It was a strangely Laguna night last Friday, but it began in Newport. There was a political fund-raiser for Suhkee Kang, who is running for Congress in a district that includes Laguna Beach. Suhkee, currently the moderate mayor of Irvine, is running against incumbent John Campbell, who’s claim-to-fame is that government should not exist. Swell, another useless incumbent.
I was with my girlfriend Kim Bowen, who had been sick but was tired of it and wanted to get out and do something, so after the fund-raiser we went to a party in Arch Beach Heights at my friend Greg’s house. Greg has the unfortunate habit of being attracted to college-aged girls, so most of the girls were 20-somethings in tight dresses. And they absolutely delighted in preening before the 40-something guys. The guys wore ridiculous cowboy shirts hanging loose to hide beer bellies. Weirdly though, Kim and I found ourselves enjoying the anthropological show, especially one hot blond who had a good 30 IQ points on her boyfriend, which we pointed out, but she said most guys are worthless anyway, and at least he made her happy. So much for modern mating rituals.
We left about 11 p.m. and then the midnight moment came. I live near Fisherman’s Cove in north Laguna and Kim wanted to stick our toes in the water. The tide was low. There was no moon. We could see by a spotlight on the rocks; it was too bright and we moved our beach chairs further away. I rolled up my pant legs and waded into the water. It was warm. The night was warm too, but it was overcast and gloppy.
The only other people on the beach were a male duo with a dog. They came closer and the dog chased around our seats and we struck up a chat with the men. They were a father and son having a walk. The both live in Lake Forest. The father was in his late 70s and his son was in his 50s. The father had a strange accent.
“Where you from?” I asked.
“How long have you lived here?”
“Since World War II. We fled.”
Curious, I thought. “Are you Jewish?”
“No, German.” (Odd, even now he thought to be German is not to be Jewish).
“Where in Germany?”
“A village near Dresden.” I knew about Dresden. At the height of the Allied invasion, it had been fire-bombed at the orders of Gen. Curtis LeMay and 15 square miles burned to the ground. It was an experiment with an early form of napalm. LeMay wanted to know if it would work. Later, he fire-bombed Tokyo, too. It was war. He could do what he wanted.
The old man got rolling. “We had no food. My mother said her hardest moments were to save scraps of bread for us kids, rather than eat them herself. The bombing happened over several nights. We hid inside. We knew it was dreadful but not how much. Then my whole family fled.”
He stopped. He did not want to talk about what they had to do to survive. He said, “We were all victims.”
“Even the Jews?” I asked in a gentle probe.
“We were all victims.”
“All of you?”
“All,” but he did not look at me.
Soon they took their dog and walked away into the midnight mist.
Michael Ray grew up in Corona del Mar and lives in Laguna Beach. He makes a living as a real estate entrepreneur and is involved in many non-profits.