LETTERS TO THE EDITOR SEPT. 10: Paddle out Sept. 20 at WindanSea in memory of Mark Scales

Paddle out memorial for Mark Scales Sept. 20

Before I moved to La Jolla, I worked as a journalist in Los Angeles covering events including the 1998 Academy Awards. When Jack Nicholson walked into the press room with his statuette for “As Good As It Gets,” he was asked by a male reporter, “How does it feel to be the coolest guy in the room?” Jack, of course, was too cool to answer that it’s not much of an accomplishment in a room full of journalists. But if I had to answer, I’d say the coolest guy I ever met was La Jolla’s Mark Scales, and in a town full of surfers, that is saying something.

In his day Mark had Nicholson’s charisma, George Clooney’s looks, and a reputation as the best goofy-footer at WindanSea, yet I learned he was dead when the Medical Examiner’s office called to find next-of-kin.

Mark, whose paddle out will be held at noon, Sunday, Sept. 20 at WindanSea Beach, was a much-loved local, who had taken it on himself to make sure the Shack always had fresh palm fronds when needed. La Jolla Light ran a story on a restoration that featured pictures of Mark on May 17, 2012 (see photo above).

He was the boy my parents would’ve warned me about if they weren’t too busy getting divorced to give advice. Mark and I had nothing in common in the present, but we bonded over pain from the past. I’d grown up in land-locked, suburban New Jersey, dreaming of the mythical location of Beach Boys songs. He was the quintessential WindanSea local, who despised the “goony” Beach Boys and inconsiderate dog owners in equal measure. When I told him I loved the Beach Boys’ song “Catch a Wave” he started to sing, “Walk a dog and you’re pooping on top of the beach.”

In the beginning of our friendship, Mark marveled at how he’d been cast as the Kahuna to the ultimate Kook, who was, in his words, “Only in year-one of the 30-year becoming a local plan.” He called me “Midgie Gidgie,” because I was too short to rate being a full Gidget. Mark was a talented carpenter and artist, despite being partially colorblind. He couldn’t see the green flashes everyone else exclaimed over.

Mark made good on a promise to teach me to surf, although his reaction to me in a bathing suit was, “Aaargh, your skin is so white, I’m going snowblind!” He took me to Tourmaline, not WindanSea, explaining that WindanSea was a place you had to work your way up to. It infuriated him, as it did so many surfers of his generation, that WindanSea had become a free-for-all of kids, tourists, and kooks who didn’t respect the earned hierarchy of the lineup.

“Groms knew their place. You don’t start at a reef break. You start at a shore break. There was decorum. We reinforced it — there was decorum.” He kept using that word, like a La Jolla matron at a tea party, but his idea of decorum was to drop in on a kook and then hit the guy.

He had me start belly to the board, which he had shaped, with waves that were barely a foot high, as I learned with the usual hilarity not to pearl or make other beginner errors. Suddenly, I felt a rush of force, almost enough to shoot the board out from underneath me. Mark had pushed me into a nearly four-foot wave, but I held on, so tight I nearly gouged the rails. I loved the power. For a few brief seconds, I finally knew the stoke. I rode the wave almost all the way in, until I slipped and tumbled end over end. Unable to tell water from sky, I desperately gasped, “Help! What do I do?”

“You just stand up,” Mark said. “You’re in two inches of water.”

He later apologized several times for pushing me into too big a wave, but delighted me with his pride that I’d hung on. It was one of the best days of my life, our best day together, but even it was cut short by his need to grab the inhaler for his COPD from the van he lived in. Near the end, I did my time, as many friends had, as his nurse.

On the first night I met Mark, at the height of my naive Gidget phase, he said, “Surfing ruins you.” I can’t condemn surfing, because I know how much it’s given to so many people, including Mark. But I also can’t forget advice from a college professor when I discussed my future: “Be careful of decisions you don’t know you’re making.” Adolescence is the fraying rope bridge we all have to cross to adulthood. What slip on that bridge turns a cool kid into a lost boy?

When Mark died last December, he was memorialized with graffiti that said, “R.I.P. Keeper of the Shack,” because for decades he had lead its refurbishment with fresh palm fronds. Mark even schooled me on the Shack, laughing at my naiveté when I told him I’d once been scratched by a frond’s “spines.” “Spines? They’re like swords, they can punch right through your hands!”

Landscape architect Jim Neri is keeping up the tradition he was taught by Mark, and when I attempted to help and got “punched,” I could hear Mark’s deep laugh, even though he was gone. As Bill “Brazil” Fitzmaurice, president of the WindanSea Surf Club says, “Mark was and still is part of a tribe called WindanSea and every member of that tribe loves him and misses him.”

WindanSea, unknown to tourists, is the cemetery where the ashes of many locals lie under the waves. The last few years have been especially tragic, and several of the too-frequent paddle outs have honored men Mark surfed with, who all, like Mark, died too soon. Looking out at the water, he made a remark that broke my heart with its premonition, “So many of our friends are out there, I wonder what they do. They must keep surfing. You want to join them.”

Karen Heyman

Recent sign issue was a matter of public safety

I’m not sure what part of the “traffic & public safety issues” a recent letter-writer missed in the investigation into the urgent need for clear, correct signage on the corner of Playa del Norte and Neptune Place, or if he resides or has resided on this street for the decades that many of us have. For those of us who are residents, witnessing a 20-fold increase in cars driving UP the wrong way on a busy beach street, during summer no less, was horrifying!

And the highly visible new “Do Not Enter” sign the city did install — thank you Sherri Lightner’s office — was done so precisely as a result of several concerned citizens “whining” (albeit in a vulnerable location, knocked down immediately, city to re-install).

It does appear there is a discrepancy in what the condo developers say the city required regarding their signage. That is in the process of further investigation with various city departments at this time. But the exact “how” it happened wasn’t as immediately important as preventing a terrible accident, of course!

Thank you for writing in sir, it helps to keep a spotlight on the issue that is not entirely resolved.

As far as me “bashing a fabulous project” that has contributed so much to the neighborhood? Not so, my complaint was with the people involved who seemed uninterested or unable to take any responsibility for a very unsafe situation the project signage created, however unintentional. Frankly, it was baffling how those parties involved were not more concerned about their potential liability in the unfortunate event of an accident or the negative press a tragedy would generate (any press is good press? Hopefully not!).

In spite of feeling sad that certain aspects of the older “funky” WindanSea are disappearing, change is inevitable. Personally, I like the building and I don’t mind the project at all, quite the contrary to “bashing” it. I own two properties on Playa del Norte, so in the end I benefit with substantial increases in my property values. No whining here! But let’s keep our neighborhood safe for pedestrians, bikes, cars, locals and tourists, please.

Lee Miller

La Jolla Shores’ curb colors need re-painting

It has become extremely frustrating to see car after car being ticketed and towed, many because over the disappearing red curbs at La Jolla Shores. Understandably, such violations contribute to the revenue of the city. However, as affluent as La Jolla is, you would think the curbs would be painted bright red. Not only so drivers can take note of them when they park, but also to add to the cleanliness and pristine look of La Jolla Shores. On some streets the red curbs are barely even noticeable or look like they existed at one time.

It would be great if the city would do something about these curbs. Especially since there are so many thousands of people visiting La Jolla Shores each day, month and year.

London Chong Newcomb

An open letter to Adolfo Fastlicht about new theater’s name

Mr. Fastlicht, we are so looking forward to your new theater on Fay Avenue, especially since we have had to go out of the Village to see a good movie for 13 years! This will be so much more convenient, with some of us within walking distance of your new cinema. However, I would like to encourage you to re-title the theater so it better reflects the heritage, ambience and art history that pervades so much of what makes La Jolla a must-visit spot.

It is currently referred to as “The Lot,” but it would be better served if the name reflected our beloved La Jolla. Perhaps a few locals could participate in a name selection that would be so much more appealing and entertaining than naming it for the parking lot below the theater (or however it was decided).

A few names that come to mind, among the many I am sure will be suggested by my friends and neighbors, The Jewel Cinema, The Shores Theater, Village Cinema, or something else that would be more of a delight to repeat than “The Lot.”

Whatever it is called, it will always be the “movie theater in La Jolla.” But it would be to your benefit, and a sign of respect to La Jollans, to have the theater given a more pleasing moniker.

Jim Stewart

All are welcome and invited to La Jolla Christmas Parade

Dear Howard Singer and members of the San Diego County Inclusiveness & Diversity Group: If it were not for a Jewish mother, we would not be celebrating the birth of a Christ child. But the beauty of this celebration is the fact that we are ALL invited. There is no partiality or discrimination; no one is turned away. So come to the Happy Birthday Party Parade on Dec. 6 and join in the celebration of a Merry Christmas to ALL!

Sophie Rys

No turn on red at Girard, Torrey Pines Road

I live on Girard Avenue and therefore have to cross the intersection of Girard Avenue and Torrey Pines Road quite often. So unfortunately, I’m very aware of how often drivers make right-hand turns on red lights from Girard Avenue onto Torrey Pines road, despite all the signs that say “No Turn On Red.” I find this to be the most dangerous intersection for pedestrians in the Village. With school starting and knowing that my child will be crossing this intersection every day, I want to make sure La Jolla residents are aware that they CANNOT make a right turn on red at that intersection and that doing so will jeopardize the safety of the crossing pedestrians.

I encourage anyone with the same concern to contact San Diego Police Traffic Division at (858) 495-7800.

Jessica Hughes

Whitney project again before city council

Robert Mosher FAIA, recently deceased, deserves all the accolades given to him as reported in the Sept. 3 edition of La Jolla Light. However, it is important to keep in mind his views on what is going on in La Jolla Shores today. The current Whitney project proposed to be built at the corner of Avenida de la Playa and El Paseo Grande is a repackaged version of what Whitney proposed at the City Council hearing in 2010.

At this 2010 hearing Robert Mosher not only spoke vehemently in opposition to the Whitney project but he remained in the City Council chambers four-and-a-half hours for the hearing to begin and stayed until the hearing was completed. At the conclusion of the hearing, the City Council turned down the Whitney project.

This Oct. 5, at 2 p.m., the Whitney project will again come before the City Council. It is our hope that as many La Jolla residents will attend this meeting (and support the views of Robert Mosher). If the massive three-story Whitney building is allowed to proceed, it will set a precedent that will change forever the charm and uniqueness of La Jolla Shores today.

Henriette de Jong

La Jolla High School’s track should be kept open for residents

The track at La Jolla High is under reconstruction and therefore no longer available to residents, as it had been. Many of us miss the running and walking track, where we could exercise without the risk of traffic, doors opening on parked cars, or the toxicity of car fumes. It would help residents if the school kept its baseball field open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Currently, you can “inquire within” the office about using the field, but the diversion in a walk or run is hugely inconvenient. As residents and property taxpayers, we pay for the field. Let’s keep it open for our use.

Kay Plantes