wrote and had published in the same renowned magazine. My claim to fame and the biggest check I ever cashed. 😊
A few times a year, we receive an email or a phone call from Johnny Coconut. Determined to remain in touch, he is terrible with gadgets. Whatever he wants to say – in telegraph style – is either split over several emails, or arrives in my inbox multiple times. When I reply, I don’t hear back for months, if ever. Phone calls are much more reliable, and effective. John lives back in the US now, in Morro Bay, California, where he works as a barber.
Last week, there was a voice message: “Hi guys! Newsflash. My brother will be in San Diego for a job tomorrow, and I am coming out to meet him. It would be so nice to catch up. The Coconut… out.” Mark and I looked at each other and smiled. I picked up the phone and called our eccentric friend back with an invitation for dinner at “our” place the next day, which was the evening before Thanksgiving. That particular afternoon was spent cooking a few things for “Turkey Day”, since we had plans for those daylight hours already, and doing some prep work for the evening’s dinner to not waste much time in the kitchen while having guests.
John and his brother Ron showed up at 5pm and it was a wonderful reunion, three years later, almost to the date we last saw Mr. Coconut in Maupiti. We shared stories, laughter and good food. Then, we all went for a walk in the Liberty Station District, where Ron used to work as a painter while it was still a Navy base. Both brothers grew up in San Diego and have fond memories of it. They are healthy, happy, transient, adventurous people, still working full-time, while living a life less ordinary… at 76 and 73 years of age!
A whole month of our three-month house sit in San Diego has passed already. Time is flying by much quicker than it did last winter, when Mark and I were taking care of Herk in Northern California for the same amount of time. The reason: San Diego offers more entertainment and social encounters than the suburbs of Rocklin. While we were socially deprived there, which really bugged us for the first time in our house sitting “career”, that will not happen in this city!
Our arrival in Southern California started off with a bang in the desert, meeting blogging friends on the way here. Our friend Amy, who we met on our year-long RV excursion to Mexico and Central America 12 years ago and who lives “on the other side of the hill”, came by twice already. She is a lifetime member (and soon to be conservation studies graduate) of the San Diego Zoo and gifted us four free passes to explore the two wildlife parks for my birthday. Isn’t she awesome?
Last but not least, my blogging buddy and San Diego resident Janis visited me once at home. And, as the cherry on top, she and her husband invited Mark and me to a scrumptious Thanksgiving dinner at her amazing home in the hills. Yeah… we will not be socially deprived, or miss out, in an amazing city like San Diego!