The Mission Ranch

Endless, I thought, looking at the man drinking beer. The legs were so disproportioned to the rest of the body! The silvery grey hair was tied in a ponytail and he was wearing frayed baggy jeans and cowboy boots that had seen better days. Out of one of his Western movies, one would surmise. I thought about telling Bill but then decided no, it could not be Clint Eastwood. The man looked too aged and mundane to be him. Besides, Clint would not have been left alone all the time with so many admirers around. Some people were there just to see him. My mind drifted back to Bill’s words. His small eyes speaking of dreams. It was July 2001. We were at The Mission Ranch restaurant at Clint Eastwood’s ranch in Carmel, California, on a special mission.

There are so many memorable parts to that day. One that remains vivid in my memory is the dramatic scenery at The Mission Ranch. The light filtering the branches of the old oaks in an intricate lace-like pattern. The waves breaking again and again against the coastal rocks in wild bursts of foam. The cypress trees leaning away from the wind. We watched the sun go down and paint the sky in golden oranges, pinks and purples. The first tiny silver stars.

It was not the words but rather the slight tremor in his voice.  The tilt of his head. The steady hand. All those signs I would later recognize as a trademark of his wholesomeness. We drank a Pinot Noir from a local winery which we would frequently revisit on special occasions. His voice was ceremonious. I averted his eyes for a minute. Why couldn’t Disaster, in a rare exception to the rule, be merciful and announce itself before the hour? I still could run away and catch the next train back to oblivion. The great revelation did not come then. Like the slow, off-kilter Bossa Nova played on the piano by an unsuspecting guest, it was intangible.

It is a curious trait of human nature that one’s eyes can trick one’s mind (or is it vice versa?) so easily: it turned out that I was wrong about some things that day. There was no need to be so afraid. I was also wrong about the man at the bar: he was Clint Eastwood, endless legs, old boots and all. I found out at the restroom when I heard a girl on the phone announcing hysterically: “OMG Mom, you won’t believe this but I swear I’ve just seen Clint Eastwood at the bar!”.

OMG indeed.

We go back to The Mission Ranch whenever we are in California and rekindle that day. My innermost fears and hopes, the glint in my husband’s small eyes.  We also try to sit at that same table across from the bar where I saw Clint Eastwood but we never saw him again.


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