Sixty young, lively, innocent-minded children sat on the greenbelt that runs along Seashore Drive in West Newport Beach near the Santa Ana River mouth as they eagerly awaited the arrival of their loving and unsuspecting parents. The children had been at Surf Camp all day long.
As they sat there, with their salty smiles fading into tired, glazed looks, a man wearing ripped camouflage cargo pants, a belt made of shoelace, plastic sunglasses, a straw hat, and a weathered and dreary football jersey made his way down that very same Seashore Drive. He held a pink carnation in his hand, however this pink carnation surely no longer smelled like a flower; it probably smelled of cheap whiskey and sweat, just as he did.
The man, who most definitely had difficulty finding an audience, seized the opportunity and stopped right in front of the large pack of kids. With well over 100 eyes staring directly at him, he mumbled something inaudible and then delivered one fierce line, "I just got done marrying God!" and with that, the pink carnation flew into the afternoon sky and slowly fluttered in the wind, finally landing in the clean, genuine hands of little Chase, a surf camper.
Bewildered at what had just gone on, little Chase looked at the flower with wide eyes and quickly shuffled it off to another camper who quickly threw it into the street.
Giggles and questions rang out — did they understand what had just happened? Some of them did. Some of them thought they did.
Suzie declared, "If he married God, then he's gay!"
"What if God is a woman?" a braver man would have said.
The point is, not one of those poor, little kids thought that, one day, their life could end up like his life. However, the fact is, one of those campers would, one day, be that man. The life of one of those children will, one day, catapult out of control and they too, on a Monday at 3 p.m., will marry "God" with bouquets of pink carnations.
The reality is that as I stood there, a college-educated man with a summer job, watching this peculiar scene unfold, I found myself desperately hoping that I do not turn out to the be the one kid who ends up "marrying God" on a Monday. I grew up in a double cul-de-sac in Costa Mesa, the oldest of four children.
The supposed "role model," the "leader," the "point man," the first to take the plunge. I attended Newport Heights Elementary, then Ensign Intermediate and Newport Harbor High schools, where I graduated with honors. These honors led me to UC Santa Barbara and the barbaric streets of Isla Vista. That was five years ago, this September. Now, I am a man—– or, at least, that's what is expected of me. To be manly. "Have the answers, man!" they yell from their cubicles.
Well, I want to be manly, and I want to work hard and find a good job that hopefully pays well and affords me the opportunity to live an interesting life in an interesting place, then I hope to meet a girl and settle down, buy a house and have some kids of my own.
However, as I stood there watching this sad man throw his pink flower into the air I realized that I was not in the clear. None of us are in the clear. My life, or any of our lives, could one day completely unravel, spiraling so totally out of control that you or I could be the one kid, with all the potential in the world, who ends up marrying God in a pool of whiskey, but not on a Monday. Good God, man! At least, on a Sunday.
It is for this reason that I urge you all (young people) to better yourselves. Read a book. Learn something new. Take a chance, a risk. Turn off the television and put away the computers.
This is going to take some work, some real work, but I believe that we can do something great. And if we can't? Well, at least we have the apocalypse to look forward to. But know this: You are never exempt from failure, you are never guaranteed a spot at the grown up table, and your life, regardless of where it begins, can take a fateful turn to a dark, dark place. So, take to the streets and make something of yourself.
Good luck to you all on your journey. I hope you steer your ship straight and true and far away from pink carnations. It's hell out there.
C.M. STASSEL grew up in and lives in Costa Mesa. He works for Greer's O.C.