- Ted & Debbie (Photographers)
It’s been a cold week. It’s been a tough week. Juggling jobs while breaking in 2013 with the start of school with dark mornings, cold weather and hitting the snooze button again and again. Splitting firewood that won’t be ready to burn until next winter and calculating if we’ll have enough for this year. There’s a stash of old wood sitting on top of my workshop roof. 3 old pieces of 12 ft. 4×6 which I scrounged from the Baldwin Hills a few years ago. I’ve been saving it for some woodworking project a bed frame, shelves for my science fiction paperback collection which has been boxed up for years- that hasn’t happened. The wood is weathered and heavy as I take it down from the roof. Simon is in his knights outfit
riding his bike back and forth on the sidewalk in front of the house. This shit is big. I need to cut it in half with a chainsaw just to be able to get it up to the table saw. As I make my 1st cut I see I’m dealing with some kind of oak. It’s marbled, dark and really nice. I think about the bed and the bookshelf as I suck it up and cut the wood into nice 16″ pieces of firewood that should last about a week.
Bay St. Parking lot. I’ve got my oldest and youngest with me. Sam says his familiar, “Daddy can you zip me up.” We surf, Simon stands up on on the inside whitewash with my help. Back in the parking lot while taking off our wetsuits Simon tells Sam that he stood up all by himself.
It’s hard knowing when to let go when not to let go, when to cut and when to cut.
The summer simmered along at normal pace, trunks and rash guard only. By delayed flights, a maroon rental car and buses we are transported to Maine for a wedding, Sam is starting to feel what a real winter is in Iowa, the rest of the boys are navigating new schools, and Simon and Theo’s birthdays have come and gone. Halloween and Thanksgiving are checked off the calender and I’m zipping up my full wet suit on a foggy cold morning in Santa Monica.
Summer gives way to fall and as winter approaches I’m reminded of all the pieces we’ve left behind, been trampled by or whisked away by each season. I’m reminded of our friends’ dog Django who could not draw the distinction between a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and an extension cord (he loved eating both) but passed away in his masters arms after playing catch with a tennis ball. If only we could all be so lucky.
Vegetables from the summer garden are long since pulled up by their roots. Bordered by raised wooden beds, invisible rogue seeds are blown free to seek shelter in familiar soils.
It’s not Dawn Patrol, but it’s still early enough to get the Early Bird Special for parking- 3 bucks. I usually park on the beach side so I can prop my board on The Wall and at least think there might be some sort of energy through the ages coursing through the bricks and mortar.
The water is warm. I’m in trunks and a 2 mil. top as I paddle out into the small surf. Sitting in the line up the anxieties of land slowly seep away. Sam going off to Iowa for college, Henry starting high school, all the other boys stating new schools all weigh heavily on the land.
I’m riding my 9′-6″ Lance Carson which I got used many years ago. It reportedly belonged to Clark Gable’s only son. The board was one of the few items I saved from the 1993 Malibu fires. As all my friends know my Ironman comics #’s 1-10 weren’t quite as lucky. The surf is small but I manage to get a few nice waves to myself. The board feels heavy under my arm as I walk back to my car with a big dopey smile on my face.
Back in the parking lot I prop my board back up against The Wall. A guy in a van pulls in next to me. A little grom pops out the back. The guy asks me how the waves were and I say, “I had fun.” I ask him if he wants my parking permit and he says, “Thanks for spreading the wealth.”
My favorite writer died yesterday in Los Angeles. He was 91. I read my first Ray Bradbury story in the summer of 1976 when I was 16. We had just moved to The Pacific Palisades from Ft. Lauderdale. Bicentennial and disco fever were being force fed to us all over the airwaves. I remember being very excited about moving to California mainly because of all the great waves I read about in Surfer Magazine. I thought it was so cool that Monday Night Football started at 6:00pm here on the west coast. We lived on the top floor of a brand new condominium off of Sunset Blvd. We had a pool table, a real Bally pinball machine, an Atari Pong video game, Theta Cable T.V.(where we could watch R rated movies) a great darkroom with temperature controlled stainless steel sinks and roof access where we watched the 4th of July parade and fireworks. On a clear day you could see all the way to Catalina Island. My dad was vice president of Santa Monica Bank and he had a brand new silver Caprice Classic company car which I learned how to drive in. I thought I was happy but now I think I just never knew what unhappiness was.
On Friday nights I usually stayed at home and listened to Hour 25 on KPFK. It was a 2 hour radio program devoted to science fiction and fantasy. Every week there was a guest writer, director, actor, artist, astronaut or scientist talking about science and science fiction. This is where I first heard Ray Bradbury being interviewed. I loved that he grew up in Los Angeles, spent endless hours in the public library reading and writing, never learned to drive a car and was deathly afraid of flying.
Soon after that night I picked up a used copy of The Martian Chronicles at A Change of Hobbit bookstore in Westwood and read his story “Rocket Summer” and I was on my way to Mars. I’ve read many Ray Bradbury books, I met him a few times at book signings, and heard him speak a few times. One time in the early 1980′s I saw him in the mens room in between films during the Filmex Science Fiction Film Marathon. I said, “Hello,” to him while we both washed our hands.
I keep a cassette tape of The Martian Chronicles which I must have got for subscribing to KPFK many years ago in my 1995 Volvo. It’s read by Ray Bradbury himself and I’ve played for all my kids at one time or another. I love the story called “There Will Come Soft Rains.” In the story mankind has been obliterated by a nuclear war but a house with every automatic amenity continues to make food, clean, play music and organize the life of the deceased former owners. A Sara Teasdale poem is recited for the empty house. It ends like this;
Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree,
If mankind perished utterly;
And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn
Would scarcely know that we were gone.
Sometimes, when I’m looking at the sky and see the contrail of an airplane streaking high in the sky I’ll tell one of my boys that it’s a rocket to Mars and they say, “Really?”
Thanks Ray for all the great stories.
Maybe a bit unfair, but not unlucky. Friday the 13th, mid January, upper 70′s, small glassy surf, and the start of a 4 day weekend.