Bart Mendoza 5 a.m., Dec. 8
"Move out ! We're livin' the dream here !" Who are these
impertinent young men to tell me that ?
I've lived thirty years longer, I raised them, I should know how to enjoy life!
But did I? Was I? Why should sun and sand be something enjoyed for one week of the year?
What is the point really, of spending the best and most active years
of your life on the hamster wheel of a career, just to retire when you are too old to paddle a surfboard any more? Whose idea was that ?
I was feeling a nagging suspicion maybe they could be on to something.
They didn't, wouldn't, couldn't buy in to the standard life.
I said to myself, maybe YOU should get out there and hang while you still can.
Shouldn't work be an interlude between vacations instead of the other way around?
Do you really need to collect "stuff", buy a house to store it and work just to pay for it all?
The family compound was empty, really, of everything important after they left. It echoed. It had become a museum for Jurassic Park toys and soccer trophies, leftover camping gear, a library of books I would never read again, china place settings for eight, a baby grand piano.
Where was I at the time? Living in the Virginia mountains, watching February slush falling out of a bleak gray sky, hoping for sunshine sometime in the next month. Ski season there lasts for all of a mid-winter Thursday when the slush finally freezes over. The ocean was four hundred miles away. I spent two years racking up frequent flyer miles between Slushville and San Diego. One day, I told myself, I'm going to make this jump permanently.
There was the thrill of walking out of the airport into sparkling sun, putting on the board shorts and sunglasses, checking the waves every morning, and becoming one with the energy of OB. I wanted to make it a daily event. I didn't want just to move to San Diego. I wanted to move to Ocean Beach. Main Street still exists, just not by that name. The businesses are mostly hand-tended and locally owned. You see people on the street you know. Small town life. Mayberry on acid. So I plot my course. Sell off everything and take a leap into the unknown. The first eight hundred miles was cold fog and black ice and twelve hour days of driving through Arkansas and Oklahoma. The further west I got, the brighter it got. By New Mexico, there was a wan but persistent December sun. I breakfasted in celebration with green chile enchiladas at the first little dive I came to.
By the time I crossed into California, it was brilliant. Ah yes. As I parked on a street looking out to the OB pier, a company of green parrots flew over and landed squawking and warbling in the trees. The tree at the house where I had arranged to live had oranges. I realize this is passe to the natives, but I have been the grateful recipient of avocados, grapefruits and lemons, abundantly falling off someone's front yard tree and unwanted. Still amazing to me. On Wednesday night at the Newport Ave. farmers' market, I heard five languages in one block. I bought some Ethiopian food for dinner. I stopped to listen to the weekly street music of two guys with a homemade guitar and a drum set made of suitcases and pans.
Now settled in to my new environment, I have begun to
observe and categorize the unique life forms of this habitat,
this seven square miles surrounded by reality. Most noticeable by their numbers and herd behavior are the Arizonians.
Though not native to the area, their seasonal migration to Ocean Beach results in booming tourist trade and police overtime. They are recognizable by the sunburned outline of their wife-beaters and bathing suit tops and their beer consumption. They can take much of the credit too for abundant footage for Beach Patrol San Diego", especially on the 4th of July. The pale and spindly Euro is not as numerous but this species has a particularly high tolerance for sixty-two degree water and can be found splashing around fearlessly when everyone else has on a wetsuit. They too can be found at all the local watering holes and will mingle with the Arizonians in line for epic burgers. The Surfers look like little seals grouped on the water when the waves are good, waiting for the next set.
Where else do you see little skinny kids being dropped off by their moms after school, not at soccer practice, but at the pier with their little skinny surfboards? Grommetville central. You can stand out on the sand bar near Dog Beach in thigh deep water and look twenty five yards further out to curling six foot surf, watching them peel right and left down the face of the wave. It's almost like being there, without getting rinsed. I'm a hodad, I confess. I like to suit up and paddle there, I just don't want to drown there. The Vegan OBecian is somewhat rare, but their population appears to be on the increase---are they breeding ? OMG.
The Veg-OB is recognizable by his bulky dreads, cascading from a waif-like face and his absence of shoes.
He is frequently in the company of at least one dog who looks cleaner and better fed than he does.
The diversity of the OB species of humans requires still another day of blogging to cover them all: the Old SurfDude species, the Skaters, the Bums, the Party Animals the Gutter Punks. Perhaps some new species will be discovered and make the news. Will be out with the binoculars in paradise, loving the life, livin' the dream.