WHAT A JERK!
Spending so much time in Long Beach last weekend brought back lots of memories from my time living there. That time was split into two periods, or epochs if you will. The first one was growing up and living with my family and the second was living on my own in Belmont Shore and the environs which began the summer I graduated from high school. I had a job which started as an internship when I was a senior in high school, working at a family planning clinic. My parents subsidized my paltry salary and me and Cathi, best friend from fifth grade who also didn't go away to college, got an apartment down on Ximeno and Division. Cathi had a job at Judy's and didn't plan to go to college at all.
This past weekend as I was back in my old stomping grounds I had all kinds of memories, but one in particular jarred loose a set of memories of events that were surreal and gross at the time, but I remember laughing about it then. Could be that I was more tolerant, or maybe the world was a less scary place but these three events all involved "men who masturbate in public places". There are actually more when I think about it, but these particular memories are location specific and I was in all of those locales over the weekend.
The beach that is Long Beach is long and wide and covered with white sand. There are no waves because of a break that was built a long time ago. My nana grew up in Long Beach and she has stories of the seaside amusement park that was the Pike with the rainbow pier and the wooden roller coaster. This was before the shorebreak was put in and there were shark attacks and surfable waves - two things that don't go together so great if you think about it. Anyway, for most of my life the Pike was a dilapidated and run down ghost town, infamous for the real corpse that was discovered in the abandoned Funhouse during the filming of an episode of the "Six Million Dollar Man", and the beach has always been a long expanse of sand against which the neutered Pacific Ocean calmly lapped upon quietly. If it weren't for the salty smell of red tide it wasn't much different than hanging out on Lake Michigan.
On the weekends I loved to go down early and fry my front and backsides to an even blister. I didn't get the melanin to bronze but I could achieve a sort of auburn/brown color brought about by extensive freckling, with enough effort. So one Saturday morning I was laying on the beach, pretty much all alone on what I fantasized was my private beach. I was reading something that wasn't all that entertaining and nursing a hangover because at that time my drink of choice was Tyrolia wine which came in the green jug bottle. I drifted off to sleep for I don't know how long, but I awoke to sounds of panting which gradually worked their way from my dream to my conscious awareness. The sound was coming from behind me, near the brick wall that separated the sidewalk from the sand. At first I was just vaguely annoyed that out of all the available real estate someone had decided to camp out with their dog, or whatever thing was making that noise, like totally in my space! I slowly turned over to give them the evil eye and stopped mid-roll at the sight of a blonde guy, about 25, with his bathing suit trunks around his ankles, sitting there jerking off!! Because I was just waking up it gave me a jolt, but at the same time I remember noticing that he looked like a normal guy. Not some gross, pervy, drooling, unwashed sexual deviant in a trench coat. This guy was kind of cute - well as cute as a total stranger can be with his pants around his ankles, pulling his pud and panting. I quickly stood up, grabbed my stuff and vacated, leaving him to it. I just hoped I never saw him out and about in the shore - how embarrassing!
About six months after that I pulled into the parking lot at Vons a few blocks from the house and I went in to do my shopping. When I came out there was a large land yacht type car parked so closely to my driver door that I was going to have to climb through the passenger side to get behind the wheel. I cursed as I unloaded the groceries into the trunk and then I noticed that the car that was parked so closely was rocking a bit. A closer look revealed that there was a man in the front seat, which was one of those upholstered bench seats that you'd find in 1970s model, gas guzzling sedans. This middle aged gentleman, he was like 30, was hunched up on his knees and I could see the piston like action of his arm as he worked to "shift gears". I briefly thought about running to tell, but my groceries were in the trunk and it seemed wiser to just beat a quick retreat. I ran to the passenger side of my car and tried to quickly fold the entire length of me in and over the gear shift as the rocking of the car next to me got more and more violent. This distracted me - because it started to feel like I was playing beat the clock - and I became more clumsy than usual, fumbling to get the keys in the ignition and giggling nervously, trying not to look. I got the car started and was attempting to get it in reverse when buddy achieved lift off -all over the passenger window of his car. I burned rubber backwards and screamed - eeeeeuuuuuuuwwww all the way home. What was it with me and the masturbators? I was like some kind of magnet for those obssessed with self love.
In the spring Cathi and I started running, training to run a half marathon. Everyday after work we would don our dolphin shorts and new balance running shoes and head out to the Seal Beach pier. The round trip of our circuit totaled 7.5 miles and as we were running up Second Street at the end of mile 6 having just run over the big bridge that spanned the marina, we had to cross the little bridge that spanned the bay which seperated Naples from Belmont Shore. It was here that we would usually "hit the wall" and want to start walking. Cathi and I would urge each other along over that bridge and through the last mile and half, but it was almost Pavlovian - still in pain from the last big climb, I'd see that bridge and run out of gas. One night as we ran down Second Street through Naples we noticed that a guy on a mini-bike was shadowing us. He would circle each block so that he right there as we crossed at each corner. He couldn't have been more than a teenager, but it was hard to tell because he was wearing a helmut. As we approached the little bridge we started to flag and were jogging so slow as to be walking with a jaunty gait and just as we stepped on the curb to go over the bridge, there right beside it, in the dark recess of the structure was our mini-bike buddy wearing his helmut but not his pants, willy was free and he was going to town pumping his pole. We squealed and in a burst of adrenaline ran home really fast. Where we laughed at him and ourselves. Because we ran at the same time every night he started to show up in his little masturbatory corner of the world pretty regularly. At first we appreciated the motivation to get over the bridge, but then we bacame blase to the point where one night Cathi yelled at him as we passed, "You know that looks like a penis only it's a lot smaller."
We never saw him again after that.
It was like an epidemic that year and I've really never had to deal with it since except for a pathetic, crazy homeless man in Santa Monica who seemed more confused than anything - like he wasn't sure if he was going to pee in public or choke the chicken, or maybe changed his mind in the middle of getting it out. Anyway - I look back at that year and wonder why I never felt afraid or assaulted or offended. Maybe it was my age and a level of naivete that comes from being raised in the suburbs of Southern California. Maybe it was being raised by parents who were fairly open about sexuality and sexual behavior so I knew what these guys were doing. My initial reaction almost always was surprise and then embarassment and then the next thought was pretty much...
What a jerk!