Mari Katherine Raftopoulos: On the boardwalk

It was a typical Sunday morning.

I woke up around 7:30 a.m., because with age, I no longer can sleep past 8.

Or, it could be genetic because both my mother and grandmother have some sort of sleep apnea, too, that I do not quite understand. My grandmother wakes up at 4 a.m, and my mother an hour later.

Depending on the status of my previous night, I usually follow my wake up with a morning beach walk on the boardwalk. Today, I decided to invite a visitor, a neighbor I had met a few nights before. He claimed he was a morning person and would be glad to assist me in my physical therapy.

The look on his face was priceless when he answered his door at 8 a.m., sharp. Without speaking he told me, "Hi, I am not a morning person, and I didn't think you were, either. I never thought you would show up. But I do have that Coffee-Mate creamer, like I said."

He was embarrassed. I gave him a piece of paper and told him this was his rain check. I waved good-bye at his sleep-deprived eyes and continued on my walk.

The ocean breeze is crisp at this time of the day. And the boardwalk crowd is much of the same. There is that dedicated, active couple who make dinner plans and discuss political issues during their six-mile run.

Right behind them, a 13-year-old girl is learning how to skate on her new rollerblades. And how could I forget those sun-kissed surfers who prance along the warm sand, watching all the girls fall for them.

There are those fortunate people who can sit on their front porch with a cup of coffee and get all the benefits of the ocean. I always sneak a look inside those beachfront houses to see what they are watching on their 50-inch plasmas or what type of cereal they might be having for breakfast.

Sometimes I get a friendly wave or hello. Just by making this Sunday morning walk a tradition, these friendly hellos have turned into conversations. One couple in particular always seems to join me on my morning walk from their porch.

Our relationship started when I saw the bright, blue-and-white-striped Greek flag hanging from their porch.

"Are you Greek, because I am Greek," I asked.

We immediately had a connection. The Yia Yia was visiting from Greece and immediately started networking to figure out which grandson she could hook me up with. I could have been some crazy girl, but she would not have cared because I was Greek.

The couple wasn't there as I walked past the flag today. Where would a true Greek rather be on this beautiful morning than drinking a cup of coffee and reading the newspaper?

Church.

And this is when I decided I needed to go to church here in San Diego. Every day, that flag reminds me of my culture, and a major part of the Greek culture is going to church.

Although I had a huge to-do list stamped inside my head for today, I felt so accomplished that I finally came to the realization that church was much needed. So, now, I will pencil church in after my walk. I might need to start my weekly Sunday walks earlier in the morning. So what. I am Greek. I need to go church.

My next friend came a half-mile down the boardwalk. He was a younger male in his early 20s who stopped me with the pick-up line I have heard way too often lately.

"What happened to your knee?" He asked.

I stopped to join him on the cement ledge for a cup of coffee. We shared knee stories, and he searched and searched for a way to get my number. He even resorted to giving me the number to his acupuncturist, who he promises helped his torn meniscus a few years ago.

He also promised I would be out of this full body knee brace in no time. But I told him my doctor most likely would fly 1,000 miles from Colorado and fight me if I took off my brace.

This is the reason I love this boardwalk and my newfound tradition. It gives me a chance to escape the hungover breakfast burrito runs and 1 p.m. sleep-ins, a chance to be a respected, motivated college student.

The college lifestyle has a tendency to take away your Sundays. The day of rest in college turns into a day of stress, errands and sleep. I have finally gotten my Sundays back.

Just before ending this morning walk, an older man cruising on his bike exceeding the 8 mph speed limit for the boardwalk greeted me.

As he passed me, he said, "If you feel as good as you look, you are doing great."

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