by Capn Ken Skyp Babbs

SKYPILOTDATE: Friday December 27, 2002
Eugene, Oregon, U.S.A.

First hurdle is the baggage system at little ol' Eugene, Oregon. The newly founded Infernal Transportation Administration decided to try out their hot off the drawing board baggage checking system on this fine day for the first time and hoo boy, the lines! Did the system work? They won't say. Security
doesn't allow them to talk to the customers except to ask, "Is your bag locked?" It is best to say no. The nice person in the groovy outfit with logos and patches and buttons and belts and beepers and walkie talkies and whistles and neckties and
highly polished shoes takes a swab that looks like a lint filter in your vacuum cleaner and begins wiping it all over the outside of your bag, then inside, everywhere, wipe wipe wipe. Then the government agent puts the swab in the huge machine and it reads the swab. Latest news from Iraq, no doubt, question being not are we going to attack but when. No, just checking for explosives residue. Yeah, right. Good thing I didn't spill any talcum powder or the well known baking soda for the balls in my bag because I got the all clear and then milled with the peons waiting to go to the next station to get the bags checked through to L.A.

On our way, to L.A. and an uneventful flight for once through the myriad of security check points with the laptop probed for national secrets and the pockets turned inside out for substance residuce check and the hat thoroughly searched for hundred dollar bills hidden in the hat band and the shoes inspected for James Bond stilleto heels, ah go ahead, put your clothes back on I'm not sticking my finger up that ugly ass even with three tier rubber gloves and a jar of vaseline!

Easier getting out of an airport than getting in. And the rental car is all ready after a long rap on the effects of laser surgery from the clerk; finally to the motel we booked on the internet: the Hilton just up the beach. Right. A mile and a half walk to the beach, right on the tip of Venice. On one side of the street you are in Venice. On the other side in Marina Del Ray. Guess which side is the funky one.

You can call it a night's sleep but you can't call it a good one and first thing next morning, prowl for not the perfect beach but the acceptable motel. Okay, we are not taking the 279 dollar suite at the Hotel California no matter what the Eagles say. The good old reliable Travelodge right across the street from the Santa Monica pier is full. After four more tries, the Ocean Lodge Motel on Pacific Drive turns out to be just right. Internet access in the lobby. Separate room for the snorer. Price range is just right. Now settled, begin the search.

SKYPILOTDATE: Saturday, December 28, 2002
Santa Monica,California.

Now we are firmly ensconced in our ideal motel, let's hit the beach. No, first must satisfy the desires of the daughter on her fifteenth birthday. What would you like to do, dear? What? Shop? Why of course, how could I be so dense.

So it is off to the 3rd Street Promenade, Santa Monica's famous open air street carnival and shopping extravaganza. Hey this is great. For about the first two stores. Then I take to the street, wait outside, watch the action. The musicians. Rap. Funk. Rock and Roll. And a blast from the past: a whole Hare Krishna group chanting and drumming and zinging the sitars. Stalls with every kind of home made jewelry you've ever seen. Stalls selling hats. Scarves. Paintings. Performers doing head stands, head twirls, acrobatics. One guy in total silver including his face I can't figger out what his bit is; stands there with a can in his hand then runs into the crowd and interfaces with someone, embarrasses the person so bad he puts money in the can.

And roaming through it all, lounging on benches, sagged against store fronts: the homeless people. Santa Monica is a refuge for the homeless. They seem to have worked out a deal with the police; you don't hassle the tourists we won't hassle you.

After a while the whole scene depressed me. Everyone was trying too hard. The homies in their baggies. The slicks in their slickies. The beautiful in their beauties. The bums in their bummies. Everyone rolling out to the max, putting it together, holding it together. And then intermingling like peanuts standing out in a plate of choclate: the sooners and the wazoos. The rose bowl football game has brought them to L.A. and they tour Santa Monica for the sights.

Oklahomans and Eastern Washingtons. The drawl from Oklahoma and the twang from Washington. Very refreshing. What's this, coming down the middle of the street, all noise and pomp and flags flying and batons twirling and brasses bellering and drums banging? A full fledged marching band. In red and gold. Must be the Washington State band.

They lead a happy cheering crowd to an intersection and spread out in the street.The Band to the rear, the cheerleaders in front, leading a cheer. The flag wavers are to the side, going through their gyrations. Then the two bare bellied majorettes step forward and begin flinging their batons high above the crowd, dipping to catch them at the last minute. Oohs and ahs all around.

Comes the dawn. This isn't the Washington State marching band. This is the Southern Cal marching band. I am flumoxed. Their team is playing in Miami, a continent away. I was wondering if the Washington State band was on the streets of Miami playing but a well informed lady in a southern cal blazer told me the band was going to Miami, leaving at eight the next morning and was getting in the mood, getting fired, getting on their game faces; or lips as the case may be.

I was happy. The shoppers were happy. Time to head for bed. The beach awaits and an early rise is in store. No telling what happened to the Washington State band.

SKYPILOTDATE: Sunday, December 29, 2002
Santa Monica, California.

Sun breaks free over the top of the buildings after a night's rain, the air clean and fresh, the covers thrown back, the
body bounding out into shorts and tank top, down to muscle beach to flex and groan with the studs and studesses and then race across the sand crashing into the surf and out to the big waves and body surf alongside the surfers on their boards astonished at the old fat doof from Oregon cavorting like a sea lion and riding the waves like a pro.

Meanwhile, Eileen and I are walking casually along the beach
until we come to a stream knifing through the sand. Hmm. Jump the gap or take off the shoes and socks and wade through. Here comes a jeep, Lifeguard patrol. He drives right through the stream. "Hey," I yell. He stops. "Howsabout backing up and giving us a ride over the river?" "Okay." We get on the running board and he gently deposits us on the other side. Happy New Years all around. I wonder if he knew we weren't from around here.


This is the perfect beach. All beaches are perfect.We rent
bikes and tootle down the boardwalk to Venice, take in the carnival going on on both sides of the boardwalk. Place is packed on Sunny Sunday. The muscle builders are everywhere, working all the muscle building equipment scattered up and down the beach. The people are grooving. Smiling. Hugging. Kissing. Artistes of all sights and colors and ages performing.


Down through the middle of the crowd filling the boardwalk in front of the Venice shops comes a procession; tootling flutes and banging drums and singing.

Then the wind picks up, so fiece it starts blowing the products off the tables, toppling the big umbrellas, bending the tall palm trees, blowing tree debris everywhere. We head back to the rental place, huffing all the way. This beach life could get to you if you don't weaken.

We need spaghetti after that. And indulge to the point of ecstasy. What's left over is packed up and passed out to the men on the beach looking for a place to curl up, now that the sun is going down and the wind has died off. Everyone waits for when the sun dips below the horizon. It is always different and if you're lucky you will see something marvelous. I've seen it twice before. Just as the sun disappears there is a green flash. It happens only when the vibes are just right. This was one of those times. We weren't hallucinating.


National Geographic explains the phenom scientifically but they are jiving me. It is magic and you have to be in the right place the right space out of the rat race wearing a smiley face for it to happen as it will happen and if you believe it, it will happen to you.


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