INSIDE BREAK- The Novelization- CHAPTER THREE-
So far: In 2004, Alvin Hubbard and his twenty-three year old daughter Elizabeth are in San Diego, taking off at dawn to check a few surf spots, part of a very busy agenda.
In Fallbrook, California, 1967, sixteen year old Alvin and friends, Sam and Ben, take off at dawn, riding with (and this is unusual) older surfer Riley Cooper, boyfriend of Ben’s sister, Catherine. They are planning to surf at San Onofre. Barely under way, Riley’s VW bus gets pulled over.
Pretty exciting, huh?
Remember, [ brackets ] mean optional reading, [[ doubles ]] mean extra credit.
PACIFIC COAST HIGHWAY, NORTH COUNTY
“Surf Route 101,” Elizabeth said, repeating what I’d just said, lowering her window to take in some of the sea air. “Magic-al.” She looked over at me until I looked around. “So, when you were a kid you thought these beach towns were magic…al.”
“Still do. Thanks for the correction. Fancy Jesuit education. No, it’s fine. And every time my family’d go through Del Mar, my Dad would say, ‘Del Mar by sea.’ And I’d never correct him because…”
“We’ll say respect.” I gave my daughter a look to tell her I wasn’t really serious. She gave me a look that said she knows that actually, I kind of meant it. “And he’d always say ‘You know, Desi Arnaz lives here,’ and we’d look around.” Elizabeth and I looked around, maybe out of respect.
I pulled off 101, long called, ‘the 101.’ The 101. I wanted to show my daughter a house on the bluff her uncle once owned. Couldn’t fine it. “A lot more eucalyptus then,” I said. “Less…” I looked at the seemingly unending line of condos.
The surf was small, maybe smaller, but the clouds were beginning to thin as we dropped out of Solana Beach. On the 101, bluffs, the tail ends of the coastal hills, the populated areas, are split by low sections, remnants of wetter times.
[I wanted to, but didn’t mention how there were once trailer parks on each of these places, hugging the north ends of bluff sections, protected from the south winds; closer to sea level. [[ This is probably where the First People would have lived, closer to migrating fish and birds and abundant supplies of abalone and lobster, close to fresh water. ]] I thought there was one trailer park left, Seaside Reef. I surfed there. Once. I didn’t notice it in passing.]
We moved, a few miles under the speed limit, along these flats, toward Cardiff. There were cars in the parking lot, surfers out, spread along the multiple sections created by the in and outflow of the slough.
“No new ones. Last time I surfed here, your mother didn’t want to fight the crowds. She may have been pregnant.”
“May have been?”
“Yeah. She was. It was big and… on the news… ‘Big Swell!’ Everywhere else was closed out. Not Swami’s; crowded, couldn’t get close. But your… pregnant… mother didn’t want to do the stairs anyway; so, we went here, but north of the real break.”
We were past it, the real Cardiff Reef, now, waiting at the light. “I think I did make it out, caught one wave, then, trying to get out again, I saw…”
I waited for my daughter to finish the story.
“Two surfers on one wave, one on top of the other. Double overhead! Cowabunga!” Cowabunga. She said it to herself. Slower. “What does cowabunga actually mean, Daddy?”
“Oh. Um. As nearly as I can, um, translate… Yippee!”
“Yippee!” she said as I gunned it at the green light.
In the time it took to drive the distance of the state park and the couple of hundred yards between Pipes and the Hansen shop, make a left turn/uuey, then circle the Swamis parking lot, unexpectedly full, and drive the same distance back, now closer to the bluff and the view, I had pointed out that, at one time, back around 1970, surfers had to sort of shimmy around the northern-most post on a chain-link fence to access the spot.
[I didn’t have time to get into my whole history there before we found a convenient parking spot. Indeed, it was the first one in the line of spots, mere feet outside the very fence post I’d spoken of. If my daughter hadn’t jumped out of the wagon so quickly I could have told her, again, how we started surfing here before it was officially opened as a State Park; how the waves seemed transparent, the water clear, the… and there was the time her grandmother, as always, had built a fire on the beach, and along came this Park Ranger, and… moments later, he was kicking sand toward the fire, and my mother, probably holding one of my younger siblings, was kicking back; and Ben and I were in the water, afraid to come back in, and…]
I paused my mental Pipes mixed tape, got out of the car, looked for Sam.
The access was now, and had been for years, open, allowing those with California State Park passes to park inside, close to the bluff, north of the campsites. These were mostly families, I’d guess, on weekends. On this day it seemed like it was mostly guys a few years older than me, possibly retired (assholes). They could lean on the hoods or sit in the open backs of their surf rigs, or hang on the bluffside fence, talk story with their buddies, look down at the surf, each peak now named or, at least, recognized. North Stairs, Traditional (real) Pipes, Access Peak, Swamis Shorebreak.
I recognized Sam right away; an older version with the same stance, to the left, against the mesh of the fence. He had said he might be surfing, but there he was, reddish blonde hair now mostly gray, a little… let’s say, thin spot in the back (he had said, on the phone, that he wasn’t bald). Balding; maybe.
Sam seemed to be watching Elizabeth as she ran to the cinderblock bathrooms. Yeah, that was Sam.
[Sam was wearing a Hawaiian shirt, kind of the street uniform of surfers over fifty. Sam’s was tucked in; mine, untucked, unbuttoned, worn, northwest-style, over a longer, and long-sleeved, Carhartt t shirt. My Hawaiian shirt was a gift from my older son, and nobody had to know it came from Walmart. Sam was wearing Levis, properly faded, and sandals, expensive versions of classic go-aheads. Without socks, of course. Tan feet. I was wearing Dockers; standard for non-surfers, men my, our age, professional men with multiple stops to make; less cool men. Me.
Yeah, but the slacks were teamed up with well- worn Birkenstocks, sandals that had been to Italy. Still, mine was an outfit that whispered, “I used to be cooler.” And, yeah, I was wearing socks, dark, to go with the Dockers. Again, a northwest thing.]
Sam wasn’t fat, wasn’t bald; didn’t seem five or six months older than me. There was no way I would have thought he would be fat; fat, not that muscle-recently-turned-south kind, the kind of fat that seems to grow on other fat, like whipped cream over cool whip.
That description; it’s… I did use it in a poem, but, really, it wasn’t quite me. Still, it had been too many years of sitting, of luncheons with clients, of conferences and conventions, not nearly enough surfing.
Below us and straight out, one of the longboarders, wearing a full wetsuit, booties, no gloves, and a boonie hat, took off from the point of the small pack at the peak (Traditional Pipes), dropped in fully, did a casual bottom turn, readjusted to trim at the top of the wave, cross-stepped to a close-footed five, slid his back foot back and dropped lower, his head dip maneuver not quite reaching the lip. When the shoulder went fat, he backpedaled, all in semi-slow motion, cutback. It wasn’t so much casual as slow. He tried to retrim, gather some speed as the wave reformed.
“I’d be going for the standing island,” I said.
“Doesn’t want to lose his hat,” Sam said as the surfer just sort of bogged to a stop, dropped perfectly to his knees, started paddling back to the lineup.
My old surfing buddy turned, extended a right hand. “Owl.” He looked at my glasses through his, properly darkened to the morning glare. “Prescription,” he said. “Built in bi-focals.” He lifted them for a moment to look at my eyes.
“Lasik,” I said, “still wear glasses for… close work.” I laughed. Not really nervously; self-deprecatingly. “Or far away stuff.” I squinted more than I had to.
“Yeah, well,” he said, a lot about time and age unsaid. Implied. Known.
“I think a hug would be… appropriate.” I hadn’t wanted it to sound like a question.
The hug, probably the only one we’d shared between sixth grade and then, was over as Elizabeth approached. She lowered her phone. I introduced her to Sam. “Morning,” she said, switching the phone to her left hand, taking Sam’s extended right hand. She whispered, “Call you back/love you,” into the phone, hit the red button. “Jakes,” she said.
Sam nodded, looked at me, whispered, “Jakes.” I nodded. Sam turned back to Elizabeth. “I saw your dad on TV.”
“Fucking Tony,” I said.
“Fucking Tony,” Elizabeth said.
“Fucking Tony?” Sam asked.
Elizabeth and I both just smiled and nodded.
NAVAL AMMUNITION DEPOT (NAD) GATE
Cooper was out of the bus, standing next to a Marine Guard who was bent at the waist, looking at the VW’s oversized back tires and the jagged cut in the side panels. Sam and Ben were looking out from between barely-pulled-back curtains, I was half out of the driver’s side window.
[Riley Cooper and some buddies had attempted this customizing. Begun with a hack saw, the job was finished by another guy, with a torch. I had already imagined these guys, Greasers (this still referred, as far as I knew, to those who worked on hot rods), probably an older Cooper brother in the group, all still holding onto flattops and ducksbacks and Brylcreem; gathered around the bus, cutting away on the krout-wagon, the thought being, if Riley was insisting on being a surfer, his vehicle should, at least, be a little more… American.]
The Marine guard was shaking his head. I’ll spare you the conversation inside the bus, Sam and Ben pulling out their dependent ID cards, their almost brand new Driver’s licenses. Sam said he could tell the guard that they could call his dad, Light Colonel (actually Lieutenant Colonel) Samuel Bostock II, over at ‘Mainside,’ even though we all knew he was in Vietnam.
“They won’t call,” Sam said, and got out through the side door. He looked at the Marine guard, not tall, but thin; and, because he was a Marine, and we all knew what it took to be a Marine, we knew he was tough. Toughened. And he was black.
[It was always more difficult to get through the NAD gate than Camp Pendleton’s other three access points. If we couldn’t do the twelve minute drive (or so, and there was a rumor that cars were often timed, and speeders ticketed, and, by God, don’t break down or try to turn off the road), the next choice was heading back, passing Ben’s house, to the ‘back gate’ east of Oceanside. If that was our option, we might as well go on to highway 101 and head up to the San Clemente gate.]
That a black Marine was controlling the most direct access to Camp Pendleton for four quite white surfers, and without going into how unusual this might have been in 1967, I should mention what we were wearing, variations on the surfer uniform of the time.
[Like the rules of surfing, the surfer uniform was established by peer pressure. Because I started before my peers, I had to go by what real surfers at the beach, mostly Tamarack, were wearing. Actually, being 13, with too many younger siblings, I had to point out to my mother that other surfers weren’t wearing less radical (I’d say ‘more modest’ if we were discussing the semi-opposing implications ‘modest-ness.’) versions of Australian bunhuggers, something like tight boxers rather than briefs, and that Sears, the catalog or the store in San Diego, might not carry the latest in surfing trunks.
My mom tried. When jams, double layered, with a flower print over white material, without the built in underwear (or with the built-ins ripped out), caught on the knees and ripped in the crotch… well, I had to use my own money, dearly earned, to buy my first pair of nylon Jantzens, as featured on the back cover of “Surfer,” the bi-monthly sometimes (but not always) found with the other magazines at the Fallbrook Buy and Save. I’m not sure if it was lying on my part or that Jantzen thought trunks should be worn tight, but the next brother down got those trunks. 32 waist, supposedly, in kind of a burgundy wine color. Only one color.
I probably had some Hang Ten knockoffs by this time (always wanted, never had Kanvas by Katin trunks), with a wax pocket, Velcro, laces, maybe three colors. It was Sam’s joke to say his trunks were ripped, then rip the Velcro. Maybe not just Sam’s.
When I started surfing with Ben, and he (because of his sister, Cathy, I mean Catherine) had access to older surfers, he told me I had to, had to switch to genuine Levis. Sam had started surfing with us before I could actually get some, and he told me to buy them two inches bigger in the length, one in the waist, beat them on the bed when first purchased. If it was hard to get them buttoned after the first wash, perfect. Levis were way cheaper at the PX, and, when I somehow got the $6.50 or so together, Sam got them. Three inches bigger.]
Still, there has to be some room for individuality in a sport that’s supposed to be for individuals, rebels. So, on this day, and now you can try to picture the four white teenagers outside the bus, it outside the gate, parked on the Fallbrook side of Ammunition Road as a steady stream of Civil Service workers and Marines who lived in Fallbrook were checked and waved through, some saluted through. We four surfers were in a sort of curved line, facing the black Marine, he guarding the Navy facility against invasion by communists and dangerous surfers in dangerously customized vehicles.
[Each of us was sporting beads. Cooper’s two strands were mixed with puka shells; the rest of us had some made by my sister from some sort of beans that the chemistry teacher later identified as a great laxative if properly taken (the biology teacher must have known, didn’t say). Cooper was wearing a longsleeve, with collar, blue workman’s shirt over his white Penny’s t shirt, Levis, red deck shoes, no socks.
Sam and Ben had non-matching, but both mostly-red windbreakers. Ben’s was lined with white fleece-like material. Penny’s t shirts, Levis. Sam was wearing his tennis shoes from PE. Ben was wearing hushpuppies. Always stylish, and thinner than Sam and Riley, who were thin, Ben could wear a t shirt, a regular shirt, a sweater, tucked-in, and a heavy Pendleton flannel, AND the windbreaker.
If I wore a sweater to school, it usually was removed by third period. Still, I did have on some hushpuppy knockoffs, the soles sort of worn down on the outside (I attributed this to a slight bowleggedness caused by straddling surfboards), and dark Church socks to go with the Levis- white is for tennis shoes.]
[[Since I spent this much time on dress, I should mention hair. The dress code at Fallbrook High did not allow hair to be over the ears. This changed a couple of years later after a kid in the Agriculture Program got sheared by other Ag students. Sam and I actually witnessed this while at PE, the kid running out of the oversized Quonset hut at the farthest reaches of the campus, some farm boys from Rainbow or Bonsall or Temecula tackling him, hacking away. So, lawsuit, no dress code. Girls could wear pants after the lawsuit. Not while I was at Fallbrook; dresses, and, if they seemed too short, the rebellious student might be required to drop to her knees, a measurement taken.]]
And here we were, a matter of inches the difference between a street-legal wheel well and some sort of radical ‘fuck you America’ kind of mutation.
[Peace, man. Anyway, Riley, Sam, and Ben each had some well-maintained version of the ‘boys’ haircut,’ short on the sides, parted on one side or the other on top. No ‘buzz cut’ or ‘butch’ like the Ag guys, no ‘flattop’ like (some, even many of) the jocks, no ‘slicked-back’ dos like many of the Mexicans and some of the Pauma Indians. Each had of my friends (boldly counting Cooper in this group) some version of blond hair. Ben’s was the blondest; Sam’s on the reddish side (not ‘red on the head like a pecker on a poodle,’ that was our sometime surfing friend, the same guy who stole the Surfboards Hawaii stickers), Riley with something like my sister’s hair color, dirty blond.
I was the one with the almost-black hair, and, on this day, mine was the closest to a dress code violation. This was only because it had grown out from the ‘high and tight’ cut many sons of Marines sported, just like their daddy’s, that my father insisted on when he marched (not like, really marching) his four sons into the barber shop, also insisting on a group discount.]
Riley nodded at the Marine guard, turned toward us, shrugged, said, “Another time.” He looked at his watch. There was plenty of time to get to school.
Sam stepped close to the guard. The guard looked around. “Hey, man; can’t you cut us some huss?”
It should be said that all this gate activity went very quickly. The guard had other things to do; the traffic had to move.
While Sam and Ben looked at the guard, Riley looked at me for a second with an ‘Oh, shit’ expression. Then we all looked at the guard. The guard looked at Sam, smiled, mouthed ‘some huss,’ seemed to want to shake his head, but didn’t, then smiled at Ben, looked toward Riley. Our driver was already headed for the driver’s door. He looked at me as Ben followed Riley’s lead, Sam crossed in front of a truck, stepped into the tiny office on the far side of the road.
The Marine lifted his properly starched and blocked ‘lid,’ revealing hair that was the next thing to shaved, a little more on the top. He put his lid back on, looked at the line of traffic, most with headlights on, looked back at me.
In an accent nothing like I’d expected, the Marine adjusted his military issue horn-rimmed glasses, looked at my thick lenses, asked, “Are you also requesting that I cut you ‘some’ huss?”
“It’s ‘a’ huss; right? Cut me a huss?”
FUCKING TONY (a bit of a preview of the next chapter, in progress)
This is the way I told the story to my old surfing buddy Sam, both of us hanging close to the fence at Pipes as my daughter donned what she thought might be a proper beach hat and proceeded down the gravel roadway to the sand, Once she got to the sand, she took some photos with her camera, mostly longboarders floating and waiting. She would occasionally waving back up into the glare, once waving her phone, once her hat; all the while trying to find the harder-packed sand.
“No. I was home. It was early.”
“Morning show. Channel, um; I don’t know. I wasn’t supposed to go on. Jakes wasn’t able to make it, held over in LA, and…”
“Yeah. Cindy had the TV on. You should have told me you were…”
“I wasn’t supposed to… wait? You watch that channel?”
“No. I had the remote; looking for, you know, weather. And there you were. I yelled, ‘Hey, Cindy; Alvin Hubbard’s on TV.” Pause. A surfer down below blew the bottom turn. “Eww. No, you looked… I recognized you right away.”
“Oh. So, now you see the camera didn’t add that many… pounds.”
“No, no; you look good. Owl, you should’ve seen me before I got back into surfing.”
“Well. Glad you did. Supposed to get a little bigger?”
OKAY, SO, THE STORY: “There is no way,” Tony Facciolo said, “that the station is going to do a telephone-only, or even a remote… interview with Jakes.” I was still backing away. “Even if it’s their affiliate in LA… no way.”
“You can do it, Dad.” I was shaking my head. Elizabeth was, of course, on the phone.