Saturday, December 31, 2005

Firey ending, watery start

I am in the basement and can hear everyone above me talking as they wait in line for their catered dinner tonight. The main dish is Morrocan Stew which happens to be a favorite of mine. The rain had been falling today. Not as much as Nor Cal got but enough to keep me indoors until Tony gave me a lift up here to the ole estate.

The heater failed in one of the yurts. It just cannot go all day and night. Not enough battery storage. Thus, I had to take up some backups that just run on propane.

Bill is sick as a dog. He's vomiting and has other symtoms. Anyway, this led him to give me a call and get me in sooner. Lucky the rain stopped before I got up here. Made my job so much easier.

When I went up to get some food, I was a bit late and missed out. Oh well, left room for the insanely decadent chocolate cake which I ate too too mush of although I do not seem to feel it now. Possible chocolate hangover tomorrow.

Just finished performing with the band: Shaman's Dream. They were great, very tight, strong energy. I never felt like I got in synch with them. I had difficulty figuring out the key and did not have Tony telling me so I just mostly hung in the background. In the beginning I was part of it though. Tony was awesome and so was Dom. These guys are all pros. There was a dress code. everyone had to wear white clothing. This is what Micheline asks all the retreatants and musicians to do for the New Year's Eve show every year. It gives a cool ambience with a cultish undertone.

After the performance, I went down to the kiva where everyone silently watched the fire like it was a great TV show. The only sound was the crackling of burning firewood and the occasional sizzle of sage leaves and pine needles as each person ritualistically thru them into the flames. I stayed there until 2006 began with coyotes singing their ancient song, fire works exploding and humans counting down the last 10 seconds before yelling out with joyful abandon. Then I slipped up the back wall and made my way down to the jacuzzi.

When I got there, the soakers were all making a raquet, so I had to put on the noise-police hat, flash my badge and gently ask them to keep down the volume. They graciously acquiesced and invited me into the hot, steaming water.

The new year has begun in a subtley beautiful way for me. I feel content and at peace with myself. More so than I can remember feeling in quite a long while. I think Hawaii is some good medicine for me. I remain in limbo as far as where I am going to live and what I am going to drive. All I know is that I'll have a house sit and vehicle starting on January 15th. Until then, I will play it by ear.

Friday, December 30, 2005

One wave redeems the sloppy sea

When my cell phone's alarm went off this morning, I grabbed it and turned it off. I was going to hit the ocean early and catch some waves but my need for sleep won out. I figured that I'd have a chance after putting in a couple hours prepping for the latest retreat. Rain has been forcasted to begin tonight so I knew that this would be my last chance for a while. Surfing becomes just a bit too toxic, after significant rainfalls, for this surfer.

I arrive on the estate and take care of a few loose ends: moving some beds, heating up some spaces, turning on the jacuzzi. Some how this ends up taking 2 hours and then I am off, yeah, gonna surf The Point again.

I arrive in the loaner, a silver Toyota Land Cruiser. A nice ride, lots of space and a decent stereo. It takes about 5 minutes for a parking spot to open. I've already seen the waves, due to the height of this SUV; the swell looks like it has faded quite a bit. There are still some overhead standouts, though.

As I am putting on my O'Neal wetsuit, I spot and say hello to Kim. She's a caterer who sometimes caters for the retreats - but not this time. She heads off to the restroom to get her suit on,

It's low tide and many rocks and seaweed are soggily exposed. Because of the diminished swell, the paddle out is a lot easier. One of the benefits of a sloppy swell is that there tend to be less surfers. This is the case. I watch as a surfer finally catches an overhead standout. he carves on by as the wave easily propels him along.

This sesh is not as easy as the one on Wednesday. I get tossed around a bit and am not standing up as fluidly. I just keep at it though, watching where there seems to be a good wave and paddling to that area. Most of the surfers out here are having trouble. Inconsistent closeouts seem to be dominating the scene. I keep charging and keep bodysurfing on my face - I just shaved today and this really helped! Finally after all that hard work, I manage to be in the right place at the right time and catch a big one. No where as long as Wednesday's magic wave but this was overhead by 2-3 feet. What a blast. I blow my few other chances to get some wall time. The sun turned all orange as the horizon got closer. The water looked like it was on fire capturing the sunset's reflection.

The water was a bit colder today. I could feel my body temperature lower. I caught a wave and took it in. Pulled off my leash and walked the long stretch over round rocks, sea weeds and sea debris, happy that I had booties on my feet.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Where the buffalo roam

I am reporting from Farmer and the Cook. Not only does this place have the very best food, but it is also a hotspot. Thanks for that, Steve. While here an hour or two ago, I overheard one of the new cashiers saying how he almost died. Turns out, he'd been surfing at Surfer's Point in Ventura, when he got out of the water he was coughing and felt unusually tired. He described having the skin on his hands peeling off and having a 103 degree temperature for 5 days. Then it went away and he was fine. He said it was toxic shock. I am glad that I went out yesterday before I heard this story. One of the main causes of making the shore so toxic is runoff from dogs' "coco" along with some other animals who should know better. Thus, Bardo Surfer's catchy limerick for us all to remember and repeat - tapping into the viral method of information transfer - "If your dog takes a poop don't pick it up! use a scoop and then we won't surf in toxic soup."

Anyway, I finally had a day of work again after my amazing 3 week+ vacation in Hawaii. It was nice to get back on the estate. First one I see is Willy, he's looking good, happy. Then in the basement talk with Bill and print up my famous "Outside Manager Job Description" that changes every week.

The various tasks take over 6 hours. Didn't have to drive anywhere. There was one unusual surprise that greeted me. A Eucalyptus tree had fallen at some point. I theorize that no one was there to hear it and thus conclude that it did not make a sound. But it still was lying on the ground, forcing me to climb under or over it. At the end of the day, I gleefully grabbed the chainsaw and proceeded to ground zero. It only took a short while to clear the road and regain access for those who would not appreciate the adventure of climbing over or crawling under the sprawling leaves and branches of the fallen tree.

Bill asked me to go for a bike ride after work. I borrowed his Gary Fisher, green full supension mountain bike. He rode his new silver colored Specialized mountain bike and Willie road his junior version of a mountain bike. We flew down the hill, made a left on Signal and went by Daryl's new house which is under construction. As we continued to bike down this dirt road, we approached a few folks on horses. After we passed them, Bill turned to me and said: "He's a Captain in the Fire Department."

Just then I hear the Captain say: "Buffalo Bill!"

I'm kind of surprised to hear this. I think: "Hmm, I've never heard Bill called that before. But then he says: "Do you want to see some buffalo?"

Bill's like: "sure."

I'm thinking: "Huh? Buffalo?"

Sure enough, there are 4 bison in one of the corales. Will and I climb up the short hill that they graze on and watch them thru the steel fence. They start at us with big wide brown eyes. They motionless but I can sense they are on high alert. If they were CNN it woud be saying "terror alert: ELEVATED".

Bill asks: "Why do they have buffalo?"

Captain: "To train the horses to herd."

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Magical wave

My reassimulation into the state of mind that is California was expedited by two events that combine to define the Golden State experience.

Yet another loner vehicle at the right time provided the transportation for my 8 foot fun board and I to access the Ventura coastline. I only had to wait a few heart beats for a spot to open in parking area numero uno. The beautiful lines of a classic swell greeted my eyes. Ten minutes later, I am paddling out. The water is not as cold as I expected. The booties doing their job of preserving some heat. I position myself about 25 yards to the right of a couple surfers. Several waves come by. All of them overhead. Then it comes. The wave that summarizes everything one could want or ask for from a California wave. It is at least 4 feet overhead. I paddle and it catches me, drags me, I pop to my feet immediately and am on it easily. Marveling at the size and shape of this baby as it propels me along its glassy surface. At least 6 surfers go for this wave as I carve up and down it. Then they see me and back off. When the ride ends, I've gone 300 yards. My longest ride ever. Almost as big as my biggest waves at the North Shore. When the wave ends and lets me go I am dazed with the beauty, the majesty and let out a loud 'WOOO!!" Another surfer answers. I have just returned to Caly.

The next experience was hopping in the Matilija hot springs with a couple friends. The stars blazed with their ancient fire over head and the aroma of sulfur feeled the air. As I soaked, I felt the feeling grattiude fill my body and mind. It is good to be back. Afterwards, I submerged myself in the chilly river and reveled in the exhilaration.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Mahalo North Shore!

Another Hawaiian vacation has come to an end. This one lasted 23 days. As I type, I am 30,000 feet above the ocean 45 minutes away from L.A.. I do not know how I shall get back to Ojai. Maybe a shuttle or maybe I shall some how miraculously get a ride from some one. I shall leave it up to chance. Meanwhile all I have to do now is remember the spectacular time that I had on the North Shore.

Snorkeling in Turtle Bay stands out because of the amazing fish I was graced to see. A school of white and yellow fish that I joined for a spell. The small 5-inch rainbow-colored fish who swam right up to me and looked in my eye with unabashed wonderment.

Earlier today, Bri and I surfed an east side beach's small swell. There were more waves then I expected. Bri demonstrated his surfing intuition, knowing where to be. The waves were fickle and tough to gage. We shared the waters with a couple guys giving surfing lessons. They whooped it up whenever their students caught a wave. The sky started out overcast and even shed a few drops on my head but then the sun came out and raised a few freckles on my cheeks.

I lucked out with Turtle Bay last week. It gave me three days and 4 sessions worth of perfect waves. Those rides are etched into my mind. Last week, I was able to catch some big Freddy waves. Not many things are as scarey as being on a double overhead North shore wave. Not just scarey though, exhilarating, challenging, awe-inspiring… I can go on and on.

And of course, it was amazing hanging out with my folks. Mom and Dad, thanks for your generosity – the gift and and privilege of staying at your condo.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Mellow surf day

First thing I hear apon awakening is sister Liz leaving a message on the answering machine. The whole Lopes crew is heading to a beach on the east side of the island for surfing and boogey boarding. I jump out of bed, walk into the kitchen niche and grab the phone. "Hello Liz."

"Hi Dad."

"No, this is Michael. So, you're going surfing?"


"Can you pick me up?"

10 minutes later, I am in the big black pick up truck with my trusty board in the back with one of Liz's and their big 12 footer. I get on the horn with Bri and let him know where we are heading.

At the beach, we can see about 5-7 people surfing the small waves. Liz and I paddle out together and soon are catching the small waves. It has a bit of the feel of summer. Bri soon joins us. I've already caught about 3-4 waves that took me all the way to the beach. It is days like this that long boards rule. Some time later, Roberto paddles out on the giant nerf 12 footer. It is that kind of day here. The North Shore is huge. Very few reefs can handle the 20 foot+ waves. Thus, we all end up here with gentle waves that Caio can boogey board on as well. Roberto ends up catching several waves that take him all the way to the shore. He paddles back quickly and effortlessly.

The highlight happens when we all catch the same wave, big enough for Bri to below me at the base while I cut across the lip. Bri and I to go right while Ro went left. Liz witnessed the moment from the beach.

Liz had a big barbecue for a bunch of her friends. Some of them had come all the way from Long Island. All of them had kids. The house was in a constant state of mayhem as the kids all became a giant tornado of energy fueled by sugar and a seemingly endless supply of toys. Bri convinces me to go down to Shores and boogey board. Call me crazy, but it is tough to get into it. I just kind of flounder around and wait for the lucky ride to take me back to the dry sand.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Xmas day

This holiday season was a blessing for me. The past decade or so, I have been far away from my family. This time around the sun, I decided to spend it with the North Shore contingency which involves 5/7ths of my fam. One brother resides with his family in Florida. Another brother lives with his family in Washington.

Xmas eve created a bit of a stretch for me when brother Bri and sister Liz each had their own celebration scene. Thus, the folk's and I had to choose one. This year, we chose to celebrate with Brian's fam and neighbor friends.

But today, we were all together at sister Liz's North Shore surfing headquarters. We ate at her neighbor's house who had a brunch for the street. The food consisted of bagels, sweets, kietsche, fruit salad and pastries from the famous Ted's Bakery.

Meanwhile, the kids are all running around, temporarily satisfied with their sudden increase in material possesions.

I mosey back to Liz's where Ro is sharing some music with a few of the boys. When the downloading completes, he turns to me and asks: "Do you want to look at the waves?"


We walk the 70 yards or so to the edge of the sand which gives us a commanding view of the Backyards surf break. We see that there are only a few surfers out. The waves are as big as double overhead. I did not bring my longboard, not enough room in the vehicle, I figured I'd go back and get it. Roberto wants to go out and invites me along. Lends me one of his boards - a 7'8 gun. This is a far cry from my giant 9 foot longboard.

We paddle out over the shallow reef on the right side with the current and wrap around the breaking waves. I've become very used to the stability of my longboard and the contrast between that and the gun I am now on is vast. Still, initailly I am able to stay close behind Roberto until he just edges over a wave that catches me and sends me backward from wence I've come. The waves are much bigger out this far than they appear on shore. The wind blows strongly from the inland. I stay near the edge watching the sets come in and gaging their stregnth, searching for a shoulder that I can enter on.

I watch Roberto catch one and have a sweet ride. He paddle over and points out a better spot for me. Surfing has such variety depending on the power and shape of the wave. Backyards is known to be for experts only. Has a steep drop, lots of power and a severely shallow razor sharp reef. All of this is in my mind as I paddle over. Every once in a while I go for a wave but am unable to catch any. This is OK with me. I'm kind of on a scouting expedition out here. Able to watch the experts surfing at one of the more difficult North Shore breaks. Roberto, fearlessly catches a few more, I watch him from the front and then the wave passes by and all I can see is his head as he carves to the top of the wave and then disappears when he rides down it.

Finally, it's time to paddle in. I make my way to the inside, shoot for a few waves but not even close. Then, a wave behind me crashes and I see the white froth boiling towards me. This, I am able to catch and ride it in like a boogey board. It is low tide and the reef rests only a foot or two beneath. When I try to stand, the strong eastern current makes this difficult. The first thing that happens is my heal gets pierced by the sharp coral reef. The current finally succeeds in pulling me down and the tops of my feet are scratched as I am sent 70 yards eastward. Soon, I am able to find a smooth place to stand up on, making my way to the dry sand.

Caio received a beautiful boogey board for Xmas. Almost all of us walk down to "Shores", where he will be able to break it in. Sunset Point can be seen in the background; surfers are catching double overhead waves; the ocean is playing Santa. Bri, Roberto, Caio and I swim around on boogey boards, catching waves until the sun is met by the ground. Mom takes pictures of us all and the setting sun. At one point, a man in a red shirt with the number 36 stands in the background talking on a cell phone with a wine glass filled with red wine. Mom keeps complaining about him being in the shot until Dad walks down and tells him that there's a "professional photographer taking photos" and can you please move out of the frame. He complies and the last photos are taken before we all head home, across the sands of time.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

I am a prayer wheel

I am surfing a wave of feelings
on a heart-shaped board
painted blue and made of wood
I am watching a wave of light
thru a cloudy lens
drawn with a shaky pen.
The resistance of wind
from half a trillion rotations
propels the same old questions
never answered
and never heard
Written by time's random creases
in a language that never ceases
with invisible ink on leaves.

We are riding on a wave
of nostalgic plastic
contraptions made by 3 billion serfs
garanteed satisfaction

My smile eludes
my reason like wild geese
during the winter season
I try to tame they go away
to the secret pond below the horizon
made from the frozen tears
of meteor showers

In my dream
I am a prayer wheel
that spins
in more ways
than one.

I am open
I am closed
like the eye of a camera.
Something happens
I shutter
A great lake of digital memories
becomes my mask
until off shore winds
create a swell.
One second I am staring at the ceiling
withdrawn and alone like a kite whose string has snapped
or a leaf that has left the tree.
And then I am surfing the reanimated ruins of
cartoon waves on a heart-shaped board
painted blue.

Friday, December 23, 2005


For me nothing is as frustrating as the game of tennis. It is a sport that I have played for just about 4 decades and I don't feel like I have anything to show for it. I am not sure exactly why it achilles' heels my lymbic system. My deepest insecurities come out and I become reactionary and then my mood spirals into deeper levels of self loathing. I guess there is not very much room for error when it comes to this game. Part of me watches the disintergration of my personality in horror. Silently praying for another way to process the inevitable unforced errors that are part of the game. Yesterday, after freaking for a while, something clicked and I was able to make a mistake and think: "Oh, made a mistake, hm hit the ball into the net." The rest of the game was fine and I did not unravel. So, for today's game, I had hopes that maybe I'd turned a corner and straightened out the faulty wiring that leads to my short circuiting. But no, right away, I became frustrated after miscuing the first 6 points into the net. My mind immediately runs the programs of negativity and self criticisms that run underneath my psyche. Bri's favorite thing to say is "relax". If only it were that simple. I've been doing tai chi for over 10 years. Played the didjeridoo for over a decade. Yoga for almost a decade. Chi gong for 7 years. As well as other body sensory exercises that all invlove breathing and relaxation. No, it just is a bit more complicated for this monkey. Any way, this meltdown of mine does not seem to occur to this degree with anything but tennis. Thus my question, what's going on here? Why do I let tennis trigger me to behave in ways that I abhor? What can I learn about myself? Should I just retire and find other things to do with my time?

Tonight, I was once again challenged by Mom and Dad in the great international past time of SCRABBLE. After my tennis debacle tonight, I was kind of in a daze and just running on auto pilot. So, when Mom asks me to play, I don't think, just say "Yeah."

The first game, I start out racking up points and then get stuck with a bunch of vowels and a closed out board. I turn most of them in, lose my turn and start fresh. I am still in the lead though. I draw a whole bunch of power tiles and the board is still closed out. I look and look and look but see ziltcharooni. Time runs out and I just say: "Pass." So now I have missed two turns. This is kind of my low point. It kind of helps me to relax though and soon my brain is working, figuring out word combinations, strategizing and collecting points.

Mom had managed to capitalize on my two rounds of zero points and built up a lead that I think gave her a false sense of security because as the game wore down and the tile bag became empty, I managed to catch up to her and then get out first, using the U, C and E with the hook - c to form cute and win the first game by about 6 points.

The next game was a whole different story. This one went my way, I bulit up a strong lead, word tripled with BELOWS and then bingoed with DECEASE by laying the E over an N to form EN. This gave me 66 points and an insurmountable lead. I ended up with 265 points which actually was more than Mom and Dad combined. Record for trip is now 8 wins 2 losses.

Free insight

A large object has been found in your living room. Psychologists are at a loss to explain why the object's emotional energy is at times so off-kilter and then suddenly returning to its previous state of serenity.

Researchers, led by Dr. Blue Meany at the University of Yellow Submarines in Los Angeles, California, first spotted the disorder in observations made with their periscope in the waters of the North Shore of Oahu. Since December 2005, they have made follow-up observations that have revealed the object's perplexing path.

Tentatively named Channel Boloney, the object appears to have a perplexing tendency to implode and freak out, appearing to be a monkey and at other times a gorilla depending on your proximity. It lies in a vast ring of icy memories that seem to appear during times of self created stress brought on by competitive triggers. Please note that the triggers have nothing to do with the observed behaviors and only become triggers thru faulty interpretive propensities that have plagued the object for over 3 decades.

Scatter effect

TV has been blamed for scattering many other Channels into tilted paths. But this might only be a scapegoat. It has become a punching bag for all of those trapped within the need to have victims and perpetrators. And we all know that this is just a dualistic illusion which zaps most of us out of the air of free thinking.

Channel B., however, follows a nearly circular path. And it is too distant to have come into direct contact with severe trauma, travelling between 1993 and 1999 around the world. Its orbit is also too circular - and too small - to have been tilted by a passing fad, says Dr. Meany.

These traits make the object, nicknamed "Ringo" after the US television series about an off-centered drummer, hard to explain. "Maybe Ringo is going to be a bit of a paradox," Dr. Meany told Bardo Surfer.

But she suggests one theory that might account for the rocker's strange behavior. It involves a commonly held notion that early in its childhood, it lived in a dream world and did not develop the ability to conform to desired parameters of behavior. Due to the ability to blend in effortlessly, Ringo managed to preserve radical belief systems. Some of them beneficial while others self destructive. Thus, it extended outward and escaped the gravitational attraction of institutionalized biological drives.

Gravitational kick

As it did so, the gravitational reach of imbedded cultural programs extended outwards, as well. This reach comes in the form of drives, or resonances, where an object's orbital cycle happens to be an integral slice of the pie of happiness. So when one of these outward-expanding resonances swept past Ringo, it could have kicked the object out of a fairly circular, flat orbit into a more elongated, tilted one.

Then, over time, the orbit might have grown more circular as the tilt increased. "These interactions can cause some eccentic freaks to circularise and tilt," says Dr. Meany. But she remains cautious: "We don't know if Ringo's orbit really was created in this manner - because it could be too far away from a resonance or the resonance could not be strong enough - but this seems like the best shot."

Penny Lane, a behavioral scientist at the University of Psychotic Misanthropes, says most resonances simply elongate an object's orbit. She says a few objects could "trade off" some of their elongation, or eccentricity, for a higher tilt, but the effect would be small. "I find it hard to see how you would get a large inclination out of a modest eccentricity," Lane told Bardo Surfer. "There's a limit on how much inclination you can trade off."

Rocky Raccoon, a neural scientist at the Primate Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, says he and others have produced objects like Ringo using models of such special resonances. "However, I do have some problems with the idea," he admits.

Hidden objects

He points out that this object was found when it happened to be surfing through some crazy double overhead waves - where it spends just 2% of its surf time. That suggests many more such objects remain undiscovered, tilted at orbits where most surveys do not search for them. "I just don't think these mechanisms can deliver that much stuff," Raccoon told Bardo Surfer.

He ventures another possible explanation - that the distressor had a repeater and that both influences remained hidden from eachother but acted in concert to help shape the object.

Dr. Meany and her colleagues will continue to observe the new object to pin down its personality more accurately. And following the convention for identifying eccentric freaks in the US, they have suggested several befitting names for the object to the International Blogging Union.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Freddy's return

Well, you'll be happy to know we finally got back out in the water again. Yes, it was only one day off but the last time was a brief debacle in the choppy sloppy mess that Turtle Bay becomes when the surf is way up. The head wound that I received has healed up nicely - I wish I could say the same for the ding that the board recieived.

I drove on down the road to the Lopes Surfing Center, parked the Explorer in front of headquarters and walked to the beach to get a look at the action. Backyards actually looks surfable - for a short board. Looking east down the beach, I could see surfers in the water at Freddy's. It looks similar to the last time I was out, just a bit smaller.

Go back to the vehicle, grab the board, lock it up, hide the key and then I am off on my mission to catch some waves of significance. As I get back on the beach again, I watch a set or two come in at Backyards. It looks almost tempting. There's a left that waves invitingly at me and there are no surfers out there. My feeling is that Freddy's will be crowded although it is tough to tell from this distance. I convince myself to walk down the beach to Freddy's after considering the shallow reef that Backyards is known for. Don't need to bust the giant 9 footer in half.

I paddle out and across, letting the current help me out. When I arrive at the scene, I am 50 to 100 yards further out than anyone else. Initially, there's about 15 of us out there on one side and 20 or so on the other side. Before I finish, there will be at least 25 to 30 on our side and more on the othere side.

Several jet skis could be seen towing servers in to the bigger waves crashing on the outer reef. I watched as one of the tow in surfers caught a nice wave and pulled out just about 30 yards from me.

After my previous string of mishaps, I was wearing a cautious hat, watching everything closely and choosing my waves with discernment. I managed to catch a ride right away, nothing spectacular, just a way to get my feet wet. The best method for me was to sit outside, wait for a big one on the second reef to propel me along with some whitewater, standup and watch as it reformed in front of me. I caught about 3 or 4 waves this way and had some great rides. The best wave gave me an awesome drop of at least 10-12 feet and I still remember the rush when the bottom dropped out and the abyss welcomed my efforts to carve down the side.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Scrabble upset

Two more Scrabble game were completed tonight - the first one while Vivi amused herself with some of the toys that the folks have stashed for days like this. Thru out the first game we could hear her singing and talking as she role played, animating the various stuffed animals and action figures. I started out with some good stuff, held on to the lead and wrapped it up by going out first and scoring 217. Mom just missed, scoring a 211 and Dad finished 'solidly in third'. For me, I've been chasing the elusive BINGO (this is what happens when you use all 7 tiles and get a 50 point bonus). I was so close but my word knowledge is basically illiterate when it comes to the jargon that one can find in the Official Scrabble Dictionary.

Game two began with Dad ominously proclaiming that he's gonna win this one, "I'm due," he says. The first thing we do is randomly pick a tile out of the bag to determine the order. Generally, it is thought that the person who goes first has the advantage. Mom pulls an A, Dad pulls a B and I reach in the red sack and... grab the blank. In my book this means I go first but the folks shoot this idea down like smashing a fly with a swatter. My next letter is an N. This means I am last.

Dad maintains a strong lead thru most of the game while Mom sits first 14 behind in second and then 20. Meanwhile, your humble narrator, yeah, that's me alright, lags at least 30 points behind holding up third like a soggy cat who fell in the ocean but has managed to swim out and lie dazed on the shore.

Then a turn around happens. Dad openly starts weighing what he should do. He's got a power letter, the J. He does not want to give me any kind of opportunity. He says that he has learned that I get a lot of points by adding on to things. So, against his better judgement and to my surprise he puts down JADE - opening the possibility for me to add an S and putting down the word RIVERS (nearly missing a BINGO!!) but still racking up 40 points thanks to a triple word square. After this move I am only 1 point behind. It looks like I am going to get out first... but then Dad starts scouring the Official dictionary and is able to get 18 points by adding on to various words. The most obscure was ATT. I then go out first and collect the points from the straggling tile. This only totals out to 7. Dad wins his first Scrabble game of the winter season: 191 to my second 185 and Mom's third 141.

When I woke up today I did a bunch of tai chi on the tennis court. I had it to myself for a little bit and then a group of young males walked on to the court and started to hit some balls around. I kept moving thru the form and used it as an apportunity to keep focussed. I would have moved if they cared at all. Another little test came in the form of a 5 year old boy coming up to me repeatedly, asking me what I am doing and then trying to start up a conversation. I gently and with few words let him know I was busy. Several times he started doing his version of Karate moves and saying "HEYAAH!" I just stayed focussed and felt some compassion for his predicament. Seems like he's got some needs. But don't we all?

No surfing today, I thought about it. East side of Turtle Bay was looking like there were some rideable waves. Big paddle out thru some rough waves over reef that I am not familiar with. This, like I said, no surfing. Yesterday's ding on my head translated to an even bigger ding on my board. I am going to have to buy some ding repair.

Current Scrabble record: 6 wins 2 losses

Monday, December 19, 2005

X-mas shopping and stormy seas

Managed to snag all my X-mas gifts today from Walmart. This is my first time getting gifts for the holiday season in maybe a decade. So, I ended up getting little gifts for the nephews and nieces on Oahu - along with the rest of the crew out here. With only six days left before C-day, I expected to be mob scened but it was actually not too bad. Mom came in handy, I was able to bounce ideas off her or like holding up a gift and saying how 'bout this? If she didn't like it she'd do quick head shake, frown quizically and look down. This kind of took the pressure off me.

You see, one of the things that I do not do is shop. Don't eat chicken or apple pie or own a vehicle with 4 wheels. Don't have any kids or even a girlfriend. Don't own a TV or furniture. I do eat fish, own a PowerBook and a high performance motorcycle. Own a StumpJumper mountainbike and three surfboards. But... enough about me... this post is going to be about something else for once.

Here's a great toy to get for your kids, who cares if it is late... some things are priceless and timeless.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled agenda of my endless pursuit of happiness. I guess, this is my obligation with all the people fighting, working and slaving away. More and more I am starting to realize that I need to stop my silly complaining. Where's it all coming from anyway?! Wake up sucker! Put a smile on your face. That frown hurts you more than anyone else... so just knock it off.

Well, I did not surf Saturday. I did not surf Sunday. The pressure of this knowledge became greater and greater until, at 4:34 PM, I grabbed the giant red-striped surfboard and marched accross the golf course like the trooper I am. Due to the Turtle Bay cam,I knew ahead of time that I'd be greeted by very sloppy conditions. Thus I was not surprised that it was all junk out there. What did surprise me was that there were like 10 other surfers joining me in such a messy surf conditions, all of us paddling around the chaos, dodging waves and enjoying the danger. My own particular showing was sad, kind of pathetic. I guess the only good thing I can say about it is that at lest I did not drown when my board slammed into the right side of my head - just above the temple. As I flondered around under the water after getting my bell rung; I actually really fought to get to the surface. A sense of urgency awoke in me, I guess it was my will to live or something. So, when I broke thru the surface of the water and sucked in some air, I felt some relief. This headshot did not seem to have been as brutal as the last one. Although, when I sat back up on the board, touched my head with my hand and then looked at my hand... I saw blood.

That was enough to convince me to start paddling in and get my sorry ass back onto solid ground. As I paddle a messy wave happens by so I stood up on the slop just so I could at least get some practice in. The ocean is a tricky thing. The last time I was out over at Freddy's, it was much bigger, much more powerful. Just goes to show that one has to be ever-vigilant out here in the stormy seas.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Scrabble mania

Went thru my tai chi form 6 times aound noon on the tennis court. This ultimate martial art practice never ceases to amaze me in the subtle impact it has on my sense of well being. One of the things we learn from this art is the more subtle something is the more powerful it actually is. The wind is blowing, I can hear the swell crashing on the reef and various SUVs travel up the road. By the fifth time around this 2300 year old exercise, it becomes indescribably effortless and pleasant as I consciously feel my center of balance drop from my shoulders to hips. Afterwards, I face and thank the four directions.

Upon arriving in Hawaii, I decided to check out an anagram generator. I've always had a peripheral fascination with anagrams and it suddenly occurred to me that there had to be a generator for this kind of thing. I've been playing with my full name and the results were kind of startling. One of my faves is: ENHANCE BRAIN MEEKLY. This certainly makes me think of the gentle exercise: tai chi. There were many so I'll just give you my A list. ABLE HACK INNER ENEMY; BRAHMEN KEY LENIENCE; A BENCH MERLIN YANKEE; ABLE ENRCH KEEN MANY.

The upshot of my anagram interest has had the unforseen impact of improving my Scrabble game.

We ended up playing Scrabble at Brother Bri's; this time it was a 4 person game. It took place at Bri and Arltete's admidst the inevitable commotion due to the presence of happy children. Neighbors stopped by and we shot the breeze while the Scrabble board on the lazy Susan spun around in clockwise circles.

Arlete dipped pretzels in chocolate and they tasted delicious. Bri ended up aiding Arlete while also keeping an eye on Vivi and Vini. The game was close until the end and I knew that who ever went out first would probably win. This game was played without the egg timer and without the scrabble dictionary, 'kinda like playing nekid', in the middle of the game I was drowning in vowels and the Atlete/Bri team built a small lead after captalizing on some good letter draws. I managed to stay within range thru good fortune because I was stuck with all vowels. Towards the end I drew an S and a J. "Yeah, finally!" I could not help saying. This made a big difference and put me in the lead. With a slight lead, I managed to get ride of my last 3 letters, victory insured; it was only a matter determing the actual score for posterity's sake: 147. Bri and Arlete were over 20 points away in second and the folks did not crack one hundred.

I read a cool article today in the local newspaper about wooden surfboards making a come back. On the same page was an aritcle about prosthetic legs having computer chips in them. Quite an interesting contrast. 40 years ago, there were still wooden legs. It is nice to see that the bionic leg has arrived.

Pipeline, tennis and Scrabble

My plan of getting up before 8 AM was erased due to the need for more sleep. The idea was that I'd check out the quaterfinals, semis and finals of the Rip Curl Pipe Masters, last leg of the surf tour for 2005. The prediction from the surf condition forecasters was that the winds would stay out of the way until noon or so. Knowing this the night before was supposed to motivate me to get there. Anyway, I was lagging and finally managed to arrive at my sister's around 10 AM in the Ford Explorer with my big red-striped surfing machine barely fitting diagonally. The parking gets way out of hand, sis lives about a mile away. The plan is to park car, take board out and put it on her porch so the wax does not melt, grab a bike and head on down to Pipeline to check out Slater, 7 time world champion, 5-time Pipeline winner.

Liz spots me as I am putting the board. "Hi Michael."

"Hi Liz."

Roberto comes out and says, "Hi Michael, let me look at the ding." I never reported how I pulled a major grom out of my butt and dinged my brand new stick while taking it out of the back porch to go surfing one day. Anyway, Ro wants to fix it right then and there. Cool, I think... I'd actually brought it to go surfing after the contest.

First thing Roberto does is clean off wax and duct tape remnants with kerosene. Then he takes a razor blade and gets rid of all the loose fiber glass. Then he applies the fiberglass repair junk from a tube. It only takes like a minute to dry in the sun but we take off and leave the sanding till after the contes.

Liz, Roberto, Caio and Jade all decided to check out the contest. They only have 3 bikes but lots of skateboards. So I end up riding a skateboard and getting towed by Roberto. This turned out to be a lot of fun. Kind of exciting flying by all the tourists. Whenever you bike past Sunset Beach, you can count on tourists blocking the bike trail while they blab away or take endless photos. Today was no exception but as usual they moved quickly out of the way when their tired sense of danger clued in that we were barreling down on them. Jade rode in a bike seat on Liz's cool "Simple" powder blue beach cruiser. Caio rode his own mini BMX bike with huge pegs.

Just as we arrived I heard over the loud speaker that Slater had just been disqualified due to interferrence. Bummer. I'd wanted to check out his prowees and needed him to make the finals. But it was not meant to be. The beach was packed with people. Most of them pretty young or young at heart. The North Shore is dominated by youth. The crown cheered for the locals and was not disappointed when 3 out of the 4 fianlists were Hawaiian. Andy Irons ended up winning the contest as well as the Triple Crown. He kicked ass. His Brother, Bruce almost pulled it out but the waves seemed to favor his brother.

The last round was kind of blown out. The winds picked up right on the predicted time. Still, A. Irons still managed to pull out a perfect 10 on his first wave of the finals. His brother Bruce, made it interesting when he scored a high 8 on a killer tube ride but was unable to get anything workable in the quickly deteriorating conditions. The horn goes off and that is it. The crowd of several thousand gets up enmasse and starts to trudge off the beach.

The ride back is fun, we zip by the crowds crowding the bike path and arrive back at the Lopes pad in less than 10 minutes. When Roberto and I check the surf conditions at Backyards, we can see that it is blown out. Ro says that the whole North Shore is blown out and suggests surfing the east side of the island.

We finish up the ding repair by sanding and it comes out looking almost brand new again. I take off to get some food in me and then Bri calls up to play some tennis. Mom, Dad, Bri and I played doubles round robin style where everyone switches partners. Bri ended up winning all his sets. Some how, Dad and Bri shut Mom and I out. Ugh. Not happy about that. Next, Bri and I teamed up and shut out the folks 6-0. I think we may be having a changing of the guard here. The next set, Bri and Mom beat Dad and I 6-3. And as you might of guessed, I was not happy about that.

Tonight, Mom, Dad and I had another game of Scrabble. This one was tight right down until the end. Mom won it with a score of 197. Oh well, can't win them all. My first game under 200... hopefully my last.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Freddy has some teeth

While practicing tai chi with the sliding glass door open, I could hear the roar of the waves as they crashed upon the reef three hundred yards across the golf course. In my mind I went thru the various possibilities and probabilities influencing where I'd surf today. When it gets big like this, Turtle Bay loses its sparkle, white water everywhere, no face, close outs, basically a crumble festival. The alternative is to surf Freddy's, in between Backyards and V-land. It aint easy lugging the big fat wave catcher around but by now you know I am dedicated. To What? I don't actually know... but we will save that story for another day. I decide to check Turtle Bay's scene just to make sure, you never know what Poseidon is up to. When I arrive at the Turtle Bay point my eyes learn what my ears already knew: their aint nothing but slop out there.

Back in the condo, Bri and Vini stop by while I am making a super smoothie. Bri wants to get a set or 2 in before he take Vini to the dentist and I agree. Meanwhile, Pipeline Masters is happening. My Dad is out with the mobile so I figure that I might as well hit some balls around. We are able to play a set and a half before the time runs out. I managed to only lose 6-3 this time. Cutting down on errors and more winners. The second set Bri started to dominate and I'd yet to get a game before an abrubt ending.

I fume back to the abode, boiling in strong emotions like a tempest in the sea. I can barely see straight, all I know is that I need to get out and surf. Folk's let me use the Explorer to cruise over to sister Liz's, where I can park the vehicle and make the quick walk to Freddy's. From Backyard's it does not look like much but I know that the distance makes it deceiving. I spy the current just on the other side of Backyard's point and slip out into the turbulent waters. The rip takes me out rather quickly and soon it seems like I am in the middle of the sea. There are no waves near me but now I can see that the outer reef is producing some 10-12 foot waves. I feel a kind of awe, a kind of dread at the power of these giant waves. I see more and more surfers on the inside. I am not sure if I am at Freddy's or V-land. This makes me nervous because V-land is ultra localized and the most dangerous thing out here is a big angry human.

Eventually I learn that I am in deed at Freddy's. My first wave starts out simple. I catch some white from a big outside wave. The white has major power and shoots me forward like a bullet in a gun so that I am going from 2 MPH to 35MPH in about 2 seconds and then I stand up and then the wave reforms and gets double overhead and then the edge of my board catches and then I am crushed by the wave, driven underwater for 15 seconds. Tug to the surface with my leash and am shocked and humbled like a young soldier's first experience with combat in battle.

I paddle back out and catch a few more, one real long wave that was rough and wild. After being out for over and hour I've had enough and wait for a wave to take me in. It arrives and once again I get a fast ride that stalls before the wave reforms and sends me like a rocket into outer and inner space. I fall off it and spot another wave on the inside just breaking, I quickly establish a semblance of positioning and try to ride it but this thing get huge and powerful out of nowhere and then my board gets spun around and I am thrown on top of it and all I can think is watch out for the fins as I smash my shin and hold the board to my chest not wanting it to clock me. Somehow I manage to only have the bruise on my shin as a love tap from the brutally indifferent and playful sea.

Sunset Over Turtle Bay

Photo by LMB (Mom), originally uploaded by surfer x.

Here's a view of the west side of Turtle Bay. If you look closely, you can see a few surfers.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

More fabulous waves

Another day in the ocean and it is starting to feel like heaven out there. I went paddled out shortly after high noon. There was one short bourder who was tearing it up. He was freshly shaved bald and you could see his head sticking up above the wave as we cut and slashed the water to ribbons as it wrapped around the point. The swell was down a little bit although there were some good sized sets here and there. The conditions were very clean, just a light breeze and the NW swell was more apparent than the N one.

There were 30 people out but they seemed to mostly be beginners or at least new to the point. The wave behavior is starting to get familiar to me and I was able to be in the right place at the right time more often. Time after time, I'd be on the inside of 4 or 5 folks, a wave would come, they'd all paddle for it but unable to get over the edge. I'd be going for it and get it with my 9 footer. Then, I'd spy some bumps, paddle outside beyond everyone and sure enough, just like an on time train, some big ole waves would role in and I'd get a huge ride.The real key to my success is that big board. I've learned over the years that the big board gets the wave. I must have fell off 4 or 5 though. But I did catch around 7 or 8. Three of them stand out in my mind because of their classic shape and the length of the ride went at least 150 yards.

It was tough not to double sesh it again today. Good sense won out over my passion to surf. My body has ways of letting me know that it needs to rest; we'll leave it at that. About 90 minutes before sunset, I went to the point to check out the surfers. It was 80% short boarders out there and they were shredding. Putting on a show for all the Turtle Bay guests.

The hotel has such a cool set up, a front row seat to watch the surfers play. There were at least 10 surfers out there who were superb. The most startling performance was put on my this young lad. I found out afterward that he was only 12 years old. He was phenominal, lightening fast, all over the wave, floating, shower curtained, barreled. A joy to watch. There was a great long boarder out there as well. He caught most of the killer outside waves and carved them up like a sculptor. Always in the right spot, he had his finger on the pulse of the point.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Scrabble results

Well, my Scrabble winning streak has continued, chalking up another 2 wins against the folks. That makes my record this trip: 5 wins 0 losses - for those of you keeping track. Also, I've broken 200 every game and no one else has broken the 200 point barrier this trip. Mom has started making like the Rainman, studying the dictionary and memorizing words that begin with Q. Dad is confident the streak will end. Any predictions?

Bardo Surfer's nonfiction story of the month

How to warm your heart? Read this story.

Danger zone

When I began to surf today, yesterday’s head injury was still fresh in my mind even though the swelling had gone down. The first wave was not too big and I caught it, stood up and had a nice ride. There were not too many other surfers and the conditions were favorable. There were light winds allowing the water to appear glassy at times. I did fall off on a number of decent waves but did on suffer any consequences beyond my tattered pride. Then it happened, a big beautiful, clean wave came thru and I caught it and stood up. Huge drop (double overhead +), but it felt smooth as silk as I cruised along the wall. It linked up with another wave and took me all the way to the pool. This translates to over 100 yards of pure fun. I paddled in with total joy. The ecstatic feeling of that wave is still rolling. Easy to feel gratitude when it is this good.

[2 hours later]
I knew that I had to get out there again. You never know what it is going to be like tomorrow. Easy paddle out, close to the point, where there is normally a channel. Once again I fall off a few but towards the end of this sesh I caught a (for me) epic wave. This baby walled up and as I dropped I came close to falling but was able to save my balance by putting my hand on the water and using it like a water ski. Once I corrected my balance the ride was smooth and sweet. My last wave started out amazing. It had a sweet wall, good size and I shot along until it started to close out. That’s when I looked towards the hotel to check my position. “WHOOOOO!!!” I think to myself. Heading straight for the big ass lava rocks that guard the point with craggy indifference to my soft skin, I quickly abandon the wave and pray that it will not damage my board or me for that matter. Longer than I wanted, push to the surface. I can feel the hard rocky ground with my feet and use my right leg to tug the board into my grasp just as another wave arrives. I turtle, let the wave pass and then I am paddling lickidy split away from the danger zone. Another wave makes an attempt to beach me, I turtle, flip back, paddle, paddle, paddle. Finally out of mortal danger, seems like a good time to end the sesh. Now the waves are helping me as I calmly paddle in, pushing me to the shore where I am able to exit in peace

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The wave catching machine

photo by LMB (Mom), originally uploaded by surfer x.

This photo was taken last Friday the ninth of December. The board comes from Costco. It is a glass board, classically shaped in California but made in China. My father was cool enough to go on a major journey to track this baby down, braving traffic and uncertainty, we arrived back in time for me to get an evening sesh in.

3 mishaps - need more focus!

Went on another 4 mile walk with Dad today. We threaded around the condos, wrapped around the hotel and then walked over lava rock on the shore before making our way along the golf course, cutting back to the condo. As we walked along the hotel, just passed the pool, we passed by Rob Machado, one of the most famous surfers in the world. He's a Californian and was with what looked like his family. I looked him in the eye and noticed that he seemed slightly agitated so all I did was say: "How's it going?" not letting on that I knew who he was. I figure that celebs must get tired of strangers recognizing them. I know that it sure annoys me when I am not feeling receptive.

Anyway, I got a look at the waves and knew that I'd get out there. It looked even smaller than yesterday but it seemed to hae cleaned up a bit despite the spite of the tradewinds.

Back at the condo, I went thru a minimal warm up - just tai chi. The paddle out was cake. The current which runs along the edge of the point was back in commission and took me out - a liquid conveyor belt. When I got to the place where it was breaking, I waited politely at the end of the line up, quietly marveling at all the cute girls out today. The sets were not very consistent but every once in a while, the conditions would conspire to give us 3 or 4 clean waves with nice walls.

My first wave had a nice over head drop before showing its head high colors. One of the cute girls dropped in on my wave and herded me over towards another cutie who floundered helplessly as I barreled at her on my 9 foot wave truck. I baled off the wave a little too late. When I popped to the surface, I was happy to see she was uninjured.

"Is your board OK?" She asked.

Quick check, "Yeah, It's fine. Are you OK?"


"How 'bout your board?"

"It was damaged but don't worry about it, it's a rental."

I catch several more fun waves, good walls, fast and clean. Then another surfer is kind of floundering in front of me. I guess I am still getting used to this long board because I had to bail off at the last second before another watery collision.

"My whole life just passed before my eyes," he said.

"Sorry about that, I guess I bailed off in just the nick of time."

You'd think that that would be it but I had one more incident that has had me putting ice on my head tonight. I was a bit too deep on this one wave, would have had to take it left into the rocks that guard the edge of the point. Instead of going for it, I step back off the board but I am too late and go over the falls with my board flipping over top of me. BAM!! I see a couple stars and feel the impact just behind my temple over my left ear. I check it for blood hoping that it was not my fin. I lucked out, it must have been the side of the board. I continue to surf as the bump becomes an egg and a bunch of short boarders arrive on the scene to surf the melee.

Monday, December 12, 2005

It stopped making sense

Woke up with the instant recognition that BG, Barnacle George, my pet microbe, has not completely hit the road. I guess it just can't bear to leave me. Alas, my 8 or 9 hours sleep was not enough to give the ole immune system the needed umf. I guess I should not be too surprised. This particular microorganism has been very cagey, seems like it's gone than it comes back, not quite as strong, then seems like it's gone but then it comes back, not quite as strong. The last 28 days have reminded me that I am not invulnerable. The whole TMJ thing should have woken me up to the fact that I do have vulnerabilities in my health. Any way, the whole experience can only make me wiser when I stop resisting, making judgements and just looking at the information that is being conveyed.

When I first opened my eyes the time was 6 30 AM ish and I knew that I needed the extra couple hours to snooze. The congestion was back in my head and my neck was stiff. The stiffness was from over 3.5 hours of surfing in the big waves. This made me realize that today would make a nice rest day from the ocean.

Tennis started promptly at 9 AM. Once again it was Mom and I against Dad and Lynn. Mom was firing winners like a machine and I managed to run a couple down here and there. Lynn and Dad put forth a valiant effort forcing Mom and I to dig ourselves out of various holes in order to win games. First set: 6-3 Mom and me. The second set ended 2-2 due to an impromtu rain storm - thanks alot cloudface!

After a super smoothie (rice milk, blueberries, papaya, bananas, Peaceful Planet powder), I walked over to the Turtle Bay Point and watched the greatly diminished swell. There were around 15 surfers out there trying to catch the chest high waves that passed along the pointly lava rock. A photographer with a giant lense took photos. Mostly of this one guy who had a 12 foot nerf mobile. Those things are so big they are like limos. One of these days someone will realize this and paddle rich tourists around. He'll strap a cooler on back and serve drinks in between sets. They won't even get their hair wet.

Next, I take off in the green Explorer to restock some food supplies. Cruise along, listening to the radio, watching the waves as I pass the various point breaks. Yeah, waves are alot smaller today. On the way back I stop at Foodland. While in the produce section I get completely sidetracked by a very gorgeous woman. She's dressed very provacatively, has long black hair and dark luxurious skin. Looking back I am amazed at how much I can be affected by these beautiful women. She's wearing a white dress and I can see a cute thong thru it. I'm thinking to my self, "I gotta talk to her and get her number." The problem is that that part of my brain is not working. I am tongue tied. While approaching the cash register I say, "Hi, how are you doin?" She just smiles. This simple encounter leaves me distracted for the rest of the day. I keep thinking that I should have been more suave or something. I think I am going to have to read one of those books that clue dudes like me in on how to pick up chicks because I just do not have a clue.

Bri and I play some tennis. He wins the first set 6-2. I am left with the satisfaction that I at least got a couple games off him. We start playing another set as the twi light takes over. The moon sits over head, mocking us with faint light. The twi light becomes the night and we keep playing. Some how we are still having rallies. The easiest thing is the serve. Eventually, we stop, long after it stopped making sense.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Two sesh Sunday

Upon awakening this morning, I felt rested and healthy. The strain of bacteria, unknowingly picked up in the ocean nearly 4 weeks ago, which has perplexed my immune system, seems to have nearly abated. This thing has been hanging around in my sinuses and lungs for so long I think I am going to give it a name. It has impressed me with its endurance and clever adaptation strategies. But, it has been a parasite, stealing my health for its own benefit and making my life less fruitful. So, I think I'll call it Barnacle George (BG). Nice knowing you BG, see ya later, never invited you in, don't ever come back.

I begin the day with tai chi and some yoga. Waves are on my mind. The grand dance with the ocean waves occupies my thoughts. I visualize catching a big wave, standing up, maintaining balance. The walk has become ritualistic. The spikey brown seeds that fall off some of the trees does not slow me down. The pain is trivial. I pass an Aussie with long curly blonde hair, carrying two short boards he says: "Goin out to catcha few?"


Get to the lava rock shore, carefully step down on to the reef and wait. A couple waves come in, put the board into the ocean, lay on it and push off. Then I am paddling, paddling, paddling... I think it took me 25 minutes to get out. Sheesh! Surfing is constantly testing resolve. My attitude is to just keep going. Paddle, paddle, paddle... finally make it outside. Sit on board and chill. Watch the waves. They are like puzzles that do not want to be solved. One has to be in the right spot at the right time with the right wave.

Over thirty minutes pass before I get my first wave. I catch several more under the blue azure sky in front of the hotel in the clear blue water. A kind wave takes me in to the shore and I step up on the reef.

Bri and I decide to meet in the water at 3:30. This is my second sesh. Once again, the paddle out is difficult. It is like Poseidon is got it in for me. I persist like Barnacle George. Eventually, the ocean lets up, takes a ciggarette break or something and I make it to the outside. Moments later I see Bri paddling out on his Gotcha 9 footer. He's paddling easy, relaxed and has a smile.

"Hey what's up?" I say.

"Yo Mike!"

"Did you have an easy paddle out?"


We paddle towards the hotel away from the middle. The waves pass by underneath us. we are hundreds of yards from the shore and cannot see the bottom. For most of this sesh we go for waves that do not want to be ridden. These waves are tricksters, they jack up, back down and shift as if the reef beneath them is moving, maybe it is made of jello. Bri catches a long one and paddles back out quickly. I manage to catch a big one, it walls up and starts to close, before I can do anything, it crashes on me, throwing me off the board and sending me deep. I pull my self to the surface with the leash. Take a breath, WOW! That was nuts. I hear Bri whooping it up. "Nice one!"

He's sitting on his board, scanning for waves on the horizon as I paddle up. We go further out, trying to get a big one. The ocean does not acquiesce. I paddle inside a bit and catch another decent sized wave, just like the other one, it walls up and starts to close out. This time I am ready and grab the wave with my hand, cut in to it and slip inside the wall of water before it can crash on me like an avalanche. Much gentler exit this time.

The horizon gets closer to the sun, time to catch a ride back to the shore. I paddle inside and catch one. It takes me almost the whole way in. My arms are tired as I take the last strokes and then I am standing on the reef, stepping softly and then climbing up the lava rock with my big board carefully balanced on my shoulder.

Bardo Surfer's artist in the spotlight

Chang W. Lee/The New York Times, originally uploaded by surfer x.

Every once in a while, I happen upon a story that exemplifies the Bardo Surfer ethic of falling with grace, brushing off the dust and rising again from the ashes like the mythical phoenix. The artist, Ellis Gallagher, who makes the mundane magical, gets the Bardo Surfer Phoenix Award.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Let the ecstacy catch up

Slipped out the back of the condo with my 9 footer tucked under my arm first thing this morning. I practiced some tai chi to warm up before hand. For me this is the ultimate warm up for surfing. It opens the breath, relaxes me and gets me centered. Believe me, when you are surfing the North Shore during the winter when there's a swell, you want to be centered, relaxed, balanced and ready to hold your breath.

The walk over is uneventful, cut along the edge of the golf course, wait for a golfer to hit a ball off the tee, switch the big board from postition to position, walk along the entrance road that leads to the big hotel and then walk down the public access which goes underneath the "Gilligan's Island" walking bridge that only "guests" can walk on.

I watch the waves break for a few minutes. They're bigger than yesterday. Swell's in the same direction. I wait for a set to come in and then paddle out. You cannot duck dive with a 9 foot long board if you weigh 130 Lbs. Trust me. The plus is that with such a big board, one can travel quickly and power over the rushing white froth. I am able to get outside fairly easily. There's about 5 of us out there from what I can see. Maybe 10 folks inside and then maybe 5 more out towards the middle. It's nicely spread out. The waves are doing the same thing they've been doing all week: jacking up and then backing down. It is such a tricky wave to catch. If you are too much in the middle, the peak flips you, if you are too much on the side, it leaves you behind. And then there is the strong wind blowing out to sea which tries to blow you off the wave. Despite all this, I manage to get a nice ride rather quickly. The drop was rough/bumpy/choppy. My board chattered with the speed. I stayed relaxed and let my weight sink into my hips. The ride took me almost 200 yards in 10 seconds. When I finish, I let the ecstasy catch up and let out a "WHOOOOO!!" I think to myself: "That's why you got this board!" Moments like that are pricelesss. i paddle back out to the line up. End up catching 3 or 4 more waves but none like the first. I spoke with one of the surfers. He was on a fun board - probably an 8 footer. "I rented it from the hotel - $10 an hour." He says: "I'm from So Cal, these aint California waves."

I smile and say: "I'm from there too. I was on a 7.5 short board the first 3 days and could not get a decent ride. It's curved and thin. I just bought this big board from Costco."

He tells me that he normally surfs Malibu. He keeps on trying to catch a wave but I never see him succeed. The conditions are big and tough. Some of the waves are as big as a house. A few of them crash on top of me. I use the leash to pull my self to the surface, happy that I didn't get smashed on to the reef.

The best surfer out there by far was a long haired local. He wore red and was carving up the waves with a short board. "These waves are more forgiving here."

"That's why I'm here." I smile. He laughs.

Very friendly, cool guy. Was cheering me on to go after waves. He'd yell "Paddle! paddle! paddle!" as a likely canditate would come my way.

The end of the sesh came when a huge wave kept me under for 20 seconds. I pulled myself to the surface with my leash. The back of my head still felt the waves impression. I waited for a wave to take me in and was shortly obliged. The kind wave took me all the way to the shore and that was that.

I had planned on surfing in the afternoon but I ended up taking a 4 hour nap. The waves really did put the hammer to me.

Tonight's excitement invloved two games of Scrabble. The first one was a tight race. Some how, I managed to win it, barely. The next game was not as close and I won that one too. We pulled out the egg timer for the second game but in the words of Mom: "We need two."

Friday, December 09, 2005

Race against time

Today's Hawaiian adventure promised to have three parts to it. Beginning soon after I awoke, with tennis. The second segment involved, hopefully, the aquisition of a 9ft Realm surfboard - not an easy task considering the latest development in the world of surfboard shaping. The third part was dependent on the success of the second - actually surfing and catching a wave.

Doubles is the name of the game and involves a variety of skills and strategy. Tennis is not an easy sport. It rewards precision, quick reflexes, focus, unpredictability and consistency. I teamed up with my mother and my father teamed up with Lynn. The first set went to Lynn and my dad 6-4. The second set saw a big momentum shift. Mom and I made very few unforced errors and dominated with winners. We won 6-1. The third set saw the momentum stay with us until I blew an easy match point that would have given us the victory 6-2. We had another match point that disappeared. I struggled to keep my resolve. We had another match point at 5-4 but again could not convert. Thus, we lost a close one today.

Back in the condo, Dad hands me the phone, he's already dialed Costco. "Hello, my name's Michael, I'm wondering if you have any surf boards in stock."

"Hold on one sec, let me check... we have 14 short boards and 2 longboards."

"Can you one on hold for me, I'm an hour away."

"No, sorryyy."

"That's OK, good bye."

We take off within 10 minutes in the green Ford Explorer. I'm driving. The time is 12 PM. This is a good window. It's Friday and we need to get there quick. Remember, it's X-mas time and there's the whole possible surf board shortage. We cruise along with the radio on AM playing songs frozen in time from the 70's. We listen to many of the songs that we heard driving around years ago: Kenny Rogers, The Bee Gees, Sting, The Carpenters as the traffic slows down and speeds up.

Arriving at Costco, we find a spot in the front row. I hustle along, thinking that every second is precious. It kind of feels like we're on the "Amazing Race" or something. Dad flashes his Costco card at the door person and we slip inside. Past the jewlery, past the video cameras, past the food samplers, heading for the sports department in this giant warehouse.

Aisle 315, there's the surfboards and - Uhh no long boards. Bummer. Someone beat us to them in that 1 hour it took to get here. Ug. Hmm, go ask someone who words here. We head back, looking for some one who might know, some one with those little ID thingeroonies on theire breast pocket. I spot two employees. They answer my queries: "No, sorry, no more long boards. Some guy just bought the last two," That's when the other dude says: "Hawaii Kai, I was just there, they have a bunch."


"Yeah, let me go check."

My dad does not hesitate even though it is another hour further away. There are supposed to be nine long boards, so our odds are very good. The guy said that they'd definitely be there. It is 1:30 PM, and hopefully we have a window thru all the traffic and congestion that happens on H1 and H2. We arrive just under an hour later, hustle thru the store, find the surf boards and -

There they are, all nine boards are still available. Whoo! I take my time and look thru them all and end up settling on the one with red racing stripes on it. I make sure that there are 3 fins tucked within the bubble wrap. While I am there, 3 other surfers come by and grab a board, now there are only 5 left. If you want one, I suggest you hurry.

The ride back was delayed by a couple stops here and there and so we did not get back to Turtle Bay until 5 PM. 15 minutes later, fins are on and board is waxed and I am running along the side of the golf course with my brand new 9 foot long board.

The paddle out is fast and easy as I power thru the breaking waves. The swell direction has not changed, only a handful of folks out there and some of the waves are as big as a house. I fun wave greets me right as I get outside and BAM! I catch it, pop to my feet and get a sweet little ride on an overhead. Cool. I stay out for another 45-60 minutes while the sun gets swallowed by the sea and the stars come out to play. I catch a few more waves, get pummeled, scratch my foot on the reef and paddle in the twilight under a purple sky.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Need a bigger board

North Shore, Oahu, in the winter time
waves are crashing and I've been thrashing
thru the choppy brine

I've now surfed 3 days in a row
chasing waves like chasing girls
all dressed up but nothing to show

One day soon I will go to Costco
to get a better ride
a little longer, a little straighter
and this will salvage my surfer's pride

These days of futilty have not been in vain
they built up resolve to deal with the pain
surrounded by gold but uable to claim

Waves are like things that we want in our lives
watch me paddle chase crash and burn
I'd sit in silence and wait if I could learn

Hanging with the folks in their resort style condo
playing scrabble, eating pizza
watching reality show mumbo jumbo

They are not too realistic
and sort of entertaining
watching someone else do all the complaining

Tonight we played scrabble
and I managed to win
It aint the ocean but its a place to begin

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

At least I got wet

Day two in Hawaii went by like a cloud shaped like a chimera. Actually, every cloud could be considered a chimera. The evasive bacteria has lingered, making its presence known for over 3 weeks now. Thus, I lingered in bed once again. My folks, got up early for an organized hike. From the sound of it, they spent more time in the car then actually hiking though. This gave me the condo to my self for the morning and afternoon. Internet, tai chi some yoga, more internet. I finally gained access to VEOH. It's a free download that gives you full screen video capability. Consequently, I frittered away a bunch of time watching mostly poor quality junk. At least it works though.

At 4PM, I finally managed to get out the door with surf board in hand. The ten minute walk to the ocean felt refreshing after so many hours spent indoors. When I arrived at the shore, it was obvous that the swell had really dropped. It was all junk with anti hollow waves. The way they were breaking was kind of like in Cali. Tradewinds blowing like crazy. I realized today that I will definitely have to aquire at least a fun board if not a long board. It was super nice to be out in the ocean. This one dude on a 12 footer was catching all the waves. Most of us on shorties just could not get enough speed to catch the junk in the chop. I tried a few differnt places, near the hotel, out towards the middle, inside but it was all the same. Even when I caught the white, it was not enough to give me much of a push. Still, I paddled in satisfied that I at least went out and got wet.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Walk, surf and tennis

Last night's invite to Blog Ladder, a communtiy blog, was one of the reasons that I did not let my head touch the pillow until 2 AM. Hey, I'm on vacation, so don't get your feathers into a ruffle. This is my first community blog. I like the fact that it only has 450 members. Gives it a small town feeling that I have always loved. Yep, that is one of the many reasons I like Ojai, California. Another reason behind my night owl behavior was because I was tinkering around with some of the xhtml - the digital skeleton of this website. Anyone notice any changes?

Anyway, I managed to get out of bed at 10 AM. I walk out of my bedroom and into the sitting room where my mom is sitting at the clear glass dinner table, working on today's crossword puzzle. "Good morning Mom!"

She looks over her reading glasses and says: "You're father wants you to walk with him. He's about to leave."

"OK." So, within 10 minutes, I have brushed my teeth, drank some water and put on my sneakers.

My father has been walking 4 miles every morning for 11 years. He has a route that winds thru the Turtle Bay resort, along the ocean, the hotel and the golf course. This takes us around an hour and gives me the chane to scout the waves.

When I get back, I practice tai chi and yoga. Then, it is time to surf - finally. My brother Bri has been kind enough to lend me his 7.5 foot short board. The walk takes around 10 minutes. When I arrive at the shore, it looks like there are about 10-15 surfers out there. Mostly spread out. And one or two boogey boarders. The trade winds are really kicking in and there are two distinct swells that can be seen in the rough seas. I am a bit nervous because it is kind of wild out there and I haven't surfed for 3 weeks. To my pleasant surprise, it doesn't seem to matter - I never get tired - even though I am used to an eight foot fun board.

It takes a while to get outside, even though it's so easy to duck dive with this potato chip. The waves are not very consistent and so I have difficulty finding the magic launch spot. Towards the end I manage to catch one and stand up. "WoooH!" I was stoked, it was kind of crazy out there but not as crazy as it looked.

The next activity was tennis. I ended up playing 2 sets of doubles and one set of singles where brother Bri cleaned my clock. Boy, I really need to drill. Even though I'd already exerted myself a great deal today, my emotions ran a little wild while we played. It seemed like I was making a lot of unforce errors. My dad and I dropped the first set to Mom and brother Bri but we took the second set to even the score. Yesterday, Bri looked fashionable, wearing all black, sleavless t-shirt. Today he wore all white. Looking good, bro.

Monday, December 05, 2005

You have the power

"Whenever negativity creeps into your mind, remember two things: You are the one who is creating the negativity with your own thinking. But more important, you have the power to stop it." Richard Carlson author of "Easier Than You Think"

When I read this quote today, my inner guide smiled and I thought, "Wow, what a beautiful and simple way to express an essential line of code in the the self-knowledge operating system. In my experience, most of us have learned to turn our backs on the gifts that we were born with. Too many friends to count, over the years, have expressed that they used to be able to think, be creative and able to feel deeply but at some point it just became to painful. When I was younger, I used to be told that I was "Too sensitive". As the years went by, I learned to not wear my heart on my sleave; I learned to wear it in my eyes, on my feet and on my hands instead. At some point, I recognized that sensitivity was a great gift and although the intention was not to compliment me - inadvertantly, it was.

If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one there to hear it - does it make a sound?

It makes the sound of one hand clapping. What does all this mean? Richard Carlson's quote is one of the answers to this old zen koan. We are the inventors of our own experience. The more we deny this the deeper we fall asleep.

"Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your common sense." Buddha

Maybe it was just plain old stubborness on my part but when I hit my 5th revolution around the sun, I began to doubt some of the tenants that were being dictated to me thru the particular religion that I was raised within. The experience of being indoctrinated by Roman Catholicism was extremely important towards me becoming an intellectual rebel. It taught me that just because 750 million people all believed something, it did not mean that it was true. Over the years I have learned that people need to have shelter - not just physical shelter. Most of us need intellectual and spiritual shelter. Kind of like the frog that lived in the well. One day his cousin visits him and deciedes that he's too sheltered. Cousin's intentions are good and he takes him to one of the Great Lakes. The "well" frog goes from a very small finite world to an enormous infinite world. His head explodes. This is why the Roman Catholic church went to war with Galileo. It did not want all of its constituents' heads exploding. In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king - until they discover the physical organ which makes his extra sense possible. That is when they cut it out.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Hawaii Bound

Skip’s trusty old creamy pick up truck waited for me at the trailer where my 2 bags sat within -“Alright! Time to go!”

Skip was about 20 yards from his truck rooting around in the meadow in search of rocks and ruins no doubt. He looks up with a glint in his eye and a coy smile on his face. “OK, let us depart, I only have to stop for gas.”

With my 2 bags, safely nestled in the back of the truck, we left the estate while I consciously unclenched my hands and relaxed other areas of my body. The last couple hours had seen me dashing around the estate, performing the final mundane tasks, which bring the estate back into order.

Daniel asked me if I’d play the didj for his final class that morning.

“Sure, I’d be honored,” was my reply.

He wants me to drone out the sacred vibes while everyone lies in shavasana. I prepare ahead of time with tai chi, yoga and chi gong. Then I am running around, stripping the sheets and collecting the garbage. There is something balancing about mixing the mundane with the sacred. It is like I am a bridge, like I am holding the 2 ends together that make the experience a circle.

The moment of my short performance arrives; I gently make my way to a far corner with 3 didjes. You never know which one is going to be “the one”. Elephant didj is my first choice and it is the right one. I begin with OM MANI PADME HUM and then just keep on going. I chant the various names of God that I know. I tone the word “Love” and feel it vibrating my heart.

When I finish, I turn to see Daniel looking at me with sparkling eyes and the smile of a sage. Puts his hands together, mouths “Thank you.” And bows.

After playing, I give tutorials to 2 folks curious about what circular breathing is and how to make the initial sound. There’s a closing circle and then I am running around the estate again, unplugging timers, turning off the Quan Yin water fountain, dumping compost.

Thus, this explains why I feel all over-energized when I get in Skip’s truck. His erratic driving makes me work harder to relax. At one point he came close to rear-ending a silver car when he was: “captured by that companies logo.” I think it was my semi-stifled yell which prevented the cars from kissing.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Out of sight

The phone wakes me up this morning with a jolt, the last frame of my dream freezes and then shatters. I grab the phone, see that it's Bill, "Uhhh... what's up?"

"I need to go to birthing class, can you take care of the lights? the jacuzzi?"

"Sure, I got it, no problem." click.

This day unfurls all blue and wet after yesterday's clouds hid the sun and soaked the country side. My head is a bit congested, I can feel my sinuses contract with the cold related vacuum effect but it seems to have abated. Yeah, I think that I am coming down the home stretch of this illness about to cross the finish line. Sure enough, as the day wears on, my spirit lightens and it becomes easier to connect with the guests. Look them in the eye. Infinite smile. Effortless diplomacy.

After all the various morning tasks are performed, I speed off on my 900, to the RV which houses all of my junk. I pick out the clothes and random stuff that I need: tennis raquet, snorkel, mask, t-shirts, board shorts, hoodie etc and then I am out of there. Off to Rainbow Bridge, grab a couple items and then off again.

As I am traveling along in the cool air, with my black jeans, black sneakers and black leather jacket, I realize that the tennis raquet is flapping from the wind, making it hard for me to see thru my sole rear view mirror. Anyway, I am kinda in a hurry to get back to work - the estate that is. Suddenly, I catch a glimse of a slick black sedan behind me, I look in the mirror again, It's a cop and his lights are on. Red and Blue.

So, I pull over, put down the kick stand, take off my helmet, stand up and say: "Hi officer, what's the problem?" He does not answer me right away. Stands by his car door with the CB microphone in his hand, mustache hiding his upper lip, dark sunglasses hiding his eyes. Then he puts it down and walks over to me.

"Do you know why I pulled you over?"

"Uh... no... did I roll thru a stop sign or something?"

"No, you didn't signal and you were speeding... do you know how fast you were going?"

"Uh... no... I wasn't really paying attention. Sorry about that officer."

"You were going 45, do you know what the speed limit is on a residential street?


"That's right. And... wait a second you don't even have turn signals."

"Yeah, they're getting worked on."

"Well, you need to give hand signals then, you have to let other drivers know what you are doing."

"OK, sorry about that officer."

"Drivers license, registration and insurance."

I pull them all out of my wallet and then just stand there. The back up cop is real mellow, walks up to me and checks out my bike. Amicably, "Is that an 1100?"

"No, itsa 900. Sorry about this, I was on my way back to my job, I'm watching a friend's place too, I guess I was unconsciously hurrying... also, I'm going to Hawaii tomorrow and have been getting stuff together."

"You trying to make us jealous?"

"No, just trying to garner a little sympathy-" Turn and look at officer Mustache; he's just staring at me with that same grimace. "but it looks like I'm failing." In my mind, I figured I was gonna get hit with a ticket, oh well, I surrender. Then the mustache starts walking over, I notice that he only has my DL, R and I in his hand - no ticket booklet.

"Sorry about that officer, I'll be more careful."

"I'm gonna let you off with just a warning this time." I am kind of shocked even though I was cued in. I mean, he seemed so hard nosed.

So then, helmet back on, sit down on the bike, fire up the engine and as I pull out on the road, signal with my left hand outstretched. As I approach the road I am going to turn on, I again signal with my left hand. Make my left and then I am out of view, out of sight.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Skip and his mom

Skip and his mom, originally uploaded by surfer x.

Skip is the king of dirt. Currently he has been constructing a yoga deck at the foot of his sculptural domecile and a carport for his truck. Someone please send him some giant legos!

Now's a good time to read or reread: Skip at 18 for your edification. And then there's the ultra classic: "What an expensive prop" post from April. If you want more, just use the "search this blog" feature on the menu bar above - type in "Skip" and search away.

Keep your eyes on the horizon line

My trip to Hawaii is looming ahead while I practice mundane experiments in HTML, the skeleton language that supports my persistent efforts on Bardo Surfer. I have been working since noon today and am ready to leave California for a holiday spell in the tropics. The rain started early in the AM. The plastic tarp, covering the t-house roof, amplified each raindrop's landing into a loud "plop!"

Lucky for me, the rain was light and infrequent as I dashed about performing the trivial tasks that make this a glorified monkey's job. Who knows what was going on in Bill's head, but all I know is that he was on my case, like a heat seeking missile. He shot words at me with joyful glee trying to find a chink in my armor. Something was wrong with the fire, didn't have the two most inportant lights on, need to pull the power cord and the hose off the trail - "Some one'll trip, break their arm and sue." There were barbs like: "You need constant supervision."

Me: "What?! You're crazy. I ran these things without you here with no problems." It seems I make a good scape goat for some one else's anxiety problem. So this was my day: mind games framed by grey clouds with the promise of Hawaii just on the horizon line.

The big issue that kept coming up was those, poor, unlucky guests who are going to be stuck outside in the freezing cold sleeping. I am always repeatedly asked: "Is it too cold?" Maybe I need to learn how to lie or something but I always say how I have never used heat in the past 7 years while living in California. Granted, I have a killer sleeping bag - Big Agnes made in Steamboat, Colorado.

I learned a long time ago that the most essential item I could own was a good sleeping bag. If I was the president of this crazy, naieve country, I'd never have gone into the hot bed that is the Middle East. I'd have save billions and billions of dollars by giving every one good quality sleeping bags. While you sleep, turn the thermostat down to 50, sleep like a bug in a rug. Also, I'd have taken our vast resources and invested it in the plethora of alternative energy sources that seem to never receive any governmental support. The old boys' network is strangling this country like ivy on an oak tree.

Phil Donahue still ticking


Thursday, December 01, 2005

Are you Toxic?


Lobster trap

The fog rolled in to town tonight, like a blanket of missionaries paving the way for an invasion of rain. The temperature did not seem to drop as much; perhaps a consequence of the the moist air. Regardless, I maintained a comfortable body temperature with my thick black motorcycle leather jacket providing multi-dimensional protection as I traveled the roads completing tasks and such.

Rainbow Bridge became a spontaneous meeting ground - as it often does - for several of us. When I entered the dining area with my vegetable polenta and avacado, I sat near John, Glen and a gentleman whose name escapes me. "What's the story?" I say amicablly.

Glen: "Magic."

John: "We're doing magic tricks."

Me: "Cool. This is one that I normally only perform for kids under 10." I pretend to pull off my left index finger by replacing it with my right thumb. Not much of a reaction. A tough crowd. Glen then lifts a paper cup to his face and 2 drops of water fall on to his tongue. The illusion is that the cup is magically stuck to his hand. The trick is that his finger has gone thru a hole in the side of the cup. Even though this trick was pretty stupid, it at least took the pressure off me for having done such an old corny trick for old horny dogs.

Me: "There once was a duct tape man who lived on a duct tape street in a duct tape house with a duct tape roof.

John: "And he had a duck."

Me: "One day, a pair of docs were fishing between a pair of docks. They were unaware that a pair of ducks had swum up behind them. One of the ducks said to the other duck: "Is it a paradox that a pair of docs are swimming between a pair of docks or that a pair of ducks are talking about it?"

Every one make a loud satisfied grunt at the same time. Glen: "It's time for me to go, I think my brain just got caught in a lobster trap."