Tuesday, March 28, 2006
It is hard to put into words the amount of inspiration I feel every time Jimmy and Emily come to town. I've known these guys since they were playing brightly-lit coffee shops in Santa Monica and driving a beat up minivan to work, where they spent their days in a QA dungeon, painstakingly checking the sound quality of thousands of songs that would be distributed by an internet music company.
I've always admired their music and wondered if the rest of the world would feel the same way. Emily is a true poet, constantly creating and questioning. We went to Coachella together one year, determined to sneak into the VIP tent. Once there, while Jimmy and I sucked down margaritas and talked shit, Emily sat quietly, jotting lyrics in a sketchbook she carried with her.
Jimmy is a prolific musician who lives life as passionately as he plays guitar and trumpet. He emailed me before he got to Portland on Sunday night: "We're in town until 6am... dangerous." And it was. After their gig, our reunion was a blur of beer, bourbon and bear hugs, punctuated by shots of tequila and sloppy karaoke. At one point, Jimmy put his arm around me and said, "We're selling out this tour." I'm sure I shot him a strange look, so he clarified: "We sold out the Filmore last night!"
Metric will never sell out. I remembered Palm Springs again, when Emily told me that they turned down a chance to license their music to a Power Puff Girls cartoon. It was at a time when they clearly could have used the money, but instead kept their integrity in check.
I wished I was as dedicated to art as they were. I wished I could go see them fulfill their dream of actually playing Coachella this year. I'm sure my thoughts were slurring by this point. Then, almost instantly, the inspiration I felt was replaced by another sensation, something that I hadn't felt since college. Forcing a bottle of water into my hand, my wife guided me out of the tour bus (how had I gotten there?) into the car, and back home where I vomited.
Metric "Too Little Too Late"
Portland concert photos: email@example.com
The rumors are true. Saturday we held a surf contest in honor of Gee, my surf comrade, who was turning 30 years old. The location was dependent upon the elements, so we spent the night at a beach house in Northern Oregon and got up early to scout out a good spot--or a spot that at least had rideable waves. The horn for the big heat was to sound at 9:00 AM, so we had to make the call with very limited information. We drove 40 minutes south of O to check out the pipe and PC, neither of which looked as good as the surf right outside our window when we woke up. Running into the other invitees along the way, Slim and Nash, we made the call to head back to the beach break at O.
The whole thing was a big piss-take really, since none of us are all that accomplished at surfing, so we came up with some funny categories the contest would be judged upon: Best Wipeout, Longest Ride, Bigget Wave, Best Picture, Smallest Wave, and the coup de gras: Best Tube Ride. Yeah.
The best part of the whole thing is that we had a videographer taping the contest, meaning that we could review any points of contention later, over cheap beers.
Slim was the first guy out and the first man to catch a decent wave, leading the way for the rest of the guys: myself, Nash, Gee, and Onespeed (OS). Then, OS caught a really long wave on his Stewart longboard that I was sure would clench the Longest Ride prize.
The highlight of my session was when a well-shaped peak rolled in and I was sitting next to Slim. It looked like it would A-frame, so I asked which way he was going. "Right!" he yelled, so I took off left. It was a great wave that actually gave me a chance to crouch in the pocket and drag my fingers in the face. I felt a little spray feather over my head and thought, "Best tube ride?" Not. But the wave went on a long time and allowed for some nice turns. When I finally made it back out to the lineup, Slim, who had missed the right, said, "That one is going to have to be reviewed." I told him that he shouldn't have said he was going right.
After a couple hours, the waves got blown out and we had to head back to the city anyway to prepare for the rest of Gee's birthday activities. If it were up to me, the contest results would be as follows:
Best Wipeout - Gee
Longest Ride - OS
Biggest Wave - Slim
Best Picture - (TBD upon video review)
Smallest Wave - Nash
Tube Ride - Not Applicable (although I got a little spray cover!)
I'm hoping to get a chance to check out the video soon, and when I do, I'll get some screen grabs for Sissyfish!
Yo La Tengo "Beach Party Tonight"
Monday, March 20, 2006
When I was in art school, my painting teacher and mentor--a guy who recreated bowls of fruit with three-haired brushes--gave the class some unexpected advice. He seemed grumpy as he looked at a studio filled with bleary-eyed undergrads. "You guys are artists," he growled, staring down a frat boy who had invited two of his "brothers" to our lifedrawing class a few days before to check out the nude model. "You should be living and breathing art. You should look like artists. Wear a fucking beret around campus if you have to. Be proud and express yourself whenever you can."
I'll never forget that speech. It came completely out of left field, between how to create depth with line weight and the importance of negative space, but it's something that I draw from more often in my daily life than most of his other lessons (as you can probably tell from my drawings).
A few weeks ago, I was having a conversation with a guy who has devoted most his life to the outdoor apparel industry. Both being surfers, we started talking about surfwear. I said that I don't even want to look like a surfer if it means wearing baggy, pseudo-punk printed trunks, logo plastered t-shirts and pink trucker hats. We both agreed that defining yourself by what brands consider "lifestyle" is completely ridiculous.
Later that day, I was thinking about how surfers have always embodied a bohemian lifestyle that clothing brands have worked hard to capitalize on, but have never really gotten right. How could they? Thinking about Mickey Dora showing up to play tennis against Mike Doyle in Beverly Hills wearing a Nazi trenchcoat, Da Bull in his unlaced jailbird-striped trunks, skaters with massive armpit holes cut out of their shirts, graffiti artists with bandana/masks around their necks, John Peck's natty beard ("shaving is inhumane!"), Mickey Munoz's half-beard, Brad Gerlach going cowboy in the '80s, even Donavan Frankenreiter's bell-bottoms, it became obvious that there was something surf brands could never package. It goes without saying, but it's mojo, attitude, individual style, or whatever you want to call it.
And if you want to see real freaks, combine surfers and artists. Then put them in Portland, the land of the weird, far from the strip malls of SoCal.
Joggers "We've Been Talked Down"
Alternate title: "Beer and Bloating by the Sea."
It was Friday night and in a stroke of good luck that can only be attributed to the smile St Patrick himself, my wife gave me the green light to spend the weekend at the beach.
Gee and I checked the Seaside Cove immediately when we arrived and finding it blown to smithereens, made our way to our $38-per-night room at "The Mariner Motel." When we checked in, I asked the man behind the desk what was happening in town for St. Patty's day. He did what I thought was a pretty sad impersonation of a drunken Irishman: "Oh, there'll be a-plenty of shinanigans goin' down on Broadway, eh!"
"Oh, you even have the accent. Nice," I said, taking the room key.
"So you're in town for the surfin', EH?" he replied. His accent actually was sounding more Canadian, or maybe it was a speech impediment... Oops. Feeling embarassed, I said that we were indeed here to surf and that we might see him on Broadway later. With that, we went to our room, opened the windows to let some of the hookery meth must out, cracked a couple Guinnesses, and watched the NCAA Tournament.
We started our St. Patrick's prowl on Broadway at a windowless wood-walled bar called "The Bridge Tender." It was actually located on a bridge that crossed the river that runs through Seaside, thus the name. Inside, the smoke was as thick as Frisco fog in the summertime. We pulled up to the bar and ordered a couple Buds in festive green metallic bottles. They were $1.50 each. An alcoholic couple to our right gave us the lowdown on the town's finer drinking establishments. The list of places to drown your sorrows sounded kind of like surf spots, all ending in "s": Dooger's, Pudgy's, Girtle's, and Sam's (where the old guy insisted that Lucky Lagers were 75 cents and the waitresses had big knockers, to which I replied that we would enjoy, since we were members of the big titty committee. He had never heard that one, and laughed for about 15 minutes.)
Where am I going with this? Needless to say, we hit all of the "s" ending bars above (and one that didn't end with s, where a Van Halen/GNR cover band was playing) and found ourselves riding around in the back of some guy's VW van to get food at "Muchos Gracias" taco stand at 3:30. It was closed. The van kept stalling and things were feeling a little sharky, so we bailed out at a 24-hour gas station mini market and walked back to our humble crack hovel to get some shut-eye. This was going to wreak havoc on our dawn patrol.
Woke up at 8:00. Rousted Gee, who wondered out loud how his pant legs had gotten soaked up to the knees. I vaguely remembered the smell of pot smoke and his charging down the beach toward the waterline.
Neither of us brought tooth brushes.
We checked the cove first. The waves were smallish and red. Nobody was surfing. I guess it was a red tide, which I'd never seen before. We hit about four more spots before settling on Short Sands, and it ended up being the right decision. We surfed there for about five hours, subsisting on only coffee, a bagel, a stick of string cheese, and a hard boiled egg.
O.S. met us at Shorties and we did the cycle, riding waves in and taking the rip back out to the break. It was a nature cruise that we dubbed "The A-Train." You could just sit on your board and examine the passing rock formations, starfish, sea pines leaning 100 feet over the ocean with their roots exposed, all the time humming the Billy Strayhorn jazz standard. And when you got to the little duck bobbing and diving in the lineup, you paddled out of the rip. It was a good day.
O.S. got to the parking lot and realized that he had left his lights on. Dead battery. After 30 minutes, we found someone with cables. Ate dinner in the lounge of Ye Olde Steakhouse in Cannon Beach. When we got back to Seaside, the city's power was out. It remained that way for 3 hours, so we drove north of town and discovered a bowling alley. I came out of the gate and rolled a turkey (3 strikes in a row). I thought I actually had a chance for a 200 game, but only ended up with 170. Alas. Halfway through the game, the lights went out - but it was for "Cosmic Bowling." The place filled up with high school kids who ran around and made out under the black lights. It was pretty entertaining. We got back to Seaside at 11:30 and the power was back on.
Sunday morning. Sore arms. We found the cove looking pretty good. We did the rock-walk out to the break and carefully launched ourselves from the slippery boulders into the rip. This is the first day that my 6'2" McCoy actually showed some potential. The waves were powerful and brown, about shoulder high with head high sets. I found it really easy to drop in and once up, the board was a bullet. We surfed for about an hour-and-a-half before the conditions dropped. I promised my wife I would be home for tennis in the morning, anyway. The sun shined all weekend and my lips were burned when I got home. Could it actually be springtime?
Pogues "Dirty Old Town"
Duke Ellington "Take the A-Train"
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
This is a sketch I did for the cover of an Oregon surf 'zine that Gee and I came up with on a ride to and from the coast. Yes, that's where my screen name came from. We basically had the whole first issue figured out, from an "Ask the Crusty Local" department to bikinis modeled by Suicide Girls wearing Sorel boots and ski masks. It was gonna be perfect. Instead, I started this blog and the 'zine got shelved. I still have the original service station receipt that I wrote all of our ideas on the back of during our first impromptu editorial staff meeting. I'd post it here, but, you know, they were some damn good ideas...
Modest Mouse "Gray Ice Water"
I have never been tubed. I've tried a handful of times but basically got drilled and never saw an exit. I kept my eyes open on a few of those rare occasions and contrary to the "green room" analogy, saw only white. It looked like I was inside a white bubble with vertical lines running through it. For a second anyway... Then it was just boom.
ELO "Livin' Thing"
This is the first drawing I did on my computer a year ago. I was just playing around with different brush effects and line styles and this wave emerged, so I put a little surfer in there. I didn't even know how to create different layers at the time, so the whole thing is on one, meaning none of the colors or marks can be removed easily. Kind of like a jazz take... or maybe not.
Thelonius Monk "Round Midnight"
Monday, March 13, 2006
So at the end of the day, after everybody had written the surf off as "too mushy" and "blown out," five friends pulled on their slimy wetsuits and got back into the water. Within minutes, the rip along the cape deposited them in a neat row in the line-up. Once there, they found themselves in the most perfect waves they had ever experienced on the Oregon coast. The 6-foot peelers wrapped around the rocks and gave them a taste of point break surfing - a rarity in this land of whitewater walls and shifty beach breaks. This wave glowed aqua under the setting sun. It came in a long line before standing too tall and folding over neatly from the right, a friendly foamball punctuating the end of a smooth green slope. The break was so precise that it was actually difficult to get caught inside. It was overhead, but the drop was easy. After that, it was up to the rider to write his little story/song on the face to the best of his ability. For our group, that usually meant drop in, bottom turn, find pocket, stay in sweet spot and "go, go, go!" We all hooted until we were hoarse.
There was another guy out there with us; a skilled longboarder who must have been Hawaiian (judging by his dark complexion, tough demeanor, Excel wetsuit, and board with "Kahlua" emblazoned on the deck). I'll never forget one of his rides. It's like a David Pu'u surf photo in my mind. There he was, riding in the classic knock-kneed style, backlit with the lip throwing right over his head. Was he going to pull in? He was standing too tall. Did he get tubed? The last thing I remember before he was obscured by the passing swell were his gleaming white teeth blasting from the silhouette of his head. When he paddled back out next to me, we both had to scratch hard to get outside another wave rifling down the line toward us, bigger than the one he had just ridden. He howled as we barely made it over the top, "Open wide!"
Animal Collective "Did You See the Words"
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
I'm not a longboarder, but I've always been blown away by the amount of grace good log riders have when they surf. It's not about the size of the wave. It's not about being aggro. It's all about style and making it look easy. I tried to capture economy of movement in this drawing by only using a few lines.
Tom Ze "Vi!"
I have resolved time and again to include more of my art on this blog, but somehow keep forgetting to actually do it. That's not to say that my photographs and writing aren't "art," but in reality they are more of a record-keeping tool than expression of my so-called muse. So starting today, inspired by creative bloggers Doc and Foul Pete, I'm going to throw up more of the drawing and painting I do on a regular basis. It's all about the stoke, right?
Robert Pollard "Caught Waves Again"
Sunday, March 05, 2006
Hitting a zen-like state can be achieved in several ways: sometimes you can get there there through challenging activities like surfing, where your mind is completely thought-free in the infinite moment, and sometimes you can get there through relaxation and meditation. Saturday, I was taken to a higher plane via the latter. After surfing at Otter Rock in wind blown (albeit powerful) conditions, I returned to the Salishan resort near Lincoln City where my wife was already enjoying a spa treatment. I was scheduled for a 4:30 massage, but I got there early, alowing for plenty of time to enjoy the facilities. The place is amazing. It reminded me of Ryoanji's rock garden in Kyoto, where nature, art and civilization all blend together seamlessly, except in this case you could sit in a bubbling hot tub outdoors and take it all in. The simple modern building (made of native lumber and slate) was situated on the edge of a bay where every window afforded visitors views of water, trees, and scattered rocks. There was a fireplace in the middle of a glassed "obervation room" where people wearing robes sipped tea and warmed their toes.
My massage was perfect. Sore shoulders were kneaded to putty and neck knots were squeezed to submission. Afterward, I took a long sauna followed by a cold "rain shower," then I went back outside and sat in the infinity-style jacuzzi again, alone. It was gettting dark as I watched the wind create rippled patterns on the bay. Moments later I would feel the same wind hit my face as it came on shore, a cool contast to the hot water. Contemplating the shape of an angular sea pine against the sky (which reminded me of an Utamaro woodcut) and the illuminated green bubbles circulating around me, I felt myself slipping into a near-unconscious state. I thought of how incapable words are to describe these things and tried to put myself in a place where there was no language, only senses. The bluish bubbles were simply a feeling and a relationship between light and matter. The air was actually more solid than empty, filled with energy and particles. I was tripping and it actually scared me a little. I felt like I was standing on a cliff in my mind and I carefully moved back away from it. I got out of the water, showered, and went back to our hotel room feeling completely refreshed and ready for dinner.
This was a significant day. It was the same day a year ago that my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. We only realized this fact as we drank rich Italian wine in our hotel room and readied ourselves for dinner. We needed this reprieve from our daily lives, especially on the anniversary of what had been the start of a very heavy year for both of us. A special thanks goes out to my brother and his wife, who gave us this weekend getaway for Christmas. Words cannot describe how significant this experience was for both of us.
Below are some pictures I took during my exploration around the Lincoln City/Newport area. Sorry I couldn't take snapshot in the spa, but I don't think the clientele would have appreciated it...
South of Lincoln City, skimmers in their swimmers. Brrr-ly.
Rip city at Otter Rock.
After taking a few closeouts over the head I wondered if this was a bad omen.
Shot from the point at Otter Rock.
The swell died a lot after I got out of the water (I swear).
A heart-shaped hole over a 20-foot drop.
The south swell touches down.
Secret spot with southern protection...
...and a sketchy entry and exit.
Two peaks working in two little bays. I'll never tell.
Red House Painters "Grace Cathedral"