I suppose I should tell you that I’m a mostly law abiding, contributing member of society. I don’t condone lawlessness, and I don’t actively seek to break the law. It’s just that, well, every once in a Halley’s comet, I find myself doing something really fun, which also HAPPENS to be (sometimes questionably) illegal. And before all the staunch pundits throw a spac about what follows, let he who has not naked jaywalked cast the first stone. Or just jaywalked, for you literals.
I’ve had maybe eleven total (mild) interactions with the police. As I recall, five of those were for speeding (with no citations); there was that one time when I was stopped for having a dummy human foot hanging out of my trunk; once when I damn near got into a parking lot brawl at Wendy’s (as a youth minister no less), seeking to defend one of my students against a few pissed off rednecks on meth; once when the cops showed up at my residence to ask me if some lady lived there; once when the neighbor of a girl I was dating accused our dog of pissing on his car; once when a friend and I were having ocean withdrawals related to COVID shutdowns, and were busted sneaking onto a closed beach; and once as follows.
I make life exciting and colorful on purpose. I spent enough of it in a bland a narrow state of mind. I want stories to tell and memories to share. And on occasion I’ve been known to enjoy a careless day of throwing caution to the wind. On one such day, I asked one of my best buddies, MK, if she wanted to have a few drinks and paddleboard. As always, she called it a horrible idea, and cheerfully agreed.
At our favorite liquor store, they were out of our go-to beach drink, Malibu Black. They did, however, have an alternative coconut rum choice called Shipwreck, which was fucking delicious, and one percent stronger than the Black. And I do believe, looking back, that the name of said beverage may have been a prophetic sign of the events to come that day, from the celestial powers that be.
I recall the water being pretty cold, so we donned our wetsuits, mixed a few drinks, took a few sips and set sail. We paddled to our usual distance from shore and began enthusiastically discussing life, love and the mysteries of the stratosphere. Some time passed, and I was feeling pretty buzzed, which slightly intrigued me, given that I’ve been told I hold liquor like an Irish gypsy.
“How much Shipwreck did you put in there?” I asked MK, peering into the now empty Nalgene bottle.
“The whole bottle,” she rosily replied. “Plus a splash of orange juice.”
My eyes widened. “Well then, here we are.” I blinked, shrugged and settled into our wayward drift, as we continued our deep discussions.
After a few hours, I’m guessing, I heard a distant hum, getting louder, moment by moment. I cast my eyes around the horizon. A vessel approached in the distance; a jet ski, driven by a shades-sporting golden boy with shaggy blonde hair and a red tank top, who couldn’t have been a day over twenty. I might’ve mistaken him for a kid out for a leisurely ride, were it not for the lifeguard can and rescue sled attached to his jet ski.
“You guys need a tow back in? You’re pretty far out,” he said in a Californian drawl.
I surveyed the distance to shore, and damned if I could just make out the red lifeguard truck that deposited said jet ski into the water. We were indeed a far cry from shore. We must’ve been around a mile out. In a flash I threw my eyes to the sky in search of a sober piece of brain to reply. The response came.
“You’re fucked. Take the ride.”
Then drunk Tripp replied, “Nah, bro! We’re good!”
He looked confused. “Well if you need a pull, hold your paddle up high and we’ll come get you.” And with a worried brow, the Californian departed, and MK and I continued our peaceful wayward drift and philosophical discussions. Maybe an hour later, the hum reemerged over our chatting and the tranquil sound of waves lapping at the paddleboard.
The Californian approached again. “So someone called 911 about you guys being too far out. And since my team leaves at 5, my boss just wanted me to come out and get you guys.”
Behind his shades I could tell the poor guy was praying we wouldn’t resist. I surveyed the shore once more. The lone lifeguard truck was now two, plus two beach patrol SUV’s. Calmly accepting that our meditative day was at an end, I obliged, repositioned, grabbed the jet ski tow handle, and with MK securing herself on the back portion of the paddleboard, we began a delightful motorized ride back to shore. And that’s when the fun began.
About halfway to shore, MK vanished into the great wide sea. I turned around to check on her and she wasn’t there. I yelled for the Californian to stop the jet ski. After a few moments, he spotted her floating merrily in the water, and went back for her. As an ex-trauma nurse, I have much appreciation for a cool head in chaos, and to this youthful sea guardian’s credit, he was pretty laid back about the whole thing.
“What the hell, MK?!” I yelled, as we approached. “Are you okay?!”
“I dropped the paddle,” she cheerfully replied, holding it up with a chuckle. She had calmly side rolled off the speeding rig and gone after the paddle, without a word. Casual MK.
We resumed our course and finally got to the shore, where a small crowd had gathered, including the gentleman who had dialed the authorities. He was jolly, and quite proud of himself as he gave his report to the police. At this point I rely heavily on MK’s recap, because that bottle of Shipwreck was starting to percolate nicely, and at the time I was feeling quite pleasantly cloudy. In other words, I remember very little of the following events.
Allegedly, drunk Tripp wandered up to dry ground, fell back in full wetsuit, and started carving a nice sand angel. MK, presuming I was good there for ten minutes, turned to go get the paddleboard dolly, about fifty yards away. When she turned around, she noted that drunk Tripp was now standing and breezily chatting with three police officers.
As she approached the conversing party, she took note of drunk Tripp’s congenial demeanor, as if he’d met three new friends with whom he was now discussing love, enlightenment and the meaning of life. In reality they were actually discussing whether or not to take drunk Tripp to jail.
MK does not recall what she said, for she, too, was pleasantly cloudy. However, whatever she said must have persuaded the cops to let us gather our things and take the ponderous walk back to the condo. “Because you’re such a fun and pleasant drunk who still wants to counsel people” was her decided explanation.
It was glorious. It was therapeutic. And I’m reasonably certain we became the entertaining topic of numerous dinner conversations with the lifeguards, with the authorities, and with the numerous passers-by, all witness to two shit-faced stragglers, clumsily lugging a bigass paddleboard and two beach chairs down three crowded street blocks to the condo.
What a wonderful day.