I had just returned from a summer in Europe and had no idea what the hell I was going to do with my life. After four years on my own, with little to show for it, I was back living with my parents. But with Disneyland ten minutes away, Hollywood just up the 405, and the waves pounding the shore right off our porch, Newport Beach was my kind of town -- larger than life, self-mythologizing.
I came in from the beach one weekday afternoon and hosed off my surfboard. My mom was reading on our back porch.
"How's the water, sweetheart?" she asked.
"A little chilly," I said. "Nothing like the Mediterranean in June." I draped a...