The 6 W’s

Keep working on the 5 W’s, Sylvie suggested after she’d asked if I’d written anything in my diary yet, in the little pocket notebook she’d given me, and I said no, nothing. Who, what, when, why, and where, she said. That’s what people want to know. How about how, I asked. Sylvie’s conference now over, we had one more night in the Ocean Beach bungalow. We could stay on longer, Sylvie said. But I felt pressed up against the ocean here, Highway 8 spilling into our backyard, the town crushed with twenty-something teenyboppers, the yachts and ships and sailors and tourists, the rich and homeless mingling for a spot to be seen and unseen, Cagetan and Sot lurking about, though I didn’t mention that. How about we make our way north, I said, visit Refugio for a time, drop in on Salty and Penina. You think they’re not pushed against the water? I talked to Salty on the phone today. He said they never go to the beach on the weekends anymore, only on weekdays. We’ll pick them up, get a boat, sail out to the islands. Thus it was planned. We would leave tomorrow heading north to Refugio, but arrival uncertain, since we’d be taking our time and remain open to other sorties and such. Meantime, we went out to sit on the front porch, me with a beer and Sylvie with a wine cooler, and she saw my diary sitting on the railing where I had left it open to dry in the sun. What happened, she wanted to know. Oh, yeah, turns out there’s a 6th W: Wet.

“The 6 W’s,” is episode 65 of Inventories, a Novel in Progress in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.

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.

Brigid

Knowing the chance of my seeing Wormy again slim, I stayed on through the weekend at his Orange Orchid Tiki Bar, working the back room, enjoying the festival carnival. I slept in the backyard in my cowboy bedroll, with Wormy’s dog, Brigid Kildare, nestled against my legs. But in the early morning, Brigid did her dog thing, up early eating and drinking then hopping through the fence into the ice plant on the dunes and over and down to the beach where she must have rolled around on some dead gull or crab, come back wagging and nuzzling me to get up and follow. And she had rolled in some beach tar. The tar pads that stick to your feet walking the Southern California beaches are too often blamed on the oil business, the tankers docked off El Segundo, the water pipeline connected to Standard Oil, now buried under the beach and ocean, the old wood twin pier deconstructed, the rigs and drills up and down the coast dating back to the late 1800s. And the oil concerns have made a muck of maritime stuff over the years. But the tar Brigid had found and rolled around in this morning like as not was natural, floating up and washing in from natural petroleum seeps in the ocean floor. Whatever, Brigid was a smelly mess of rotting fish, dead bird, and sticky tar. I got up and walked her back down to the beach where we both got a stimulating morning wash in the salty waves, the air clear, a slight offshore breeze, a thin, faint fog already lifting as the sun came up over the dunes, orange shafts of smeared light flaring through the lazy billowing smoke puffs from the stacks of the oil refinery. Ah, she draws my ire, she does, when she does like that, comes in smelling of a red tide, Wormy said, as I explained where we’d been, Brigid now warming up deep in my bedroll.

“Brigid” is episode 50 of Inventories, a Novel in Progress in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.

Used to It

Revving up the time travelling scooter I pulled away from Tin Can Beach and 1954 and the veterans I’d met and spent a few days and nights with hanging out and drinking beers listening to stories they’d brought back with them from Korea. I drove into the traffic on the Pacific Coast Highway heading north in present time. I thought I might continue north on Hwy 1, camping out nights, and see what more I might experience along the way, moving back and forth in time as suited my mood. I had thought about spending some more time with the veterans, maybe even putting up a shelter of my own on the beach. The cold water in the morning a short walk away provided the kind of wake up call one yearns for without knowing what exactly it is until you’ve hit the water a few mornings running. There are two ways of jumping into the ocean. One, you wade in, gradually getting used to the cold temperature until you’re out far enough to dive under a wall of white water. The other way is how I learned and preferred. You start at the top of the berm above the water line and dash down toward the water high jumping the waves until you’re deep enough to dive under one, come up, and keep swimming out, fireflies buzzing on your skin, biting, until they all wash off under the waves and you’re suddenly used to it. But Tin Can Beach was rife with disadvantages. My second night, sleeping in my bedroll in the sand outside the vet’s hut, we were wakened by a woman’s scream out on the beach followed by the sound of someone running clumsily through a pile of tin cans. We got up and walked about a little ways up and down the beach, but it was dark and quiet and still, and what we’d heard was apparently not that unusual. We went back to sleep, and in the early morning were again wakened, this time by an early surf fisherman who had stumbled across the body. It took the cops almost an hour to finally show up. One of them questioned us, but they knew the woman, and they already had a warrant out for her partner in crime. The interview cop wanted to know our addresses for his notes in case the authorities might need to get ahold of us later, and as we all tried to explain this was it, Tin Can Beach was our address, he shook his head and said, I don’t get it. I don’t get how you guys get used to it, living like this. We got to talking with him. Turned out he too was a Korean War veteran. Funny how we all seem to turn down different roads he said, but no one laughed. It wasn’t that kind of funny. But you get used to it – a war, sleeping out, incarceration in a system job, ticketing people, retreating far from some madding or smug crowd, time travelling. And I didn’t want to get used to it, used to anything.

“Used to It” is episode 48 of Inventories, a Novel in Progress in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.

Tin Can Beach

I rode into a fog, thin at first, the coolness refreshing, but visibility continued to reduce. The ray from the lamp on my Vespa bounced back at me. Visibility soon reduced to virtually zero, and I pulled over to the side of the road and rolled into the trailer park at Bolsa Chica. No tent camping. No sleeping on the beach. I tuned the time machine on the Vespa to 1954, the fog lifted, and I saw a few firepits spitting light in the darkness down on Tin Can Beach. I found a place in the sand off the road where I could park the scooter and spread out my cowboy bedroll. Some crooner with a banjo sang folk songs in the distance. I covered myself with my space blanket and fell asleep to Lead Belly’s “Goodnight, Irene,” this crooner’s notion to swim out into the ocean and drown.

“Tin Can Beach” is episode 46 of Inventories, a Novel in Progress in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.