I'm at the beach

In a town called Mastic Beach in Long Island, where friends have given me their house for a week. It's buggy and hot and I'm covered in sunscreen and Off(!). In a good way. And falling asleep on the sand reading a fat novel (don't tell anyone it's the new John Irving). And watching surfers, swimming amongst them. At one point today even getting in the way of two in a very big wave, who would've gotten madder at if it weren't for the fact that the same wave had pretty much taken off my bikini top. "What the--" then boy laughter as I tried to tighten the strings casually with one hand while pushing my hair out of my face with the other. They were teenagers and I'm very much not, but in the wet and the bathing suit of it all, I could pass.

These guys are all Long Island. Accents galore, and they're not particularly hot, or mellow. A little too tan and that frat-boy belly rubbing thing. "How the fuck long you been heah?" "Like three howahs dude." "Fuck." "The mosquitoes fucking attacked the one spot I didn't put bug spray on." Thank god no one asked which spot that was.

My husband (who, thankfully, is on the West Coast side of manner and speech) started surfing again this summer after many years of not. He's mostly a skater but spent a couple high school years in Hawaii, so it came back. He goes to Rockaway sometimes at 6 am, borrows a friend's board, gets up a few times, then goes to work. Seems a bit like skiing to me--a lot of work with only minutes (or really seconds) of payoff, and a lot of travel and equipment and weather to deal with. I'm not sure I need another of those sports. Or if I have the balance.

Meantime as I contemplate the very difficult and possibly life-altering decision of whether or not to join him on his next Rockaway trip and actually try it out, I'm out here alone with no board, thinking about the music. In college I heard Man or Astroman? from a boyfriend, a stoner named Chris, very much not a skater or surfer, but a tall skinny from Dallas with a tattoo of the ceiling of the old movie theater he worked at in high school on his back. To this day the only tattoo I've ever really approved of. As I always do, feeling silly to be learning about something much later than it started and wanting to know the beginning, I asked about the old surf bands. He played me the Ventures.

Years later I saw Man or Astroman? at Mercury Lounge. They stood at the edge of the stage wearing space suits. How a band could combine aliens and surfing. I was in heaven. I swooned, thought about Chris. Wondered what bands I hadn't heard about from boys, men, boyfriends, husbands. Felt pretty good about the whole thing. Bought a T-shirt.

On the phone this week my husband told me about Dick Dale, Jon & the Night Riders, Agent Orange, JFA. He even got into deeper roots, the whole exotica thing, Yma Sumac and Les Baxter and Martin Denny, America's obsession in the fifties with all things Tiki. He's far more of a historian than I am. After sweatily downloading and listening for way too long, I called him and complained that it was all starting to sound the same. I never said it didn't, he said. It's my bad pattern: feeling ignorance, asking a lot of questions, quickly becoming an expert, then tearing apart and criticizing the information, thereby making the person (who was generous enough to tell me things) defend themselves.

But it's not all the same. It's just simple, lazily forceful in one direction. Like waves. Like sex.

Here's to my new LI surfer friends who may or may not know about the music and to boyfriends and husbands who definitely do. And to the rolling, straight-to-the-hips guitar that can make anyone feel like a surfer. At least for a few seconds.