Thursday, December 29, 2011

TOM SUGERLAND’S LAST MEMORABLE CHRISTMAS / By Ray Ramos / Copyright Ray Ramos / Page 13

It was a chilly December morning at El Porto Beach, which was down south from Venice, Playa and Dockweiler Beach. It was considered be many to be the best local beach for surfing because beneath it was an underwater canyon, this created consistently larger waves than other beaches. Tom stood there in his wetsuit, holding one of his favorite surfboards; Tom called this particular one “ol’ Lisa”, after a girl he had loved long ago… in fact that’s how he named all his boards, after his lost loves. He explained to Yasmine, who stood there in the chill holding her cup of coffee. Yasmine looking ever so lovely bundled up in her wool southwest patterned coat. He wished he had a camera to photograph her, but it was he that was there to be photographed, by her this morning... he wouldn't know how to work her fancy camera anyway he thought.
“Tom, I’m so excited to shoot you that I almost forget how cold it is," she said,
“Well that’s good, cuz it’s pretty wintery out here even in my wetsuit.”

I few minutes later Yasmine had to in the viewfinder of her digital Olympus SLR camera and was snapping away. She thought Tom was truly a wonderful subject. The lined face, the white long white hair and beard, set against the crashing waves in the background. Trade the surfboard for a trident and her could have been mistaken for Poseidon himself.
“I hope your getting what you want kid?” Tom said with his rumble of a voice.
“This is great… but, if I could get you in the water… that would be so epic.”
Tom looked at her for a moment. He thought to himself, how could he not see this request coming?…the  truth was he did.
“Damn, you’re a pain in the ass.”
“I’m sorry; please it would just be such a good shot. Even if it’s just you walking out of the water… it would be so dramatic.”
Tom thought she was right; it had been too damn long since he'd stepped in the sea.
“You want dramatic?”
Tom looked at her; he felt the admiration that she felt for him, even though he didn’t understand it.
“Slap on your most powerful lense. This old bastard is going in!”
Yasmine smiled but she didn’t care for the way that Tom had referred to himself. In her eyes this veteran beachcomber was gallant. He was the living breathing embodiment of the California dream.

The water was freezing as he remembered, but it felt good. He’d give his little love a show, he do it also in honor of that sick child that he had met, and most of all he’d do it for himself. Tom paddled out, where he’d met up with several other young surfers. They were no faces he’d recognized. They looked over at Tom not knowing what to make of him?
“How are the surf gods treating you this morning fellas?” “Cranking!” one of the young guys said braking the ice between them. Tom gave them one of his Santa winks from the mall, and then waited for his turn as he watched them all begin to ride the waves.
“Like Winston Churchill said…”
Tom jumped on the wave; it had the power of Moby Dick. His feet were on the board soon and he was riding the Pacific just like old times. He became at one with the fiberglass and it was a smooth damn ride... just like old times.When he got to the beach Yasmine was there…snapping away.  that made him feel good. He had to admit that she had an effect on him, like a box of puppies did to a child.
“Was that epic enough for you, my dear?”
“Tom, that was so awesome, are you gonna go out again?"
"I'm gonna quit while I'm ahead this morning."
Tom put his arm around her.
“It felt good. Come on, I’m gonna buy you breakfast!”

Tom took Yasmine to his favorite little café, that was in the front of a bowling alley in Mar Vista. It was always crowded, but the wait was never more than ten minutes. Cops loved the joint too, so fat chance of the place ever being robbed. Tom ordered a Denver omelet and Yasmine had a stack of blueberry pancakes.
“Thanks for the push today,” said Tom.
“I don’t think you needed me to push you back in the water… but I’m glad you did it while I was there.”
“Well, you helped. Things can sometimes get in your head… and pardon my Portuguese; fuck you up. Either way you did me a service.”
“Tell me more about yourself Tom.”
“It’s not much. I worked as a tow truck driver for most of my life. All the money and time off I had, I used to travel the worlds beaches to surf… that was the life I chose, that was happiness to me.”
“Can I ask you a personal question?”
“Sure, go a head.”
“You must have made love a lot of the native women?”
Tom laughed, "Who am I? Paul Gauguin? Is that the question?”
Yazmine blushed and looked down at her pancakes.
“In those kinda situations you have too… it would be insulting not too.”
Tom laughed and took a sip of hi tea.
“Let’s just say I have many wonderful memories to get me through my old age.”
“What about Christmas?”
“What about it?” Tom said.
“Do you have any special memories that you can remember? You are Santa Claus.”
"That's right, I am." Tom thought about it, and thought about it.
“When I was a kid, my folks got me this beautiful Cub Scout pocket knife that I had really wanted… I remember that… that meant a lot to me as a boy.”
“I bet you still have the knife,” said Yasmine.
“I wish I did. I lost it years ago.” Yasmine could tell that Tom really meant it.
Tom asked for some more hot water for his tea.
“I got a memorable Christmas tale for you… in fact it’s kinda bizarre you might say? It was when I was towing… It was Christmas Eve 1979 I think it was? My dispatch calls me and says that I have to make a call to this house up on Mulholland dispatch’s says; whatever this guy needs… I think “what ever?” I didn't exactly know what he meant by that?”
Yasmine’s eyes get big, “This sounds good!”
“It is, trust me. So I drive up to this gate and press the buzzer, I say who I am… the strange voice on the other end says; “Drive in but stay in the truck what ever you do.”
Tom took another sip of his tea.
“So I drive in, and this guys not kidding three huge guard dogs rush out and surround my truck… so I’m sitting there thing what the hell is this? All of a sudden this large figure appears at the door of the house… and when I say large, I mean wide! He says something and the dogs disappear. Its dark remember, the only light is from the house. So as mysterious this figure gets closer and closer; I realize this wide guy with the dogs is Marlon Brando.

Yazmine said, “Marlon Brando, why do I know that name?”
Tom just gives her a huh look? “Well if you don’t know who Marlon Brandon is… and why don’t you? This story’s not gonna be that entertaining to you.”
“He’s an actor right?”
“An actor?... I just might have to spank you right here... he was thee actor! The shit! The Godfather! On the Waterfront! Last Tango in Paris!”
Yasmine giggled as her checks turned crimson.
“Tom Stop! Go on with your story!"
Yasmine motioned with his elegant hands for him to go a head.
“So, remember this was Christmas Eve… and I’m on top of Mulholland with one of the most famous guys in the world.”
Again Tom looks over at Yasmine.
“Trust me on that. So he says he’s got a truck; an old International that won’t turn over… Why he needs this old truck to start at 10 PM on Christmas Eve, I don’t know? But I get it going which takes me all of twenty minutes. During this time we’re talking, and he’s asking me about myself… and mind you, I’ve not even acknowledged that he’s fucken’ Marlon Brando! He tells me his name is Bud. He’s asking about my truck, he’s asking about this and that… somehow I tell him that I surf… he tells me that he’s got an island… excuse me, he owns his own island in Tahiti. He invites me to go there and surf, he says there’s a spot on the island were the wave break perfectly. I’m thinking is this guy for real? By the way at this point we’re in the house, sitting at the kitchen table… for a big movie star his place was pretty average… I swear the shittiest little star around these days would have a place a million times fancier than Brando’s place. But damn, did he have a great view... just wonderous. Anyway we shoot the shit a little bit longer. And he's telling me stuff like, the best friend he ever had was his pet raccoon named Russell! All kinds of nutty stuff.”
Yasmine laughs, “You're starting to make things up now!”
Tom raises his hand like a Boy Scout.

“ This is all true, then Brando asks me if I’m hungry? I said, sure I guess? So he gets on the phone and finds the only Chinese’s restaurant that’s open on Christmas Eve and orders a shit load of Chinese food for just the two of us: chow mien, chop suey,  egg rolls, foil wrapped chicken, sweet and sour this and that, friend rice, white rice… it’s the craziest thing. Here we are sitting with a dozen of these white Chinese food cartons in front of us… I wish I had a picture of that moment. And all this time I still haven’t copped up to the fact that he’s Marlon Brando.”
“That’s so crazy,” Yasmine said.
“So midnight comes and Brando says, Merry Christmas! Then he excuses himself for about ten minutes, I’m thinking should I leave? What? Then he comes back with a thin black box… leather a bit frayed and hands it to me. He says Merry Christmas Tom. Then he says for be to open the box. I open it to find a pristine Gruen watch from the 1950’s it looks like... its even got a diamond in it! I say thank you, but I can’t take this… Brando tells me; take it, he had many material things that he didn’t have much use for… but he wanted to give me something in the spirit of Christmas… the spirit that he had felt once as a boy in Nebraska. He said even though he didn’t believe in keeping time himself… a watch was still one of the most noble inventions of mankind. Brando laughs and said, besides if I didn’t take the watch someday someone he never met would end up with it.”
“Wow that’s amazing”
“Here’s the kicker, I never took it out of the box, I just put it away… when he passed a few years ago I dug it up, and pulled it out and slapped it on… just to remember that wild night. Then I noticed an inscription on the back of the watch, it said; Marlon, with love Marilyn.”
“Marilyn Monroe? You have a watch to Marlon Brando from Marilyn Monroe?”
Tom raised an eyebrow.
“I gotta feelin? Pretty epic huh?”
“Yeah! So did you ever go to his island and surf?”
“Naw, another missed opportunity… I was dumb back in those days… too shy about that kinda stuff. So learn a lesson from me kid, when you get a chance to do something cool, do it because the door’s only open for a brief moment.”
“So how did the night end… did you ever say; hey you’re Marlon Brando?”
“Funny you should say that, when I left, he pinched my checks like an old woman would and says; you know who I am, don’t you? I said of course I did. Brando tells me thank you for letting me be "Bud" again for a few hours… and that was it... and I never saw the guy again. The guy had it all... you would think? But there he was alone on the top of his mountain. Brando seemed like the loneliest dude on the planet... he had to have been? To wanna to hang out with a greasy tow truck driver like me on Christmas Eve."
“But you were there for him... that's so awesome; you were right, was that’s pretty damn memorable,” Yasmine said.
Tom smiled, "and pretty damn epic."

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