Thursday, November 17, 2016

This Week In Not Surfing

1. The Uber driver wears a silver set of boxing gloves around his neck. When a paunchy and balding sixty-something driving an SUV honks maniacally, nearly running the stop sign and smashing into our Prius, gesticulating wildly, our driver quietly chuckles to himself. Someone from the back seat lightly posits “I think we could take him,” and the Uber driver raises his eyebrows and says he’s pretty sure it wouldn’t be a problem. “Golden Gloves,” he flicks the dangling silver pendant. “My dad started me too early. I was fighting in the ring by the time I was eleven. By 16 I'd beaten everyone. There was no one left. I'm all about pressure points now. You can beat anyone with a pressure point. The cops don’t like it.” I reference a southern Kung Fu style, “ooh, Mantis style? That's illegal. Who taught you? I carry around a taser now. I had a guy make me a taser glove once. The cops got it. I got caught and the cop just took it, didn't even arrest me, wanted it for himself. They’ve got a device they put under the hood that will open every door and latch in your car, electric or mechanical. No joke.” No one jokes.

2. In an effort to keep my life under control I start deleting my Instagram app from my smartphone and downloading it again every time I want to post a picture. This keeps me from mindlessly flicking my thumb at any given spare moment; standing in line, in the kitchen, driving my car. It also spares me the full brunt force anger-envy that wallops me every time I see a shot of a Long Island beach break working in any fashion.

3. I travel to 45 minutes north of Austin, Texas to make a film about a dog. As most things concerning dogs, I learn a lot. 

4. Forgive me father for I have not surfed in weeks. I have not even seen the water, the waves, the sand, the horizon line. The problem is, your highness, that there is a problem with guilt. It’s not that one should not feel guilty, guilt can be an incredibly useful motivator, mentor, best friend. It’s that people seem to feel guilty at all the wrong times.

5. I am often asked how I like my eggs. It is a standard question. At 5:45 in the morning I walk into a fancy restaurant in an airport and ask to be seated at a table with four seats in front of a T.V. showing a rerun of a women’s international soccer game and even though the restaurant is empty, the hostess states she will only seat me at a table for two far away from the T.V. I leave without telling her how I want my eggs. The fact is I almost never know how I want my eggs until the last minute. It can take a slightly embarrassing amount of time to decide, and at the last minute, the waiter tapping his toe, this can be awkward.

6. I stop surfing altogether and am now simply a father in a city. And surfing, the normal kind of surfing, the kind of surfing I still see in magazines, is not part of my normal life. I like being a father though. I like my kids.

7. I would like people to stop using the word ‘just’ around me. Cut that crap out. “Can you just…” “It’s just that…” “Why can’t you just…” “I just feel…” It’s ridiculous. If you can’t figure out why I feel this way, well then you’re just dense.

8. I turn 42 years old and fail to re-elect a slim sliver version of status quo laced with stubborn hope. The actual result feels like a new, scary reality, a dawning of a new, scary era, but in reality it is the dusk of an old scary era. Had I elected the other one, the one I had wanted to elect, it would have simply prolonged a charade. I face a reality. There is the garden variety misogyny, racism, tribalism and strains of ignorance communally tended to in varied states of ignorance and delusion. But I am now firmly in the opposition and I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be opposing.

9. People are asking where we went wrong. Some people say it started with the loss of Glass-Steagell or with Bush V. Gore or with the failure of school desegregation. Some people think it is faulty polling, identity politics or disconnected rhetoric. I personally see a significant correlation with the disappearance of video rental shops.

10. Leonard Cohen died this past week. A long time ago he introduced part of me to the rest of me. For that I am grateful.

11. On the plane to California I watch Ferien “... a prospective district attorney takes her father’s advice to get some rest and relaxation and heads to an island - where she makes friends with a series of strange inhabitants (German with English subtitles.)

12. I try, when able, when not traveling with my children, to wear a suit when I fly. I have a few suits. A very expensive one, which is also the most non-traditional, making it the hardest to find a moment to wear. A cheap ready made black one that I had tailored to fit my oddly shaped body and is worn with a very narrow tie and a white shirt with a collar that is just slightly too large. A medium-dark blue cotton one that I bought at a fancy store in downtown LA and I imagine makes me look slim. And a light blue summery suit that I have worn only once, to Antonio's wedding. On this flight I wear the third suit with a light blue, very thin cotton oxford that opens between the buttons in an embarrassing way that exposes my belly button. But I feel like people treat me well because I am in a suit. Everyone except the people who naturally distrust people who wear suits.

13. I visit Jef and Joce, my French friends who are reopening the mythical, legendary, iconic Brooklyn bar Zebulon in the Los Angeles neighborhood called Frog Town. These two men make me smile, they make me happy, but mostly they make me squirmy. Their massive authenticity and pride, the very apotheosis of manliness sometimes a shade too overwhelming for me. I nod and titter and try to understand everything they say through their shruggingly manly French accents. When all is going badly and I think I may fail, I dream that perhaps after it all I will just move to L.A. and bartend at Zebulon and not surf there either.

14. I visit my mother who has voted for Trump. She had not voted for two presidential elections and then decides to vote for Trump. I ask her incredulously, I say, "you could have voted for McCain, for Romney, for Obama... why did you come out of political retirement to vote ... for Trump?" She coughs a little cough and waves her hands with fingers pleading, "you don't understand, how could you understand? You're not my age! I had to live through Bill Clinton and that, that cigar! I had to bring up my children, trying to explain to them about that Lewinsky girl! I cannot have another Clinton in office." I nod and understand better. Ok, so that left a mark on you, having to explain to your kids about that sort of thing. It really scarred you. A full 24 hours later, sitting in a hotel room bathtub I realize that I, her youngest son, was already a year married and working as a television cameraman in San Francisco when the Lewinsky scandal broke.

15. I text my friend Jamie to see if he'll be in the vicinity while I'm in California. But he'll be in New Smyrna, Florida. I text back, "you know what they say about New Smyrna." "What?" he replies. "A real upgrade!"


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