How to do Oahu Like a Local

Whenever I arrive anywhere tropical, I’m always jonesing to jump in the ocean. That’s why, right after landing on Oahu earlier this summer, we hit Waikiki beach. After years of bribing and threatening, Jimmy and I are stoked Tanner & Saxon finally love to surf. (Although I do not love how they constantly tell me what a crappy paddler I am and how I need Jimmy to slingshot me into waves.)

We hooked up with legendary pro surfer Hans Hedemann. Hans is Oahu born, owns two surf schools (Waikiki and Turtle Bay Resort on the North Shore), and is super down to earth. He took us to a mellow spot called “Sandbar” toward the Honolulu zoo end of Waikiki.

The water is so warm and aqua. And you can surf in a bikini! The view—Diamond Head, the highrises and iconic pink Royal Hawaiian Hotel was gorgeous—and gliding over that turquoise glass made me feel giddy.

I tried to get some scoop from Hans about his time on the world tour but he was tight lipped.

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Hans throwing out some Risky Business vibes in the ’80s.

He did tell me that he gave Cameron Diaz lessons twice a day for an entire month, and she got so good, by the end he was taking her out into juicy double overhead surf. He also told us about his son, Johann, a musician who attends the Berklee College of Music in Boston.  Jimmy, the bros and I caught a ton of “party waves.”  We even surfed alongside an outrigger canoe on a few waves. After a few hours, we got out of the water all salty and blissed out, and walked past Kuhio Beach Park where locals were hosting grad party BBQs. I asked Hans if I was ready for juicy surf like Cameron.

“Not yet,” he laughed.

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That’s Mr. Hedemann on the right.

With the smell of plumeria and teri chicken wafting through the air, we hopped in the car. As we drove off, Hans’ son, Johann (aka Johann Beach), played us out…Listen to Johann’s perfect post-surf sesh song, “Girl Crazy” here.

One of the best things about visiting Oahu was hanging with our good friend, Rich and his family. We’ve known Rich since junior high and his personality has definitely improved with age.

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Next, it was off to the windward side of Oahu to Kailua with Team Erickson.

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Kailua Beach is postcard pretty. I always feel like I could stay out in the water forever doing handstands and splashing around. The sand is soft and white, palm trees sway in the tradewinds, and the beach is dotted with an eclectic mix of people and dogs including Charlie, the amazing camouflaging Golden Doodle.

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After our beach day,  Jules took me around Kailua, and showed me all the hotspots.

Aloha Suprette was my fave.

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A superette is a New Zealand term for a small supermarket or convenience store. The gem of a boutique features unique wares by different artists. The jewelry draped over chunks of coral and cute neon-trimmed beach togs had me drooling.

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I was obsessed with this fuchsia surfboard by Travis Reynolds, a Santa Cruz surfer/artist/shaper. Alas, it wouldn’t fit in my suitcase…

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Luckily, this cool piece did.

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  Travis upcycled leftover surfboard fiberglass to make the “canvas,” even splattering it with neon resin. Reminds me of surfer spin art.

Another happening ‘hood is Monsarrat Avenue near the base of Diamond Head. There are Acai bowl places and juice joints, the order-at-the counter Diamond Head Market with freshly made scones, passion fruit cheesecake and pickled mango by the pint. By far our favorite spot was ARS Cafe. With vintage vinyl spinning on the record player and  industrial chic decor, this espresso/coffee/gelato/art gallery is a charming spot to chill.

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The avocado toast is a must. The soft bread is so flavorful and comes smothered with beets, arugula, avocado and a poached egg.

Later, it was time to venture into Waikiki. We arrived at House Without a Key at the Halekulani Hotel just in time for sunset. Under a pinky blue abalone shell sky, a trio of musicians played the ukulele and sang about a yellow ginger lei while a hula dancer swayed gracefully.

Could there be a more quintessential Hawaiian experience? Honestly, I think these are the tastiest Mai Tais on the planet. They have the perfect tart to sweet ratio and a little sugar cane swizzle stick you can chomp on. (Try the recipe here.)

I could have pounded 10 so it’s a good thing we had to dash—it was time for dinner.

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 Tiki torches licking the black sky, we took the beach route passing a dude with a metal detector sifting the now cool Waikiki sands for treasure—classic!—to a swell little boutique hotel in Waikiki called the Surf Jack and Swim Club.

It’s the coolest vintage-y hotel. Their motto is “Bringing soul back to Waikiki.” Walk into the covered lobby and the first thing you see is this swimming pool inscribed with “Wish You Were Here”…

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The center of the hotel is open air so you look up at a starry sky. On the platform bar area above the pool area are cute little cabanas where you can party semi-privately, and on the upper ten floors, 112 guest rooms which seem reasonably priced.

We ate at the hotel’s restaurant, Machina & Sons.

Great food even if the shaka wall paper nauseated poor Jules.
Great food, company and decor. Check out the Shaka wall paper!

Next, it was on to the North Shore. The North Shore is relaxed and lush. Locals have managed to keep it country. Hans has a surf school at Turtle Bay so once again, we hit the waves. Here, Jimmy gives Kelly Slater a run for his world title.

 We cruised into Haleiwa for sushi and window shopping. When we arrived at Matsumoto’s for shave ice, the line snaked out the door and deep into the courtyard. Jimmy wanted to bail. I thought there was no way this place could live up to its hype.

Guess what?

This shave ice is legit. Watching the women create perfect snowballs from an ice block, then drizzle it with tropical flavors—mango, papaya, lilikoi, yes please! and the piece de resistance a touch of sweet condensed milk—was mesmerizing. Plus the taste was nirvana.

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In the end, we didn’t want to leave. Oahu feels so much less touristy even though it’s supposedly the most touristy isle of all. There are fun new restaurants and hotels to explore, along with old school institutions.

After grabbing some tuberose leis from the airport stands, back we headed to the mainland.

Still thinking about all the fun we had and missing these cute little mango sellers.

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Muscle Beach!

Mini-Trump is in the House!

 


It seemed like just yesterday we dropped Tanner off for his freshman year at SDSU (read about that here.) The year flew. Before we knew it, he was baaaaaack!

Or at least I thought it was Tanner. On second thought, I was convinced someone took my sweet thespian son, and sent a frat boy with an insatiable appetite home in his place. In hindsight, there were some definite red flags, for instance, when Tanner asked for Sperry’s for Christmas…

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….or started posting pics like this to his Instagram.

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Still, during those first few days after he arrived home Jimmy and I were constantly looking at each other wondering, “Who is this kid?”

From the get go, Tanner monopolized my kitchen. He broiled chicken breasts slicked in coconut oil and sprinkled with Mrs. Dash’s from morning ’til night. His rice cooker was constantly burbling too, its rattling lid announcing a new batch every hour on the hour like some bizarre Japanese cuckoo clock. I watched in horror as Tanner gorged himself on a pound of chicken and a huge KT-22 mountain-sized bowl of steamed rice four times a day. Pretty soon we started calling him Jethro from the Beverly Hillbillies.

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I was constantly nagging him to wipe the rice clumps off my counter and eat more slowly.

Tanner had also become a gym rat, pumping iron religiously, sometimes twice a day. At home he constantly flexed in the mirror, and said things like, ” ‘Miring’ these swole gains, mom? All natty, baby.”

For the life of me I had no clue as to what he was saying. Could the Berlitz language school help me speak Meathead, I wondered? Luckily, he translated: “Are you admiring my big, swollen muscles, mother? I do not shoot ‘roids into my ass to achieve these results. They are all natural.”

Another thing: Tanner didn’t want to surf anymore. He hammered us to let him throw “dagers“—day ragers—and actually thought his summer “job” was to achieve Hulk-like veins. “What?” I asked. “Do you actually think those grotesque bodybuilders look good?”

But one day the Creatine powder hit the fan. We were perusing our absentee ballots when Tanner announced he was voting for Trump. I was mortified. Anyone who knows me knows I was raised by Weezie in the most liberal, Jimmy-Carter -lovin’ Tait Avenue cottage this side of the Mississippi.

I thought about all the times we’d volunteered at the family shelter when the boys were little so they could learn compassion. All those Project Cornerstone anti-bullying lessons I presented in their classrooms. And how, on the morning of the ’04 election, Tanner, Sax and I taped homemade “Circle-Slash W” signs on our bike helmets and rode to the polls. Hadn’t my liberal views seeped in via osmosis?

“You are NOT seriously voting for Trump, are you?” I asked.

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Make America Frat Again. Photo cred: Anders

“Yep,” he said. Then, he started gleefully chanting, “Build the wall! Build the wall! Build the wall!”

That was the last straw. For months I had pined for Tanner to come home. Now, I couldn’t wait for him to leave.

I was sick of him checking himself in the mirror. I was sick of my house smelling like freakin’ Chick-Fil-A. I was sick of steamed rice sticking to the bottoms of my bare feet.

But when I dug deep, I realized I was mostly sad. I missed my son. My surf buddy, that sensitive, guitar strumming, John Mayer singing kid who performed in musicals and was voted “Most Likely to be in a Boy Band.” I missed that guy. I had nothing in common with this gainzy frat bro.

I felt better when I talked to other moms who were experiencing the same let down. My friend, Amy, who is the sweetest, crunchiest pacifist mama on the planet, survived her son joining the army. Instead of being crushed, she embraced his decision whole heartedly. She was astute enough to realize he felt his life lacked structure and that’s what attracted him to the military. She also reminded me that she and I used to be taneroxics when we were at SDSU, tanning by the pool, bodies slathered in Blue Bonnet margarine. “That was our thing. This is Tanner’s thing,” Amy said. And she was right.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized when our children are in the new universe of college, they are trying on different personas that may be different from the way they were before. If I was going to have a good relationship with Tanner, I needed to accept him for who he was.

It wasn’t easy at first. But I’ve made a concerted effort to stop nagging him when he shovels in the food. Instead, I inject humor. “I read that we should savor our food by chewing each bite for 20 seconds. Let’s try it.” And we both crack up. Or I’ll send him a funny text from the grocery store…

"This looks right up your alley," I'll say.
“This new frozen food brand looks right up your alley,” I’ll say.

I also try to find common ground. “Hey, I just read in Us that Carrie Underwood curls 20 pounds. I’m wimping out at 12 lbs. Maybe my end of summer goal could be to curl 20. Can you help me get some gainz?”

“I’m down,” Tanner said.

Summer is still young, but these days our household is reunited and it feels so good.

When it comes to politics though, Jethro and I have agreed to disagree.

***

**Thanks, Tan, for always being a good sport & my muse.**

Debbie Downer Does San Diego

Tanner and I were flying down south for a musical theater audition at SDSU. I saw the sojourn as the perfect mother-son bonding opportunity. After all, I had to milk every moment before he left for college.

“Don’t mess up, Kimmy,” Jimmy said before we left. “I need you on your A-game.”

We arrived to unseasonably warm mid-February weather. Everyone was in a glorious mood. Everyone except Tanner. Buds jammed in his ears, eyes glued to his phone, he totally ignored me.

On the morning of the BIG DAY, I ran through the La Jolla Cove where we celebrated our boy’s first birthday with a cookout and cupcakes 18 years ago.

We celebrated his very first birthday at the Cove so I tapped the same picnic table for good audition luck.

How quickly the years passed. Anticipating life without Tanner belting show tunes and dirtying every pan with his muscle man meals made me feel blue.

Tanner’s audition wasn’t until four so after my run I suggested lunch at Puesta taqueria in downtown La Jolla.

After we sat down, I pointed across the street. “There’s my favorite restaurant, Herringbone.”

“Hrrmmp,” he said. “More like Pricey-bone.”

“This menu sure looks good!” I said.

“Uh-oh,” Tanner said. “‘Not guaranteed to be cooked in a gluten free environment’—NOT good.’”

“If we alert the waitress, I’m sure she’ll be on it.”

“Achoooooo!” Tanner sneezed. “Oh no, I think I”m catching a cold!

Womp. Womp. Who was I dining with? Debbie Downer?
Womp. Womp. Who the heck was I dining with–Debbie Downer?

I chalked Tanner’s grumpy mood up to pre-audition nerves and tried to keep the mood sunny.

Speaking of sunny, Windansea Beach was a few blocks away. I proposed a quick post-lunch swim to help dry his stuffy nose.

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I bodysurfed in the warm water. Tanner sat on the beach checking his watch.

“We should go,” he yelled.

“Five more minutes!” I pleaded.

We returned to the hotel with plenty of time. Blissed out from the beach, I leisurely ironed his chino’s while he lingered in the shower. By the time we climbed in the car, it was 3:15. I felt a twinge of panic.

It’ll be tight but we’ll make it, I thought…until we pulled out of the hotel driveway. It took fifteen tortuous minutes just to crawl one mile onto the freeway ramp. SD traffic had become as brutal as LA’s.

Tanner was livid. Smoke was pouring from his ears.
Tanner was livid. Smoke was pouring from his ears.

And who could blame him?

How could I be so irresponsible? How could I misjudge rush hour traffic? Why couldn’t the beach have waited until after his audition? Jimmy’s pep talk echoed in my ears, Don’t mess up, A-game Kimmy.

As we merged onto the 52, I prayed for empty lanes only to find a river of red brake lights. It was now 3:40. And SDSU was still fifteen miles away.

“We’re NOT gonna make it,” Tanner said. “If I’m late, I WILL NOT go to my audition.”

Inside I was freaking out. Tanner’s slot was 4:00 to 4:10—exactly enough time to perform two monologues and 32 bars of “I Chose Right” from Baby. There were no other audition days. No other weekends. This was Tanner’s big chance.

Then an idea hit. “Pull up the audition email on your phone,” I said. “We can call the theatre department.”

“It’ll never work!” he said.

“We have to try!”

He dialed the number on speaker.

1st ring—we are so screwed.

2nd ring—NO way anyone is going to answer the Friday  before President’s Day weekend.

3rd ring—Tanner is never going to forgive me.

Fourth ring—Click. “Hello?”

Then some guy, no, some Saint named Peter answered. St. Peter told Tanner, “No problem, we’ll squeeze you in when you get here.”

We screeched in at 4:25 and Tanner bolted for the Don Powell Theater.

He found me after his audition, ecstatic. “They were scribbling notes during my song. I think they liked me.”

Relief washed over me like the aqua waves at Windansea.

In the car, we cranked Hall and Oates “You Make My Dreams Come True” and sang at the top of our lungs. We were BONDING. Finally!

The following morning, Valentine’s Day, I woke yet again to grumpy Tanner.

I brunched alone at Caroline’s Cafe; he stayed in bed checking his Twitter.

Sitting on the deck overlooking La Jolla Shores, I noticed a cute towhead nearby smothering his mother in syrupy pancake kisses. Melancholy crept back in. I envied her. Time with her adoring child stretched before her endlessly like the white sand below while mine was vanishing.

I was excited for Tanner to begin this new chapter, but part of me wished he could stay.

I returned to the hotel and we packed. Tanner surprised me when he suggested a quick boogie boarding session at the Shores.

We hustled to the beach and rode waves side by side, meeting in the swirl of white water. I looked over at Tanner, his lips curled into an excited O, audition behind him, not a care in the world. My heart swelled.

Twenty minutes later he called, “We better get going. We don’t want to miss our flight.”

I did not beg for one more wave.

Okay, maybe just one.

But as I glided across that last wave, a sheet of celadon glass, I thought maybe instead of regarding our time with our children as finite, we should think of those bonds as constantly shifting, yet always there. Like the sand and sea.

***

Last weekend we took Tanner to SD for good, of course narrowly avoiding missing our 8 a.m. flight.

“I’m going to miss you guys,” he said, “but I’m gonna love never being late for anything again.”

Gonna miss you too, Waz.
Gonna miss you too, Waz.

Bunny Cakes

Tanner’s girlfriend, Blaire, has to be the coolest chick ever. Prom was only six days away, and Tanner still hadn’t officially asked her. Blaire hadn’t uttered a peep but I was getting antsy.

I’ve been obsessed with Prom Asks (aka “Promposals”) since I wrote this for the LG Patch and discovered boys go all out when it comes to procuring a prom date these days. Scavenger hunts, mid-class serenades, Post-it covered cars. One kid at Tanner’s school even got help from Walter Freakin’ White (watch the youtube here). “Stefan’s proposal made all the major TV outlets for God’s sake!” I said. “We gotta get on this!”

Tanner couldn’t be bothered. He was busy pumping iron, playing X-Box and d*cking around as usual.

Lucky for him, we had an ace in the hole: Jimmy Ratcliff, master baker. A few years back Jimmy made Saxon the coolest SpongeBob Squarepants cake ever, so I threw down the gauntlet.

Let’s make Blaire a bunny cake!  She loves bunnies, especially her pet bunny, Marlowe.

Meet Marlowe, the world's most adorable bunny.
Meet Marlowe, world’s most adorable bunny.

So while Tanner was working hard at school d*cking around in APES class, Jimmy rushed home between patients to bake Blaire a cake.

Jimmy begins performing his bunnyectomy. haha! Get it? Foot doctor--Bunionectomy?
Jimmy gets busy performing his bunnyectomy. haha! Get it? Foot doctor–Bunionectomy?

As he performed surgery on the bunny’s ear which broke mid-transfer, I, his trusty assistant, asked why he liked making cakes.

“There’s something cathartic about it,” he said.

First, Jimmy iced the bunny a frothy, fluffy white.

Then he gave him Junior Mint peepers, and a pink Jelly Belly nose. After carefully cutting out a paper mold, Jimmy sprinkled the inner ears with pink glitter candy.

With surgeon-like precision, Jimmy uses forceps to finesse the black licorice whiskers.
With surgeon-like precision, Jimmy used forceps to finesse the bunny’s black licorice whiskers.

After school Tanner made a hot pink sign to go with the cake,”I NEED SOMEBUNNY TO GO TO PROM. YOU DOWN?”

Shakespeare got nothing on home boy.

It wasn’t Bryan Cranston and I doubt we made CNN’s ticker, but hey, low-key is how the Ratty Pack rolls.

Then we raced over to Blaire’s. Tanner put the bunny cake on her door step and hid in the bushes. He even let me stalk them from the neighbor’s yard.

Blaire loved her cake, and we, I mean, Tanner felt such a sense of accomplishment when she said yes.

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When we got home, we, I mean, Tanner was on a promposal high. “Gotta go work out at the gym, hashtag gains,” he said. “Later ‘nade.”

Luckily Saxon was chilling at his desk. “Listen. I have the BEST idea for your junior prom ask next year. What you’re gonna do is take your girl to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk on the Skyglider…”

“So far so good,” he said.

“Then on the car in front you can put a sign up that says ‘PROM?’ and when you get off, I’ll be waiting right at the bottom with a bottle of Martinelli’s Sparkling Cid—”

“Wait—what?” he interrupted. “You’re gonna be there? I don’t think so.”

Maybe one proposal will have to last this Momzilla a lifetime.

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The Old Man & the Sea

If you know Jimmy, then you know tends to be a tad full of himself. He’s always posing shirtless for photos, and boasting about his latest triathlon P.R. (personal record).

“I bring it!” he’ll say. Or “Kim, you’re over your skis with me!” And of course, his trademark flex/brag combo, “Have you ever seen a 49-year-old this yoked?”

Recently something terrible happened. Jimmy turned 50. And like Ethan Hunt’s tape, his ego was dangerously close to self destructing.

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It was time for a MISSION IMPOSSIBLE.

Tanner & Saxon threw down the gauntlet… “Yo bro, you need to catch 50 waves for your 50th b-day.”

“Fiddy for fiddy?” he asked. “BRING IT!”

So, Jimbo hopped a plane with his over-her-skis wife (me!) and two teenage sons and headed to Cabo to try and reach his goal of catching 50 waves in 3 days.

Our hotel of choice, Cabo Surf, was located in front of a surf break called “Old Man’s”—how perfect is that?

As soon as we checked in, Jimmy was on it! He slipped into hibiscus print board shorts. No wetsuit necessary—not when the water was a balmy 73 degrees. Just a thin rash guard to prevent chaffing.

Cabo Surf is home to the Mike Doyle Surf School. Along with co-inventing the boogie board, Mike was a champion surfer and paddler in the ’60s. He hung in Malibu with the original Gidget gang. We kept our eyes peeled for him from the get go.

Mike Doyle, Hermosa Beach circa 1963,
“Tiki” Mike Doyle, Hermosa Beach circa 1963,

That first afternoon was windy with texture on the water. Jimmy easily caught 10 waves—1/5 of his quotient. “Not much competition,” he sniffed. “Frankly, I’m more ripped than all these young bucks a quarter my age.”

Located in the center of the resort overlooking the surf, it's the optimal spot to relax after a grueling sesh.
Located in the center of the hotel overlooking the surf, the jacuzzi is the optimal spot to relax after a sesh.

 

With only 36 nicely appointed rooms, the Cabo Surf has an intimate, laid-back feel. Boards are propped against banana trees and cocopalms, and from dawn until dusk there’s a constant trickle of guests, boards tucked under their arms, cruises across the grounds headed for the sea.

On our first day, I awoke at 8 to find Jimmy’s side of the bed empty. Seconds later he came into the room dripping saltwater, clad in his rasta board shorts which perfectly reflected his chill mood. He’d dawn patrolled it, notching another 5 waves in his surf wax case. He was up to 15, and feeling quite confident. “There was some ‘Ed’ wearing lame reef booties trying to snake me, but I shut him down,” Jimmy boasted over huevos rancheros and gluten free French toast at 7 Seas, the hotel’s open-air restaurant.

After breakfast we headed out for a family surf sesh. It was relatively uncrowed—there were beginners taking lessons, local chicks who ripped, and assorted groms. The vibe was mellow and the break has multiple take off points. Unlike other more punishing spots, Old Man’s has a steep wave, but wipe outs are soft and forgiving.  We caught tons of fun party waves.

After a few hours, we took a break. Twenty-three waves in, Jimmy gloated, “I could have caught way more, but I was in instructor mode with you guys.”  Thanks, dude.

We were kicking back on the beach reading our books when we noticed Jimmy’s ripped six-pack was looking more like a seven-pack.

“Dad! It looks like you have a tumor!” Saxon grimaced. Turns out all that board-on-bone contact caused Jimmy’s previously broken rib, an old surf injury, to become inflamed. We started calling him Frankenstein Rib, Frankenrib, then finally McRib for short.

 

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After reading a few chapters and tossing around the football, Jimmy announced he was heading back out for another sesh, his 3rd of the day.

“McRib, you better chill!” we warned.

But Jimmy ignored us. “Oh yeah, you only wish you could be this studly when you’re 50,” he said.

 

I was content to chill on the beach with a Modelo.
I was content to wriggle my toes in the  sand.

By the end of our second day we still hadn’t seen Mike Doyle. He splits his time between SoCal and Cabo, but the supposedly the legendary waterman was in town. I wondered if we’d ever see him in the flesh.

Speaking of flesh, Jimmy accidentally squirted a wedge of lime meant for his happy hour cerveza on his chafed inner thighs. Which didn’t make him so happy. “Sh*t!” he yelled. “That hurt!” Hmm, I wondered.  Was the old man starting to crack?

 The next day was picture perfect. The ocean fanned out before us like a peacock’s tail in stunning shades of cobalt, turquoise and aqua. We had a dream session riding the soft, fun waves. Counting his dawn patrol and our family sesh, Jimmy’s total wave count catapulted to 37!

He had 13 to go. We were leaving the next morning. Who knew what the surf would be like? It could be flat, it could be blown out. McRib could not risk defeat, so he three-peated yet again, dragging himself out for a sunset surf. By the end of the day Jimmy had reached 47.

He came in utterly exhausted, self-medicated with three Modelos and a bottle of cab, and passed out.

He only had three waves left but I wondered: Could he make his goal? Could he bring it?

On our  last morning,  Jimmy stepped gingerly into his Greg Knoll-style black-and-white-striped jailhouse board shorts, a fitting choice as he was in a prison of pain. He shuffled across the room, elbows and knees raw burger, deformed rib protrudint like an angry pink beet. Speckled with blood, his thighs looked as though they’d been sanded with extra coarse paper. He was shark bait.

The teens and I paddled out with him in solidarity. The swell had definitely died down. Jimmy scrapped for one wave. Then another. 49! “Dad! One more to go!” Tanner hooted. Thirty minutes passed. The clock was ticking. From out of nowhere a set came barreling in, and finally Jimmy scored his 50th wave.

As we paddled in, we passed a man with piercing blue eyes, broad muscular shoulders, his big hands cupping the water like oars. Mike Doyle.

From the jacuzzi we watched Mike catch the longest, most effortless wave of our trip. Glding gracefully across the bay, he cross stepped up and down his board from tip to tail, looking every bit surf royalty at 73 years old.

“Oh man! I’m gonna bring it like Mike when I’m 73,” Jimmy boasted.

Jimmy may have a broken rib but his ego will remain invincible until the end of time.

Go, 'Nade, go!
Go, Ed, go!

 

 

 

 

 

The Dream Inn: Stoner’s Paradise

Post-holiday blahs got you down? A getaway to the Dream Inn in Santa Cruz, might be just the “medicine” to lift your spirits!

Each room has an ocean view, a mini-bar stocked with Marini’s salt water taffy, and a photograph of the Ferris Wheel which you can ride right down the way at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Santa Cruz’s premier hotel is just a fun, beachy hang. It also happens to be the destination of choice for discriminating stoners everywhere. Let me explain…

When we visited over New Year’s, the first thing we did was crack open the sliding glass doors. Immediately the crashing waves and salty sea air filled our room delighting our senses….but wait. What was that other scent wafting in from the balcony?

Was it W-E-E-D?

Why, yes, it was. And we’re not talking a faint hint of ganja. We are talking full-on, back-of-Spicoli’s-van, mushroom cloud of Cannabis smoke.

Who was staying next door—

SnoopLion

Freakin’ Snoop Lion?

“This happens every single time we stay at the Dream Inn,” I remarked.

 “What do you expect?” said Saxon. “It’s Santa Cruz.” He had a point.

 That night we chilled in the room while Saxon commandeered the remote. He made us watch some super lame Lifetime movie called “The Other Woman.” It stared Winnie from the “The Wonder Years.” We had just settled into our double beds when suddenly there was that smell again.

Not sure if it was the contact high or Winnie’s crappy acting, but soon I was snoozing away. Suddenly a loud noise awoke me with a startle. “MOM!” Saxon yelled. “QUIT snoring! You sound like a leaf blower!”

“Sorry,” I said, readjusting my sleep mask and rolling over.

The next morning our neighbor decided to wake ‘n’ bake, and that sweet, earthy scent permeated our room yet again. No worries, mon. We were up and at ’em anyway. One of the best things about staying at the Dream Inn is walking along West Cliff Drive, checking out the surfers at Steamer Lane.

Somehow our friend, Dwain Christensen, makes the SC H20 look warm and inviting in his gorgeous photos. We're here to tell you that water is freakin' cold!
This is Andrew Christensen shredding. Somehow his dad, Dwain’s gorgeous photos make the SC H20 look balmy…We’re here to tell you that water is freezing!


We are beginners (well, except for Jimmy “Kelly Slater” Ratcliff) so we stick to the long, smooth Waikiki-style “party waves” at Cowell’s in front of the Dream Inn.

Before heading to the hotel’s restaurant for post-surf huevos rancheros, we dashed up to the room to change. “MOM, noooooo!” Tanner shielded his eyes from my bra-and-underwear-clad body as if avoiding a total eclipse of the sun.  “THANKS A LOT! Now I’m scarred for life.” We’ve always shared a room with the boys, but like a whiff of sour milk to the nairs, I realized this cozy arrangement had probably reached its expiration date.

We accompanied Tanner and his burned retina down to Aquarius, stopping to check out the new Jack O’Neill Lounge. Adjacent to the Dream Inn’s Aquarius restaurant (site of the first O’Neill surf shop), the cozy space features memorabilia and cool photos…

Jack became Santa Cruz royalty after inventing the wetsuit.
Jack became Santa Cruz royalty after inventing the wetsuit.

Our second night was a deja vu~the waves crashed, Saxon tortured us with more Lifetime schlock, I got yelled at again for snoring, and Snoop Lion sparked yet another spliff. Good times.

The best thing about the Dream Inn is how relaxed you feel when you get home. We chuckled while recounting our stoney stay to our surfer friend, Larry. Not surprisingly, Larry said the same thing happened to his family once. Only his wife called the front desk to complain, and got some money shaved off their bill. Truthfully the smell doesn’t bother us. It’s part of the charm, like the sandy lobby floor and wetsuits draped over the balconies. In fact, I can’t wait to visit again. But next time I’m gonna coin up for two rooms. That way I can snore and walk around in my skivvies to my heart’s content.

Hope your New Year is sweet!
Hanging in the Jack O’Neill Lounge.

Hope your new year is SWEET!

Love,

The Ratty Pack

Trottin’ with the Baby Daddy

Guest Blogger: Jimmy

Every Thanksgiving we run the Silicon Valley Turkey Trot 5K which benefits the Second Harvest Food Bank. Not only is the race a good way to get a little exercise before you indulge, but also it’s great way to help those in need.

The night before the race, I carefully pinned our numbers to our bright purple jerseys and laid them all out for easy access during the following morning scramble. “Don’t forget, we have to get a picture of us wearing our race shirts after the race!” chirped Kimmy.

As always the race was epic. Cruising through the deserted streets of downtown San Jose, serenaded by Taiko drummers, cheered on by bystanders, running alongside chicks dressed like hot pilgrims. What’s not to like?

 After we finished, we met in front of SAP Center and headed back to the car, cutting through St. James Park on the way.  There it was Thanksgiving, yet sprinkled though out the park were folks bundled in blankets drinking Coke and eating PB& J’s. Some were obviously homeless. It was heartbreaking. I knew I would go home and enjoy a great meal in a warm house with family and friends, but these people were obviously not as fortunate.

Halfway through the park, we saw a guy chilling on a bench smoking a cigarette. “Hey!” he called. “Where’d you get that shirt, man?”

“We did the Trot, dude!” I called.

“Huh?” He didn’t seem to know what the Trot was.

“You know, running?”

“Oh! Did you have to pay for that?”

“Yeah, man. We had to sign up and pay.”

We were halfway to the car when Kimmy said, “We should give that guy one of our shirts!”

“No way, Kim. Let’s go,” we all balked.

“Come on!” she pleaded. “Mine’s an extra small—it won’t fit him. Sax, quick give me yours.”

Saxon grudgingly took his shirt off. I gave him my sweatshirt. We waited at the car while Mother Teresa ran back through the park.

A few minutes later she arrived at the car out of breath with a huge smile on her face. “He loved it!” she said. Her smile faded, however, when Tanner said,  “Nice job, Mom, now we can’t get a photo of us wearing our shirts.”

“Shoot!” she said. “We’ll just have to go and ask if we can borrow it back for a second.”

We all shot Kim down. “NO WAY, Forget it!”

But she insisted. So back we drove. We got out of the car and headed toward the dude.  His name was Marvin. Marvin introduced us to his lady friend, Esperanza, who was drinking a super-sized blackberry ice tea from the can. “Are these your boys?” she asked.

“Yes,” Kim replied. “These are my sons, Tanner and Saxon.”

Esperanza pointed at me. “That the dad?”

“Yep, that’s my baby daddy.” We all cracked up, Marvin and Esperanza included.

Marvin told us had two daughters, 6 & 7, and boy, were they were a handful. Esperanza said her son was a wrestler at Independence High School.  We stood there for a few minutes, laughing and chatting about the agony and ecstasy of raising children. Then we asked if Marvin would join us for a photo. “Sure,” he said.

Meet Marvin, the newest Rattypack member.

Esperanza snapped the photo, eyeing our shirts admiringly. We told Marvin we hoped to see him next year at the Trot and suggested he start training and ease up the smokes immediately. Right before we walked away, I took off my shirt and handed it to Esperanza. Her eyes lit up in gratitude. (Or maybe she was just checking out my studly naked upper torso.)

Truthfully, it was me who was grateful. They may have gotten the shirts off our backs but in that moment, our family interacted with people we’d normally never engage with in our daily lives. That cool moment turned out to be the highlight of my Thanksgiving.

As we walked away,  Esperanza called out, “You better keep an eye on your baby daddy!”

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