Days of Wine and Roses

The days
of wine and roses
palm trees green
leaves dangling in bronze breeze sea
fallen fronds found for tiki faces
carved with pocket knives
in soft dry wood
of branch stalk deep eyes
and sharp shell teeth
long slender days
fat pug noses
and sunburnt legs
beaches galore
a sober sunset for two
the days
of wine and roses
are here.

Now I Out Walking

Somewhere between my time travel stay at Tin Can Beach and being abandoned by Tilde in the Venice canals, I’d lost my cell phone. I had not missed it because no one ever calls me, nor did I ever call them. Occasionally I got a text from Sylvie giving me the score of some obscure baseball game. And I also sometimes spaced out playing any number of chess puzzles in an app I’d downloaded. But my use of the cell phone was sporadic, and most of the time I didn’t bother leaving the phone on. Walking away from Tilde’s folks’ place on the canal I thought of calling Wormy, but I couldn’t find my phone. I figured he was probably off time travelling on the Vespa anyway, and wouldn’t pick up. I crossed Speedway, continued north on Ocean Front, and cut over to the Boardwalk at Muscle Beach. North of the Venice Breakwater, where the beach is wider, deeper, I walked down to the water. I dropped my kit just above the water line and stripped down to my swimming trunks and walked out into the surf, close enough to keep an eye on my stuff up on the beach, far enough out to get a good washing. I slipped off my trunks and scrubbed them in the sandy salty foam, keeping just my head and shoulders out of the water. The trunks nearly got away from me in the surf. The beach was not crowded. I got the trunks back on and dove under a few small waves and swam out just beyond the break, turning and treading water, looking back at the beach, up and down the coast, out to sea, thinking about my trophic level in the food chains, walking about, in the water, up on the beach, in the Walter Group, in the Army, in the Church, in the library, in schools, on the streets, walking through the Los Angeles Basin with the hobos tramps and bums, with the blue pink and white collar workers, rich and poor sick and skaters bikers surfers and hodads, police preachers thieves detectives buskers, moms dads and kids, dogs cats coyotes racoons rats mice pigeons and opossums, work shifts, job gigs, sleeping on the beach, hiking up through the canyons, onto the Santa Monica Mountain trails, hiking through downtown, sleeping under an overpass, the traffic sound ongoing like the surf, day and night, night and day.

“Now I Out Walking” is episode 55 of Inventories, a Novel in Progress in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.

An Old Cat

He ate no more,
“Please me no tuna
dish at your open door,”
around the room a moat
filled with stone worms.

For bait he’d chummed
kittens cutely perched
in nooks of paper cut hearts.
A trawler he rowed to catch
the bones of relict relish.

He went on like this and on,
a sophist uttering disgruntled
guttural grunts mistaken
for charms by gullible
attendants on holiday for good.

His gig whirled on the briny beach,
bodies of ditched sea snails filling
with new fats and oils and muscle.
He stow away in a cave,
plenty likes to last a new day.

And then went down to the book: Gloria Steinem’s The Beach Book

Gloria Steinem’s The Beach Book (1963) is dedicated “To Ocean Beach Pier that was and to Paradise Island.” But Steinem wrote little of the book, an example the first piece of Chapter One, “The Suntan”: “How to Get One.” Most of the rest of the book is a collection of writing by others, pieces related, often distantly, to the beach. The book is a book-beachcomber’s collection of writing (and illustrations) about the beach, to be read when on the beach, or when contemplating the loss of a beach.

Steinem’s book assumes a beach culture of a leisure class, beach bums, those with time and ennui enough to carry their bag with lotion, beach towel, books and magazines, go-to-the-beach paraphernalia, and parasol, to set-up in the sand up from the water, people with time to kill until the ocean comes for them. Don’t go near the water alert: beach bums, not surf bums – there are no surfers in the book, alas. Though there is a black and white photo of President John F. Kennedy, from the Los Angeles Times News Bureau, on the beach in Santa Monica, surrounded by fans, soaking wet in swim trunks. But he doesn’t look like any kind of bum; he looks like a surfer, or an LA County Lifeguard.

The introduction to Steinem’s book, improbably, as he tells us, is written by John Kenneth Galbraith, who explains in some detail that he does not like the beach. In fact, the few times he’s been to the beach have been when he was ensconced in the “main attraction…an excellent hotel set well back from the sand.” Nevertheless, Galbraith appreciates “what makes the beach in our society…A beach is not a place but a state of mind.” Indeed, until the ocean intrudes – from The Beach Book book-comber collection:

“And the waters increased, and the waters prevailed” (“Noah and the Flood,” Genesis).

“It seemed to explode all round the ship with an overpowering concussion and a rush of great waters, as if an immense dam had been blown to windward. It destroyed at once the organized life of the ship by its scattering effect” (from Typhoon, by Joseph Conrad).

“The night had brought little relief from the heat, and at dawn a hot gust of wind blows across the colorless sea” (from “The Seventh Seal,” by Ingmar Bergman).

“They came ashore on Omaha Beach, the slogging, unglamorous men that no one envied” (from The Longest Day, by Cornelius Ryan).

“To keep from feeling guilty about spending so much time on a tan, it is advisable to read or think something while you lie there” (from The Beach Book, “The Suntan: How to Get One,” by Gloria Steinem).

“As soon as the crust was cool enough to retain water, it began to rain. The deluge is faintly described in Genesis, but instead of forty days and forty nights, it rained for more nearly forty centuries. It rained without letup and with the force of a tropical downpour. It rained until the clouds had dumped something like three hundred million cubic miles of water upon the bare rocks. (“The Birth of the Ocean,” from Peter Freuchen’s Book of the Seven Seas).

“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 they will sing to me” (from “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” by T. S. Eliot).

Steinem does not use Ezra Pound in her book for the beach. But if she had, she might have drawn from both the first Canto and the older “The Seafarer.” In the first Canto we are already in the middle of something: “And then went down to the ship, / Set keel to breakers, forth on the godly sea, and / We set up mast and sail on that swart ship…Thus with stretched sail, we went over the sea till day’s end. / Sun to his slumber, shadows o’er all the ocean, / came we then to the bounds of deepest water….”

“Canto I” follows the older “The Seafarer,” who tells his own story, first person, of life at sea: “May I, for my own self, song’s truth reckon, / Journey’s jargon, how I in harsh days / Hardship endured oft. / Bitter breast-cares have I abided, / Known on my keel many a care’s hold, / And dire sea-surge, and there I oft spent / Narrow nightwatch nigh the ship’s head / While she tossed close to cliffs.” He “shall have his sorrow for sea-fare.”