"You are a clown. You dress like an eight-year-old. Look at your striped shirt. That's what eight-year-olds wear. You are stupid. Look at your face. It's dumb" etc.
Well I’ll be darned. Fate found me, Saturday afternoon, in unfamiliar territory. A dear friend, brilliant woman, best-selling author had just published her much-anticipated book on how to heal trauma, awaken power, use it for good and a large outdoor book reading, celebration had been planned.
North County, San Diego, as you may or may not know, has a vibrant yoga, health and wellness, progressive spirituality scene, not unlike Australia’s Byron Bay, with all the trappings and flourishes. Burning sage etc. Wide brimmed hats.
Self-betterment a constant goal, consciously pursued.
Wonderful, I don’t doubt, but also not my own scene and so it was with some reluctance that I shuffled toward the event, on my wife’s arm, light patchouli wafting in a cool breeze.
I wondered if there would be any cocktails on offer as we pushed past the desk selling books into a courtyard ringed with tents selling crystals, organic açaí bowels, a woman giving single needle tattoos. My wife split off, seeing friends. I wandered to the back, near a vintage Volkswagen bus that had been converted into quaint sitting space.
Hard kombucha was on offer.
Having no other option, I fished a can out of the cute ice-chest, sipped the dull bitter and marveled at the size of the crowd. So many milling in flowy calf-length dresses, oversized sunglasses, wide-brimmed hat, linen pants, dancing barefoot to an acoustic duo who would alternately burn trauma in a clay bowl, handcrafted by an indigenous man in Baja and play uplifting Eagles covers.
A crowd any author would be jealous to draw.
I saw a wonderful colleague from my days at Surfing magazine and we reminisced while also chatting about the future and general state of premium subscription surf content.
I saw a BeachGrit friend, standing in the middle of the courtyard, left the Volkswagen bus’s fender, shuffled over, and we reminisced about great moments in the history of surf podcasts. How surf mats are the future and would have arrived sooner had Mark Thomson not assaulted onetime world number two Jodie Cooper.
An announcement went up, the reading would begin soon, and as I turned to make my way to the stage but was stopped by a slightly quavering but still strong voice somewhere behind me.
“Are you Chas Smith?”
I turned to see a woman in re-purposed from work to “work” overalls, oversized sunglasses, wide-brimmed hat standing the appropriate six feet away and answered, “Yes.”
“Fuck you,” she said voice losing its quaver, only strong. “Fuck you.”
I am used to this greeting at this stage of my career in surf journalism but not it expecting at an outdoor reading of a book, celebration, detailing how to heal trauma, awaken power, use it for good and my face must have mirrored my confusion.
“Fuck you. You harassed me and my husband online and got your trolls to harass us too. Fuck you.”
Amazement washed over me as the realization dawned and I uttered, “You’re Ashton Gogganses girlfriend?”
“Fuck you,” she responded while taking a few steps backward and raising both her middle fingers toward me.
My unfortunate reflex was to break out in laughter, a laughter so full-bodied that it caused me to double up and gasp for breath.
She turned and marched back whence she had come, a tent selling wide-brimmed hats. Her tent, apparently, and her hats.
Not knowing quite what to do, I shuffled back to the stage, chortling like a fool, just in time to catch the reading.
It was a revelation, dear friend, brilliant woman, best-selling author speaking on how to summon inner animalistic forces to crush hurt. How to overcome harm and how our experience, once owned, can be harnessed for good.
How we can all help each other on this path.
I had never been so instantly, robustly, chastised and shame washed over me like a sound bath.
It was time to go.
“I hope your trauma has been healed…” I said to Ashton Goggans’ girlfriend, or maybe wife, on the way out, since her hat tent was near the exit, truly meaning it.
“Fuck you,” she said but now she also had a hat selling friend, a handsome little man with white teeth also wearing a wide-brimmed hat and oversized sunglasses who started bouncing around like a hip-hop star.
“Fuck you,” he said. “You are a clown. You dress like an eight-year-old. Look at your striped shirt. That’s what eight-year-olds wear. You are stupid. Look at your face. It’s dumb. Your pants are not cool. You are the worst writer I have ever read. You suck and are stupid.”
Then the Li’l Haberdasher turned on my wife, on whom’s arm I was, and said, “Look at your purple hair. It’s stupid.”
My wife, organic as the day is long, had grown up in Seattle’s rougher side and come up through the ranks of snowboarding’s early derelict years. Putting anything that has ever happened in surfing to shame.
She had also done a year of middle school in desegregated Nashville, Tennessee and beaten up every day on the bus.
Her eyes went red and I have never heard such a salty barrage in my entire life.
Entirely vicious, traumatic, and momentarily stunning the already-traumatized, giving me enough time to, again, offer my sincere hope that they could find healing in the clay bowl, handcrafted by an indigenous man in Baja.
It was as ill-advised an offering as doubling over in laughter.
We somehow, someway, extracted ourselves, Li’l Haberdasher shouting something about Norman Mailer as we were a block away and maybe he meant it as a positive?
Hope springs eternal.
P.S. My wife forgot her Givenchy handbag near the hard kombucha station and ran back to get, enjoying seconds on Ashton Gogganses’ girlfriend and her Li’l Haberdasher.
And to think this whole business began with me trying to defend her honor. Now I can only hope the police have not been called.
More as the story develops.