Sunday, March 24, 2013

Stinson '73: Bongs, Big Mouths & Body Surfing (Pt. 1)

Ever since Adam and Eve's Dad said "you kids can go do whatever the hell you want but you sure as hell can't do it here" and kicked their horny asses kicked out of of the house, kids have had their hideouts. Some kids discover at a very tender age that in order to escape the endless litany of judgement, criticism, nagging and spot checks for clean undies, they've gotta get some sort of psychological bomb shelter set up where they can figure out what all this shit is about. Then come the clubs, the gangs, the cliques, the teams: they all need a place to go where they can feel safe from Sauron's all-seeing eye. For a hard-partyin' group of fuck-ups at Redwood High School in the early seventies, that place was a little hillside of sand near the guard tower at Stinson Beach. From the first dry days of late March until the last day of school in June, this group would spend every sunny afternoon and sometimes not-so-sunny afternoons (and oftentimes sunny with gale-force winds blowing from the fog bank perched just offshore) clustered on the slope of the old bush-topped dune, drinking Mickey's Malt Liquor and passing the bong.

The Mickey Big Mouths and the bong were perhaps the most crucial elements for a successful afternoon at Stinson. First it made the girls more pliable and willing to play tonsil hockey, bounce the boobie, munch the muffin, flog the dolphin, longneck liplock or even hide the salami in the little sandy nooks among the bushes. In many instances a warm and willing girl was the only thing standing, or lying, between a convulsively shivering body surfer and hypothermia and death. Again, the bong and at least 4 Mickey Big Mouths were crucial elements, because without them nobody would go near the famously frigid Norcal waters. Fuck the sharks. Nobody gave a shit about sharks. In fact I don't remember even talking about the men in gray suits until years later, and this was all pre-Jaws of course. And the sharks didn't give a shit about us either. Why? Well, for the most part our 16-year old bodies were not much more than skin and bones, and secondly, nobody ever wore a wetsuit. Not because we didn't want to look like sea lions. It simply never crossed our minds. First, there wasn't a single surfer in our bunch, and boogie boards didn't exist. There was the occasional skimboard but most of us were far too inebriated to run after a moving object, much less jump on it hoping it didn't stop dead and send us flying head over heels into an ignominious face plant in the hard wet sand.

We body surfed, and when the conditions are right Stinson Beach has some of the most beautiful body surfing waves in the world. But it's a different kind of body surfing that you see in places where waves actually peel, curl and break from one direction to the other. What we did was totally different than what the Hawaiians do at Makena beach, snatching a giant shore-pounder and diving directly for the sand before bending up and popping out the back of the wave. That's the kind of body surfing that killed that famous sixties Hawaiian golfer by snapping his head clean off his neck.

Waves at Stinson are generally close-outs: the swell comes in as one solid line, the wave forms all at once
Pescadero, Baja 2009
and breaks all at once, sometimes creating a window-rattling crash. We call the big waves "Maytags" because if you get caught at the top of one it tumbles you head over heels till you can't find the bottom or the surface, just like the spin cycle of a washing machine. But the smaller waves when the tide was going out will, after you swim few strokes, pick you up and send you skidding down the face of the wave on your belly, one or both arms stretched out in front (much cooler to go with one arm out) to help steer. If it's a rare peeling wave you might get tubed, or if your brain is peeling from the transcendental combination of Micky Big Mouths and Colombian bongs, you might feel like you're in a tube. An ice tube. But most of the time the wave picks you up just before breaking, you get a few seconds of sliding over the smooth face, then you're covered in the whitewater, your head and your arm sticking out. If you're lucky you get a 15 second ride, maybe thirty yards, before you duck out and go rushing out for the next one.

One day me n' the boys turned into one of the private gravel Calles (Spanish for "street") rather than heading to the usual party spot in the state park. I don't know why, but I can picture it like it was yesterday. After buying up at The Jolly King in MV and flying over the mountain, we parked at the end of the calle looking out at the sets; the Corn Nibbler, Lugey Stick, Dex, Cisco and Moreaze were all crammed into some red leather upholstered sedan; not a Beemer but somebody's Mom's hardtop Chevy or Buick. We sat in the car, shirtless, with the windows rolled up and the heat on, passing the bong and pounding back the Mickey's until we couldn't stand it for another second. Then, sweating from every conceivable pore, we sprinted into the 45 degree ocean screaming bloody murder as if we just popped out of a WWI trench into a swarm of German bullets; something that, if we attempted it today, would most surely end in cardiac arrest. The Nibbler caught a wave, then Moreaze and I rode one all the way into the beach side by side. We caught another and another until, after twenty minutes or so the water started to feel warm, which meant it was time to get out, for twenty to thirty minutes in 45 degree water, with no wetsuit, is the surefire fastlane to hypothermia. We headed straight for the car, got in, turned up the heat, fired up the bong, cracked open the warm malt liquor and waited. It wasn't long until we were ready for round two, and round three, and round four. All spring and summer long, two sometimes three times a week. Sometimes enhanced with other chemicals, other times bone dry. But never, ever with a wetsuit.

A couple of days ago I decided, after living a half mile from our old party spot for the past 6 months, that it was time to take a dip in the Pacific. I didn't entertain the notion of riding any big waves on my super enhanced extra bouncy 58 yr-old belly, nor did I entertain the notion of going in the frigid water without a wetsuit. Hell, I wore a wetsuit last time we were in Todos Santos (but not in Sayulita), and I definitely wore it when I went boogie boarding at Salmon Creek on my 52nd birthday. But that was before L3, L4 and L5 got married in a lovely civil ceremony at Marin General, and before the subsequent laminectomy intended to cure the mysterious neuropathy in my feet, and before rotator cuff surgery. Since my refurbishing I have done little in the way of sports of any kind, particularly skiing and body surfing, two of my favorites. So, I figured what the fuck I at least oughta get out there and splash around, right? So what if I can't see without my glasses. What's to see except the sea? So, suited up, I walked into the shallows, and my feet started to ache. Then throb. Then spontaneously combust in unbearable pain, and I came out. I walked around a bit, figuring this was just an acclimation exercise, then went back in. Worse, faster. I tried again and again until I realized that a wetsuit wasn't gonna be enough. I would need the booties, perhaps a hood, gloves. And a special double or triple lined jock accessory, a half-dozen Mickey Big Mouths, a big hunk of "special" chocolate, perhaps an extra dose of scratch and a reservation at Marin General...

I grow old … I grow old …        120
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.
Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me.        125
I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.
We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown        130
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot

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