Friday, November 20, 2009

“I moved here from the West Coast about twenty, twenty-two years ago, man, and that was a trip because things were way different out there for sure. I used to, like, walk down the street, right, and there was the beach. And if we could get some kids together who had some money for gas, we could drive up to Mt. Baldy and there were usually a bunch of kids up there skateboarding in that big cement tube, or getting high or whatever. There were shows up there at this old ski lodge or something and it got pretty radical sometimes.
So, yeah, we would spend lots of time at the beach, surfing and screwing around. And if the surf was flat or blown-out we would skate. There were some good spots and a couple of empty pools we knew about that were, like, secret spots.

A lot of us had these stupid jobs—like mowing lawns or washing dishes or whatever--and what money was left over from getting burritos and beers or whatever during the day, we would spend on gas and go somewhere like Hollywood or somewhere stupid like that, and just cruise girls and hassle punks and be stupid. We’d get into these clubs somehow, with all these hair metal dudes and we would just…dude it was radical. Some of those guys, they had hair like Cher, or whatever, but they were tough dudes and a lot of us got pretty busted up by these prissy-looking metal dudes. And when one of us got beat by one of those guys, man the other dudes would just ride him mercilessly. But we all knew some of those dudes were tough.
The other guys that were tough were those cats from north of the county line. Ventura County, like Oxnard, or whatever? We made the mistake of going up there to surf some spots and had this attitude like we were the only thing running, you know? Well, those guys schooled us in the water, and then taught us some lessons in the parking lot after! Man, we were pretty hang-dog for a while after that, and a lot of us never really ventured up that way again, except once in a while when Rincon was really going off, or something like that. Harsh lessons, bro.
But things change, right? And guys get busted, or get a girl, or get a job and move away, and everything changes. I got into some really, really sketchy, bogus stuff that I don’t even really want to get into here, and dude, it was the lowest. So a buddy of mine who’s family was in the military or whatever, and he had to move out to New Jersey, right? Well, he says to me that he is getting a place in Philly and do I want to move there, too. I tell you what, dude: I had all kinds of people after me, no place to live, and $200 in my pocket that I owed to some crazy Samoan dude in Long Beach. Bad, bad, bad stuff, okay? So I’m like, yes I will see you there in five days, save a place on the floor for me!

I hitched pretty much the whole way except where I took the bus from the middle of Texas all the way to somewhere in Tennessee. That was a trip. The South tripped me out and I did not want to get off that bus! I’d never seen anything like that and was not about to check it out then. Sure, I’ve been down there since then, and it is pretty all right, depending on where you go, I guess. It’s cool. Some weird stuff, but people are pretty much the same everywhere, I guess.
Anyways, anyways…it’s an epic journey, right? Ha, ha. Philly’s changed a lot, I’ll tell you that. Dude, it was rock ‘em sock ‘em robots here for a lot of years, just ask anybody from back then. Not that long ago, either! Yeah…”

He stood there across the counter, staring right through me, nodding to himself in complete reverie. I nodded back, uselessly grinning to communicate my solidarity, but he was far away and didn’t notice.
Awkward silence settled in, and Jenn elbowed me in the side.
“Ow! Crap!” I squealed, with Jenn giving me the “what is wrong with you let’s get out of here” look.
I cleared my throat and feebly asked if maybe the coffee was finished brewing yet. He said, “huh?” and looked at me dully for a moment before coming back to his senses. With a start, and an “aw, man!” he ran back to the coffee brewing station and ran back with a tall, white paper cup with steam billowing from the top.
“Dude, I’m so sorry. Room for cream, right?”
“Naw, sorry. All the way up.”
“Right, bro. Sorry.” He ran back to the coffee pot and then ran back with coffee sloshing over the sides of the cup.
California Man put the cup down—gingerly, but decisively—onto the counter. “Dude, this one’s on me”, he said.
“No, no, that’s okay…” I feebly replied. His eyes narrowed, and his face grew uncomfortably serious.
He looked me squarely in the eye. I noticed now how clear and blue his eyes were, how the years of sun had created dark wrinkles around his eye sockets, how golden blonde his eyebrows still were. He smiled, and his teeth were perfectly white.
“S’okay, dude. I get to give out one ‘comp’ a day, and I want to give it to you. Thanks for listening to my b.s., okay? It was cool talking to you, man.”
I think that I said, “thanks”, and I’m pretty sure J put a couple of dollars into the tip jar. Then a bunch of college girls walked in, loudly talking on their cell phones while mincing toward the counter.
Our man turned their way and said, “helloooo, ladies…” and we slipped out into the crisp, Fall air.