oceanside truth

I don’t live here because of Tony Alva, my neighbor, the famous skater. Although, he did help me install a smoke detector in my store a couple of years ago. I live here because of the sunsets….”


by laine perry



Just when I think I’ve finally found a place I can stand, a place that can stand me equally well, here comes my mother with her nine crumpled shopping bags full of my new (gently-used) fall wardrobe: sequined sweaters and culottes, a boom-box, and little lord Fauntleroy shoes, castigating my new hometown with funny statements like, “I wouldn’t come back here if the rest of the world burned down.”

We are situated on the edge of the ocean. My mother’s high heeled boots dangle over the sea wall. My fingers are crossed behind my back as she swings her legs uncomfortably, “I’m leaving today!” she threatens, looking like an eleven year old girl who believes it is her time to be taken seriously, “honestly, I can’t imagine why any child of mine would live in a place like this. It has nothing going for it. These people are losers, all of them! The only guy worth dating is that Tony Alva. If you’re not going to date him you should just leave.” I keep thinking she’s going to scuff the heel of her new boots on the jagged patches of crumbling concrete. I would be to blame of course. If it were not for me, she would never have come here, etcetera.

I am in love with this town. Most of the people, even the fishermen, have their teeth. The swimwear is less offensive than it is in say L.A. which is just an hour away if you were gauging the distance in miles and not in real travel time. I don’t live here because of Tony Alva, my neighbor, the famous skater. Although, he did help me install a smoke detector in my store a couple of years ago. I live here because of the sunsets.

It’s true that there is a lot of weird debris on the sidewalks here..hair nets, wine bottle on its side with an 1/8 of the red wine left in it, a one foot by one foot clump of red dirt, black dog poop, an airline ticket which as we all understand will not get any of us anywhere without the required eighteen pieces of identification, eye scan optional (but shearing fifteen minutes off of the security checkpoint trials). My mother did not trip on any of this debris. I don’t think she has even noticed these things.

Out of the corner of my eye I see my neighbors pass (probably on a trek to the corner store). They are always looking to see if I am looking. I am always looking. “Hey!” they say. “Hey!” I say. Five minutes pass and we are at it again. “Hey!” we say as if it hadn’t just happened this way five minutes before. We are genuinely glad to go through this routine several times a day. It’s the way we like it here in Oceanside. My neighborhood is a menagerie of people who neither terrify, aggrandize, or even gently annoy me.

Today’s Oceanside Happenings:

Captain Bob has had his hair cut. (Alternate headline: “Captain Bob has had enough of fish guts and blood in his blonde curls.”) Or, it could be “Captain Bob is tired of looking like a cherub who has just escaped the Sistine Chapel.” Or, it could simply go as “Bobby wants to be taken seriously by man and fish alike.”

The Market on the left corner does not have even a single banana for sale this morning. The market on the right corner has thirty-two lbs. of rotting black bananas which they are willing to sell me for 19 cents a lb. if I will take the whole lot. I tell the new manager that there is nary a chance of my using 32 lbs of bananas as I live in my business where the fire marshal refuses to let me have a stove or oven. For a minute I think I can smell my grandmother’s banana bread, and then I realize I was just making that up. I sigh and walk back across the street to the store on the left where I discover something very exciting: Wasabi Funions. Oh my lord…Wasabi Funions are my new soul mate. Can a snack food be a soul mate? I haven’t had a soul mate since my grandmother passed away. This is the first time in years I have felt completely understood without the aid of hot sake.

I have been gone for fifteen minutes and in that time my mom has redone my store. She has dragged a shelf three feet out from the wall and angled it. She has dispersed fake snow throughout. There are three snowmen of varying sizes randomly placed throughout the store. She looks content. She looks as close to content as I’ve seen her look. I take a deep breath and think about letting it out in a relaxed way. “I’ll pay you five-thousand dollars to leave this place immediately!” she says, her back turned to me as she rifles through her bags. She pulls out her Donna Summer tree-topper angel. I really want it. I don’t know what to say to my mother. I’ve been so damned uncomfortable all of my life. I’m happy here.

“How far do I have to move to get the 5k?” I ask her, winking. She doesn’t find the wink funny. She shakes her head and snatches up her belongings. “Do you want me to leave you these clothes? They’d look amazing on you. You’d look like a movie star in this sweater,” she says, holding up a copper metallic cardigan. “You’re right,” she says, noticing my hesitance, “You wouldn’t wear this around here.” I couldn’t tell her that the only place I’d be wearing something like that is in a coffin.

Originally published:
Issue Forty-Eight
April 2007


Laine Perry grew up on the road with her mom, making music and telling stories. Many more of these stories from Laine can be found in the Vault of Smoke.

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