Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

This Week In Not Surfing

1. The airplane deposits me squarely into murky warmth of the Los Angeles midday sun. And into the waiting embrace of an In N' Out protein style, animal style double double. With hand-wrung pink LemonadeArnold Palmer. If by hand wrung we mean shuffling slightly to the left and back to the right, depressing the nozzle and adding a slice of iffy lemon. The enduring nonsensical allure of the In N' Out burger only sends me into a personal moment of reverence for Dick Spady, a man who really knew how to make a burger. In N' Out is good. But not Dick's good. Or for that matter Rainbow Drive-In good.

2. What is it with hotels these days? The Standard in downtown L.A. is a pile of shit. Seriously. Good food. Good enough food. And absolutely shit in everything else. The room service guys are nice, but they screw everything up. There are two foosball tables, but they're both crocked. The front desk people are full of blank stares. The valets, despising ones. There are no towels by the pool. There is no love in the elevators. The Indigo in downtown Nashville has good sounding live music in the bar every night. And the front desk staff are refreshingly quirky with their platinum dyed blonde heads and only slightly make-up'd lip heather. She studiously walks you to the elevator. But the waiters are a sad, uninterested bunch and somehow they've figured out how to make a whole hotel uncomfortable. Usually it's just the beds in the rooms that are lumpy.

3. I would blame it all on the Millennials. Everyone tells me Millenials are lazy, know-everything, prematurely disenchanted know-nothings. Which just sounds like what every old person has ever said about a young person. But I swear all the Millenials I know are peaches. I think. I'm not sure what a Millenial is.

4. A quick, true story: Sitting in a bar with Jamie and Pascal walks up. He offers to take us to Nobu Malibu but has locked his keys in his car. We drink scotch and sodas until Pascal extracts his keys, a feat he accomplishes with the Triple A guy standing at arm's length while he has one final crack. At Nobu I see the real-life son of the 80's family sitcom dad who recently made a music video full of naked women dancing in front of a nude background. The son not the father. We sit a table over from a famous Malibu surfer and his date, who has a lovely accent. The date not the surfer. I drink more scotch and soda. Later we all (except the singer) find ourselves back up at the bar in the hinterlands. Everyone is incredibly genial. Pascal steps in for a round on the drums with the house band. When he comes back to the bar, I lie and tell him he played terribly. I don't know why. He plays pretty good. And he took me to Nobu and was super funny on top of it all. And he plays pretty good.

5. I surf Zuma for two mornings on a Wavestorm softtop. Everyone on the beach and in the water knows Jamie. Everyone on the beach and in the water is handsome and good natured and rip and are ready to accept me because I know Jamie. Two days spent west of Rome are two days spent in an effervescent muddle of comfort and confusion.

6. This morning it snowed in Tennessee. I shot a film about a furniture maker who makes furniture in a converted ancient general store on a 100 year old farm. I filmed some cows. They were scared of me.

7. Our Uber driver to the hot-chicken shack is a jazz clarinetist and music theory professor at Fisk University.

8. People believe in Donald Trump because he tells the truth. It is the secret of his success. It isn't truthiness, it's truth. The truth that comes out of his brain and through mouth. Folks love truth. Folks want to be told the truth. Truth like Donald Trump's truth however, not Bernie Sanders' truth. Two different truths.

9. As we descend into New Orleans, that harbinger of acknowledgement flits through the aqueous and Vitreous humors to be baked by my noodley bits. There is something about the color of the south, the further south really, the tropics, that lets one know one's whereabouts instantly. It is, I think, the unmistakable hue cement takes on in this climate. Something warm and mildly green. I wonder if it is a fungus that creeps between the sand and stone that gives it this particular color, or maybe it just has a peculiar peaked suntan. In any event, the Big Easy has an enchanting take on the definition of tropical and accepts me as one of its own immediately. A practice I'm sure is well-worn itself.

10. It snowed in NYC and I'm stuck in NOLA. The artist I interviewed yesterday mentioned, as we sat in her half of a southern craftsman house, "You'll find the walls in New Orleans are a little thin." The hotel at which I'm living for the moment, the Old 77, has comfortable beds, thoughtful room design, good food, helpful staff and thin walls.

11. It is currently 27˚ in New York City and the surf is clean, perfect, double overhead and 42˚. I am grateful I am not in New York. Not because of the hardship of shoveling snow, but of being relieved the onus of putting on a public charade, pretending to bemoan the fact that my snowed-in car doesn't have four wheel drive which sadly precludes a paddle out. "Surphy's Law!" I'd yelp. Oh my performance would be almost believable, I just know it.

12. I can feel the skin on my face crinkling like filo dough convection-baked in the furnace of age. I look in the mirror and laugh at my once youthful pining for the world-wariness bespoken by crow's feet, those glorious wadis of wisdom etched into smooth sands, so momentarily of lacquered context, crevices turning from pebble to boulder, dry creek beds turning dead rivers then rock strewn canyons. Like the confident widow's peak of the impossibly, but ephemerally, full-haired dandy whose wave-perfect flickish mop is like a wake from the prow of a ship perfectly angled atop the face, until, drifting further and further back over time, nothing is left but a solitary dome of has-been beauty.

13. And the ass sags. Forever am I haunted by the episode of Sex and the City where the loose blonde gasps at her older lover's sagging and pock-marked bottom wagging away from their bed, realizing the affair is over then and there.

14. The approach to the city carries us directly over Long Beach with Rockaway in the distance. For the first time in 16 years, I can make out surfers in the water from the airplane window. I see the amazing contours of the sets and hope I luck into a take off but witness only paddling. Still, my belly loosens and my chest tightens and I know soon I'll be surfing those frigid waves as well.

15. Stepping off the gang-plank there are arrows each way, left and right, to the baggage claim. I ask the attractive attendant which way to go. "You can go right and catch a shuttle, which is probably running behind, or go left and walk a mile and a half." I walk a mile. Just before I call a car, a sub-continental gentleman asks to borrow my phone, getting no service himself. He needs to call someone to pick him up. I oblige and then wait five minutes while he speaks rapid fire curious language, getting caught up on what I can only assume are a vast array of familial politics. Finally I wave to him and ask him to hurry, but he thinks I'm asking for a ride from his brother as well. My sign language is apparently provincial.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Notes On A Surfing Holiday

"If I had to move away from the coast I would live in the desert," I hear myself opine while driving down long dusty avenues buffeted by verdant golfing greens and swaying palm trees. An empty statement, in retrospect. I technically live on the coast by dint of the fact that I live on an island, but that's just a technicality. In reality, I live in a city far away from the surf. I could probably live in the desert, a couple hours from a surf spot and surf more than I do now. The qualitative differences of living by a coast in a city and partaking of the coast in a desert is so stark as to call into question the whole definition of coastal. This reality hit me square between the eyes while visiting my mother in the desert for the first part of our holidays.

"Coffee people." That's the voice I hear inside her head when she thinks of us. "Oh, they're coffee people." My mother doesn't drink coffee. Or tea. She does drink nonfat decaf vanilla iced lattes, which I don't think anyone can refer to as coffee. Even non coffee people. That's more like vanilla flavored iced milk with a hint of bitter, once the slightly melted thing is delivered. And she sends us Starbucks gift cards for Christmas every year which makes me think she must really like those lattes quite a bit.

They call the day after Christmas "Boxing Day" in the Commonwealth. It is the day the Rich English give boxes full of the cruddy stuff they got for Christmas for which there isn't a return receipt to the Poor English. They give to them in boxes. Ergo Boxing Day. In Palm Desert the only place to get tea or coffee early in the morning on Boxing Day is Starbucks. My mother was ecstatic for her wishy vanilla milk winking-at-coffee drink.

"Is it crowded?" she asks. This is a real stumper for me. How crowded can a Starbucks get in Palm Desert at 7 AM on Boxing Day? I can't imagine it gets crowded on any day. But metrics are different in the desert. You can drive for a few miles only seeing a few other cars. Maybe driving a mile and seeing ten cars is "traffic" here. So I answer "Yes it was packed." This satisfies her.

Basketball is the most boring game. I didn't used to feel this way. I used to love basketball. I played with avid consistency. But something happened... they moved the SuperSonics out of Seattle, I stopped watching in protest, and now, when I try to go back, I just don't have the love anymore. It's just flat boring. So how is it that the best parts of the Amy Schumer vehicle "Trainwreck" are the ones with LeBron in them? Not that Amy Schumer isn't funny. She's genuinely funny. Funnier than most. But something about LeBron. He was even funnier.

In Hawaii there seems to be one team: the Seattle Seahawks. There are so many Seahawks jerseys and t-shirts it takes me by surprise. It is equally a surprising bit of comfort. I think to myself "Hey! If I get into a little trouble, I'll just bring up that I once served Steve Largent dinner and he complimented me on keeping his water glass filled!"

Waikiki is a great place to shoot guns. If you're looking for a gun holiday, head to Waikiki, soak up some rays, peruse the boutiques, drink some mai tais and squeeze off a few rounds in one of the numerous indoor firing ranges just steps from the the beach.

The drive through the middle of Oahu to the North Shore from Honolulu is surprisingly short. Forty five minutes about. We start by visiting a little coffee shop in the Ward part of town. A Vietnamese man is behind the counter, next to his Vietnamese cousin in the kitchen. He asks us if we're tourists. He has been on the island for 15 years, by way of Chicago. I ask him why Chicago, he says "work!" The Vietnamese Coffee he makes is very very good. I order iced tea, but I openly covet my wife's Vietnamese Coffee.

Is there something magical about the North Shore? Yes. Seven Mile Miracle? Sure. I've always been intimidated by the idea of surfing on the North Shore. When I finally see it face to face, it seems entirely doable. There seems to be plenty of places to paddle out and not get in the way and get a few messy rides. It is characteristically (characteristically of all fĂȘted but truly hallowed places) modest when first experienced. "This is it? This stretch of two lane road and that bit of rock and sand?" But this is expected and I don't let the mildness of an hour spent squinting my eyes fool me. All of Hawaii has an abnormal vibe. The North Shore feels particularly charismatic.

Waimea Bay is truly beautiful.

We stop at the Kuhuku Superette per instruction. I order a plastic container full of poke. A Poke Bowl. We eat it outside Tita's walk-up under the shade of a bus stop. All four of us: woman and man and two children taking turns slurping down the alternately chewy and satin fish. We gobble at the onions and rice. Carnivorous familial bliss.

Along the way I see someone I follow on Instagram and he stops by the side of the road and we chat for a moment. It is as awkward as you might think, stopping to chat on the side of the road with someone you only know vaguely from social media. But he is generous, offering me a board to paddle out and a t-shirt souvenir. My wife rolls her eyes at me, my older son is shy, younger son squirms in the sun.

As I said, I stay no more than an hour on this liminal holy land. The humility of a husband on unexpected holiday with children in tow. Another piece of evidence in the case against my surfing bone-fides, a legal matter forever being wrangled in an esoteric court.

We play in the sand near the President of the United States. He does not throw me a shaka. I do not catch him bodysurfing. Instead, in town, I buy new flowery swim trunks that fit me snuggly. My wife says they make me look less fat than the baggy ones I had been sporting. I wonder aloud if I wore speedos if I wouldn't look slimmer still. She says she wouldn't go to the beach with me if I did that. We order another Poke Bowl from another grocery. The fish is even more slippery and we gobble with even more enthusiasm.

There is a moment during my time on Oahu when I nearly break down. It is our last day and I want to surf. There is, and there isn't, enough time. I am ready to mutiny and I nearly catapult into the sort of fit reserved for my sons. Just as I shudder into apoplexy, my age takes hold and I remember my single New Year's resolution, a one-word mantra : elegance. I accept my fate.

In fact I was able to surf a few times on this little accidental family vacation. Ala Moana all, Rockpiles and Bowls and In Betweens. Maybe Kaiser's. The spots seem to mush together in my haole mind. There is an odd south island swell happening our first two days. I luck into four foot fun. Hawaiian waves do have the push.

Just paddling out into the water in Hawaii makes you feel like a champion surfer. It doesn't matter if it's three foot (Hawaiian) semi-mush. I mean, it didn't feel like mush to me, the wave jacking up for a fun moment then lining up for a mini stand up wall before closing out into the next reef. But to a Hawaiian surfer it was probably junk and I felt like a champ.

My son paddles out for a couple sessions. He does not let me help him. He paddles well and knows what he's doing. He still lacks the voracious appetite for surfing. Even after all we've been through, after all he's seen. He still decides whether he will paddle out. The calm, safe confines of the hotel pool still hold strong appeal. I wonder what surfing will become for him. I wonder if he will do to me what I did to my father with skiing. I can see it. But my father had three children and one of them still skis, perhaps saving for me a bit of acceptance in the old man's heart. Perhaps I should be more grateful to that brother. And to tell the truth, I adore my first son so intensely, I worry he can do no wrong in my eyes. Please do not let him know, who needs that headache?

On my last wave of my last session I lose my board and swim to retrieve it. I forget how shallow the reef is and my hand brushes an urchin leaving me with spiny black needles sticking out of my left middle finger. When I return my board to the shop, a real live son of a real Waikiki beach boy is hanging around the shop unnerving the demure Japanese expat shopgirl standing uneasily behind the counter. He is talking story to her and she is nodding her head and approving nervously. He has clear light eyes and the sharp features of waterman. I ask him about my urchin pins and he says "Pee on it! Something about your pee drives the urchin out. If you don't they live in there. They're living and will grow inside you." The intensity of his gaze makes me stick around for a while to talk to him about his fathers and grandfathers. He tells me about earning his first board by riding it in without falling off on his first try. Eventually, his intensity drives me away.

I pee on my finger religiously. Still.

We buy macadamia nuts. We drink POG. We hold our breath under water. We do not get sunburnt. I try the hotel's various versions of mai tais but end up preferring the local beer. Our last night, an asian man gets so drunk in the room next door, a friend has to come and get him bleating out in that curious asian-man-drunk-tenor. I've only heard that sound in the movies. But now I've heard it in real life. It is at turns fascinating, comical and deeply annoying. That last turn being the thing one is left holding.

In Carlsbad, I pull out a real board. By real, I mean a hard one, not a softtop. But I also pull out a softtop. I strap both to the top of the Nissan Pea economical rental car and surf Cardiff Reef and Swami's. On the softtop. I don't know if I can go back to a real board. My degenerated ankle is so grateful for the squish. My degenerated ego is so grateful for the reduced expectations. The waves are small, clean. The water is so clear I feel like I'm back on Waikiki. Where the water was actually not so clear. But such is the magical mnemonic spell Hawaii must conjure.

I have a hard time watching movies on plane rides. It feels better to read. But every time I scan the movie list on the seat-back video station for a Japanese movie about a single lady living a solitary, nearly monastic life and the goodness she spreads around her while she struggles with a hidden inner torment. This is a real genre in Japanese filmmaking I've noticed and if I'm lucky, I happen upon one. In the last six months I've watched two films about older single ladies with coffee roasters perched on cliffs overlooking the sea and a film about a single lady who makes beautiful dresses but refuse to mass produce them despite the attentions of a young handsome suitor who works for a department store. These types of films hold my attention just fine.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Tuesday, January 12, 2016


Ok, this is an older poster from the original issue in 2012, but holy cow am I excited for the re-up.
Mick is an artist to the core, surrounded by artists-to-the-core. I am looking forward to this in so many ways. Make sure you get tickets. Make sure you come.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Respect. Respect.

Forever overcoming the mediocrity of cultural expectation. Thank you.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Monday, January 4, 2016

Paddle with Jianca!

We here at the Endless Bummer Surf Blog about Not Surfing are big fans of Jianca Lazaraus.
Fans of her infectious energy, wit and photography. We were proud to host her show at the Picture Farm Gallery last year and we are stoked to see her turn her attentions to filmmaking. This sort of thing just hits an obvious sweet spot.


One of the men who made us.
And one of the more recent grandchildren.