I was a wannabe, a flat, skinny Protestant-Jewish mongrel, a girl without prospects, still attached at the hip to my exotic best friend, a beauty with full Sephardic lips and black hair. Conjoined since 3rd grade, we’d spent every spare minute swapping jokes, tears, and confidences. Yet those Saturdays felt like my heaven, too, as the big bus roared in us, opening the throttle to last weekend’s spin the bottle in someone’s cold basement, our skimpy Liz Claiborne beachwear smelling like new blue crystal Tide. We were a busload of angels, buoyant in the glare, the Southern California sun blasting our windows.
It was the summer of 1965, the Promised Land, Santa Monica Beach, wide as the Mississippi, a place where algebra equations and 7th grade report cards dissolved along with all recollection of metal lockers banging between periods or cavernous hallways the color of stale chocolate. We disembarked in chatty clusters, lured by the Pacific’s blaze of heat and salt air and headed to Station 8, where the nerds and dweebs respectfully fanned out and disappeared, leaving us the prime real estate. Here, below the lifeguard station, the lanky, brown-haired boys spread their bold beach towels gently on the sand, jangling their silver ID bracelets, a kind of mating call, their junior high school rings glinting carmine, prospecting for love.