Thursday, June 18, 2009

dick swinging in wind

I'm planning a trip to California. Each time that I do, I think back to my first time there. I drove from New York to San Francisco with Carv, my college roommate sophomore year, and I'll never forget driving-thru an In-And-Out Burger outside Hercules(, Ca.) and hearing, for the first time, the voice of the intercom attendant ask me, "You want fries with that, dude?"

I think of how, over lunch, I asked Carv's brother Thomas what to do in case of an earthquake, and he instructed me to head for the nearest exit at the first twitch of a tremor. As fast as humanly possible, he said in all seriousness, knocking aside children and the elderly as necessary. He told me to find an open space outdoors, away from anything that could topple upon me, and curl up in the fetal position until the shaking stopped.

I think of when I challenged Carv's friends' each to come up with a single image that best captured the essence of CALIFORNIA. The most memorable answer: a pick-up truck filled with lawn mowers and Mexicans.

And I think of my very first excursion upon visiting the San Francisco peninsula. Our mission objective stood atop a cliff off Highway 1. There were NO TRESPASSING and U.S. MILITARY signs all over the place, but not a soul around. Just an abandoned military bunker built into the cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It was one of several such installations built by the military, fearing a mainland attack after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.

(I found this picture online, taken in the '70s or '80s, of a WWII bunker off Hwy 1. It might be the one Carv and I sought out, but if not, it's close enough to give you an idea.)

It may seem a strange excursion choice for Carv to suggest to a guest visiting the West Coast for the first time. However, it was totally in line with Carv if you knew him. One of the things that I always admired about him was the way he tends to militarize anything he does. For example, in college, we didn't go to the supermarket; we went on a grocery acquisition mission. To go check out a party was a keg reconnaisance sortie, etc ... Any action, once militarized, carried that much more weight of purpose. There was the illusion of lives in the balance in every activity. In short, it made even stupid shit seem important.

Also, it may have been that this first choice of excursions was meant to dash the notion of San Francisco that I'd had -- that most have -- as it being the gay nexus of the universe, more gay than even Vassar campus. Nothing could be farther from gay than visiting an abandoned military installation, right?

Or we may have (probably) just been drinking beforehand and thought it was as cool a place as any to check out with a good buzz going.

And it was cool. Imagine looking out through a hole in the bunker wall, sized to the diameter of a howitzer's barrel, and see pristine Pacific blue. And looking out and imagining what the soliders manning the bunker must have been on the lookout for -- the Japanese navy massing on the horizon during WWII.

Fucking cool.

Like the shitstupid sophomores we were, we decided it'd be awesome to climb down to the base of the cliff and see if there were any sea lions or tortoises swimming in the rocks below. Dressed in shorts, T-shirts and Tevas, we proceeded down a cliff face that, in retrospect, demanded repelling gear. We got about a third of the way down before we realized we couldn't go any further. And when we started to climb back up, we realized it was even more difficult to go back up than continue going down.

So we scaled the face of the cliff sideways until its steepness relented, and slowly but surely, down we went. The sun was cooking us against the rock, and fatigue was setting in, but Carv solidered on like he was a commando assailing Hitler's Eagle's Nest, and I fed off his conviction. I tried to ignore the sound of the waves slamming against the cliff below. Having only been to beaches in New Jersey and North Carolina before then, I wasn't used to hearing how fiercely the ocean interacts with a cliff. And I certainly wasn't accustomed to seeing this interaction from 60 or so feet above, scarily over my shoulder just beyond my sandal heels.

At the base of the cliff there was scrub brush and seaweed through which we scrambled and, like two frogmen, emerged upon the beach. Only then did I experience what I imagined California to be like-- the cloudless sky blue, a strip of beach wending down along the coast, the ocean lashing at its flatness with a tidal pulse.

Except no people. I imagined on such a perfect day, people would flock to this place. But except for a few people off in the distance, no one was taking advantage of this deserted island-grade stretch of beach. When I mentioned to Carv how I'd be down here swimming every day, he encouraged me to take off my sandals and walk along the water. Only then did I realize it was brutally cold. Carv explained the water current along the California coast originated in the Aleutian Islands and, being Alaskan, was fucking cold ...

which reminds me of a joke told by Carv's brother ...

A polar bear and his son, a polar cub, are sitting on an ice floe in the Arctic Ocean, and the cub says to the bear, "Daddy, am I a polar bear?"

The bear looks at his son, smiling. "Of course you are. We're both polar bears."

Some time passes, and the son turns to his father again, pulling at his fur. "Daddy daddy, are you sure I'm a polar bear?"

"As sure as sure can be!" the bear laughs. "You're my son. I'm a polar bear; you're mother's a polar bear. So that makes you a polar bear, too."

Some more time passes. Once more, the son pulls at his dad's fur. "Daddy daddy, are you really sure I'm a polar bear?"

"Yes!" the father exclaims, exasperated, "Not only are your mother and I polar bears, but our parents -- your grandparents -- were polar bears, too. And their parents before them! And their parents before them!

"For Neptune's sake why ..." the father begins to ask, calming himself down, "Why do you keep asking this question? What makes you think there's even the slightest possibility that you are not a polar bear?"

The cub looks up at his father.

"Because, daddy, I'm fucking cold."

... so, Carv was explaining to me how the ocean didn't warm up until you got farther south down the coast of California. We were making our way down the beach, and when I looked up next, the beachgoer we'd seen earlier in the distance walking toward us was now pretty much on top of us.

I don't remember anything more about the beachgoer, except to say that he was a dude who was obviously in shape by the tone of his muscles -- and that his dick was swinging like a rope in the ocean breeze as he passed us, smiling.

Then, as if they materialized out of thin air, like in the old SNL commercial for Bud Gay, naked dudes were everywhere on the beach. Naked dudes lying on beach towels. Naked dudes throwing a frisbee. Naked dudes rubbing suntan oil into one another's shoulders ...

Carv and I went from speed-walking to a flat-out sprint in less time than it took for a swinging dick to swat both inner thighs. We ran as if naked dudes were raining down upon the beach from above, parachuting with their dicks flapping like weather socks in the wind as they descended.

When we finally left the gay beach in a cloud of sand, found the staircase to the road above and climbed into Carv's car and drove away, I don't remember exactly what I said to Carv. Something along the lines of ... "Is this the first place you take all your friends who've never been to California?"... or "No, you were right about San Francisco ... it doesn't hold a dick in the wind to how gay Vassar is."

Whatever I said, though, of this I'm sure -- it wasn't nearly as funny as Tom's polar bear joke.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

squirrel falling out of tree

Walking home from the nearby Giant Eagle supermarket this morning, I saw a squirrel fall out of a tree. It fell directly in front of my path, exactly one concrete square ahead of me on the sidewalk. And it fell on the concrete from a low-hanging branch, with a fur-muffled thwack.

(This squirrel photo was actually copyrighted
by a douchebag who spends his free time
photographing squirrels and chipmunks.
On principle, I refuse to credit him here.)

I laughed audibly. I don't particularly like squirrels, ever since Vassar, where they roamed the campus without fear and, more irritatingly, with a sense of entitlement. However, my laughter's source was not in malice. I had no wish for a large predatory bird (a Giant Eagle?) to swoop down and snatch the fallen rodent. Nor did I find joy in the small animal being hurt, because it wasn't. In a blur of brown fluff, it righted itself and scurried off uninjured, for the base of the tree from which it had fallen.

Rather, I laughed because I looked in its rodent eyes and saw my same surprise of it falling from the tree before me reflected therein. Its eyes said, "I can't believe I just fell." Or maybe more precisely, "I can't believe I just fell where you (a human being) could see me fall." As if it had just broken some squirrel code -- don't ever let the tall, two-legged ones see you fall.

It scurried off -- not out of fear or instinct -- but because it hoped no squirrels in neighboring trees witnessed its fall. And if they did, an ultra-quick exit from the scene might -- just might -- erase the faux pas from their memory. The same way you quickly righted your chair in the 5th grade, after leaning back on two legs and falling backward in the middle of class.

At least that's what I was thinking when I crossed the last street before my block and caught the curb with the lip of my Teva toe. It wasn't enough to trip me up, but it did jostle the coffee cup in my hand just enough to belch a few beads of hot coffee out from its sipping lid, over its rim and down into the soft skin between my thumb and forefinger.

It didn't burn badly enough to trigger my dormant fear of coffee somewhere buried in my subconscious, but it was enough of a nuisance that I shouted "Fuck!" out loud. And, to my immediate left, a playground full of grade-schoolers stopped playing at recess, and their teachers stood and lasered their gazes into my face.

I rushed home like the squirrel back to its tree. Stupid squirrel. Stupid poetic justice.