Life’s a beach
Dateline: Sunday morning, seven a.m., walking at Seal Beach, CA. Was it just yesterday morning that we (MH, Belle and moiself) arose way too early to catch a flight from PDX to Long Beach? And will it be just another ten hours until we fly back to Oregon?
We came down here to attend the wedding of my niece, the second of three daughters of my older sister. I’m exhausted from the combination of yesterday’s 3:30 a.m. wakeup call  and getting little sleep last night. But, we’re staying at the beach, which energizes me, and I’m up at six. I can’t stay in bed knowing there is an ocean two blocks away; the sunny-salty air is calling.
The boogie boarders and surfers are out, and also a good many other early risers. Standing at the base of the pier I see booths set up on the sand just north of the pier. The booth’s banners advertise a Beach Cleanup event, sponsored by the Surfrider Foundation. One hundred or so yards from the booths, forty Speedo clad bipeds, looking both eager and groggy, are lined up at the back of the lifeguard headquarters, which is a rather drab, blue-gray brick building adjacent to the pier. Ocean Beach Lifeguard Tryouts April 13 7:30 am reads a sign posted on the headquarter’s garage door.
From my viewpoint on the pier, the lifeguard candidates, at first glance, seem to be very young and very fit, and very white and male. Upon further scrutiny I notice about eight women among them, two of whom are not blond, and a couple of non-blond male Lifeguards of Color ® . A couple of the boy-guard wannabes are carrying extra poundage; the group as a whole does not exactly resemble Baywatch  material. Of course, the Baywatch boys and babes in no way resembled the kind of people you’d expect would be capable of rescuing you if you were drowning (although at least two of the show’s female lifeguards – namely, Pamela Anderson’s chest – could evidently be used as emergency flotation devices).
I walk out on the pier. Looking to the south I see a series of solitary beach walkers, and a group of nine people standing in a circle in the sand. The nine are all dressed head to toe in white flowing garments, and several of them also wear some kind of white cap. In the shadow of an unoccupied lifeguard station ~ thirty feet behind the Group of Nine, a women dressed in colors other than white is performing tai chi-ish movements.
A trawler-style boat, whose wake I can trace to an offshore oil rig, is docking at the south side of the pier. I am close enough to hear snippets of conversations from the boat’s passengers, what appears to be a group of rig workers who have been ferried from their shift. And I realize, in all my years of hanging out at the beach, I’ve never seen a boat use one of those under the pier docking stations. This excites me, for some reason. My work here is done!
Or, maybe not.
Out near the end of the pier a pelican soars overhead, performing its leisurely, circling survey of the ocean beneath. The morning light shines off of a salmon-colored streak on its beak. I always thought pelicans were beautiful birds, somewhat ungainly on land and thus underappreciated. I imagine a person watching a pelican gliding over the ocean for the first time. If you hadn’t seen a pelican’s fishing technique, its sudden, awkward plummet into the sea could take you by surprise. Uh-oh, massive flight fail – look, honey, that big deformed goose just had had a heart attack!
On the north side of the pier a life guard is piloting one of those ski-doo watercraft thingies. A passenger on the back of the craft begins placing a series of orange buoy markers about 30 feet apart, as the craft turns and runs parallel to the beach approximately a quarter mile from the shore. I’m assuming the markers are for the lifeguard tryouts.
In the hazy distant north I can see the various docking rigs and equipment associated with the Long Beach harbor – an ugly sight, but if I look forward, to the pier’s end and the open sea, or to the right, or behind me to the beach, I can pretend it’s not there.
I think I’d have to do a lot of pretending, to return to Southern California, where I was raised. I used to tell myself I could live in So Cal, but only at the beach, where you can pretend the rest of it  isn’t there or doesn’t involve you. But I know the rest of it would not be worth it, for me.
Still, walking on the beach, hearing the gentle crash of the surf and feeling the salt air in my lungs, makes me feel… I don’t know. It just does.
I’ll never forget the sight of my father, and especially my more reserved mother, shaking their groove thangs  on the dance floor at my younger sister’s wedding reception, some 27 years ago. They just couldn’t resist joining in the fun, when the DJ played a certain song, after they watched all “the young folks” having a good time. My father requested the DJ play that song – what he and Mom came to call “The Yahoo Song” – at least five more times that evening. Chet and Marion Parnell looked at the other dance floor denizens and mimicked the moves, raising their hands and shouting Yahoo! during the chorus of Kool & The Gang’s “Celebrate.“
We gonna celebrate and have a good time
It’s time to come together
It’s up to you, what’s your pleasure?
Everyone around the world come on!
It’s a celebration
A year after my sister’s wedding MH and I announced our intention to marry. One of the first things my father said to me was, “You have to have dancing at your wedding reception, and tell the DJ to play The Yahoo Song.”
At my request the song, dedicated to the memory of Chet Parnell, was played at my niece’s reception. I may be somewhat biased, but I think it was the most enthusiastically-participated-in dance of the evening.
All over the country, parents of college-bound high school seniors are exhaling (and possibly retching) as the college notifications arrive. Belle’s choice  turned out to be the college she fell in love with when she saw the campus several years ago.
Next year Belle will join her brother, K, at, The University of Puget Sound. K is currently a UPS junior, studying what he and others in his major refer to as “Tiny Bio” (Micro and Cellular Biology).
There are several advantages to having your child go to a college you already know how to “navigate.” One perk in particular stands out. When Belle gets homesick, and by that I mean catsick,  she’s just a 3 hour train ride away from seeing her beloved if brain-damaged intellectually challenged buddy, Crow.
Animal-related segue: or, a pet peeve apropos of nothing
I really, really, get my butt frosted by those oldies radio stations that rev my motor by playing the iconic, pounding, five-note intro to Chicago’s 25 or 6 to 4…until two minutes into the song I realize that they’re playing the abbreviated version. NOOOOOOOOOOO! The fact that they EDIT OUT the amazing electric guitar solo – which features a wah-wah pedal by Chicago guitarist Terry Kath , about whom Jimi Hendrix said to another Chicago band member, “your guitarist is better than me,” – is a waterboard-worthy offense.
May those who listen to the soundtrack to your life clamor for the long version, and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
 It was bad enough that 4:30 am was the set wake-up time, and then MH’s alleged “smart” phone did a dumb thing and decided to wake me up earlier. MH, of course, slept through it.
 A cheesy ’89-’99 TV series about an improbably nubile group of lads and lasses who patrolled the beaches of LA County, keeping the beaches free of crime, drowning, and less photogenically endowed inhabitants.
 traffic, pollution; congestion; overpopulation of what is, essentially, a desert; Orange County Republicans….
 Or the AARP-approved version of such.
 made easier by the four year academic scholarship the school dangled in front of her.
 MH and I have few illusions as to which household member Belle will miss the most.