Monday, February 5, 2018

Saturday, February 3, 2018

This Week In Not Surfing

1. We carry our ceremonies around with us. They are the roles to which we've acquiesced. I would say acquiesced over time because all the therapists think the roles we play, these poignant personal traditions, are the product of something very early, and have developed along with us, step by step. We didn't submit. We've accepted; embraced. And the moment we break free is the apotheosis of the ritual. I'll never be free of myself.

2. I read somewhere the quote, "don't poke fun at people if they mispronounce something. It means they've read it." This is a bastardization I'm sure. But at some point you could do so much better than constantly checking the thesaurus. Describe it some other way.

3. Surfing at Little Rincon on a smaller day, the toe-headed freshman paddled out hooting at my ride. Inexplicably this cause a wash of self-consciousness causing me to lose a little control of my pumping rhythm, failing to drop down the face at the wrong moment, slicing over his new, pearly white potato chip rocker rocket. He screamed, knowing instantly what I'd done. He laid into me loudly as I paddled back out past him, and I  knew in my shame that he couldn't pull rank. Later I'd buy him a ding repair kit by way of apology. When presenting it to him at his dorm room door he yanked out his board, showing me the deep gash. I forget whether it was in the nose or tail but remember thinking that no ding repair kit would sufficiently repair that. He was still incensed. I, still humiliated but in full knowledge of our physical disparity, mumbled that he should have gotten out of the way. I recall this episode with both fondness and embarrassment.

4. Monday night and all set to paddle out in the morning, I receive an email that will fill my tomorrow with an unexpected job. I could do the reasonable thing and ignore it, letting others pull my weight and ensuring I remain sane. But I don't. A little later, before bed, my wife tells me my "color looks off," and asks if I am feeling ok. I feel fine. Pretty good actually. But suddenly all I want to do is move back to California.

5. Looking up the "no poking fun" quote on Google I see it is a meme. One of those quotes people put over black and white pictures, or sold color back grounds, or images of baby animals. How embarrassing.

6. So two morning surfs missed in a week. Tuesday's last minute cover and then Friday my wife had to be working by seven fifteen ante meridiem. And certainly no afternoon glass for me in any deck of cards these days.

7. I direct message Neil on social media asking if he wants a big plastic box full of climbing wall hand holds Matthew found at Build It Green. His response is a question back: "Would you believe me if I told you I haven't surfed in 2 years?" Yes Neil, I believe you. Seems entirely reasonable, in fact.

8. I started working as the sole busboy in a Croatian restaurant in a strip mall in suburban Seattle at the tender age of thirteen. My previous two payed gigs (I wouldn't've known to call them gigs at the time) were a stint as a church summer camp counselor for kindergarten kids and a newspaper route I inherited from my older brother (also inheriting his bruised walkman.) My first restaurant job was also my first brush with homosexuality, two of the waiters being flamboyantly so, like two caricatures of late 80's gayness (or gayness as far as I'd seen on T.V.) One, dark and pony-tailed, tall and arch, the other squat, pale, bespectacled and boisterous. The former begrudged me my tips but tipping well in the end, the latter teasing me endlessly and skimping on my share to boot. In current parlance I could call the latter's a harassment I suppose. I'm not sure. Could or couldn't, the introduction seemed to have the effect of curing whatever bigotry I might have developed otherwise, that particular other not being widely accepted for years to come in the circles I'd travel.

9. An interesting amount of my time would be spent in church related jobs throughout high school. I'd continue as a summer camp counselor for a couple years. Later, I'd work three days a week after school as the local Presbyterian church's Filippino janitor's assistant. He taught me how to vacuum large swaths of carpet efficiently. I'd also find Sunday employment shuttling people from the old folks home to mid-morning services in our family's faux wood paneled Chrysler Voyager. The geriatrics called me Sonny. Two Wednesdays a month I'd hitch a ride or catch the bus downtown to a youth homeless shelter to make massive bowls of spaghetti and iceberg salad. All these things are part of my identity I think. Again, I could be wrong.

10. In fact for many years I've considered myself queer. Not gay. Just queer. I've imagined this to be one of my secret powers. The others still being secret, mostly because I'm not sure they are helpful powers at all.

11. I need to surf more.  This is the only identity I know for sure.

Thursday, January 25, 2018


Foto: Sarah Lee

Foto: David Pearson
Foto: Jill Krementz
Foto: Warren Miller Entertainment

This Week In Not Surfing

1. I have a fascination with dryer lint. Were I allowed (and not to say that I've been explicitly forbidden) I'd keep an enormous glass jar next to the dryer for lint safe-keeping. I've researched making felt from dryer lint it looks to be very satisfying. I also want to learn to play the classical guitar. I also want to play a part in a community theater play. Along the spectrum of the discrete, where sufficiency and necessity find their meaning, I'm unsure how these things might delineate my identity.

2. And sure, identity seems to be wasted on the identical. The patterns of homogeneity laid out like train tracks through the wild west of our popular thought. We tell ourselves we are a nation of individuals. But god, it is both deceiving and boring.

3. And though stories never fail to impress, retold experience, experience is not identity no matter how causal so intimated. And then there’s that speed bump of the storytelling itself.

4. Over twenty years ago I snapped my fins off on a pylon at the Santa Barbara pier. True story. State Street had flooded after the rains, the drainage offering both magical mystery sandbars off the pier and viral infection about the murk. I took a ride too close and bashed my board into the barnacled wood. Apparently I wasn't quite the expert surfer yet.

5. A bit under fifteen years ago I paddled out into my first truly cold East Coast surf at Matunuck, Rhode Island. Jack and I had spent the night at a South African's cabin in Connecticut. I was so excited to get into the water, having not surfed in months, I speed-crunched over the frosted mud and paddled out without even scanning the sets for a channel. I must have had something to prove. Jack and Brendan watched as I took a frozen set on the head while they calmly stroked out the other side. I think I was so exhausted I didn't catch more than one wave.

6. If you happen to be invited to a swanky design gallery reception dinner in a penthouse on 5th Avenue in Manhattan and you find your calligraphied name plate at the head of the table and you feel slightly embarrassed at the honor, don't be. You are only there as a plus-one, the head is really the end and they stuck you there because they weren't about to place you in between two important patrons. Feign speaking French badly, demure slightly about your line of work and compliment people on their attire. Looking approximately surfy helps. Rich people love that.

7. Three days ago my three year old, deep in a scatalogical spree, calls me a "poo poo wetsuit," laughing maniacally. My witty rejoinder, "well you're a pee pee face," squeezes even more glee out of him. I have never actually pooped inside my wetsuit.

8. “People . . . people who need people . . . are the luckiest people in the world” - Barbra Streisand

9. Surfing provokes identity in this ferocious way. There are few hobbies that engender so much struggle for acceptance and demand so much gratitude for the effort.

10. Decades ago I routinely burned through untold gallons of fossil fuel driving between Ventura and Goleta, searching in vain for ridable gurgle. Since, I've found in my professional life, when I'm stuck with a certain composition that doesn't quite work, if I hold on the imperfection longer than is comfortable a conceptually shaky shot can imply a profundity, intended in execution or not.

11. How much gasoline has the Border Patrol burned up looking to arrest the hope for a better life?  And now they're not even at the border anymore, but in our cities, our suburbs, our interior. Another militarized pseudo-authority demanding your papers. Someone has caught on to the implied profundity of our distraction.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Happening: FIRING Women Photograph

Just wrapping up its stint at Picture Farm Gallery, this amazing show is going on the road to the Brooklyn Surf Company opening on January 28th from 6 to 9 PM 

The BSC Winter Studio space is at 623 Bergen Street in Brooklyn and you should not miss this show, especially if you couldn't make it to the PF Gallery version.

Today's Thought : Naomi Kazama!

And if you don't speak Japanese... turn down the sound on this one, click here, turn up the sound of that one, and switch back over!

Anyhow, Naomi is one great special dedicated artist type and is due a little extra love. This video was found here (Chrome will translate the page for you.)


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

This Week In Not Surfing

1. “We must get back to civil discourse.” I’ve heard this a lot lately. Of course when exactly was civil discourse? When it was solely between a few fellas of a certain socio-economic cultural background? So everything is called into question. That game we always play is only poisoned now. “What other time period would you live in if you could?” In this the assumption that you’d be traveling back in time only to be at top of the heap. The dream to somehow teleport myself to the Hawaiian Islands or to Southern California during the late Forties and Fifties rests on the qualification that I’m a white guy with a straw hat, a guitar and a surfboard. I’m not pining to be a farm worker unless it’s all part of the adventure of rummaging up a couple more bucks for gas. I’m not hoping to find myself a Kauwa under heel of some Ali’i. I want to be the Ali’i. Or at least his buddy. So it’s all up for grabs. All the desire in the world to go backward will only get you there.

2. There’s a similarity with all this fetishizing of surfing culture. A whole lot of fetishizing. Arbitrary hierarchy. Desperate oneupmanship. Macho brinksmanship. There’s a quota system here.

3. When I was twenty or so, the owner of the coffee shop where I was working invited me on a surf trip down to Mexico for a long weekend. His nephew was with us and he didn’t surf. After a few sessions at San Miguel he announced he liked my surfing the best. Everyone’s eyebrows raised a little. The next day my longboard finbox cracked leaving me with no choice but to ride the fat little thruster I brought along as backup for the rest of the trip. He didn’t make that same pronouncement twice.

4. A number of years ago I was surfing alone around this side of the Montauk Lighthouse on the other side of a hurricane swell on the purple 70’s Sunset Surfboard pintail single fin without a leash. Big, fat lefts rolling through breaking far enough off the rocks at first. I wasn’t in the best surf shape and I’ve never been able to surf that board going backside and a few sets in I had lost my board, swimming around in the mush as the peak was getting closer and closer to the bunker. Suddenly outta nowhere the famous hairdressing surfer paddles straight in my direction, obviously thinking this was gonna be a life-saving situation, me kooking about and all. As he approached, recognition washed over his face, “oh, it’s you. Ok.” He turned around and paddled off again.

5. Jamie let me sleep on his couch, make him scrambled eggs and even loaned me his favorite hybrid twin fin to surf down the locked gate at Pt. Dume. I had a ball on that board until I rode it up onto the rocks by accident.

6. Mid 90's and a couple guys had a zodiac we’d put in at Gaviota and boat up to The Ranch. Just after I sold my performance thruster longboard to Jon it lay on the bottom of the pile strapped down. We didn’t count on the metal brackets underneath the heap. By the time we pulled up to pristine Rights & Lefts, Jon’s new board had been performing as a fragile shock absorber, leaving him with two massive canyons just inside the rail.

7. On Saturday morning I lay in bed, awake, wondering how long I can go without speaking. My three year old comes in and starts asking me questions. He always asks questions. Smart. I just shake my head and put my finger to my lips. I wander downstairs to make eggs. My eleven year old asks me a question as I descend the stairs. He’s always asking questions. Smart. I just shake my head and smile, giving him a kiss. My wife looks up, smells my vibe and just shakes her head. It’s 9:30 before I say a word.

8. And they said it was going to be an unseasonably warm winter. It’s been frigid. On Sunday I forgo the surf. It’s a good size and clean looking on Instagram but Antonio doesn’t call back and I’ll be damned if I’m going to suffer alone. Besides, it’s Erin’s birthday and Chris has planned a mid-morning trip to the bowling alley to celebrate. And while I protest to hate bowling, there’s something unseasonably warm about it. And I end up enjoying the bowling just fine.

9. The next day we allow ourselves the elongated luxury of a thorough spot check. “Should we paddle out here?” “I dunno, maybe we should check Lido.” “Yeah.” This goes on for far more checks than there are actual spots. Core temperature preservation through lazy procrastination. During the meandering drive, Antonio posits that should he ever write an autobiography the title would be It Was A Younger Man’s Game.

10. Tuesday morning we agree to put on our wetsuits at home. This somehow does wonders for courage. The waves are small, clean and crisp. Better than Monday thanks to a drop in wind. I wear my big, pink softtop and only get flushed a couple times. But my still-wet-from-the-day-before wetsuit manages to take a toll even after being really wet for only an hour. I don’t know how it does that. The new wetness isn’t cold at all. It’s that old wetness. Legacy wetness chills to the bone.

11. And then there’s the itchy butt. The worst itchy butt I ever had was on one of those rides back from The Ranch. On the ride back to Brooklyn I opine that the old New York art scene was a bloody gash while the new New York art scene is just sweaty pores. Antonio gets it.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

This Week In Not Surfing

1. On the plane to California I watch Atomic Blonde three times over other passenger's shoulders. I watch Beatriz at Dinner then The Hero on my own itsy-bitsy screen. All three films make me wonder what it means to live every day as if it is your last, to appreciate every moment the way they say you ought to, our popular religion in which everyone is chatecised but where no one receives communion. 

2. At one point I let myself believe that when we die we don’t really die but our positive vibe soul pixie dirt carries on to join other soul pixie dirt of a certain cosmic simpatico, forming a kind of enthusiastic pixie clod, packing in with other pixie mounds to coalesce into some sort of terrestrial rebirth. The better you do, the more ethical positivity you can achieve in this life, the way cooler your subsequent reformation will be in the next. Not you, so to speak, but the remnants of you partying along with other way cool, thoughtful remnants making the universe a better place.

3. When we get to Grannie & Papa’s house I find my old Patagonia wetsuit hanging where I left it in the closet, a relief as I once left my favorite black belt (my only black belt) in this same closet only to find it irrevocably borrowed upon my return. 

4. Nina had warned me the waves would die just past Christmas. I figured she was speaking in a California surf vernacular, “flat” on the West Coast having an entirely different meaning to “flat” on the East Coast. But she’s wrong in a different way. It’s flat even before Christmas. 

5. I now reckon every successive evolution in our belief is just a bridge to the next. Bridges upon bridges next to bridges as far as the eye can see, spanning a chasm between the places birth & death. People get stuck in the middle, so taken with the view they’re sure they’ve reached terra firma. Or they've just decided to stay suspended in place. Which is understandable. Sensible even.

6. On the flight to California there are three different films on three different seat back screens simultaneously featuring men in cowboy hats. Out of 43 possible Halloweens I can only remember dressing up as a ghost (the Charlie Brown kind), a lion (with a plastic mask, the kind with a rubber band), a pirate (like Johnny Depp) and a cowboy (lots of times.) (Most times.)

7. At the end of The Hero there is a poignant scene (spoiler alert) where one character (a beautiful woman) reads an Edna St.Vincent Millay poem to another character (a cowboy actor.) My three year old interrupts this ultimate, meaningful scene four times, twice kicking the headphone jack out of the port. When I do finally finish the scene, I cry. Because I’m watching a movie on an airplane. And she's reading a poem to a cowboy.

8. California has never been my home. I lived here a while, a tourist the whole of it.

9. Fatherhood is a bit like tourism. I suppose I don’t have to explain that. 

10. Being married is like being a tourist. But that probably needs explaining. 

11. There is no tourism to surfing. Just suffering. 

12. On my mobile phone I have a link to a webpage titled 10 Cultural Values of the Lakota, or something like that. Most of them have something to do with being quiet. My relationship with that sort of quiet has been a spotty one my whole life.

13. I pull out one of the softtops from beneath the house and paddle from Grannie & Papa’s to Tamarack and surf for an hour off the north jetty in something knee highish. One of the regulars hoots me into waves, talking loudly and telling everyone to paddle harder, then laughing ecstatically. I paddle back to the house not long after he shows up. 

14. We drive to LA in my wife’s late grandfather’s Lincoln Towncar. I walk into a hip restaurant and all the waiters are wearing mustaches. I am also wearing a mustache. I told my wife last year I think I may never not have a mustache again. The upper lip protection somehow translates into lazy confidence. 

15. Graham’s dad shaved off his mustache one summer during high school, becoming so much nicer, more jolly, more jovial. Seemingly overnight. An almost instant loss of authority.

16. In Venice Beach I dip into the water just after sunrise, watching a 3 foot tiger-striped ray glide past my feet as I shuffle out. There are a handful of novice surfers hanging around the pier going straight on nothing shorey. I think for the first time that I understand the draw of owning a cat.  

17. I observe the strikingly Gallic features of my handsomely hangdog friends at their new music venue/bar/restaurant on the other side of Echo Park. The place feels triumphant, victorious and hollow in a youthful way. The product of grit and can-do. It’s beside a dry river bed under the shadow of brown scrubby mountains. I imagine those mountains have sage brush rolling atop them.

18. At the hip restaurant I sit across from three twenty-somethings with three matching meshback caps: Marmot Mountain, Patagonia, REI. They sport thin hair on their lip and cheeks. The baristo has his own attenuated twenty-something mustache and a full sleeve tattoo of some swirly waves. His dusty lip fuzz is feathery and perched. I regard it with vicarious satisfaction, proud of its precarious confidence. The manager walks by. His mustache is very blond. Too-blond mustaches don’t always capture the feeling. I indulge in using my thumb to press the cauliflower rice onto my fork. Like a cowboy.

19. I paddle from Granny & Papa’s almost all the way to the Oceanside pier before I find a little sandbar in front of a seawall just past the Teutonic housing development. The paddle is windless and I glide smoothly over the clear water that feels like I’m looking through a green beer bottle. Surfing isn’t suffering when there is no wind and the water feels like an empty beer bottle. That comes later, on the flight home.

20. I celebrate New Years with a woman who looks out over the sea every morning when she wakes up and every night before she goes to bed. And has done so for around sixty years. I also celebrate with the guy who almost got run over during that surfing motorcycle stunt at Cloudbreak. 

21.  When I get home my son’s godmother is there, dog and house sitting. I’ve left my family in California to return to work. My son’s Godmother makes dinner of polenta and pan friend meat with sage on it. During the meal she tells me about parking her car in a very dodgie neighborhood in Queens but not at all feeling threatened as everyone she passed was too busy looking down at their phones. She convinces me to catch the late night screening of the famous Irish method actor’s final film. Getting to the theater a little early, I drift to a bookstore and read the titles off some of the books heaped on the little islands. “Men Explain Things to Me” by Rebecca Solsnit. “How To Ruin Everything” by George Watsky. “Why Buddhism is True” by Robert Wright. Each title like a small dagger in the heart. 

22. Walking back to the cinema I get a text from my sister-in-law with pictures of my elder son surfing under the moonlight, being goaded into waves by his uncle, the same uncle who pushed the reigning Adaptive Surf champion in the AS-5 category (surfers who ride in a non-standing position and need assistance to paddle into waves) to victory in last month’s title event. When the champ touched down in his native Australia they blew massive firehoses over his plane and put him on the front page of the newspaper. They do this for surf champs in Australia. 

23. My son doesn’t get water cannons for surfing by moonlight. But I do when I hear he’s been quoted exclaiming, “this is the best night of my life!”

Monday, December 18, 2017

This Week In Not Surfing

1. I send him to get expresso beans, unground. A simple task, at eleven years old he is up for it. He comes back with coffee beans. There is a difference I insist. His shoulders slump, his mouth does that tween incredulous thing. He comes back a second time with the same coffee beans, ground. This I cannot fathom. I lightly berate him, even this small admonishment making him visibly miserable. I stomp out the door, head held high, my mouth doing that midlife incredulous thing. At the coffee shop I grab a bag marked espresso off the shelf and approach the counter. One upward glance and the barista guy knows exactly who’s father I am. I put on the most inscrutably blank face I can apply and seethe through gritted teeth that my son has made a mistake. The apologetic barista explains his own confusion. You see, they use these coffee beans as their house espresso beans, not the ones from the bag marked espresso. When the child brought back the bag, he simply thought he was meant to have ground them. My righteousness is shattered, I see it all so clearly now. I drop the bag of ground beans gently into the waste bin, quietly replacing the bag of espresso beans on the shelf and half slither, half shuffle out, leaving a confused barista guy in my wake. My obstinance.

2. And when was the last time you surfed on a Thanksgiving morning, cold and fresh and unexpected? It is as lovely as it sounds, a magical breather before the crucible of holiday necessity. Chilly smiles, easy camaraderie, everyone grateful to sneak the sly one before the weight of the day sets in. I’ll be looking forward to the same thing Christmas morning if I can manage it. New Year’s isn’t the same.

3. There was that one Christmas my mother and father made the public pact not to give each other gifts, a slightly astonishing commitment given that I'd never noticed a single gift they’d ever exchanged. I can only imagine there had been of course, and in retrospect I’ll conjecture their agreement was a convenient one both financially and emotionally. By that point in their crumbling marriage the annual disappointment didn’t make sense in either economy. The truly surprising thing to me at the time was my mother’s conniptious horror at my father’s attempt at a humorous breaking of the detente, an odd sort of African cowbell on the end of a piece of carved wood he’d found at Pier One Imports. She was beside herself. As I said, in the moment I couldn't understand her overblown reaction. I understand it more now.

4. After our wildly successful Thanksgiving surfabout, Antonio and I pledge to make it out to the water once a week whether there are surfable waves or not, giving our bodies a fighting chance at paddling through the winter, keeping our muscle memory fresh for possible vacations and inevitable spring thaws. Two days later I find myself staring at pan flat Rockaway on a frigid Sunday morning with Antonio nowhere in sight. About-face and making a dry drive home I ponder the long winter.

5. I’ve never wanted to own a surf shop, but if I did, I’d call it Longjohns & Lipbalms and it would have a muesli nook and sell only tropical wax and wool sweaters.

6. On the sixth night of this year’s six day holiday party crucible gauntlet of cheery horrors, I find myself on the periphery of a conversation between three women talking about how crazy the sexual harassment news has become; their unsurprised incredulity at both the volume of culpability and the excesses of popular redress. On the outside looking in, I find myself cracking an opportune joke: “hashtagyoutoo.” It gets a big laugh. Later, I wonder if I could repeat the feat in any other context without condemnation and find it unlikely.

7. After one particularly disastrously under-prepped nature videography shoot, my son’s godfather buys a Costco-size pack of chapstick and places a tube in every travel bag and jacket pocket he owns. Always be prepared.

8. Antonio and I make it out one last time this year to the eastern sea, a six hour trek to New Jersey and back a day after it was really good. Slipping into the slightly unrequiting but still ridable belly high & quick peelers, conversations between, we find the expected solace despite the time spent in commute.

9. Maybe I’ll just call my surf shop Yesterdays.

10. Apparently we live a good portion of our lives in a state of blindness, our brain enforcing minuscule moments of obscurity as our eyes scan the world around us. Evolution’s logic seemingly that were we to see every single moment as clearly as we do when we settle upon focus, we’d either be perpetually sea sick or our heads would explode from all the information.

11. Alternate anecdotal wave height measurements:
Rectal Sheath High / Linea Albo High / Aponeurosis of the Abdominal Oblique High / Semitendinosus High / Vestibular Nerve High / Supraspanatus High / Corpus Cavernosum High

Wednesday, December 13, 2017


Because you can't watch this too much. Or I can't.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

This. Sort. Of. Thing.

Click on the confusing diagram. 
Via Donn Ito

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Jon Frank's "Broken"

An interesting and broad interview with the bizarrely talented photographer and cinematographer called Jon Frank. I am relatively new to Jon's work, or at least accrediting it properly, having seen it for years without putting the two+two together on the plaudits he deserves. His sensibility is spot on every time, rarely putting a wrong foot, visually. And he once told me my Long Island house-thing feels like a boat. So there.