Monday, July 24, 2006

We hit the beach. Ogling the sunbathing bikini babes, nearly tripping over the families with their beach blankets, foldable chairs and plastic-protected Ipods. My friend Mike and I didn’t even bring towels. Although he did have a backpack, which contained only one thing -- as we got near the water, he pulled out a rolled-up rubber raft.

Mike had called me fifteen minutes earlier, saying he just bought this thing, and we oughta go out to the water, take it for a ride. I was just sitting in my sweltering apartment, trying to decide what to do next -- read, run, write… re-work this stupid blog post about riding ocean waves as some kinda metaphor for the unconscious… what the hell? Go to the beach for real? Count me in.

Knowing Mike and me, it’d turn into another pissing contest -- I regularly kick his ass at Scrabble, but he always practically makes me puke on bike rides, and yet I never got to collect my brunch for out-climbing him on the Santa Monica stairs. But this would just be a day of fun in the sun.

“The pump to this thing is broken,” Mike said. A lame excuse, I thought, for him to give it a blowjob -- huffing and puffing into the raft’s nozzle to start inflating it. Seeing Mike on his knees providing mouth-to-nozzle resuscitation…there were too many wiseass remarks running through my head, so I turned away and decided to acclimate myself with the ocean.

The water was cold at first, but quickly refreshing. Relatively clear, not too murky -- a few kelp beds here and there, and a pretty decent medical-waste-free day.

I went back to see that Mike was done, exhausted. He had breathed all the life he could into this craft. It was a yellow one-man dinghy. Mike was a man green around the gills.

I felt the boat; it was kinda puffy, soft. So was Mike, who said with a gasp: “you blow it up more if you want.”

“Awright,” I said, “but don’t get too excited watching this, Mike.”

It only needed a little more air. Inhaling through my nose and exhaling out my mouth into the nozzle a few times, I quickly got it to be full pressure. The sides were taut. Yeah, yeah. I blew the thing ‘til it got hard. Anyway, the boat was ready for action.

Couldn’t say the same about Mike. He was still catching his breath, so he let me take it out for the first run.

I realized why he hesitated to use the raft right away. It was hard work. Mike had no oar for the boat, so I laid inside on my stomach and paddled with my arms to go out to sea. Mike was wading into the water and moving about as quickly as me, laughing at my frantic futile flailing.

Fortunately, I improved my technique and started moving forward, getting further out past the foam. The Pacific waves bobbed the boat up and down, and then, the Big One loomed in.

A seven-foot swell took the boat high above the other bathers near shore. I grabbed ahold of the stings on the side of the dinghy, pulled myself close to the craft and just rode, baby. Yee-hah. As the wave started to break, I plummeted downward and quickly thought there was a possibility I could get flipped over and slammed against the ocean floor. Not only could I get sand up my cowabunghole, but I might even die here.

Whatta way to go.

As I crashed close to shore, I found myself still upright in the raft, drifting back and forth in the shallow salty sea. Excited like a little kid, I shouted over to Mike, “Did you see that? Did you see?!” He nodded yes, but I don’t think he caught what happened next.

I looked up, and at the edge of the sand was a lifeguard. He stood there with his red buoy rescue toy, trying to appear all authoritative and shit.

“Bring it in,” he said. Well, yeah, I was gonna. Had to dump all the water out of the inside of the craft. Otherwise it was like a floating kiddie pool out there.

“That’s not allowed.”

What? The boat? Why? ‘Cause it might bang into someone? I looked around at the boogie-boarders paddling around with impunity. A half-mile north were all the surfers. You get hit in the head with a fiberglass board, trust me, it’d hurt more than a rubber craft filled with my hot air.

But I saved my breath and just gave him a look. He said, “No inflatables on the beach.”

So I guess his girlfriend couldn’t join him, I muttered. David Hasselhoff strutted away to hassle someone else and I plodded inland.

Michael row your boat ashore. Hallelujah or whatever.

A minute later, Mike came over for his turn to ride the raft, but I pointed up the beach at the lifeguard, repeating the rules of the Baywatch Bee-otch.

“Shit, I didn’t even get a chance to try it,” Mike said.

“Sorry.” I undid the nozzle and began to squeeze the life out of the little lifeboat. “Go for a swim. I’ll pack this thing up, deflate it and all that.”

Mike stomped his foot in the sand. “Yeah, sure. That’s the easy part.”


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