Here is my first ever published article, which is in the current issue of Andpersand Magazine in India. The theme of the issue was "Life's a Beach"...
It was a most unexpected sensation. I was in the middle of nowhere outside Jaisalmer in a part of the desert I am not even sure has a name. The sea of sand stretched as far as the eye could see and there was not a sound to be heard. I was enjoying the early morning still after an overnight camel safari. It was early October and already the feeling of autumn was all around. The fog hung cool and low to the ground and the sun had not yet burned through the hazy mist as it would within the hour. Here and there silhouettes of tortured trees gave hint that there was indeed life out there. I went for a walk away from our small group of eight, to take in the quiet and solitude that is the desert. As I walked through the dunes, my feet keeping me connected like some natural umbilical cord to the group, memories and feelings came to the surface and I let my mind swim back to one of my favorite places and times of life; The summer of 1985.
It was the summer when the seemingly endless years of high-school finally pass and suddenly life is full of promise, adventure and, well, life. I was living in Southern California in a place now known as "The OC", but back then, to those us who lived there then, it was just "the beach", the only beach that existed in our little universe. To be more precise, it stretched from 34th street in Newport, just to the left of the lifeguard tower down to the pier in Balboa, just a mile or so away. Behind us was Pacific Coast Highway, crammed with cars loaded up with surfboards and in front of us was the Pacific Ocean. This was where my best friend Ken and I existed. It was our universe, our kingdom.
Walking in the dunes in the middle of nowhere India, I could almost hear the waves smashing into the shore, waves that are the stuff of legend, the subject of songs. My mouth filled with the memory of the cold pizza we would often have for breakfast while watching the surfers catch wave after wave as we debated the hot topics at hand; long boards versus short boards? My memory conjured up the smell of the coconut from the sunscreen. I can still hear Ken's Grandma June, who would sometimes join us, telling Ken and I she didn't want to catch us doing anything we weren't supposed to do. So we put our boogie and surfboards between her and us so we could sneak cigarettes and if she was later asked if we smoked, she could honestly say "Not that I ever saw". She would point out girls she thought we would find cute and that she felt we should go talk to. Once the sun set, we would stake out a fire pit and have Mexican food on sand covered towels. Then the soundtrack of that summer filled my ears, a soundtrack dominated by Depeche Mode.I closed my eyes to savor the moment.
That time and place now seems so far away and yet so close to me. I carry it everywhere I go. When life gets too much, like it seemed on that morning in October, I go back to that beach, even if only in my dreams and my heart, but that morning, in those dunes, it all seemed so close and real that I could almost see the migrating whales on the distant horizon and touch the dolphins that would sometimes come and play. Until my thoughts were interrupted by the faint ringing of a bell, my camel letting me know it was time to leave.
For most people, the beach is a destination, but for Ken and me, at least, it was and still is a way of life. It is part of our DNA, our identity. It is also the center of our universe, the temple at which we worship and pray. It doesn't matter if it is sunny or raining, calm or stormy. If we are happy, that is where we celebrate. If we are sad, that is where we go to think and talk. It is where I had my first kiss, where I first fell in love. It is where I first had my heart broken and where I lost my virginity. No matter where I might be in the world, it is where I exist. Every time I go back to California, Ken and I head straight to the beach. We head home.