Musings on the Coast


Riding the Moment

By Michael Ray
By Michael Ray


There is an old surfer’s proverb that goes like this:  “It’s the same old story.  You gotta cop it sweet.”  In surfing terms, it means when the time is right, go for it.  When the waves are big, surf.  When some other circumstance looks good, go for that, too.

They do not come often.  That is the essence.

One of those times happened this summer.

The story begins with my parents.  They were from rural Kansas.   When it was time to bring in the crops or feed the animals or perform chores, everyone worked.  Age did not matter. So the summer when I hit age 8 growing up in Corona del Mar, there was no vacation for me.  Instead, I worked for my dad’s construction crews.   At first, it was helping clear jobsites of building debris and carting it to the dump.  When I got bigger, I poured concrete, pounded nails, and eventually drove a truck.

Then I went to college and graduate school, still working every vacation.   Next I lived in New York City and worked for a huge bank at its international headquarters on Park Avenue. Then it was back to the OC, where I started a commercial real estate development firm, and I have not stopped since.

Here is the point:  never, ever have I had a vacation longer than one month. It did not suit my sensibilities. It would make me feel guilty. I am hardly complaining on this point; my life has been great. I did not even think about it until this June.

In June I knew I could grasp one of those “moments” and it included disciplining myself to take off all three months of summer.

You see, by early June I confirmed all my kids would be here for the summer. This was not an accident. I worked to make it happen. My oldest, Liz, is 25, Gabby is 21, and my youngest, Harrison, is 19. All three have lives that are accelerating. All three want to break out. All three soon will be fixated on their own trajectories. But this summer, under pressure from me and maybe for the last time, all three would be here, at home, in Laguna.

I would be on holiday with them for every delicious second. That was to be the moment.


My plan changed quickly.  Harrison and Gabby could not arrive until just before July 4, so there went June. It would have to be just two whole months.

That was fine.  I was fine. I would not be covetous.

Then it started with our July 4 bash, which was truly awesome.  We had a big party for all the kids and all their friends and the party did not end—not kidding—until 4 a.m. It was so much fun we did it again the next night.  Why not?  We were on vacation.

Work kept intruding though.  There was stuff I had to do. I scheduled meetings in bunches during middays and was back early.

Thence I would head to the local beach. Harrison and his buddies already would be surfing or daredevil jumping into the giggle-crack (tourists: do not do this; it is dangerous); Gabby and the oldest, Liz, would SUP or kayak with me.  At night, we ate together, usually with a bevy of their friends and always with great gusto.

It was idyllic until four weeks ago when Liz announced she had to break it off and leave for Washington, D.C., to tackle her future. She had no set job but was itching.  I knew about it but still craved for her to stay longer.  Begging would do no good, so I said nothing.  Then puff, she was gone.

That left Gabby and Harrison. But wait. Gab wanted to get an early start in her college town of Portland.  She needed to rent a house with friends for her school year and perform other chores.  Really though, she was like Liz; she wanted to get going. So she left the last week of July.

Harrison will stay until the last week of August when he returns to his college in Santa Barbara. We bought one of those flying drones and play with it (and it is really cool).  We go kayaking and surfing and watch movies.  He knows.  He gets it, just like the girls even though they have moved on.

So that is that.  My “moment” of three whole months turned into three whole weeks. It was all there was. I hung with my kids. I got to know them in new ways as young adults and they got to know each other the same way.  And I treated them less as kids and more as a friendly father.  That would do.  That was enough.

I did it. I pulled it off.  And yes, it was so, so sweet.


Michael Ray grew up in Corona del Mar and now lives in Laguna Beach.  He makes a living as a real estate entrepreneur and is involved in many non-profits.

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