Georgia — "Wild Drip"

by Greg Sharpless

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Surfer Joe didn't know what to do.

He sat there, cross-legged in the off-white sand, his chin resting on his fists. His handlebar mustache flapped in the breeze while his surfboard ­­like some great magenta-colored dog ­­ lay beside him, waiting.

Ever since he had become addicted to Georgia Wild Drip, all Surfer Joe could do was stay on the beach getting crusty, while he watched the blue waves roll in. Just watching, though, almost always made him nervous. So, quite often, he'd have to focus his eyes on the horizon rather than on the water.

He wasn't sure he could last much longer living like this.

He had surfed since he was a smart-ass kid in junior high. The whole gang used to ride down to the coast, every weekend it seemed, just to drink and sometimes get laid. As they got older, they began fooling around with the boards. Pretty soon, they had learned enough to call themselves surfers.

That was some 20 years ago, though, Joe thought, as something bitter and ugly made its way up into his throat. Before Japan. And before that cold March night when he had first plunked 120 yen into the vending machine that delivered into his unknowing hands the wonderfully warm can that would turn his life around.

Much before GWD (he had ceased calling Georgia Wild Drip by its full name many yen ago).

Back then, he would straddle his board, paddling it out to meet some wave, salt sticking to his skin and in his eyes. Now, he couldn't go out into the water because he couldn't even think about daring to go there without a can of GWD in his hand. Hell, he wouldn't even go into the shower without it — that by itself had lost him many a surfing groupie. He winced.

The sun was directly overhead now. He could feel the sweat dripping from his forehead and armpits, and accumulating around the edges of his mustache. He took a gulp from the can of GWD he had brought down from his shack, feeling the taste of liquid burnt umber trickle down into his gut. Not exactly coffee, not exactly soft drink; that beautiful sticky something in-between that he had become accustomed to. No, not accustomed to, he reminded himself, but dependent upon.


Sure, he had stopped surfing in the past every now and then. After he married Beth, for instance, they had moved to Alpharetta, Georgia, just outside of Atlanta. Not exactly known for its beaches or rolling ocean waves, the red-clayed southern town all but turned him into a permanent land slave. His board ended up in the garage, serving as a shelf for paint cans.

The day after their nasty divorce, Joe pulled his old board from the garage, dusted off the cobwebs, tossed it into his Subaru and headed west. He staked a claim to a strip of beach below San Jose and built a small hut.

After just a few years, kids on the beach just learning to surf would spot him, ask him for some pointers. He always felt good doing that,­ showing them how to hang five or do a Hawaiian sit out. They started calling him "Surfer Joe," and would bring him food from their parents' place when they found out he didn't have a job (which they thought was "cool"). They also brought him girls from their school. He never turned them down.

He was surprised that, as time went on, the kids kept coming. They didn't quit showing up. They would come with their friends or relatives, anyone they could find. First, they would show off their surfing skills, then they would show off Joe.

"This is Surfer Joe," they would say. "He's been here like forever." True, some of the older ones had gotten better on a board than he was, but he was still their teacher.

And now, he couldn't surf. It was like being asked not to breathe or not to have sex. He'd been doing both since he could remember. A couple of horseflies, one atop the other, humping in mid-air, buzzed by his head. He had to duck to avoid being hit.

Thank God they missed his can of GWD, he thought, holding it tightly in his hand as the sun glistened off its silver-and-red label. It was all he really cared about now. And who could blame him?

Greg Sharpless is the editor of The Big Picture, a national magazine for professional digital imagers. They particularly cover wide-format inkjet output.

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