What was it? For the life of me, I couldn’t remember the name of the surfing spot in Ventura I’d been going to for years.
I’ve been there 50 times, driven by another 50. I knew the gentle sweep of its graceful horseshoe-shaped bay. I understood where to position myself in order to avoid the rocks, and catch my share, and only my share, of the glorious rights in which this break specializes.
I couldn’t come up with the name. It was as if I had a hole in my mind and the name of the beach had dropped through.
I couldn’t ask the friend with whom I had gone for years. The friend who I had laughed with, surfed with and bandied around the name with as if it were our surfing birthright and we were its natural-born sons.
Asking him would be admitting that I had forgotten a name that I’d never thought I’d forget and might be some of the last words I uttered before going to my watery grave.
I played memory games. Let my mind go blank. Put the question out of my mind. Loosened the attachment with knowing the right answer. Like love, and the prodigal son, sometimes you have to let them go in order for them to return armed with riches.
I played the ABC game, the one where you try names starting with each letter. This is better done alone, in your car or bathroom with the doors closed and the windows rolled up tight.
I went from A to Z a couple of times. I couldn't drum up the name, but I was happy that I could remember the alphabet, although I had to sing the "alphabet song" to really nail it.
When that didn’t work, I thought somebody might use it in a sentence or that I would accidentally come across it in an article or on TV while watching a show that had nothing to do with the ocean but everything to do with my quest.
I cheated. I Googled surf spots in Ventura but none of the names seemed familiar. They were familiar, but they weren’t the right kind of familiar.
Maybe forgetting was penance for something I had done or a kindness I withheld because I didn’t think the person deserved it. I decided, as a sneaky ploy, to go with acceptance, hoping that I would be rewarded for my humility.
Lao Tzu said, “Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”
Was I losing my mind? I don’t think so because I can tell you the name of my first girlfriend, describe the pair of Monarch butterflies that landed on my outstretched palms when I was 5 and the first time I had chicken cacciatore (or was it chicken contadina?).
See, I’m good. No memory problems here. If anything, I’m getting sharper.
Sharper except for that one little stretch of coast.
A few days ago, I was walking to the pool at 5 a.m. It was warm, light and beautiful and I was glad to be alive. Then suddenly, the name came to me like a ray of light from the morning sun.
I felt like yelling it out loud. Shouting it to the tops of trees, telling everybody I met, "It's Mondos."
I was thrilled. I was back. I was never not back but if I had been, I wasn’t now.
The trick was to remember it going forward. How about Mondo in "Blazing Saddles"? The character’s name was Mongo, but Mondo was close enough.
Mondos. It’s wonderful. Its beauty is palpable, mysterious and almost nameless.
Email contributing columnist Herb Benham at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears here on Sundays; the views expressed are his own.