Sunday, November 19, 2017

This Week In Not Surfing

1. For my 43rd birthday I make time for one of the only other pastimes I attempt to make time to do besides surfing. The Russian banya. On a mid-November Tuesday afternoon there is a small group of Scandinavian women, a couple single Russians, a quiet gaggle of Hasidic men and a loud group of Financial District business guys. There is also an immensely beautiful and statuesque Black woman wearing a very skimpy bikini.

2. And the businessmen in the shvitz talk openly, brazenly, about hookers and cocaine and "Christmas Binges." This is a true story. At a certain point one tells the others about being so congested during one holiday debauch he was shoving little "boulders of blow" into his nasal cavity and "waiting for them to dissolve."

3. I wonder if the magically obstructive alchemy that is my self-doubt and impatience will ever let me write anything other than this. As was once said, "consistency in style can be important for confidence in production but can lead to insecurity through the gift shop."

4. My wife gives me a tall bottle of mezcal and three slim books for my birthday. Lydia Davis, Maggie Nelson and Wallace Shawn. I am sure I'll never get out of this alive.

5. And while I continue to believe that a concerted discipline to free associate is at the core of most successful endeavors, I miss the now entirely unlikely possibility that I might find a still-smoldering cigarette butt in my french fries.

6. And I wonder if the intellectual laziness that overcomes me in times of emotional trauma will ever release me from its grip. As was once said, "truth is like an invisible object of which we can only make out the edges when we blow smoke its direction."

7.  New York's latest flirtation with something more sustainable has come in the form of a small, brown, plastic waste bin one is supposed to fill with one's composty stuff. The New York Times has referred to it as a "plastic totem," which seems likely given the city's ability to make lasting, positive environmental change. All I know is that I get a truly serene amount of satisfaction from hauling the little bucket out from under the sink and throwing orange peels, egg shells and onion ends into the tiny pungent heap.

8. Today it is so windy in Brooklyn that an adult London Plane tree is cracked, leaving half of it across the walking-path next to the dog-run in the park across the street from my house. I don't think there are any other casualties.

9. The surf forecast two days ago stated that tomorrow New Jersey might be pushing 5-7 feet with ambivalently equivocal winds. A look at that same report tonight predicts it will be flat. New York metropolitan surfing at its finest.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Ice Cream Headaches

What can one say that has not already been said? A fantastic frog and a lovely limey infatuated with surfing find themselves a fruitful relationship in New York documenting their passion in the new environment, letting their naturally curious outsider's perspective infuse a newly minted co-production of interviews and photographs describing a scene that exhilarates them. And so is born Ice Cream Headaches, the aptly named archival website and now full-on book publishing adventure. Tilting at windmills you say? Perhaps. But the sort of moon shot dream that does appeals.

Or, as they say:

"Hello. We are Edward Thompson (from England) and Julien Roubinet (from France), a writer and photographer living in New York. 

After moving to New York a few years ago, we met and became friends in and around the ocean. We found ourselves thinking of New York as a surf city, something that goes by almost unnoticed by most people living here and the hundreds of thousands of visitors who pass through each year. 

To celebrate the diversity, creativity and humor of East Coast surfing, we set out to create a book of interviews and photographs documenting local surf culture.  

We aim to shed light on the surfers, shapers, photographers, filmmakers and writers who represent North East surfing and the challenges of lives lived with an obsession for the ocean. Our focus is finding people who experiment with new forms, materials, ideas or surfing styles."

And now you can listen to these two guys speak in the appropriate accent for each on the Swell Season podcast on KPISS Tuesday Night.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

This Week In Not Surfing

1. Commercial airline travel always begins with the same things. Second guessing the luggage weight. An anxiety filled car ride. Splurging at an unimaginatively stocked airport chain bookstore. Fear of the automatic flushing toilets. Awkward queuing. The middle and end experiences of commercial airline travel vary more widely but will surely entail uncomfortably spiking body heat. 

2. Francis, the pink and blonde shop boy, explains for glasses to fit properly they ought to reveal the wearer’s brows mostly unobstructed. This is dependent on the proper width of the bridge and the forgiving length of the temple. Here I can think of an implicit joke.   

3. Have I spoken of my distaste for the flagrant practice of showcasing mid-coifed clientele in large storefront windows of hair salons? Like specimens in some sort of wacky performance art meets ghoulish science experiment gone embarrassingly inchoate? It’s true, the sight of someone having their wet hair yanked this way and that, exposing their state of undoneness for all to witness fills me with disgust. Brazen co-optive marketing at the expense of dignity. 

4. Six days after Jeremy receives a text apparently mistaking him for another Jeremy where he is propositioned to drive to 'Jersey because the texter has "heard it's pumping," I arrive at his doorstep in Clerkenwell. Jeremy shows me this mis-targeted text and I conjecture that it may indeed be meant for another Jeremy I know who happens to live in the same building in Brooklyn where this Jeremy, standing here in front of me, also has a routinely vacant apartment. That other Jeremy also lives part time in the building, the other part on Kauai. And he surfs. This Jeremy here lives the other part of his time in London and does not. I wonder if the mistaken texter has entered this Jeremy's name into his phone mixing the two up based on a shared address. This would explain a lot.

5. Jeremy says free will is the location on our tongue where we taste time. 

6. There are moments that occur to me. The moment I want more yogurt than granola in my bowl. The moment the weather changes and my ankle hurts less than it did. These are little mile markers of advancing age. 

7. I go to the Basquiat show at the Barbican. I see an old friend in two polaroids encased in glass. I stand in line behind two French women bent on listening to the full 22 minutes of outtakes from a Warhol/Basquiat T.V. show. They can feel my looming over them, impatient. I wonder if I look like Trump looming over Clinton in that one debate. I'm not sure I can help how I may look and feel.

8. But I feel like a real New Yorker at a Basquiat show in London.

9. The American in his black t-shirt, black cardigan, stiff jeans and well-worn Stan Smiths has been on his feet for twenty minutes, pacing as he talks on a cell-phone conference call in the powder blue Australian cafe. At the end he says "brilliant" then "lovely" then "cheers" then hangs up and goes straight to the bathroom, leaving his aging golden retriever waiting beneath his table. In the bathroom there is a hidden mirror in a slim cupboard opposite the toilet. I suppose this is in case you'd like to observe yourself going to the bathroom.

10. Antonio texts to see if I'd like to surf together this week.

11. We run into our friend on the sidewalk who is going to the introductory night for a later sex party night. She says she's going to accompany a friend who actually is looking to be accepted to the sex night, but feels insecure going alone. Try-outs for an impending orgy, in other words. Two nights later I ask her about the experience. She says it was certainly odd and she left early but with a certain esteem for the people who could feel so brazen and fulfilled in their desires.

12. People in London walk terribly on sidewalks. All over the place. Higgledy-piggledy.

13. When I hear an English accent I think of violence and intelligence and dry, sometimes annoyingly effete humor.

14. While in London I have two surfing dreams, neither of which contain surfing. In one I am on a playground filled with all sorts of metal monkey bars jutting out in opportune angles. I swing around them all, hopping weightlessly from set to set, spinning and twisting. In the other, my eleven year old son and I are in a grocery store on a cruise ship dancing in a kind of intuitive Bob Fosse way through the aisles, clapping our hands and snapping our fingers.

15. On the flight to London, my seat-back screen breaks, leaving me with no choice but to watch the latest installment of "Planet of the Apes."

16. I meet a Danish-French photographer at a cafe on Portobello Road. We find we have many mutual friends and a copacetic misunderstanding of the mysteries of being 20th Century men in a 21st Century world. I mention surfing to illustrate video communication.

17. While walking in Notting Hill some friends from Brooklyn text and ask me for advice about surfing on Kauai. I refer them to that other Jeremy. In four conversations I have with introduced strangers in London surfing comes up as a short-lived topic.

18. I have a seat next to a window on my flight back to New York. I've been on flights where the attendants have asked everyone to close the plastic pull-down shades. This never fails to upset me but I can see why they ask. Keeping the glare off video screens. Allowing people the choice to sleep. But I love the light without exception. I love, at least, the open windows without exception.

19. There are many evenings when my wife asks me to keep the window near my side of the bed open. This can be slightly annoying as it will cause uneven breezes to flit across my face all night.

20. One thing I’d like the one-minute-younger me to remember to say to the one-minute-older me: stop trying so hard to be heard. I wish that one-minute-older me would stick around long enough to remind the one-minute-from-now me of that wisdom.

21. This past week at different moments, both in his apartment, Jeremy twice spontaneously adopts a sort of cockeyed old-timey persona and states in a drawl, "You've got two ears and one mouth! Use them proportionately."

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

This Week In Not Surfing

1. Ribbons of mist cut across Ocean Parkway in the predawn crepuscule. This word, and another, gloaming, would technically, in this use, be the memory of the previous night's twilight. I haven't yet found the matching archaic descriptive for the light of dawn.

2. I pull into the mostly barren parking lot of Gilgo. Three pudgy beachcombers huddle, comparing their metal detectors. Past the Inn the older locals have parked their smattering of cars. I settle in front of the bathroom, perhaps unwittingly flagging my callowness. Sometimes I park on the other side of the guardhouse, hopping the fence to run across the parkway. I can't be bothered with that today. There are many places to surf around here. Just park in the right spot.

3. When I get out of the car there is a slightly misplaced smell of decay. At least I can't place it.

4. The sun appears to move faster when it is rising and setting, a banal observation which nevertheless surprises me every time.

5. The waves are tiny. Almost not waves at all. More like salty calf tickling water humps. I ride my pink sofftop, realizing only too late the fun would be more if I unscrewed the fins. There are six, maybe seven regulars in the water. Regulars because I recognize their faces.  I can only assume they recognize mine, but I won't. Some mornings in the lineup I am garrulous. This morning I try to paddle away from everyone to tend a private patch of lonely splash lumps, closing my eyes to listen to the placidly gallumphing water retreat from my board.

6. Three days ago in a Facebook instant message I used the word benumbment, a word I had not counted on being a proper word until I noticed there wasn't the requisite red squiggly line beneath it.

7. I do one interesting thing amidst the many uninteresting things. While attempting to improbably insinuate myself into a shabby shadow of a wave, I jump up and down two footed on the shoulders of the board. Like a hopping tantrumic child. And it works. One of those spontaneous, inane moments in surfing when a witness would be welcome.

8. I donate a few dollars to the WFMU pledge drive during the Wake & Bake show. Wifey flips the switch before I hear my name announced. Besides the iced matcha tea with macadamia nut milk I've been getting from the coffee shop down the street, Clay Pigeon is really one of the best morning things going these days. But we don't have to talk about that.

9. Things my three year old says:
"Leave me be."
"Give me space."

10. I've been sleeping on the couch lately. It's not what you think. Well, maybe it is. There are certain people who are natural magnets for mosquitoes. This is well documented but incompletely understood. Wifey is one of those. Every night in the middle of the night she gets up to kill a tormenting mosquito in our bedroom, leaving me equally tormented in a different way. So for now, until it gets colder, I am sleeping on the couch to try and get some consistent shut eye.

11. The weather people say this will be another unseasonably warm winter in New York.

12. There is a granite statue of Father Jerzy Popieluszko in a park at the corner of Nassau and Bedford in Brooklyn. He was a priest agitating for the Polish Solidarność movement who was murdered by Communist security apparatus goons in 1984. Recently the statue was vandalised, the head spray painted red. In a previous desecration the monument was somehow beheaded. The police don't have any leads. The president of the New York chapter of the John Paul II Foundation has opined, "the red color may indicate someone with leftist views, inimical to Father Popieluszko." Inimical indeed.

13. This morning at 4:30 AM my three year old wakes me up, crying about a bad dream. I do not fall back asleep.


The London Surf Film Festival was this past weekend I think. It is the second straight year I've missed it.

This fun little film was on show:


Tuesday, October 3, 2017


Photo By Noah Silvestry
I remember sitting in my bedroom the summer of '89 listening to one of the first CD's I out and out stole from my older brother. "Full Moon Fever" on repeat. A little research tells me it wasn't an especially hot summer - though there were some near 90˚ days in June apparently - but my body remembers it being a scorcher. Perhaps growing up in Seattle will make any day above eighty feel like a day on the face of Mars. It's one of those albums when played returns me viscerally to the specific texture of a time and place. Not even ten years later and I would be sizing up my potential (and future) bride on a number of merits, one box ticked being her obsession with Tom Petty's "Greatest Hits."

He always seemed to be a humble master.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Friday, September 29, 2017

This Week In Not Surfing

1. It has been quite a month of mitigating sorrow with joy here on Long Island. The requisite guilt that comes hand in hand with scoring consistent hurricane swell has never been more poignant. Luckily there are things like the Stormrider Challenge that go a little way in sopping it up. But nothing apart from offering hands-on help ever feels properly positively complicit.

2. But this particular stretch of waviness has offered me a glimpse into what a surfing me might look like should a me who surfs show up more often. The picture isn't particularly pretty from certain angles (I have a lean to the annoyingly frantic when totting up my wave count) while from the other side I'm feeling more handsome (muscle memory consistently reminding me to paddle into any wave, no matter the consequence.) In both glancing cases I am left with the same brick wall that caresses my landlocked existence: I need more chill.

3. And in the grand tradition of recent confessional writing it need drift toward dramatic. Orgasms of cozy smugness, violent self reflection and terse disavowal; the ah-ha moment required preciously piquant; small disruptions of quotidian life writ allegorical. Or at least blow-upable. Literally mundane doesn't literarily pay.

4. So there is a big difference between looking at a building and knowing something is inside and looking at a building and thinking there may be nothing in there. This may sum up my habitual bias about the difference between New York and L.A.

5. But the waves. Oh the waves.

6. And while the social media appetite for requisite relevance is insatiable, I tend to hide my exploits in the water under cover of inconsistency and less optimal lighting conditions. I can only shabbily admit to wishing just once I'd be in the right place at the right time for someone to snap a photo of me on a big day, doing something interesting looking on a critical looking wave. But this has never been my forte, perhaps in either instance.

7. The Midlife Man's Dawn Patrol Mantra: "I'll poop when I'm dead."

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Birdwells & Brisick

Jamie called up and asked.  Click the pic.


Foto by Lynn Davis

Saturday, September 2, 2017

This Week In Not Surfing

1. Approaching is 43, a resolutely midlife sort of number, I have largely lived my life without achieving any goals thanks mostly to having not set any in the first place. I’ve certainly been goaded into enunciating a goal here or there at some point if only to satisfy someone else’s expectations. Finding a marital partner for instance, not to mention keeping one interested over a length of time, can rely pretty heavily on (an even specious) quotation of attractive, articulated goals. Beyond that, it seems the act of goal setting has achieved a sort of moral authority these days. And not just the garden variety cottage industry, it is core to the very cultural fabric of the nation. So in keeping with my citizenship, when pressed by the immigration officer, I will easily make the case that I’ve achieved the one gigantic goal I might have unspokenly set: the one of achieving something without having meant to do so in the first place.

2. Listening to the radio today I learn that, all things being the same, most people get happier as they get older. It has something to do with the lesser burden of the future combined with perspective of all that stuff that’s gone before. It has been studied by science and nearly proven so the radio says. In light of this it occurs to me that those who do not become more content as time winds on (all things being the same) are exhibiting signs of mental illness. The gently compressing accordion that is our experience must lead us to some conclusion.

3. “Do you know what maybe means? It means maybe not.”

4. That whole canard about living in the moment can really lead to a lot of future heartache as nostalgia triangulates the most merciless sneak attacks.

5. We surf on the outer beach of Fire Island in the morning. We did the same thing last week. It takes a special County pass and a four wheel drive car. It doesn’t take anything else, save the time and freedom to do so. And the outsized patience needed in letting air out of tires and filling them up again. The waves are very small. But that doesn’t mean a thing.

6. I am colder now. Colder as I am older, the cobblestones along the pathways turned over and replaced haphazardly, the banks of the rivers overgrown and encroaching. I sit on my board with the gentle offshores making the tiny, shifty waves a little better and I shiver.

7. And when I find myself alone for long enough, memory pounces. I put it down to the suddenly quiet void of the solitary scrambling to fill itself anyway it can. And the memories obligingly flood in; those viscera of old hankerings. After family life, work life, life life, pressing, pushing, cramming the memories into corners where they wait, skulking, colluding, taking their chances with surprising subtlety.

8. Name your favorite smell, the questionnaire demands. The plopping undersides of docks. Stale beer seeping out of plastic bags. Mountain pine, approaching, rising out of high desert. The inner ears of dogs. Distant fried chicken. Lime on fire-licked meat. Gasoline. Name your favorite sounds. Morning roosters. My children’s voices. That sound that waves make on small pebbles. Name your least favorite household utensil. Vacuum cleaners.

9. And “live in the moment,” what’s that supposed to mean? Were I to live in this moment’s moment, well, I’d stay in bed, thanks. But there are fun tropical storm waves and I am supposed to be a surfer. It is supposed to be the sort of day I’ve been looking forward to even if I forgot my spring suit in town and all I have are my trunks and this tank top thing and it’s unseasonably cold. And already dark earlier. And this bed is so comfortable. So what moment am I supposed to live in again? Because there was this moment that I realized all I wanted to do with my free time was surf. And then there was the moment I realized there were other things in life that would be interesting pastimes. Like getting married and moving to a culturally vibrant but surf-challenged city and having kids and trying to be good at some career. And then there’s those moments while sitting at my desk watching other people’s instagram feeds explode with missed sessions (mine) and swearing I’d never pass up the chance again. So which moment?

10. Today's waves are fun and clean and head high (if you’re a little taller than me) but seem a little more “critical” thanks to the swell angle. Yesterday's waves were messy and head high (if you're my height) and a joyful ardor to paddle through. I’m content I didn’t live in either of the moments preceding.

11. There are many ways to describe a day of surfing. Among the vocabulary I’ve heard bandied about to perform the task I cannot remember hearing one of the more affecting ones: intimate.

12. Houston. One third of Bangladesh. My brain has been slow to react.

13. And finally, when it feels like someone doesn’t believe in you, remember it is not you they don’t believe in.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017