summer Doc organized a trip to the ocean. After all, Colorado
is a desert and what lakes are here are reservoirs that
shrink by mid-summer. So Doc, our Skipper and a pediatrician
besides, made all the arrangements to take twenty-three
boys to the Pacific. We are Sea Scouts, land locked, and
yet passionate about boats and water and all things Navy.
We boarded a Greyhound charter bus at the downtown Denver
terminal just after the group picture was taken; a photograph
of boys 13 to 16 years old holding a long banner between
us: ďSea Scout Ship 2Ē. Our uniforms resembled the summer
whites of the Navy, in fact, we knew they were identical.
Long Beach, we board the USN Shawnee; an LSM bound for
Santa Catalina Island for some naval business I never
understood. The two-hour voyage was full of adventure.
Halfway, two sailors shot rifles at sharks. Then San Pedro
Channel grew rough and several boys vomited. I acted as
if the motion meant nothing to me, an old salt. But inside,
I knew that Iíd be heaving soon if things didnít settle
down. They did. We spent three days in the Avalon Harbor.
We pretended to be regular Navy, but now in retrospect,
Iím sure we looked exactly what we were, young adolescents
on a chaperoned trip.
most memorable adventure occurred in church. After the
cruise, somehow or other we were invited to a party hosted
for us by the young womenís group of the First Methodist
Church of Brentwood. June was soft this evening. The sunlight
glowed bronze on the gray cinderblock siding of the church.
We emerged from the bus uniformed. Our faces scrubbed
pink and among us wafted the mingled scents of Wildroot
Hair Tonic, Old Spice after-shave, Mennenís Aqua Velva,
and Colgate toothpaste. We stood clumped and posturing.
Our white uniforms glowed iridescent in the sunset. Here
and there the white was blazoned with an insignia and
the slash of a blue neckerchief tied with a reef knot.
felt nervous. We knew that girls waited inside. And they
did. The Fellowship Hall was festooned with crepe paper
twisted and hung across the ceiling. Chinese lanterns
with soft light bulbs lit the room. At the far end, three
tables held punch and cookies and small sandwiches and
a giant bowl of potato chips. Two knotted circles secretly
looked at each other across the shuffleboard-tiled floor.
Doc introduced us and thanked the Pastor for the invitation.
The Pastor spoke a little. I donít remember a word. All
I felt was excitement surrounding fear. The record player
stacked with 45 rpm discs began to play. Immediately,
two of our number, the most confident of all, strutted
across the vacant space and chose a partner.
face felt red. It was red, both from sunburn and anxiety.
I desperately wanted to meet a girl and felt just as deeply
unable to walk that space. In a few moments, like taking
a dive into a cold swimming pool, I impulsively trod the
floor and asked a young woman whose face is, now, long
forgotten. I carry no memory of her dress or hairstyle.
But the flower near her shoulder smells today as vivid
as it did than evening. So, too, the intoxicating touch
of my fingers along her waist.
for me, it is the light, the lingering light through the
windows, the colored lanterns and the heat of my body
that remain clear. I dabbed at my forehead with a napkin
after each dance. We danced each dance the entire evening.
Just once, through the final song, her head rested on
my shoulder and she lightly kissed my neck.
is no snow in Southern California like there is in blustery
Colorado winters. No cold. I cannot imagine even wind.
In my mind, it is always summer. Glowing summer, summer
on the shuffleboard-tiled dance floor. Smitten by sensation,
I suppose. I continue to romance that moment; the enchantment
of holding tight to a flower-scented girl grown into a
woman by my imagination.