The Hitchikers’ Guide to Ocean Beach, Attraction #5: Space Dock XIB

by on May 23, 2011 · 11 comments

in History, Hitchikers' Guide to OB

Rainbow over the OB Pier. (Photo by Nate Hipple.)

by Citizen Cane

Ocean Beach is known as a popular destination, but someday it will also be an important point of departure. That’s because Ocean Beach is home to Space Dock XIB, the longest concrete space dock on the West coast. When the end is near, a large spaceship will dock with the pier and rescue those fortunate folks that received XIB identity numbers from Clint Carey, the Spaceman of Ocean Beach. I not only have a number from Spaceman, but I also have the dubious distinction of being one the Kings of a ten foot section of railing.

Spaceman. (This is a screen capture, not a video.)

My adventure began when I was about twelve years old. Two friends and I had finished freeloading the comic books at Paras, and we decided to go down to the pier to watch the surfers. We were almost there, when we heard someone screaming for help between some cottages by the pier. We saw an old man rolling on the ground and pleading for help. He was being mercilessly soaked by a kid with a Hypo-Squirt.

I told my friends to grab the boy, while I ran over to a garden hose and turned on the faucet. I more than justly soaked the kid for the sin of disrespecting an elder. Then I ordered my friends to “make him dirty.” My friends proceeded to apply dirt to the wet kid. Our actions were a bit excessive, but that sort of stuff sometimes happens in law enforcement.

Spaceman seemed very grateful for our rescue. He gave us all XIB numbers for boarding the spaceship. My two friends were both given the title of Bodyguard, but I was made a King of a ten foot section of railing. I assumed I was being rewarded for my quick thinking and leadership. The Clint told me it was my job to take care of the people in my section. We spent a couple of hours with Spaceman that day. He had to make a couple of pit stops before we went out on the pier. One wine bottle was inside a bush, and the other was under a loose board on the front steps of a cottage. He didn’t drink them dry. He just took a couple swigs, and then hid the bottle for the future.

I’ll never forget our grand promenade on the pier. Spaceman led the way with a daisy in each hand. He waved them around as he walked, and made an odd swishing noise with his mouth. His two bodyguards silently kept pace about two strides back. I brought up the rear of the procession, and I waved to the peasant fisherman like a good king should. I was presented my new kingdom out near the restaurant. Spaceman asked me if I liked it, and I must confess that I was a little bit ungrateful. I pointed out that there wasn’t a bench, and it wasn’t close to a depth marker (small signs that are long since gone.) Spaceman said, “yes, but it’s close to the bathroom, and someday you’ll appreciate that.” He was right. The man had a knack for the future.

Over the years I tried to be a good king. I picked up seaweed and ciggy butts strewn around my kingdom. I always tolerated overhead casting, and the changing trends in radio music. Sometimes late at night, I would give away tiny bottles of Ripple and Thunderbird. That’s no longer legal. My attitude about Kingship has also changed. A while back I was reading some stats about the pier, and I was struck by the statement that there was nearly a mile of railing on the pier. If every King and Queen of the pier only had ten feet of railing, then there will be nearly five hundred monarchs on the pier when the spaceship arrives. So I’ve revised my assumptions about Spaceman’s view of title and rank. I’ve redefined what Spaceman meant when he said it was my job to “take care” of the people in my section. I now think it’s highly probable that the Kings and Queens of the OB pier will be the official butt washers to the proletariat in each and every ten foot kingdom.

A few years before he died, I asked Spaceman if we’d have to be naked when we boarded the ship. He laughed and said there would be a lot of naked people on the ship. He also said my final instructions would come to me in my dreams. I don’t think the official instructions have arrived yet, but I worry about having a reunion with that boy and his Hypo-Squirt. I fear he’ll be one of the people lining up in my ten foot kingdom. He’ll hand me his vintage Hypo-Squirt, bend over, spread his cheeks, and say, “I’m ready your Highness, now it’s time for me to make you dirty.”

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Shane Finneran May 24, 2011 at 10:12 am

This was a very cool trip back in time – thank you, Citizen Kane. I really enjoyed the little details like Spaceman’s stash technique and his comment about your rail’s proximity to the restroom. Kudos to you for saving the Spaceman from the squirter, and keep on caring for your kingdom!


Citizen Cane May 25, 2011 at 7:42 pm

When we consider the different possibilities of what Spaceman was really about, we shouldn’t ignore the obvious fact that he was an artist. It’s possible that his number project was really that art form known as a collage. He made a collage of people that would live on long after his death. It’s possible that his choice of ten foot kingdoms was abitrary, like a collage made of similar sized photographs. I prefer to interpret it as deliberate sarcasm about small property ownership. Perhaps he favored tribalism. Most likely he’d be thoroughly disgusted by the current squabble over the 25 foot wide kingdoms over in North Ocean Beach.


Sunshine June 6, 2011 at 2:54 pm

how unfortunate that I missed the opportunity to meet the OB Spaceman. He departed for the afterlife long before I found and moved to OB. Wonderful read about how the youth of that generation still had esteem-able respect for their elders.


Steve88765 October 2, 2011 at 9:24 am

I wondered what became of spaceman. I lived in OB as a kid from 1958-64. I used to see Spaceman all the time and had my own XIB number. It was a great place to live, roaming the beach, catching movies at the Strand for 6 RC bottle caps.
There was another interesting character that scared the kids to death. His name was “bottles.”He was tall and thin and had a very small head. He lived in one of the red cottages on Bacon (?) Street. Reclusive and shy. Of course being little kids the stories circulated that he had an alligator in a pit under his livingroom and would trow kids into it. As a result we all gave Bottles a wide berth whenever we saw him. In hindsight, very sad. Wonder who he was and what became of him….


Frank Gormlie October 2, 2011 at 10:49 am

Steve – Sure, a lot of us knew Spaceman – Clint Cary – when we were kids in OB. At one point, he became quiet famous and was selling his paintings for thousands of dollars. Not sure when that was (the 80’s?), then he fell back into that lifestyle that had pulled him down before, and sadly he passed away quiet blind and in poverty. Correct me if I’m wrong here. But I still have my space- number so when the aliens land, I’m saved.


Steve88765 October 2, 2011 at 11:04 am

Blind and poor, but having touched so many…I’ve lived in Oregon for over 30 years, but I still have my OB sticker on my car window , and always visit OB when I come back to SD. What a quirky, but wonderful place to grow up back in the 50’s and 60’s…beatniks, hippies, swabs, surfers, and the many interesting people that made OB one of a kind…of all the things that have left my head, my Spaceman number remains….


Frank Gormlie October 2, 2011 at 12:27 pm

Hey Steve, we’ve got bumper-stickers, T-shirts, and OB stickers. And lots of OB history, go to the nav bar.


Lisette October 26, 2011 at 5:12 pm

Ahhh, Spaceman , He once anointed me with a number , and regaled me with stories of the space brothers and their ships. I was never crowned a royal and given pier property however. I also would haunt the Paras shop , and I spent many evenings sneaking in, or sneaking my friends into the strand watching the same two movies over and over again.
I grew up there in the very early seventies we had a man that we all called “Cat Man” He was very tall and lanky with a smallish head, he was middle aged , and had started to hunch over a bit. He was shy and kept to himself even when groups of kids would follow him (at least twenty feet behind) up and down the alleys giggling behind his back. The children all claimed that he had fangs, and that he ate all of the stray cats that he caught in the alleyways. I wonder if this is “Bottles” renamed Cat-Man by the next generation of O.B. kids?
My O.B. memories are amongst my most treasured possessions.


Steve88765 October 27, 2011 at 8:20 am

I think your Catman of the 70’s is the same as Bottles from the 60’s. As I recall he did have a bit if hunched over going on. I think he may have picked up the bottles handle from collecting discarded bottles. Might have been why he was actually prowling about the alleys. Poor guy. Wonder what became of him. Maybe someone out there who was an actual adult at the time might know something accurate and post it for us.


Pat October 27, 2011 at 9:22 am
Steve88765 October 27, 2011 at 9:41 am

It was an inspired guess and the clues were there, but this doesn’t appear to be Bottles/Catman. Our guy had a distictively small head and I’m pretty sure he wasn’t working for the government back in the those days. One of those quaint OB characters….


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