"Fly fishing is my passion, hunting is my weakness, and mules are a perplexing addiction."

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Swimsuit That Wasn't.


Thomas Wolfe once wrote, “You can never go home again.”  No pun intended, but he was right, as that very thought hit home for me this past weekend.

It’s certainly no locked-in-a-vault secret that as a kid, growing up, I hated school.  As far as I was concerned, it was a waste of my valuable time; time, I felt would no doubt have been better spent anywhere other than the confines of what my warden's called a class room.  Most of my teacher’s no doubt agreed, steadfastly maintaining I was shifty, lazy, disruptive, inattentive, lacked initiative, and failed to apply myself.  But I had other fine qualities as well.  Among them, I served thirteen years of a twelve year sentence in the public school system to become an astronaut.  According to my teachers, I just took up space.

I said thirteen years because during my frequent absentees while playing hooky, I apparently missed a few things that required my repeating the sixth grade.  My teachers were against my repeating it, unanimously voting to advance me right off to high school, but my parents insisted, somehow convincing them I could indeed, be saved.

Don’t get me wrong, there were parts of school I enjoyed.  PE and recess were fun, not to mention earthquake and fire drills, especially the ones I instigated.  Then there was detention, where I mastered the art of writing with three pencils at once, on three lines of paper, “I will not place reptiles in the teacher’s desk again!”

There are forces at work in the universe that defy explanation.  Forces of nature that defy all logic and cause things and events to happen for no apparent reason.  One such instance occurred just last week when, for reasons unknown, I made a conscious decision to attend my high school’s annual, All-class, Alumni Picnic in Huntington Beach, California.  For some unknown reason I took leave of my senses and decided I would attend a function where I would waltz around a crowded, park setting, and attempt to identify former classmates I hadn't seen for a hundred pounds and nearly half-a-century.  Figuring I could kill a few birds with one stone, I’d also swing by the cemetery to visit family and old friends I had neglected for far too many years.  And finally, I wanted to walk out on the pier again, one, more time.  Something I hadn't done for forty-six years.

The morning of the reunion I did my chores early and headed down the hill where I jumped on the freeway.  Two-and-a-half hours later I arrived in Huntington Beach; the only problem was that it looked nothing like the sleepy, mostly rural, little beach town I had left so many years ago.

Still early in the morning, I visited the cemetery as I’d promised, then headed downtown to take that walk out onto the pier and have some breakfast before the dreaded reunion.  It took me nearly an hour of critical driving skills, complex, evasive maneuvers, and assorted hand gestures attempting to find a place to park.  Apparently, parking meters are a big thing in the city now, and hard as it might be to believe, I've never used one.  Now, I’m fairly certain that given enough time, I could figure out how to operate one of the little coin bandits, but there is this stubborn streak deep within that kept telling me, “Don’t do it; you can save a buck-and-a-half and put it toward a beer.”  It soon became apparent that if I were going to park remotely within marathon walking distance of the pier, I would have to pay the city’s ransom and part with my sack of quarters.

On this weekend, the big surfing contest was in full swing and there were more people than flies in a calf pen milling about.  As I strolled out onto the crowded pier, memories of my childhood came flooding back; lazy days surfing, afternoons hunting rabbits on the outskirts of town with my .22, and those creative hours spent layering thermals, gym shorts, and baseball gloves under my school clothes in preparation for my weekly visit to Principle Oger’s office to receive a swat for some minor indiscretion the week before.

During my walk down Main Street and out onto the pier, I discovered that silicone is a hugely popular commodity at the beach these days.  There seemed to be an abundance of ladies who were apparently fearful of drowning and had taken precautions to prevent such a tragedy.  I couldn't help but notice ear rings located on anatomical parts of the body that I hadn't realized jewelry could even be placed.  And I also discovered that there are, indeed, a great number of people on this planet that really should hire a professional to help them dress; someone who would smother their attempt should they ever get the desire to wear a swimsuit
.  Logic dictates that if you put on a swimsuit that makes you look like a popped can of biscuits, maybe you shouldn't – just sayin’.

At any rate, I eventually made my way out to the little restaurant at the end of the pier and had a nice breakfast as I looked out over the coastline and silently reminisced.

Upon leaving the cafe, I hadn't walked very far.  Staring off in the distance at the shoreline, I was daydreaming, (a skill I mastered in grade school) about summer days spent in swim trunks atop a surfboard, when I was passed by a pair of rather handsome, young ladies who obviously had bumps in all the correct places.  Now I may be considered old by the current generation, but I’m not blind, and I couldn't help but notice that these young ladies, both sporting tee shirts that barely reached below their waists, had other outstanding assets as well; no pun intended.  Among these assets were a pair of posteriors that can only be described as something out of Greek mythology.

Because I slept through most of world history in school, I suddenly felt the urge to brush up on my appreciation of the Grecian arts, at which point I picked up my pace slightly to keep up with the pair of art aficionados in front of me.  I should also probably point out that the young lady on the right, appeared to have neglected to don the bottom half of her swim suit, which would explain their quickened pace.

Now I realize swimsuit fashions have changed from the days of my youth when girls wore cast iron, two piece swimwear that would have fit loosely on John Candy, but for the life of me I could see no sign of anything resembling fabric on this young lady, and because now it had become a matter of principle to find out the answer, I devised a plan.

The plan was brilliant in its simplicity.  All I needed to do was to walk slightly faster than the young ladies, reach a comfortable distance ahead of them, stop, turn in their direction, and nonchalantly appear to gaze out in the distance beyond them, allowing me to confirm my suspicion of whether or not she was actually wearing a bottom to her swimsuit.  I should also point out that this is a perfect situation where good, quality eye wear in the form of sunglasses comes in extremely handy.

I knew I had to act fast.  The girl’s brisk pace was quicker than a bookie’s runner and such that I was having difficulty keeping up with them, and while I didn't want to appear to be a stalker, or one of those creepy, old guys, I knew I had to speed it up if my plan of action was going to work.

I began walking faster, keeping a substantial distance of about three to four feet.  Any closer and, well, that would have been creepy.  This seemed to work well for nearly fifty yards until I noticed I wasn't gaining any ground, and in fact, the pair were slowly pulling away from me.  I also noticed I was becoming a bit winded.

Undeterred, I quickened my step to the point I now looked like one of those idiot speed-walkers you see in the city swinging a Nalgene bottle in each hand, spastically waddling down the street.

“Good idea,” I thought, as I snatched up a pair of empty water bottles nestled atop an overly-filled trash can, and I broke into an inconspicuous, spastic, speed-walker’s waddle.  But the girls were still gaining on me.  My legs were burning like a porch plank at a hillbilly bar-b-que, but I was determined to learn the fate of the missing swimsuit bottom.

Now I have two cardinal rules that I religiously live by.  The first; Tom don’t fly - period, end of story.  My second, cardinal rule; Tom doesn't jog; partly because I don’t enjoy stepping on my tongue, but mostly because I tend to spill my drink when I attempt such silliness.  Never-the-less, desperate measures were called for, and fearing I’d lose the beauties in the crowd and never discover the answer to the burning question inquiring minds desperately wanted to know, I broke into a jog.

Somewhere between my sounding like an asthmatic bulldog, and coughing up a lung, the two young ladies disappeared into a sea of tourists ahead of me.  I should point out that the plain-clothed officer who was concealed inconspicuously in the crowd that was gathered on the pier to watch the surfing contest, was firm, but polite when he grabbed my arm, spun me around and glared at me.

Following a thirty-minute background check that included running my name through the FBI, IRS, Homeland Security, the No-Fly List, and a thorough search of the Perverts Are Us data base, not to mention my convincing explanation that I was not a stalker, hadn't even noticed the young girls, and that I was actually hurrying for my high school reunion, and was dangerously close to committing a parking meter violation, the officer escorted me up the street to my truck where he bid me ado, and advised me to see a doctor about my creepy breathing.

At this point you are no doubt wondering if I made it to the reunion picnic.  Well, I’m going to tell you anyway; I did indeed.  Recognizing folks after all these years was a snap.  Name tags are the salvation of antiquated and rusty brains, and in my estimation, highly underrated.  Everyone I had the pleasure of spending time with seemed genuinely happy, and for that, I was grateful.

At one point I was greeted by an old school chum I readily recognized.

“Hey, Tom, good to see you; you remember that time we almost ended up in jail,” he said, laughing as if it were yesterday.

“No, Ray, I can’t say that I do,” I replied, as I put my arm around his shoulder and began slowly walking with him.  “That was a long time ago, but let me tell you about what happened to me this morning; have you ever seen a swimsuit that wasn't?  What I mean is…”