This is my occasional after dinner ritual. Sitting and watching some kid riding the curl, joggers along the shore, dogs chasing birds or frisbees or plunging into the ocean after tennis balls, couples strolling along the beach wall, flashing photos with their smart phones. Tourists picking at shells and rocks and mountains of driftwood from the storms, oblivious to their surroundings.
But the crew of ten or twelve joking and laughing and exchanging surf talk one car over from me have perfected jocular lollygagging into a profession. One of them, tall slender longhaired John, is a sort of icon. He is a writer and for almost ten years lived directly below me in an old white wooden house with his girl friend, their small child and little aggressive weiner dog. He held parties next door in three of the last adjoining empty lots in town, the music blaring from a local volunteer rock band, old heaps lined up along the block. I never ventured down though occasionally John invited me, but these are young people getting it on with booze and drugs like I did in the old days down south before I got worn out and moved up here to sleepy Cayucos to salvage my existence.
John's rental was such a happy old battleaxe of a house, and now it has been razed, along with the two towering trees that provided shade, to make room for three no-personality super homes built by a millionaire from the Valley who bought up the triple lot with cash. He is fat with success and has another home around the corner, which he seldom lives in except during the July 4th parade week when he drives around in a golf cart with American flags flapping in the wind. He is glad handing unctuous, and the entire neighborhood is leery of him and will probably continue to be so when he sells these homes to people like himself who are never in town, so that these monstrosities sit empty while some of the blue collar surfer boys right here live in their rigged up vans as boondockers, or on the couches of those fortunate enough to find an affordable place, as John did, down the street in another old wooden box where he took on a couple room mates to help pay the rent.
The street where I live seems a little dead now, but here I am, the crescendo of Coltrane elevating me into some form of spiritual hierarchy, like the choir at the black A.M.E church on Adams in LA as a couple surfers spot me and tip their beer bottles in salute and I bip my horn and wave, keeping my window down so their music and guitar plucking doesn't interfere with majestic Coltrane.
There are a couple girls among the crew, surfers, shapely jock hybrids willingly accepted, raised in town when their daddy's put them on boards as toddlers. Several rescue mutts, including John's, circulate, some chasing hurled balls on the sand, and one comes over by my door and stares at me, and it occurs to me I probably rolled down my window a year or so ago and gave him a biscuit. I roll my window down, inviting the blast of music and pet him as he rests his paws on my door, but he's peering into the car and I tell him no and he gets down and walks over to a girl in tight fitting jeans and halter top who, like a needy but pretty poodle, has visited with all the guys for lingering hugs when not patting at her hair or sitting in her little jalopy reapplying make-up, all the while consulting her smart phone and moving to the music like a child born of crank-afflicted parents. Hummingbird.
The sun is plummeting toward the horizon. Shards of crimson and tangerine creak through scattered gray clouds. It is winding down. Ragged engines start up and rattle. Soul shakes and hugs are exchanged. Some who can no longer afford to live here but come for the surf and camaraderie, will drive twenty miles to Atascadero, a sort of bible belt with its landmark In-N-Out, and Paso Robles, an over-grown bus stop where rents are cheaper. The boondockers will steer their rigs down by John's house or spots where no neighbor will complain, after a visit to the bathrooms beside the pier. Or maybe they'll have a beer at the nearby Tavern and Schooner's Wharf.
Unlike in jam-packed LA and Orange County beaches, where prime surf spots turn into ant-hill turf wars, Cayucos surfers are a joyously unstructured brotherhood where men with pudgy bodies and snow white hair and kids a third of their age religiously share the waves while pursuing a lifelong passion and look out for each other like foxhole buddies.
It's all good. I turn off my radio and pull away as the sun dives down below the horizon and the last surfer heads toward the lot with his board.