Or how the World Surf League final's day at Lower Trestles was almost undone.
Yesterday afternoon David Lee Scales and I met together, virtually, to record our 131 episode of The Grit! The podcast has added many features over these years including a subscription option and a call-in line and an email inbox, which happens to be my personal favorite. And that same yesterday, an email came in reminding me of the time I almost burned San Clemente, home of the World Surf League final’s day, to the ground.
It was from the old facilities manager of Surfer and Surfing magazine, which once shared an insurance-esque office high in San Clemente’s dry hills. He spoke of cutting out, some eight-odd years ago, for a surf. When he returned he saw a large oil slick leading up to the parking lot and ending underneath a 1994 Ford Bronco that had once been white, exactly like the one OJ Simpson took for a famous low speed cruise, but had somehow turned charred and black.
It was mine.
I had left my Cardiff-by-the-Sea home, that morning, to attend the weekly editorial meeting in Surfing‘s windowless cubicle. It was a hot one with dry Santa Ana winds buffeting the already dry land and my windows were down and I hummed along to Miley Cyrus’s “We Can’t Stop.”
Things were normal as I exited the 5 freeway, normal as I headed northeast on Avenida Pico, normal as I swung right on Calle del Cerro, then became very abnormal as I climbed the final incline to the soulless white cube.
A loud thump canceled Cyrus’s croon, white smoke filled the Bronco’s interior and almost all power was lost.
“Hmmm,” I thought, limping into the parking lot and settling in a far corner overlooking parched grass and hill.
I got out and headed for the door when a woman shouted, “Your car is on fire!”
I looked back and it certainly was, the entire hood engulfed in angry flame.
“Uh oh,” I thought as I studied the parched grass and hill and felt those bone dry Santa Ana’s blowing right out over San Clemente.
Pep in step, I rushed to the door then to the Surfing offices asking if anyone had a fire extinguisher.
Surfing‘s photo editor and all-around icon Jimmy Wilson asked why and I told him my Bronco had combusted.
He found a fire extinguisher in the kitchen, returned to the parking lot with me and sprayed the angry flame but it didn’t mind and kept raging.
“This is how San Clemente comes to an end,” I thought as I studied the parched grass and hill, again, felt those hellish Santa Ana’s unabated.
But, miraculously, San Clemente did not come to an end. Eventually the last drop of oil dripped from the engine block and the fire went out leaving only the husk of my OJ Simpson Bronco. I tried to start the engine to see if, miraculously, it would run but alas.
Not ending up in jail, responsible for multiple deaths and billions of dollars worth of damage good enough, I supposed.
Days later, the facility manager called and asked me to remove my vehicle. I ignored him as I considered it public art. He implored Surfing‘s then-editor-in-chief Taylor Paul to convince me but I ignored him too as I considered myself Banksy-adjacent.
It was eventually towed, which I considered an insult, but I didn’t pay for it so, again, good enough.
Public art is in the eye of the beholder.
Listen here as David Lee reprimands me for being thoughtless and then we discuss The Ultimate Surfer and sexless butterballs (a new cocktail).
A fine show, all things considered.