Newport Beach in Hindsight

“Here I am again, in this next memory,” says the Narrator. “On the beach. Only this time, it’s a new one: Newport Beach, site of my brother’s bachelor party. Imagine me in dialogue, in a sense, with the one who was there.”

Spacetime shifts here as the character reenters the memory.

***

“Well, what’ll it be?” wonders the Traveler. “If spacetime is reducible to a game of multidimensional correspondence chess, then what’s our next move?”

Rising in the sky above him there at the beach house, the new moon in Leo provides the Traveler a chance to ask questions. He communes with the moon, engaging it in silent dialogue, and sets his intentions for the months ahead.

A ghostly third figure joins him in the course of the evening. It shimmers into being like a hazy wonder there amid the rocks and the waves, and in so doing, intervenes in the Traveler’s thoughts. “Let us be careful what we wish for,” warns the Ghost, “as this is a powerful, wish-granting lunar cycle.”

***

“Warning taken, it was with great care that I made that wish,” interjects the Narrator from the future. “And in retrospect, I regret nothing.”

“Come sunrise, in fact,” remembers the Narrator, “and a commune of sorts assembled itself down near the shore. Members set out mats and, posing silently amid squawking seabirds, practiced yoga on the beach as I wrote.”

The Bird Song

I receive the gift of a solitary afternoon at Durant-Eastman Beach in Rochester, NY on the south shore of Lake Ontario. The stretch of beach across from where I park is closed, so I walk to the right toward an anchored sailboat. Along the way, I discover a seagull lying dead in the sand. I hesitate for a moment upon sight of it, and in this act of hesitation offer it my condolences. Giving it wide berth, I continue on my way. A dune buggy crawls past and retrieves the bird soon thereafter. Setting myself down into a beach chair, I stare out toward the horizon and long and pine for an unknown unknown. Desire’s many-tendrilled, dendritic — stopped only by awkwardness on account of fear. Speaking of fear: pitbulls on leashes get in scuffles mere feet from my feet. Female owners yank at the leashes until, calmed of whatever caused them to behave as they did, the dogs are allowed to lay together again in peace. Waves crashing I give listen to Muhal Richard Abrams’s Levels and Degrees of Light (1968).

There it is, as if in answer to my ministrations: “The Bird Song.” Lauren Berlant & Kathleen Stewart recommend it in their book The Hundreds. The authors collaborate through “hundred-word units or units of hundred multiples” (ix). The form of their book emerged through obedience to this capacious, generative constraint. Words set toward description of affect-events through scanning of object-worlds for vibrant tableaux. I feel adjacency to this form. “Everyone has their own version,” they write, “of the glimpse of a long-forgotten realm of possibility suddenly intruding into the real like a splice of light captured in a photograph” (9).

In, But Not Of

Seagull flies low, peruses the scene along the shore, horizon obscured by fog. Others follow, seeking edibles amid grains of sand. Beachgoers mill about until, fog passing, whistles blown, flags raised, lifeguards announce “Coast clear.” I boogie board, I body surf. In this place but not of it, I jut my tongue out and, as if prepping for a shot of tequila, lick salt from the edge of my mustache.

Tuesday June 15, 2021

We arrive to the beach come morning, skies clear after a light shower, ocean mild, modest in its roar. Frankie sets to work digging with a toy shovel, collecting shells. I sit as would a pensive Christ, pondering love’s symptoms: your words to my ears “like ghee and milk,” your voice lingering amid your absence. Before I know it, Frankie’s asleep in the car, and we’ve begun our journey home, Canned Heat on the stereo, hawks circling the sky overhead.

Monday June 14, 2021

Harmonica on the beach. And a golden sun at the center of the sky gleams down. Mind clear, inner chatter silenced, I listen to the waves. We trade rides on a store-bought boogie board. The world hisses, sprays / spits with love. Day of summer, day of sizzle. Application of coconut oil to bare skin. Afterwards I sit on the deck feeling “happy, happy, happy!” as the baby’s fond of saying here at our macrame / woven-art Airbnb. When Sarah returns from taking Frankie to the park down the street, I take over and do the same. Frankie marches me around, marches up slides, climbs a set of plastic mountains, majesty arranging herself to her liking on a swing. Birds sing as wind rustles the leaves of a neighbor’s palm tree. What a life. “What we need,” you say, “are places like this, but free.”

Wednesday August 21, 2019

We set up to the left of the stairs in chairs down by the water. “Setting down a place by the water”: that’s a whole way of life, kin to “finding shade in the forest” or “farming on the prairie.” Coastlines promise opportunities to watch waves, swim with changing tides, body glistening in the sun. Earlier in the day, we saw dolphins while watching the sunrise. Now, however, would be a wonderful time to swim, so I do. Then the sunning begins, body rubbed in coconut-scented lotion. What can we reconstruct of the psychedelic experience? What are its teachings across time?

Tuesday August 20, 2019

Sarah and I arrive to the coast and set up a portable temporary architecture, chairs and a blue umbrella. Sandpipers and seagulls play by the shore beside boogie boarders, kids tossing balls back and forth, swimmers. Beaches present life at its most joyful — life measured out in waves of guiltless play. A squad of pelicans fly past hanging low, close to the water. I imagine fields and sets of objects undergoing phased modulation and metamorphosis as in the interior of a kaleidoscope. It isn’t until after a brief swim that the objects focus into grains of sand. I think of my brother, a lifelong surfer, and begin to sound out intersections of surf culture and psychedelic philosophy. By that I mean more than just The Beach Boys. I mean Rick Griffin and Surfer magazine’s 1978 interview with Timothy Leary. Unfortunately, despite abundant prompting beforehand, I let my fear of bad dining experiences interfere with my ability to heed the recommendations of others. A sign with adjustable letters reminds me, “Fears we don’t face become our limits.” Time to face those fears, I nod. Outgrow them. As always, it means learning again to trust others. Don’t just sit around in a funk watching the sunset from the hotel balcony, I tell myself, rousing myself from circumstance.

Saturday July 6, 2019

I arrive to the beach before the others, grateful for these rare moments of silence. Before long, the beach disappears from sight. A fog rolls in off the water, leaving only the sound of waves cresting and receding. Next thing I know, it’s evening and I’m back at my sister’s place, staring up at seabirds. I imagine there’s more to report: a piece of green ribbon, one end tied to a lamppost, the other end dangling in the wind; small explosions — someone setting off fireworks in another part of town; nephews of mine chasing after an ice cream truck; anger, envy, disappointment, contempt — the bleeding, in other words, of my proletarian heart amid extravagant displays of wealth; plus continued study of hermetic philosophy so as to remain awake through all of this without being ruled and debased by it.

Friday July 5, 2019

Bodies in motion roll to a stop, set down chairs, lather themselves in lotions and oils, and stare out at an unbroken expanse of ocean. Try as these people might, however, they still can’t leave the city, it being the thing they carry with them everywhere they go. I sit among them, eavesdropping on their conversations, feeling lazy and detached, wishing there was more to life than just getting and begetting.