Stop Four: Surf's Up, Mr. Mayor

COCOA BEACH, Fla.--Local surfer Steve Harris--blond, tan, hoody, mustache--came to Ron Jon Surf Shop here in Cocoa Beach tonight for a wet suit. He only noticed the hordes of people filing in as he was finishing up at the register. "Must be a signing," he thought, noting that pro surfers often visit the store for promotional appearances. "Wonder who it is." It didn't take long to find out. When Harris, 39, returned to his SUV, he saw that it was blocked in--by Rudy Giuliani's massive tour bus.

"I was like, 'Dude, Rudy Giuliani at Ron Jon's, you know?" he told me afterwards. "What's the connection there?"

Not much, it turns out. Unlike the day's earlier events--synagogue, pizza parlor, Italian-American club--the stop at Ron Jon was less a targeted appeal to one of Rudy's natural constituencies than, well, a whim. According to the Ron Jon manager responsible for arranging the appearance, Giuliani spotted the Ron Jon billboards last time he was cruising the western coast of Florida and was "intrigued." And while Rudy might be the last person in the world I can imagine noseriding a Yater 'Spoon' down the face of a glassy four-footer, Ron Jon was happy to have him. "All these people and newspapers guys in the store?" the manager said. "No brainer." He was quick to add that Ron Jon does not endorse any candidate.

Thankfully, Rudy did not utter the word "cowabunga," sticking instead to, as one supporter put it, "the usual: defeating the terrorists, winning the war, cutting taxes." He not exactly the windiest candidate--at 15 minutes flat, the Ron Jon remarks set the day's speed record--or the loosest. Neil Orstman, a 65-year-old New Yorker in town on a camping trip, waited for a "lull in the patter" to ask why the Big Apple is "still a sanctuary city." Giuliani didn't blink--or respond. "It's not like I was a supporter anyway," said a peeved Orstman.

Harris, though, begged to differ. "Rudy's a pretty smooth cat," he said. "I like him. While McCain and Romney are going at it, he's sitting back, chilling. I bet he'll get a boost at the end." As a show of solidarity--or perhaps pure pranksterism--Harris managed to sneak around the back of the bus and slap a Ron Jon sticker on its bumper. He did, however, have one complaint. When I told him that I spent my childhood summers a few blocks from the original Ron Jon on Long Beach Island, N.J.--I also happen to be a half-Jewish, half-Italian pizza aficionado who lives in Brooklyn, so you can see why I chose this particular day to roadtrip with Rudy--he laughed. "It feels like New Jersey Ron Jon's here tonight," he said. "Too damn cold. I think you guys brought the weather down with you." After spending a day in Hizzoner's "element," it seemed almost possible.

Or maybe not. As I was saying goodbye to Harris, a silver sports coupe pulled up to the curb. "Who's that?" asked a swarthy teenager in the passenger seat, pointing to Giuliani's bus.

"The mayor of New York," said Harris. He arched his eyebrows as if to say, Are you serious?

Apparently, the kid was serious.

"He was the mayor of New York," Harris repeated. No response. "And, um he's running for president?" Still nothing. "Sept. 11 and all?"

And then, at last, a flicker of recognition.

"You mean the bald guy?"