Marina Del Rey Christmas

As Christmas approaches I find myself thinking back to when I was nineteen. I just didn’t want to spend that Christmas with my family, as I had done so many years before, 19 times to be exact. No, I felt like striking out on my own, building my own fire and paying my own bus ticket to Pickipsy.

You see, earlier that year I had built a boat, an ocean going vessel, if you will, to live on in the newly built “Marina Del Rey.” I don’t know what I was thinking when I built it. Oh, yeah, now I remember. I had visions of sitting on the “bridge” with a bikini clad girl on my arm named Ginger, or Beverly or any other name of a girl that brings visions of a girl who knows how to fill out a bikini and hangs well on ones arm, while I sat on the bridge sipping a martini. Yeah, that’s what I was thinking when I built that ship, although the word ship may be stretching it a bit. It was really a 22-foot cabin cruiser, and not really an ocean going vessel, in fact it was a flat-bottomed lake boat, not really suitable for the ocean at all. And, being homemade, not exactly the kind of vessel one would find a Ginger or a Beverly aboard and well, it had not really much of a bridge either. It did have a wet bar, although some just thought it was just a leak.

But, I had my vision and visions can sometimes be blinded by the sight or even the mere thought of a babe in a Bikini. So I built my ship and lived on it in Marina Del Rey for 6 years.

But this year was to be my very first “Christmas” on my own, having lived there now for nine months, it was sort of like giving birth to a new idea. Others had apartments, friends of mine lived at the fraternity house, but I had my boat. I also had a carton of spaghetti. I had the fore thought to order it from the pizza place down the street, as I new they would be closed Christmas day. I thought I’d doctor it up with sliced olives, mushrooms and a bottle of Galliano Liquor, an after dinner motif and partake of it Christmas afternoon, in place of the usual holiday reverie that I had grown accustomed to growing up. Yes, this would be the very first Christmas on my own alone. . . alone. . . alone.

I also thought that I should have a turkey but I only had a hot plate and a small toaster oven aboard. So, I bought two turkey breasts and some turkey stuffing, sewed the two breasts together and, well, stuffed it. Then, I threw it in the toaster oven at 500 degrees for twenty minutes. When that didn’t work I hit it for another three hours with a blowtorch, till it was juicy and as tender as a babies butt.

But I got ahead of myself. I awoke that Christmas morning and noticed a strange cold and lonely feeling over the Marina. Boats are a summer thing and the furthest thing on people’s minds, on Christmas morning, (accept for the few rich people who lived on the really big boats far up the docks from where I was moored), was going boating. In fact, no one lived on a boat under 30 foot in the whole Marina.

I had a lot of time to kill after cooking my succulent dinner way too early. So, I thought I would take a little drive in the 53 Buick. Maybe I might find Ginger or Beverly along side the road needing a ride somewhere. I didn’t realize then that a Ginger or Beverly wouldn’t be caught dead in a 53 Buick in 1969. In 2003 they would gladly jump in. I would think to myself much later, I was then just 30 years a head of my time, to bad Ginger wasn’t.

After visiting all my favorite surf spots along the coast I ventured inland a little. I took a tour of the houses of all the girlfriends I had dated to that point in my life. It only took half an hour because I only had three. It would have taken ten minutes but they all lived in different directions. I thought about that for awhile, that they lived all over the city and thought, maybe that makes me a man about town. Yeah, that’s it, I tried to convince myself, I’m a man about town, and here I am driving about town. It’s Christmas day and I don’t have to be anywhere. Then I noticed how cold and lonely it was out there.

As I drove I noticed all the houses and wondered what was going on inside. Some seemed empty and lonely, I thought, maybe they’re at someone else’s house. Maybe, I’m the only one driving around with no place to go. Maybe, every one is at the same house wondering why I haven’t shown up yet? Maybe, the invitation got lost in the mail? Maybe I should just stop at some house at random and pretend I was invited!

To calm myself, I decided I should take a tour of all the houses I had lived in since I was born. I started at the “Hawthorne” house, which I was born in, which even by then was gone, replaced by an apartment building. I remember the street that led to it because there were train tracks paralleling that street. There were always three tank cars parked on those tracks. And to that very day there were still three tank cars parked on those tracks and they looked particularly lonely, that day. I thought, maybe they were the same tank cars I saw when I was a baby. Maybe the railroad had just for gotten about that particular spur and those tank cars had just sat there for the last fifty years, alone and forgotten.

I then went to the East Boulevard house in Culver City, which was, at that time anyway, still there. It was still painted the color my dad had painted it before we moved out some ten years earlier, chartreuse and dark green. No one had ever repainted that house till the day they tore it down. Sears Weather Beater, good paint. It was also kind of sad. The new owners did not decorate for Christmas like we had. I thought back to how my parents had done it up with dad’s home made cement Santa on the roof and could almost see our relatives showing up for one of dad’s famous Tom and Jerry’s and people milling around the 18 foot Christmas tree you could always see from the street.

I then drove to the McCune house, just above Venice Boulevard. Boy that was one lonely house even then. That house was built on someone else’s back yard facing the alley. I remember the first Christmas there, dad just kept decorating and decorating, trying to cheer the place up but to no avail, it was just one sad house and that’s all I have to say about that. Dad didn’t like it much either and we moved three years later to the Ashwood house where he died three years after that

He passed just nine days after he gave my sister away to her new husband and only two months till Christmas. They were still on their honeymoon and had to come home early to a funeral. It was a very strange occasion. Two weeks earlier we celebrated with all these people at my sister’s marriage and just nine days later we were having a wake with them putting dad away.

When Christmas approached that year I tried to decorate the house one last time in dad’s memory but my mother would have nothing to do with it. Not one string of lights in his honor. I thought it was a mistake, but that year, the house that always was the most decorated on the block, remained dark and lonely.

I thought about that as I drove back to the marina and decided to pass by the fraternity house on the way back. I noticed a car in front but I didn’t recognize who it belonged to, so I decided to stop in and see who had arrived. Inside I found Rick Bowls, one of the charter members, who had stopped by. He was partaking of eggnog, rum and brandy, with a dash of nutmeg; in other words a pore mans Tom and Jerry. He invited me to partake of this Christmas nourishment with him. As I partook I could not help but think that my life had not begun yet, really, and here he was, already divorced, spending his Christmas at the frat house alone, that is accept for me and of course Tom and Jerry. I couldn’t help wondering as we drank if I would end up this way to?

But it was not to be, although tempting. I did not know it then and would not find out for thirteen more years. I would meet my Ginger, although that would not be her name (although she was quite good at filling out a bikini but that was not enough to keep us together). No, I would end up a single parent and raise my daughter alone. And she would have two kids of her own, and I would not spend Christmas alone ever again. No matter how hard I tried.
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