The Surf, the Sun, the Sand, and the Sheep

Santa Cruz, California - July 18, 1998

I no longer remember who's idea it was to have a Darkfriend Social on the beach, but it was a pretty good one. I suppose I should credit it to Drew Gillmore since he has taken the blame for everything that went wrong. You can read all about his culpability in Drew's writeup of the social.

Now, if you've already read Drew's summary, you might be wondering why you should read mine. Aren't they two accounts of the same events? Wasn't Drew's pretty long and thus likely complete? The answers are Yes, and Yes but mine is longer. Mine is also better in that mine is written with my characteristic wit, flair, and penchant for effective lying. Mine has a tear-jerker ending that will certainly beat out Titanic in this year's Oscar awards. And as if that weren't enough, mine is accompanied by astounding pictures that will make you wish you were there with us. Onward ho!

Tellings of the Wheel

The Wheel of Rasfrwj turns, and Darkfriend Socials come and pass, leaving semi-fictional anecdotes and quotes taken out of context that become legend. Legend fades to myth, like the joke about $37 of beer that never really existed in the first place, and even myth is long forgotten by the time we get around to organizing the next darkfriend social. Except that's why we post things on the newsgroup and inter them on web pages -- so the pathetic things we call the best days of our lives can be enshrined for posterity. And some people actually do dig up this cruft and read it, so watch out.

Damn, I'm getting off track now. Where was I? Oh, right, the mumbo jumbo about the wind.

At this social, called the Santa Cruz Beach Social by some, a social yet to come, a social long past, a wind blew across the Pacific Ocean and onto the California coast. It blew through the open windows of a Jeep cruising up Highway 1, causing the ears of the inflatable sheep wedged in the cargo area to flap in rhythm. Driving faster made her ears buzz faster. "I think she's getting excited for you, Bill," Chris quipped. The wind was not the beginning, for it's hard to blame the wind for such perversions as driving around with Dolly the Inflatable Love Ewe, replete with lipstick, a garter belt, and fishnet stockngs stuffed in the back of your vehicle; but it was a beginning.

There were also a few other beginnings, which are probably better beginnings than this one since they happened first. There's the beginning where Julie Kangas and Chris Mullins met Hawk and me (Bill Garrett) over at our place. There's the beginning where we loaded two large ice chests full of beer, wine, and liquor into the back of my vehicle (as if mere alcoholic inebriation could even begin to justify the depths of human depravity we'd plumb later in the day). There's also the beginning where we arrived at the designated meeting point in Santa Cruz to group up with the other attendees of the social. That's as decent a beginning as any, actually, so I'll begin there.

The four of us and the Love Ewe met Drew Gillmore, Nathan Lundblad, Michael Heinsohn, Batya of the Lost Surname, Aaron Bergman, and Tom O'Narey in the parking lot of a Denny's just off the highway in Santa Cruz at about 11am on Saturday, July 18, 1998. The womenfolk quickly synchronized for a group bathroom trip, leaving us guys to count up how much booze we were bringing along. Just as we realized we had enough to sate an invading Visigoth horde and started exchanging rosey-eyed prognostications of how much fun the day was going to be, Drew opened the trunk of his car to reveal a dozen sacks of Dorito's. "It's gonna be all that and a bag of chips!"

Getting There is (Always) Half the Battle

Eager to get on with a day of debauchery at the beach, the bulk of us left Drew behind to catch the stragglers and headed on to the beach to start debauching. Drew's driving directions were cryptic. Well, the part about "Drive exactly 7.3 miles -- and I mean exactly 7.3, or you'll be shot -- from the last traffic light in town, which is at Swift Street" were fairly uncryptic, except for the fact that the traffic light at Swift Street was not the last traffic light in town. It's what the directions said after that that set new standards for obfuscation. "Turn off onto a dirt road on the left. Turn right and drive about 100 feet. Then take 3 baby steps. Ha! You didn't say, 'Mother may I!' Okay, now cross the railroad tracks. Cross back to the first side. Now just put your left leg across. Take your left leg back. Do the hokey-pokey and turn yourself around, that's what it's all about!"

Since it seemed that we lost half our caravan on step #1 of the directions -- nevermind the later parts about Mother May I and the hokey pokey -- we drove the Jeep back up to the shoulder of the road and waited there to flag down our cohorts as they passed by. Concerned that our vehicle and our faces wouldn't attract enough attention, we unwedged the Love Ewe from the back of the Jeep and inflated it back to full size. Indeed, attention is exactly what Chris got as he stood on the side of the highway, blowing an inflatable sheep. When he was done we tried setting her atop the vehicle, but the wind blew her off, so we settled for trapping her midriff in one of the open windows. That little display caused about a dozen drivers passing by to slow down and check us out.

Once the caravan regrouped, we left the roadside and took a scenic detour through some farmer's field because we thought it was the dirt road leading to the parking lot. We almost got every vehicle except the Jeep stuck in the mud (there was nothing to worry about, folks -- I always carry recovery equipment!) before finally arriving at the prescribed parking lot, which was actually right next to the side of the road, albeit 0.1 miles further down the road than where we had all stopped. I guess we should have gone 7.3 miles from the last traffic light, not 7.3 miles from Swift Street. Bummer.

The parking lot was ringed with signs informing us our cars would be ticketed if we stayed past 10pm. We scoffed at the signs since Drew had assured us that nobody gets ticketed for staying late there (HINT: IRONIC FORESHADOWING) and began lugging our gear down to the beach. Paul Kanghure and Tashenna were already there, staking out a primo spot in the sand for us. Noell Milota, Eric Milota, and Drew joined shortly afterwards. We unfurled beach blankets, opened shade umbrellas, and began the assault on our amassed fortresses of beer.

Man Discovers Rock!

Paul was setting up the volleyball net as we arrived, so I pitched in to help him (after starting a bottle of beer, of course). Remarking upon my burly manliness, he invited me to help him connect together the tubular sections of the poles. I pushed and twisted and strained -- they were tight! "Push harder," he said. "It's virgin PVC."

After getting the poles together we realized that there was no way we could drive them far enough down into the sand to stay up straight all by themselves. ...Not unless we wanted to drive them so far in that the net would be at knee height, that is. The support lines were of little use, as the miniature plastic stakes meant to anchor them into the ground were totally useless in the sand. That's when I put my engineering knowledge to use and devised a highly technical plan: we would apply cantilevered mineral structures to provide the requisite physical resistance. In plain English: we used rocks.

Nathan and I, being men of burly manliness, went off to collect rocks from around the cove. Some of the rocks we retrieved seemed to be fake rocks. They looked like rocks, but had the density of soft wood. We carried them by the armload, impressing to no end the assorted womenfolk with our ostentatious display of burly manliness, as they didn't know that these were not rocks but cleverly constructed decoys planted by the same gods who faked the fossil record 6,000 years ago.

Piling rocks on top of the stakes held them firmly in place, giving us a reasonably taut net. Drew broke out a badminton set and he, Nathan, Chris, and I grabbed racquets. Badminton turned out to be a futile exercise -- not because we stunk (although we did), but because the stiff sea breeze blew the shuttlecock around mercilessly. I'd hit it with an underhand tap that should have sent it barely skimming over the net, but thanks to the wind it'd blow 15 feet past the side boundary. We gave up on the badminton after 10 minutes and went back to drinking as a fulltime occupation.

Although we'd brough along a big bag of charcoal and a few boxes of wood, we decided we needed to collect some extra wood for the evening's campfire. Why not? After all, we'd already discovered rocks, so why not make it a true red-letter day in the annals of DFS history by discovering fire(wood), too?

Our cove was pretty well depleted of driftwood, so a bunch of us decided to go to the next cove and raid it. We had to wade through some water and skirt around some rocks to get there. The crossing was mostly safe, but mostly safe means partly treacherous, and the treacherous rocks gave Noell a cut on her foot and stole Drew's boots. But aside from the injuries and sacrifies to the footwear goods, it was a good hunt. Not only did we obtain enough wood to make a roaring fire later that night, but while on the expedition we saw a bunch of naked guys and a dead bird that was frozen legs-up in rigor mortis. The bird was more interesting than the naked people.


Back at the camp, Paul, Michael, and Chris went out for a swim. Hawk and Batya doffed their shirts in their best impression of Sea Folk women. Tom sketched pictures. Drew and I started getting a cookfire ready, and everybody else sat around and drank.

Somewhere along the way, Hawk opened up a bucket of Hawk Guac, which we all slurped up in short order.

As Drew and I began to put hamburgers on the grill, we realized we had no spatula. Talk about weird. We had plenty of charcoal, a metal grill, a propane stove as a backup, plates, cups, knives, 99 bottles of beer, and an inflatable life-sized sheep, but no spatula. What kind of sick and twisted individual remembers to bring an inflatable bestial sex toy to a cookout but forgets a spatula? Well, I'd say it's me, except it wasn't my job to remember the spatula. That was Drew's job. It's his fault.

We tried using a knife as a spatula, but that resulted in the first two hamburgers committing ritual suicide and tossing themselves into the fire. Faced with no other alternative, we grabbed the camp shovel we'd used to dig the fire pit, sterilized it by holding it over the coals, and used it as an industrial-grade spatula. It wasn't pretty, but it worked. The burgers turned out well. They were almost as good as those we made at the DFS in Concord last summer. Nathan and I noted this and bemoaned the lack of apples and baseball bats at this social.

Bring out the Sheep!

We played volleyball after lunch. It was 5 on 5, mostly. There were 5 of us who sucked and 5 who only kinda sucked. When the teams were divided up as Sucky and Kinda Sucky, Kinda Sucky won 21-1. It didn't help that in that game, we on the Sucky team had the additional handicap of having to watch two dogs boisterously preparing to fuck behind the Kinda Sucky team. When the dogs quit and the players were divided up more fairly by skill category, we played closer games. Aaron upset the calculus a bit by trying to shark us. He started out playing sucky and then, halfway through, surprised us with a number of amazing plays that were only kinda sucky.

When volleyball started to get boring, I fetched the inflatable sheep. This is actually what I'd planned to do with it.... Volleysheep!

The sheep was susceptible to crosswinds and tended not to fly very far anyway, so we had to line up with 5 people along the net on each side. We'd hit the sheep over from the upwind edge of the net, and the wind would carry it down to the opposite end as it went over. There, the downwind person on the opposite team would catch it and relay it upwind through his 4 teammates. Then over the net, down, and repeat.

Be sure to see the sheep pictures if you haven't already.

Playing volleysheep was a gas, but we got tired of it after about 15 minutes. We spent the next 30 minutes taking turns posing in compromising positions with it. Paul used the sheep as a pillow and fell asleep on it. Scans of that are available on the picture page, too.

Later, some other stuff happened.

Some Other Stuff That Happened

Tired from volleysheep, we sat and drank and talked for a while. Except Eric. He just sat and drank. Well, actually, he did talk. Once. He told us about a vacation he'd taken to Australia. The highlight of his trip was his getting kicked in the ass by a kangaroo. "I'm an American. I thought it was the greatest thing!"

Somewhere along the line, Hawk, Tom, Chris, and Tashenna went exploring a cave on the opposite side of the cove. They came back a bit disappointed; they'd found that the cave was too dark to see without a flashlight, and feeling around for the walls was taking too long to be worthwhile. "Oh, I hope you didn't go too far in," Noell warned belatedly. "I went to the bathroom in there earlier today."

Sit, drink, chat.
Sit, drink, chat.

Somebody started a WoT-related discussion. I put it in my mental killfile.

Sit, drink, chat.
Sit, drink, chat.

Paul showed us how not to throw a boomerang. His throws went straight as arrows, and retrieving the last one led him through a patch of poison oak on a futile hunt for his lost stick-- I mean, boomerang. "What's poison oak?" he asked. A plant whose leaves give you a bad skin rash, we told him. "I hate this country."

Sit, drink, chat.
Sit, drink, chat.

Aaron dug a frisbee out of his bag and demonstrated the benefits of an Ivy League education. He could throw the frisbee forearmed, backarmed, sidearmed, underarmed, and upside down. "This is what I learned in 4 years at Yale," he explained. We were damn impressed. Truly, he was a man of great learning! (Actually, I have an Ivy League degree, too, but I majored in a college of Engineering. The frisbee classes must have been in the Arts college.)

We played frisbee until the sun sank down into its watery grave.

To Build a Fire

With the horizon still bright but the sky empty, we built a fire to ward off the encroaching darkness. I tried to build the fire au natural (for all of you except Flavio, the only person capable of understand foreign langauge phrases sprinkled into English, that's French for "au natural") in the manner our primitive ancestors would have, by piling small sticks on top of shredded newspapers, squirting lighter fluid on them, and lighting them with a butane cigarette lighter. Nathan had no patience for such art, and instead lit his side of the fire by igniting two store-bought fireplace logs where their wrappers conveniently said "Light here with match." (The equivalent French phrase, translated into English, is "Stupid Americans".) Drew wanted to light Eric on fire, figuring that he'd burn might well considering how drunk he was, but Noell objected. Seems he was too useful for washing dishes, or something like that.

Under Nathan's manly care, the fire grew hot enough and high enough that we all had to scoot back from it. Batya had brough along a bushel of corn on the cob. Stacks of the tinfoil-wrapped ears in front of the fire made excellent heat deflectors. I think one ear was even eaten as food later on.

Drew brought out his acoustic guitar and led us in singing "Hotel California". I wanted to see if we could get off a rendition of my favorite Eagles' song, "Seven Bridges Road". I figured, hey, if the Eagles can do 7-part harmony while totally stoned, can't we do it while only slightly drunk? ...There's a reason, I came to understand, why most of us list as our claim to fame our Novak Index on the newsgroup, rather than the number of multiplatinum albums we've sold.

At about 10:15, just long enough past the 10:00 parking deadline to let the kind parking enforcement ociffer write us all parking tickets, we broke camp and lugged our gear back up the side of the bluff to our cars, where suprise-surprise, we found freshly written parking tickets awaiting us.

We said our goodbyes and went our separate ways. Now, I don't know what other folks did after that, but the conversation between Hawk, Julie, Chris, and me in our car went something like: "I'm hungry." "Hey, so am I." "Whatever." "I'm about to pass out." As the fourth statement came from the person driving the vehicle, we decided a pitstop was in order. But what the heck is open at 11pm in Santa Cruz? Would you believe, Burger King.

Memories of the Wheel

We ate in quiet, individually revelling in the memories of all that had gone on that day. The white sands of the beach. The morning fog that burned off by noon, revealing a beautiful blue sky beneath a sparkling sun. The sandstone walls towering above us on 3 sides. The natural bridge next to the water, providing us our very own stony window to frame the view across the ocean. Playing volleyball in the sun. Playing volleysheep in the sun. Playing frisbee until there was no sun, and then sitting around a campfire signing songs.

On the way back home I briefly considered tossing the parking ticket in the trash... I would've done it before, when I was an nihilistic young college buck, changing addresses every 6 months. "Try to find me, bastards!" I always thought. And had they found me, I wasn't worried anyway since I had a net worth well below zero. What were they gonna do, take away one of my student loans? It's amazing how puny a $20 parking ticket looks when you're already spending $25,000 a year of money you don't have on an education you don't yet appreciate. But now, I'm a man of property. I have a permanent address and a permanent job. With my loans paid off I have I a new net worth somewhere in the range of... well into the double digits, not counting what's right of the decimal point... so I can't just run from the law. I have stuff to lose. I'm a man of substance. I paid the fine.

But that wasn't the only calculation I made. The $33 ticket was like an admission fee for a day of fun, about the same price as entrance to an amusement park. Except, this was better. The sand, the water, the sky, the friends, the fun -- all those things I'd thought about while shoving my face full of chicken strips in the Burger King, I replayed in my mind again. Weighed again them, $33 was a paltry sum. It was probably even the best $33 I ever spent as an admission fee. Thanks for a wonderful day, everybody!

by Bill Garrett, copyright 1998
garrett (at)
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