OC Dime Stories in Laguna Beach is a gathering of would-be-and-otherwise writers (aka hams and scalawags) who meet the second Sunday of every month to try their hand at conveying a captivating and entertaining sideways slice-of-life story in three tightly timed minutes. Not so easy, especially for a scalawag.
Here’s a longer-winded version of one such tale:
The greatest thing of many great things I have seen at the Marine Room
It was about 9:30 on one of those hot summery nights where all the windows and the door are open. Guitarist and singer Tricia Freeman is ripping out Janis Joplin and channeling Mick Jagger, one flashback at a time. She pulls off both with aplomb and a plunging neckline, which lurches even deeper with every heaving note. Her hemline edges higher on thighs slightly past primetime but still able to fixate the voyeuristic. Meaty beaty big and bouncy, as The Who circa the 1970s so bluntly put it, which bonding boy bands tend to do.
It was pure Mar Bar gold. Driven hard and ridden home wet, a biker term that could have been coined here on any given Sunday afternoon. But the crowd is placid, dull as the air. No one is moving. Stupefied. There is only one woman on the dance floor, legs flapping like a lanky double-jointed moose startled into a head-on with a tourist blindly thinking he’s immune in his commune with a wild animal.
At the door, I notice an older couple paying their five bucks each. Not Marine Room old. Leisure World old.
The woman, a short little lady with cropped white hair and a high-neck sweater, makes a beeline to the dance floor, arms pumping like Grandpa McCoy, feet hopping knee-high like she’s running the red-hot charcoals in an Anthony Robbins’ weekend retreat. Her husband, at a completely different speed, saunters in behind her, moving smooth and slow in a laid-back style of sheer cool, watching her every move.
And something happens; the place begins to lighten up. Driven-hard-and-ridden-home-wet suddenly transcends to you-are-my-sunshine. “I wouldn’t miss this song; it’s my favorite,” she announces guilelessly, mostly to her husband, who probably knew that already. It was a whiskey-voiced version of Ode to Billy Joe/Choctaw Ridge, even gravelier than the original.
Smiles start appearing, people applaud the couple, laughter is heard. Festivity returns at the behest of the king and queen. Others get up out of their captain’s chairs and start swabbing the hardwood with dance moves unimaginable. The place is poppin’.
I’m fascinated. Why is this refined, mature couple here, obviously older than most of the mostly over-one-hill-or-another crowd? Pretty gutsy, whatever the reason. The dance floor is full; a younger man has asked the woman to shuffle, in full appreciation of her spunk. The lady is holding court. The next song’s pace is different but her elbow-pumping rhythm remains the same. I scoot through the crowd towards the bar, where her princely husband is standing respectfully on the sidelines, smiling, talking to the curious. I join in.
It turns out to be their 54th wedding anniversary. They moved from Connecticut to California, where none of their children live, not to get away from them but to get closer to the sun. They live in Leisure World, who woulda guessed, and were celebrating tonight’s milestone with dinner in Irvine and then dancing. But they didn’t know where to go. So they asked around. Taking some seemingly misguided direction, they ended up where they needed to be.
“It looks like you two have done it right,” I venture, obvious question coming. “What’s your secret?” He shines a big toothy, and they looked like his own, grin and gives me the holy grail answer to a happy, long-lasting union, “I just get a kick out of her.”
Dime Stories was started three years ago by Amy Wallen, professor of creative nonfiction writing at SDSU and a panelist for the Los Angeles Times’ Festival of Books. The OC chapter was started two years ago by Meredith Resnick and is engagingly hosted every month by local psychologist/writer/fellow scalawag Michele McCormick. The Laguna group meets the second Sunday of every month at 5 p.m. at Salt Fine Art, 1492 S. Coast Highway.