Meet my Beach Buddy, The Oceanside Trenchcoat Guy

If you go to the beach in Oceanside, California, you probably will see the man who walks along the Strand wearing a long, dark trench coat. Sometimes he splashes in the water; at other times, he sits on the rocks and lets the water splash him. Over the years, he’s become a local celebrity. His picture has appeared in hard copy and online Oceanside publications, including the Osider magazine and the OsideNews.com. Writers have written blog posts about him. And people often take photos or film videos of him and post them on the Internet.

I made his acquaintance on a Facebook group page in March 2015. I commented on a comment he had made about cats. Later, I learned that he was the fellow people call Trench Coat Man.

I’ve always been interested in interesting people, at times incurring my parents’ disapproval. After seeing a few pictures of him that were posted on the group page, I wanted to meet him. I saw him walking either on the beach or on the Strand three times before I got up the courage to approach him and introduce myself. I often tell people I ambushed him.

 Over the past year we have become friends. A couple of times a week, we hang out at the beach, where I often use his camera to take photos and film videos of him. He posts both the photos and videos on the Facebook group page and also posts some of the videos on his YouTube channel.

When people ask me about him, I tell them he’s my beach buddy. He has been very kind to me, and I enjoy his company.

 He may be considered a bit eccentric, but he’s also a very nice, humble, intelligent man who enjoys talking to people and making new friends. He’s not homeless, as people often assume. He has a home, a 1931 Model A Ford, and three sweet cats.

 He has no intention of ending it all, either. But that’s what some individuals, mostly tourists, think he has in mind when they first see him sitting on the rocks or walking into the water. Sometimes concerned tourists talk to him or to the lifeguards instead of making assumptions. Sometimes tourists try to rescue him. Sometimes they just call 9-1-1. The lifeguards and the police officers stationed on the Strand know him well. When asked about him, they usually say “That’s Bruce. He’s here every day. He’s okay.”

 Oceanside residents like him and are respectful of him. Beachgoers enjoy talking with him on the Strand. People look forward to seeing the photos and videos he posts on the group page and on his YouTube channel, Oceanside Trenchcoat Guy.

 He has his reasons for hanging out at the beach wearing a trench coat. One of the reasons is that his doctor told him either to cover up or to stop hanging out at the beach. You can ask him about his other reasons. Google Oceanside Trenchcoat Guy and go to his YouTube channel. Bruce likes meeting new friends, in person and online.

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Sorry, I’m an editor

I’ve read a lot of bloopers in novels and other forms of, shall I say, literature, over the years. Misplaced modifiers are hilarious. Here’s one from a real estate ad: The grounds are well kept and inviting to visitors with curb appeal. As written, the sentence indicates that the visitors have curb appeal, not the grounds.

I still wonder if this writer was serious when he or she wrote the following: The freezer units should be defrosted regularly. Not doing so could cause them to become damaged sooner than necessary? Those two sentences made me think of The Wastemakers, a book about planned obsolescence, by Vance Packard that I was required to read (and be bored by) as a college freshman.

My all-time favorite so far is the following sentence that stood out in a novel I read recently: The horses rolled their eyes in disgust. I rolled my eyes in disbelief. Technically, the sentence was written from the collective point of view (POV) of a team of Clydesdales. Only the horses know if they are disgusted.

I don’t think the author intended to write the sentence from the animals’ POV. At least, I would hope not.

Now if that author’s name had been George Orwell . . .

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Sort of sorry that I abandoned this project, only sort of . . .

In 1995, I wrote a rough draft of what probably would have become the longest personal essay in the history of the written word. I titled it *Al, the Prowler, and the Siege at Dodge Boulevard*. The project was a memoir recounting “events” that I either, willingly or unwillingly, had participated in or had witnessed between 1961 and 1978. The time frame stretched from my first semester in college to the years when lived in an apartment complex on Dodge Boulevard in Tucson, Arizona.

A lot of memorable and sometimes crazy things happened during those times. There were days when I felt as if my friends and I were characters in some weird sitcom. Today, many of those things would be fodder for blog posts (and probably will be), and a few of them would be fodder for a reality show. Happenings included (but were not limited to) ditzy teenagers, local bad boys, a phantom prowler, a real prowler, crank phone calls, police reports, a couple of subpoenas, and a busted window.

I abandoned the project about a month after I started it.

I had completed the first draft when a man who had once been a good friend of mine died. I put the essay away and didn’t look at it again until a few years ago. Once in a while, I take it out, thinking that maybe I should finish the story.

I woke up about 3 a.m. today and started thinking about why I wanted to write that essay. In 1995, the message I wanted to get across is this: Sometimes things (and people) are not what they seem to be on the surface—or what you dearly or desperately want them to be. Sometimes the people who are supposed to love and protect you are the ones who are trying to hurt you. And sometimes, someone you don’t think cares about you at all really does give a hoot about you in their (the new gender-neutral *their*) own weird way.

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Not really plagiarism

I hate plagiarism. However, I did not hear or read the recent speech by Mrs. Trump or the previous one by Mrs. Obama. So I can’t comment about the current plagiarism accusations and explanations regarding those speeches that are floating around the media.

But the kerfuffle did remind of something. Of course you knew it would.

Way back when I was a participant in an article writing workshop at the University of Arizona, a classmate “borrowed” a few of my ideas from an article I wrote for the class. She included them in an article that she had published in the student paper. Some of the words she used in her article were similar to the words I used in mine.

What a coincidence. A couple of friends who read both articles wondered how she could do that. They urged me to bring the similarities to the professor’s attention.

How could she borrow my ideas from a class assignment? Well, every participant in the workshop had received a copy of every other student’s article to critique. That’s how it’s done in university-level writing workshops.

I was upset at first, then angry, then amused. I mean, isn’t imitation the greatest form of flattery?

In hindsight, the considerate thing for her to do would have been to tell me she liked some of my ideas and planned to include them in her news feature. She really didn’t have to ask if she could use them. Ideas are up for grabs.

I let it go and didn’t bring the similarities to the professor’s attention. After all, it wasn’t as if she had published my entire article word for word under her byline. If that had happened, I would have gone to the professor—and to the director of the creative writing program.

Fast forward ten years.

I moved across the country, to an economically depressed area. I found a job at a big box store that was about to celebrate its grand opening. In order to drum up enthusiasm for the event, the store held a poetry contest for its employees.

I wrote a parody of the Night Before Christmas and won first prize. After I won, I learned that another employee had parodied the same poem. Although I didn’t know that until after I won the contest, I felt bad about it. If I had known the man wrote his poem based on that work, I would have chosen another theme for my poem.

I apologized to him saying, “If I had realized you did that, I would have written something else.”

He said, “No apologies are necessary. You deserved to win.”

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Trying to rework old work

I’m figuratively dusting off some essays I wrote between the early sixties and the mid-nineties. I’m editing them to make the stories flow more smoothly; they were a bit stilted in the original versions. I confess I’m using pseudonyms to protect the, um, innocent and not so innocent. I’m also trying to disguise locations and time frames—same reason as above. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.

Even more important, I don’t want to dredge up old rumors or start new ones.

I don’t think “certain people” from my deep, dark past (ahem, just kidding about that dark past, folks) would be interested in anything I might write. However, I don’t want to chance freaking out those certain people, or worse, making them angry.

Yes, I write creative non-fiction, and I do exaggerate a bit, but not by much.

And I don’t poke fun at individuals, other than myself.

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My worst essay

[Talk about being a drama queen; I think I was at my best with this one. Well, at the time; later, I did top it as a college freshman. The writing in this essay is really bad. But what the heck, I was seventeen when I wrote it. I was typing on a portable typewriter. I sucked at typing on any form of manual typewriter. My fingers were too short to reach the keys correctly. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

I’ve modified the story just a tiny bit, but this version contains 99 percent of the original material, minus the typos and weird punctuation, of course. (However, I did retain all those strangely structured sentences and awful adverbs—ugh). I’ve also added comments in brackets. Names of the four other, um, major participants and anyone else have been changed to (hopefully) prevent anyone reading this from figuring out who they really were.

This version isn’t complete; the last page seems to be missing. This probably was a rough draft. I must have edited the story a bit because I’m sure I showed a “clean copy” to “Jeremy” (a spring/summer on and off boyfriend who, incidentally, showed up at my parents’ house many times after we had broken up). I made him read a lot of the crazy stuff I wrote. (I usually wrote it during typing class; the teacher never seemed to pay much attention to what we were typing as long as we were typing something.) Jeremy never told me I was crazy, except the time that “Kate” and I “stalked” his brother “Roger” from North Street to Tyler Street, a distance of approximately a quarter of a mile. Oh, wait; it was Roger who told Jeremy we were crazy.]

Reading it over, I wonder how we got into that mess. Making a snarky remark wasn’t like “Jenna.”

We We’re Minding Our Own Business When…

Every year, some organization in the next town sponsors a carnival. I think it goes on for the better part of a week. My four friends and I went to the carnival for three nights in a row. By the third night, we felt like veterans [lame expression].

Passing by a certain bunch of guys we knew, I could sense Roger and “Stan” staring at me behind my back [Yeah, I know, adolescent paranoia.] You’d think I committed a crime. [Huh! Jeremy cheated on me; well, I guess maybe he cheated on both of us. Yeah, he did.] But I wasn’t at the carnival to brood over my personal problems [even though I did anyway]. Thoughts of Roger’s boyish looking [Well, he was a boy.] younger brother Jeremy never wandered far from my mind or my heart. [OMG, I’m sooo embarrassed. I can’t believe I wrote that, but I was sixteen and in luuuve.]

The five of us decided to split up. Kate, “Cindy,” and I stayed together, while Jenna and “Sally” went off in another direction. Kate talked Cindy into having a picture taken at the photo booth, so we went over there.

About twenty minutes later, we were standing in front of the photo booth when Sally raced up to us, trailed closely by Jenna whose appearance had suddenly changed from that of exemplary to that of chaotic. Her long, honey-brown hair, which had been pulled back into a French twist, now looked disheveled and uncombed [redundant]. To me, her appearance relayed the impression that she had just slugged it out with someone. How right I was!

Breathlessly [How’s that for an adverb?], Jenna and Sally pieced [?] together their little escapade of a few minutes ago. They had been standing in front of the motorcycle exhibition when Sally made some reference to Hoody Guy who was practically the star attraction of that racket. A couple of nights previously, he had made clear his interest in Sally [In other words, he tried to hit on her.].

Although the feeling was NOT mutual, Sally made some remark about the guy. It was just her bad luck that the two girls standing in front of them didn’t exactly appreciate Sally’s praise of Hoody Guy’s masculine attributes [Whatever the heck they were.]. In fact, their dislike was so intense that they started bugging Jenna.

Jenna was wearing a very nice pair of slacks. One of the girls said to her, “So, you think you’ve got hot pants.”

“No,” Jenna said. “I think they’re cool.”

The girl slapped Jenna across the face and started pulling her hair. Sally, completely stunned, backed off and watched the affair [weird choice of word] from a safe distance. Finally, Jenna got away, and she and Sally went looking for the rest of the crew.

As we listened to the details, Kate, Cindy, and I began to feel pangs [another weird choice of word] of revenge surge within us [Oh, the drama—and the insanity.] In a wild moment of madness [That explains it.], we all hollered, “Let’s go get them.” After securing [Getting would work better here; nothing about this experience was secure.] a description of the two from Jenna and Sally, the five of us courageously set out to finish what Sally had unwillingly started.

Halfway to our destination, a thought suddenly hit me like a bombshell [Yikes!]. Calling our little army [Well, fits in with bombshell.] to an abrupt halt, I asked Jenna to repeat her description of the girls. She did: one blonde, one brunette. Oh, brother, I had seen those two here before. And man, were they ever something. My idea of two typical sluts [Is sluts politically correct?], and how right I was.

Realizing that we weren’t fooling with just anybody, I began to think things over. However, the determination of the others dissolved [weird word again] any fears I might have had at the moment. Chins set firmly [s/b chins firmly set for consistency w/fists phrase] and fists tightly clenched, the five of us continued on in our search for trouble.

We found it, or rather, it found us halfway around the carnival grounds. That’s when we sighted [Oh, you’ve got to be kidding.] our opponents heading in our direction. Personally, I’d rather have sighted a saber-toothed tiger and a dinosaur instead, but that’s life, so they say [really lame sentence, and weird too]. Just about then, I thought life was getting to be pretty dangerous.

Our courage began to fail as we previewed [ugh] our opposition. We unanimously decided against violence and continued on our way, ignoring the two. Unfortunately they decided not to be ignored. We all cautioned one another not to get excited [Panic would be a better word here.] as the pair began following us. After all, there were five of us and only two of them.

I walked about five yards ahead of the others, with Kate close behind [We were scared out of our minds at this point.]. Intuition told me there was going to be trouble, and again, how right I was [I seemed to be right a lot.]. Making up my mind, I turned to Kate, “I’m going to find a cop.”

“No,” Kate said, “If my mom and dad see this….” [Kate and Jenna’s parents were also at the carnival that night.]

Ignoring Kate’s protest, I raced to the animal [sheep? cows? pigs?] exhibition where I found a rather elderly gentleman who was certainly far from my idea of a cop [I was impressed by State Troopers back then; they looked good in uniform.], but it apparently suited the person who had the audacity to pin that badge on the man’s shirt. And as long as he was endowed with that shiny symbol of authority, he would do. [Oh, puhlezzze!]

Attempting not to appear too worried [actually too freaked out], I told the officer that two girls were apparently determined to start something with my friends and me. I explained that they had evidently [way too many adverbs in this thingy] singled out one of my friends to push around.

Without any sign of surprise [Happened all the time, I guess.], he followed me almost mechanically to one area of the carnival where a crowd had gathered. Shoving my way through the human mess, I blinked my eyes in disbelief at the sight before me. The Blonde had grabbed Jenna’s long brown hair and, by that means was whirling her around [bad sentence]. Jenna was no match for the girl, who, by her attitude of pugnacity [pugnacious attitude], conveyed to me the impression that she was, most likely, the veteran of several similar disagreements.

I knew that I had to do something. But what? Realization hit me like a rocket [not a bad simile, just okay] as I turned my shocked gaze and discovered to my horror [No, really?] that Jenna wasn’t the only one being thrown around. Kate, standing stunned on one side of the crowd, was about to be charged by the Brunette, who looked no less friendly than her companion.

In the midst of all this excitement, whom did I happen to glance upon standing bewildered among the spectators but Sally and the equally confused Cindy.

I knew what I had to do. As the Brunette raced toward Kate, I charged into her with all my strength, and as she retreated in surprise, I yelled in her face with all the audacity within me [sure], “You leave her alone!”

Caught off guard, the Brunette fell back, startled. “What are you butting in for?” she yelled.

Before I had a chance to yell a smart remark in return and before she had the chance to reciprocate the attack, the police officer (or whatever he was), who didn’t seem much interested in the first place, calmly wandered into the circle and broke up everything. The crowd, disappointed because the battle had culminated in the first round [We hoped], faded away in amusement [ugh].

Hoping against hope that we had seen the last of that pleasant pair, Jenna, Kate, and I rounded up the two non-participants and proceeded to continue on our tour of the carnival grounds. This time we stuck together.

About twenty minutes later, while standing before one of the many amusement booths, I learned to our great dismay that fate was against us [Yep.]. Turning around, I noticed the enemy sneaking up behind us. Not rejoicing at this present development, I concluded that I’d just better find that cop again.

I walked away from the booth at a normal pace. Kate came up behind me. “I think they’re going to start something,” she whispered. “I heard one of them say ‘you take this one, and I’ll take that one.’”

The next thing I knew, one of the girls grabbed my coat [Why the heck was I dragging a coat around? It was July.] “Where do you think you’re going?” she demanded.

“I’m going to get a cop,” I said in exactly the tone of voice that I had been addressed.

“And why are you going to get a cop?” the Blonde asked.

“Because,” I retorted, “I don’t like the way you’re treating my friends.”

Apparently, that wasn’t the answer she was looking for, because the next thing I knew I was being slapped across the face. As I realized my true plight, I began to panic. I wanted to run, and then the Blonde smacked me good with her experienced little hand.

Courage renewed, I threw down my sweater [What the heck happened to my coat?] and began kicking wildly. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Kate shoving her way through the crowd that had gathered.

[Unfortunately, the last page of this story got lost somewhere between then and now. However, here’s how it ended: Kate grabbed onto a post and started kicking the Brunette in the stomach. About two minutes later Kate and Jenna’s parents wandered into the scene and broke up the fight. Blonde and Brunette took off, never to be seen again that evening.

A few minutes later, we discussed the situation with two or three guys who had begun talking to us. They were strangers, but they knew the Blonde and Brunette and were familiar with the girls’ reputations [and probably with the girls themselves]. They walked around the carnival with us for the remainder of the evening, for protection, I guess. I don’t remember their names. Jeremy and I were “on” at the time, so I wasn’t interested. At any rate, we didn’t become permanent friends with our new acquaintances, which is probably just as well.]

 

 

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I enjoy reading e-books, but . . .

I’ve had my Kindle e-reader for about three years. During that time, I’ve downloaded way too many e-books, most of which either were freebies or cost .99 cents.

I enjoyed reading some of those free or inexpensive e-books. Thanks to them, I discovered several new authors I like, and I have gone on to download their books at the regular prices.

On the other hand, so many of the freebie books were a disappointment because they seemed to have been thrown together without much thought on the part of the author. Some books obviously had not been edited or even beta read. In addition to being peppered with grammar and spelling errors, there were holes or inconsistencies in the plots, and the main characters were not well developed and/or sort of boring.

Then again, some fairly well written e-books have been disappointing. Here’s my biggest pet peeve about e-books in general.

Some authors, mostly newbie authors, describe in detail every piece of clothing the hero or heroine wears in every chapter throughout the book. These authors also have a tendency to describe the heroine going through her make-up routine every morning. I really don’t need to know the cutesy name of the of the heroine’s lipstick unless, a few chapters later, that shade of lipstick is found on a body, thus making her a murder suspect.

I also lose interest fast when an author describes every stick of furniture in the hero’s or heroine’s home and in any other home or place of business that they visit, work, or shop.

And I won’t even mention authors who describe every, tree, bush, or building the hero or heroine passes on his or her way to wherever he or she is heading. Oops, I guess I just did.

Too much of that stuff just throws me out of the story.

 

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