When six-year-old Ether Gray and his four-year-old sister, Anesthesia, took their little brown and white dog, Femur (Woof! Woof!), for his morning walk down tree-lined Sunny Lane. During the late morning, the street was normally empty.
The two Gray kids were not welcome in town.
The Gray children awoke to the festive sounds of local kids laughing and stealing all the cookies and candy off of Wingnut’s counter. From across the street, Old Alvin watched — as the well-bred children of Cowsill ransacked his life.
Even a pauper’s death was preferable to listening to those two lifeless whippersnappers who were still inside his store.
The Gray’s classmates had run out of the store with their booty in a hurry, making believe that they didn’t hear Ether and Anesthesia calling their names.
It was dark when Ether and his little sister had left Wingnut’s. Stolen bags full of “free” chocolaty snacks were stacked up in the little red wagon that the two tykes had borrowed.
The Gray kids and their trusty pooch, Femur (Woof! Arf!) headed off for the Fair.
“Observe, Anesthesia! It’s Goofy Moofy!”
Moofy whined to himself as he lay in the gutter.
“I’ve got ‘man tits.’ My suckling babies are coughing up hairballs! Whaaaaa!” cried Goofy. Moofy was Cowsill’s official town drunk.
Anesthesia was puzzled. She looked up to Ether and asked, “What are ‘man tits,’ big brother?”
Ether began to roll on the subject. “Well, my little sister … Wait! … Sit, Femur! Sit!” ‘Woof! Woof!’ Good boy! … Okay, Anesthesia. Man tits. What Goofy Moofy means is … that he is in possession of rather capacious breasts for a male of the human species.”
“Oh! You mean hooters!”
“Uh — that’s what our father used to call them until mom castrated him with the Hamilton Beach juicer, Anesthesia. A sophisticated person would refer to the mammary glands, respectfully, as breasts. Breastfeeding provides nutrition for baby mammals….”
“What are you kids yapping on about? Please! Stop!” said Goofy Moofy.
“Listen, Mr. Moofy, and you will learn! A mammal is a warm-blooded animal, associated with the class Mammalia. Mammals possess a vertebrate, hair, or fur, and bear live young who are nourished by the secretion of milk by the females of the species by way of special glands, or as my Yale Medical professor called them … ‘a nice rack.'”
(Luckily for Goofy Moofy, he was piss-drunk and had already passed out.
Another lucky soul saved from tedium by alcohol.)
Femur, after licking up the booze in the puddle next to Moofy, was trying to bark “Woofth! Woofth!” (which means: “Hey, I love you, Dog.”).
The little terrier could not walk any farther. Femur needed to be put into the wagon with the bags of Wingnut’s candy.
What kind of threat can bring our divided America together again?
Rats! Giant rats! Millions of giant rats!
The Duck n’ Fishes
The proprietor and bartender, Shannon was a good listener, up to a point. She had her limits. Her ‘limit’ on this Friday was when Al Nichol wanted to show off his new gun while he was drinking inside her quiet bar.
“I know that clown!” said war vet and helicopter pilot, Al Nichol, who was looking across the bar at the front page of Ken’s newspaper. “Wishy-washy stupid jerk!” Ken was a ponytailed old hippie who demonstrated against the same war.
“The Umberto Vaguerro that I know is a straight-up guy,” said old hippie, Ken.
“It says that Umberto is a painter,” said Ken Robby who had spread the Los Angeles News out upon the bar. “Sorry, pal,” said Al. “Umberto sounds kinda Artsy-fartsy? What does he paint? Protest posters, I bet … when he’s not busy raising crab lice over at Spahn Ranch with Timothy Leary and the Manson girls.”
Ken looked suspiciously at loudmouth Al and quietly shook his head. “No. Umberto paints houses, shrapnel brain.”
“I’m sorry, did I disturb your happening?” said Al. “Go ahead, look out the window. It’s a real love-in on the street today. All of that traffic and nobody seems to be upset. Why aren’t they honking? Those people out there are like lambs on their way to slaughter. THIS is a bigger problem than the incense shortage in Haight-Ashbury! Look at all of them. PITA people!”
“The animal rights group PETA?”
“No! The initials are P-I-T-A, for Pains In The Ass! Have you noticed how many show up on Fridays? They’ve got a plan.”
“I haven’t heard anyone mention Timothy Leary since 1969. What’s the ‘plan?’”
“Wanna see my new toy? Check this out. I’ve got a .44 Magnum, the most powerful…”
Shannon sprang into action and pounded the bar in front of Al’s face. “Put that damned thing away!” She froze him with her ice blue eyes, finally saying, “I think that you need to stand in the corner and think about what you just did.”
“Sorry, ma’am. I’ll never bring it in here again. But you never know when you’ll need one.” Ken let out a sigh of relief as he watched Al slip the gun back into his jacket pocket.
Both men lived around the corner from the Duck n’ Fishes.
Shannon, was scrappy enough to take on any shenanigans that might happen on her watch. Shannon was on edge trying to give up her lifelong smoking habit.
A line cars had been at a stand still in front of the Duck ‘n Fishes for over a half hour.
“Listen.” Al said to Ken. “We’re both Americans. I know we don’t agree on much, but I believe that we are all in great danger. I think that you know what I know and information like that puts us right at the top of their hit list.”
Ken asked, “Who’s hit list?” emphasizing the syllable ‘belch.’ Ken was trying to steady his nerves with a beer and the newspaper after having sat, for over two hours, in the same Los Angeles traffic Hell outside the bar’s door. He noticed the lack of traffic noise outside. The quiet was … odd.
“Liberal sheep,” said Al. “ I’ve seen you stuck out there on the 405 on Fridays. Sure. I’ve seen your VW van from the air. The rolling pot bordello with the peace sign on the Kremlin-red roof.”
“My mother used to call it my ‘whore house on wheels.’Mr. Nichol, I agree with you — about there being some kind of organized group behind the phenominomin.. phenomenum.”
“You’re not supposed to agree with me, long hair. What are you getting at?”
“Normally, I’d call you a paranoid redneck, but I’ve seen them too. The extra cars. The vermin,” Ken said while pointing to the solid lines of cars outside, “I’ve seen them coming out of their lairs. It seems that we’ve got giant rats, of all things, running an upholstery shop in Tijuana. And I do think that it’s odd that the News put the ‘tar’ story right under the ‘rat’ story. Tar may be the reason that they’ve been driven out of the tunnels.”
“Let me see that.” Al took the paper from Ken’s hand and read the headline. “Now, THIS is a freaky groove, man. Maybe the rats are being forced out of their hiding places.”
Headline: La Brea Tar Spilling into LA River
La Brea, Los Angeles, 6 a.m. December 12, 2012
Tar is appearing in the Los Angeles River channel from the area near the La Brea tar pits. Large black streams have traveled downstream between Marvin and La Cienega. There are a tangle of drains, with overflows built into them … A few very large drains have an outlet at Fairfax and La Cienega, bringing in flows from as far north as West Hollywood. There are still active oil wells in this zone, so it is fair to speculate that there…
“It seems like thousands of them lie in wait in the tunnels until Friday morning arrives,” said Al.
“You may think that I have granola for brains, sir, but the reason I mentioned the tunnels was, one morning, when I couldn’t sleep…”
“I had you pegged for snotty muesli,” replied Al.
Ken continued: “Ha ha…So I went out for an early breakfast and as I drove by the river bed near La Brea, I saw cars pouring out of the portal near Slauson. This was at 4 a.m. I thought that I was still hallucin…dreaming.”
Ken worked from 5:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., six days a week as a security guard for Worldwide Awake Security. He drove from Santa Monica to Downtown and back nearly every day.
“You live over on Cowan, right?” asked Al.
“Yeah. The green house,” said Ken.
“I’ll tell you a little story. You’ll probably think that my head is full of shrapnel. It’s possible. I was a pilot in Iraq, and now I pilot a traffic helicopter. They want to replace me with a drone.”
Al was employed as a pilot for KHLA Traffic Helicopter Watch, though was now on administrative leave because of his alcoholism and violent tendencies. Last month Al had been filmed by police below dropping beer bottles on cars near Pasadena at sunup.
“It wasn’t like I was dropping bottles on real people. I felt as though I was dropping them on the silly rodents that I’ve seen scurrying out of the tunnels in the river bed. These Friday commuters are like rats.”
Ken slid over one barstool next to Al so that his old ears could hear the pilot better.
Al still had some gumption unlike Ken whose only exercise these days was pressing his right foot into the gas pedal. Ken relaxed at the Duck n’ Fishes every afternoon. He would sit for hours looking and dreaming over the blue-eyed owner, Shannon, behind the bar.
“I used to fly over this mess nearly every day,” said Al.
A sharp jolt shook the bar. They all felt the earthquake though no one flinched. Just a typical day in LA.
The two old men never really spoke about their mutual experience with the extra ‘PITA’ (Pains-In-The-Ass) people before today. Though at politically opposite poles, they both had a similar gut feeling about Fridays, that others would seem irrational. The scope of the problem would go far beyond their political disagreements. Al Nichol felt it was time to befriend Ken Rodby because he felt that their great city and all their lives were in grave danger. Ken’s blood pressure was sky high. He was the kind of personality that held it in. Always held it in.
The PITAs came from beneath the Freeways and waited for the clueless humans to reach their ‘bursting point’ while stuck in traffic. The Pitas wanted them to have coronaries. Afterward, shielded from view within the immobile parking lot called the 405, they would gnaw on the human corpses as Friday night descended.
Chapter 26: Sssssss-slaughter is the Best Medicine: Aftermath
It was a miracle that only a handful of people perished in the Black Friday battle for Poenari Castle. Two of the Meine Runt-Pferde mercenaries, Golden Dusche (Golden Shower) and Frechen Säugen (Perky Suckle), were trampled during the initial assault as they stood by the heavy wooden doorway and were relieved of their trendy clothing. There was no stopping the ravenous hoard of Black Friday Shoppers, until every stitch on every mercenary was gone.
After the sale, Elizabeth picked through the leftovers in the castle with her talons and then placed a comforting wing around Jonathan who was crying his eyes out.
“Mina always told people that she was so willowy that she could be blown away with by (sniffle, sniffle)…” he said. “Oh no!”
“By a fart. I know. Rest in pieces, Mina dear,” said Elizabeth as she pulled out her hip flask and saluted the air, “wherever the unholy fute you are.”
“Mina vent out of this vorld a true heroine—a legend,” said Vlad, “She’s probably scattered somevhere over Florida.”
“Her pretty blonde head is probably in Mexico,” said Lupta, noting the prevailing winds.
Question Mark and Candy pulled up on the Segway. “Where’s Mina?”
“Gone,” pined Jonathan. He sighed. “I have this terrible fear that her cute little ass is probably on display in the Brigitte Bardot Museum in France by now. Geez, what happened to your face, Mark?”
“He’s was popping his zits at the escaping mercenaries,” said Candy.
Jonathan sat on a stump. “Oh, ick. An excreter.” Now he was thoroughly ill.
“Poor Mina. I won’t be able to sleep without the sound of Mina’s self-loathing orgasms crying out into the night,” said Elizabeth.
“Mnnnnnnngph?” said Huthbert who shambled out of the woods holding hands with Penelope.
“Grrrrrrrowpt (Mina is fertilizer),” moaned Penelope.
Huthbert nodded and hugged her. They were happy — looking forward to growing mmmmm-M-OLD together.
Penelope moved Huthbert’s dusty hand to her dusty ass.
“Look!” said Elizabeth, pointing to a fine mist seeping through the bricks in the wall.
Lupta Axe turned to see. “Smokey Robinson! It’s a miracle!”
“It’s a Stevie Wonder!” said Question Mark.
“It’s Mina!” said Jonathan.
Mina’s form had taken shape among the vapor. “Yesiree, pardners, I done lassoed me a fart-ado (far-tay-doh) and had myself a rodeo!”
“Mina whips butt!” said Candy, snapping her bullwhip.
“Oh, Mina. Your clothes!” said Elizabeth.
Mina’s little Annie Oakley outfit was left in tatter. There wasn’t enough left of it to be called tatters—plural.
“I must look a mess,” said Mina.
“You’re bleeding, darling,” said Jonathan.
Bat heads riveted. Some turned 360 degrees.
“Let me lick your wounds,” Jonny pleaded.
“Down, boy,” she said. “I’m okay, Jonny. Really! Well…maybe not.”
“We were worried that your cute little—” Lupta began to say.
“My cute little what?” asked the willowy one.
“Your handsome young minstrel was heartbroken,” added Elizabeth. “He was…fretting. Did I just say what I thought I said?”
“Mina,” explained Jonathan, as he turned back into a laid back hip human. “I had this awful vision that your body was blown up and…your cute buns, yes, those, were blown alllllll the way to the Bardot Museum in Paris where they put them on display, and then—”
“Awww, that’s sweet, Jonny.” She turned her back toward him, displaying her last tatter. “Were they displayed…like…this?”
“I know where this conversation is going,” said Lupta. “C’mon, everyone, some of us old folks need to get some endless sleep.”
The eternal flame of his cigar glowed like a volcanic ember as he rode waves of all sizes. Buzz-cut and bushy eye-browed Fred Colby was a heroic legend at California beaches from the 1940s through the 1960s. His headquarters was the #5 lifeguard tower at D&W beach.
The initials D&W either stood for Dockweiler, as in Isadore Dockweiler Beach, or two of its early star surfers Mike Doyle and Jim Whicker who painted their initials on the jetty.
At D&W, Lifeguard Colby was the “King of the Roost.” He attended to most of the Westchester and Playa Del Rey surf crowd.
* * * *
On Good Friday, March 27, 1964, Lifeguard Colby was asked to take the Jeep and to patrol the local beaches for late night grunion hunters, partiers, and submarine race spectators. Civil Defense wanted all the beaches cleared by 10 p.m. Tidal waves might be racing toward the Los Angeles coast, all the way from Alaska. It should have been easy enough job. Fred Colby was to clear the Playa del Rey beaches.
Six hours later, three empty-headed clods would decide to paddle out at Ballona Creek, at 4 a.m., on Saturday morning, March 28, and….
Earlier That Week – “Mediocre Thursday,”
4 p.m., March 26, 1964
On the day before the Alaskan Earthquake, Mike Paulin, Spaz Barnett, and Will Elder were holding their most impressive surf sacrifice to date. Instead of burning the usual miniature 6-inch long balsa surfboards lovingly carved from wood bought at Carl’s Toy Store, they decided to burn Mike Paulin’s full-size 9’6″ board, an old Jacobs POS (piece-of-shit). Mike was stoked because he would soon be getting a new custom 9’6″ Dewey Weber on Saturday. “Just like the big hot-doggers with the red jackets!”
Somewhere in the distance, the new surf song, “Chunky” by the Crossfires, played….
The three gremmies had barely had gotten the words out: “Oh, big Kahuna, we ask you for bitchin,’ boss and tuff waves tomorr…,” when the entire POS board ignited in one giant burst of yellow flame, followed by thick smoke that blackened the colorful ‘relief maps’ on their teen faces.
The juvenile delinquents were busy choking on poisonous fumes, when air pockets inside the foam board caused a thunderous blast. Five hundred feet away, a young woman let out a shriek from inside the closed and presumed “uninhabited” #5 lifeguard tower on the nearby rock jetty.
Rudely interrupted, D&W’s legendary lifeguard, the cigar-chomping Fred Colby was reeeeeaaallly ticked off. He’d been putting up with the antics of Orville Wright, Jr. High “kooks” like these guys for too many years.
“GRRRRRRR!” he roared. Seagulls scattered. The bluffs above D&W shook.
* * * *
There they were, three prime examples of sunburned fourteen-year-old “hodad (greaser) bait,” smeared with soot and zinc oxide.
The offshore wind was blowing smoke toward the lifeguard tower on top of the stone jetty. Spaz and Will were busy feeding the remaining tail section of Mike’s board into the cement fire pit when lifeguard Colby ripped open the curtains of his bachelor pad/lifeguard tower — where he had been “entertaining” his lady friend. With his megaphone in one hand and lit cigar in the other, he marched up behind Mike and sprinkled a few hot cigar ashes on the kid’s already lobster-red back.
Paulin, was an average-sized, skinny, goofy-looking, bucktoothed, yellow-haired kid, who came from a Mormon household crowded with about three hundred other goofy-looking, skinny, bucktoothed, yellow-haired kids. (Colby always called Mike “Piss-Mop” in reference to his hair.)
“Ow! Hey! Holy Joe Smith!” screamed poor Mike, whose protest quickly faded to a “Sorry, sir,” as he turned and looked up toward the cigar-chomping madman.
“Quit complaining Mop! Cigar ashes will put hair on your back,” barked Colby through his red bull horn directly into Paulin’s ear. He lowered the horn and spoke to them directly with the same decibel level. “I hear that the Mop here ordered a new board from my pal Dewey. Well, I sincerely doubt that a new board could make you paraffin-chewing sea slugs into better surfers. You’ll always be a bunch o’ kooks.”
“Thank you, sir. We always do our best,” said the well-bred Will Elder.
Spaz had just washed the soot off himself in the shore break, but the coarse topography of his face had turned a deep red.
“What the hell happened to you, Spaz?” asked Colby.
“I ducked under a wave and got a jellyfish in the face, sir.”
“A big purple medusa jelly on your ugly kisser might clear up that pizza face, Kid. When I was young, my family didn’t have any Clearasil. Sandpaper and a blow torch. That’s all we could afford! Listen up, Guys. I’m letting you know now that I’m already pissed today. I do not need smoke and noise. Furthermore, if I see one more of you guys wipe out and see your ugly gremmie logs hit one of my competition team buddies out there – none of you will be ever allowed to surf MY beach again! Understand, Mop?”
Spaz got mad. “This is your beach? Can you please clean up this tar, sir?” Spaz had just put his worthless-punk-gremmie life into the lifeguard’s barnacle-encrusted hands.
“Listen up, Baggy Pants!” Colby shouted through his bull horn into Spaz’s left ear, while used his free hand to give the kid a painful wedgie by lifting up the back of Spaz’s crotch-sanding canvas shorts.
“You kids are pissing off my friends out here with your loose boards. There is no room for junior high larvae, Spaz. You’re stupider than those valley toads. What’s with the damned fire? Wimps! It’s 65 degrees today!”
“Surf sacrifice, sir.” Will said, accompanied by a military salute.
“Was I talking to you, Elder?” growled Colby.
“No, sir! Sir!”
“Stop calling me ‘Sir,’ Sand Crab. Just call me ‘Your Hiiiiiiiighness.'”
“Your Highness, sir! We ignited the conflagration at fourteen-hundred hours this afternoon, sir!” Will Elder’s military dad had brought him up with manners.
“We’re tired of the crappy little ankle slappers, sir,” said Mike. “We figured it couldn’t hurt asking the Big Kahuna for some decent sized surf.”
“Maybe if you runts can hold onto your logs and stop injuring my buddies, I can put in ‘the word’ with Mr. K. for you.”
“Mr. K.?” asked the Mop.
“Yeah, the Kahuna. We used to call him big until I met him at Waimea Bay in 1960. He’s only about 5’8″ tall. He dresses really snappy.”
“Do you know anything about the other Mr. K? A guy named Koulax?” asked Spaz.
“Goddamnit! WHO told you punks about Koulax?!!!!!!!”
Mike was puzzled. “I’d never heard of the surfing God ‘Koulax.’ Do you mean the baseball pitcher Sandy Koufax, Spaz?”
“Walt Flannery said something about this guy Koulax at band practice!” said Spaz. “Walt , himself, worships the all-powerful Koulax. Walt called him ‘the keeper of the flame.'”
Colby laughed. ”Ohhhhh, sure. Flannery! Walt should shut up and you kids should be home doing your homework instead of worrying about Koulax. Damned Flannery. The mouth on that guy.”
“Is Koulax one of the Polynesian Gods?” asked Spaz. “
Could it possibly be that Walt is just full of crap? My mom calls Walt ‘a bad influence.’ Is Koulax like a big Tiki God?”
“Big Tiki, huh? You kids are too young to know of Koulax. Go wax your skateboards with Clearasil, or whatever the hell it is that pimple poppers like you think about,” said His Highness, the guard-of-life at D&W beach.
Colby seemed to deflate when he turned his back, and began to walk back to the lifeguard tower. “Koulax,” he was mumbling to himself. “Flannery and his big mouth.”
“Wait! Your Highness?” said Will.
Will Elder was the only natural athlete among the three. The “Red Coats” were paying attention to his smooth surfing style, so Colby let him talk.
“Your Highness! When will we be worthy to meet the great Koulax? “
“When he sends for you, Elder! Remember you guys, no loose boards! You’ve got manners, Elder. I still think that the three of you are nothing but shark chum. Even though you torched Piss-Mop’s old dinged-up piece-of-shit-Taco-wagon, you will hardly get a message to or from any Kahuna—especially the supreme Kahuna… unintelligible-mumble-mumble… Koulax! It’ll take a lot more than burning your boards.”
“Who’s this Koulax?” the boys wondered.
Colby paused and then kindly replied, “Put this fire out goddammit, before I cram some medusa jellyfish down your baggies, you seagull targets! Your smoke scared the shit outta my chick while I was enjoying a fiiiiine lunch at the ‘Y’, aannnndd …. you are stinking up my beach!”
Spaz turned to his buddies.”Is he talking about the YMCA? They’ve got some really shitty cardboard burgers.”
“McDonald’s charges thirty-nine cents apiece,” said Mike.
“Shut up, Mop!” said Colby. “You too, Spaz!”
The inflated Fred Colby stormed off toward the lifeguard tower.
* * * *
It would be nearly another hour before “Spaz” Barnett’s mom would pick up the three shivering gremlins in her two-toned Chevy wagon.
Spaz’s mom was a very tolerant mom. She even stayed awake until 1 a.m. for Spaz to come home after the Grunion run the following evening. Mrs. Barnett rarely got mad but she genuinely worried about him. She knew that Spaz would be punished by his own guilt, and that would be enough. She once tried to support her black-curly-haired son’s dream of becoming a blond surfer boy. Together, they tried to peroxide Spaz’s thick hair over a hundred times. She often used “professional” bleaching mixes to no avail.
Spaz has very little hair today.
In the water, Saturday 4 a.m. March 28, 1964
It seems like only yesterday. The 14-year-old idiot, Spaz, and his two idiot friends sat in the water, waiting for a tidal wave to show up.
They floated between the two parallel Ballona Creek stone jetties at 4:30 in the dark morning, beneath a clear starlit sky, and a full moon that lit up Mike’s golden mop. Their longboards bobbed up and down in the calm, glassy, ankle-slapper surf.
They were all “waxed-up,” wearing their best “hot-dogger” surf shorts, with nowhere to go.
They had retrieved their boards from the Spencer’s’ back yard in the bright moonlight, walked a half block to the beach and carefully stepped down the black, mussel-encrusted boulders of the south jetty. It was as peaceful on the water. A light, cool breeze stirred the air. They decided that they’d stick it out together—come hell or high water. One for all and all for one! Just like the Mouseketeers. Their purpose was a noble one: to ride a tidal wave into the very heart of Los Angeles.
Death rarely, if ever crosses the mind of a 14-year old.
In the Water: 4:20 a.m.
Though the glued seams of their beaver-tailed wetsuits were splitting apart, the boys sat patiently in the chilly water.
Will began a philosophical conversation, trying to help his buddies forget about the cold.
“I sure could use a burger right now.”
“Hamburger Handout’s are only 15 cents, man,” said Mike. “Yeah, those are fine burgers. Why are we here, Spaz? There are no waves and I’m freezing.”
“Nothing is open, yet, Mike. How about we go to the McDonald’s on La Tijera in the morning?” asked Spaz through his chattering teeth.
“Too expensive, twenty-nine cents,” said Mike.
Spaz said, “I’ll tell you what guys, if nothing comes in the next twenty minutes, we’ll get Walt to drive us home.” Spaz looked toward the first bridge and parking lot. “I can see his car near Kerry’s house.”
Mike whimpered, “What about Speedy Mart, near D&W, are they open?”
“A store open 24 hours? Ha! Yeah, right, Doofus!” said Spaz.
“They got that microwave oven,” said Mike. “How about the Marina Fountain?”
Will said, “Fine …What’s that sound?”
“You’ve never even been to the Fountain, Spaz. You said… that….”
Mike’s big ears were perked up, listening.
Spaz said, “Did you hear that, guys?”
Will said, “Did you know that the first hamburger was invented in 1885 by Charles Nagreen of Wisconsin? He fried ground meat between two slices of bread at a County Fair. The first hamburger stand? Two guys named Ingram and Anderson opened the first White Castle hamburger stand in Wichita, Kansas in 1921. They sold burgers for five cents!”
“Five cents? Amazing!” said Mike. “Will there be any places open downtown when and if we ever get there?”
“Nah,” said Will. “Just Olveira Street.”
“Walt says there’s a place downtown…” said Spaz. “and he says that it’s ‘better than eating at the Y.’ Walt, Colby and my big brother. I don’t know why they go on and on about the food at the Y.”
Mike responded, “The ‘Y’ pool snack bar tastes like the crap at school.”
Topside 4:25 a.m.
“Flannery! What are you doing down here in the dark? Do you know what time it is? Go on! Go home and get some sleep!”
“What’s the problem, Mr. Colby?”
“Nothing. Just tidal waves. Civil defense sent me down to make sure that anyone who doesn’t belong at the beach is sent home. You’ve gotta go.”
“Soon, sir. I’ve got friends in the water. They promised to get out in a few minutes.”
“Oh, no. Who?”
“ A couple of gremmies that you might know. Three of them. Spaz Barnett, Will Elder, and Mike Paulin.”
“He’s the yellow-haired Mormon kid that you love to call Piss-Mop. I told them that I’d pick them up here at 4:45. They just wanted to go night surfing under the full moon.”
“Oh, reeeeeally. Are you telling me that those three are — out there — sitting in the Creek, waiting for a tidal wave? Dammit! Those punks already pissed me off a few days ago by stinking up D&W with a burning board. Did you drive them over here?”
“No! They rode over on their bikes and grabbed their boards from someone’s backyard.”
“You’re either crazy, Walt, or your ears are plugged up with surf wax like those three soup monkeys out in the water. You DID hear about the Alaskan Earthquake?”
“Yeah, I heard about it.”
“Not ‘it.’ Them. Multiple waves. We’ve got to get your pals out of the Creek right now.”
“Oops.” Flannery stuck his hand through the driver’s side window and began to honk.
“Don’t B.S. me Flannery?”
“Those three… uh I mean that I came here to talk them out of it. Yeah! It’s insane! We gotta get them out of the water! I heard about the quake while I was over at Suzy’s. Maybe the guys asked me for a ride down here earlier. Of course, I refused them, sir. I figured they’d just ride their bikes down here and grab their boards from Spencer’s place anyway. They have no idea that I’m waiting. I followed them down here to watch them get their butts kic—I mean, to drive them out of here. Their parents must be worried sick, sir.”
“Walt, is your head full of Hyperion effluent? We have to get your three half-wit friends out right now?”
“There’s one-and-one-half wits, sir,” said Math Club president Walt Flannery.
“I saw Spaz with his girlfriend at Gillis beach earlier. Cute. I almost had to hook the jeep up to Spaz’s pants, to pry them apart before one of them got pregnant… probably Spaz. Keep honking!”
“What were you doing at Gillis at 9 p.m.?”
“Zip it, Flannery! If those waves come, they will tear those kids apart! That’s why ‘they’ ask me… not you, to keep an eye on things. There may be some deadly shit headed our way. So get going… Hey! This yours? Bitchin’ car, Flannery. Fairlane? They got guts.V-8? Well, let me tell you, Walt, you’re going to need a rocket ship if you don’t leave soon.”
“What is that sound, Mr. Colby?”
In the Water 4:35 a.m.
“I can’t hear anything, Spaz, except that… train?” said Mike. “Are there trains near here?”
Will, “The Expert,” chimed in: “There used to be trains near here. In 1930, they went down Washington and Venice Boulevards in Culver City. Weird. Maybe it’s just a big truck or the jets at LAX.”
“It must be a jet coming in from the West,” said Mike. “The sound is coming from behind us.”
“Thunder,” thought Spaz. ”Maybe a jet.”
“It’s so bright out there,” said Mike, who was shivering inside his loose ‘beaver tail’ 1960s wetsuit. “The moon is lighting up a fog bank. If any waves come in, we’ll be lucky if we can see them.”
Spaz was thinking about the movie that he’d taken Barbi to. “This place is like a lake. If Frankie Avalon was out here yelling ‘Surf’s up!’ you’d suddenly be hearing Dick Dale and we’d be catching Waimea Bay twenty-five footers right now!”
“Right.” Mike just wanted to go back home to bed.
“That fog is moving around,” said Will. “Did you know that there are many different kinds of fog? Radiation fog, ice fog, sea fog, ground fog. Do you know what else, guys?”
“No, what?” said Spaz.
“It’s just not humid enough tonight for fog to form. The humidity at ground level has to be nearly 100%. That cannot be….”
“There is something moving out there,” said Mike. “It might be fog. Where are the stars?”
“If the fog does move in,” said Spaz, “we won’t be able to see the waves coming. Maybe we should just go home. This is stupid.”
“The tide’s pulling out,” said Will. “My foot just scraped the bottom. Shit! The water’s pulling out fast!”
Will said, “Tidal surges are usually preceded by the water sucking out.”
“Surges?” said Mike. “Do you mean tidal waves?”
“Can it, Will!” said Spaz. “You’re scaring Mike.”
“The fog bank is getting higher!” You could almost hear Mike’s skeleton rattling. “Can we go home?”
“Closer and louder too,” said Will. “This time I think that you’re right, Mike.”
“Let’s paddle over to the jetty and get out there,” said Spaz.
“Guys! I can’t move!” said Mike. “I’m being pulled out! Barnacles! I’m scraping the bottom. Baaaddd idea, guys!”
“Cowabunga!” screamed Will.
Spaz and Mike looked down at the sandy bottom. Spaz said, “Shut up Will! That’s not funny!”
“What?” said Mike.
Will pointed to the sea. “This is it! Surf’s up! Look!… Hang on!”
“It — What?” yelled Spaz who was peering into the dark, trying to make sense out of the turbulence at the end of the breakwater.
(The water stopped receding, and again began fill the Creek bed.)
Will said, “Do you know that the biggest tidal wave ever recorded was 118 feet high? The most destructive tidal wave hit Taiwan on May 22, 1782. It killed over fifty-thousan—”
“Enough, asshole!” said Mike.
“Zip it, Will!” said Spaz. “What are we supposed to do, now? Listen.”
Then they heard a great cracking sound.
“Are the boulders making that racket? It’s busting up! There goes the barge! The crane! Where’s the beacon?!”
“Foam headed this way, guys!” Paulin said as he held onto his Saint Christopher medal and pressed himself into his brand new board.
“Why am I not stoked right now?” yelled Spaz as he wrapped himself around his board and pushed his head into the deck, hard enough to form an impression of his face.
Topside with Walt and Colby: 4:35 a.m.
“This is between just us. I heard that Crescent City got hit hard a few hours ago. Walt, are you listening?”
“Yeah, but not to you, sir. No offense. Listen! Are you hearing that? Is that a train?”
“Walt! They asked me and a couple of the other lifeguards to… what the… maybe that’s a jet landing over the airport.”
“Crap!” said Walt, “I can’t leave. Not with those guys out there!”
Walt started honking the horn and yelling through a microphone that he’d hooked up to a speaker behind the front grill of his car.
“Spaz! Get out! Get out now!”
“Hey, Look! Where’d the water go?” asked Colby. “They must be sitting in six inches of water out there?”
Walt wasn’t listening to Colby. His eyes were transfixed. ”That fog bank seems awfully bright. Look behind the breakwater! …I dunno. Well, Fuuuuuuuuhck me! That ain’t fog!”
Suddenly the “fog bank” exploded. The barge and crane suddenly leaned and crashed. The boulders splattered with the first ‘warning’ wave as if hit by a break shot on a pool table.
A moment of silence… then….
“Whoa! It might be too late!” Colby said.
The dark horizon heaved white water.
“Flannery! Let’s go.”
Through the mic, “Get out, Spaz! Oh, Fuh… here… it… comes!”
The Creek receded again, and the lights on the barge and crane that had been used to lift the huge boulders suddenly toppled into the end of the northern side of the breakwater.
The sound of thunder rose above the cracking of the boulders. The foundation was breaking apart.
Walt’s car horn was useless.
* * * *
Lifeguard Colby was hypnotized by the hulks of rusted autos on the near dry bed of the Creek. Colby ran and hopped into his lifeguard jeep when he heard another tremendous ‘crack!’
The massive 9.1 magnitude earthquake that struck Prince William Sound, Alaska, on Good Friday, at 5:36 p.m. on March 27, 1964, produced a succession of tidal waves. Within a few hours, the waves would devastate several Pacific coastal towns and result in 14 deaths.
Within seconds after the quake, a “train” of powerful waves would speed down the coast, dismantling homes, bridges, harbors, and roads. Approximately 100 million dollars in damages were caused by swells ranging from ten to over twenty feet high. In 1964, 100-million dollars was “a bit of change.”
Ten of the fourteen people killed by the waves died in Crescent City when a 21-foot wave flooded a large portion of the city.
Farther down the coast, wave heights at Humbolt Bay and Eureka reached 14 feet.
One person drown in the already unhealthy waters of the Cerritos Channel near Long Beach (… probably some lame Valley‘kook’).
The series of tidal waves that did reach the Los Angeles coast early the following morning barely made the news because they were largely confined to the area around a narrow ocean outlet known as Ballona Creek.
It would be quite possible for tidal waves to travel miles up Ballona Creek, where they could further damage the inland communities (inland communities are “earthquake bait.” They are the dusty old neighborhoods of LA (which mostly suck, as they have no waves and are full of greasy hodads).
Since a “tsunami” tends to be made up of several waves, the series might be called a train. Upon arrival, these waves, while ripping up the sea bed, may sound like a train approaching. A train can last for many hours. The interval between these waves can stretch as long as a half hour. The first wave to hit land is not always the largest wave. Frequently, the second or third wave will prove to be the most destructive.
It was a beautiful cool night with a big bright full moon; picture-perfect for watching the submarine races and the first grunion run of the season.
Barbi’s Playhouse, Playa Del Rey, California
“Good Friday,” 10 p.m., March 27, 1964
“It’s time for Barbi to go to sleep, son,” said FBI Special Agent Andre Molle (pronounced: MO-lay) “and it’s also time for you to get yourself home,”. He was speaking to his daughter’s new friend, Jay ‘Spaz’ Barnett. Agent Mollewas drinking and thinking, Hmmmm. I could use that punk’s skinny neck like a toothpick for my olive.
Spaz Barnett, or Jay, was a skinny 14-year-old. He was holding a heavy, full, dripping bucket of live fish over the Molle’s schmancy white rug.
Spaz had just walked into the family’s living room with their dark haired daughter, Barbi, when a loud announcement on the TV rattled their hormones, and caught their teenage “divided” attention.
They halted in their sandy tracks, when a deep authoritative voice from the TV blared out, “Tidal Wave!”
The second announcement came from Barbi’s well-marinated mom, who croaked, “Shid! Taig (take) that damn buggid (bucket) into the kishin! You’re dribbering all over the god’m carbit.”
The two teens, in their buzzing britches, didn’t hear Barbi’s lubricated mom. They’d only heard the words tidal wave coming from the television.
Barbi’s dad sat in his easy chair with his third martooni, cursing under his breath about runaway teenage hormones and how he could no longer catch any.
“Oh yes, about the fish.”
(3 hours earlier, 7 Ppm.
“Good Friday,” March 27, 1964)
For four consecutive evenings in the spring and summer months along the Southern California coast, beginning with full and new moons, the little Grunion fish come up onto the beaches to spawn. The bite-sized yummy silversides wiggle their way up onto the sand, and in scientific terms “make awesome whoopie” for a few hours. The female grunion arches her lithe body and digs a nest in the sand with her shapely tail, wherein she can deposit her eggs to be fertilized by the male grunion flopping nearby.
Afterward, Grunion pairs lay back and relax with a kelp cigarette. After a short rest, the seven-inch-long fish then find their scaly undies and flop their way back into the sea.
* * * *
Shortly after sundown on that Friday evening, the two 14-year-old secreters, Spaz and Barbi, walked down the hill to Gillis Beach, pail in hand, to enjoy the first grunion run of the 1964 spring season.
The two ADHD teens waited for an excruciating fifteen minutes, and the grunion still hadn’t turned up. Barbi wrote an adorable message in the wet sand, “Hurry up you fucking stupid tunas!” and returned to Spaz who was laying down on the towel. She smiled warmly at Spaz and they kissed, for the very first time, beneath the moon. Wow, thought the young boy. Barbi is, like my best bud. What should I do next? Spaz was not quite sure what to do with Barbi, whose body he had watched blossom over the summer, who until that afternoon, had been “more of a pal,” or “like a sister,” or “his best friend.” Within ten minutes, they were arching and flopping among the thousands of horny grunion on the beach, which soon led to tongue-trolling for tonsils.
Barbi was writhing and heaving on the beach towel beneath Spaz. Was she having a fit?
Spaz’s fourteen-year-old mind had not quite caught up to his more mature girlfriend. He hadn’t much experience with romance beyond dirty jokes and an awkward kiss with a mustached girl named Carol during a game of Spin the Bottle when he was thirteen. “Baseball! Baseball! Think about baseball!” his big brother had once told him.
But, suddenly, there were boobs and … and….
In a flurry of wild foul balls, the nookie rookie, Spaz —had struck out.
True to his name, Spaz had managed to fertilize a few hundred grunion eggs, in four separate nests—on that historic night—Friday, March 27, 1964.
Reports of “tiny mermaids and mermen spawning at Toes beach in 1967,” were filed away at a remote Air Force base, “Area 53” near Hamilton Beach, New York. These “reports” were initially ignored by the authorities. All eight of the unrelated witnesses were described as being “unable to even crawl at the time.”
The spent male grunion had stopped bragging amongst themselves for a moment to chuckle at Spaz’s clumsy, though gallant, attempt to free the highly combustible Barbi from her flammable cotton restraints — as a lifeguard jeep approached.
The two lovebirds did not hear the vintage World War II jeep stop two feet behind them, as they were deeply involved in choking on one another’s slimy tongues, and squishing the poor weakened fish beneath them.
Loud, teenage static played on Spaz’s fine new black Japanese transistor radio that was permanently stuck on KRLA. Disc jockey Dave Hull, The Hullabalooer, had just announced that the Beach Boys were still the most popular band in the world. Even more popular than the Beatles. Those pale limeys with their weird chords and stupid haircuts. No way, José!
Back at Barbi’s. “The News” 10 p.m., March 27, 1964
Barbi Molle’s home was about one half mile up the slope from the beach at Playa Del Rey, where in the spring and summer, the Submarine races were scheduled nearly every night.
The teens had walked up the hill with their pail of grunion.
Sandy, sore, and smiling, Spaz and Barbi strolled through the Molle’s kitchen, and into the newly carpeted, modern living room. Spaz still held the bucket full of the equally sandy, sore, smiling, and satiated live, nude grunion.
When they entered the room, the 10 o’clock news was on “Special Report.” KCOP Hal Fishface (Real name/Born: Halitozhisch Foqfaische in Czechoslovakia in 1912) was rattling on about an earthquake and the resulting 30-foot tidal waves headed for California’s West Coast—sometime after midnight. “When the Pacific….”
Target: Ballona Creek
The bridges spanning Ballona Creek would be the only man-made structures damaged by the waves that would hit LA on Saturday, March 28, 1964. Most of those bridges were already in various phases of construction and destruction, as the new 405 freeway was being built along the path of Ballona Creek. “The Creek” was an old river bed that ran nearly all the way into the heart of downtown Los Angeles.
Regardless of the terrible damage caused by the day’s earthquake on northern west coast seaside communities, this story about three 14-year-old “Daredevil Los Angeles teenagers” would steal the day’s headlines, and top the front page news.
Yes, it would be the incredible stupidity and amazing dumb luck of the three young surfers who would captivate the imagination of the world… on that following Saturday morning — so long, long ago.
T.V. or Not T.V.
The Alaskan Earthquake had released its offspring of destructive tidal waves. According to the ten o’clock news anchor, Hal Fishface, the killer waves were working their way down the coast.
Fishface had said that the tidal waves, or a series of tidal waves, had already done millions of dollars’ worth of damage in the Northwest and may have killed as many as a dozen coastal residents.
“Waves of undetermined height might slam our coastline as early as 4 a.m. Anyone who lives in low lying areas along all California beaches or who are at the tonight’s Submarine Races humping their brains out to the sounds of Wolfman Jack, should be vigilant, heed all warnings and be ready to evacuate if directed to do so by Fred the Lifeguard and Civil Defense, ” said the KCOP news celebrity.
Barbi’s father was repeatedly asking the oozing Zit or Spaz, or whatever the juvenile delinquent’s name was, to politely, “GO HOME!”
Spaz’s eyes and ears were glued to the television. If he rode “the Big One” into downtown, he’d be “hangin’ eleven in heaven” (i.e., He would be the bouncing beach bunny Barbi’s “Oh, my hero!” forever).
Barbi would be eternally stoked… fer sure. Dude.
Surfing down Ballona creek to Olveira Street? Whoa! Bitchin’!
Ballona Creek, with its potential for almost endless rides back and forth between the two jetties….
Spaz was relaxed and deep into his surf-trance, while the ‘awakened’ Barbi wolfed down the last slice of Andy’s pizza, while thinking about spawning, again, on the moonlit beach. When she looked at her dad, she noticed that he was staring at Spaz. Daddy didn’t look happy.
Barbi’s FBI dad, ignored in a house full of people, was thinking about trying out a new top-secret alternative to dangerous chemical defoliants. A gadget recently developed by the military in Vietnam called a “Weed Whacker.” Mr. Molle wanted to try the new gizmo out on his angelic daughter’s new hump buddy, Zit, Boil, or whatever its name was. The dumb-ass with the pail of filthy fish.
Say goodbye to your Oscar Meyer Wiener Whistle! thought the Special Agent.
(Next… Lifeguard Fred Colby and the Gremmies at D&W beach.)