I’m not an accomplished hiker like Kevin J. Anderson, who writes his novels while trekking up and down mountains (some of them taller than 14,000 ft. high). Most days, I don’t even take a walk, and if I do, it’s usually less than two miles long. So when we parked at Zuma Beach, I looked at Point Dume in the distance and guessed it would take us ten minutes or so to walk there. My wife suggested we take the picnic lunch we had prepared. As it was not yet eleven, I thought it an unnecessary burden. After all, we just had a short walk there and back, along with a few minutes for photographs. But we grabbed our lunch and beach things, and set off on our walk.
By the time we reached Point Dume, forty-five minutes had passed. We were both tired, and even though we didn’t feel particularly hungry, we figured food and drink would rejuvenate us. So we sat down in the shade of a rock, and ate our picnic lunch.
I realized how wise my wife had been to suggest we bring the food and beach items, for we had come here to enjoy this place, not merely to snap a few photographs. It’s difficult to put into words exactly what I felt, sitting where Taylor stares up at the half-buried Statue of Liberty. I knew the people around me, who were just there to enjoy their day, weren’t seeing the beach or the cliff the same way I was. Certainly the sea gull that awaited any scrap of food we might offer saw nothing more than what was actually there. But I felt as though I existed in three realms simultaneously: the present reality, the past film location, and the fictional beach with Taylor and Nova.
It seemed as though I wasn’t the only one who viewed the situation from varying viewpoints. Just for fun, my wife turned on our GPS device, and it told us that we were six feet below sea level, even though we sat up on the beach, above the ocean. Then it changed its mind: we were nine feet below sea level. The reading bounced around, going down as low as twenty-one feet, before moving up again, but never stabilizing and giving us a reading congruent with what we observed. Perhaps the disturbed sand beneath us confused it. After all, the Statue of Liberty had once been buried here.
A part of me wished that I had been old enough to visit the beach back when the film was made, so that I could see the portion of the statue that the crew built. But even if I had been, I doubt the experience would have resonated with me back then. It was the short-lived “Planet of the Apes” TV series that caught my interest. After that, I read the novel, and learned about (and later saw) the movies. In all these, I found stories that drew me back for repeated readings and viewings. Like all great stories, they grew in the telling. They became a part of me, and I of them.
I’m glad we brought our lunch along, and took our time just being there. Someday I’d like to return to Point Dume. I’d like to spend more time there than our first visit allowed. I’d like to discover it for everything it is now, not just for what occurred there in 1968, and the place holds in my imagination. My first visit there was pretty great. The second visit might be even greater.