The Scavengers

I set forth upon another northern trip. Anywhere above of LA is fine with me. With nothing more than 100 bucks and a full tank of gas, the journey begins. Of course the usual suspects are involved. A bottle of the finest red, Willlam Faulkner’s “As I Lay Dying”, a crusty toothbrush, and a pair of mismatched tan and blue socks, and my old faithful jacket, and a pound of trail mix granola.

8 hours later I arrive in San Luis Obisbo. A place where losers and loners come to share tales of triumph and heartbreak. This scavenger bunch is made up of Northern folks, Southers, Geeks, Creeps and Hipsters. The combination is radical and senseless, but somehow we all share a common bond of desperation for desertion. We all gravitate towards any one of the many country bars, some of our breed head to McCarthy’s or the Bull Tavern, but tonight I head to this little watering hole called The Frog and Peach. It’s lively tonight. Bluegrass ex-vet hippie convicts strum guitars, bang on steel cans, and clap up throbbing rhythms. Endless Summer plays on the TV set. I sit and watch. I feel seduced by the movie, yet I feel bad because I can’t make out our founding fathers of surfing on the TV set. Right about that time, a local hipster, record store salesman named Garth, greets me with the heartiest of handshakes. “Rounds on me I say. I’m a cheap bastard, but this town has a way of making me spread wealth.

Garth is a class act. I guess 30 yrs old and living the dream in a single mans paradise. We sit and chat and talk about music. Who sucks, who’s good, and who’s come through this small village of late. People from up north are strange, strange as they are completely interested in learning about you. Garth follows conversation well. He listens with such depth that it almost makes you feel silly. Like you’re telling a joke and he’s waiting for the punch line, but in reality, these are good people. These are not ” the fakes.

Drinks go by and Garth decides to stumble home to the old Victorian mansion that which he lives in with a couple of his closest friends. There, the paint will continue to peal, the wallpaper shall fade, bathroom lights will flicker, and floorboards will creek, but Garth is content, ever searching night by night for that old flame.

My partner in crime, J-Dog, and I decide to pack it up. Tomorrow I head into Big Sur, not looking for surf, but sanity.

I awake to the sounds of birds. Hung-over and sore, I pack my bags and hit the road. Coffee keeps me awake as I reach the coast. It’s smooth, glassy and inviting. Not scary looking like most winter days. This is spring. The surf is flat in Morro Bay. It doesn’t bother me. The radio plays music. Brendan Benson sings heartbroken melodies to me through the speakers. These songs at home would drive me into an emotional bender. But up here, they don’t cut through me as hard.

The drive is long and slow. 3 hours of winding coast. The water and landscapes switch like acts in a play. Every corner lays a new scene. The ocean changes colors like a chameleon. From ice blue to the darkest of magenta, it’s amazing. Mountaintop pine trees bend back into the hills. I can see myself living back there by myself, being a hobo, by choice of course. I decide to pull over around the next corner. Time for a whiz and lunch break. I walk onto a hill to eat alone out here. There’s other cars parked on the side of the road but no ones around. It’s strange. Of course, you look for people at waist level, and assume no ones there unless they’re 3ft or higher, another one of life big misconceptions. Unfortunately, I witness something bad. There, amongst the weeds and flowers lay 20 grown men engaging in sexual activity. Oh dear. So I start the car up again and look for somewhere else to park and eat.

A half-mile down on the left hand side is a break in this green wilderness. There, 20 feet wide lies the smallest of turnout points. It’s big enough to fit a smalll car or a large bike. It’s between two massive mountainsides. I walk out towards the edge of the cliff and take a gander at cobblestones below. And there it is in all its glory, a three-foot mini-wedge. It’s breaking thirty feet off the beach or so. A right down the beach peels into some rocks. I sit and eat; calmly watching little peaks rolls over the white sand. This is the clearest water I’ve ever seen in California. After lunch, I decide to take a nap to cleanse myself of last night’s antics. I nap so close to this hundred foot cliff that I keep waking up, thinking it wouldn’t be that hard for someone to sneak up behind me and give me a little push, finalizing my fate in a horrible death on the rocks below. Just like in the dreams.

When I awake, I gather my trash and take a last look before heading north to Santa Cruz. Just then, an eight-foot set comes out of nowhere. It holds up for what seems like eternity before doubling up on the inside shelf. The wave barrels off in a perfect wedge. My heart starts to pound quickly and I begin to ponder a midday surf session in this remote area where sharks, localism, and freezing water reign supreme.

I make the decision to paddle-out. Its 80 degrees outside by now and my 3/4 wetsuit sticks to my skin as I sweat profusely to get into the water. When I get there, I’m shocked. No wonder no one is out, the water has to be 48 degrees. My heart feels like it’s going to explode as I paddle out into the lineup. I hold my hands out of the water as frequently as I can, trying to avoid the freezer burn like pain. ” This is fucking ridiculous! I say to myself. God has a twisted sense of humor bestowing this coast with water temps that mimic the depths of an Alaskan glacier. After all, this is California right? Bikinis and bathing suits, right?

Slowly the burning sensation begins to fade and I paddle into a couple of the smaller ones with a head-dip here, a fall and a flop there. I surf very awkward in this thick rubber. I’m no shredder. But I can get a tube every once in a while. I surf for the next hour or so by myself. Constantly looking around for sharks and other creatures of the deep blue.

My last wave I get a double head dip. Not two driving mega barrels, but two little heads dips, each no longer than a mille-second. The cold watered lip feels good now on my head against the hot sun. I ride my last wave all the way up to the shore and step off onto the sand in a classy style that I find hilarious and very “un-me. I laugh out load and sit on the beach for a while and think about this place. How many waves have actually been ridden here? Who surfs here? Is this even a wave?

As I’m driving away two carloads of kids pull up in trucks. Surfboards stick out of the back of the trucks and their eyes gleam as they scream, “Oh my god, its fucking going off out there! Just then the truth hits me. This place attracts the melting pot, the geeks the creeps, the southers, the northers, the hipsters…. the scavenger bunch.