Friday, September 24, 2010

War Pony Chronicles: Cars and Stripes

Aloha amigos, much going on up here NoTB. For starters, the recent south swell seemed to offer many things to many surfers—from glassy peelers to dredging sphincter bombs, depending on where, when, and whether or not there were any eyewitnesses. The Gulf of Alaska is quietly waking up, eyeing the California coastline lying next to him in bed, and thinking, “Let's do this.”
It’s been many moons since we’ve seen ‘overhead++’ on Surfline’s Northern California forecast (though not so many moons, perhaps, since Surfline overcalled a swell), so our fingers are crossed, our minds already selecting boards, breaks, and tidal conditions.
As if this isn’t enough—the bounty of Fall is indeed colossal!—the fourth annual Great Handcar Regatta takes place this Sunday, September 26th, from 10am until 6pm in Santa Rosa’s historic Railroad Square. In case you’ve been stuck on the 101 for a year, the Handcar Regatta is like a shot of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade dropped into a hot glass of Burning Man, then chased with a nose-clearing dose of what would happen if Federico Fellini and Tom Waits made a baby. Handmade and handpowered rail cars, unwholesome costumes, belly dancers, freaks on stilts, outmoded facial hair combinations, nipples, and more ass cleavage than a whole season of NASCAR.
This year’s theme is Magical India, whatever the hell that means.
Here’s a sample :

This turning of the seasons also requires a tuning of the quiver, and Dr. J’s new War Pony will take him through all of Autumn’s graces—from doily, bubblegum and lace southswell playthings to, stomach-churning, sawed-off, deep water discharges.
Plus, it’s got stripes.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Golden Load

The opening lines to William Blake's To Autumn read:
O Autumn, laden with fruit and stained
With the blood of the grape, pass not, but sit
Beneath my shady roof.
Sounds familiar to those of up here NotB: we've got fruit in gross abundance, we're up to our nips in grapes, and we'd like nothing more than autumn to park her lush keester under our roofs for a while and end our run of uninspiring windswell.
This autumn's bounty includes Paul's new golden 8' Broadsword pintail, just about ripe and ready for some steep Northcoast beachbreak.
Blake was regarded by many, incuding himself, as nuts. He concludes his poem with autumn rising, dusting off his boots, then:
o'er the bleak hills fled from our sight;
but left his golden load.
It is precisely because of these last lines that I no longer give this poem to high school students.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Love's Labour's Gained

National holidays always give me pause. First of all, it's unsettling to have garbage pickup on Tuesday instead of Monday.
Second, holidays have a tendency to nag us with the message to think of others instead of ourselves. Who needs it?
Finally, a day off pretty much guarantees horrendous surf conditions.
But each of these dark clouds have their silver linings and Labor Day, unlike other holidays that wrack me with guilt as I pour lukewarm Tecates down my gizzard like they were the elixir of life itself, is designed for selfishness. What's not to love? Labor Day celebrates us, the American worker, just as we are.
It's an interesting choice to give us the day off to celebrate work, but whatever--we're supposed to drink cheap beer and let the littler ones run around with the bigger ones until their shapes are hard to distinguish in the waning light of evening. We're supposed to slap at mosquitoes or marvel at fireflies or vaguely wonder where our sweatshirts or spouses or dogs are as we stand around a bbq grill or sit around a fire pit or, if we're really lucky, stare into the gently pulsing embers as a beach bonfire fades into the fog.
All this because of American labor and all it stands for.
And up here North of the Bridge, it still stands for something. This 6'4 Lil' Pill, e-winged, cedar stringered, built for speed, inspired by the Campbell Brothers, and finned with bamboo was designed, shaped, glassed, finned, sanded, and polished by two people.
Four hands.
A singular desire to build something good.
It is also colored with resin in Laphroaig-bottle green.
My neighborhood sports a genuine old school steakhouse with a mind-boggling, wallet-draining single malt scotch menu. Surfboard building business has been conducted there through the years, and single malts have been sampled, extoled, heralded, cursed the next morning. The language of Scotland's chief export occasionally makes its way onto order cards: highland butterscotch opaque; Speyside honey tint; Lagavulin 16yr old yellow.
After a recent evening lush with liquid peat, smoke, and brine, the words Laphroaig-bottle green were jotted down. Leslie called soon thereafter.
"What the hell does that mean?" She demanded by way of introduction.
I directed her toward the Google.
"Got it," she said. "You could have just written pine, but--"and this was one of those moments that made the weekly hours-long drive to her glassing studio all the more worth it, "I'm glad you didn't."
Hope you had a great day.