The Kibitzer


Popping the Bubble

By Billy Fried
By Billy Fried

Laguna has the power to make us forget our earthly problems. The green belt, blue belt and radiant sun enveloping them form a delirious cocoon of seduction – the so-called bubble that makes us unselfconsciously oblivious to the world around us. Some call it apathy. Others bliss.

Such was the case on Friday, the 13th, when I found myself alone on a kayak, out at sea. It was a brief interlude between afternoon meetings. Yep, we do that here. Had to be a quickie. So paddle I did, straight towards the sun, which could best be described as that halo behind the Virgin of Guadalupe. I was genuflecting with every stroke.

I stopped at an arbitrary halfway point, swung around, and surveyed the glorious stretch of contoured coastline called Laguna. My god it’s as fine a town as can be, with just the right ratio of homes on those sloping, gilded hills, from Irvine Cove to Aliso Ridge, a series of undulating saddles and canyons. Bathed in golden winter light. And for a very brief moment, I was still. Overtaken by silence. Not a puff of wind. Brilliant, 40-foot clarity to the bottom of an emerald sea. Stillness. About as peaceful a feeling as one can imagine.

I tried to register every sensory indulgence in my core memory ball – those things Disney showed me in “Inside Out.” The ones that stay with you and form the composite of your life.

A little meditation. And then… poof! My mind started to chatter again. “Don’t want to be late for that meeting, but hey look at those four cormorants floating over there. Cool.” I moved in their direction, but like free divers, they rolled forward, summon their butts to the surface, and gracefully plunge.

I watched and counted, and after a minute they surfaced – several hundred yards further away. No sweat. These birds, these magnificent flying and diving creatures that call Laguna’s marine reserve the cafeteria, aren’t going to trifle with me – a two-legged that can’t fly and barely swims.

I have to paddle in now, but my head is spinning with “cormo-rants.” They must be the most fabulous creatures on God’s green/blue earth, if only because they thrive on land, water, and air. We haven’t invented a technology that can do that.

I was even re-imagining Sammy Davis Jr.’s great “The Candy Man” song as “The Cormorant” song. Try it with me:

Outside Mike and Cathy Hallinan’s home in Laguna Beach.
Outside Mike and Cathy Hallinan’s home in Laguna Beach.

“Who can take a sunrise, sprinkle it with dew
Cover it with guano and a miracle or two
The cormorant can, oh the cormorant can
The cormorant can ’cause he mixes it with love that makes the fish taste good.”

Remember the chorus? Here we go:

“The cormorant makes everything he takes, satisfying and delicious,

Talk about your childhood wishes, he can even eat the fishes.”

My reverie is broken as I hit the sand, and terrestrial matters take over. I grab my phone and see a text from my daughter: “Don’t worry about what you might hear, I’m fine.”

What I might hear?

I quickly text her back. “What’s going on?”

“Paris under siege. Coordinated attacks. Hundreds feared killed.”

My daughter has lived in Paris for nearly a decade. I call her immediately and like any parent was just relieved to hear her voice and know she was okay. She described chaos in the streets. Confusion. A police state. Snipers on rooftops and helicopters overhead. She was scared and spooked and sad and every other emotion that makes your heart ache as a parent so far away. I knew her innocence about the world was forever gone.

She asked me how I was doing. I couldn’t bring myself to tell her about the cormorants. Didn’t seem the time.

Later on I thought about what got us to this tragedy, this particular speck of time in the continuum of life – what we consider modern times. How do we still live in the dark ages with monsters roaming the earth doing unspeakable, vile things? How have we not evolved to next level consciousness and is it too late now?

The next day I phoned my daughter to see how she was doing. Solemn at best. A day of mourning and aftershock. She was staying home, like so many others. How was I doing, she wanted to know? I thought for a moment. I wasn’t sure I wanted to reveal that I had just come back from another epic paddle in the glorious blue Pacific. Way too soon.


Billy Fried hosts “Laguna Talks” on Thursday nights at 8 p.m. on KX93.5, and can be reached at [email protected].


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