Don Zub shimmied the tree one night, wearing shorts and topsiders, and broke off the uppermost couple of feet. How’d he get up there? “On mushrooms.” Why? “UDT! Iron grip!”
It was one of those Friday afternoons along Orange Avenue in Coronado when even the threat of rain couldn’t chase off the boys in wetsuits pulled down to their waists, the women in muumuus and sandals shopping their way down one side of the village and up the other, the cops stopping kids for skateboard infractions, the Navy men streaming off the bases and racing for the bridge.
Where did he get the body bag he keeps in the back of his derelict VW van in the alley off D Avenue?
And of course there was Don Zub, organizing a party behind Du-Ray’s surf shop. Don Zub, ex-Navy frogman, ex-candidate for city council and mayor. Don Zub, chief mooch-meister and the fuhrer of fun in a town full of retired admirals and Navy wives. Don Zub, the man who has adapted his commando determination to a task he began in 1979, when he got out of the Navy: rescuing Coronado from its self-induced coma.
Like owner, like dog. “I’ve been 86’d from the bars, and Trooper’s gonna be 86’d from the whole damn island!”
Now, ten years later, Zub is 31, and his adoptive town is still resisting him. “You’ve got to come in a little bit from deep left field if you want to be elected,” remarks one of the handful of partiers drinking beer and burning hot dogs in the small, weedy yard behind the surf shop. “You mean I’d have to become one of them! ’ ’ Zub retorts.
Zub mayor stickers posted everywhere. To run for council Zub borrowed three sets of nice clothes from Bob Kipperman, the owner of Kippy’s clothing store.
By “them” he means either the typical, job-holding, mortgage-mushing, regular-meal-wolfing, retracing Coronadan or the converse of the species, the retiree pissed off about the island’s traffic problems. “No way! Never!” Zub throws another dog on the grill, cranks up the Tom Petty tape (Now I’m freeeeeee/free-fallin’... ) and drowns out any thought of joining the enemy.
“Even when he gets arrested, the cops are laughing,” observes R.T. Duryea, Du-Ray, the owner of the surf shop.
No, not the enemy, that’s not quite right. Zub’s relation to the townfolk is more like a sheepdog’s to his flock. He rushes them, snaps at them, licks them, seems to know them all by their first names. Problem is, the sheep like him too much to take him seriously. “Even when he gets arrested, the cops are laughing,” observes R.T. Duryea, Du-Ray, the owner of the surf shop. “It’s like Barney taking Otis to jail in Mayberry.”
Zub: "The tourists look out the windows at me and my friends, the locals, like we’re some kind of animals. I point right back at them. I’m no fucking monkey or polar bear!"
In the election for city council in 1981, Zub was more or less a joke candidate. His platform included legalizing marijuana, rescinding the prohibition against drinking alcohol on Coronado’s beaches, outlawing dog leashes, blowing up the Coronado Bridge and re-instituting trans-bay ferry service, building an offshore reef for surfers, and creating a city-run skateboard park. To help pay for these amenities, Zub proposed a unique sailor tax. “Every time you see a sailor, you ask him for a buck,” he advised. “If he doesn’t give it to you, you arrest him.” In other words, Don Zub’s political agenda constituted an assault on the parochial foundations that undergird the town. And like the Navy commandos who sometimes go on rescue missions barefooted, Zub had mostly his own wits as a weapon.
It isn’t hard to figure out why so many admirals (66 at last count) choose to retire on Coronado; its quiet, shaded streets and hermetic placidness represent the America our military men fought for in the last three wars. What mental picture of the American Way of Life did they carry with them to Corregidor, Chosin Reservoir, or Khe Sanh? Certainly not El Cajon Boulevard.
The America of their ideals exists mostly in their minds and in one other locale: the village of Coronado.
Whether through osmosis from the retirees or from the cauterizing effects of training on the island as a Navy frogman, Zub claimed Coronado as his own ideal of America while he was still a sailor. After surviving the nearly inhuman rigors of becoming an Underwater Demolition Team (UDT) member, Zub found himself without a theater to prove his latent heroism. The Vietnam War had ended about the time he enlisted, and Grenada, where the UDT and SEAL teams played major roles in 1983, wasn’t even a glimmer. So Coronado itself became Zub’s theater, and he entered it as a kind of counterinsurgent bent on liberating the village. Sometimes in the mornings, Zub will admit that “the frog’s just about out of me now.” Being a civilian and living up to the reputation of a carousing frogman has its drawbacks. “It’s a lot easier when you have a platoon behind you,” Zub remarks soberly.
Zub’s irreverence toward Coronado was tolerated, even encouraged, by the young people who grew up with the choking allure of the place. He ran his campaign from the beach during the day and from the bars at night. He might have had a real impact on the election except for one unfortunate incident. A few days before the election, Zub was arrested for drunk driving on Orange Avenue. In his various attempts to put the proper spin on it, he said he got himself arrested to garner the “drunk vote” in the city and talked of pleading innocent “on grounds of being a politician.” When the balloting was over, Zub had received only 159 votes.
But politics is in his blood. Zub’s father has been a city councilman and mayor of a small town in Michigan; and in 1982 and 1988, he ran unsuccessfully for state representative. The younger Zub ran as a write-in candidate for mayor of Coronado in 1982, eliciting only 53 votes. Then this year, he ran again for city council in the March 7 special election to replace Mary Herron, the city councilwoman who was elected mayor last fall. Since his wardrobe of shorts and T-shirts was a little one-dimensional, Zub borrowed three sets of nice clothes from Bob Kipperman, the owner of Kippy’s clothing store on Orange Avenue (as of early May, he hadn’t yet returned the clothes; he didn’t have the money to get them out of the cleaners), and he even had his picture taken while wearing a necktie. Beneath this picture on his campaign literature was the declaration, “A Serious Candidate.” He deputized all of his friends as members of the Zub Team and even put together the semblance of a legitimate platform. He took positions on most of the major issues in Coronado, including growth (against), traffic (against), a police review board (he seemed to be the only candidate with enough experience with the local cops to understand the need for citizen review), condominium expansion (against), and library hours (more). Some of what he had to say even made good sense.
“The business people want more business here, but nobody wants more traffic,” Zub explained one afternoon over a beer. “So how are the shoppers going to get here? Hot air balloons? People are confused. The residents don’t want more tourists; but in a lot of cases, the residents are also the shop owners. A guy complaining about traffic also happens to own a T-shirt shop. He wants more people, but no cars! It’s really a funny town.
“So here’s what we do about traffic: don’t worry about it. It’s coming, no matter what we do. Just fuck it. The problem with traffic is kids’ and seniors’ not being able to cross the street. So you build pedestrian overpasses on the main thoroughfares. That’s it. People here complain about traffic because they don’t have anything better to do. They’re just biding their emotions till they die.”
Alas, when the polls closed on March 7, Zub still only collected 172 votes. “The amazing thing is, I tried 100 percent harder this time and only got 13 more votes,” he says dejectedly. “I really thought I was going to win this time.”
But not even all the members of the Zub Team — the ones who are registered to vote, that is — voted for Zub. Some did, of course. “My grandmother loves Zub,” says Rob Lindsay, a lifelong Coronadan and Zub associate who has provided crash pads for Zub on his couch and in the back of his truck. (Zub has lived in about 30 different places in Coronado, from apartments and houses to back yards and cars.) “My parents voted for him, too.” But two other members of the Zub Team, who shall remain unnamed, say they didn’t vote for him. “I asked Zub what he would do for me if he was elected,” explains one of them, “and he goes, ‘I’m gonna raise the pay for city council members and cut the meetings down to one a month.’ I mean, sheesh....”
Zub, after going on a 30-day drinking spree to exorcise the memory of his bitter defeat, has already embarked on his next campaign, another run at city council in November 1990. Handicapping his chances is something of a sport among some Zub Team members. “I think he probably could get elected, if he’s persistent enough and cleans up his act,” avers Du-Ray, the ex-surfer who runs the town’s oldest surf shop, a favorite Zub hangout. “You should have seen the turnout at his campaign party [at the Glorietta Bay Inn], I voted for him, just to throw a wrench into the works. Life’s too short for a baloney sandwich; the average age is senility over there at city hall. They’re famous for doing nothing. This is a community of white picket fences and bulldogs. If they could, they’d put a picket fence around the whole island. This town needs some shaking up.”
Another Zub Team conscript, Alec MacKenzie, owns a house on Ocean Boulevard, right across the street from one of the best beaches on the West Coast. These days, along with having to endure the jet gridlock on final approach to the runway at North Island Naval Air Station, MacKenzie is assaulted by the roar of Navy trucks loaded with Ivan-knows-what coming out of the newly-opened back gate of the Navy base. The gate that’s adjacent to a popular park filled with picnickers. “North Island is ruining the life of Coronado, directly, that’s a fact ” declares MacKenzie, a painting contractor. He helped develop one of Zub’s main campaign planks: limit the growth on both North Island to the north and the Naval Amphibious Base to the south.
“The council talks about traffic, the parking problem, but they still all want to increase business on the island. We’ve reached super saturation. I’m saying we’ve got to limit growth, and the businesses have to survive with what they have now.” As MacKenzie speaks, sitting on a lawn chair beside his house with the ocean just across the street and the easy sea breeze rustling a huge old grape vine entwined around a storage shed beside him, Zub goes into MacKenzie’s house to fix three more rum-and-Cokes. Zub seems to know the layout of every house on the island, especially the kitchen and liquor cabinet. “I try to tread the fine line between reality and the Zub Team,” MacKenzie confides. He doesn’t think Zub’s electable, although someone of Zub’s philosophical bent needs to be elected. “But you have to have the sacrificial lamb who will spill the blood in order to bring about change. That’s what Zub is.” As MacKenzie inveighs, Zub is protesting and arguing — “I’m not Jesse Jackson! I’m no Jesse Jackson! I’m a Zub!” — but MacKenzie ignores him. “He hasn’t won over enough of the political components of the town,” MacKenzie says through the din of jet blast, diesel belch, and Zub. “Here’s my plan for professionalizing Don Zub. The camera loves him, the girls love him, but how many of these girls vote, I don’t know. But this town needs to have a sober voice representing change. I told him to start attending every council meeting and start reading the [Coronado] Journal.”
Zub’s yelling, “I haven’t got a nickel, all I’ve got is time. My time is the most valuable thing in the world, and I’m not giving it away for free. When I get elected, then I’ll start going to the meetings.”
MacKenzie scowls. “Zub’s probably on the longest weekend of anybody’s life. If he ever gets to Monday, he’s got a lot of potential. But Monday never seems to come around for him.”
So what’s Zub got to show for his ten-year weekend besides a political career that ain’t? Well, there’s Trooper, the good-natured mongrel that’s rarely away from his side. “People see me and don’t ask, ‘How you doin’, Donny?’ They ask, ‘Where’s Trooper?’ ” Zub marvels. “He’s gotten me room and board many times.” He’s also gotten Zub broke. Trooper sometimes abandons Zub to forage for food (Zub isn’t the kind of guy to spend his nickels on dog food), and the dogcatcher has come to know Trooper-dobber well. The last time he was apprehended it cost Zub $67 to spring him. Zub was considering holding a car wash to raise the money, but getting yard work was easier. “I got the money but still have to do the yard work,” he chuckles.
When he picked Trooper up from animal control, the dogcatcher told him, “One more time and Trooper gets abated.” Zub looks at that prospect with some perspective. Like owner, like dog. “I’ve been 86’d from the bars, and Trooper’s gonna be 86’d from the whole damn island!”
Most of the main drinking establishments in town have declared themselves off-limits to Zub over the years since he left the Navy. McP’s Irish Pub booted him, and the bouncer broke Zub’s collarbone several years ago, after he got into a fight. He awoke the next morning and proceeded to get a 502 on his bicycle, which he was riding with a .26 blood-alcohol level. He’s also been banished from Goodies deli, the Brigantine, and Mexican Village, that venerable old gathering place for lonely WESPAC widows. Mexican Village had enough of Zub after he launched himself from the dance floor and dove into the piano bar.
These and other more public-interest indiscretions have given Zub an impressive pile of arrest warrants. He thought he only had four, until the other night at three a.m., when the cops found him on his bicycle near First and Orange. Once again, he didn’t have a light on his bike, an infraction that’s taken seriously in Coronado. They ran a warrant check and found he had seven of them. But because the jails are so crowded, and, after all, this was Don Zub, they let him go.
Other accomplishments? There are quite a few, but not of the type you would put in a ballot statement. He didn’t have the money to pay for a ballot statement this year, anyway. The strange, flat top on the huge star pine tree behind the Rotary bench at Tenth and Orange? Don Zub shimmied the tree one night, wearing shorts and topsiders, and broke off the uppermost couple of feet. How’d he get up there? “On mushrooms.” Why? “UDT! Iron grip!” Was it on a dare? “Dares are for babies. Marines are dare guys.”
Any other accomplishments? Well, he’s urinated off the middle span of the Coronado Bridge, but a lot of locals have passed that rite. And he’s learned this: “Eyes are the most important thing on a person — besides tits.” He’s on a first-name basis with almost everybody he runs into, from kids in Little League uniforms outside the Emerald City surf shop to the old guy in charge of the local seniors’ association doing research in the library. He manages to keep three or four mostly inoperable cars stashed on the island’s streets and alleys without getting them towed more than once every couple of months. Nearly every bike on the island is his to borrow, sometimes even with the owner’s permission, though he still owes $30 to a friend’s brother for throwing his beach cruiser off a high span of the Coronado Bridge. “I crashed on that bike, and it made me mad,” Zub explains.
Does he need a pair of shoes in order to go into a restaurant? No problem. He walks into a house, says hello to the owner, and puts on a pair of shoes, saying he’ll return them after dinner. And he’s lived off the fruit of Coronado — literally. The island’s famous fruit trees, which overhang front fences and back alleys, have kept him alive more than once. You wonder who has lived more of the good life in Coronado, some careworn, retired admiral or footloose but oddly rooted Don Zub. “I’ve lived 60 years in the span of 30,” Zub figures. “If I died tomorrow, I’d go without regrets.” There’s just this one hitch. “I’ve learned that it’s not finding a place to sleep that’s the problem. That’s easy. The problem is where you wake up in the morning. Having a place where you’re comfortable, that’s important. That’s what I need now.” The day he said this, he had awakened beneath a Zodiac inflatable boat in a friend’s back yard.
Anyone who spends time in the Navy comes out changed. Habits of mind established during military service tend to become permanent, for the good or ill of the veteran. On the surface, Don Zub is an exception to this rule. “I went from heavy discipline to mild anarchy in my own mind when I got out,” he observes, and his current circumstances corroborate that. But another part of his military experience — the reputation of UDT/SEALS as hellraising partiers — has never left him. In fact, he still identifies with the Navy’s commando units, still knows some of the instructors at the SEAL team (the Underwater Demolition Team designation was dropped in 1983) training compound on the amphib base, and still visits some of the many ex-frogmen who live on Coronado. Ask him how he’s able to open a beer bottle using the end of a rake handle and he’ll chortle, “UDT!” Ask him why he’s so willing to help a friend whose leg is in a cast or rush to the aid of a tree trimmer injured by a falling branch, and again it’s “UDT!” Where did he get the body bag he keeps in the back of his derelict VW van in the alley off D Avenue? “UDT!” Why has he been ’sixed from so many of the island’s best bars? “Frogman!” When he first came to Coronado, all Zub wanted in this world was to be a frogman. Forever. Not for his whole life, because he doesn’t believe in the future, but forever. Which to Zub means now.
Zub’s family lives in a suburb of Detroit, where he was raised with a brother and sister in a household that always seemed to have a swimming pool. He was a letterman in track and cross-country running in high school, got decent grades, joined the Navy after graduation, and was assigned to the USS Tuscaloosa, a transport landing ship (LST), in San Diego. Ever since he could remember, he wanted to be a sailor, and he was thrilled finally to become part of a real ship’s crew — until he reported for duty in November 1975. “It was a shock,” he recalls. “Guys were smoking dope, morale was low, nobody was happy. Here I was, all enthused and gung-ho, aboard an LST full of people who hated the Navy.” It was enough to make him consider joining the Marines, whose esprit he envied.
Then one day in the spring of 1976, he and a buddy went to the beach in Coronado. Before they returned to the ship, they stopped at the enlisted men’s club on the amphib base. There they observed some members of UDT Class 88, the infamous “Crazy 88s,” who were busy incarnating the image of hard-drinkin’, hard-lovin’, hard-fightin’ frogmen. Zub saw the comradeship and the one-for-all, all-for-one ethic that he so needed. It was the same need that would eventually drive him into suicidal election campaigns, and that night he knew that it would drive him into the nearly suicidal training regimen of the Navy’s commando teams.
But most Navy ships are undermanned, and once you’re on one, it’s difficult to get off. His superiors wouldn’t give him the time to go through the UDT screening test, which entails placing an applicant in a hyperbaric chamber to determine whether he can breathe pure oxygen at depth. Many people cannot, since oxygen under pressure is toxic. But Zub outsmarted his bosses by scheduling a dental appointment off the ship. He never showed up at the dentist’s office.
After doing all right in the chamber, the physical-fitness test was no problem for the five-foot-nine, 150-pound Zub. He could easily run a mile in under seven minutes (he says he ran it in just over five), do 30 sit-ups in less than a minute, and perform six pullups. He was mustered into UDT Class 90 in the fall of 1976.
In typical Zub fashion, he nearly Ramboed himself out of the training two weeks after he started. Thinking he was already a frogman, he rented diving equipment and entered La Jolla Cove on one of those days when five-foot waves were breaking over Alligator Head. He was chewed up and spit back out onto the rocks, sustaining cuts, scrapes, and bruises that even impressed his UDT instructors. They set him back to Class 91, a three-month wait, so that his wounds could heal.
Only about half the young men who enter Basic Underwater Demolition/SEALtraining (BUD/S) make it through to graduation. The slogan for the training — “The only easy day was yesterday” — is borne out by the legions of fit young men who wash out. And the percentage of rollbacks, such as Zub, who succeed is even smaller. Why him? “Because that’s all I wanted to be. A frogman.” He had been impressed by the UDT instructors, all of whom were Vietnam veterans who had killed people and lived to tell the trainees about it. “The instructors to me were heroes in a non-heroic war,” he says. “The fact that they didn’t leave a single UDT body over there was enough for me.” The instructors all related war stories of their derring-do, and most of these stories were horrific. Zub believed them all. There was the one about the secret operation to infiltrate North Vietnam in order to rescue captured American pilots, in which a SEAL told the BUD/S trainees that he had to kill 27 North Vietnamese army soldiers, methodically, as they slept in a barracks. Zub explains how each man’s throat had to be carefully cut so that only the artery, not the windpipe, was severed. “If you cut the windpipe, they gurgle and make noise,” he says.
One of Zub’s instructors was a senior chief named Michael Thornton, who was one of three SEALS to win the Congressional Medal of Honor in Vietnam. Thornton’s citation for his actions on October 31, 1972, is signed by President Richard Nixon and hangs on the wall of the main office at the BUD/S training headquarters on the amphib base.
It reads in part:
- Upon learning that the senior advisor [Lt. Thomas R. Norris] had been hit by enemy fire and was believed dead, Petty Officer Thornton returned through a hail of fire to the lieutenant’s last position, quickly disposed of two enemy soldiers about to overrun the position, and succeeded in removing the seriously wounded and unconscious senior naval advisor to the water’s edge.... He then inflated the lieutenant’s life jacket and towed him seaward for approximately two hours, until picked up by support craft.
Zub thrived on such stories, but at the same time, the instructors scared him to the marrow. One day during an advanced phase of training, after countless members of the class had quit due to the constant physical exhaustion, a kid named Herrera from East L.A. drowned in the big surf just south of the Hotel del Coronado. The trainees were performing a 2000-yard ocean compass swim, using rebreathers (scuba equipment that doesn’t emit bubbles) when the big surf snapped the four-foot nylon buddy line connecting Herrera to his partner. The class ended up searching for Herrera along the beach, and he finally washed up, unconscious. CPR didn’t revive him.
“This was the first time I’d ever come face to face with death,” Zub relates. “And the next day, during [calisthenics], the instructors were whispering in our ear, ‘Herrera! Herrera!’ It was just harassment, but it was torture. I’d cried about the guy. We all had. But to the instructors, death was a part of life. I became a killer after that. Their using Herrera really hardened me up.”
The class went on to advanced demolition training at San Clemente Island, where they learned the use of mines, plastic explosives, data sheet (a thin, paper-like explosive used to blow up bridges), MK-8 hose (an explosive resembling a fire hose that’s used for clearing coral heads), and detonating cord. The instructors had interesting war stories about this “det cord.” They told of using it to tie around the neck or feet of captured North Vietnamese troops as a way to compel them to divulge information or to prevent them from escaping. The det cord was hooked up to a small detonator, which could cause the cord to explode if the SEALS wanted it to. “One instructor said they tied it around a captive’s feet one time and told him, ‘Fuck up and you’re history,’ ” says Zub. “He did fuck up — he tried to escape. They set it off, and the guy ended up running away on the stumps above his ankles. He didn’t get very far.” Zub made it through the training and eventually received the coveted Trident, an eagle holding an anchor, a flintlock pistol, and a three-pronged lance, which is only presented to the Navy’s most secretive and dangerous warriors. He was a combat diver, an explosives expert, a parachute jumper, a trained killer. He learned that he could do ten times more than he thought he could. But there was no war. About as close as he got to real action was riding in a mini-sub off South Korea. He says he was shot at — by South Koreans — but uninjured. When his four-year enlistment was up in 1979, Zub got out. Forever ended.
The Coronado that Zub rides his bike through this afternoon is both different and the same as the one he knew in 1979. The aircraft carriers still loom hard and menacing above the silent gardens and jacaranda explosions along the quaint streets. The SEALS have doubled the number of yearly classes to eight, so there are more frogmen around, but they’re less visible nowadays. Zub may be the last of the crazy frogmen, driving a bike around the village that snagged him in perpetuity. But as he rides that bike, the houses that surround him have changed. Hoping to cash in on the lunatic boom in housing prices, people have been buying houses in Coronado and halving the lots to their original size, 25 feet by 140 feet, and ending up with two lots. In the old days, most of the islanders built their homes on two lots since land was cheap enough, and the original lot sizes were so ridiculously narrow. Now Coronado has been overrun by long, skinny houses, derisively called “bowling alleys” or “Billy Boxes,” after builder Bill Lyons, who has constructed many of them. These homes sell for $300,000 to $400,000 and more, fueling the spiraling land values. As a result, the Coronado city manager, who makes about $75,000 a year, is among those unable to afford a house on the island. Through zoning laws, the city council has restricted the construction of these ugly homes, which are often ersatz Spanish Colonial or Eastern Seaboard style.
Riding up D Avenue, Zub sees the Meridian condo tower across the bay in downtown San Diego and comments, “I had a dream last night that I owned the top condo there in the Meridian.” He didn’t pay for it through lottery winnings or from his own hard-earned cash. In the dream, his father had bought the condo for him.
Zub is definitely somebody you want beside you in a fire fight. Unfortunately, he’s also the kind of guy who collects up front your indebtedness to him for saving your life. He still owes Du-Ray about $60 for shorts and T-shirts, he’s over-tabbed at the Roman Room bar, and he’s received and spent $600 of a $1200 brick-laying job. One day in mid-May, he announced that he had quit drinking until he finished that job. A couple of days later, he had resumed drinking and the job was still undone. “I have to be in the right frame of mind to work,” he rationalized. “Like an artist.”
The Coronado Zub rides through now has just begun seeing gang hieroglyphics along the rocks of Ocean Boulevard. This is a new, ominous development here, perhaps the result of the state’s dropping the bridge toll to $1.00 and making the trip free to car-poolers. Coronado has a knack for getting the opposite of what it seems to want: first the bridge, which many islanders fought, then the traffic problems, then the Billy Boxes, and now the graffiti. And, of course, Don Zub.
Stopping in for a hot dog and a beer at the snack bar at the Coronado Municipal Golf Course, Zub remarks on some of the other changes underway. “The Coronado Village is turning into the Coronado carnival,” he declares. “More and more tour buses come to Center Beach on their way to the Del, sometimes ten a day. The tourists look out the windows at me and my friends, the locals, like we’re some kind of animals. I point right back at them. I’m no fucking monkey or polar bear! They try my happiness.” Zub Teamsters who grew up here say the island has become so crowded with tourists and residents that there’s no place to have fun anymore. Empty lots where they used to practice on homemade BMX courses have sprouted condos, and large strips of bay shore where they once frolicked have been fenced off. You can’t drink on the beach anymore, and there’s almost no place left to launch a jet ski. Plus, what girls there are are jailbait. “It’s a high school town, man,” complains one team member. “All the girls are off at college, and when they come back, they’re married.”
Zub believes that he can ride the swell of change crashing over the island, that maybe enough people will wake up and see his apparent anarchy as an option to the deification of the tourist. “People voted for me in the last election for one of five reasons,” he figures. “They were voting against somebody else; they liked my platform; they were my friends; because I said, ‘To hell with it all’; or because I took the best picture, I was the cutest candidate. There’s people in this town that aren’t being represented. Now what I need isn’t name ID, I already have that. What I need is stability.” He pours himself another beer and hails the snack bar manager, a World War II veteran who treats Zub like an old friend.
“If I were king of the island,” Zub announces, “I’d give something to the community that they can really use. The aquarium.” Zub is convinced that the old armory building, which sits empty on city property overlooking Glorietta Bay, should become the site of a major aquarium. “It’s a place I could learn something and where kids could learn something. I can’t enjoy shopping and paying $15 for a T-shirt, which is what this island is devoted to now. But I can enjoy watching fish and seeing children learn. Plus, it would also draw tourists!” This idea is so compelling that Zub has to have another beer to ponder the beauty of it.
It’s been one more good day in the long weekend of Zub’s life. If you were to acknowledge the attraction of having few responsibilities and endless hours in the sun, with entree to nearly everyone’s good graces (at least for a few days), and then ask, “But Don, where will you be in ten years?” — his commando eyes flash for a moment and he snaps, “That’s what my parents ask. I say, ten years from now doesn’t exist. Six o’clock happy hour doesn’t exist. Only now exists. Look, I’m not a thief, a liar, a cheat, or a schmuck. I’m a drinker but not a drunk, I do pushups with people on my back, and I make love to young girls. Isn’t that what America’s about?”