If there is a worse way to wake up than in a pool of your own tequila scented sweat, I never want to experience it. There’s a stench, a sting, and a particular stickiness to my skin that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemies. In search of a towel and the thermostat, I crawl out of my nest on the couch but quickly come to the realization that neither are going to be found in this place.
In lieu of a shower or cool air, I strip down naked, make a b-line through the sliding glass door, and cannonball into the pool.
Southern California is a strange place. How do these desert folk splurge on backyard pool maintenance yet find themselves too cheap to make monthly payments for the electricity juicing an air conditioner?
Southern Californians are strange people. That’s the quick explanation.
But, they’re also a welcoming people. Only by my old friend’s grace do I find myself skinny-dipping at sunrise in an effort to avoid a hangover – which can also be attributed to his generosity.
In a mixed effort to reclaim my memories from last night and also to purge myself of the pain this morning has caused so far, I rotate back into a float and find the sort of calming meditation that can only be unearthed when our ears are rendered useless by the weight of the water and our eyes glaze over in an unfocused stare at the colorful sky.
Then I’m hit in the face by the slap of a soaked-through nerf football. The meditation is over. But so are the inklings of a hangover.
I jolt forward, find my breath, and launch the football back in the general direction of its source before I can clear my eyes of the chlorine for an accurate shot.
“I’m hungover.” A classic wakeup line from my old friend.
“I bet.” A classic response
Some time later after a short drive beachward, we find ourselves eating some grimy street truck burritos by the sea. Romantic to say the least. And absolutely necessary for the both of us.
There isn’t a cloud in the sky. I wonder if my old friend takes days like these for granted. Surely, all of Southern California’s massive population cannot take the time every day to appreciate their surroundings. But as a guest in these lands, I reserve right to be judgmental if they don’t. Yet, at the same time, my envy is stymied some by the unparalleled heat. The only times on this short trip that I haven’t found myself sweating have been those when I’ve been in the water.
Speaking of which, time for another dip. We leap from the propped down tailgate, and dart across the white-hot sand to the water. In time, we each find ourselves each returning to that unavoidable sense of meditative relaxation with our ears buried by the salt water and our eyes rendered useless by the bright sky.
This time, it’s my turn to destroy such a moment of internal peace for my friend. In a quick, single mechanical action, I place both hands on his chest, push, and submerge him unwantedly beneath a crashing wave.
Payback is an important part of any long-lasting friendship.
By the time dusk starts to approach, we’re carelessly tooling around in my old friend’s truck, enjoying a breezy summer drive and listening to the music that made this city.
Dre. Nate Dogg. Snoop. Vibrant West coast synths.
YG. Kendrick. Dom. Boogie. Vibrant West Coast synths.
It’s amazing to be in the environment where this was all created. No geographical delineation of art has ever been so accurately representative of its surroundings. Southern California and its music. The two are one in the same.
The discussion of such music, as it is with any of my friends, is a cornerstone piece to our friendship. We argue like brothers about personal preference. Our heavy debate of opinions that the stubborn both of us hold to as fact is a tradition reserved only for true friendships.
But with the start of the next song and a simple question from my old friend, we’re instantly drawn to a rare agreement.
“What do you think about Paak?”
“He’s the artist of his generation.”
“He’s changing music.”
“I’ve got a surprise for you,” he says.
Our drive continues for a little while – made even longer by the stereotypical traffic – before we pull into another packed beachfront lot.
My friend, like most Southern Californians, is an expert parker by necessity and has no trouble wheeling his truck into a sandy compact spot. He grabs a cooler from the narrow back seat, pulls it and himself out of the door, leaves the stereo running, and again props down the tailgate.
Beers and the sunset over the Pacific.
“How could this get any better?” I ask.
My old friend, without speaking, slyly fans a pair of white paper tickets between his fingers.
“What’s that?” I ask
“Paak.” He says, handing me the tickets and tilting his bottle towards mine for a cheers.
We finish a couple more and head down the beach to an old venue on the pier. The house is packed, and the band – The Free Nationals – a familiar and welcomed sight from the last time we saw Paak when my old friend visited my home city, are just finishing setting up on a small corner stage.
The venue is well lit for the time being. Beers and joints are being handed around the room with expected generosity. An overarching vibe of mellowness and calm defines the entire venue. Behind us, the hall opens up into a deck overseeing the Pacific with the last fragment of sunshine and color painting the sky and the ocean.
Through all the change in our lives, it’s amazing that such spectacular moments of normalcy to the tune of such profound and innovative artistry are what come to define long-distance and lifelong friendships.
The lights begin their slow descent in the hall and move in the opposite direction on stage where Paak has just emerged from the back and taken his seat at the drum set.
With an explosive “Yes Lawd” and the even louder first crash on the drums, the night slips from the graces of my old friend and is handed over to his fellow Southern Californian and equally gracious host, Anderson Paak.