Eric Wolfram's Writing, Nuggets of Hope

Nuggets of Hope

By Eric Wolfram

We Beat up the coast to Drakes Bay this weekend and had a terrible time. The sea was completely unmuzzled. She snarled at us like a dominatrix snarls at a frothy, trickled brained, foot-licker. She was a salty, salty, sea hag; and I'm not afraid to say it, now that I'm safe at home again.

Just picture a Japanese sea drawing -- wind blowing the tops off waves, tiny boat overwhelmed. Except put me in the picture, with Sperry galoshes, foul weather pants, hammered by the swell, the whole crew sea sick, three miles off the coast of Stinson Beach.

Although it was a golden sunny day, the wind was howling at forty knots, which is fast, especially for our thirty-five foot Santana racing cruiser. I ground the jib sheet and finally jumped to the rail, only to hear the skipper yell 'prepare to tack' -- which means it's time to grind again.

There I was, on the wet cold rail, riding up a swell, trying to focus on the horizon so I wouldn't spew. I knew, at the edge of my vision, was Stinson Beach; and I remember the nugget of HOPE I found there on a warm day about two weeks ago.

That day I spent surfing -- riding the timeless tide -- the foamy hump of Mother Nature. I was thinking how Mother Nature could gobble me up and fart me out in a second, if she wanted to. That day, she treated me like a rag doll being flushed down a giant toilet. If you surf, I guess you're begging her to -- she denied me air. She called me a worthless varlet. She made me feel like nothing.

And that day I watched the para-sailors jump off the cliff and glide over hobbit headlands into Pacific splendor. How dare they fly? How dare they expose their tender breasts to Mother Nature's mercy, submit themselves to her scrutiny, and to the judgment of her laws? Into her fickle arms they jump, each one feeling an indescribable fear. Is it russian roulette to them? A dangerous addiction? To me it's so much more.

Later it's bumper to bumper on the Golden Gate Bridge, and we're stuck -- just like everyone else. The youngsters in the car next to us look so good in their big '72 Buick convertible. I catch the shining eye of a smiling beauty, Marin tan, laughter which still echoes with HOPE. And then I catch the eye of another. Oh lordy, lordy! Sweet petunia pie! They are like August's peaches, in the middle of July. And with a final glance, the memories of ten thousand yesterdays swirl in the face of tomorrow. I think I see a rainbow. I mistake the emotional rhapsody for beauty, or a natural lust for fertility. I look the other way, into the warm blue sky, into a city that's sun kissed today; into the HOPE which everyone on the bridge knows is there. It's only that sometimes, we just forget where to find it.

Debbie, the lady in the driver's seat next to me, keeps talking about having children and life and death. At the toll booth, she tells me that she isn't sure she wants to have kids any more because: Her sister, who was on vacation in Argentina, was walking on the beach, happily married with two kids when -- BOOM -- lightning struck her in the back of the head and killed her instantly. There wasn't even a cloud in the sky! It made Debbie reevaluate.

But what should I care about the implication? I know I can die at any moment. And I tried to tell Debbie that. I tried to tell her I'd give it all up, which she thought was absurd. But it's true. I'd give up the club, the billiard room, and the gawking eyes of non-members -- the people who, because they helped crew one of the members' boats, get to wonder why we don't take money at the bar.

I follow the regulars up stares where non-members aren't allowed. We go there to perpetuate the illusion that we ARE better. I have my doubts. I follow, not because I'm in the clique, necessarily, but because I'm hoping Lisa (pronounced Ly-za) will invite me out on Amanda again. Amanda is a three story sailing beauty. Lisa's not bad looking either. Amanda's mast, and most of her radar equipment, were designed by NASA. Lisa's got a smile that can calm a gale.

So later, we're drinking vodka and organic mango juice on Amanda's lower aft deck. The sun begins to set behind the Golden Gate Bridge, which takes on a 50's glow. The pail blue sky, Lisa's laughter, the people wearing ascots, the swing music, me on the tikki deck, the deco bridge in the fading light -- everything makes me feel extremely retro. I groove on it for a while. Eleven people in evening wear disembark from a motor boat that has pulled up along side Amanda. I feel like a king. The king of the '50s.

The vodka kicks in and I reflect all I see. I reflect upon it, I reflect it back. I can't stop it. My best quality becomes my worst. Everyone needs a break from me, from my reflections; even parakeets that flirt with cheap plastic toy mirrors, and the vain, and the ugly -- none of them can peer into the looking glass forever. Lisa is sorry she invited me. I can't wait to get ashore.

Driving my motorcycle home, I stop at a red light and face four lanes of speeding traffic. I remember our chauffeur in Oman. While driving on the wrong side of the freeway, barely missing the on-coming cars, which actually happened more than once; the driver would answer my fathers shreeks with a simple "It's in Allah's hand." I remember thinking he was fucking crazy, with that big arab smile, and wondered why my father never fired him even though I told him to. But twenty years later, stuck behind a red light on Folsom Street, after such a glorious day, I finally understand the chauffeur perfectly. I twist the throttle, close my eyes, and pop the clutch. I know that if the cross-traffic doesn't react, it will be over for me.

SSSCCRRRREEEEEECCCCCHHHHH goes the Four Runner, and so does the Chevy Van behind him. I hear the horns fade as I race down Folsom. I feel alive. I feel like a king again. They must think I'm crazy. Or you might think I'm lucky. Crazy maybe, but luck was never an issue. Like in Oman, my life was never in the driver's hand.

They say that faith blinds the intellect. I'm living proof of that. And, at the risk of offending those who don't like to be preached to, let me just say -- thank God I'm living proof of that. But I don't care who you are or what you believe, lightning can strike at any moment, in one form or another. And who in our merry band can truly say that they don't care about tomorrow?

Lately, I've been thinking that my life has been bliss. I have a lot to live for. I have ample hope. I have abundant faith. And I finally understand how men can go to war to die for something they don't believe in. I'm not afraid. I'll give up tomorrow.

I guess the point of this silly story is: There is a purpose to this crazy world. None of us are perfect or pain free. And, believe it or not, my privileged white man's pain hurts as much as anyone elses. I have everything to loose -- health, wealth, lovers, loved ones, a future, doing my part, a lifetime of fun. Yet I'll risk it all to rest in Her arms. I test her arms so you don't have to. I tell you, in case you're feeling discouraged, in case you're holding back, in case life has got you down. You can make it! Have hope. Have some of mine. Know that you can walk to the edge of a cliff -- take one more step -- and fly.

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