Monday, February 15, 2010


Between the ages of three and 19, I seldom lived farther than walking distance of a beach. From eight to 15, it was Dockweiler Beach in Playa del Rey, popularly known among my peers as D&W. Being shy and reclusive, I commonly went alone, but in the summer following my graduation from junior high school, was able to hitch my wagon to the star that was Mr. Jack Keene. As late as April, Jack had been approximately as invisible as I to the rest of Orville Wright Junior High School, a taciturn non-athlete, non-surfer with tragic skin. But then he played and sang a couple of Elvis songs at the big annual talent show, this in an era when there were still a few American households lacking guitars, and overnight became one of the school’s most luminous stars.

We were reclining on our beach towels there at D&W, admiring some of the local beauties, when Jack leaned closer to me, lowered his voice, and said, “You’re showing.” In that moment, I gained a whole new sense of myself.

I have many happy memories of being under the influence of hallucinogenics on beaches at the end of that decade. On one occasion, after I and my pal Ward and his girlfriend Christa weren’t hacked to death by bow-and-arrow boys straight out of Deliverance while frolicking naked in a natural pool up in Tuna Canyon, I found the Sunday LA Times comics section on what had been my local beach from 15 through 19. A Grin and Bear It cartoon depicted the overseer of a Roman slave ship instructing his shackled charges, straining at their oars, “I want you all to turn to your right and say, ‘Howdy, neighbor!’ I don’t think I stopped laughing for two hours.

Some weeks earlier, I’d had the bright idea of taking LSD for the first time just before driving home from San Francisco, again with Ward and Christa. When we stopped at Gaviota Beach, just north of Santa Barbara, to play Frisbee, it amused me to describe what we were doing in newspaper headlines. Drug-Addled Hippies Invade Historic Gaviota! made me shriek with laughter, but not as much as Rug-Paddled Nipples Evade Hysterical Tapioca. It went on like that at considerable length, with each new permutation rendering me even more hysterical with laughter; one of the great wonders of my early adulthood is that I didn’t wind up in a Santa Barbara County Department of Mental Health straitjacket.

My final year in college, I took a class for which I had to write a sociological analysis of informal volleyball competition on Santa Monica Beach. I fell in love with Ms. Annie Sokoloff the week I’d intended to do my research, though, and wound up fabricating every syllable of it — and passing! And sometimes I think I’ve been nothing but a failure as a writer of fiction!

While traveling in Italy 13 years later, (then future) Missus the First and I made a point of visiting Rimini after learning it was the hometown of Federico Fellini. Second ugliest beach I’ve ever been on, the first, by a very wide margin, being Ocean Beach, on the western edge of San Francisco’s dismal Sunset district. The weather’s always rotten, the water’s always freezing. The dingy gray sand looks as though from ashtrays.

Speaking of ugly, if no longer of beaches, how long will we continue to stand for the waste matter that passes through sewers having a really lovely word (sewage), while the journals into which we pour heart and soul are referred to as "blogs"? I call on all persons of conscience to repudiate this word, surely the least euphonious in the English language!

From this moment forth, we will speak of For All In Tents only as my Web journal. Thank you in advance for your cooperation.

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