Highest Tides, Lowest Tides, Longest Days, Shortest Nights

Mo at Gold Bluffs Beach

Those were the summer days of very high and very low tides and of very long days and very short nights. You found yourself using the word “very” a lot. Once past the springy solstice on Mystery Island the change of tides can be as much as 19 feet.  The water flows in and flows out four times a day.  The sun drags its long way, rolling along the Western horizon until almost ten at night.  We’d built a little greenhouse and all the gardens were pulsing.  Sweetpeas and real peas, corn and beans and rasberries. Very very.

Oona and I decided we’d camp out as the Firesign Theatre played a date at the Golden State Theater in Monterey, the theater owned by Warren Dewey, the same person from whose studio in Los Angeles we’d broadcast our XM radio show called “Fools in Space.”  Warren’s a (very)  nice man who’d offered us a rental deal for his beautifully restored theater that made us more money per man than we’d ever seen in any show in our endless history and this meant that dollar worries were way less than usual. And the big blonde and I therefore decided to take the tent-trailer down to California and spend a week at the Marina Dunes RV park in nearby Marina, at the bottom of the Bay of Monterey, where the sand has piled up over several thousand millennia into dunes now protected by careful stewards.  The RV park is right in the middle of the dunes. It was to be the first RV park we’d ever stayed in, given the fact that for  some thirty-five years of tent camping we’d had no need of plugging a plug into much of anything at all.

(The tent-trailer is a pop-up made by Coleman under their Fleetwood moniker and we bought it two years ago.  It travels nicely, barely showing up behind our suburban which boasts two Yakima carriers on top.  We had the usual five dogs with us: three cattle dogs and the two Chihuahua mixes who have lately come to rule our lives.)

The Monterey Peninsula was the beach for me growing up inland in Fresno, in the flat old San Joaquin Valley of Central California.  When I was a teenager, my parents spent two summer weeks or so of a couple of years or so renting a bungalow in the little town of Carmel, where the picturesque cottages are set among the twisted black shore trees and the Big Sur stretches south.  When I was a kid, in the Fifties, this was the world of everything desirable to me; it was literary in the sense that John Steinbeck and Gary Snyder were literary. I was from Fresno and therefore William Saroyan was the writer I most knew and was most mystified by.  It was always hard for me to understand how someone who could write might be from a town that seemed to me to be as familiar as the Fresno Bee, as mundane as well, as mundane as my mundane self, struggling with little poems and littler stories and my paper route. Carmel and Big Sur were the wild coast, the cliffs dropping to the surging water surface of the Pacific, the fogs set up on the hills like hats, the weather always sweater weather, the nights solid and black and dripping in the fogs with the smell of the Eucalyptus trees and the pines. On The Road was rumbling around my brain, the big flat records were red see-through vinyls from Pacific Jazz and Monterey was still an old town and Cannery Row seemed the same as in the book. This was my beach and I read and took long walks up into the old graveyard way up above Carmel Bay, in the days just before I could drive.

I hadn’t been back for some years.  We’d shot “Nick Danger and the Case of the Missing Yolks” there in the middle Eighties and there’d been one TED Conference in the Nineties and the Peninsula had dropped out of my life for many years and here I was going back, as if sliding backwards into my youth.

The show and the Firesign Theatre were alright. I approach each of these jobs as if they are in fact reunions, which, in fact, they pretty much are.   We’ve grown old together, the four of us, and we treat each other more kindly now. We’re more gentlemanly, all of us.  We adjust. We weather the storms.  We get through.

As if we are Lewis and Clark and Philip and Philip, on outings usually spaced five some years apart, we traverse the American West because we’d have to have a lot of dates set up in order to afford to play the East Coast. This way, we can try – for the first time in our over forty years together – to actually finance and produce one experimental show by ourselves; no promoters, no backers.

Monterey is still a little town with archaic parking restrictions and the kind of Old California mission charm dear to the hearts of plein aire artists and craftsmen carpenters. My dear old friends George Cromarty and Paul (then Ed) Rush were known as the Goldcoast Singers back in the Sixties and appeared at Kalisa’s on Cannery Row.  The song called “Plastic Jesus” is theirs.

We charged into the old piece we call “Forward, into The Past”  a little too quickly, but the audience caught up to us once they realized that Mrs. Darlene Yukamoto had knitted Barrage Balloons and that each and every Veteran had been promised a Dead Mule. We charged ahead.  We tried out parts of Dwarf and parts of Bozos and a kind of cut-down Danger. We listened to each other’s ideas about ourselves, we counted seats, set lights, we discussed sound cues, we talked to reporters, we rehearsed.

Then Oona and I spent a couple of days on the dunes:


Then we drove north and camped at Gold Bluffs Beach:

When we left, we drove up the coast all the way to the scary Astoria Bridge that arches out over the mouth of the giant Columbia River and connects Oregon to Washington like a thread that might one day become a web, the spider unknown and perhaps gone away, leaving only this single long frightening line.

Like Lewis and Clark, the weather turned torrentic

Like Lewis and Clark, we drove through Tilamook

Like Lewis and Clark, we stopped at the Tilamook Co-op

Like Lewis and Clark, we watered the dogs and walked away with nothing because it’s the Disneyland of Cheese, full of lines of tourists eager to buy curdled milk products

Unlike Lewis and Clark, we did not eat our dogs


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80 thoughts on “Highest Tides, Lowest Tides, Longest Days, Shortest Nights

  1. Bleak Black Friday,
    followed by,
    whatever turns you Red on Saturday.

    It’s the season to be jolly,
    or anybody else you want to be.

    Phil,
    Will there be a Blog of the Unknown, Christmas Special?
    (With a cast of dogs and The Faithful, Big Blond waving the banner!)

  2. I’ve been reading on Facebook about infant girls playing the Baby Jesus in church pageants. Rahter than Jesus transfigured, it is Jesus transgendered. Perhaps the Blessed Virgin will be played by a guy named Bruce.

    Al Mighty

  3. A liitle something for the upcoming season by Christina Rossett,

    For Phil and Oona plus the dogsi:

    In the bleak mid-winter
    Frosty wind made moan,
    Earth stood hard as iron,
    Water like a stone;
    Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
    Snow on snow,
    In the bleak mid-winter
    Long ago.

  4. Good luck with that Whidbey gig!

    Help Peter make the Northwest transition,
    buy him a knitted cap for that chrome dome . . (maybe an eyeball hat)

    Only thing left to do is to pry the Proc from the Great B-hills.

  5. It could have been the time of the season, but any time would do,
    pick the time and the day and you’re in a season,
    not quite the same as open season, but it is where it finds you . . .

    Putting the Ho-Hum in Hoo Hoo, standing barefoot in the snow.

  6. There seems to be the complete lack of cheer, for this seasonal season.

    Where did everybody go suddenly?

    All heads are down, until this Christmas passes over and the realities of the Winter freeze have set in, finally.

  7. How are things in Austintown?

    ‘ Can’t Get Mo Satisfaction . . .

    And, Whidbey is still an island onto itself.

    There is no cheer for Christmas, or at least a hurrah, with elves waving pom-poms in a seasonal chant.

    Can I bring it back for returns, in January?

  8. Oh, yeah, the little fact being that insomnia is not a religion,
    but often practiced faithfully, at times.

    Let’s see, if this qualifies, to bed at twelve-thirty and up at three. Something is poking at me, but not sure percisely what, at this time.
    ‘ Should really sleep on it for an answer.

  9. I thought I thought of a really cool new band name but I see on goodle that there is already a Waste Band, an Elastic Wasteband and an Electric Wateband. Too bad… I was picturing just you, me and and a hot chick on Hammond B-3.

    Imagine.

    Yawn Lemmon

  10. Now there, The Wastelines sounds rather promising and pertinent for the Del Webb’s Sun City Circuit that is really starting to take off. Aging Boomers are retiring with irony all over the Sun Belt and they still need to rock. Hey- how about Son Belt and the Wastelines? Blues is good for arthritis.

    Bessie Mae Mucho

  11. Sonny Belt and the Wastelines reminds me of Buck Owens and the Buckaroos, and you know how I love that Bakersfield/Barstow sound.

    Wasted.
    Wasted from drinking tequilla.
    I’m wasted.
    Wasted on some kind of booze.
    I think
    I’m witty and charming and friendly.
    And not just
    The drunk who threw up on your shoes.

    Sober.
    Why would I keep myself sober?
    Drinkless,
    And sad and alone with my blues?

    I’m wasted.
    Wasted on Jim Beam and cola.
    I’m wasted
    And have been since our last booze cruise.
    I think
    I’ll sit down and work on my entry
    In next year’s
    Edition of Drunkard’s Who’s Who.

    I’m wasted from drinking
    And wasted from thinking
    And wasted from loving booze.

  12. Hoo-hoo-de-um, da-doo-daa-ditti-dah-dum, now that is out of my brain, onto more rational pastimes. I’ve been good and stayed out of the malls and large stores, with the exception of food and Home Depot. All have gone to frenzy, but, at best, I’m on the perimeter passing out programs and selling popcorn. This is strictly an entertainment event; don’t feed the animals. They’re already over weight as it is. Prodding and poking, with a stick, are permitted, with only one session of play per customer, applying electricity is optional.

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