We were going to find that stretch of Malibu that David Geffen once tried to declare off limits to the public. I wanted that to be my first beach experience in Los Angeles. But I ended up at El Matador instead, with a dozen gays, my first time at a beach in eight years of living here.
There are reasons I waited. I don’t believe in the sun. I don’t want to bathe in it. I don’t want it to kiss me. I want to punch it in the face. I want my ghost-white belly to stay cancer free. The other thing: The water is poison. I’ve watched enough local news to understand that there’s always some rotting animal carcass washing ashore, or a scientist uncovering some toxic bacteria in the water that’ll crawl right up your urethra if you get in the water for more than three seconds.
My chaperones didn’t indulge my phobias. These weren’t the square-cut-Speedos-and-six-pack-torso brand of gay. If they had been, then I might have been left alone under an umbrella with a magazine and a drink. These were bears, the kind of gays with bellies and back hair, the kind who like to bodysurf and play rowdy tackle Frisbee and think it’s fun to try to drown each other in 3 feet of surf. Those gays.
“Come in the water, Dave White!” hollered my friend Gary, who always uses both my first and last name, like I’m Charlie Brown. He was already diving in, Frisbee ready to hurl at whoever happened to be standing nearby. “It’s freezing!” he yelled happily.
“No,” I said. “The ocean has AIDS.”
“Come in!” he yelled back. “This AIDS is awesome!”
I stood my ground for a bit and covered myself with Anthelios XL SPF 50+. It’s from France, I think, and mind-blowingly expensive. I read an article where this fancy dermatologist recommended it. The doctor probably receives a kickback from the company, but I believed every word. I buy some every summer. Then I put on a hat, covered the rest of me in a towel and read Domino magazine until I was ready to take on the doom-water. It seemed like it might be okay. Parents were letting their kids in. No one’s limbs seemed to be dissolving on contact.
An hour passed. I got up and walked toward the surf, just in time to be skull-bonked by Gary’s Frisbee, a seemingly titanium object that broke the skin, drew three drops of blood and left a blazing red dent in my forehead. This injury was greeted with shouts of “Whoo-hooo!” from my so-called friends, all of whom are jerks. I stayed in the water, touching my wound, just to prove I was a man — thinking about bacteria, shrinkage and Jaws — for about five minutes. Then it was time for lunch: fried chicken from Ralphs, a big chocolate cake, doughnuts and bread. Gays who don’t care about their abs really are the best providers.
I think my scale tipped after lunch, while I was staring sleepily at the waves, the heat from the sand putting me on the nod. I realized, for the first time, why people want to live at the beach and just look at the ocean for hours. It’s like heroin, but cheaper. Well, not the buying-a-beach-house part.
And then the dolphins showed up, late in the afternoon right as we were about to pack it up, a whole gang of them swimming north. I don’t know if this is a common occurrence, but because they’re smart and most likely sensed a hundred eyes upon them, everyone watching and pointing at them, yelling, “Look! Dolphins!” they began leaping out of the water in perfect dolphin arcs. It was like the Cosmic Dolphin King had been watching over me and decided it was time to pull out the big happiness guns. Only Jane Wiedlin in a Body Glove wetsuit, riding a dolphin and singing “Rush Hour” could have made it better. When I buy a big umbrella and we go back — and that’s coming up again really soon if I have my way — I’d like it if someone could arrange that. She might know where David Geffen lives.