With the van parked in a spot that was sure not to be towed, at one of the infamous beaches in San Diego, the boys an I made our way to anything. It was graduation for University of San Diego and our drummers childhood friend was ending his 4 years of film study. With a beach house to crash at and the promise of unadulterated amusement and debauchery this weekend looked like a sure bet for bad decisions and questionable morals. But like the majority of my adventures this headed in a far different direction.
The sun had already made it’s bed and the moon took it’s place as the beacon of hope. Along with the various fire pits already sprinkled about the beach; the boisterous laughter and the clinging of toasts to the years to come began to echo along with the crashing of the tides. With the crowds growing larger, air getting thinner and the drinks flowing at an impressive level I began my jaunt up and down the sand watching the stars and greeting new smiling faces as I passed. I tend to wander at gatherings. You never know what you’ll find or who you’ll meet. Besides, I like open spaces and since I was at the beach it was my chance to break and find myself. I find that to much time away from silence and being busy with the days hustle and bustle I tend to lose myself. Hearing the ocean and my thoughts bring me back to center.
With my stare fixed upon a spot of nothingness and my drink already nursed to the end it was at this moment my guitar player approach with new libations and his guitar. He and I always seemed to do the same things at gatherings (wander off) and even though we were quite a few hundred miles away from “home” tonight was no different. We commenced with our usual banter of “what do you think of this riff? What do think of this line? That chick is hot?” Etc. While he was playing my attention was focused towards a small gathering under a bridge. There was a tiny fire pit and you can see that the faces weren’t of jubilation. More of contemplation and what seemed to be the cooking of tortillas and beans. We were not to far off from our shindig but for this group of people it might as well been a different time zone. As my friend continued to play an older gentle man began to wander over. I tap my friend on the elbow to get his attention. He continued to play but we were on alert. He came into view and took his soggy leather cowboy hat off showing a gesture of “I come as a friend.” The english was broken but the smile was genuine. He sat and began to cry. He took a slug from his bottle of hope and said “Your playing reminds me of home. Will you keep playing for awhile?” My friend obliged and we sat. Drank. And Watched the water wash away the debris. It was then that I noticed over his shoulder, back at his camp under the bridge, that it was his family he was with. The lady looked as if she was feeding a young child. I looked back at this man and saw years of desperation and failure in his eyes. Calloused hands, bruised heart and scarred smile. He ask my friend if he would play some Stevie Ray Vaughn and some Santana. After what seemed to be hours he bid us good night and went “home.” During those moments with this man we learned a lot even though there were only a few words spoken. You could feel and see his heart ache. The tears. The shakes. The sighs and bright smile will never leave this crooked mind.
Our walk back to the celebration was equally silent minus the crashing of the waves and the raucous gaining volume the closer we got. Being young men we couldn’t help but be confused and angry while also coming to terms with… Life. Here we are celebrating with a group of people that have a hopeful future to look forward to and not but a few hundred yards away a small family struggled and probably did not make it to the end of the year. Not to sure how to shake that. But it’s something in the way of perspective.
I did write a poem about it that literally fell into my lap today as I’m cleaning stuff up for a move. Enjoy.
And the sun hit the derelict
Casting shadows of Black Wings
Washing away trash upon our
Soured open shores
And the rocks break way to ashes;
dripping into stale tin cans
of meat. Then emptied onto dried coffins as
The children play in the
Puddles of their mothers tears.
Fathers, then, wipe the blood
stains from their feet; as to not
leave footprints from dancing
in the street.
Ssshh… Don’t let the moon see
She’s had enough.
She’s seen to much
© Carlson 1996, 2012