Surfer Joe

Facebook can bring up the oddest things to throw you right back into your 20’s with certain people you’d never see again otherwise.  This time it was a guy I always called Surfer Joe.  Something I started writing years ago was a story about my time in Santa Monica Canyon called “Canyon News.”  I worked in a swimwear store in the 80’s off of State Beach, it was my 2nd go-around down there after dating my college boyfriend who was from West LA.  We’d ride down to the beach from his house to play volleyball, mostly Sorrento.

Out of college, I worked for my friend’s mom at a swimwear store in the canyon.  The canyon is the North side of Santa Monica, right at the base of Chautauqua Blvd where Pacific Palisades drops down to meet the ocean.  One day this guy puts his surfboard in front of the shop and flashes me a big grin, I just thought “Whoa!”

That job was fun, if not horrible for my well-being.  There was nothing to eat down there, I lived off of caffeine and the crappy snacks from Canyon News next door.  There were always celebs going through there…I saw Ted Danson, Rob Lowe, Sean Penn would hitchhike just for the heck of it from there to Malibu when he was married to Madonna.  One time we were putting suits on the mannequins and Sean Penn pulled up.  Rick (who owned Canyon News), his dog and I were posing in the window while Sean & his friend got out of the car out front. His friend was laughing, SP gave us a dirty look.  We had no idea who was going to pull into that spot, we were just trying to be funny.  He was not amused.

My favorite was Walter Matthau who must have lived up the street and would walk his dog past me and always say “hi.”   He had a basset hound, now there was a man who looked like his dog.

Surfer Joe was a long time LA family that deteriorated after his parents divorce.  His mom seemed like an artist/recluse.  He lived at home, was super protective of her.  I’d only met her a few times, she wasn’t friendly.

We only went out a few times, on his end because he was probably juggling women and on my end I found him to be way too moody for me.  Now that I’m older, I think that moodiness was probably bi-polar?  It was pretty erratic.  When you’re young, you just take it to be you’re doing something wrong.  It was like walking on eggshells, never knowing what you did to set him off when in fact it was him.

I was pretty good about relationship self-diagnostic in my 20’s, never one to hang in there.  There were a couple of guys I dated down there, one I abruptly dumped after he said I’d be perfect if I went soft sand running every day for 5 miles.  I thought to myself, “You’d be hotter if you had a job.”  I’m 5’9″ and weighed like 100 pounds (it was the caffeine diet).  Not that I was perfect, just wasn’t going to make myself that way for someone who clearly would find fault with my appearance no matter what I did.  Personally, I don’t know any celebs.  I was pretty shy/star struck so if a celeb even talked to me nothing would come out of my mouth.

The caffeine along with Joe’s moodiness confused me into thinking there was something wrong with me?  Finally he hooked up with a girl that lived next door to the shop, behind Canyon News, without any official break up it was over when he started making out with her in front of the store.

Years later I heard he moved to Santa Fe with his mom after she sold her Canyon house and thought I’d never hear about him again.  I kept in touch with a few people from there throughout the years.  Not much though, they were all Hollywood/Malibu kids whose parents were successful while they were gorgeous kids who surfed and did a lot of drugs.  That wasn’t me, I was sober already.  One night I was invited to a BBQ in a brick apartment building and there was an earthquake.   I never went to another one of their parties, the thought of me being buried along with all the cocaine and drug paraphernalia was was wake up that I shouldn’t be hanging out with them.

Years ago I was in Bali with my son and I saw a hot surfer guy my age on a scooter with a really young GF.  I said to my son, “That looks like Joe.”  Later my son said, “She called him Joe!” so I thought it was him and then thought nothing of it.  In my world, lots of surfer guys I grew up with wind up in Bali at some point or another.

It wasn’t him, something triggered me to look him up on FB and my God was it a shock!  2 pics on his public profile, one the hot surfer Joe I knew and the other where he looked like shit.  I’m so taken aback by this, it’s hard to even explain why?

I’ve written before that my dad is mentally ill, has those same moody traits as Joe had.  He could be totally fun or a complete dick, was a total hypocrite when it came to disciplining me.

It seems as if Joe didn’t follow the surf like I thought he did, he’s living out of an RV somewhere in the Southwest.  That wasn’t clear when I first saw the picture, until I read the comments underneath.  He’s probably happy as a little clam, my dad always chose that way of life too (my dad always remained very handsome, don’t know how he pulled that off?).

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, the shocking part is what actually was I attracted to?  Him or his foreshadowing mental illness that was very similar to my dad?  Yikes!!

One of the other comments was signed off as J&M, the name of the girl he was making out with in front of the shop.  Did they end up together??  Double yikes!!  She wanted to be an actress (like everyone else that moves near Hollywood).  She was from Las Vegas, found her to be a little skanky actually.  The whole thing has been a little surreal for me.

I’m very lucky, my life turned into something I never would have imagined and I’ll admit I should appreciate more.  Not that I would have ever ended up with Surfer Joe, just that how was he even on my radar?  From narcissists, to alcoholics, or a combination of both to my engineer husband – how does that work?

I always tell people a a lot of love is timing and luck, where you both are in life when you meet.  Now I’m beginning to think it’s like that movie “The Secretary,” where he sees her scars and that’s the attraction.  When I met my H, he was real.  Dating in LA is different from anywhere else, before you know a guys last name they’re already telling you they’re not ready for a relationship.  They moved to LA to meet a supermodel or an actress, if you’re not in that box you are dismissed.  You don’t know that if you grew up there though, you just think that’s the way it is…you have to be someone. My H grew up there, he never said that to me.

I’ve spent most of my life wondering if I inherited my dad’s mental illness, finally deciding it somehow skipped me.  There are still parts of my dad, the fun part.  Since I took a 180 in the opposite direction a few things come up to backfire on me.

It’s obvious to me now that Surfer Joe’s mom was mentally ill too and it looks like he went head first with it.  Makes me grateful, I could have gone either way too.



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