September 19 1998, Saturday
ormal Heights broke out this morning in an impressive patchwork of yard sales. Kim and I entered the fray a little late to buy some things we wanted, mainly a futon, but I was able to buy a 10 speed Huffy bicycle for $25, the first bike I'd actually bought since 1986 (that was also a Huffy). This particular bike is really more of a hybrid, though. It has sissy bars and genuine cotterless cranks.
For $2, Kim and I picked up two boogie boards, short styrofoam half-surfboards used for a kind of horizontal surfing.
Suddenly equipped with a bicycle, I was energized with freedom. The distances of Normal Heights suddenly were reduced to trivial, and even the distances of the region seemed reasonable. Buses in San Diego have bicycle racks, so my range is theoretically enormous. But I didn't go for a bike ride until well into the afternoon. Meanwhile, Kim went off somewhere to take some sort of standardized somatics exam.
radually it has become clear to Kim and me that our present living conditions are not adequate. We don't have enough space, and (perhaps worse still), we're paying too much. Normal Heights is a relatively "bad" neighborhood and it's in an inconvenient location. None of this is Rita's fault; we were deceived by the foreign student housing organization, particularly that one woman Mirial we talked to on our second day here; she deceptively told us we couldn't find a better place for the price. So Kim and I decided today to begin looking for a new place in a convenient place, particularly Pacific Beach.
e drove out to PB (as it's referred to locally) and cruised around looking for places, jotting down phone numbers and even talking to one property manager. It was excruciatingly painful business for me, though I agreed with Kim that it was necessary torture. Finally, though, we'd been through enough, even Kim could agree, and she said we could go to the beach. I'm putting this exactly the way it felt, since to me at the time I was the five year old boy and she was the responsible adult.
e went down to the ocean near the most notable manmade structure on Pacific Beach, something called "Crystal Pier," a wooden pier with tidy little white motel cottages regularly down half its length nearest the shore. Someone was up on the pier with a loudspeaker addressing people down in the water. At first I thought the sounds (which rather resembled the distant amplified banter of a country auction) were from a lifeguard warning swimmers and surfers about dangerous currents or activities, but it turned out that a "longboard surfing" competition was being held, and the loudspeaker was narrating it. Some people along the beach were paying attention to the competition, but mostly the stylish, attractive 20-somethings were too busy sunbathing and checking each other out. Still, Kim was most impressed that the "beach culture" in this area was so well-organized.
We set up our beach site and then waded out into the water. It was too cold for swimming, or so we thought. But the waves had a way of luring us out further and further. A wall of water would pass through, too fast for us to escape, and then a new part of our body would be suddenly drenched in water and quickly acclimated, then we'd walk a bit further out and another wave would come through. Before long we were thoroughly soaked.
We'd brought our boogie boards with us, and we tried to figure out how to ride them. I had all sorts of theories, but only one seemed to be any fun: climbing onto the board and giving a shove towards land just as a big wave was upon me. If I timed it perfectly, I'd get a long, fast ride with the crest of the wave almost all the way back to shore. Kim was somewhat better than me at it, though we both tried many times. There was something addictive about the precision necessary, and it kept us out in the water for an unexpectedly long time. Suddenly I understood why there are people in this region who quit their jobs, post tide schedules on their walls and do nothing but surf all day. Suddenly I understood why there was a period in California's history when all the pop music from here (save the Doors) was about surfing. And we weren't even surfing yet. But the people who were surfing looked like they were having a hell of a lot of fun. And it's all in shallow water; being able to swim well is unnecessary.
I stayed in the water until the ends of my big toes went completely numb from cold. After Kim and I returned to shore, I went into town on foot and bought us a six pack of Budweisers. The sun was low in the horizon as we sipped beer and watched little boys chasing the shore birds. I hoped the birds would lead the irksome children far away from Mom and Dad, perhaps to a neighborhood well-stocked with child molesters.
ack at the cabana, Kim and I watched the finals competition for Miss America. Kim was once a beauty queen herself, and she expressed the legacy of her experience in that subculture with a certain sympathy for the contestants. I, on the other hand, had no sympathy whatsoever. I was watching the pageant only to laugh at its antiquated superficiality. Here are these supposedly ideal women, dressed in ugly, unflattering, outdated clothes, with far too much ill-applied makeup, putting on huge toothy fake smiles and claiming their dedication to various uncontroversial causes: getting children off drugs, world peace, preventing child molestation, helping children achieve their full potential, etc. It was all so early-80s and oblivious to how times have changed, it was actually more sad than hilarious. "Where are the goth girls?" I asked Kim in jest. But that summed up exactly what I felt about the spectacle. I hated the fake pleasantness and do-gooder spirit, the light colours and fluffy clothes that, while trying desperately to celebrate conservative feminine wholesomeness, did nothing of the sort. It looked tawdry and dated and definitely not in the slightest bit sexy. The "style" of pageantry in this country is obviously based on the cheap shopping mall 80s concept of the feminine ideal, and it probably isn't even erotic to most people. Time have changed. Look at advertisements; Calvin Klein knows what's up. If Miss America wants to keep up with the times, the contestants and judges should leaf through some contemporary magazines. Beyond that, if Miss America was controlled by me, it would feature a good mix of Amish girls and goth chicks, complete with the attendant attitudes. Fake smiles suck; fake depression is far more beautiful.
I was also amused by the defensiveness of the contestants. They were saying in interviews that it wasn't about beauty, it was about "talent" and such. But they all had essentially identical bodies, and their "talent" mostly fit into two narrow categories: tap dancing and singing. I found myself thinking that if any would-be beauty queen were to read dark, brooding poetry on stage, she'd never get out of the local try-out stage. The paradigm of pageantry excludes anything subversive or challenging by design. In the end, watching the Miss America pageant left me hungering for revolution.
What with the relentless cosmetics ads and the inane (supposedly humourous) banter between the washed-up babe & washed-up jock cohosts, the pageant was actually kind of boring, so I slept through the "dramatic" conclusion. Kim told me later that the especially irksome Miss Virginia was the lucky girl who took the crown. Her role model is Mrs. Elizabeth Dole. Enough said.
Something moved me to create a web page today.
one year ago
back to the top
previous | next