The photo you see above, is of a beach in California about 2 hours North of San Francisco, specifically, Mendocino. It is one of my favorite places in the world. It means a great deal to me.
I grew up near the Pacific Ocean in Long Beach, California and spent the summers of my youth in the cool waters on area beaches.
(Picture above – one of the last of “Jeff” yes, my toes were painted)
After I got married, we moved quite a bit but eventually settled in the mountains above Sacramento. A friend of mine from another radio station mentioned a place called “The Little River Inn” near Mendocino and said we had to go there. So we did.
We fell in love with the whole area, returning every year for the next 20 years, almost always in April, the month of our wedding anniversary.
The Little River Inn is on the rocky North coast in Little River, a tiny dot on the map 3 miles South of Mendocino. The inn’s main building and most of the rooms are on the East side of Highway 1, some cottages across the street on the ocean side of Highway 1 and then 2 miles South are more rooms in another tri-plex.
My wife and I would stay in a stand-alone cottage named for Silas Coombs, one of the early owners of the inn. “Coombs Cottage” is heaven on Earth. It has a magnificent ocean view from anywhere in the cottage. (Except the bathroom.) There is a wood-burning fireplace that is set up daily by housekeeping and more wood than you can burn stocked in your room or right outside your door.
There is a big wooden deck with lounge chairs and a small table facing the ocean as well as a nice 2-person hot tub. There is nothing between you and the ocean except for a couple of pine trees. The sound of the surf on the rocks lulls you to sleep at night. The bath has a double vanity and a giant 2 person bathtub and separate shower.
The bed is king size and extremely comfortable. There is a sofa and chair facing the fireplace. Get the picture? Best of all, there is no decent cell service or wi-fi (or there wasn’t last time we were there.)
Our stay was usually for a week. We would hit a small bookstore in town called the Gallery Bookstore and buy a couple of books to read. We would also always buy a few jars of Olallieberry Jam. (we called them “Ooo La La” berries because they were so yummy)
It was a carefree week of rest and relaxation. The rhythm of the ocean seemed to re-set my internal clock.
Mendocino is a small tourist town on a gorgeous peninsula. Lots of little shops and quirky people that seemed to say “do your own thing.”
I had been battling gender dysphoria my whole life, yet up until this point, I had never told a living soul, instead dressing in private, often coming too close for comfort to getting caught. Keeping this under wraps was not only stressful, it was getting to the point where I didn’t WANT to hide who I was anymore but how to take that first tentative step?
This was answered for me in April of 2009. As we were preparing to leave our home for the 4 hour drive, my wife had me carry a footbath out and told me for our anniversary, she was going to give me a pedicure. When the day came, she sat me in a comfortable chair with a view of the fireplace. The door to the deck was open and the sound of gulls and crashing surf in the distance.
She soaked my feet in a foot-bath with nice smelling foot soak and warm water. She scrubbed and massaged my feet and legs with a sugar scrub. She cleaned up my cuticles and softened my callouses and finally trimmed and filed my toenails. She dried them and applied lotion to my feet and legs. When she said she was all done, my feet and legs looked great.
But there was one more thing…
I screwed up all of my courage and asked her: “Aren’t you going to paint them?” Calling my bluff she asked: “Which color?” She had a turquoise and a purple. I said: “This one” handing her the turquoise polish.
She painted my toes turquoise and put a topcoat on them. I loved them. This was really the first outward manifestation of the female inside. I wore flip-flops all over town the rest of the week. I got some looks but I got some compliments too.
When we returned home after our vacation, I didn’t remove the polish. I just wore my regular shoes and socks and nobody knew but me. I liked the feeling. After another week or so, I finally took some remover and took the polish off, and re-painted them another color myself. My toes have always had polish on them since that day.
This was the first crack in the dam…a crack that would eventually turn our lives completely upside down.
So that explains some of the importance of Mendocino to me. It is a place of beauty, refuge and re-birth.
April 2012 –
The weather during the 1st week of April (our anniversary was on the 7th) was always un-predictable. It might rain, could be sunny, foggy or all of the above all in the same day. One thing that always seemed to happen though was on the day we left, it was always sunny and gorgeous. We would squeeze out every moment until check-out standing on the deck of Coombs Cottage holding hands and grabbing one last look at that beautiful Pacific Ocean…breathing in all of the negative ions from the clean sea air. Then with tears running down our cheeks we would steal one last glance and shut the door to Coombs Cottage and reluctantly return the keys until next year when we could pull in to the drive to begin another magical week.
But this time was different. That one last look will have to stay in my heart because it will be our last as a couple. By April of 2012, the storm clouds were already gathering and would soon consume us.