There is an odd thing about Morro Bay. It’s beautiful, yes, a small picturesque town on the California coast, famous for the Hearst Castle nearby but more famous for a huge rock out in the ocean, the peak of an ancient volcano. Very impressive. But there’s this noise, a kind of undercurrent, that seems to emanate from far down the beach and then echoes off the rock. It sounds like a turbine or a large piece of machinery. It must be a power plant or something.

During the day, it’s hard to hear this sound so tourists, like you and I were in the Spring of 1980, would barely notice it. Not as they strolled through the bustling gift shops and quaint galleries. Or when they purchased souvenirs: shells and sand dollars, or postcards of castle or the rock .You probably don’t remember but I bought some postcards that day. I still have a few.

And at dinner, the tourists wouldn’t notice this strange sound either, not over the murmur of the other patrons or the friendly banter of the waitresses. They might order the local catch, like we did back then: served with baskets of crusty bread and pats of butter on ice. The view is lovely- with the tables overlooking the shore and the fishing boats rocking on the water. They could watch how the sun seemed to plunge off the edge of the earth, with all the colors following into a black lined horizon. Then they’d toast each other, like we did in the spring of 1980, To us! To our future!

And after dinner, of course, the noise is still barely discernable. There’s the street musicians to cover it up, playing guitars and violins. And the tourists would pause, hand in hand, like we did, and toss in a few coins in the velvet lined cases. For luck.

Then they might saunter down the emptying sidewalk, the air damp with the gathering fog. But now the sound grows stronger,  a steady hum that builds as they reach the path’s end. They step down into the sand, which is surprisingly cold and much rougher than it had appeared from a distance.

They are alone on this strand, and they move toward it: a noise like a thresher, insistent, growing louder. Until it is only them and this constant whirr: no moon, not even the smallest peep of stars. Then they turn, like we did in the spring of 1980, back to the crowds and the swaying lights of the village.