A Kook is, but is not only, a person who is bad at surfing.
There are a million ways and reasons to be bad at surfing, but one of the kookiest, is to have no clue as to what you are doing wrong.
Perhaps the most kooky thing, is to make no effort to learn what one is doing wrong, yet continue surfing.
I am a kook.
I don’t want to be one, but there is so much I don’t know, that it will take a lifetime for me to get half a clue. That is my best-case scenario; one half clue.
I’m putting in an honest effort but there are obstacles.
I’m not a real athlete, I’m more of a beast. In other words I’m more made for smashing and lifting than I am for balancing or doing anything at a high speed. Or a medium speed. Or anything involving the word speed.
2. I need to lose 50 pounds. I require a lot of buoyancy to counteract my displacement to equal gravitational force. In other words, It takes a lot to make me float. Maximum displacement does not improve surfing. But more than that, surfing requires a lot of paddling and other things that resemble physical activity and at least 50 pounds of me are in no way helping. Those 50 pounds are the guy who lives on the couch, eats from your fridge, but doesn’t pay bills.
3. I live in Rancho Kookamonga. Kook is in the name of the place. No, it is not really spelled that way, and no, the word itself isn’t REALLY the problem, but the geography is. I am at least an hour away from the beach with no traffic. Everywhere in California has traffic, and gas is expensive.
4. Money. It would be nice if I had more money, or if things related to me surfing didn’t cost as much money. I’d be happy with either solution, but as it stands gas, road tolls, wetsuits, surfboards, and TIME are prohibitively expensive. I have found ways to scrounge out some time (for now), tolls come in small bite sized chunks, but that board. I currently ride on the homemade generosity of an older board that has been beat up almost as much as me, it weighs as much as me, and while it currently helps get my oversized self upright on a wave, it pretty much only allows that. And I’m not sure how much longer it can handle this one job. Surfboards, the ones big enough for me, are expensive.
5. I’m getting old. Not just older, but I am solidly closer to old than young. I make friends with retired people. There are things my body could once do, that it no longer can, and when I try it hurts. Things always hurt. It doesn’t matter what I do, the pain just sort of shifts around depending on the activity.
6. Excuses. The idea that the board, or my geography, or the tides, are why I’m not a good surfer, are excuses that don’t really hold water (though unfortunately the board does indeed take on water). I should just eat less. I should find ways to earn, or save, more money. Eating less might help that. I think if I ate less I could be more of an athlete. I have known these aforementioned things long enough to have done something about them yet this list remains up to date.
But mostly I just want a new board. A magical one. One that would make me better.
And that is why I am a kook.
Because of 1 through 6, plus this last bit…
I intend to persist.
I can’t help it. I’m stuck. I’m snakebit. I’m stoked. Addicted. Hooked. I’m no good at it and it is still fun. It is fun every time. It is hard every time and once I think I have improved, something proves me wrong.
And I have fun.
So I will be there this Saturday morning as the sun comes up. I will be trying to get better but battleships are hard to turn even when they have an able Captain.
I’m in a Facebook group. It’s a sort of neighborhood watch for the development in which I live, and it has shown me more about where I live, than physically living here ever has.
When we first moved here we took home baked cookies to all the houses on the block with no observable consequences. People were friendly enough, but we haven’t had a follow up conversation with anyone since, at least not in person.
Our real introduction came last Thanksgiving. I saw a notice from Facebook that the group had new comments. I opened it up to see a long thread of mean-spirited notes about parking. It included a story about how multiple complaints had been previously made, there were accusations of inconsideration, and lots of rhetorical questions of how stupid someone must be to park such a way. There was absolute consensus that not only was this bad parking and bad form, but that something must be done. Yes, the abuse had gone on too long and gone too far.
The best part of the thread was the photo of my car.
There it was, plain to see, with passenger side tires on the sidewalk. I had indeed parked it that way- and did so on a regular basis. But there was also another car, my next-door neighbor’s, right in front of mine, parked the same way.
The day we took our initial tour of the property as potential tenants I noticed that this block parked on the walk. I thought it a bit odd, but funny enough, not new to me. I had previously lived 7 years on a narrow block where one had to park similarly in order for cars to have room enough to pass. That was back when I first learned that rear view mirrors folded in for reasons other than the car wash. But that was then and there, here, in my new suburban community with a gate out front, the road was wider, but I shrugged and followed suit. I did as the Romans without asking why.
And here were the Romans ready to turn me into pre-revolutionary Spartacus.
I posted an apologetic comment with a promise to reform, and a deferential request that if I offend in the future, that I would be happy to atone-especially if my errors were in fact brought to my attention.
The thread did a turn-about. There were apologies and discussions about actually getting to know each other in person. One of our neighbors even brought us over a Black Lives Matter yard flag and the moderator of the group even changed its name from a “watch” to a “community”. I appreciated that act. The online reform was sort of nice.
Since then, I have seen things.
Mostly complaints about the front gate not working. There was that one time someone posted a picture of a crane, like the long-necked bird, walking through the subdivision, and then the images of stray trash cans after a windstorm. But I also saw doorbell pictures of the neighbor’s children who I knew, with the heading “beware white car using children to steal packages.” I know those kids from church. They were delivering gifts to the homes of other members of our congregation. I saw a blurry image of a kid on a BMX bike with the text, “Does anyone know this person? He is suspiciously riding around the neighborhood.”
I didn’t know him nor could anyone from the image quality. Photos of cars are posted regularly being declared suspicious or unknown with the caution to beware. I have seen pictures of teenagers hanging out at the park with the caption “troublemakers hanging out at the park being disrespectful.”
And then there was that one time someone posted a video of what appeared to be a teenaged girl wearing a bikini and slippers standing, and sort of dancing, in the middle of the street.
The person taking the video was asking the girl to identify herself and repeatedly asked her if she lived in the community. She refused to answer. The person who posted the video, who I am guessing was the videographer, was asking the community if anyone knew her and insinuated the girl was on drugs.
I wondered to myself why the avenue of the filmer’s inquiry was bikini girl’s address. She was being asked to prove where she lived, insinuating she didn’t live here, which in tun insinuated that the acceptability of her behavior hinged on her residence as well as the assumption that people who own these homes are incapable of acting that way.
Curious. The nature of poster’s question disturbed me much more than the girl’s exposed stomach and legs.
The video was quickly taken down.
Just yesterday there was a complaint about illegal fireworks that inspired the moderator requesting decorum.
The resulting comments included a man who insisted this online group exist as a watch, because people are too dangerous these days to speak with in person. I, not exactly naïvely but with misplaced hope, offered that in order for community to exist, we must be willing to engage each other directly. He did not agree.
He aggressively countered with “Have you ever had your life threatened?” because he of course had. “Had I ever had someone threaten to kill me just because I asked their children to get off my property?” Because of course he had, and he will never talk to anyone with whom he doesn’t already have a relationship, because people will shoot you for no reason these days.
I withdrew from participation on that thread without pointing out that no one had in fact shot him for no reason in his anecdote. Nor did I post the local crime data I Googled.
Our little city does indeed have incidents of crime; packages are stolen from porches, houses get burgled, and someone painted a penis on the picnic table at the park. Last year, 2 people were murdered. That gave us a 2.2% murder rate, compared to a national average of 6. We have an assault score of 194 compared to a national 282, robbery at 60 compared to 135 nation-wide, and burglaries come in at 329! The national average is 500.
All of these scores have declined since 2017.
I am having trouble understanding my neighbor’s fear.
In fairness, part of this, or even most of this, lack of understanding comes from me not actually knowing my neighbor.
Another part is fed by where I lived before.
My previous neighborhood’s murder rate was 22%. Not 2.2, that is where I live now, but rather “twenty-two”. Assault scored 486, robbery 331, but then burglaries were closer, coming in at 409 (note, Philadelphia is below the national average in burglaries!!!). I was there for almost 8 years, experienced several conflicts with neighbors, and yet, unlike my suburban neighbor, no one threatened to kill me.
I am not relating this to win, danger is not a contest, but more because I worry about fear. People make poor choices when they are afraid, or rather, we are willing to go to extremes when danger is perceived. And fear is a feeling, a perception, not an analysis of data.
I experience danger and fear differently than some. I am just over six feet tall and a bit more than “just” over 200 pounds. I am an adult white man who appears middle class. I walk the world, both corporate corridors and back alleys, knowing that I am physically more imposing than average people and that if cops are called, they will likely see me as an ally or at least they will listen when I speak.
Not everyone has these privileges.
But my fearful neighbor does. Unless he is using a misleading avatar, he is a grown white man just like me. But he is afraid – of me. I don’t think he is anomalous.
I have never hurt anyone, nor even attempted to hurt anyone (sports don’t count) in my life, and yet my Facebook neighbors feel fear. The data show that the things to be feared, are not likely. I do not know what has happened to all those who live nearby, but I can calculate the likelihood. But that isn’t the issue as much as their impressions are.
Now, as I go outside for some COVID fresh air, and ride my bike, or cruise on my long board, or walk with my kids, I know that behind those doors are people who see me first with suspicion and possibly as a threat. Me, and I don’t feel welcomed or safe.
And then I imagine what it must be like for those who aren’t large middle class white men.
How welcome are Black women or brown men? How safe do those who aren’t physically imposing, or whom the police don’t assume are safe, feel? If you are so afraid of me that we cannot speak, how do you react to them?
How safe are they from your fear?
If I don’t know you, or if we won’t get to know each other, how can we fix this? And also, most disappointingly, because of who is afraid and how fearful people act, it looks like it is completely up to those who are feared to attempt building bridges.
I first knew the song thanks to Depeche Mode, my Dad probably knows it thanks to Chuck Berry, most kids today probably know it from Pixar’s movie Cars, but the song Route 66 first hit the charts in 1946 thanks to Nat King Cole.
I live on Route 66.
I get both my kicks and my groceries there.
Touted as Americas first interstate, Route 66 stretches from Chicago to
Santa Monica. Oddly enough, for a road that stretches across so much of the country, most of that road goes through nowhere. My particular stretch of that old road is the kind of no where that filled up with people yet never quite became a place. There isn’t a solid there here.
When driving through nowhere you best mind the gas gauge.
Back before the Prius cars needed lots of gallons for very few miles and this meant pulling over and filling up in places like Cucamonga California- or Barstow. Because of that long gone need, or maybe somehow in honor of it, my little stretch of this road is frequented by all sorts of cars you don’t see every day in other places.
I live where old cars go after they die.
When me and my little one stopped by the only museum in my city, they had one artifact that surprised me. They had a Green Book. I had heard of it, known what it is, but never seen one. It wasn’t in great shape and was framed.
The Green Book was something like a AAA travel guide for Black people. This was necessary because, much like planning out where to plug in a Prius, in those days you had to plan out your pit stops, and only certain pits would do business with Black people. The Green Book listed the places a Black family could fill up, eat, or stay the night.
Which I knew but didn’t really think about in California. Not that California is immune to that sort of thing entirely, but sometimes in my mind, back when stuff like that was in its hey-day, California didn’t even exist.
Sometimes my mind is wrong.
Anyone out there know where I can get my hands on a copy of the Green Book? That little museum (which has the friendliest docents I’ve ever met) could use a better copy.
So there is this place in Rancho Cucamonga, CA (yes that is an actual place), where all diets go to die.I would describe it as a middle eastern creperie that specializes in calories. Like, Olympic levels of calories.
The place looks harmless, like some suburban strip mall afterthought, but do not be fooled. The Nutella double chocolate Twix crepe will send you to a joyful early grave.
But that is just for the average “I want extra helpings of the sugar I know” palate. They have other stuff too. For instance, if you want to overdose in calories derived from things that should otherwise be healthy, you can indulge in any one of their fruit cocktails.
This thing took ten days to build, not because they are slow, but because the guy behind the counter just kept stuffing things into that glass.
Then there is this stuff I had never heard about called “ashta”. I would describe it as something in between heavy cream and cottage cheese. Apparently it can be turned into ice cream, like a less-sweet vanilla, and then be piled on top of a crepe then sprinkled with rose water, then dusted with pistachio and then drowned in honey, then devoured by me.
I saw behind the counter they have baklava, and dates, and every combination of phyllo dough stuffed with sweet stuff imaginable and I want all of it.
It is a bad thing that I found this place. Curse you JJ. Curse you.
Today, as my fellow Americans celebrate our most American qualities, consumerism and competitive bargain shopping, I choose to celebrate not buying anything. I do this in an effort to illustrate that there exists is a higher moral standard. We can do and be better than material possessions and conspicuous consumption. I gladly step forward as the standard bearer for this cause as I am full of moral superiority, and also, I am cheap, and quite often I am broke.
Being broke and pious makes me an expert on poor purchasing decisions. For example I once bought an ’84 Jeep Cherokee. Don’t ever buy an ’84 Jeep Cherokee no matter how shiny its rims as it will only break your heart and leave you stranded in a snowy canyon miles away from civilization. Do not under any circumstances purchase a second hand generic laptop because it comes with a pirated copy of Photoshop pre-installed. The seller will appear quite trustworthy but you should resist.
With my expertise clearly illustrated, let me now give some advice as to what you, both the general and specific you, should buy.
Good shoes. How and where and which ones is up to you, but you should do it. Then, when they one day get holes in their soles, you don’t throw them away, you go visit the most poorly named shoe repair shop in California.
I did not expect to find a cobbler, or any person who cares about and practices a craft, in a strip mall. But here he is. This man took my Allen Edmonds shoes, told me exactly how old they were and how much I paid for them, then evangelized on the subject of buying quality footwear. He said a bunch of stuff I think I have heard, and ignored, Tinseth telling me for years. Tinseth would like this guy. Really, anyone would like this guy as he is very likable and knows what he is doing.
Mostly Tinseth would like him because as he was ringing me up the cobbler said, “these are good shoes…” He then looked down at my feet and finished, “but those are horrible.”
I have learned that the two places where I most naturally feel at home are the high mountain desert or Philadelphia. I’m not really in either of those places too regularly these days. I doubt my geography will change any time soon, or maybe ever, so I am open to adjustment.
I recently discovered a place that may help me do just that.
This discovery came right after I discovered, or realized, that my hair was slipping well past hip and right on into hippie. Time to hit the barber’s.
For the past eight or so years when in need of a trim I would walk down to the corner of the block and take a seat next to a grumpy old man at Ricco & Son’s Barbershop. Ricco was long since retired but son was still there. Sitting in their chair getting a straight razor drug down my neck is where I learned my picture was in the local paper. It was that kind of place. They knew everyone by name, they read the local paper, and they would trim your eyebrows without warning you first.
It’s a little too far to walk there now.
I know of another place nearby that is trying to be what Ricco & Son’s naturally is, but it is expensive. Men’s cuts should not be expensive.
Men’s cuts should also not be at Great Clips, or similar places. But in a land of strip malls and Olive Garden’s what choice is there?
I find it amazing that a place that has only been open a year or so could be the first to claim that simple name. Perhaps it speaks to the newness of the whole neighborhood.
It is in a poorly located strip mall, mostly big box distribution centers for neighbors and the front door faces the parking lot and not the street. I drive past the place every day and look over at the lawn sign that reads “barbershop. Now open.” So I gave them a shot.
I’m glad I did.
The place is new so what it lacks in generational patina it makes up for in cleanliness. It had no real artwork on the walls, I have ideas for that, but the angled mirrors stretching both sides of the shop work quite well. When I sat to wait my turn I realized Handel’s Water Music was playing on the sound system. I know it was Handel because that is about the only classical piece I recognize. It was maybe amateur hour playing choosing that for the background music, but it was exactly what I needed that day. I relaxed a little bit. It told me that I wouldn’t have to worry about that one barber who approaches you with a “Yo I can do you up with the flyest cut on the streets!”
I have nothing against fly street cuts, they just don’t match my normal work wear.
They shined my shoes. For free. They insisted.
When it was my turn they listened to what I wanted. Not the head nodding that proceeds whatever cut the barber intended to give all along, but the kind of listening that included restating my request. I have learned the hard way that this isn’t universal at barbershops.
They did a good job. Better than passable. There was no eyebrow trim but there was a straight razor.
My mind has been taught to associate palm trees with vacation.
Every morning I wake, look out the window and there they are. I go to work and look out my windows, huge windows, and there they are again.
Every now and then, but not too often, I wake up to cloudy skies… but then a few hours later the sun burns these “clouds” away and the sky is blue. Completely blue. Not a cloud.
It has been three weeks since I have seen a panhandler.
It has been about that long since I have even seen a piece of trash on the ground.
Out here, even the dirt is kept clean.
The kids have started school but the pool is still open. The pool is going to stay open.
It doesn’t close.
I no longer toy with airports and rental cars. I traded those in for an office with my name on the door.
There was a moment,
I’ll admit more than one,
as I was driving past the Cheescake factory, then the Olive Garden, and then Chili’s, when I began to regret my decision. I missed the Hinge Cafe’ and the rat meat cheese steak under the L…
And then I ate a burrito.
Regret all gone.
I may never eat another cheese steak.
Viva la burrito.
In less than two weeks the Brohammas corporate headquarters will be relocating. I’m typing this now at my office desk, surrounded by boxes. The Company logo has been taken off the wall and I’m avoiding cleaning out the drawers in the kitchen.
I will be trading in colonial cobblestone and corner stores for the palm trees of California. I’m conflicted.
Not just East to West, but old to new, urban to… sub *gulp* urban.
It may be a good idea for me to break the rear view mirrors off of life for a little while. But I’m not deleting that “Philly” tab at the top of this site.