Entry 10.0 "My Portable Summer"
“Summer is a giver and takes from us nothing but our tenacity to hold it longer.”
My California cousins hated Disneyland. I had no idea that was even possible when I was 13, standing on their doorstep anticipating our first vacation since a brutal Connecticut winter. When I say brutal, I mean that was the year I made a snow fort in my backyard that I could walk through freely without hunching. During those bitter cold months, the thoughts of this trip kept me dreaming of good things to come, so it seemed surreal to be sitting, dumbfounded, in their well-furnished home listening to arguments against spending the day in what had always been pitched to me as “The Happiest Place on Earth.”
As you may have guessed, in the future, the Golden State hasn’t fallen into the ocean quite yet, and California culture is still alive and thriving. I’m not talking about Hollywood’s dramatic culture, or even its controversial political culture, I’m talking about what matters most – Southern California surf culture.
Long before the plane tickets for the trip were bought, I basically lived at my local surf shop called Ray’s Surf City. I always thought Ray was cool. He was kind of a surf bum from Santa Cruz who weened his way off the beach to chase a girl out to Connecticut. Even at thirteen, I questioned his sanity for opening up a surf shop in New England, but I never told him, for fear he would wake up and head back to the beach, leaving me without my favorite hangout.
In Ray’s little shop I would immerse myself in all things California. I’d watch a repeating loop of skateboarding and surfing holos to a soundtrack heavy on melodic vocal harmonies, single coil pickups and thick spring reverb. Sometimes an interview with a famous surfer would find its way into the mix, and I was consistently impressed by the laid back, nonchalant attitude that seemed to be common out there. It was such a difference from the typical North Easterner’s sensibilities, which typically called to mind stoic, permanently clenched eyebrows, or an indifference to anything outside one’s own all-important rat race.
Because the waves produced by Long Island Sound were never meant to be anything other than scenic and perhaps provide the perfect comforting soundtrack to a morning beach yoga class, I had taken up skateboarding. It was the perfect way to adopt Californian culture without traveling hours to the nearest respectable wave. My plan was to surf on the pavement until I could ride the waves with my new devil-may-care attitude and the perfect amount of hair to flick from my eyes.
Thankfully, my father knew how excited I was for the trip out west and paid the extra credits to check my skateboard onto the plane. I had dreams of showing my west coast cousins that I could ride, and perhaps earn enough respect from one of them to warrant a surf lesson.
When my hopes were inevitably dashed for both Disneyland and surfing, I skated off with no intentions of coming back until just before I was missed enough to warrant my parent’s justified concern. I remember how the streets were lined with palm trees – not plastic ones as seen in store displays, actual living trees. They stood tall, as if to brag that they were alive solely because they were lucky enough to reside in a zip code with a nearly perfect year-round climate.
As I got closer to the beach, there was something like a “Ray’s Surf City” on every corner; the clothes got exponentially brighter and (to my teenage eyes) noticeably more revealing. I’ll never forget the moment I first laid eyes on the Pacific – a consistent deliverer of both perfect waves and blonds. Surfers rose and fell as naturally as they breathed, all under this warm filtered sky that was inexplicably both golden and blue. I was convinced I had wandered into a moment in paradise; in California, they just called it any other Tuesday.
After the flight home, I remember the air outside JFK was heavy, gray, and smelled of unidentifiable decay, but I did my best to keep the glow I’d earned in the sun from fading. That year I skated well after I could see my breath and dead autumn leaves crackled beneath my wheels. It was as if the memory of the beach kept me July-warm in November – like I had my own portable summer.
In my spare time, I would visit my Grandfather’s eclectic museum and listen to his take on the social and political climate that gave rise to a subculture of leisure in the 1960’s, unheard of until after World War II. He seemed genuinely interested in the subject, so I encouraged him to add some pieces reflective of that period to his museum’s collection. I even helped him track down a classic Ford Skywood, manufactured in the year 2199. As with fashion, art, and design, car manufacturers jumped from trend to trend and, more often than not, relied heavily on designs of the past. Many companies simply cashed in on classic designs to avoid the inconvenience of actual originality, but some took their marketing of the past seriously with meticulous attention to detail and a clear appreciation for the original innovators.
I considered the Ford Skywood to be such a vehicle. It definitely helped that the listing proudly included this in the description: “... complete with two vintage surfboards still racked up on the roof!”
Two weeks after my latest visit to his museum, my Grandfather startled me awake from an afterschool nap with three staccato squawks of a horn. There, as real as the sound that woke me, was my Grandfather driving a shiny Ford Skywood, smile-wide, into the museum lobby. After I convinced myself that it wasn’t a dream, I allowed my excitement loose and ran to inspect his new acquisition. Despite the distinction that the vehicle could quite obviously fly (like most vehicles did – even long before my time) there was little difference between the car that hovered before us and the iconic seafoam blue, wood-sided surf-mobiles that became icons in the 1960s known as Woodies. My Grandfather, a bit of an icon himself at that point, was usually known to be somewhat of a slow poke on the road, but I noticed his foot might’ve become just a bit heavier on our first test drive together.
If my younger self could see me now, I think he would be proud enough. Even though I never did learn to surf, I continued to skateboard long after what might have been considered conventional. In fact, I took a few of my favorite boards from my collection on my artistic journey into the Throughworlds, along with the old Ford Skywood my Grandfather and I had affectionately named, “Ray”.
I had the idea for this piece when I spotted several huge circular fittings on a beach during an Agricolian fly-over. The segments were eventually meant to fit together to form an underwater transport tunnel, but all I saw was a skate park. I had never skated a full pipe before, and getting this reference shot was the perfect excuse to dig Ray out of the Wanderment and get him off the ground again. It would also give me the chance to dust off some old skateboarding skills.
At first glance, the alien beach wasn’t entirely unlike one might find in Southern California. The air was warm, but not humid, and the pink horizon cut the slowly sinking sun into equal parts. I had no idea if this planet had distinguishable seasons, but it felt like July; it felt like I’d managed to shoulder my own portable summer across galaxies.
Yeah, I think my younger self would be pleased with me now. Some might call this a moment in paradise – I just call it any other Tuesday.