He put his hands on two posts of the iron railing of the cliff overlooking the shore and saw the flock on the beach below. Mostly gulls, there were a few cormorants and pelicans mixed in as well.
His mind set, he doubled back to this apartment and changed into old shorts, packed some water and a book into a bag, and bee-lined for the beach.
Scaling quickly but carefully down along the rutted path by the sewer pipe, he skirted along the rocks on the shore, timing it with the waves until he reached the sandy part of the beach.
I fastened my sandals tight and walked slowly toward the flock which was still about 100 yards away. I tried to be nonchalant, looking out to sea or to the cliffs, but not at them.
“I wondered if I should take my sunglasses off so they can see better what I’m pretending to look at?” I thought, knowing that they could probably see if my pupils were dilated from this distance. I took them off and held them in my hand until I was about 50 yards away. The birds began to rustle, the ones closest to me, and couple of the most skittish flew off. I continue on for about 5 more yards and then, as suddenly as possible, charged ahead. My change of gait was enough to start it, sending a cataract of birds into flight progressively along the beach. Their first surge slowed momentarily, but as I ran, my proximity closer and closer, swiftly fomenting the chain reaction so that it picked up steam and sent the birds into the air until the furthest patch of sand was cleared.
I stood alone on the beach with the startled flock spiraling around me as patches of deserters spun off in different directions. I had created this moment; had shaken nature’s snow globe, but it was just one moment. And as it simmered into others it reminded me how hard it is to maintain that shaken feeling, even though sometimes I could stir up a beautiful chaotic whirlwind.
I went to see “A Scanner Darkly” last night at the world’s first solar powered movie theater, and didn’t feel like returning to my apartment afterward. I ambled over to the only decent bar on the central coast and ordered a beer. There was a good crowd. Lively, but not too busy. Many of the regulars were there, of whom I was a very fringe member. I don’t think any of the know my name, but I’ve been present with a sporadic regularity that affords recognition and a modicum of respect – if only because I hadn’t yet proven myself to be a dick, although the jury was still out on if I was cool. To my left sat a younger girl who reminded me of Robin Tunney in Empire Records. She had a short buzz cut and slightly raspy voice. After a short time of lese affair eavesdropping, I pegged her as a popular local who had escaped north to San Francisco at some point and was back in town running into old high school classmates, stuck firmly in their ruts. She was trying to teach the bartender how to pour a shot that she had made up at some point working behind a bar somewhere. It had flavored vodkas as ingredients, and the bartender was nonplussed at the idea of pouring anything more complicated than a shot of Jameson – the specialty of the house.
She was cute enough to be surprised that anyone would be noncompliant, and was belaboring the point.
“Why should I drink whiskey when I could be drinking something that tasted like fruit?” she asked to the bartender and her two companions who were just hoping it would end soon.
I turned and started to speak, then started over as I was actually paid attention, and said, “While that is a valid question, you do recognize that there are many people who would say ‘Why should I drink something that tastes all sweet and fruity when I could have a whiskey?’.”
“That’s true, that’s true,” she said, “there are two sides to every stone, but people who drink whiskey are boring.”
“So Hemmingway was boring?” I countered – not actually knowing if the man himself had ever been considered a bore by any of his acquaintances, but confident that she would not want to have been attributed with that having made that assertion.
“No, Hemmingway was not boring. And neither was Hunter S. Thompson. That’s not what I said.”
At this point her two companions seized the moment and excused themselves to leave and head home. They exchanged hugs and then she sat back down, a little bit more interested in resuming the conversation than I would have expected. I learned that the evening had begun with five. Two (a couple) split early, and then these two guys, former classmates, had been strongarmed into a couple of more bars and drinks by the young lass.
“One minute I turn away, and they split.”
I apologized, “Sorry. If I’d realized that one interesting comment would be enough to disband your crew, I wouldn’t have said anything.” I should have pursued that further. Apparently my investigatory skills are not honed by a long shot. Why should they have stayed? Why were they there for as long as they were? Were they just waiting for an excuse to leave this whole time; or just a sign that the probability of her gently sliding on top of one of them and fulfilling a years old fantasy was low enough to merit an early departure, and her distraction by another male, however briefly and unassuming, was enough? Surely that must have happened once already tonight. It can be amazing, the lasting power of popularity and unattainability. An unattainable woman from the past can carry that luster for quite some time among those from her past, but she risks greatly becoming mundane, dull and lifeless, if she ever does become attainable.
They had all attended high school together, and without prompting she offered that she had never hooked up with either of them. She just wasn’t ever into them. Besides, she always had boyfriends who were “older and cooler.” Usually in bands – the front men. I don’t know if she was telling me these things to advertise her availability or lack thereof. She usually dated guys in bands (the front men). She’s in a band. They just got off the Warped Tour.
A good ol’ boy from highschool came over and said, “Hi.” She couldn’t remember his name, “but I knew I knew you.” After a while she tapped me on the shoulder and said, “This is my new friend.”
I turned from the bar and said hello and shook his hand and introduced myself. I can’t remember his name either. I turned to her and said, “and what’s your name?” She took my hand and said, “Amber,” and then I turned to the guy and said, “That’s how new I am.” I thought it was funny, but nobody laughed, and I didn’t feel like wasting time waiting for it.
Their conversation petered out, and the man with no name was gone. I began to talk about myself after she asked me why I waxed my eyebrows.
I quickly corrected her, “I don’t wax my eyebrows. I tweeze them. And I’m not altogether sure why, although I have thought about it many times.
“It would be easy to blame society, but that would be wrong. It comes down to me at some point. I guess I would have to say that in some way I’m uncomfortable with them, and like them better tweezed. But the real question is, ‘why is that?’”
I should have asked her about her tattoos, and why changing the way you look by removing something is any different from changing the way one looks by adding something. But I think my truth in the response disarmed her, and she lost interest in the matter.
I told her about what I was doing, as concisely as possible, and recognized that I really couldn’t explain it well for her without losing her interest entirely, but I tried. And failed for the most part. From what she had heard and understood her advice was this: 2 steps. Step 1 – Decide what you’re going to do; and Step 2 – Go get some business cards that say you already do it. It wasn’t bad advice on the whole, but I was stuck on Step 1 in many parts of my life, and onto Step 3 in others. Step 3 was my own addendum: Prove that you can do it. Depending on what you are trying to prove, this could take seconds or decades.
She checked her phone for the time and decided she needed to go, and then decided that she really needed to go. I wished her well and said it was nice to meet her. She left half a beer and told me I could finish it, but it was a Heineken can, and that always made me want a Pabst instead.
After she left, I sat as I had before she arrived, and finished my Tecate. As I killed it, the bartender came over, lifted her can momentarily, and set it back down on the coaster.
“She’s gone,” I said. He thanked me for the ‘heads up’, and cleared away her can and my own.
“You need another one, man?” he asked.
“Nope. I’m gone too.”
We shook hands, and I headed out.