Baldy the Cabin Boy
Here’s a photo of my brother Carter in bed with a man. Look, they’re practically spooning, haha. Wait, that’s my bed. Wait, that’s me. Wait ,that’s kinda sick…. well at least I’m the outside spoon.
I remember when I used to torture him, nothing too bad, regular big brother stuff (he sucked his thumb till he was 24). It made him tough and looking at him now, (he’s bigger than me) I’m proud (and I don’t tease him anymore because he’s sort of a jock). Carter’s all grown up; he’s got a girlfriend, a garden and a job, which is more, on all accounts, than I can say for myself. But little brothers are always copying you, it never ends, and in that tradition he’s ditching his lady, life and landlord (for 3 weeks) and coming for a ride in the van. We’re gonna drive around, look for waves, see stuff, eat stuff and dabble in some good old fashioned sibling rivalry. Here’s a list of what he better bring (for me):
Hatchet (the one I gave you for Christmas that has a saw for cutting down trees built into the handle. It’s pretty sweet, maybe the best gift ever.)
A copy of Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
40 Packets of Mayonaise
Latest Issues of SNOWBOARDER, Surfer, Surfing, Skateboarder and Surfers Journal (T Bird)
A very detailed map of Morocco
(note: my mother is coming too, for the first week. I estimate Carter will employ her with allocating most of these items, typical.)
What it’s like to live in a van.
More specifically: What it’s like to live in a van by yourself in a foreign country on a budget. It’s like heaven, sort of. It’s like your top priority of the day is finding level ground. It’s like wondering if the parking lot you’ve decided to settle in for the night is a meeting place for homosexuals. It’s like you really hope it doesn’t rain. It’s like you wouldn’t really mind if it rained. It’s like being from another planet and when you hear the dialect of your planet (English) you can’t shut up. It’s like “god damn it, is 8:27 too early to go to bed?” It’s like a lesson in humility; when you open the door in the morning and people are there walking their dog and you’re pulling your pants on and their making conclusions about you. It’s also like an inside joke at these moments, like these squares are so stuck in their routine they don’t know what they’re missing. It’s like wondering if you locked the doors. It’s like not wanting to get up and take a piss in the middle of the night. It’s like “yeah, I can sleep here”. It’s like “BOOYAH!” It’s like you don’t have to drive there in the morning, cause you live there. It’s like you’re really sick of the music on your iPod. It’s like you might die without your iPod. It’s like wondering if it would be wrong to poison the ducks in that pond that won’t shut up. It’s like “are these berries edible?” It’s like “those berries don’t taste very good.” It’s like you’ve worn the same t shirt for the last nine days. It’s like a great place for a nap. It’s like biding your time. It’s like skinny dipping. It’s like sometimes people see you, make eye contact and they just don’t smile back. It’s like there could always be more cup holders. It’s like “why not” is the answer to every question you pose yourself. It’s like the smell in here.
It’s exactly like this pot of penne with half a jar of day old “Pesto Noix et Ricotta” mixed into it, precisely the same dinner I made last night and had to use the rest of before it turned rotten. To those that walk by and frown at my setup the penne probably doesn’t look so good. To those that aren’t crusty old robots it’s a meal I made myself after a day driving around a new country seeing new stuff.
The French won’t take credit for most of their greatest accomplishments; French Fries, French Toast, The French Tickler, French Doors, French Kissing etc. What they are passionate about is their bread. I eat a loaf a day smeared or paired with whatever is available. There was a bakery across from our highschool in Providence, Rhode Island, that made a great baguette. My Dad was fanatical about them. Some days taking the city bus home I’d grab a loaf for an after school snack. It was impossible to keep from eating some of it on the bus and friends would ask for some, but I wouldn’t share. Then when I got home I’d add butter and it was alright.
There isn’t much to compare a French Baguette to in American life. It’s what you’ll see under the arms of one and all as they are scatter between home and work. There will be a loaf waiting on the bar while a patron has a quick coffee or beer before heading to occupation or family. Stateside, nothing we all buy on daily basis has this much routine. Some have their morning or afternoon vices that could be regarded the same way, but nothing we all stop for. If the Patisserie’s and their baguettes vanished the French would wonder the narrow streets bumping into each other looking up, down and sideways for their bread.
Cheap and Good
Best when still warm. Goes stale like real fast.>
Oh the perilous fate of a vessel and her crew! Morning coffee and cigarette ingested. Minutes stretch to hours, hours to days, days to weeks, weeks to months scouring this wretched beautiful earth in the hunt. Weathered hands grip anxiously upon the helm. Jaw set. Bloodshot eyes blink away the salt, sand and dirt as landscapes flow by infinitely. But nay! It was not in our fortune on this morn, regardless of coffee and cigarette ingested. Ah, thy cursed destiny and your erratic ways! Whoa! but the road is a merciless wench at times!
Avast! Under a brow so set in despair, there not 40 fathoms off our bearing, breaking the horizon now is the unmistakable signature of our foe; the international sign for a public restroom, blue and white figures of man and women.
“There she blows!” comes the call from the lookout perched at the bow hand on the dash, face against dirty insect graveyard glass.
Henceforth pressure is reduced from the accelerator and indicator of intent to change lanes is engaged as we prepare to quickly change course in pursuit.
“Keep cool, keep cool my girl, hold tight your jumpy bowels thy self, keep cool, but start her, start pistons, start like the thunderclap of a squall over great Nebraska! Think of yon sterling porcelain. Start her easy. Only start her like the grim death and grinning devils, and raise the buried dead perpendicular our of their graves crew- that’s all. Start her! But keep cool.” Come the words from our captain as we engage pursuit. Words spoken slowly to motivate, but he regulates his emotion. His passion and his eager breath are controlled. A passion for the restroom he knows to exist. A passion akin to the bloodlust of a starving wolfpack. That, and he has to shit.
Within seconds the exit ramp is embarked upon and ere long we are fast to a path directing our wee vessel directly to the bosom of the freeway rest area. But lo are the lines of travelers that populate a rest area on a hazy Thursday morn! And lo is the cleanliness of the facilities! And lo is the supply of toilet tissue! And lo are the squat toilets, of all things still dotting this civil countryside! And lo is the toilet that requires cash forthright to enter and use. Alas, this shant be the day for us crew. Nay, we shall take the mens room and reap all possible benefits of her. But nay! Nay she won’t bear the rewards we seek, ours quest is of a deeper yearning. One inspired by a madness known only to a road warrior whose craft is absent of indoor plumbing. Notorious to the pavement hound who has indulged in the sweet purity that can be had on the thrones of far off exotic lands. Thus our crew is bound, tied to the knowledge; to follow the tales of other such travelers, follow our own intuition, never satisfied, from McDonalds, to Rest Area, to Tourism Offices, to behind yon bush. Never satisfied. Each day salvation and further torture found in the same instant. As to be given water when only rum will quench. Knowing not what lies beyond yon furthest hill, but also knowing what may. Oh the perilous fate!
(I’m reading Moby Dick ((still)). The preceding is inspired by ((and slightly cut from)) Melville’s wondrous language and use of exclamation marks and by my life behind a wheel in search of excellence in a public toilet. Ahab hunted in vengeance of the white whale that took his leg. I hunt in lust for a perfection once found atop a sea cliff in Baja Mexico. )>
It started with my learning something about being American. To the ever common, ever annoying “you are from?” query from sidewalk salesmen, being American meant I had money. Negotiable prices for goods and services quickly doubled in Indonesia, Thailand and Sri Lanka. When I replied that I was Mexican would-be-peddlers were stumped. So I stuck with it and was the first Mexican many people had ever met. The edited sticker came with my sweet, sweet van and used to bear the letter “D” for Deutschland, as in Germany. In keeping with my hopes for anonymity (or confusion) I converted the “D” into a “MEX”. Nothing against Germany, but there are already plenty of them visiting small towns throughout France. My license plates don’t place me, by being Mexican I hope to throw off any stereotypes and not raise eyebrows of officials high enough to warrant being pulled over. Nothing against America either, I love and greatly miss my home, but in the eyes of the rest of the world we ain’t so great. I like Mexico, love their food, they’re still part of North America and way cooler than Canada. I think being a Mexican in Europe will be fun.
Listen to Johnny Cash “All I Do Is Drive”: “I got nothing in common with any man who’s home every day at five”. Actually all I do isn’t drive, that would be phenomenally expensive. The Adiposen Meerjungfrau is a petrol guzzler, so I try to drive only with the direct intent of a new destination or to town for bread and provisions. Nevertheless, this is an update on the state of driving in the country of France. First off I’d like to note that we’re not stalling very much anymore, sometimes whole days go by in which we won’t stall out, but it still happens occasionally when the pressure is on. It attracts attention and makes me perspire. Another attribute of The Adiposen Meerjungfrau that draws some eyeballs is the general presense she impresses upon bystanders. First they’ll hear her throaty exhaust system as I roll through their quant little town. Were she a Dodge Charger her vocals would probably enable me to pick up chicks outside the local high school, but she’s a blue van so I’d probably only be arrested or deported. After hearing her, French residents, frowns already forming, will then notice the blue, green and purple grill and front bumper coming towards them. They’ll check the license plate; it’s an export plate from Germany and means almost nothing to anybody outside of Germany, so where they would be able to conclude something about our origin they are left blank. Finally, they’ll see me, the captain of the vessel, squinty eyed, head swinging wildly from side to side, curses bubbling from my lips as I search for a sign to reassure my route. At this point they’ve judged us. I try to smile and wave on any pedestrians who might want to cross our path, but they’re verdict is set. We try not to let their opinions get to us and I whisper sweet nothings to her in an effort to lighten her spirits.
As far as the actual driving; the roads are very nice. Small town squares giveway to open asphalt, rolling hills and fields that could be involved in some sort of agriculture, then another town square. In an average hour putting through France we’ll encounter 40 roundabouts (rotaries), half of which we’ll go around twice confusing the hell out of all other motorists. This figure would be smaller if we travelled by freeway, but the freeway toll fees are obscene. We stick to single lanes, passing tractors and being passed by most other vehicles headed in the the direction we’re going; usually south or west. There are plenty of rules that I don’t understand and regularly ignore, but thanks to the mysterious license plates, officials as of yet have presumed us more of a hassle than we’re worth. We take that as a compliment.
Note: This is pure rant. I started thinking/writing in Sri Lanka and then restarted in Berlin. Now I’m in France and mostly sticking to small towns that are made of brick and stone and would look stupid if you painted them turquoise (or would they?). Anyway figured I’d publish this now because it’s becoming irrelevant, maybe Spain, Portugal or Morocco (probably) will re-inspire and I can revisit. At the very least seeing all the different takes on what to do with a wall are nice and make your eyes work in new ways.
A vibrant pink house in the middle of a small dusty village. A snack-shack built out of scrap wood painted bright green. It occurred to me in Sri Lanka that these colors choices could be due to a sale at the “hardware store”. But that’s not the root of it. Sri Lanka didn’t have rules, mostly because it’s a poor country dealing with a civil war and poverty. You could do more or less whatever you wanted. This mentality is adopted visually and it is present in every facet of life: tablecloths, bedsheets, chairs, advertising, packaging, boats. Oddly bycycles and tuks tuks are left bland while buses and trucks are color blasted to the utmost.
I anticipated Germany to be drab, strict and flovorless. It’s not. Berlin isn’t. I knew there would be an abundance of street art, there is, adding life and vandalism to what would have been some beautiful 18th century european apartment buildings. But for every grey or beige there’s a bright blue or orange standing six stories high. Berlin is sooooo much freer than anywhere I’ve lived or visited in America. Dogs walk themselves, beers wherever you want (yet not abused), bikes, skateboards, cars, pedestrians share the roads and sidewalks without blaring horns.
I want to compare America to all of this, but really I’ve spent the majority of my last years in Southern California and mountain towns, so that doesn’t give me the credibility. So i’ll leave it at So Cal. It seems with all our growth, housing crisis and conservatism (the OC) we’ve missed this. San Francisco has it, San Fransico is a freakin rainbow. Color and it being part of your everyday seem to seep into the people and the atmosphere.
A lot can be taken from a place and the people if they take what they have and throw some wild flavor at it. It could stay bland, but why? These places are the ones that are doing things and have creative minds at the helm, either above ground or below. It seems the motivation has deserted the conservatism and is rallying in the places that inspire.
More to come. Thoughts in progress. Should have gone to Freetown.>
A Grandmother in Paris
I basically ambushed (fambushed) my two aunts, uncle and Nana in Paris for 3 days. My Nana having just celebrated her 90th birthday made the trip to London and Paris for her first time. Of course having heard that family would be nearby and that they had a washer/dryer in their apartment, decided Paris was my next stop. I couldn’t figure out how to use the washer/dryer, but we exhausted ourselves exploring the must see’s of Paris and then I further exhausted myself on the nightlife with friends in the wee hours of the night. It was fast, beautiful, delicious and fun. The family members who usually only get small doses of me over holidays now know me a bit better, and I them. Hopefully they don’t think I’m an idiot.
NO FAT CHICKS
This is how to build a bed for your new/old van.
Candy (pick yer poison)
First things first; euro’s use the metric system so any building experience or know how is irrelevant here, forget what you thought you knew. You’re building a platform to sleep on with space under it to store stuff. It doesn’t have to be pretty it just has to support you and your stuff. I took the premise that i could sleep on or under most tables, so building my platform as a simple table would be easy. Also I was working without the benefit of any tools (self excluded) and trying to spend as little money as possible.
Step one: Pick a large scale hardware/do it yourself store, like a home depot. You need somewhere that will cut your plywood for you and not bitch about it. When you arrive find a parking spot in a secluded area of the lot where you can work. Go in, buy some candy and a tape measure. Measure your van and deciefer how big (tall, wide, high) you want your platform. If your van isn’t yet carpeted in the back do that now.
Step two: With your measurements go get your wood. Thick plywood is good for the top and one long fat poorly milled (4x4esq) timber for the legs. Also get a hammer and some nails similar to framing spikes. They didn’t have plywood in the width i was looking for so i went with the widest they had, this actually worked to my advantage because otherwise it would not have fit into my van.
Step three: Head out to the lot, empty out your van to the dismay of homeowner’s buying new wallpaper and eat the rest of your candy.
Step four: Build that shit. I used three nails for each leg, in a triangle formation (that’s engineering bitches) and I sunk them only half way until after I had put the platform in my van. Then I put all my stuff back in my van and finished hammering.
Step five: Find a used furniture store. I couldn’t find one so I ended up shopping around for the cheapest mattress available. It concluded with with a mattress meant for a bunk bead that was about 20cm short of the width of my platform and two pillows meant for a couch. A bonus is that the mattress came with a built in sheet, eliminating that expense.
Step six: Bask in your manhood and take a nap.
Total expense: about 120 euro
I christen thee: The Adiposen Meerjungfrau
Named, officially. It don’t sound pretty, but neither does she.
Goes real good with the food.
Pouring improperly is a damnable offence.>
Here I am: Scheveningen, The Netherlands 9.15.2011 11pm
Here I am cooking up some grub in the continent of Europe. This photo is staged. I’ve already eaten and have re-lit the flame under my pot for effect. The side effect is that it severely burned the remnants of my dinner into bottom of my pot. I’ll recreate it: Modest Mouse is playing on a small speaker set on the front seat. “Doin the cockroach yeah”. I’ve opened a can the old fashioned way, it takes about five minutes when you don’t have a real can opener, and poured it’s contents into my pot. It’s soup from a german gas staion with a label I can’t read. In europe a book that translates all languages and fits into your pocket would be very useful. It’s getting cold, I can see my breath for the first time in months. I’m glad for the cold. There’s a mostly full moon coming up over a grass dune. I’m in the parking lot of a beach with a fun left I surfed this afternoon. Wetsuit is hanging on the side mirror, it will still be wet and cold in the morning. A friend said it was one of the best days of the year. I’m comforted now by the tiredness that comes from a good day in a new place. This looked like a good spot to sleep, so I came back. A point of pride is that I didn’t stall the van once on the way here through town. My food tasted slightly better due to this accomlishment. The van; I got a van! She’s (name coming soon) a 1992 Renault Trafic that belonged to a couple from Berlin who are in a metal band. She’s royal blue and needs a bed. I do stall a lot, mostly at red lights and in traffic. Two days ago I drove for 2km with the E brake on. Whoops. We’re both gonna learn a lot from each other.
Well they botched the title. Apparently the translation of Ich Glaub’ Ich Steh’ Im Wald from German is I think I ‘Get up’ in the forest, which doesn’t have anything to do with Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Regardless, the immortal characters, theme and story resonate through cultural barriers and are as relevant as ever. I haven’t watched it yet and I’m not German, but I just spent 20 minutes watching Spicoli youtube clips and it felt pretty damn good.
If you see me walking down the street and start to smile it could be you, but it’s more likely that I‘ve just seen someone riding a Segway. My smile can’t be suppressed, it’s a warm, childish grin and it’s at the expense of the person riding the Segway. I’m not smiling with this person and it’s likely they aren’t smiling. They probably have a look on their face similar to that of a dog in the process of excreting feces. That look is somewhere in the neighborhood of mortified, a close relative of humiliation. That’s what riding a Segway does, it strips your pride. I’ve never seen anyone, anywhere, “pull off” the Segway. Those I’ve seen who thought they were pulling it off were people who, Segway or not, I wouldn’t hold in high regard, the Segway sealed their fate. Some of these people, the overly confident on their Segway type, exude too much bravado to be simple renters; they’re owners, a whole other breed of human entirely. The majority of Segway riders has been talked into Segway rental by some family member they’re under the thumb of. Most of these people feel the shame, it’s in their eyes (if they’ll make eye contact with you) and they probably won’t rent a Segway again. It’s the first café-front window they pass and the glimpse of their reflection. That’s when they become the dog. I don’t feel pity. I feel good-natured humor, and I smile. They never smile back though; they stare forward like the miserable half robot slave that they are. So it’s at their expense that I get my kicks, simple kicks. Hope it never wears off.>
Surf Action Post!!
As for me:
I’ve resisted the urge to admit it (here) and haven’t given it much credit (here), probably in lue’ of my slight denial. Now landlocked for the next few weeks, it feels like a good time to look back at what I’ve really been doing. The truth is: I’m just on an extended surf trip. Being a tourist/traveler/sight seer/soul searcher/hobo is not nearly enough to keep me moving. If I’d left without a surfboard I would have returned within two weeks. Thank God I’ve got something I love that I can’t seem to get good at and won’t get old. It gets me places, gives me something to wait for, and after that I can look around a bit if I want to. And at least I got a wicked tan. Anyway, sorry (would-be-jealous-reader) if you thought I was out here doing something important.
As previously noted: this is not an extended photography trip, so the photos aren’t going to do it justice. I remember it better. And how I’ll remember it is how I’ll remember it, in my mind, for me, not photos. These help jog the memory. Apart from what is documented I’ve surfed roughly 50 new spots in the last 7 months. Getting there, seeing them, then getting a few and smiling or cursing and failing. There’s always a coffee/tea/juice/beer or whatever fits the territory with which to celebrate or wash down the salt.
As for the photos:
I don’t use photoshop. I don’t properly line up the horizon. I do use auto focus. I do point and shoot. I do blow the shot.
Image 1: Murdering Bay, New Zealand. Stunning place. Lucky in that these were some of the best waves I’ve ever seen. Unlucky in that all I had was a beaten 3/2.
Image 2: Kiakoura, New Zealand. Very small, very fun. Didn’t get a much swell here, made the most of it, it wasn’t hard.
Image 3: Stent Road, New Zealand. Scoresville! The second go at Taranake Peninsula was probably the best surf I had on the north island. My wetsuit didn’t get an honest chance to dry during these days.
Image 4: Desert Point, Lombok. Didn’t go (into the ocean), don’t regret it. Swell had vanished in the morning. We did took the hint.
Image 5: Yoyos, Sumbawa. I think Asier made a deal with himself that he would get barreled everyday he surfed in Indo. Sometimes it required extreme contortionism to accomplish this task and he’d need verification from another pair of eyes. This day was easy. Photo-Fabienne Loral
Image 6: Yoyos, Sumbawa. Didn’t really like this wave, but we stayed for about two weeks. Photo-Fabienne Loral
Image 7: A Bay, Sri Lanka. The right hander. Always working, to some degree. Indonesia had power and hold downs that demand attention. Arugam got the same swells, but less power. Waves that pried board from hands in Indonesia were a pleasure to duck dive in Sri Lanka. As with any good wave, the word had spread and there was never a shortage of humans to ride the long right that they had flown to the tear shaped island for. The breaks surrounding A Bay were pitiful in comparison, good for beginners and fun on a longboard, but nothing to write home about. I heard plenty from the Johnny Claimers, but gave up expectations after many a morning tuk tuk ride.
Image 8: A Bay, Sri Lanka: About to get clipped. photo- Brendo
Image 9: A Bay, Sri Lanka: Brendo. photo- Amir Slaney (amirslaney.com)
Image 10: A Bay, Sri Lanka Photo: The old man. photo- Amir Slaney (amirslaney.com)
Best Spot Names Encountered (some I surfed, some I didn’t):
A Good Day:
It was somewhere in the middle of the 3 month stint in A Bay. I relate the time period there based on who I surfed with, then I can gage when it was. This day the South African brothers were scoring, Shaun had just hurt his knee, Lionel had just left, Brendo was sleeping in, the wind was mellow and it was the sabbath so the crowd (a lot of Israeli’s visit Sri Lanka for surf) was thinned significantly. I think it was the beginning of July. No photos. I hung on the second peak and got a fair share. Perfect till 2pm. Two breaks, one cup of coffee.