by J. Murf
I don't remember too much about 1952. I had spent my first five or six years of life toddling around the hills and fire roads near our house on Mulholland Drive. My big black lab named "Boss" was scared of gunshots; so between the two of us, that's about all we were scared of. We had seen snakes, fires, coyotes, and the wrath of my father... about the only thing we hadn't seen was the ocean.
So when we moved to South Topanga Beach that summer, I guess it was like an 'E' ticket at Disneyland. We both took to the water like fish. The bigger the waves, the more time we spent in them. Our adventures took us a little farther south than Ted’s, and as far north as The Point (restaurants). Ted’s was yellow, and The Point had a big easel with a paint brush pointing to it. The highway was just one lane each way, and the houses, like a railroad train, ran from one end of the beach to the other. We lived right in the middle, next to the green two-story house (the observation car).
Most of the time, it seemed, the beach was covered with sand, but sometimes all the sand would be gone, and there was nothing but rocks. It was at these times when the sea life was most abundant. The birds would never eat the mussels, so we didn't either, but everything else was fair game. Grunion, sea anemones, huge crabs, tiny crabs, abalone shells, and an occasional lobster were all on our map of hidden treasures. Even a baby seal would sun himself once in a while.
I would hunt for 2¢ returnable pop bottles, mom would look for shells, Boss would endlessly chase birds, and my little brother would endlessly keep getting lost. This, of course, put mom in a state of panic, but for me and Boss it was the great game of 'hide and seek.' Once, my brother even climbed up the drainpipe that ran under the highway, and was lost for hours. We found him of course, because he always left a clue for us... his swimming trunks!
The ocean was the main attraction. If anywhere in this world there is proof of love at first sight, love everlasting, it's the Pacific Ocean. From totally peaceful, to utterly menacing, it's spectrum rainbows from the pot of gold to the empty beer can (probably Brew 102 at that time). It's ever present waves could be gentle enough to slap you back on the sand, give you the ride of your life, or hold you down, down, and down, and then say, "Don't come back here without total respect!" Only Boss had no fear. They had some kind of nature 'deal' going, where he'd say, "Just let me get this stick back on land where it belongs," and she'd say, "OK, just let me help you." Amazing how much time they spent together.
I, too, spent excessive amounts of time in the water, and still remember my first respect lesson. Much to my mom's chagrin, I used to go out in the big surf on one of those four-foot, red-and-blue mats. I'd take off at the top of those one-story waves, shoot down the face, out in front of the crashing white water, and ride into the beach. This one time, however, I shot down the face and right off the front of the mat. The wave crushed me to the bottom, and then like superman, I was flying one inch off the bottom towards the shore. The next thing I remember I was lying on the beach, coughing up salt water and gasping for air... a few minutes later, though, I was right back out there. I mean the surf WAS UP!
Another time, when there was lots of sand and the surf was due to come up, my dad showed me a fun thing. In the early afternoon, when the tide was low, we dug a big trench straight down in the sand and out towards the ocean. Then, when the surf and tide came in, in the evening, the water would rush into the trench and shoot thirty feet into the air like a geyser…. While we were having a great time though, mom was trying to keep the high tide out of the living room. I think it was right after, that she started saying, "The beach house was too far away from everything."
I only remember a few other things. Like having to wash off the T.V. antenna to get reception, or building a model boat that took all summer... quick, easy to assemble, I think it said. No tools necessary -- ha. And then there was feeding the seals at the Sea Lion, or watching the fish at the Cliff House... but those were car rides... which took me too far away from my beach, my waves, and everything.
(Note: BOSS came back years later, reincarnated as ZORBA.)