Tuesday, July 12, 2016

This Week in Not Surfing

1. On Fatherhood:
I take my son surfing early in the morning. While I put on my wetsuit he runs off to the dune beneath the lifeguard chair. I paddle around in two foot mush for a bit, trying to make myself feel like I'm doing something important, diligent. He digs holes in, and roles down, the sandy slope. I watch him butt flop and it knocks the air out of him. Later he waves to me and I paddle in. We swim together for ten minutes or so, and he declines a trip on the board. Raising a kid to surf, I'm sure, is easy in some places. I'm sure it's easy with some kids. But not this kid. He has a mild distrust of the water. Maybe of me in the water. We'll see if and when the thing takes hold.

2. On Being an Older Surfer:
I am at a crossroads in life. I'm now over forty years old and I've worked hard enough for long enough and have been lucky enough to be where I'm at. I'm far mellower than I was even three years ago. I'm working on getting mellower still. But my patience is starting to run thin. I lose my temper with decisions I consider dogmatism based on aesthetics instead of a pragmatism based on joy. I find morality a tiring concept to unpack. I am becoming more aware of my frailties and my shortcomings. I often find myself thinking I've reached the judicious level of my incompetence. But certain prerogatives of my youth hold on. I have a fascination with being outstandingly mediocre as a surfer. I've been at it so long that I am starting to consider myself the Serena Williams or Tim Duncan of outstandingly mediocre surfers. I mean, really, really, doggedly mediocre. There was a time that I'd only ride longboards. And then I'd only ride longboards that came from the trash or that someone gave me or would cost less than a hundred dollars. As those sorts of finds became less likely thanks to the explosion of surf popularity (find me a useful hundred dollar longboard now) I started widening the possible quiver to crappy old 70s single fins or 90s fun shapes. The more unwieldy, the more patently cruddy the shape, the yellower the sun damage, the more bulbous the delam... these were under my feet. And only under my feet every now and then. Because I undertook a strict regimen of not surfing. Of putting career and creative life and urban partying ahead of paddling out. The odd masochistic shock of shame and and internal recrimination somehow became a habit forming burst of anti-dopamine. Initially ignorant of my discipline, I covertly coveted the missed opportunities. I think. Actually it's all a bit of a blur, life. But the only way I can justify or qualify all the time I've spent getting steadily worse at surfing is to give it a kind of workmanlike mythos. Even now, I've spent the last three years sorting out how to look like a twerp on a soft top. I've started riding soft tops as twin fins, with no fins, in bigger waves, on perfect days. It's that old habit of shooting myself in the foot, of giving myself the finger. But I'm older now, maybe less inclined to follow my own rules. I hope.

3. On The Shit That's Been Happening for a Long Time
While I may have failed my education, my education has not failed me. And I know that the only hope is a change in the system. It isn't about the police culture, though that's part of it. It's not about gun control, though that's part of it too. It's about a systemic readjustment of priorities based on critical thinking and shared definitions. It's about managing a capitalist system that offers what capitalist systems ultimately should: continued equal opportunity. It's about racism and classism and old men and fear and willful stupidity and holding onto ignorance as a central tenet of life.

4. On Relationship
Two close cousins from the same bad habit family tree: The Doomed Loner and the Perpetual Martyr.

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