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Friday, March 27, 2009

31: Flavors of the day - Try a new one! Live on the Edge!

Well, if you did not read yesterday's blog or watch The Tonight Show with Jay Leno last night, I have to begin by firmly endorsing the video clip of Prince's performance as a worthwhile use of time and eyeballs. It is available at

That said, this morning I did indeed dial the number of the soft rock radio station multiple times while driving to work to attempt to win the Prince concert tickets they were giving away. (Ok, I "dialed" it twice, I hit "resend" on my phone multiple times). The tickets went up for grabs after the station played Sinead O'Connor's version of "Nothing Compares 2 U" and then pointed out the fact that it's a Prince song. Great segue into a Prince ticket giveaway, and nearly total confirmation that maybe Prince made his way to McCartney's Mansion by way of my increased repeated exposure to his music on radio airwaves.

To win the tickets in question, one had to both be the lucky caller, and unscramble the following two words into the correct and applicable two new words: THIS TREAT.
I cannot tell you how hard, when Prince tickets were on the line and I was operating a motor vehicle, this unscramble became. Often times the soft rock word scrambles are so obvious that they should be called word over-easies, not word scrambles. (Did I just lay an egg of an egg joke there? I think I did).
Answer to this one, that was a major stumper for me, appears at end of blog.

I did not win, but the woman who did was so excited that it was, in the end, preferable that she won. I completely believed her claim that Prince was her all time favorite and this win and concert viewing would be a transformative experience for her. By the time she was done, I was happy that I had no chance with my sub-par unscrambling skills this morning. She deserved to go. I am wowed enough by the Prince appearances on The Tonight Show, let's be honest.

And speaking of being wowed-the solitary sunset...
I am very fortunate to live near the beach. I know this, but today I really appreciated it more. People always ask things like "Do you go every day since you're so close to the water?" And no, I do not, but I am beginning to think maybe that makes me a moron.

I ended up at the beach today because I needed to buy a new pair of sunglasses. My trusty Target shades (which I almost did not buy because they were a whole $12, and that seemed expensive) had, after many near misses and much abuse, lost the war of my purse's daily travels. Knocked down, drug out time-and-time again, I pulled them out of my purse one morning to discover one arm was missing. Someone call Richard Kimball, I found the Fugitive! And he's been at the end of my nose all along.

You can make due in California without a lot of things, but sunglasses is not one of them.

So today I trekked to the Boardwalk, where the sunglasses vendors may only be outnumbered by wacky t-shirt/marijuana paraphernalia stores. I stopped myself from buying the third pair I tried on at the first store I went to simply because I wanted to be done looking, telling myself I should shop around and not buy the first pair in which I don't look like the older sister of Max Headroom.

I bought the fifth pair I tried on at the second store I went to. I even spent three additional dollars to get the polarized pair. That was something good for me, right? Having made short work of my reason for being at the beach, I found myself compelled to challenge the Pacific to live up to its name and calm me down, to bring on a happy hour to welcome the weekend and wash away the week between my toes. Or at least the funk from the week that was still between my toes - sometimes I'm too lazy to get to those hard-to-reach places in the shower, let's be honest.

After navigating myself away from the boardwalk where I thought there might be an unofficial casting call for a t.v. movie-of-the week version of Lolita, but set somewhere that involved a lot more pitbulls than the Kafka version, I made my way toward the serenity of the sand and surf.

As I began walking, many things washed over me - gum wrappers, plastic bags, bits of seaweed, pieces of styrofoam plates, solo cups. Dead bugs. Live bugs. A lot of trash. There is a John Cheever short story in which the narrator says something like, "My siblings and I had always been Atlantic Ocean snobs," referring to the Pacific. Having grown up with the Atlantic as my concept of "the ocean," and that specific part of the Atlantic having been fairly trash-free, I definitely agree with Cheever's narrator on the whole. But today I was able to see the Pacific for the first time all over again. Eventually, a sense of peace and calm followed. This mostly happened when I started watching the other people enjoying the Pacific and remembering the ways in which Los Angeles is not a natural baseline for evaluation of most anything.

After a few moments realizing the ocean was awesome (and like, the actually meaning of awesome, not the pop culture meaning of awesome), I asked myself why the hell I wasn't on the beach every day at sunset. Then I asked myself why a lot more of L.A. wasn't on the beach at sunset, as the majority of people around were not, from all outward appearances, from L.A.

The answer, of course, is the good old-fashioned omni-answer for all causal relationship questions in L.A. - traffic.

Why are you late? Traffic. Why'd you break up? Traffic. You lost your job? Traffic. Oh you're getting married? Cuts down on traffic. Favorite band? Traffic.

Those whom I saw - anonymous and sun-soaked:

There were couples in love. There were people on-loan from their real lives elsewhere in the world. There were people alone. There were lonely people. There were joggers with east coast college names emblazoned on their t-shirts, still proud of the ole' alma mater though they'd wisely escaped to the west where that college t-shirt is all one needs in the way of running apparel 365 days-a-year. There were a lot of middle-aged women who had very outdoorsy versions of sandals, and like, billowing pants that clearly has some sort of "microfiber" cache in the catalogs in which they were sold. There were middle-aged white men who thought they were far younger walking with too-young-for-them Asian women. There were crazy, eccentric, and/or spiritual folks gazing knowingly or intensely at sun, sky, surf, strangers. There were people shivering when the wind blew - these were the Angelenos.

Then came the larger groupings:

Well dressed men who were either European or gay. Teenagers who looked around too much to be up to anything good. There were also teenagers on dates of three, where someone was inevitably left to bunch sand in his or her palm and then watch it drain back to earth through a loosely clenched fist while the couple he or she came with fell to the sway of the setting sun and began canoodling indiscriminately, poor third wheel be damned! Surfers glistening in the water, bobbing up and down with waves and excitement as momentum and skill collided in foamy harmony. Then Midwestern families, with parents taking pictures or home movies of their children frolicking in the water, in March of all months! The pale and pasty bodies of their children a ghostly contrast to everyone they were near who avoids the water and its perceived sub-freezing temperature simply because they have the luxury of coming back on a day when it is warmer.

I remember being SO WHITE each year when we went to the beach for vacation. Unable to wait for our tans to develop over time, or to deny our bodies the euphoria induced by doses of vitamin D that intense at once, we would stay out, in the water, playing all day, burning the hell out of our pasty white hides. But the pure joy of taking in that sun for the first time after long doses of darkness, and winter, and wool - it was too great to squelch with reason.

I witnessed
this exact phenomenon today as lily-white blonde kids stripped to their swim trunks as fast as they could, gangly limbs flailing as they went, parents yelling after them, "Wait for your brother!," and "Tie your shorts! At the waistband! Tie them!," and "Smile! Zach! Zachary smile this way!," as they tried to capture their children's essences by camera like soul-stealers of old. And the kids' reaction to all of the above requests was the same whirrrrring sound of limbs devoted to the action of release in something as big as the ocean. I loved this.

Smaller kids had shovels and were busy busy busy with the construction of sandcastles, sand piles, sand monuments. Sand on top of sand. Motion motion motion. Action action action. And some splashing. The 7-10 year-old age bracket was madly in love with sand assault. Throwing wet sand at one another seemed to be a game better than any formal sport common to American tradition. I was less fond of this one, as I both did not want to be collateral damage to a sport of which I was not a fan, and the stupid-every-mother in me came out with warning bells and risk management proclamations in my head. "That could get in someone's eye! Then what? Sand in the eye? Come on guys. Wash up for dinner." But even in this rough-housing sand fighting, the joy was everywhere. Smiles plastered to faces like the wet hair nearby, above the eyebrows. A day at the beach.

In a city where personhood is sometimes of the utmost importance, and if you do not feel personally up to the expectation of the rest of the population for you, the effects can be quite damaging to one's self-esteem, the ocean serves as the great equalizer. More powerful than any one person's status, beauty, wealth, endless adolescence - though it supports this last point with its room for vast escape of reality - the ocean can build you up, knock you down, wash you clean.

Pacific, today you did your job for me, and for that, I thank you.

When I got home and saw my new sunglasses in my bathroom mirror, I realized my new pair looks like hard plastic 3-D glasses. A little off Target (Prince knows even this, Target is the way to go [ref day 30]), but polarized, hey! And the portal to my new vision, and appreciation, of the normalcy provided unto us, those living on the edge of the world, by the world's very edge itself - that Pacific coastline.

The Pacific?
It's not that cold. Really.
Now I just need to learn to surf.



1 comment:

  1. nerd alert.

    i recently found out that UV radiation leads to the production of a number of hormones from one precursor pro-hormone. one of these hormones leads to the stimulation of melanocytes... causing tanning. another hormone is beta-endorphin, which causes the euphoric feeling you described. this may also explain some of the addictive properties of tanning, as you observed in pre-spring break college students.

    /nerd alert.