The constant hiss and swoosh of the crashing waves and stirring sea was a sound I had taken for granted until I returned from being away for nearly a month. The sun was a welcome experience after two weeks in cloudy and rainy London and Paris, but only for about 3 minutes before I recoiled from the sizzle on my neck and arms and the heat kept rising until the body started cooling itself via perspiration, a system my body has left dormant for the last few weeks. The relentless baking of Southern California is evident on your final descent into LAX, soaring over parched fields of brown withered grass and dirt, parking lots of cars like shimmering heat desserts of asphalt. There was a layer of smog I don't remember being so dark lingering on the horizon cloaking Catalina Island in a mysterious haze, yet the water was calm and crystal clear and the longboarders came out to ride the small party waves - even "headstand guy" was out there doing his head stands - and a small sea lion was surfing the waves and resting on her side with a flipper raised up like a fin causing an entire section of onlookers from the pier to wonder if it was a shark, as I overheard multiple conversations wondering what it was. A big male sea lion was lounging in place under the end of the pier waiting for fisherman's scraps, barely moving, slowly periodically coming up for a breath and a flash of fangs.
The heat of yesterday dissipated a tad, but the humidity rose as the foothills trapped the clouds and dumped rain over the inland empire - so still hot and sticky for California standards. Under the pier afforded some nice shade and the breeze right off the pacific which softened the bite. The Huntington Beach pier is it’s own ecosystem, families set up elaborate blanket, chair and cooler nests, littered with food wrappers, tin foil and plastic beach toys embedded into the damp sand by the trodding line of teenage girls making the pilgrimage to the pilings at the shoreline for the coveted “lean up against the piling under the pier” shot where a non-stop line of girls wait to get their poses with friends amongst the old Mexican women sitting in vintage 1980’s aluminum and nylon folding chairs watching over the camps and keeping an eye on the children running back and forth in the lapping surf like plovers and sandpipers, screaming as they retreat in both terror and joy. A father frantically looks around yelling the name of a lost child, he inadvertently bowls over a toddler who begins to cry after she realizes what has happened to her. A woman brings the lost boy over to the man who firmly hugs the boy in a “thank god” and “how dare you” double bear-grip. The crowd who had watched this unfold was relieved and dissipated back to basking and reveling in the heat.