HODAD is a name that was used to describe radical surfers and skate boarders back in the 70's, and during that time in our lives that is exactly who we were. A band of brothers and up coast surfers, proud to say that for a few short summers we were living on top of the world. The band of HODAD brothers consisted of Paul Pivacco, Danny Manning, Carl Mallios, and of course my self. We were surfers who needed salt and adrenaline in our veins, and skate boarders with no fear, bound for glory. Now days there are competition skateboard parks, global surf tournaments, Olympic snowboard half pipe competitions all around the world, but for us skate boarding, and surfing was simply a way to stay in shape, get away from reality for a while; and perhaps attract a girl or two.
A half torched Cuban cigar smolders in a sculptured blue glass ashtray tonight as my forever-searching mind begins to reminisce back to those long lost summer days of wild teenage adolescent youth. Crazier times when stupidity came before insight and friendships were forged by an allegiance, a common goodness shared between friends who became brothers. Even though it only lasted for a few short summers, I still miss those glory days and my long lost friends who are endeared in my heart. So tonight, I sit at the keyboard in the dark hoping to finish this short story of the Hodad Blues.
I have noticed that as technology progresses the sounds of the computer keyboard being punched is much quieter than my old clunky typewriter used to be. I begin to wonder for a second or two about how the old time columnists used to concentrate with all that obnoxious tapping noise going on; sort of like machine-gun fire in a deserted alley. As the seconds continue to tick off, one by one from the clock on the wall, I realize tonight that I am not the fastest typist in the world; so with turtle blazing speed I begin to understand that it is a rare bird that yearns to spread it's wings to take flight as a writer; my mother used to say to me as a young boy, "if you don't give it a try, then how will you know if it's right or if it's wrong?"
My mind is firing off memories like lightning strikes, and tonight in the quiet of my GregoArt studio, there are millions of past-planted seeds of thought beginning to grow, searching for new light. I will try to type them down as fast as I possibly can while my memory is still fresh, like damp paint on a wall that seems to need a second coat. So with Starbucks French Roast coffee in my trusty Van Gogh mug staring back at me and a smoldering Cuban cigar by my side in the ashtray, my fingers begin to fly.
Even though I have been formulating the backbone of this short story for over twenty years now, my memory is not what it used to be when I was a strapping young lad. However, like an experienced archeologist who writes down the facts as he unearths them, I had the common sense to write down the important details over the years as they came to me. Methodically I begin to transpose my notes as this short story slowly drifts back in time to the Hodad Days of summer.
The smoldering smoke from the cigar in the ashtray seems to drift effortlessly into the calm air and slowly begins to circulate around the studio like curious ghosts that drift thru a haunted house attempting to discover something strange and new. Thoughts fade back in time tonight, as the floating cigar smoke wanders around the studio in search of what it will discover next.
After a slug of Starbucks mud, my thoughts unravel back to my old hometown of sunny Miami, Florida. Millions of palm trees sway in the tropical breezes where my mind has landed, and Southwest High School where I graduated from is right in front of me, home of the screaming Purple Eagles. I envision myself walking down the street towards the High School located between Bird Road and Miller Road. The city of Miami has always left me with a numb feeling that I moved away much too soon; once in a while, I am overcome with green envy and sorrows of sullen blue. Miami has become a melting pot of a neighborhood over the years, and that is where this short story begins of the Hodad Blues.
When I was just a kid there used to be a very popular Grey Hound dog track that was located on the south side of Miami Beach. It stood tall in the golden sunshine along the salty coastline and there used to be legalized gambling that ran amuck all over the beaches for many decades. My Uncle Jason used to love to go there when he would come down from the Carolinas for a little partying and gambling getaway with my father and my uncles. Uncle Jason was a wild restless soul who was born with a curious streak inside of him that caused him to be a wanderer; he was a lot like me, gathering up the facts of life as you live them. He is another great American character that I think of often as I write about this crazy world.
My parent's nick names were tricky Dickie and mother Mary and they used to take us along with the neighbor kids to a lot of the surrounding beaches in the area when we were little tikes back in the Sixties; I guess they did that because they so loved the beautiful beaches as well. Key Biscayne, Fort Lauderdale, Coconut Grove Beaches, and even the Florida Keys were close to the top of favorite Beaches, but I always felt the most comfortable at South Miami Beach, for some reason or another. That same beach is where I first got beaned in the head as a youngster by a locals surfboard. I guess that from that lump a light bulb turned on in my head that told me that I should become a surfer when I get a little older. Thru experience comes knowledge.
Years ago you could drive your station wagon or big old American built car thru very little traffic to go across the opening and closing toll bridges that led you to the inter coastal Dolphin Expressway, past the massive Cruise Ships to get over to the beaches. I can still remember seeing the colorful confetti drifting around in the moist salty air as it was thrown to the crowds below celebrating the departure of the cruises. Champagne was uncorked, people screamed with delight, kissed and hugged as if there was no tomorrow and slowly the boats drifted away one by one into the calmness of the afternoon. I remember thinking as a young boy, maybe some day I will be a cruiser too.
Miami Beach was home to many big celebrities prior to the seventies, and generations past there were no such things as legal drinking limits or DUI regulations in the 40's, 50's, or even the 60's. Jackie Gleason was the big bird in the nest back then and people just partied there brain cells out along the beach areas, engulfed in the excitement of the times. Steady grooved Tropicana and big band dance music played all night long keeping you dancing under the stars and walking along the moon lit beaches in search of romance. The next morning as the over crowded hotels began to empty out and vacationers spilled back onto the beach, you would have to resort to sun tanning and sleeping off the hangover poolside; just trying to remember how many fruity concoctions and Martini's you chugged down at the gala. Miami Beach really used to be the cats meow at the time; you fixed your headache with a BC powdered Aspirin and Eggs Benedict. In addition, of course the double Bloody Mary has kept you in the game the next day as well. As the decades continued to unravel, like a ball of string unraveling as the kitten chases it around the living room floor, the big band era eventually melted into the seventies bringing along with it a historical saddened time of dilapidation to the once great south Miami Beach coastal shore. My mother who brought us quite often to the beach as kids once told me, "nothing good lasts forever son".
It is too bad that time flies by so fast in this short life that we live. As kids, we eventually out grew our playful youth of the sixties and eventually those time clocks melted away our carefree lives of childhood beach days and replaced it with teen-age idiotism. As time continued to tick off the clock, unfortunately I did not find the time to revisit south Miami Beach for reasons too numerous to mention. Sometimes it seems as if there is a poetic injustice that forces one to stay away from what one loves, because it only breaks your heart when you return.
When I finally returned fifteen years later in the seventies I discovered that beautiful south Miami Beach and all its hay-day were coming to a close before my very eyes. A dilapidation process was settling in, along with a crumbling facade of all of the buildings. The area had almost decayed beyond recognition of what it is once mighty and powerful persona used to be that so attracted millions of yearning visitors. What happened? I have only been gone 10 or 15 years and the old hotels are now surrounded with homeless people and "wanna be" gang members who are in their new found devilish play ground. The aged who yearned for year round warmth, comfort, retirement and low rents, found little pleasure in living out their golden years of comfort next to graffiti tagged buildings and shuffle boards; park benches were filled with passed out homeless people, wrapped in daily Miami Herald news paper blankets.
The Carter administration was fumbling around running the country back in the 70's and south Florida's melting pot of expanding nationalities even back then was beginning to explode. Cuban's were demonstrating everywhere around the city and were raising hell in detainee holding camps, complaining that their families were still stuck in Cuba with no way out. Cuba's iron fist man, Fidel Castro had recently got the brilliant idea that he would set things right by letting some of the persecuted free, since he heard these rumblings loud and clear all the way across the Atlantic of screaming turquoise blue. Instead of letting the yearning families reunite in America, like a wicked magician out of control, Castro opened the floodgates of high-risk security prisons and insane asylums, giving them exodus boats to find their newfound tumultuous freedom in America.
As the warm Atlantic Oceans currents slowly flowed northward from the balmy tropical Caribbean islands skirting along side of the Bermuda Triangle, eventually those over packed exodus boats drifted closer to America's shores of freedom. Their dangerous journeys over were filled with a promise that if you can reach the American coast and put your foot on its sandy shores, you can call it home. The bad news is that hundreds drowned and washed upon the shores or were eaten by hungry sharks in feeding frenzies as a consequence to those who dared to cross their liquid graveyards. Ex President Jimmy Carter the peanut farmer professed that it was the right thing to do, for Fidel Castro to set the persecuted Cubans free and liberate them with their families; little did he know what would wash up on sunny Miami Beaches sandy shores. Sometimes Hurricanes skirt around you in their deadly seasons, quite often they leave you with undeniable disastrous results. While many of those exodus boats arrived in one piece, others unfortunately did not. In history there is no turning back the hands of time, quite often it pays to be careful what you ask for as an American President, because you often get what you ask for, and your decisions can haunt you for the rest of you life.
Across the city, the undefeated Miami Dolphins ruled the football world back in the seventies, and the city that was filled with year round warm golden sunshine and dilapidating coastal communities was also built upon the new brick foundations of powerhouse athletes like Griese, Bonacotti, Warfield, Czonka, Kick, Morris, Little, Anderson, Mandich, and Coach Don Shula. There was a quiet rumbling across America at the time that whispered that Miami seemed to have it all back then, from warm crystal clear translucent blue ocean water for fishing, boating and swimming, to affordable homes just minutes away from the oceans bounty. I remember going to a couple of Dolphins football games the season that they went undefeated with my Uncle Mike and the family. He worked at the Miami Herald for many years, and I am sure that he would agree that there is nothing more exciting to bind a city together than a winning football and playoff season.
Real rock bands ruled the airwaves back then as Steve Miller's "Fly like an Eagle" and Peter Frampton's masterpiece live album "Do You Feel like We Do" ruled the radio stations. Our sun tanned muscular surfer bodies grew stronger with each and every passing day as we were glued to the portable radios and car stereos. Life was a lot less stressful back then, because there was no internet, computers, E-mails, hand held global positioning satellites, weather channels, cell phones or any mind-blowing technology, just classic hot rods and surfer magazines for us to learn from. Although time is now flying by like the 747 that I hear rumbling in the background, I have been fortunate enough to keep up with one of the biggest Hodads of them all thru email. Now that we are both in our forties, it's time to finish this short story that I have been telling him about before we reach our mid life crisis, and Paul can no longer remember my name any more.
Bell-bottom pants and platform shoes were all the rage in the 70's, along with cool phrases like "tripindicular" and "radical dude". Hot rod cars that were jacked up in the rear were considered "rad classics" and cigarettes were considered "way cool", as Marlborough ruled the USA. As the Viet Nam era was coming to a close, long hair was in and classic American built cars that were hand tooled in our country were big and mean, and they had balls with 350 V-8s and 454 big blocks. Deep Purple's "Born to be Wild" and heavy metal thunder is what the American cars were made of back then, and Chevrolet was the cats meow as the screeching tires of I-ROC Z28's or fiberglass bodied Corvettes rocked the ever-changing streets of greater Miami. General Motors Corporation at that time ruled the USA streets in the seventies, and Honda, Toyota, and Nissan were the new guys on the block.
As the world keeps spinning, the South Beach Gray Hound dog track down at the southern end of south Miami Beach was eventually bull dozed to rubble in the early seventies and the gambling era was washed into the sea. South Beach in all its lost glory somehow became our get away spot where we went to find ourselves, offering a little piece of mind to think things thru. Danny drove his customized blue Beetle Bug, Carl drove his Volkswagen Carmanghia, Paul drove his powerful Pontiac Lemans coupe painted brilliant silver by his uncle, and I drove a Ford Maverick nick named "Mad Max", a six cylinder running on three. Sometimes we would car pool to the beach with surf boards stacked three deep on the roof, and sometimes we would drive alone across that same Dolphin expressway that we used to cross as kids with our parents, past the giant cruise ships in route to our surfing zone, but this time there was lots of traffic.
The HODAD characters in this story are Danny "superstar" who had rugged good looks, pure athletic talent, and speed. I noticed that quite often he had a distant look that always appeared in his eyes, focusing on what the future will bring I guess. Carl "sweetness" the ladies man was also devilishly handsome with brains to boot which drove the ladies crazy in the neighborhood. Paul "Pauly" the classic jokester and life of the party always had an edgy humor about him that kept you in stitches always rambling on and on about the worlds idiosyncrasies. He was fortunate to be blessed with a body that was made of concrete, able to leap small buildings in a single bound. Then there was me, being the smallest of the Hodads, I had a desire to try to be just as good, but always saw things thru strangely different eyes of curiosity.
We all had eight-track tape players in our clunky old beaters that were all the rage before cassettes became popular, but unfortunately, the quality of the recorded music was less than perfect compared to today's standards of CD and I-POD quality. Many a long afternoon we would rock out at the beach with air guitars to The Bay City Rollers classic "Ballroom Blitz", Bad Company's classic "Bad Company" or maybe even a little mix of Bachman Turner Overdrives "Taking Care of Business" infused with the Kinks "Lola". We all had different agendas on our plates and different parental upbringings to deal with, but we all had one thing in common for a couple of summers: The Beach Boys and lets go surfing now, and a lust for kicks.
During High School we some how all gravitated into the restaurant industry, with all of its cash in fist endless possibilities. The Depot Restaurant became our second home at Dan Guthrie's house of ill repute. What a crazy dude this guy was for sure; he was an eccentric odd ball character who was fascinated with getting people wasted all of the time by alcohol, poppers or what ever he could get his hands on. It was a great place to work while it lasted, and many celebrities dined there like Frank Sinatra, the Bee Gee's, and numerous athletes including the Dolphins football team members. One night Sweetness and I were racing home in our cars after we got off shift and we got pulled over by the local coppers. We got off by offering a comp dinner to the fuzz and his family and a verbal warning to keep it below a hundred miles per hour. I guess it pays to work at posh places in the city sometimes.
Superstar was trained by his father to be a speed skater, probably hoping that some day he would make an Olympic team. He came from an athletic family and I remember that his father used to make his specialty wooden wheels for his expensive speed skates that enabled him to fly like the wind. Whenever we skate boarded around the neighborhood sidewalks or on the local schools smooth hallways, we could never seem to keep up with that guy. Fly like the wind little brother is what I always thought of him. His older brother Robbie was the one who opened the door for us to get our jobs at the Depot Restaurant.
Pauly was raised in a very loud Italian family. It was not uncommon for conversations at the dinner table to be loud and boisterous. I get the communication point of it and the getting your ideas across, but it is my hair that is thinning not my hearing mister! His sister Laura became famous for being one of the actresses in bikini that appeared on the introduction scene of Miami Vice television show years ago which starred Don Johnson; she was a lovely tall gal for sure, something I like to call a tall glass of water to drink. Both Pauly and Laura had short modeling careers, and I vaguely remember seeing their money photos in leather bound portfolios of pool photos and such. Deep down in his heart I think that Pauly is misplaced a lot like me, wanting to be a cowboy born over a century ago.
Sweetness lived not far away from the rest of us, sandwiched in between all of our houses in the same cracker box suburban neighborhood. He came from a quiet family, just the opposite of Pauly's family. People somehow crossed his good looks with a Donny Osmond sort of thing back then, and that was all she wrote. One of our fondest memories together was riding around one afternoon in his Carmanghia coupe, when we discovered an open field that we could dirt- track around. We took a couple of laps around that field sliding all over the place in the damp grass until the doors accidentally flew open from loose hinges. Spinning the car in circles doing doughnuts with the doors wide open was a new sensation for both of us; kind of like flying with broken metal wings. Thank God for seat belts. Sweetness did a good job driving as we laughed hysterically that afternoon, but what a Hodad moment!
Together we became inseparable as friends for a few short summers as we all made the rounds between finding new girl friends and sowing the oats. Oh, to be able to do it all over again would be priceless, but that will never happen again guys. Although none of us came from wealthy families, high school to all of us became a time in our lives when youth and childish freedoms were traded in for real world responsibilities and social reform. For many kids now days it is still that same way, a struggle to fit in with others. The only difference between then and now is that too many kids are spoiled rotten these days. They wear expensive jewelry and designer clothes to school along with $150 dollar Shaq-daddy sneakers and Gucci shoes.
I believe that it is better to be firm rather than pampering in the way that you raise your children. Teach them respect, dignity, the value of money and honor at an early age, and that will determine their greatness in the future, not their dependencies and social pecking order.
My younger sister Carolyn "Peekie Seeds" told me a few years ago that she always knew when we were going surfing because she always heard me dragging my surfboard down the carpeted steps to the front stoop of our home early in the morning. Thump, thump, thump she said she always heard. surfing requires discipline and dedication if you want to achieve success at it; such is true with all sports for sure. When we would make plans to go up coast up to Sebastian Inlet, Vero Beach, or Daytona it would start in the wee hours of the morning, usually before dawn; now that's dedication mister. We would load up one of the Hodad mobiles with surf gear, food and beverages, sun tan lotion, sunglasses, surfer magazines and of course we would snuggly secure the surfboards on the top of the car as well. Then off we flew up the coast trying to arrive at he designated spot before sunrise to surf. There is nothing quite as beautiful as a sunrise on the Atlantic Ocean, with its crisp and calm morning air and glassy cresting waves gently crashing on the shore. The morning sun becomes your friend as it kisses your face and provides much needed warmth to your frigid body. On many occasions there would be dolphins jumping around in the shallows chasing around schools of fish, all in search of breakfast. Crystal blue water to play in and no one else on the beach, what else can you ask for. Summer short rubber vests and surfer baggies was all that you needed for the morning surf, along with a scented bar of Mr. Zoggs Surf Sex Wax to help you keep your foot grip on the surfboard.
To get to our secret surf spots you had to park your car alongside of the road and pack your gear and surfboards in thru the thicket of sea grape trees and other coastal scrub. It became critically important to remember where you put the car keys at that point before you went into the water for the afternoon. There is something unique that associates itself between you and the ocean, as you become one with the water and the beach; like melting glass that eventually takes on its final shape when cooled. You notice that a quiet stillness settles into your life as your thoughts become one in the same with nature, and you share GodÕs clean earth with the sea turtles, colorful fish, sea birds, beach crabs, sea life and the heavenly pure salty wind is indescribable. It is worth all of the money in the world to be able to share this experience with your best friends; sunrise is the beginning of a brand new day.
Perhaps one of the funniest things that I have ever experienced occurred one day as we were riding two to three foot heavy shore break at Sebastian inlet. While Pauly, Sweetness and Superstar were on the outside of the sets absorbing the sunrise, they noticed that I was about to catch a good-sized wave that was really close to the shore. If you ducked down fast enough, you could ride underneath of the cresting waves, which is called getting tubed or tubular. All went quite well until I realized that I could not duck down fast enough to get under the thick rapidly closing wave. A heavy portion of the cresting wave hit me right in the chest and caused me to do a mid air back flip. Still to this day, I do not quite know how it happened. I landed squarely on my feet, still standing upright on the sandy shore. It was a ten-point landing they hysterically said later that day, but your form was only a six!
Living in the golden state of California in the millennium is a cool way of life, and just about every day I see impassioned young skate borders tearing up the concrete sidewalks around the city or by the oceans shore. As government regulations continue to purblind our decisions of where you can skate board and where you cannot, I wish I could find the time to tell them of just how much I admire their tenacity. I think that tomorrow I am going to take my S2000 roadster down to Sunset Cliffs in Point Loma and watch the surfers do battle with the incoming waves for a little while. They remind me so much of those long lost summer days of youthful exuberance and lack of concern for the real world. Those were the days my friends, we thought they would never end.
Surfing is a nurturing sport that is good for the soul. It builds strong muscles, strong friendships as you look out after one another, and it builds inside of you a respect for nature. It is a calming experience endeared to you, as you become one in harmony with the water and gravity. Our trips to Miami Beach and up and down the Florida coast brought us many wonderful things to remember and share as brothers should often do. In this world, there is little time to experience such great things as the Hodads did together. Those were the summers of a lifetime for us. Times that I think of often, especially when I hear the oceans siren call.
Even though I no longer ride the coastal surf, or skateboard with the younger bucks, it does not mean that I have forgotten what those things really meant to me. Many people still fall in love with these sports every day and are excited by its clean source of energy and dynamic results. It gets into your blood like an insatiable lust, leaving you craving for more. These days, I surf with my keyboard and computer, pencil sketches on paper, oil paints on canvas, and with a fond memory that I will never forget. I remember a song phrase once in a while that comes to mind, that reminds me of my long gone surfing days. It goes "love is real, not fade away", and it is unfortunate that our entire graduating class did not tag along with us for the party.
Being able to go back in time to reminisce about my High School youth that is now some twenty plus years later is like a beacon of time well spent. Although many things have changed for me over the passing years, like the shifting sands of the tides, I still enjoy reminiscing about all of the friendships that are still engrained in my head. Like a single grain of sand on a beach, I miss each and every one of those moments of having fewer responsibilities and true friends. It was a time when our lives simply pushed forward on pure motivation and endless possibilities. A time when the sky was the limit and the Atlantic Ocean provided the wildest of rides.
As I finish my last sip of Starbucks coffee in the wee hours of the morning, I notice that the sunrise is coming over the mountains as I extinguish my smoldering cigar in the ashtray. I unfortunately realize that it has taken me twenty plus years to finish this short story. Perhaps subconsciously, it is because I do not want this short story to end at all. It is important to me that all of you know something very dear to my heart; I miss and think of you guys, all of the time. It is really hard for all of us to try to carve out our own little niche in this constantly changing world that we live in. It was much easier for us to carve up the waves at Miami Beach back then for sure. The world keeps a spinning my friends, and you know what; I struggle with these changes each and every day, trying ever so hard to fit into my new world, my world of the Hodad Blues.
WRITTEN BY SAN DIEGO ARTIST GREGORY MICHAEL MANESS
COPYRIGHT 2005-02-05 EDITED BY PJ MANESS
ESPECIALLY DEDICATED TO MY HODAD FRIENDS: PAUL PIVACCO, DANNY MANNING, CARL MALLIOS, AND TO EACH AND EVERY ONE OF YOU IN OUR STELLAR GRADUATING CLASS FROM SOUTH WEST HIGH SCHOOL IN MIAMI, FLORIDA.
SUBMITTED TO SELECT FILM PRODUCERS AND BOOK PUBLISHERS IN LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA IN 2005