The real estate agent from Sand and Surf Beach Rentals stood up from her desk and said, "That will be $80 for the first months rent and $40 cleanup deposit."
Bob and I both dug deep in our pockets for our share of the rent. We had stopped at the Stag Liquor Store for a Dr. Pepper and a Hostess Lemon Pie just before our appointment with the agent. "Bob, I'm 30 cents short" I said as I fumbled with a wad of bills and change.
"Don't worry" said the agent taking our money and counting it carefully. "You can add that to your next months rent." she said as she handed us the KEY.
It had taken 3 days of painting house numbers to come up with the 60 bucks and I only needed $40 for the next month, it would be a snap. We walked out of the real estate office looking like we had just peeked into the girls gym at shower time. Bob said" lets have a party!"
"Ok, but I have to work tonight and I won't get back until 9 or 10."
"No sweat, it will just be getting started when you get there" Bob said as we headed around the corner to the Stag Liquor Store. A gallon of Red Mountain wine cost $1.25 and that was all Bob had left. But that was enough to get a party started. Now all we had to do was find someone that would buy it for us.
We scored a jug of Red and headed back to our apartment to get moved in. We had all our collective possessions stuffed in the back of my blue and white 58 Ford Fairlane, four door with Aloha surf racks. It took about 10 minutes to unpack. My entire wardrobe consisted of: 1 extra large Goodwill surf trunks, an old gray sweat shirt with a Jeffery Dale team patch on the back, 2 pair of white Levis, a pair of Jack Percel tennis shoes, 1 Hawaiian shirt, about 4 T-shirts and a pair of horachis (Mexican sandals). The rest was fishing and dive gear, not to mention my brand new Jeffery Dale 3 stringer 10' surfboard. I was a team surfer for Jeffery-Dale and the board didn't cost much. I just didn't get a paycheck for a month from Anaheim Surf Center. I worked at the only surf shop in Anaheim, 3 days a week, 4 hours a day, for a buck and a quarter an hour.
Bob had about the same assortment of mostly worn out clothing , he didn't fish or dive, but he had scored a big box of a thousand 12 ounce dixi cups. We were ready.
I left for work, trying to think of someone to ask to the party. I walked into the Anaheim Surf Center, the only surf shop in Anaheim, and my only real employment. Tony was in the back of the shop, pretending to be buffing surfboard rails, but really tugging on a half gallon jug of Red Mountain wine. He stashed the jug next to a can of acetone under some rags.
"Did you get your new apartment?" he asked, as he went up to the counter to count his till.
"Yea, and there is a party tonight. Wana come? Sam is coming with a bunch from Brookhurst St. and half of Huntington Beach will be their too."
"I don't know, maybe. Cathy came by earlier and asked if you got your place. She said she would be by later and for you to not leave until then."
That sounded good. Cathy was a little high strung, but a neat girl. She was smarter than most of us, a little more intellectually developed you might say. I would ask her to the party when she stopped by. She even had her own car.
"Hi Jim, I need a haircut if I am going to your party tonight." It was Cathy strolling through the front door, one hip at a time wearing shorts and a crop top. I almost chipped a tooth on my Dr. Pepper bottle.
"How did you know we were having a party? We just got our place a few hours ago." I pulled The Stool out for her to sit on while I cut her hair.
"Sam told me. He's going and so are a bunch of other people from Brookhurst Street." she said as she got up on the stool. "Just even up the back".
"Ain't it great. My new home is going to be over run before I get there." I snipped about a half inch off the back of her shoulder length brown hair. Occasionally we swapped haircuts at the shop, if it wasn't busy. She slid off The Stool and I got on.
"Just a little off the front and around the ears." She started combing my hair and I went instantly comatose. She could do that all day. I could feel the hair fall on my nose but didn't worry about a butcher job or anything else. Cathy could have made a living cutting hair.
Cathy swept up while I counted the till. Didn't sell much that night. I got us each a Dr. Pepper out of the Coke machine, I had the key to it. One of the unspoken perks for working there. I locked the door and set the alarm. Cathy was in her car waiting to follow me to Newport Beach and the first party in our new place.
"If you loose me, just go to 24th St. on the ocean side and you will probably hear the party. It's 121 24th St. about 3 houses from the corner." I got in my car and pulled out onto Brookhurst St. Brookhurst went all the way to Pacific Coast Highway. A pretty good surf spot where Brookhurst meets the beach. Not many people go there because the gate is always locked.
The party had come out on the street. We had to park on Balboa Blvd. and walk back to the apartment. No biggy. I expected it. It looked like everyone was having a good time and in control. The cops had not even been there yet.
Earlier in the day, Minnie Hale , the lady across the street, had brought Bob and I an apple pie to welcome us to the neighborhood. "Don't worry about the noise. You boys just have a good time." she said. What a sweetheart. I wish she was 60 years younger. The rumor had it that she had been bubble dancer in a speakeasy during prohibition.
We went into the apartment and found Bob in the kitchen pouring Red Mountain Wine into a dixi cups. "You made it . Hi Cathy, welcome to our new apartment." he said handing us each a cup.
"Ah, a fine vintage to toast our new digs" I said raising my dixi cup.
Bob poured himself a drink. "To our new apartment. May we have it for at least a few months before we get kicked out." he said then downed his cup of Red.
The sink was full of ice and bottles. I went take a leak and found the bathroom full of people, and saw that the bath tub was full of ice , two gallons of Red Mountain, a Keg of Bud and what looked like five cases of assorted beer. There was enough beer and wine to float a small boat. I hoped we wouldn't get raided. Alot of the kids there were under 18, making Bob and I liable. There had to be 40 people in the house and at least that many outside and another bunch out on the beach. It was too late to worry about anything now. It was a good party. No one had gotten rowdy and the music was at a reasonable level. I lost track of Cathy. She came to the party, but not with me and that was understood by both of us. I filled a Dr. Pepper bottle with Red Mountain and went out side and sat on the curb. It was about 11pm and people were starting to straggle off. "Can I sit here?" The voice was attached to a cute blond girl. "I'm Jill" she said as she sat down. "Neat party".
"Hi, I'm Jim "I said, a little flustered. "I live here. We just moved in today. You live down here too?" I was afraid I was slurring my words. Good ol Red Mountain.
"No I live with my dad in Costa Mesa. He's out of town most of the time so I am almost living there alone. I wanted to get a place down here but it costs too much and anyway I am going to OCC and Costa Mesa is closer. Are you in school?"
"No. I was but I quit. I'll probably get drafted by next Fall and I can't see any use in it. Besides it takes too much of a bite out of my surf time. Wana get something to drink and go down to the beach? A swell is supposed to start any day now." My tongue felt numb.
"Sure" She said as we got up and went back into the apartment. The lights were turned down and so was the music. About a half dozen couples were paired off in the living room. The bedroom door was closed and the curtain drawn over the bunk bed in the dining area. I filled two Dr. Pepper bottles with premium $1.25 a gallon, Red Mountain wine. I don't think the Dr. Pepper bottle would fool the local police, but it was better than a dixi cup or a paper bag. I gave Jill a bottle and we went out to the beach, stopping at my car to grab a blanket .
I felt tipsy and a little sick. The Red had done what Red does best. The cold sand on bare feet felt good on the walk to the life guard stand on the north side of Newport Pier. It was a neat place to sit, talk and watch the waves, but most of the time it was occupied. We were lucky and walked up the ramp to the empty platform. It was a beautiful night, no moon, but the ocean was lit up from the lights on the pier. I started to say something about the waves but Jill shut me up with her lips.
We sat there on the lifeguard stand on the north side of Newport Pier, making out, talking and just watching the waves. I learned that Jill's parents were separated and were probably going to get a divorce. She was from a little town near San Francisco. She loved the beach and the ocean. She didn't surf but loved to watch surfing. She wanted to stay unattached for as long as she could. She didn't want to end up like her parents. She was new in town and didn't know many people and didn't have any of what she called close friends. I also learned that her hair smelled like soap and she was soft and warm.
We dozed off, waking when the garbage man emptied the can next to the lifeguard stand. "The surf looks pretty good " I said standing up. In the pre dawn light I could see a perfect head high left peel off at Blackies.
We were both quiet as we walked back to the apartment. Only one couple was left in the living room, and they were asleep on the couch. The bedroom door was still closed but the curtain in front of the bunk bed was pulled back revealing two empty bunks. I found a pillow and a blanket.
"Jill, why don't you sack out for a while. I'm going to get some waves." She nodded and flaked out on the bottom bunk. I grabbed my board and walked back out to the beach and the new swell that was beginning to show some promise.
It was overcast and cold as I paddled out in early morning glass. I loved gray windless mornings like this. I caught several small waves in splendid solitude and came in when a group of kids paddled out breaking the spell. I went back to the dark apartment, put up my board and went through the kitchen to the outdoor shower. The hot water felt good and I stood and steamed until I almost fell asleep. The bunk bed started to sound like a good idea. I went back into the apartment. The bedroom door was still closed. I climbed up to the top bunk, of the bunk bed in the dining area. The nicely contoured mound in the bottom bunk didn't stir, and then it was afternoon.
Bob came through the front door with what I guessed was his new girlfriend. "When did the party break up?" He asked, towing his girl into the living room.
"Weren't you here?"
"I left with Sandy about eleven."
"Then who was in the bedroom all night ?" I said as I checked the still closed door. It was locked.
"Whoops. I locked it before I left. I didn't want anyone to mess it up. I thought you could get in if you wanted to."
"I didn't even try it. I didn't want to disturb you." I said looking around for Jill. She had gone and I didn't even get her last name, not to mention her phone number or address. "Shit, sorry. Who's yer friend?"
" Sandy this is my room mate Jim. Jim, my friend Sandy."
"Hi Sandy, nice to meet you"
"I gotta go. I just stopped by to drop Bob. See you later" Bob followed Sandy to her car.
Jill had gotten up and cleaned the place before she left. There were two garbage cans full of beer bottles and dixi cups. She didn't wake me up or even leave a note.
"Brookhurst is pumping " Bob said, as he walked back in the apartment. " You wanna go?"
Sandy had gone. Bob and Sandy had spent the night on the beach at Brookhurst St. She had a car and Bob didn't. Blacky's on the north side of Newport Pier would be crowded and Brookhurst wouldn't. No choice.
"Sure Bob, put your board on the rack. I'll be out in a minute." I wrote Jill a note and pinned it to the door, telling her where we would be for the rest of the day.
Saturday at Brookhurst Street was allot like Tuesday. Nobody there, summer or winter. You could look both ways down the beach and not see anyone for a half a mile. Bob slipped under the chain link fence and I handed him our surfboards and then did the same.
There was a medium tide and and head high glassy waves with only two guys in the water, nobody on the beach. It would be nice if Jill showed up. "Wanna have another party tonight" Bob said as we stroked out through the shore break.
I really didn't want another party. I was tired but the thought of another night like the last night was in some ways tempting, a good nights sleep sounded good too.
"Sure , but lets keep it small. Don't tell anyone about it." People came by anyway. If you told anybody you were having a party, you would have a hundred people there before you knew what was happening and that was not my idea of fun. I like to know a few of the people who are trashing my house.
"Hi guys, how's the waves" Bob said as we paddled up to Don and Dennis.
"Great, and it's been glassy all day and no crowd." Don said.
We surfed and talked about parties, girls and the draft, the rest of the afternoon.
Jill had not showed up. I hoped I didn't do or say anything the night before that pissed her off. I couldn't remember many details.
We got home at about sunset, put up the boards, and ate some peanut butter and bologna sandwiches for dinner.
Bob poured a dixi cup half full of Red. "I'm going out to watch the sunset" he said
I was tired I laid down on the bottom bunk of the bunk bed in the dining area and dropped the curtain. All I wanted to do was take a nap.
I woke up about nine thirty. I didn't know where I was at first. There was music coming from somewhere and most of the lights were off. I got up and went into the living room. Bob , Sandy and four other couples were doing what young couples do in a darkened room.
"Bob, I'll be back in a while, I'm gunna walk down to Arts' Landing and see what they caught today." I said as I weaved through the obstacle course of bodies and bottles. Outside the air was cool and wet. You could almost drink it. It was about a mile and a half to Art's from our place and a lot going on in between.
I walked down the ocean front, past the pier and on down to 15th St.. From their I walked down Balboa Blvd. on the ocean side right into a party going full blast. The kids were a few years younger than me and looked like they came from Riverside or inland some where. I decided to stick to my plan and go to Arts. As I walked past the pink double row beach cabins I saw a skinny little girl about fifteen. She had short blond hair, was wearing a bikini and holding a coke. She looked a little out of place with the rest of the crowd. I didn't know it then, but one day she would be my wife.
Arts was closed, except for the ticket counter. Burger Bits was behind the counter picking his nose as usual. Guess where he got is name. At least he didn't eat them. The all day boat was going to have a light load, only 18 fisherman. The Channel Isle would be a fun trip. " Hey Burger, you need a Second Deck?"
"No, but you can dead head if you want. It's almost an empty boat." he said, flicking something off the end of his finger. "We're leaving at midnight.
I thanked him and hustled out the door and back home. The house was dark and quiet. The bedroom door was closed. I was only gone an hour and a half. I guess a lot can happen in a short time. I wrote Bob a note, grabbed my gear and headed for Arts. I had lived at that place for 2 days and hadn't spent a night in it yet.
I drove past the pink double row beach cabins, and tried to catch a glimpse of the skinny little blond girl but she was gone. I guessed it was past her bedtime.
The Channel Isle was a 65 foot fishing boat. It could hold about 30 people and still have a good time. More bodies than that, it started to get crowded. We had 18 passengers and 4 crew counting me. It would be a fun trip, even if we didn't catch much. The Channel Isle fishes San Clemente Island on the weekends during the spring, and every day in the summer. In the winter, they do rock cod trips. March is kind of in-between so this trip was a tryout. If we didn't bend rods, no big deal.
We did bend rods. We caught limits of bass, 5 big sheep head, a few lingcod and a lot of misc. Misc., is usually tomcod and mackerel or rockfish. A fun trip and some nice slabs of fresh fish for the next week eats. Free food.
The next week went by with a lot of surfing and some diving. Friday we had the mandatory party. Jill didn't come back and I was a little bummed. She had told me out front that she didn't want to get attached. Like a full grown American male, confronted with rejection, I got wasted, crashed and puked all over my bed. I woke up on Saturday morning with the pillow case stuck to the side of my head. What a mess. 'This isn't me " I said to myself in the mirror. I went out to the shower to get cleaned up. My head was splitting and I felt like I was going to puke again. I got under the hot water and did. Good thing it was an outdoor shower. I turned the water to cold and felt a little better.
I went inside, put on my trunks and cleaned up my mess. Bob wasn't home, he seems to flop where ever he ends up and used the apartment for a base. I stripped the sheets off my bed. There was a burgundy red outline of the pillow that was in the garbage can. I was really tired and didn't feel like doing much. I made my bed, grabbed a Dr. Pepper and a towel and walked down to the beach. The surf was flat and a light south wind was blowing, but the sun was hot. I put my towel down and laid in the sand.
"Get off ma range pilgrim. Get off ma range afore I whack you wit ma bullwhip." an angry voice said.
I was instantly awake. In the glare I could see a tall figure standing over me with fists clenched and ready to fight. "This ain't your range Sam, but if you want it you have to fight me for it." I jumped to my feet and caught him with a clean right hand to the ribs. My head now clear, I looked around at the growing crowd. Sam caught me with a hard left hand to the middle and then a right and a left. I countered with my own combination and Sam went down. I gave him a hand up and we both fell back down laughing. The crowd booed and kicked sand on us. Something weird usually happened when Sam and I got together.
"Lets have a nooner " Sam said as we brushed the sand off. "I brought a gallon of Red and a couple of girls"
That was the ticket. "Sounds like a winner. How's your rib. I thought I caught you pretty hard when I first hit you."
"You can't hurt steel pilgrim" he said as he rubbed the growing red mark on his left side.
The thought of Red Mountain made my stomach start to twitch. I had a sixer of Dr. Pepper in the ice box and thought I could do a better job of keeping that down than $1.25 a gallon Red Mountain Wine.
Walking down the sidewalk toward the apartment I could see a little red Austin Healy Sprite parked at the curb . It was in front of our apartment. Jill was sitting in a beach chair taking in the noontime sun drinking out of a dixi cup. Five of my good ol surf buddies were hitting on her and she was enjoying it. I was jealous.
"Damn woman, you should need a license to lay out here like that. You are starting a traffic jam." I said as I elbowed my way next to her. I laid out my towel on the red brick 'front lawn', common in Newport Beach. Jill was wearing what would be a modest white bikini on some girls, but not on her. "Where have you been. I didn't get your phone number or anything and didn't know how to find you." My friends saw that we sorta had a thing and went back to soaking up the Red and rays.
"I had to go up north to see my mom. She is having a tuff time with the divorce. " She said as she dragged a small bar of cocoa butter across the slick brown skin of her upper thigh. "Mom didn't look good and I am worried about her. "
She looked worried. "Want to walk out to the Pier? " she asked as she got up.
"Sounds good. Wana take anything to drink?"
"You got any Coke or a Dr. Pepper?"
"In the ice box, come in for a minute." We went in to the empty house. Most of the nooner had migrated to the beach. I got two bottles of DP and turned around just as Jill put her arms around me and shut me up. I put the Dr. Pepper back in the ice box and responded the only way a healthy young American male could.
Toward evening, Bob came home and found the bedroom door closed and locked.
I wasn't the party animal that a lot of people thought I was. We made it through Easter Week without getting evicted. I had not seen Jill for a few weeks. The surf was great and that was more important than the parties or girls anyway. That was probably the only reason Bob and I still had an apartment.
We had invented a new, but short lived sport during this Easter Week. Stingray flat tracking around the parking lot on the oceanfront next to Newport Pier. It was a short course speedway type race. We stomped on a steel beer can to clamp it to our left shoe or in some cases bare foot. The race would start in front of Blackies Bar and go into the turn at the north end of the parking lot. The steel can would be used as a skid pad and cause a shower of sparks in the turns. The winner was the one that made the most sparks before crashing and grinding all the skin off knees and elbows. The Newport Beach Police soon decided that this type of activity was inappropriate and put an end to it.
Post Easter Week
A few weeks after the Easter invasion, knowing that summer was coming and the rent would go up and way out of reach, we decided to have a big party. Actually Bob decided. He was going to be going down to San Blas in Mexico, 1,100 miles south of the border. He was leaving in a few weeks and I was going to have to find a new roommate or give up the apartment.
"OK Bob, but we can't let the party get out of hand. I want to live here at least until the rent goes up this summer." I said as we sat on the wall of the beach front house. The beach front house at the corner of 24th St. and the beach walk was a great location for watching the sunset or girls, or both. "When shall we have it."
"I 'm leaving for San Blas in a week an a half. We gotta have it next Friday or Saturday. Have you found a roommate yet?"
"No. I was going to ask Jill but that wouldn't go over well. Don works in Anaheim all the time and wouldn't like the drive. Dennis lives with his parents and I don't think they would let him. Kenny is working at the Anchor Inn in San Clemente and won't surf anywhere but Poche. I'll find someone. Shit, I have to work next Friday. I gotta see if I can get it off. Jeff isn't going to like that."
All week we were getting ready for the party. The surf wasn't very good and there wasn't much else to do. I was going to have to work, but if I hustled, I could get home by 9:30. Bob had lined up a stereo and a stack of records. I perfected my Ambrosia mix: a quart of hard cider, a quart of vodka, a quart of seven up and a quart of orange juice. Let it sit for a day in the sun and then chill. Sitting it in the sun for a day was the secret. It was great. We were ready.
I put the jug of Ambrosia on the roof of our porch and strapped my surfboard to my car. "Sure you don't want to go?" I yelled to Bob as I got in.
"Na. I am going to surf Blackies and rest up for the party, Sandy is coming over this afternoon."
"See ya tonight" I put the car in gear and drove toward Pacific Coast Highway. I was going to go south to Doheny or maybe Trestles and surf until I had to go to work. I thought I would stop by Poche and pickup Kenny on the way.
The surf looked pretty good at Laguna Beach and even better at Salt Creek. I checked out Dana Point at the Lookout. It looked good too. Trestles would be great.
I parked my car in front of The Donut Stand at Poche, and walked up to the trailer where Kenny lived. "Is Ken around " I asked his mom, who was watering the small patch of lawn in front of his trailer.
"No Jim, he went down to the beach a few minutes ago."
I thanked her and went back down to the beach.
Ken was waxing up on the wet sand as I walked up. "Hi Ken, wanna go to trestles? It's going to be a lot better than here."
Nah, it's pretty good here and getting better and no crowd or Marines."
It was always getting better, but he was right about the crowd. There was only a couple of guys out. " I'm gunna head on down. I might be back in a while." I told him about the party in Newport and about Bob's planned trip to San Blas. "See ya later". I went back to my car and drove down Coast Highway through San Clemente, past the State Park and pulled up to the guard shack at Cotton's Point. "Hi Sir. I would like to go down and park on the bluff for the day.?" I said as pleasant and grown up as I could.
"No way my friend." The grizzled ol retired Navy Chief said "Mrs. Cotton is really pissed at surfers, and said no more. A week ago some turkey surfer was running from the Marines. He threw his surfboard over the fence and it hit a mare in foal. The mare tried to jump a chain link fence and ripped her belly open. They had to put her down and that was the last straw. Sorry kid."
"So am I Sir. I am sure it was an accident. I don't think anyone would do that on purpose. See ya later." Some guys just don't use their brain. Mrs. Cotton has been really good to surfers about using the bluff to park on. It was bound to happen. There were a few surfers that didn't know how good we had it. They would moon the train on its way to San Diego, run through Mrs. Cotton's yard escaping from the Marines and many were just plane rude to Mrs. Cotton and her staff. A sign of the times.
I turned my car around and drove the hundred yards to the Trestle lookout. The Trestle lookout was at the corner of Mrs. Cotton's block wall, next to a strip of land owned by the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard wasn't as sticky as the Marines and either didn't care or never watched, as surfers stood on their bluff to check out the waves, and then climb down the bluff and sneak through the Trestles Jungle.
The surf looked good. Overhead and glassy with just a couple of guys in the water. Good and uncrowded usually meant that Marines were patrolling. I would have to be extra careful.
I parked the car a few blocks down the street where it wouldn't get towed away. I waxed up and locked the car. I put the key on top of the left front wheel. You couldn't be too careful. I waved at the Cotton's Point gate guard as I walked by and eased down the bluff into Marine Territory and the Trestles Jungle. I walked as quietly as I could and listened for any sign of the Marines. They would often set up an ambush on the trail to catch trespassing surfers. I made it through the jungle and paddled across the muck pond (I swear there were turds in it) and under what the spot was named for, the train Trestles. This was the most dangerous time. Getting out of the muck pond and crossing the beach.
I looked both ways and took off. I jumped down the burm and hit the water paddling.
"Halt". I looked back in time to see a Marine, helmet and all, not 15 yards away, running for all he was worth. "You better stop." he said as he dived to grab the tail of my surfboard.
A few more strokes and I punched through the shore break and out of reach. I looked back to see him coughing and sputtering in the knee deep water, sans helmet. Now I know why they call them Jarheads.
Paddling out to the lineup I could see about 50 Marines lining the beach. They had really come out of the wood work. This would not be a day to loose your board. "How's the surf" I asked the nearest of the two surfers.
"Not bad. You have to be careful in the shore break. A few of the Marines have stripped down to their skivvies and will try to chase you. They haven't figured out the line up yet so it isn't too hard to stay out of reach. Just don't loose your board." He turned around and took off on a clean overhead wave and disappeared. About 150 yards away, I saw him kick out in the shore break and start paddling back out. A Marine had waded out and started swimming after him. What a joke.
We surfed all afternoon, talking nervously between sets. The Marines weren't leaving. They even had 6 guys in a rubber raft try to paddle out through the shore break to catch us. Everyone of them lost their helmet when a set came through and flipped over their raft.
It was getting late and I couldn't get out of the water here. The Marines looked like they were going to camp out. I paddled down the beach to Cottons Point, off Marine turf and safety. I got out of the water hiked up the bluff, across the train tracks and the road leading out through Cottons point. "Marines" I said to the guard as I walked by. He waved back with a smile and a knowing nod.
When I got to my car, I could see something was wrong. "Shit". My surf racks were gone. Some jerk is driving around with my racks on his car. This never used to happen.
I tied my board on my car like I used to do and drove to work. What a day, so far.
I got to work on time. Tony was having trouble balancing his till. Cathy was sitting on The Stool, crop top and shorts, reading the latest Surfer magazine.
"Hi Gang" I said as I carried my surfboard through the door, almost knocking Cathy off The Stool. I wanted to repair the few dings in my board I got that day. "Trestles was pumping and so were the Marines." I told them about the adventure I had and what had happened to Mrs. Cotton's mare.
"The Marines were probably just training. Vietnam is starting to heat up and that's probably where they're going soon. Glad I'm not one of them. "
'Why?' I said, being an ignorant Southern California grommet, who thought current affairs were 'who I was dating at the time.'
"It's going to be a bloody mess. They probably wouldn't take me anyway." Tony said, rubbing the 8 inch scar on the side of his knee..
I had heard of Vietnam, but didn't know much about it. I was more concerned about Mrs. Cotton's new decree keeping surfers from cutting through her land to get to Trestles.
Not much happened at the Anaheim Surf Center that Friday night. Cathy left about 7. "I'll see you later, I have a date." she said kissing my cheek as she walked out the door. She was acting more like a sister lately.
I closed at 9pm, but had trouble setting the alarm. It kept going off just as I was about to drive away. I found a place on the window tape where some squid had scratched through the foil, breaking the contact. It was almost 10 before I started for home and the party. I did get my dings repaired.
The flashing red light in my rear view mirror couldn't be for me. "Shit"
"Do you know why I pulled you over " said the Huntington Beach cop that couldn't have been much older than me.
"You like blue and white 58 four door Fords and you want to know how much I would let mine go for?" I said . This jerk was probably from Whittier and hated surfers.
"You were doing 55 in a 45 zone. Drivers license please." the cop said trying to maintain control.
"No way. I couldn't have been going more than 50. There were cars passing me all the way down Brookhurst."
He walked back to his cruiser to run my plates. As slow as he could. I could see him writing in his ticket book. "Shit"
"This is not an admission of guilt, just a promise to appear. Sign here. You have 2 weeks to change your court date." he said, with a smile.
I scribbled my signature, trying to go through the next twenty carbons in his book. "Thank you officer. We both know I wasn't doing over 50. You might see about getting your eyes checked. " His smile dissapeard. He walked back to his cruiser, tripping on a crack in the pavement.
The night was not going well. When I finally got home there were 50 people in the front yard and in the street, you could hear Bob Dylan from the Pier and some big turkey tried to stop me at my own front door. "Who are the hell are you." He said. I guess he thought he was the bouncer.
"I live here you piece of seagull shit." I shoved him out of the way and went in. I turned around and glared at him from inside my apartment. "You want some" I said, almost hoping he did. He didn't and sat down. The way I was feeling, I would have wiped up all the spilled Red Mountain with his face and he knew it.
There were about 20 people in the darkened living room and I didn't know any of them. I couldn't hear anything but Bob Dylan. Bob was nowhere around. I went back out side to retrieve my Ambrosia, if it was still on the roof. At least one thing went right tonight. As I filled a Dr. Pepper bottle with my Ambrosia mix I heard the music get turned down and Seagull Shit say, "Yes officer, he is in the back." I made a quick exit through the back door for the beach. I found out later, that was the 3rd time that night the cops had been there. They even hauled a few partiers away. Good.
I was pissed and just walked out to the end of the pier to regroup and calm down. It was cold, and all I had on was my surf trunks and a cutoff sweatshirt. "Hi, what's in the bottle?"
I turned around not really knowing what to expect. What I saw was a cute dark haired girl, definitely too young to be out on the pier after 10pm. "Ambrosia" I said, "how old are you?"
"I'm seventeen" she said lying. "Whats Ambrosia."
"Its booze and you don't want any of it." I said throwing it over the rail into the ocean. That is all I would need, get busted with a bottle of booze and a 13 year old kid.
"What are you doing out here, you don't look any 17? "We walked over behind the closed bait shop and sat on the bench out of the wind. The lights from Balboa Pier shown through the light fog . No body could see us unless they were really looking for us and I didn't think that would happen.
"I'm not 17, I'm 13." I could see tears starting to flow."I was raped by my dad when I was 12, and ever since. I am supposed to go to court on Monday and tell about it. I ran away" she said choking a little.
"You were raped by your dad?" I wish I hadn't thrown the bottle of Ambrosia over the rail, we both needed a jolt. "Shit, the cops are going to be looking for you. You better call somebody." This wasn't good and it scared me.
"Don't sweat it. I've run away before and they don't even start looking for at least a day." She said leaning a little closer. It was cool out on the pier and closer was warmer. Beside she was 13 years old and I didn't take advantage. I didn't want to go back to the apartment anyway. She was nice , tough as nails and really a good kid. Talking to her made my problems seem like a weekend at the Fun Zone.
"I have a friend I'm staying with. I should probably get back. Don't worry about me, I'll be ok. All this crap will be over someday" she said getting up.
"Watch out over by the tackle shop. A cop sometimes hangs out in the ally behind it." I said as we walked to the beach walk where we would split company. "You take it easy kid " I had a feeling she would.
"My name is Billie" she said as she walked away.
It was after 5am when I got back to the apartment, or what was left of it. I just wanted to go to bed. My luck was still going strong. The screen door that we had tied open so it wouldn't get broken was torn off it's hinges. I went into the living room. Nobody there but the place was trashed. A jug of Red was tipped over and a big stain had soaked into the tile floor. I turned out the light and went into the bed room. At least the door was open. I turned on the bedroom light and saw what looked like a dead body in my bed. There was a red stain under his head. I shook him. "Hey wake up. You are in my bed." no response. I shook him again. " Hey dummy, you gotta go home." He moaned and puked all over my leg. "Shit" I rolled him out of my bed onto the floor. I felt like kicking the crap out of him but I didn't. He just laid there, a puke soaked lump. I turned out the light and went out to the shower to wash off my leg. I was still wearing my trunks that I surfed Trestles in.
I decided to go down to Arts and get on a boat and go fishing. I went to the little service porch in back of the kitchen, where I kept my dive gear and fishing tackle. My pole was there, but my tackle box was gone, and so was most of my diving gear. "Shit" No biggie, I would go anyway. I went out to my car and found the drivers side back window was smashed. "Shit!!"
I made it to Art's. I don't even remember parking the car. I had a half hour before the Newporter pulled out. I had missed the Fronteer by 15 minutes. "Hey Burger, can I deck the Newporter?"
Burger was examining the end of his finger. "Nah, go ahead and deadhead. Only 20 bodies this morning. You look like shit."
"I've been shitting all night. You wouldn't believe the night I've been having. " I proceeded to bend his ear until the Newporter fired up it's twin diesel engines. I liked that sound.
I undid the stern line from the cleat , coiled it up and put it away. The Newporter eased out of the slip and headed down the channel. I went into the galley, leaned up against a bulkhead and went to sleep.
When I woke up, Rene was sitting next to me playing cards. Mike, the skipper, was metering for fish at the pipe outside the River jetty and we had a few minutes until the anchor went down. I wiped the drool off my cheek and said "deal me in Rene." I won 3 hands in a row.
The boat stopped and we all went out on deck. Calico and Sand Bass were rolling on chum everywhere. It was to be one of those days that come to mind, every time you go fishing. All thoughts of the last night left me. The most important thing in my world was to grab the biggest anchovy in the tank and catch another bass. Someone yelled "yellow tail" and a 12 year old girl from New York hooked up and started to get dragged to the back of the boat. More poles started bending as the big yellows pushed the bass off the chum. What a hoot. These fish were big, 35 - 40 pounds and were breaking off as fast as they could tangle a half a dozen lines. I had Burger Bits dig out one of the tom cod that are always swimming around the bottom of the bait tank. I hooked the 1/2 pound fish on a 4/0 hook and flipped it 5 yards off the stern of the boat. The Tom Cod hit the water and went ballistic toward the bottom. At about 10 feet deep he met his fate as a 40 pound Yellowtail had a snack. I let about 10 yards of line strip off and set the hook. The big fish took off smoking my drag as I tried to follow him around the boat. After about 20 minutes of tangled lines and a burned thumb from the spool stripping out line, I started to gain on him. Burger got the gaff and stood close as we saw color. The fish made one last run and came to the boat and Burger's gaff. After over 30 hookups only 3 Yellows were landed. Mine went 42 pounds and the other two 31 and 37. What a day.
Everyone on the boat who wanted them, had a limit of bass and most had hooked up a big moss back yellow tail and got a lap around the boat. We got into Art's at about noon, I gave Burger about 10 pounds of yellow tail steak and went home by way of Blackies. It looked like a swell was starting. I went home and grabbed my board and headed for Brookhurst St. The gate was locked as usual so I tossed my board over the fence and crawled under the wire. It was about 200 yards across the hot sand to the water. Brookhurst was great in those days. Hardly anyone went there because you had to climb the fence or go under the wire and it was easier to just go to the River Jetty and walk in. The surf was usually better anyway. Usually better but always more crowded. This day was unreal. . Molten glass and 5 to 6 foot barrels. There were 4 guys in the water and about 6 or 8 more on the beach. No one else on the beach for a half mile in either direction. We surfed until dark, just the five of us. Days like this don't come around many times in one life time.
The eviction notice we got the next day didn't even phase me. I was going to spend the rest of the summer in Mexico, surfing and diving and being a bum anyway.
About the time we got evicted, Spring was shifting gears into Summer. Bob left for San Blas, and I found a place to flop for a few weeks. It was just a few houses down from our old place. It was a couch and an outside shower. All the comforts and all I had to do was provide a few fish and a lobster once in a while. I didn't even have to cook, or pay rent. Life was good again.
I was still looking for the turkey that busted my car window but I found a $20 bill on the beach. That was enough to fix the window and go to Mexico for 2 weeks. In those days Mexico was as close to paradise as a 19 year old surfer could get, this side of Hawaii. Mexico had K-39, San Miguel, K-42, and several dozen spots down Highway 1, most of them had never been surfed before.
I heard the light blue Ford Falcon with the dark blue racing stripe, chrome reverse rims, six cylinder automatic four door, with two surfboards strapped to brand new Aloha Surfrack, come around the corner before I saw it. It sounded like a piece of six-banger glass pack shit, but it looked mean, parked by the curb.
"Hey Jim, lets get some waves, there's is a swell starting." Don said as I finished tying my board to the top of my car.
"That's the plan, I'm going to Mexico. Wanna go?
"I've got the next 3 weeks off. Let's do it but I gotta stop by my house first.
"I have to drop my car at my house and get some stuff too." said Dennis.
"Great, can we use your racks Dennis All I have is rope. I don't know how well 3 boards will travel just tied down" I said shaking my board.
"Sure, we can swap it off at my house" Dennis said as he started his car. He had recently put a jack up kit in it. What a piece of shit.
I followed them up Brookhurst St. to Katella Ave. and turned left into Denny's neighborhood. Dennis parked his car in their driveway and ran into the house. I could hear an argument going on about how dangerous Mexico was. Dennis came out of the house with a big smile on his face. He apparently won the argument. We took his racks off his car and put them on mine and strapped the boards on. "Let's get going before we get old" I said and started the car.
"Wait a minute boys" Dennis's mom said as she ran across the front lawn with a big sack that had to be full of food. "You boys take this and be good, and be careful. There are a lot of bad girls down there."
"We know mom. Bye" we all said at the same time. Dennis's mom was everybody's mom and we all liked her.
We stopped at Don's and picked up some extra cloths and again around the corner at the Stater Bros grocery store for a sack of potatoes and other essential food that was hard to find in Mexico and we were on our way.
We never take the freeway all the way down, so we pass several good surf spots on the way. Trestles and Church were the first. No red blooded surfer worth his salt could pass Trestles without at least checking it out. We pulled off the road near Cottons Point and walked out on the Coast Guards bluff to check the waves.
"Damn it looks good" Don said as we all instantly forgot about Mexico. We unloaded the boards and I headed back to Cottons to park. Remembering my last experience here, I took the racks off and put them in the trunk. We walked the 1/2 mile through the Trestle Jungle and paddled across the muck pond to the surf. Five foot waves and afternoon glass and no Marines. Nothing on earth is as beautiful as afternoon glass at Trestles. We could surf for 3 hours and still be at K-39 by 10pm.
There were a half a dozen guys at Uppers and a few more than that at Lowers. We went to lowers. The water felt cold in the 80 degree air, but the first set to come through as we paddled out warmed it up. It was bigger than it looked from the cliff at Cottons.
The mirror surface rippled off the nose of my board as I paddled into my first wave. The tide was low and the waves were hollow. The only sound as I dropped in was a gull down the beach complaining about our intrusion. I bottom turned and eased into the pocket. Two steps toward the nose and a little pressure on the inside rail brought me in full trim and flying across the face of a 6 foot wall. The lip curled over my head and and the wave broke with a gurgling roar. I was in the green room. Time stopped and sensation took over. I examined the wall of water six inches from my face as it flew past. A fish and a streamer of kelp was silhouetted by the afternoon sun. The feeling of being weightless, speed, the smell of the ocean and the sights and sounds, must be experienced to understand. The wave started to section and I put a little pressure on the outside rail and scooched a little more toward the nose. My speed increased as the lip of the wave smacked the back of my head. I came out of the tube onto the shoulder and felt like if I died at that moment, it would be ok. The shoulder was workable and I climbed and dropped and let the adrenaline rush back off a little. I kicked out in the shore break and pointed my board for the lineup and paddled back out. The rest of the afternoon was dream like. Uncrowded waves, good friends, perfect conditions, a great start for our trip to Mexico.
It was about 11pm before we got to the border. We had stopped at every surf spot on the way and checked out the moonlit waves. The line was short and we breezed through the check point. We were all hungry and Dennis suggested the Torta stand next ot the Long Bar.We chowed on .25 cent tortas and went in. I have never been to the Long bar without meeting someone I have not seen in a while. The first person I saw was Sam. There are a few people in this world that should not be allowed together in the same room, in the presents of civilized folk. Sam and I fall in this category. Two or fifteen pitchers of Mexico's finest and a couple of shooters of cactus juice ............on the road outside Rosarita, the fog began to lift, sorta. We must have had a good time, if for no other reason we were not in the Tia Juna Jail.
The full moon filled the western sky and in the east, the first signs to morning began to show. Dennis had to puke about 2 miles from K-39, and we all needed a little relief. We stopped and went about our assorted business. Dennis's was noisy, but a set breaking on the rocks below the cliff was louder. The surf was bigger. In the moonlight we could see the lines rolling toward the outside reefs at K-39.
Sam and his crew were already standing on the cliff at K-39, as we drove up . It was big. There had to be 10 to 12 foot sets. The wind was light off shore, and only one or two other cars on the cliff. In two hours the sun would be up and we would be in the water, big head and all. I pulled my blanket around me and don't even remember closing my eyes.
I could feel the wave breaking on my head, the water going up my nose and down my neck. The laughing, where was the laughing coming from. I opened my eyes just in time to see Sam empty the last of a bucket of water in my face. I tried to jump out of my blanket but my head felt like it was on a spring and would not come with me. From where I was laying, in the puddle of mud, I could see the outside reef breaking. It was giant and a 400 yard paddle out. The best local cure for a muddy face and a hangover is the 59 degree water at K-39. I grabbed my board and headed for the cure. Paddling through the shore break the icy water started to do its magic. My arms started to feel stronger and my head became a little more firmly attached to the rest of my body. I paddled into the line up. Sam, Danny V, Don and Dennis sitting there looking like what Dennis did the night before on the side of the road. We tried to remember who was driving last night and couldn't.
The break at K-39 is created by a series of interconnecting reefs. The waves hit the reefs and jack up and then back off a little. On big days the drop can leave you weightless and out of control followed by a long swim. This day was big. We sat outside and waited to see who would take off first. One of the indicator reefs way outside started to show, feathering as the swell passed over, and backing off as it went into deeper water. Heart rates increase as we could see that the wave might catch us inside. As if on command we all began paddling for the horizon. The swell started to build as it felt the bottom. I paddled for all I was worth, knowing that I was too far inside . I tried to angle for the shoulder and punch through. Over the falls. That sick weightless feeling, feet and arms hanging out of the wave , falling. Hang on to your board, tight, wammph, board gone, breath gone, I could die. Where is the bottom, ahhh, there it is, where is the top, open eyes, see light, swim fool. I broke the surface just as the lip of another giant wave slammed into my face. I had gotten a little breath, but that was knocked out of me. Swim for the surface. My board was about 100 yards away and appeared to be off to the side and out of the break. I turned around just in time to see Danny V bottom turn off a perfect 10 foot K39 wave. He climbed to the top of the wave and dropped back to the bottom and set up for a section building ahead of him. I dived under the soup and continued to swim for my board. Dennis went over the falls with me and and was about 15 yards away looking for his board. Sam some how got the second wave of the set and caught Dennis's board before it went all the way in and Danny kicked out next to my mine and was saving me a swim. We caught a few more waves that morning, but the night before had taken the fizz out of our soda. At the first sign of wind we paddled in to wait for the evening glass off. The waves and diving were always good here. No need to be greedy. The warm strip of sand at the base of the cliff was looking really good.
I could see a few more cars parked on the cliff as I caught a fast little wave in the shore break on my way in. I did the rock dance up to the sandy strip and my towel. I watched Don get buried in a shore break barrel as I dried off. Was that a white Valiant I saw on the cliff as I came in? Jill? Na. I put my towel down on the hot sand and went instantly to sleep. I don't know how long I had been sleeping when the smell of cocoa butter cooking off in the hot noontime sun, tiptoed across my olfactory nerve. I sat up and had to squint against the glare of the afternoon sun to see the water. The wind had stopped and the tide was dropping. The smell of cocobutter hit my nose again as I reached for my board. Jill was laying on a big white towel in a very well filled white bikini not five feet away. Her tan skin looked darker against the white cloth. She was wearing sunglasses and I couldn't tell if she was awake or not. I liked Jill a lot. She was a beautiful girl and was happy to sit on the beach and watch us surf. She had never come down to Mexico before. Jill grew up around the Bay area, not San Francisco, but one of the cities on the bay. I met her one night in front of our apartment in Newport. She drove her dads Valiant once in a while and a little red Sprite that fit her personality right down to the knock off hubs. Small, well built, not over powered, handled great and easy to park. She was the perfect girl friend.......but the tide was dropping and the wind had stopped. I surfed the rest of the afternoon, now and then catching a glimpse of Jill's white bikini. The waves were good and the shore break was lining up. I cruised on a few more waves outside and came in for some nose rides and tubes in the shore break.
The sun was starting to dip into the horizon. K-39 is known to have a few resident sharks that come in to dine after dark. I was starting to think about food too and took a wave in. Jill had packed it in and was on the edge of the cliff watching the sunset and talking to the crew. Having a single girl along with us was not unique. Sandy would come down to Brookhurst St. or go on trips to Rincon, Jonelle would hang out with the JD Team. There was always a few girls around. You have to remember, we were surfers, total purists in the sport. Surfing was our life force. Girls were nice to have around but not necessary. Sam had the Chuck Wagon (a 58 Ford station wagon painted bright chuck wagon yellow) backed up to the cliff with his reverbed radio cranked up on XERB and the Wolfman. I said hi to Jill and joined in the conversation. We talked about waves and the good surf. Jill mentioned that her marine biology class was coming down to Mexico on a tide pool field trip and decided to come down a few days early. Someone said something about lobster tacos at Raul's and two minutes later all seven of us were crammed into the Chuck Wagon , cruising down Mexico 1 toward K42, Raul's. Raul's Cantina was a little round building that was just off the highway. They had a little trailer park and a pretty good small to medium surf spot . They also had the best food for miles in any direction. Cruising the short drive to Raul's, crammed in the back of the Chuck Wagon with Jill on my lap, I started to re-evaluate the importance of surf over girls.
They say that Raul's only got crowded on New Years Eve. I guess the exception was wedding parties. A young upper crust Mexican couple had tied the knot earlier that afternoon and the party was at Raul's. It looked to be winding down but the place was still crowded. Raul was a neat little guy. He had a very devoted and beautiful wife who seemed to do most of the work. I think Raul cooked on occasion, but usually greeted people and seated them. He always remembered us and gave us a little extra service. This night, drinks were on the wedding party. We ordered our meal and toasted the bride and groom, Raul, K-39, the Southern California Edison Comany, the U.S. Marine's and then things started to get foggy. I remember Jill and I sitting together at the bar, and Raul making us something "very special". He called it a Tequila Sunrise. (I seem to remember having one of those that very morning. I don't remember drinking it.) My last recollection of Raul's was red and gold liquids being carefully poured into an icy glass. The sun comes up early on the sandy strip at the base of the cliff at K-39. Jill and I some how had made it back to K-39, and down the cliff to the sandy strip without breaking our necks. I think this was the first time I ever woke up next to a girl. We sat there up against the cliff watching the surf and the sunrise. I felt pretty good considering the night before. The inside of my mouth felt like the inside of an old tennis shoe, but other than that not bad. We walked back up the trail to the top of the cliff to find Sam heating up tortillas and the most of the crew watching the waves. There were a few undeserved snickers as we joined the group. We had scored a kilo of tortillas and what appeared to be about two pounds of butter the day before. The surf had gone down a bit and the tide was high. Nobody was in a hurry to paddle out. The tortillas were great. I found out that Sam came back to see if the party was still going and found Jill and I walking back to K-39. It was only about 9:30pm when we got back. It is amazing how almost nothing can happen in 3 hours, and be almost totally forgotten by morning. It took all night to do that.
We polished about half a kilo of tortillas and surfed the rest of the morning. I still had to go diving and get a couple of abalone for Sr. Santini. He owned K-39 and rented camp sites for $1 a day. Two or three abalone or a lobster was good for a week. We always left, paid in full, and he enjoyed seeing us come back.
I got my dive gear on and swam out to a rock that sits off shore about 50 yards. It is down the beach a bit but worth the walk. The water was murky due to the large surf. I could only see about 8 to 10 feet. No biggy. This rock was like a seafood super market. The surge was pretty bad and diving conditions could have been better, but in about 45 minutes I had 4 large butter mouth perch and a dozen pink and red abalone. I didn't know what we were going to do for the rest of the day. San Miguel and 3M's was calling, and the surf was still good. It cost hard dollars to camp at San Miguel, they had a dory fleet that got them all the seafood they wanted.
Sam, Danny V, and Dave wanted to stay at K39 for another day but said they would meet us at San Miguel the next evening. Dennis, Don, Jill and I loaded up , and secured our boards to the top of my car. I asked Sr. Santini if it was ok to leave Jills car for a few days and he said it was.
The old Mexico 1 highway followed the coast to a place called Playa del Mar or something like that and turned inland. Playa del Mar was a two mile long beautiful sand beach. There were always waves there, but for some reason it was never surfed. I think it was something to do with the shark population or something. We were usually on our way to spots south and never bothered to find a way down to the beach. One day we will.
The road turns inland at a river mouth at Playa del Mar and passes through farm land and mountains. The road twists through the mountains and has the tendency to make people car sick. Dennis had to make a puke stop about 5 miles into the mountains. After a short very noisy break we continued on our way, coming out of the mountains at San Miguel. What a sight. Good waves wrapping around the little point, glassy conditions and only 4 guys in the water. We found out that the wind was blowing all morning and everybody went into Ensenada to Husong's. Husong's Cantina and the Burrito bar next door was a great after surf, get falling down drunk and try to stay out of jail spot. We had the surf to ourselves. We surfed all afternoon, riding the long flawless barrels into the jetty. The trick at San Miguel was to pull out before the section next to the jetty got you. It could get messy. Sea urchins and the jetty are the hazard if you don't count the shallow, rocky, low tide bottom. I guess the kelp bed at low tide is a hazard also. Pretty hazardous surf spot. The tide was getting really low and the kelp would hang you up and toss you off the nose of your board on all but the larger waves. I called it a day and paddled around the south of the jetty to the boat ramp. It was the easy in and out. As I topped the boat ramp I looked back toward the point just in time to see Don flying down the face of the wave of the day. Up on the nose, trimmed and a moment later literally flying. His skeg had snagged a bunch of free floating kelp and stopped his board cold, but he kept going. He flew through the air about 20 feet, hit the water, still in the wave, and body surfed almost to the jetty. Great wave. I wish I had it on film.
I was starting to get hungry, as was everyone else. I didn't feel like Husong's and didn't want to spend any money. We had 3 abalone, 2 butter mouth perch, a pound of butter and about half a key of tortillas in the ice chest and 20 pounds of potatoes in the trunk. We got a fire going and sliced up about ten potatoes and put half of them in the pot. Next came the perch and another layer of potatoes. I topped it off with the abalone and the pound of butter, pepper and a little seawater mixed with fresh. I put the lid on and put it on the fire. We sat around the fire trying to decide what to do next, and just talking. Jill was a little quiet, she had to find her field trip the next day and we were all having fun. I told her I knew more about what was in the tide pools than her professor and if she stayed, I would show her. She would sleep on it. The conversation waned and I took Jill's hand. We walked out to the end of the jetty and watched the waves. The moon was still almost full and the lines of surf wrapping the point. I don't think a more romantic night could be set up by a Hollywood studio. We went back to the fire and our cook pot. I think Jill was starting to get to me and that scared me. The smell of the cook pot was overwhelming. I must say I know how to cook. People would walk by our fire just to see where the aroma was coming from. I cracked the lid and laid a couple of dozen tortillas on the top of the steaming abalone. This was to be a meal fit for royalty. I won't bore you with the sounds of mastication and moans of ecstasy as the tender morsels of butter mouth perch and abalone fired up our taste buds. The potato had taken on a flavor all its own. The ones at the bottom of the pot were a golden brown, cooked in butter as the water had evaporated toward the end of the cook cycle. A few bottles of Mexico's finest and sleep came easy.
We woke up early to the sound of silence. The surf had gone flat over night. We slept in. The last two days had taken their toll and we needed the extra sleep. About 9am the San Miguel flies became lethal. If we didn't start moving around soon, we would be eaten alive. No surf. We went up the road to the restrant and paid hard cash for breakfast. Time for a head session anyway. We decided the surf went down so fast that it might be a case of swell direction. We could be in the shadow of Todos Santos Island and 3M's or K-39 could still have surf. We could wait here at San Miguel, maybe ride some horses, or what ever and see if the surf would come back up. Sam and the Chuck Wagon crew had to show up before we went anywhere anyway.We decided on the horses.
The stable was about 200 yards up the river mouth. The Vaquaro had his Cabillios tied in a circle. It cost $4 a day to rent a horse, a good chunk of change in 1966. You only live once. We got our horses. Mine was a big quarter horse gelding named Lemon. It means lemon and I hoped it refered to his color. Dennis and Don had never been on a horse in their lives. I rode alot in the summers in Arizona when I was 12. Jill was the only one that had ridden in the last several months. I think the horses knew the drill and wanted to get on the trail anyway. A light tap in the ribs and we were off at a brisk canter. I thought we were going to loose Don and Dennis. Both had a death grip on the saddle horn. We slowed to a walk and let them relax a little. The trail wound up the side of a hill and on to a little flat. The view of San Miguel was fantistic. I wish I had a camera. We hung out there for a while before heading em up and moving out. The trail continued up the side of the mountain and into a little valley and an olive orchard. I didn't know they raised olives in Mexico. Not one of there bigger cash crops I guess. I couldn't guess how far we were from San Miguel and didn't care much. This was a hoot and I wasn't watching the time. We were suposed to be back at the stable at 4pm. I didn't know what time it was. We had races around the olive orchard. In a drag race, Lemon blew the doors off the other nags. He was quick. Don and Dennis were getting better, using the stirups and loosening up on the reins. These horses knew what to do. I think Lemon was having as much fun as I was. All of a sudden it started to get dark. We were in a valley and the sun had gone behind the mountain. Wups. It was well after 4pm and we were over an hour from the stable. It was over an hour if we knew where we were going. We were lost. Lemon stopped behaving himself and balked every time I tried to point him down a trail. He went where he wanted to go. It took a minute, but I got the message. It was feeding time and he had enough fun for one day and wanted to go home. I gave him his head and the others followed. In 45 minutes we were back at the river bed and an angry vaquaro. He spoke very little english. We gave him the horses and tried to walk back to the beach. My legs didn't work anymore. I could hardly stand for the pain. I caught a glimps of the vaquaro leading Lemon back to the stable. They were both laughing at us. Jill was the only one that could walk. It took us an hour to get back to the beach. We were in pain. I couldn't have surfed if there were waves. I was glad the surf hadn't come back up. I would have really been bummed.
I added enough water to the cook pot to make a left over chowder and put it on the fire. My legs were killing me and I wanted to go and soak in the blood of Mother Earth for a while and try to stop the pain. Dennis and Don were in there sleeping bags and mostly out of it.. Jill walked and I hobbled down to the boat ramp where I almost fell into the water. The slight surge and the cool water felt as good as a hydro massage. We sat and talked and enjoyed each others company while the therapy took effect. Jill had to leave the next morning. She had missed one day of the field trip and needed to meet up with her class at a place called Punta Roca, just south of Rosarita Beach. We heard the radio before the headlights lit us up. Sam always liked to make an entrance. My legs were feeling better and it was time to stir the chowder anyway. We rode in the Chuck Wagon the 100 yards back to our camp and the steaming pot of chowder. Every dog at San Miguel was circling our camp like a pack of hungry wolves. We ate in relative silence. I think everyone was tired
I dreamed of large waves and Jill. I didn't know what to do about her. She was really complicating my life. I had come down to Mexico to surf and dive , not to romance this sweet young thing. But then, there were no waves to speak of. I knew what would happen if the surf came up. I hoped she wouldn't get mad.
From the tip of Baja south to about Costa Rica is the offshore spawning ground for the storms that usually turn into a hurricanes as they travels toward Hawaii and the central Pacific. As the storm moves out away from the mainland, more of the coast is exposed to the wind generated waves. The storm was about 850 miles south south west of La Paz. The first wave of the set, moving in a north easterly direction passed through the reefs of Todos Santos Island, and headed for the mainland near Ensanada. Feeling the bottom on the point at San Miguel, the wave jacked up and released it's energy in a perfect reeling, double overhead barrel.
The sound of a large wave wrapping around the point woke us all up.
Light off shore wind. It would be light enough to surf in a half an
The waves looked perfect in the predawn light. I had to take Jill to
Roca and her field trip. "Shit"! As I put the final touches of wax on
board she walked up. "Jill, would you mind driving my car to
I smiled at her, but didn't wait for an answer. I paddled out and
turned around just in time to see my car, Jill and my surfracks, going
up the hill out of San Miguel. A moment later I paddled into one of the
best waves of my life and forgot about everything.
Early Summer 1966
The summer had gotten of to a great start. The surf was good. My my brother got me a job at an aerospace firm 20 miles inland. I was making $5 an hour sweeping floors. That was great money, but it was all day long and 5 days a week. I had to move back home with my parents, and get up at 5:30 in the morning to go to work. I wouldnt think twice about getting up that early to go surfing, but work? I didn't last much over a month.
I saved enough money to last the rest of the summer and I could always paint house numbers on curbs for a few extra bucks. I had girls on my mind. Jonell, the untouchable, was in the forfront. She was the Jeffery Dale Competition Team beach girl. It drove me nuts that she was so young. 15 was robbing the cradle. Still I was thinking future. Aparently not far enough in the future.
The Vietnam War was heating up. So was the draft. I had registered the year before, but didn't think I would get drafted. I had friends that had already inlisted, some on the buddy system so they would be in the same unit. Some had decided to wait out the draft and see what would happen. That was my choice.
"Hi Mom, whats for dinner?" . My mom was a great cook.
son, oh and you have some mail. I think it has something to do
the draft board." Frigadiller was one of my favorites, but the
of getting drafted put everything out of my mind. She handed me
envelope. I quickly read it and was relieved to find it was only
the physical notice. I called Don at once. "Don, did you
your notice too? I am suposed to go get my draft physical next
"Yea, Sam and Dennis got their's too."
"Maybe we can surf Southbay after the physical." I said hoping to make something out of a shot day.
"I don't think so. It lasts most of the day." He said sounding a little upset. He worked at Gemco, and hated missing the day of work. Not so much the work, but the dollars that weren't going to be in the bank because he was going to be getting his butt checked for hemorrhoids by some Army doctor in LA.
"Well, lets take our boards just in case. We might be able to make the late evening glass off . Can we all go in your van?"
"Sure I will see what Sam and Dennis want to do."
I was hoping the physical was just going to delay a surf trip to South Bay and late evening session at some spot that we don't get to surf very much. After all, the physical started at 9am. It had to be done by noon. Was I in for a shock.
We loaded up the boards and piled into Dons almost new looking, Red, 1962 VW van. No windows in the back so shotgun was a prime seat. I was late getting to Don's. Don and Dennis and a few other guys had gotten an apartment in Costa Mesa and I was still living with my folks off and on in Anaheim. I got to sit in back with the surfboards. No big deal. I could sleep if I wanted to.
The trip to LA was rather quiet by normal standards. We had all heard horror stories about the Physical. "Spread your cheese" was a term we had heard about but didn't believe. We heard some guys tried to get 4F by dressing as a fag or trying to get a doctors note. It hadn't occured to us that there could be a life threatening result to this trip. We hadn't really given it much thought.
"You guys get out here and I'll look for a place to park" Don said
he pulled over to the curb in front of the brown multi story building,
with the line of worried looking young men in front.
"Great, we'll save your place". The line wasn't too long, but didn't seem to be moving much. An angry looking sargent was making a head count. "Excuse me sir, is this the draft physical place" I said as politly as I could. "It ain't Disneyland son" he said as he walked by clicking his hand held counter. What a circus. There really were guys dressed up like fags and several with canes and some on crutches holding folders filled with papers.
"Fortynine fifty. You fifty men follow the green line. There will be a Corpral in there that will give you futher instructions." Don and Dennis were 51 and 52. Sam and I didn't see them for the rest of the day.
The green line lead us to a room where the Corpral was waiting with bags and tags. "You will fill out the tags with your last name first, first name, and middle name last. Your date of birth, address, and telephone number. Attach the tag to the bag. Strip down to your skivies and put your cloths in the bag. Then line up at the door on the red line." It started to sink in that this was no joke. We were getting ready to be inducted into the Army.
"I think I would rather join up" said Sam as he stuffed his pants in
"I would rather go surfing." But then I would always rather go surfing.
The line was forming up by the door on the red line that was painted
on the floor. Down the hall we were handed little glass jars to
in and the whole line of us were told to "drop your skivvies and spread
your cheese." I couldn't be paid enough to spend my days looking
up......you get the the picture. We got a psychological
vision, blood, you name it and if it could be poked or prodded it
was done. We went into another room where a doctor wanted to look
at the bumps on Sam and my knees and toes. We had written down
they were there, more out of pride than anything. Would you
believe we got a 3 month 1-Y deferment because of our surf knots.
There were guys that had planned for months on ways to beat the
and we did it by just taking the physical.
It was about 4pm when we finely got outside. Don and Dennis were nowhere in sight so we did what good surfers would do after taking an induction physical. We went into a bar. Under age no less. "Draw one" Sam seemed to know what to say. The bartender started to fill a glass from the tap." What will you have" he said looking at me."
"The same" I said a little too quiet to be convincing.
"You guys going in the army ?"
"Naw we are going to be Marines" Sam said and took a big hit on his beer.
"No charge. Semper Fi"
Wow that was kinda neat. Marines get free beer. I didn't like beer much, but I didn't think he had any Red. We finished our drinks and went outside to see if Don and Dennis were done yet. No sign of them, but we were standing in front of the window of the Marine recruiter. Inside, was danger. I could sense it. "Lets go talk to him" said Sam.
"You don't really want to join the Marines Sam. They get killed and boot camp is the hardest of all the armed forces. I don't think it's a good idea."
"Yea, but you can surf Trestles any time you want and not get hassled." He had a point.
"OK, but we will just check it out right?. I'm not signing anything." I said as we walked in. The recruiter stood up as we walked through the door of his office. He stood about 6 foot 4 inches and weighed about 200 pounds. He really looked sharp in his dress blues with a whole bunch of ribbons on his left chest. I have never heard a pitch like that in my life. That recruiter promised us anything we wanted. He told me I could be a fighter pilot if I wanted to, all I had to do was sign on the line. Sam was starting to scare me a bit, because it looked like he was biting. "Come on Sam I think Don is outside." I almost had to drag him out of the office, and Don and Dennis were outside. They didn't look so good, but the doctors said they were 1A. The draft was looming. Life was changing and it was too late to catch the late evening glass at 22nd St. in Hermosa.
I paddled through a nice little set wave and could see Don, Dennis,
and Sam sitting outside at Brookhurst, middle of August, hot glassy
A four foot south swell and 5 guys in the water. I felt pretty
considering I had just signed my life away. "Hi guys. I
enlisted in the Army. I go in on September 3rd."
"You dummy, why didn't you join the Marines with me?"
"Because he isn't quite as stupid as you Sam." said Don. "We are all going in the same time. This place is sure going to be quiet this winter."
"We gotta have a party"
It had lasted all of twenty minutes. Don had climbed the eight
foot fence that separated The River Jetty from Pacific Coast Highway,
tried to walk on the one and a half inch pipe that supports the top of
the fence. He landed flat on his back and didn't move. The
last I remember is thinking 'I hope he isn't dead', and then my lights
went out. Dennis, Sam, Carl, and the rest of the partiers were
out on the beach.
It was a beautiful morning. There were a few people out surfing and some on the beach setting up for a day of soaking up the California sun. The carnage of the night before had taken it's toll. Ten bodies, most just laying on the sand started, to stir. Ahhhhhgggggggblaaaa. Bluuuuurrrrrigoooblapappp. The sound of an occasional dry heave made most of the mid morning crowd stay clear. I tried to get up, but slammed back down on the sand and heaved my guts out for umpteenth time that morning. I had to sober up. I had a traffic school to go to at 10am at Orange Coast College. If I didn't go, I would have to pay a fine. I had no money. I was going into the Army. I was in Hell. I didn't think you could be this sick and not die. I half crawled to my car. It was almost 10am and I had a 15 minute drive to get to OCC. I wasn't going to make it. Raaahhaaablat.
My head exploded. I got behind the wheel and headed down PCH to Newport Blvd. Up Newport Blvd. to Fairview. Only a quarter of a mile to go. I was feeling like I was going to barf. The parking lot was almost empty. Lucky it was a Saturday morning. I climbed up the ramp to the 200 seat Forum and puked up the Dr Pepper I just drank, into the bushes, just as the instructor came out to close the door prior to the start of the Driver Education Class. "I am sick" I slurred. "I don't think I will be able to make it for class".
"I would hope not." said the instructor as he closed the door to the Forum.
I went into the rest room next to the closed door of the 200 plus seat Forum. There weren't any urinals in it. I looked in the mirror and saw a creature wearing a gray Jeffrey Dale Competition Team sweat shirt with vomit stain all down the front. The creatures eyes were almost bleeding and it's hair was matted with sand and puke. It looked like a drunken pile of fish pucky. Flies were even leaving it alone. The cute girl that was in the mirror gave a little scream and ran out. I splashed some water on my face and tried to get as much of the grunge off as I could before I got arrested. I walked out of the girls rest room that was next to the door of the 200 plus seat Forum, staggered to my car and drove back to Brookhurst St. and the warm sand in front of the Closed Snack Bar.
The ride to LA was filled with advice from dad a few tears from my mom and long periods of silence. Going into the Army in September of 1966 wasn't trivial. There was a full blown war going on and friends were getting killed and maimed. I wasn't worried, but my mom and dad were. Dad had been through W.W.II in the Pacific. He had seen his share of what war had to offer. I don't think he liked it much. I wasn't worried at all. Ten feet tall, good looking and for sure bullet proof. Heck, I was 19.
"And to support and defend the Constitution of the United States." The U.S. Army Captain saluted the shinny new recruits. "Congratulations gentlemen, you are now privates in the United States Army. You have 15 minutes to say good by to your families and friends. You will then assemble on the curb at the front of this building and board the bus. Your basic training will take place at Fort Ord, just south of San Francisco and will last for 8 weeks. You only need one change of cloths and your shaving kit."
I said good by to my mom and dad, and felt a little choked up as I boarded the bus. Sam, Don, and Dennis had gone in a few days earlier and we had said our good bys and good lucks at our last surf session at Brookhurst St. Life was really changing fast. I was growing up weather I wanted to or not. I looked out the window and waved to my folks. My dad snapped a salute. He had spent over 20 years in the service if you combine his National Guard with his active duty during the war. He was proud to see his son answer his countrys call. I don't know what call I was answering. I was patriotic, but not fanatical. I didn't know what Vietnam was all about. The Gulf of Tonkin was suposed to have pushed us over the edge and was our Pearl Harbor, kinda sorta. I didn't think much of it. I think I was going because everyone else was. I was glad my dad was proud.
"You have 30 seconds to unass this bus." yelled a corpral with a clipboard.
Most of us were asleep. It was only 330am. The bus had stopped at a small bar just outside of Santa Barbra . For an hour the bus driver and sergent that was in charge made sure we were well watered before makeing the rest of the trip. We got back on the bus laughing and joking, some puking. The din lasted for about 5 miles and turned into silence puncuated by an ocassional snore.
Three men wearing Smokey Bear hats were shouting orders to line up and "Drop and give me 20". If you moved too slow for their liking, you did pushups. Within a few minutes our ragtag mob was off the busses and lined up. Shivering and hung over we stood there for 3 hours. The sun was coming up and I was wondering how the surf was at Brookhurst St. The only times I was awake this early, I was surfing. Times were changing.
"Ateeenhut. I am going to march you down to the mess hall. I don't want any talking. I want you to look at the back of the head of the shit in front of you. When I say halt, you will halt. When in the mess hall you will take what you want to eat and eat what you take. The United States Army feeds it's pieces of shit very well. When you are finished, you will be marched to testing where you will take several batteries of test that will help define what you will be doing for the rest of your Army career. Don't worry about your bags, they will be dropped at the transit barracks where you can collect them at the end of the day. You, puke, drop and give me 20. Nobodytoldyoutotalk". We got quieter if that was possible.
"Forwart har! Your leff your leff your leff ri leff." We were marching. We didn't look like much, but that would change in a few short weeks.
When we got to the mess hall, we had to do the monkey bars before we could eat. I was in shape, weighing in at about 180 at 5 feet 11 inches tall. I had no problem doing the bars. I didn't like them much, but some of the poor guys were 30 pounds overweight and it was an obstacle. They were doing pushups or sit-ups for 15 minutes after everyone else started eating.
After breakfast we were tested and had lunch and tested again.
Everyone was too exausted from the trip of the night before to question
someone in authority as to why they would give us these tests when we
so tired. We were told that the results would have a major impact
on the rest of our Army career. I would have opted for waiting a
day and a good nights rest. The Army has it's own way to do
It may not be the most efficient, but it is the Army.
After testing, we had about 20 minutes to mill around our temporary barracks. Everyone picked a bunk and crashed. There was no bedding, just a thin mattress rolled up on an iron cot. Sleep came instantly. What seemed like two seconds of deep restful snooze all hell broke loose. A little man, built like a fire plug, wearing a smoky bear hat and starched fatigues with perfect creases, came walking down the barracks beating on a garbage can lid with a GI brush. " What des? You tink da Army one place fo sleep?? Drop an geeve me 20, all you pukes NOW!!!!!" SSgt Saldavia had just entered our lives. He was Philippino, born in Hawaii, and an Army lifer, but one of the best men I have ever met. His job was to train 75 young men to be soldiers in 8 weeks. He took his job very seriously. He was a veteran of 2 one year tours in Vietnam already.
"19 20" Most of us had finished our pushups.
"You buggers preety good. Now geeve me 20 more for da beeg Ranger."
We did 20 more for the big Ranger.
"Ok, you men tired yet?"
"NOOO Sergeant" we all sang out.
"Good, meebe we go fo a run afta we get you clipped. Fall out in front of da barracks in two minutes. "
We were all in the same clothes we wore into the induction center the day before. Feeling tired and really ready for a shower and a good nights sleep, we double timed to the barber shop.
I think the first military haircut is what makes it sink in that you are now in the Army and your body now belongs to Uncle Sam. The bus ride, lack of sleep, getting yelled at, all that other stuff is nothing compared to watching the guy in front of you get buzzed after the barber asked him how he wanted his hair. " A little long on the top, so I can comb it back." BUZZZZZZZZ.
Then to watch your own sun bleached locks fall to the floor, I guess you could say you just heard the door slam. You are in the Army.
We learned how to do most everything in a military manner. We learned map reading, field sanitation, and about enought hand to hand combat to get killed in a bar fight. SSGT Saldavia knew what he was doing. I am sure he had some kind of martial arts degree or something. He only stood about 5'7" but could take anyone in our platoon. He would do it without sweating or wrinkling his uniform.
SSGT Saldavia was an expert rifleman. If we learned anything in Basic, we learned how to shoot the M-14 rifle. He had shot in the matches at Camp Perry and finished in the top 5. We ran 8 miles to the rifle range durning the last couple of weeks. Steel pot and full web gear and M-14 rifle. By the time we got to the range, we were all dripping with sweat, except SSGT Saldavia. I don't know how he did it. He wasn't carrying all the gear, but he would run circles around our platoon, sometimes running backwards.
Graduation day was on us before we knew it. After 8 weeks of butt busting training, we were in the best phsycial condition of our lives and cocky. Ready to give Charlie what for and win the war in Vietnam. Most of us would be going after another 8 weeks of training. We wouldn't know where our next training assignment would be until after graduation. The good sergent in his wisdom, wouldn't tell us where we were going until we had cleaned our rifles to his standards and turned in our field gear and we couldn't turn it in until we were done graduating because we marched with our rifles.
My folks were coming up. I had asked Jonelle if she wanted to come and didn't hear from her. I was a bit bummed. No biggy. She was still young and would be around for a while yet. Hope springs eternal. She was dating some jock at Loara High School and this was her senior year. 3 years in the Army was starting to seem longer.
Graduation went off with out a hitch. It was good to see mom
dad. My sister even came up. She was still in high school
and on the drill team, and not very impressed with our marching
I found out I was going to a place called Ft Lenoard Wood in
It was said to be the armpit of hell in the summer and colder than a
brass doornob in the winter. It was going to be winter. My
MOS was 12B10 Combat Engineers. It didn't sound like I
build many jetties, unless they were in Vietnam.
Fiction, based on fact story by, Jim Pomeroy