A few weeks ago, my hometown hosted our annual surf competition, The Vans US Open of Surfing. Every summer, (hot!) surfers from all over the world compete to lay claim to the title at the HB pier- a spot so famous it's featured in video games and surf videos constantly. They shut down all of Main Street and the area around the pier, dedicating the beach to stands and tents for surf paraphernalia, food, and general industry goodies. We even have a concert series featuring some of the bigger names in music- this year there was a free Modest Mouse show, which is pretty cool if you ask me.
Well... this time things got a little out of control.
People flock in from all over Southern California to see the competition and the concert, and it's generally so crowded these days that locals avoid the area entirely. You see, Orange County has a bit of a bias against outsiders and we tend to sort of blanket everyone with a "certain look" as somebody from Riverside county, which is one of the next counties over. This stigma has gone on for years, and it's almost become a part of our local culture to point fingers at anybody with a bad attitude and dub them "Riversiders" or my personal favorite, "Nine Ballers." I've seen people waving flags down in Newport Beach with quotes like, "Close down the 91 Freeway!" (the route from Riverside County to OC.) I'd be lying if I said I didn't chuckle at this, because... come on man! THAT'S dedication.
The US Open started the same way it starts every other year, people stoked for the competition, shops pumped up for the revenue upgrade. Locals made Facebook posts about the potential line-ups for the concert series, boo-hooing what bands they disagreed with for this free event that was literally falling at their feet. Free is free, in my book, and music is almost always a good thing. But that's a personal standpoint.
By the last day, it was a really, really good thing that the event was closing up shop. I'd avoided downtown entirely so as to not deal with my slight case of crowd-claustrophobia. I'm sure there's another word for this- but I'm too lazy to look it up. The day Modest Mouse played, there wasn't a parking spot to be had, despite the fact that I live 16 blocks away. It was nuts.
Apparently everyone else had overloaded on excitement, too. The final Sunday creeped into the afternoon with a beachy heat and humidity that pushed overly wound up crowds onto Main Street and into the local shops, and tension built enough that- from what I'm reading online- some idiot kids started a fight with a liquor store owner. Drunk? Probably. I mean... it IS Main Street HB. This escalated to some other moron thinking, you know, "How badass would it be if i knocked over a porta potty?" Call me crazy, but who the hell thinks it's cool to knock over a barrel of fecal matter? Not a clue. Crowds matched point by knocking over a string of the bathrooms, punching strangers for no reason at all, and general mayhem. I sat in my house, listening to the helicopters fly down the street and refreshing local news pages to watch videos of what was happening to my city only minutes away.
So here comes some kid, all wild-eyed and probably 'roided up, carrying a stop sign that he had somehow hulked out and pulled OUT OF THE GROUND... throws it through a local bike shop window, and people start stealing 4-digit price tag bicycles from some Mom and Pop. Eventually a store employee manages to wrestle one of the bikes back and stand guard in the window (someone give that kid a HUGE raise), and it seems that the crowd moves on. Cops come, lining the street and eventually raining down rubber bullets to a riot that has gotten completely out of control. Welcome to Huntington Beach, girls and boys.
The thing about this, to me, that sucks, is that this is a surf city. This is a place where the lingo consists of "Dude," "Gnarly," and "Chill." We are the linguistic and attitude equivalent of the bong-tokers. The mellow ones. The surf-and-fish-taco-ers. We are not a bunch of shit-hungry brawlers.
Main street is like a breeding ground for thirsty Sunday Funday-crowds. I've long felt that it funneled in people from South County, LA County, and- yes- Riverside county. This is where the tattooed go for a good time. And we've incorporated that into our culture as well. I know plenty of people who refuse to go to DTHB because they don't want to deal with a bar fight. I'd love to sit here and trump the "It's never locals who fight," but it's become that way, these days.
The other thing that pisses me off about this... well, one of the things, has been the reaction I've seen from my people. "Lets close the freeway next year," says one Facebook post. "Go home to Riverside!" shouts another. No one wants to claim responsibility for what happened. The irony is that the kid who threw the stop sign into the bike store was wearing a Long Beach t-shirt. That proves nothing about where he parked his car that night, but it does point to an interesting stigma that people are quick to point to: It's Riverside's Fault.
It's not. It's a bunch of stupid people, from all over, with no sense of pride in a local city. Wherever they hail from is irrelevant. They're still most likely from Cali, and should respect any spot that opens its arms to them, saying, "Hey- want to see some really cool (free) stuff?" Who walks into someone else's house for a dinner party, or their own house even, and trashes the place because, like, it was just really hot that day? The whole thing embarrassed me to even be from Southern California. There was no catalyst. No cause. No underlying message of injustice and mistreatment or violation of rights. It was just a bunch of pointless aggression from a crowd of pricks who fight with their hands because their mouths had nothing purposeful to say."Why did you do that?"..."Because... Eff the Huntington Beach liquor store system?"
I don't think so.
And maybe I'm just getting to be that old lady who waves my cane and shouts, "when I was a kid, we respected our elders!" or whatever, but in my book, there is a general idea that I'm learning to apply universally:
Don't be an asshole.
Just be cool. Be nice to people, for no reason other than that it's kind of rad to be a good person. Don't mess up other people's stuff. Don't degrade or demean strangers. Don't point fingers and place blame on people you think are "the bad guy," if you don't have specifics or facts. Don't make fun of people you know nothing about. We all have flaws, misconceptions, and issues. I'm the first one to admit that I am the least perfect person I know. BUT- I try. I try to be cool to people, and to be as normal as I'm capable of being. Sometimes... lots of times- I fail miserably. But I try. Even now, I might be coming across as a bit angry. But I'm not directing it at any ONE, only at a behavior that has passed its expiration date.
There is no reason for stupid teenage or adult angst. There is no reason to generally just suck as a person and direct it at a city, person, or object. This does not make you look "cool," bro.
Just don't be a menace to society, while drinking your juice in... well, Huntington Beach.