In a perfectly timed synchronism that only a Sovereign God of the Universe could achieve, I discovered Ocean Beach precisely one week before reading about it in William Finnegan’s surfing memoir, Barbarian Days.
One week sooner and it would have forever tainted my own self-discovery and realization that Ocean Beach, San Francisco is totally my vibe. Seven days later and the discovery wouldn’t have been so fresh; Finnegan’s descriptions probably wouldn’t have seemed so rich and seasonable. I can only suppose.
At any rate, the Ocean Beach section was by far my favorite, though I found the entire work to be incredibly engaging and educational as aforementioned. It has been ages since I have felt compelled to underline in a book I was reading that wasn’t the Bible, but found myself doing so frequently.
Actually, I first checked this out of the public library, but kind of got bored with it while Finnegan was paddling out somewhere in the South Pacific. His prose is so intellectual and captivating that I also didn’t want to skip anything or hurry ~ I just needed a break, which is a normal thing to need when digesting the life of a 60+ year old surfer, writer, and anthropologist as it’s been condensed into four hundred and forty-seven pages.
I had the liberating realization that I could ~ just this once ~ be the person who doesn’t return her library book in on time despite the fact that it was on hold. That was the road I chose; I kept the book for an extra weekend but still didn’t finish. After returning it and uneventfully paying my fifty-cent fine, I saw it propped up proudly in Mrs. Dalloway’s bookstore window on College Ave staggered in front of an on-loan surfboard with a few other surfing works. It was a Saturday morning and I was on my way to the studio for a few long hours of Pre-Ballet. Once classes had let out, I traipsed back down to the Mrs. Dalloway’s which was finally open. To my short-lived horror, the surfing display was being replaced; but I figured they still had to have a least a copy or two of Finnegan’s memoir. Not only did they still have plenty of remaining paperbacks (which are always more fun to smell, curve the back of once you’re half-way through, and underline in), the other titles I was interested in had just been placed on sale. Hollapraize. So now I have a few more surf reads to look forward to and take my time with. Perhaps from the shoreline of Ocean Beach on my Mondays off. Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
Once I had my own copy, I had the uncharateristic privilege of taking pen to paperback while waiting for the train, walking down Ashby, sitting namaste style from my secret Claremont lunch bench. There is actually a lot more I want to say about the book, but I have to let my thoughts settle for a bit. I literally finished it approximately 23 minutes ago. ha. However, I will leave you with one of my favorite lines. My citation skills are rusty, but the following quote is from Ocean Beach local, Bill “Peewee” Bergerson as recalled by Finnegan:
“Each new wipeout makes you realize, though, that you’re actually safer than you thought. It’s just water. It’s just holding your breath. The wave will pass.”