Let’s start at the beginning. I popped into this world on a Navy base in Japan, despite both parental figures hailing from a tiny town in Eastern Oregon called Heppner. It was 1976, and Star Wars hadn’t been released yet, so the only thing I really cared about was bouncing up and down to KISS. When I was about a year and a half old, we moved to my own tiny town called Imperial Beach.
Imperial Beach, the edge of the United States, bordered by the Pacific and the Mexican Border, was a pretty awesome place to live.
Were you a Tweaker, needing crystal meth in the 80’s? I.B. was the spot.
Were you a motorcycle gang member that needed a new patch? I.B. was the spot.
Were you a Navy SEAL that had a kill record of 10 or more in ‘Nam? I.B. was definitely the spot.
But I was never privy to any of that. While meth dealers and Mexican gang-bangers walked the streets, I owned them.
I.B. was my playground. At 5, I would ride to the dirt jumps on my bike and learn that “square on the coccyx” is not how to land your bike after a 4-foot air. And at the beach, only dead, washed up jellyfish could stop me (apparently, you’re not supposed to poke them and lick your fingers). And bombing hills on your skateboard was totally safe if you had a traffic spotter. “Car! OK…Game on…”
I also spent almost as much time on the other side of the border as I did in Imperial Beach. It was routine to cross into Tijuana around age 11 with friends to go down to skateboard or ride our freestyle BMX bikes. Things were exciting down there. Everything was painted in bold strong colors, but covered in layers of filth, soot and desperation. Street tacos were the tastiest things, even though there was a 50% chance it was stewed Chihuahua meat. We didn’t care. And no one cared how old we were.
“Quantos años tienen, hijos?” Bouncers would ask.
“18!” Our cherub like faces would chime in pre-pubescent alto.
“Andale Cabrónes!” And just like that, the strippers and Tequila would flow!
Surprisingly, we never ended up in the Tijuana Hilton (jail), or as Mules, carrying Coke or Heroin in our not-quite-teen ass cavities back across the border.
Imperial Beach was where I learned to surf, learned photography, and lost my virginity. All in my Freshman year at Mar Vista High, 1990. This made 1990 the greatest year of all recorded history. And 1991 as a close second, when Pearl Jam and Nirvana introduced us to the greatest music movement since the Ramones and Sex Pistols ushered in Punk Rock.
Since then I’ve done adult things… childish things… Architectural things, Photographic things, Surfer things, been in a few bands…
I’ve lived in Thailand, Bali, Austin… So many places in this world to travel to yet, to eat strange foods, and learn different languages and customs… And yet, if I’m gone too long, I get home sick for the November Santa Ana winds, the taquerias of South San Diego, and crossing the border for Pemex fueled Baja surf trips.