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Club of Clowns - Part 1: Avalon Beckons by Gene Myers





Club of Clowns - Part 1: Avalon Beckons by
Article Posted: 12/04/2010
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Club of Clowns - Part 1: Avalon Beckons


 
I wasn't sure how to title this series. I first thought maybe SHIP OF FOOLS (and you'll soon read why), but that's been taken. My second thought was A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES, but that was used by John Kennedy Toole for his laugh-out-loud story about New Orleans; by far the funniest book I've ever read.

This series of stories is about a group of professional men in their mid-thirties who once hung out at the Manhattan Beach Athletic Club (men only) just south of El Segundo and LAX. Sadly, the club no longer exists. The owner couldn't resist a lucrative offer from a commercial developer. Anyway, it was there we began our day with an early morning handball match before shaving, steaming, showering, and heading off to work. It was also the first place we'd stop after work for more handball, beers at the bar, and a stop at Ercole's (just a block off the beach) for cocktails before heading home to wife and family. Most wives did not like the Manhattan Beach Athletic Club.

Although the men featured in this series were responsible family men, and on their own rather normal (whatever that means); when they got together some kind of catalytic process took place. As if a switch had been thrown, reasonable, relatively sane, sober gentlemen went through a strange metamorphosis, and a boisterous, unruly, raucous pack of immature boys took their place.

The year began with my wife, Kay, advising me I was going to have a vasectomy four days hence. Although I was taken a bit aback, I agreed because we had discussed the subject--numerous times. It's just that I never took the initiative to make an appointment. The old I'll-get-around-to-it-someday routine, y'know? Turned out we were both uber-fertile. Kay got pregnant on our honeymoon, and after the birth of our daughter immediately got on the pill. Three years later, we decided to try again, and Kay got pregnant within minutes of stopping. Damn! Damn! Damn! When our son was still a toddler the media started a scare campaign directed at birth control pills. We decided I should have the procedure.

So, day of the operation I'm in the shower at the Manhattan Beach Athletic Club shaving my nads. One of the guys discovered me and soon after I was surrounded by a laughing, wisecracking throng.

"What the hell you doin', gayboy?" laughed Bobo (real name Bob) He was a large guy somewhat resembling Frankenstein's Monster but without the neck bolts.

"I'm getting clipped today. Pamphlet says I have to shave my governors. Hey, how about some privacy, you homos?" The job was hard enough without an audience.

"What! There's hair down under there? I never visually checked that area," said Sammy, a fireplug of an accountant for Xerox.

"Me neither, but the damn things are as fuzzy as kiwis." I was really concentrating, tongue clenched in teeth.

Later, in the urologist's office as I steeled myself for the procedure, Dr. Tauzer gave me a goofy look of surprise and amazement. He pointed to my smooth-as-silk family jewels. "Why the hell did you do that?"

"It said so in the pamphlet you gave my wife."

"Really?"

"Yeah, really. You think I'd do something like that on purpose?"

"We'll, I'll be (chuckle)... Hey, Betty," he called to a nearby nurse, "c'mere and get a load o' this!" Betty thought it was funny too.

"It's in your freaking pamphlet," I said struggling to remain calm, but sounding defensive. I was actually quite angry, but didn't want the guy who would be sticking a knife into my scrotum to have an attitude.

"Must be an old pamphlet," he said still chortling. "We haven't done that for years." I could tell this would be a point of humor shared with his Wednesday afternoon golfing buddies.

A week later, assuming I rested enough for a game of handball, I stopped at the athletic club after work. Afterwards I was sitting in the steam room when Danny, a realtor walked in.

"You're an engineer, right?" he asked.

"My undergraduate degree is in engineering."

"Know anything about boats? See, I just got this 42-foot cabin cruiser as a trade on a house. It's real nice; twin screws and everything." He looked at me hopefully.

"The only thing I know about boats is they float."

"Well... I don't know how to start the engines without blowing up the boat. C'mon, take a look okay?"

I agreed to meet him at the marina that Saturday and see if we could figure it out, but I intended to find a boat owner near Danny's slip to educate us. We indeed found such an individual who gave us a quick remedial course in all things boating, but insisted Dan take a course at the marina, which was required by the shore patrol and strongly recommended by the Coast Guard. I knew Danny, an over-the-top cavalier type, would never take the class, but returned home figuring I'd done my good deed for the week.

A month later at Ercole's I sat at the bar with Bobo, John, and Smiley enjoying an after workout cocktail when the bartender, Chaz, said to me, "Hey, you comin' with us to Catalina in Dan's boat this weekend?"

"Who's the captain?" I was really skeptical especially knowing these guys.

"Danny," said Chaz, "but he's not driving, Captains sit back and drink martinis while the first mate mans the tiller."

"Oh? And who would that be?"

"Garza."

"What does Garza know about piloting a boat?"

"Nothing. But what's to know? You just set a compass heading and aim for the island. Simple." Chaz continued, "Besides, I'm the commodore, the commanding officer for the mission."

"Bartender too?"

"Right. Someone's got to mix Danny's martinis."

"Okay, I'm in." Then sarcastically, "Geez, what could possibly go wrong?" I figured with Kay and the kids visiting her mom in Oregon, I might as well get in on the tomfoolery.

I arrived at the marina in San Pedro just as the "crew" finished loading three cases of beer, a case of hard stuff, and a kilo of weed. This trip had "bad idea" (but fun) written all over it.

Twenty-six miles across the sea later, we miraculously arrived at the harbor at Avalon on Santa Catalina Island without getting hopelessly lost or blown-up in mid-channel. No mean feat with most of the crew and passengers well on their way to seeing double. Neptune must've been smiling on us.

The harbor patrol met us because Garza was aimlessly wandering around trying to find a place to land. They advised us there was no dock or slip space; and that the "whisker poles" in the harbor for tie-up were completely rented. We were told to anchor outside the last row of whisker poles.

After we found a suitable spot, the bow and stern anchors were dropped. "Hey, commodore," said Bobo, "how the hell we supposed to get to shore?"

Chaz looked at Danny, "Captain, I hereby delegate that mission to you."

"Oh, shit. We got no dingy," said Danny. Then he brightened as he pointed to a cumbersome craft between his boat and the beach. A large sign advertised the craft as a water taxi. We waved it down, boarded, and headed for the beach and the bars of Avalon.

During an afternoon of carousing, drinking, a noisy and profane game of whiffleball, and riding about on rented motor scooters we happened to meet another large group (couples and singles) who were another version of us. Turned out they rented a large house on the island and were throwing a big party that evening. Chaz told them about the weed on board, which got us an invitation to the soiree. Excellent!

We hopped in the water taxi to return to Danny's yacht to freshen up a bit and change clothes. After motoring around for a good thirty minutes, the boat could not be located. No one seemed to remember exactly what it looked like, the name on the stern on anything else. It had either sunk or we had been victimized by...

"Pirates!!!" yelled Chaz. "The sons-a-bitches have stolen our noble ship. Man the cutlasses! After 'em, Captain," Chaz directed the water taxi pilot.

Bobo looked at me, and said to the group, ""Myers fell on his cutlass! Show 'em your shiny balls!"

"Screw you, Bobo!" I replied.

When we returned to shore, we had several more drinks to help us strategize. Nothing coming into our fogged beans, we headed off for our new friends' rented house and told them the pirate story, which they thought was hilarious. Actually, so did we--at the time. Danny was unconcerned. "It'll show up somewhere," he said with an inane grin.

Later that night, all partied out, we crashed in the house and on the pool deck. Several of us semi-carried Chaz to his quarters in the pool house. Suddenly he stiffened with a look of horror in his eyes...

"Oh, my god! A convelescent home! Please don't commit me to a convelescent home! I only lost one command!" With that, Chaz passed out for the night.

Next day we said farewell to our hosts and took a seaplane back to San Pedro.

A week later the Coast Guard called Danny. They found his boat bobbing in the sea 10 miles from Catalina and towed it to San Pedro. They claimed the anchors had not been properly set. Oh, and the "service" came with a stiff fine and hefty towing fee. The weed mysteriously disappeared. Pirates! Yeah, that's it.

Copyright 2010 by Gene Myers

www.strategicpublishinggroup.com/title/AfterHours.html (New York, NY)

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