About ten years old, my best friend Scott and I have big plans. We awake long before dawn in our little Southern California beach town of Corona Del Mar, the “Crown of the Sea” indeed, grab our fishing gear, meet in our street, and set off on a long walk in the dark. Sorta like a coastal Tom and Huck.
First stop was the little freestanding white-painted See’s candy store on the Pacific coast highway, where we knew there was often “expired” candy in the dumpster out back. One of us would boost the other over and into the trash, where the trademark bight white candy boxes were easily visible even in the dark. A couple pounds each of many different flavors went into our knapsacks: “breakfast” for the long walk down Bayside Drive along the bay, over the one bridge onto Balboa Island, onto the day’s first ferry across the bay to the Newport Peninsula (10 cents for pedestrians), then out to the Balboa pier. By the time we got to our destination we felt mildly sick to our stomachs from all the chocolate and sugar.
Only a few other older fishermen already there, with their lines already down, sitting on coolers of bait and beer. We offered them some candy in exchange for a bit of bait, an easy exchange as See’s was far more expensive and tasty than raw anchovies. Just getting light when we first dropped our lines down. Then a quiet wait, surf murmuring far below.
One guy switches on a tinny transistor radio, quietly, and a slow melody plays, then a mellow voice: “You see this guy, this guy’s in love with you…”. It’s Herb Alpert, already well-known for leading his with his Tijuana Brass with his skilled trumpet-playing - all of our parents had their albums, especially the one with the stunning dark-haired (and very pregnant, it was later revealed) model wearing only whipped cream - softly singing the new #1 hit, authored by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. They were already becoming one of the most successful songwriting teams ever, with over 1000 artists eventually covering their songs, and many respected musicians saying their musical composition and construction was as deceptively complex and good as it gets.
And for some reason that little childhood pier-top musical moment has lodged in my memory for well over half a century now, even though I misheard it as “The sky’s in love with you…”, and can’t help but think of it that way ever since.
Ironically, rumor had it that Mr. Alpert had recently been quietly kept out of one of the most exclusive gated beach coves nearby, for not being quite pale enough to buy a home there. Even big money can’t overcome insanity, and sometimes it even causes it.
RIP Mr. Bacharach. Alas I don’t recall if we caught any fish that particular time. We usually did, but it was worth it either way.