Loose Lips sink ships and a man cannot resist. No one escapes this port o' call...
I can remember being in third grade and walking down the strand a few blocks from our apartment in Hermosa Beach. “They’re filming Baywatch,” my Dad said, pointing casually over to the sand.
All I could see was red swimsuits and a lifeguard tower cordoned off with tape. It seemed normal. Baywatch didn't just happen on TV. It happened in my backyard. Life was simple back then.
I was golden tan and white blonde from the sun and wore a pink and purple one-piece. On weekends, we’d go down to the strand and get coffee and cinnamon rolls at a little coffee shop by the beach. It was near Lappard’s Icecream, but that’s gone now too. Back then there was just a liquor store, a bait shop, and a few storefronts. The nightlife was miniscule. It felt sleepy. My sister and I were allowed to go roam the thrift stores without supervision. I could go down the street and grab the paper for my mom.
Some Sundays, I’d bring my wiener dog, Sam, hopping on my beloved $6 used skateboard with the mysterious bumper sticker (“show me your white buns,”), I’d order the dog to whip me down the coastal pathway, always bustling with bikes, bikini-clad women and surfers. For this adventure, I always wore my little denim jean jacket with the leopard print faux fur collar, which is still exactly something I would wear to this day. I was hopelessly obsessed with it and never took it off.
At the coffee shop, I used to spend whole mornings reading the Sunday funnies while my parents sipped espresso. I liked Calvin and Hobbes best, as I also had a fascination with one of my stuffed animals—Curly Face—and imagined him to be as real as the seagulls and trash littering the beach.
My sister and I would take breaks from making our own music videos to Weezer’s Blue Album (our #1 favorite thing ever) to create elaborate plays and movies for this stuffed animal and his love interest, a bunny named Buttercup (from our fave oldies song, "Build me up Buttercup"). The productions were always bolstered by our random thrift store finds: records we played on my portable record player, vintage barbies, and strange clear platform shoes emblazoned with psychedelic flowers.
There were seven years where we lived in Atascadero and I traded seaweed wars for acorn wars. During one of my first times cutting class, my boyfriend and I drove to Morro Bay, where we ran into the waves and made out even though it was so cold we were both shivering. The water was colder and rockier than I had ever experienced in my 14 years of life. That was the first time I experienced "seal jail," or "The Morro Bay Aquarium," still one of the most haunted places on the planet, at least to me.
At 16, my mom and I returned to Southern California, this time to Redondo Beach, not far from PCH. I would walk my next wiener dog, Valentine, down to the pier after dinner with my mom, not telling her that I was chain smoking Chesterfield cigarettes; because that was the brand I heard that Lemmy smoked. So cool!
The glowing gray-blue waves took on an angsty backdrop during this period. I remember riding my bike away from Redondo Union High School, down PCH to the creepy, dilapidated “fun factory” under the pier. There was always some crusty vomit on the rail.
There were days I’d lie in the sand and do nothing but scribble very seriously in my notebook…looking way out of place, of course, in my docs and leather jacket. My disc man was always gunked up with sand, and my beach cruiser too. There was no escaping it. Later, while at community college Long Beach, I dated a guy who took me to an abandoned lifeguard tower during a storm. He was a total jerk, but that was a pretty good date.
I have always had a very real fear of sharks, but I’ve tried my hand at surfing a few times: one at 10, 13, and 23 (the last time). I thought I loved my husband enough that it would make me like surfing (don’t we all have this thought when we fall in love?). We liked playing music together and so much other stuff—why not surfing? Turns out I always swallow more water than I tread. And I’m still prone to panic when I’m surrounded by open waves. The ocean is beautiful, but powerful. My aunt, who raced sailboats, can attest to that. Her stories are amazing and unbelievable.
I prefer to watch Reid surf while I sit in the sand and take in the scenery with the dogs and a beer by my side. It reminds me of sitting on the beach in Hermosa as a kid with a bucket of bait while my parents cast their lines into the bubbling surf. That fishy smell clings to every pore, till you can’t smell it anymore.
Well, that might not be exactly true. I remember one time, I was probably 8 years old, walking Hermosa Beach with my dad. Along the sand there are hundreds of starfish as far as the eye could see. It was otherworldly, like an alien invasion. They looked like spiders crawling out of the sea.
We collected the dead washed up creatures and brought them home. This was Dad’s idea.
That was around 1995, just before the big El Nino, so maybe that had something to do with it?
We ended up spray painting them sparkly gold, and they hung on the Christmas tree that year. A funny memory, since Dad notoriously hates Christmas and holiday decorations. Seeing those starfish shimmering on the tree looked wild and bountiful and totally pagan.
The whole house smelled kind of fishy, and that scent never did fade.