Very hot weekend in Southern California. The thermometers underestimated what was going on, particularly out here on the coast. It wasn’t 114 degrees, but it certainly got higher than 88. The stickiness factor made sleep difficult. Accomplishing a simple chore often required a change of shirt afterward.
The people around me all seemed sleepy and uncommonly gentle, looking to avoid confrontations if possible because arguing would take too much energy. This was not weather to provoke a riot. This was the kind of weather that makes you forget things.
My brother and his family were down from the Bay Area for the weekend. We made a point of going to the beach just before sunset on both Saturday and Sunday evenings, when the crowds were smaller and the temperatures more comfortable.
Sunday we were particularly late in going. It was just my visiting brother and me. We got into the water as the sun was disappearing over the horizon, and body-surfed until the late-staying lifeguard finally whistled us out.
I was juggling car keys, a cell phone, a shirt, a towel and glasses. Somehow in the approaching dark, I lost track of my glasses, a fact I didn’t realize til we had pulled out of the parking lot. I did a U-turn. “I know exactly where they must be,” I assured my brother.
Flashlight in hand, we hiked back down to the beach — Rat Beach butts up against the cliffs of Palos Verdes, and is accessed by a steep asphalt road and then a trail. We searched. I was shocked I didn’t find the glasses right away. In a flashlight’s beam, it was not easy to get reoriented. We spent an hour systematically walking up and down the beach but they didn’t turn up.
I decided it must just be the darkness. My glasses had to be sitting just on top of the sand; we just weren’t looking in the right place. We had been among the last to leave the beach; who would’ve taken them? And how could they have gotten buried so quickly? I decided I would return at dawn, and my brother agreed to join me.
I didn’t sleep. I thought it made more sense to crash at my parent’s house, but with all the visitors I could only find a sofa that was upholstered with a fabric that reminded me of the day my mother made me wear woolen shorts and suspenders to an obnoxious family outing. At about 4:30, I finally moved to another sofa, one end of which was piled with books. I propped pillows on the books for my feet, aimed a fan at my head, and maybe slept 10 minutes.
Opening my eyes, I saw the pink sky turning yellow at the eastern horizon. It was about 6. I woke up my brother, telling him he really didn’t have to join me, but he wanted to. By 6:30 we were on the beach. I was confident my glasses would be there too. We walked over and over the same 100 square feet of the beach where the glasses could have fallen. No luck.
A surfer arrived and volunteered to help. I didn’t want to keep him from the waves; I was now doubting my theory of what happened to the glasses. Someone else jogged down from Torrance, then dove into the water and began swimming back. The sun hadn’t made it over the cliffs yet, so the water reflected the pink dawn. There was no wind to stir it (only the occasional leaping fish) so the water was a perfect mirror for the sky.
I called off the search and we decided to go for a swim. Overnight the water had gotten chillier, but was still comfortable. The waves lifted suddenly out of the stillness, wrinkling as they began to curl. You could see the waves for what they were, the release of residual energy stirred up in reaction to a faraway wind, or an even more distant force, the moon. Floating on my back, I could see the night’s moon still above us.
We got some great rides on these waves. While we surfed, the early-rising regulars appeared — the walking groups, the couples fishing, the dedicated surfers, all wanting to get their time on the beach before the big holiday crowds arrived. It was kind of cool to think we’d gone to the beach on Labor Day and had hardly run into anybody. I’m sure that’s not what most beachgoers experienced today.
We started to get chilled after about 45 minutes, so we got out of the water, dried off and left, walking slowly back up the path in case the glasses were still peeking out somewhere.
This was the first time I’d taken an ocean swim at dawn in probably 35 years. I forgot all about my night of no sleep. We both felt completely energized. Our next stop: Peet’s Coffee on PCH in Redondo Beach, where we talked about our jobs. Everything seemed clearer after swimming and riding in that glassy surf, even though I couldn’t see as much.
I’m not blind without my glasses. I’ll get by until they either turn up or I replace them. Or maybe you know where they are. If you found a pair of glasses at Rat Beach between the hours of 7:30 p.m. Sunday night and 7 a.m. Monday morning, please contact me. Here’s what they look like: