Sherri Winans
Whatcom Community College
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Lee Zeidner
English 201
Essay 1
December 2003

Off The Lip

Coasting through life on Daddy’s dollar this whimsical girl grew restless. Left a note with his credit card sniped in two, hitched a ride to the station. Hopped the Amtrak south along the western coastline, winding through green mountains, along windy rocky beaches. Life picking up momentum. Ten dollars left in my pocket, 5.25 after a pack of Pall Mall lights in Seattle’s King station. Where I called Rob.

"Can I come live with you… indefinitely?"

"Princess, I can’t wait till you get here."

We spent the first day cleaning out a room for me in his trailer. I shared a bed with his two daughters every other weekend. Toys and blankets moved to the hall closet, except for Hanna’s blue glitter star I left hanging from the window’s lock latch. I began lessons that night. Beside the trailer is Rob’s shaping room where I spent most evenings… days when there was no surf. He sanded the Styrofoam core with soft motion and rough hands. Down and back, over and over. The white board would slowly abandon to his patient touch. Easing into a sharp tip at the nose, a concave tail at the stringer, the light making soft gray ovals where the water would later give lift. I sat on a stool, silent, still, watching this old master at work. Thirty years of repetitive motion became a dance. Rob could shape a surfboard in just under two hours.

I spent the first few days sitting on the beach watching the guys. Rob took me out on a 9’0’. He told me to catch a thousand waves, then come back for another board, eventually getting to my 7’0’’. For some cash, I picked up a job at a Mexican restaurant, just Friday and Saturday nights. My room and lessons I worked off in Rob’s coffee/board shop. We only had two customers ever, Bill and Sam. They called me Cabbage Patch. Everyone down there has a surfer alias, I was just hoping mine would be cooler than that.

* * * * *

Before I had any armor against the opposite sex, before I learned my lessons on surf bums, I met Boozy. Justin was a drunken mess, ergo: Boozy , but he could spit rhymes like a revival preacher. I shoulda known he could lie when he said he was a writer; it takes a certain amount of practice to be lyrically creative. I drove him home. We sat in my car and talked along time. I can’t remember what about, other than him trying to get me to come in with him. I didn’t that night, but I did the next.

Spring mornings blow cold on the open ocean. Even if the sun is shining, once the water seeps into your booties, muscles tense and skin puckers in anticipation of the cold to come. Ducking the first wave K/Os any hangover with a rush of pacific water gushing down the back of your neck, brain freeze sets in, shock kicks up your paddling. The some times erratic wave smacks you off the board from the side. Chest deep in freezing ocean your brain flips to images of legs dangling in Jaws movies. The false sense of security the board gives you when it separates your seal looking body from the unknown below is enough for me. Once you get out to the line up, you get to breathe. Most of the time in the water is spent in the line up, waiting for your wave. The sets roll in from the edge of the jetty down the beach, five years ago you could ride for several minuets. Now the army corps of engineers fucked it all up - building the jetty to stop erosion, but just made it worse on the other side where a beautiful "A" frame used to break.


Surge of power grabs the board, its suddenly solid, your feet have found instinctual stability, speeding in-front of the arching wave, pumping up and down, exploding into the air off the lip… you’re blissed out! You ride till the sting of salt in the creases of your eyes make it impossible to concentrate on anything else. Go home, have a burrito and a beer… oh the good life.

Rob was an alchemist in the water. The good’ol boys gave him hell on land, but they split when he was paddling for a wave. We spent a lot of nights in his tiki themed coffee house. He would stand by the cracked open door blowing smoke from rolled cigarette between thoughts. Me, on the wooden couch under the old three stringer hanging from the ceiling. Slack key guitar turned up so loud you could hear it from our trailer out back.

"The biggest lie people tell when they marry is ‘I’ll never try to change you’ and ‘she’ll never change me’. She was different when we met… when things got too heavy I was bout to split, then she got pregnant". He exhaled white smoke into the black sky: a sign it was my turn to speak,

"When my boyfriend relapsed I had to take off. I had too many ties… responsibilities to my family, school, and I was letting everyone down. I loved him. But I couldn’t save him, it took me four years to figure that out."

* * * * *

Boozy lived with Bob and Linda. They liked me. It was Linda who finally told me about Boozy’s other girlfriend. I didn’t wait for an explanation, or leave one. Packed an over-night bag that lasted a month an a half. California, it sounded so right. Stayed with my aunt n’ uncle in Paso. They didn’t ask what I was running from, just brought me breakfast every morning.

Yellow curtains glowed at dawn between the portraits on the wall. Tea and toast and sausage with eggs were left on the table in the little studio kitchen while I slept in. Once I out stayed my welcome I found a job by accident at a little ma and pop Internet café. Pop drove me up the wall always look’n over my shoulder so I quit after I could afford the little white dress in a boutique window I passed every day. It turned out to be a good investment, Nick and Jed liked the way I looked in it and found me a cheep apartment in their building. My roommates didn’t like me much. One was a rod with a mouse face, the other: round and gummy. They watched TV in their pajamas and got pissed when Nick er Jed would stop by looking for me. I spent most time on the front steps smoking, or spouting poetry with Nick n’ Jed in their stark living room. We’d get high on shots of tequila and hits off the huca, stand on the sofa, rant and wail like a sax solo.

Jed had a long distance girlfriend, which immediately made him off limits. Without the hinders of sexual tension, we became close friends. He was the first guy I ever met with a profound sense of intuition. He had a strong psychic connection with his mother and girlfriend, and the most whacked-out premonitions in his dreams. Nick was so So. Cal- skate’n like one of the z-boys in his 1970’s aviator sunglasses and afro.

* * * * *

I was intimidated by the localism of Morro Bay, but a girl suffer is still a novelty so I never had any trouble. Most guys are stoked to see a girl out there, they’ll even bow out of a wave for her. The first day I spent on the shoulder close to the hay-stack rock you see on all the post cards. I’d been waiting a long time for the sets to pick up when I realized I was alone in the line up. There were a few beginners playing in the white water, but no one for a curious shark to get first.

This is a California, a white shark breading ground, and, SHIT, I’m on my period. Just as these thoughts gel I see a fin. Than another. Four long gray bodies surfing the first set wave strait towards me and my fear vanishes. Dolphins, I’ve never seen them on this level before. As though my body is a steal rod conducting: life radiates through me. Spooked Pelicans take off over my head and I am caught in the middle. As close to heaven and earth and one can get. My chest breaks open with mad energy and I experience for the first time: spirit.

* * * * *

Money’s a drag. I had just enough to get to my parent’s place in Washington. The night before I left Nick n’ Jed took me out to party. We smoked a couple bowls and sat out in the warm night smelling the jasmine and talking too loud for that neighborhood. By four in the morning it was just me and Jed left in their old stark living room.

"I broke up with my girlfriend on Tuesday."

I didn’t know what to say, how to react. I was shocked I felt so much when I was aloud to.

"I should go".

I drove to Sacramento early the next morning. Stopped off in Westport to pick up a few things from Rob’s place. He was happy to see me, his Buddha laugh lines deeper and I knew my jaunt sparked his itchy feet. He took off a few months later, not a word to anyone, and a lot of alimony bills left behind. Some souls aren’t made for convention.

* * * * *

I’ve been broke for months and I could really use a trip to San Fran. Working for Daddy, I’m maken about ninety bucks a week, and each pay day Cali’s look’n a little further away. I met some kids that can give me rides out to the coast. My first time out with them was a couple of weeks ago when the big storms were come’n through. The waves got so huge and I knew I had no business be’n out there. One guy snapped his board, another got clocked in the temple. I got out before I could kill myself, only to smack my face against the metal bike on the back of the car.

After that heavy evening session we huddled around the fire. It kept us warm, the rain kept us wet. We munched on soggy tortillas, told jokes, and passed a bottle of red wine round and round. Three of us crammed into two mummy bags and a one-person tent. Setting up was sketchy holding the long metal tent rods with the lightning so close. All nigh we took turns waking with a start then checking the level of the ocean. Dumb luck landed us on a slightly elevated dune, the water ran up the beach on both sides of our tent. The waves sounded like they were crashing on top of us.

Drive’n much too fast, I was asleep in the back. The last ferry at eight, Mario was shoot’n for the 6:45.

"Slow down! We have drugs in this car," The passenger screamed and cursed his stupidity.

We got there just in time to see the ferry pulling out. Shit, an hour to kill. Searched the seats for fallen change, jut enough to split two beers in P.T.’s most famous bar.

* * * * *

Yesterday I took by board into town to sell to a guy I don’t like much. I waited an hour for him. In that time I became nostalgic for my past life. The freedom of the road, poetry nights at Nick n’ Jeds, teaching Robs girls to skateboard, the transcendentalism of surfing, the strange adventures that make old mates out of new friends. By the time he showed, I was gone. Some souls can’t be bought.


Copyright 2003
Lee Zeidner


Funded through the U.S. Dept. of Education, Title III Grant PO31A980143
Sherri Winans, Whatcom Community College, Bellingham, WA