We had heard about the ranunculus in that area which had just come into bloom. In the horticultural universe they were a world famous destination. In Carlsbad they were unknown. We drove around the town stopping along the way to ask people where these acres and acres of ranunculus were. Not a single person ever heard of them.
I had recalled Carlsbad to be a sleepy town with several first class hotels or motels. Unaccustomed as I was to last minute getaways I had failed to make a reservation. Every one we passed had the no vacancy sign posted. It must have been those ranunculus, which nobody living there knew about, that drew all these visitors. Finally we settled for the last room this side of Yuma.
It was called the Ebbtide Motel and well into its ebbing. I’m not sure if all the neon letters were lit but the L could have been preceding by an HEL. If the outdoor temperature hovered in the high nineties it must have been over a hundred in the room. Our deluxe suite came with a refrigerator as if someone might endure more than one night within these walls. It was a torrid affair but we kept the refrigerator door open in the hope to cool down.
If this were a movie it wouldn’t have starred Fred and Ginger or even Tracy and Hepburn but more like Desi and Lucy. We drove out of town shouting, Fuck the Ranunculus. It was only later that we discovered Carlsbad extended east of the San Diego Freeway as well. We were west of it where locals might live their entire lives ignorant of these magnificent bulbs bursting in the full spectrum of colors.
In fact there are fifty acres of flowers with a mirror like sheen on their petals designed to attract bees. They aren’t indigenous to Southern California but they seem to have accommodated quite well to their new habitat. They are at least as bright as roses with a characteristic black center as if the sun itself is beaming from out of a core of dark matter. There could be a poem in that image referring to our naughty tryst … if one thought metaphorically but I would never resort to such an objective correlative.
It took another two spring seasons of bulb-pushing up through the soil for me to finally answer the call of the sun. Peggy and I have since visited those flowering bulbs in Carlsbad with their perfect rows of petals. My guess is it’s no longer a secret even to those folks west of freeway. As for the Ebbtide Motel, we recently drove through the town looking for it, gave up, parked the car and there it was, almost forty years later, an historical monument in our eyes.