When Dylan Thomas exhorted us not to go gently into that good night he may have been visiting someone in Carmel Highlands. Whenever I go to Carmel Highlands I feel I should lay down a trail of white pebbles like Hansel did. Someday the National Geographic Society will send explorers to chart all the tributaries flowing into Mal Paso Road.
In the light of day it can be difficult to find someone’s home there. At night, Carmel Highlands is the dark side of the moon. At night, with a heavy rain falling, it is a black hole sucking up light, street signs, and Google Map directions.
The directions the host emailed me to attend a home concert were written with the exactitude of an expert planning the invasion of Europe in 1944. Go 3.2 miles past the Highlands Inn. Turn left on Mal Paso. Everything else was written with the same detail in tenths of miles, which way to turn when we reached a fork in the road. But for an area founded as an artist’s retreat you would think they could come up with more artistic road signs. The signs there are as legible as if they were been printed on a dot matrix printer.
We thought we measured our tenths of miles correctly and forked in the right direction when necessary but after ten minutes we were back on Highway 1 heading north almost back to the Highlands Inn.
We found the house on the second pass by exiting the car and shining a flashlight on the road signs. We were the last to arrive and luckily found one space at the end of their driveway which meant we were blocking all the other cars and would have to be the first to leave.
The concert was wonderful. But once it ended we said our goodbyes knowing we had to clear the driveway for the others to leave. It was black as pitch outdoors and the rain reduced visibility even more. The cars back up lights did not provide enough illumination for me to see clearly. Suddenly we were sliding backwards down a hill. You know your vehicle is in an awkward position when your headlights are on and all you can see are the tops of trees.
I needed a tow truck. Thank heavens for cell phones. I called my insurance company. Someone in Texas answered the phone.
“Where are you,” he said, after I described my situation.
“I can tell you the name of the street and that I’m in Carmel Highlands but I don’t know much more than that.”
“It’s OK,” he said, “we can pin point your location through your cell phone.”
That was a relief and also kind of scary. I didn’t know if he would send a tow truck or a drone.
Emergency Service 101 states that the driver must remain with the disabled vehicle at all times. And so I did in the dark, in the rain. My car looked remarkably content. Perhaps it had settled comfortably in a Carmel Highlands marijuana patch.
Suddenly I saw the flashing lights of the tow truck. It was down a hill only about a hundred yards away but just as suddenly the lights disappeared as the driver made the same wrong turn I made earlier. I yelled but the driver couldn’t hear me. As the truck’s blinking lights began to disappear I could only think of Dylan Thomas and “Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
The tow truck driver finally found me, extracted the car like an abscessed tooth, and I got home tired, wet and nursing a bruised ego over my stupidity for backing into the ditch. That night I had a dream about being in Carmel Highlands on a rainy night. Someone as tough looking as Clint Eastwood in those spaghetti westerns is staring me down. “Get out of the highlands before sundown,” he sneers.
He gets no argument from me.