As I reach for the proverbial pen and paper, the light of reflection begins to penetrate into foggy, half-forgotten memories of the past, stacked like so much cord wood, soon to warm remembrances in the dim firelight of thoughts to come. Reminding me of deeds done. Kismet. How destiny inextricably intertwines with life. I can tell you now, looking back, I wasn’t thinking in any way like that in the summer of ’71.
Another magnificent “SoCal” day, as I found myself shipwrecked in the parking lot of the Newport Beach pier. (As the song goes) I didn’t have any phone, pool, or pets. . Didn’t have any cigarettes, and certainly I was no king of any road! Surly southern skin poppers (a sad scourge of “seventies” reality) as nearby neighbors in their funky Florida van.
But I had the beach. Oh, yeah! Every day “stepping into liquid”, searching for the ever elusive perfect wave. No board, just body.
How did I end up here in a ’57 Chevy Nomad wagon, crashing in the back seat with my two mad gnome car mates? One month and counting, as the ’70 recession continued to grind down upon us, feeding our feckless fate, at least for the time being. Now, alone on the beach, (or so I thought),
Haiku: Couldn’t wait to ride.
Oh wonderful, windswept waves.
Surfing is sublime.
I was then startled by a woman’s shriek, as it shattered the calm.
“He’s going to drown” she screamed!
Talk about jumping out of your skin! I knew immediately I had to “fit” back in. I looked up to see that woman and her male companion gesticulating wildly and pointing out, past the pier. I spotted a dark, distant dot, bobbing in the blue. He appeared to be swept out to sea even further, as we watched in horror!
Not thinking, I hurled myself forward into that briny deep, surrendering to the strong riptide that surrounded me, taking me out ever so quickly. Finally I saw him again, literally going down for the last time! When I finally grabbed him, he tried to climb me like a step ladder. I had to “clip” him with my forearm to keep him from drowning the both of us.
Only then could I scoop him up and cradle his upper body with one arm, then swim side stroke, as he sheepishly acquiesced. By now we were so far out, the pier appeared like a small toy in the distance. I plotted an angle to try to get to the pier where the riptide might be broken up by the wooden pylons. It was like I was a cork that day, fueled by fear-based adrenaline and gritty resolve. So buoyant, unsinkable!
The ocean by now was rising with an unexpected swell, as we made it under the boardwalk of the pier, then slowly worked our way, body surfing the now large waves and scraped past the pylons until our feet finally touched the warm sandy bottom. Whew! Once on the beach again, the man I had carried for well over a half an hour, hurriedly took off away from the beach and never looked back, never even said a word, and was gone.
I stood there alone again and looked out on an empty beach, thinking to myself that no one had come to help us. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of that tan, tall young man and the future that now awaited him.