Jan. 17th, 2017

I made a lot of notes, but not once the author arrived in San Francisco, it seems.
  • Tracks and its readers already hated Americans. When being polite, they called us seppos, short for septic tanks, rhyming slang for Yanks.
  • My years in the freezing ocean in Santa Cruz had given me exostoses—bony growths in the ear canal, known as “surfer’s ear”—which were now constantly trapping seawater, causing painful infections
  • me two, even three times, with the daylight hole speeding ahead, outrunning me, and then pausing and miraculously rewinding back toward me, the spilling lip seemingly twisting like the iris of a camera lens opening until I was almost out of the hole, and then reversing and doing it again, receding in beautiful hopelessness and returning in even more beautiful hope.
  • Patrick White’s Voss, an utterly convincing novel about a Prussian naturalist on a nineteenth-century expedition across the middle of Australia.
  • they would give the baby to a farmkid as a pet. They were great pets—gentle, loyal, intelligent. She used to dress up her young wallaby in a hat and coat and the two of them would walk and hop, holding hands, to town.
  • (Patrick White: “parents, those arch-amateurs of life.”)
  • I was struck by how, for somebody seeing Indonesia from a train, the main business of the nation seemed to be defecation. Every stream, river, weir, and rice-paddy canal that the tracks crossed seemed to be lined with farmers and villagers placidly squatting.
  • and included stone megaliths, spectacular ironwood architecture known as omo sebua, war dances, and hilltop villages with houses modeled after the Dutch galleons of slave-trading days. And so an odd collection of European hippies and tourists wandered up the coastal road through Lagundri.
  • The complex ambitions and aversions that brought the poor backpacker seven thousand miles to struggle and suffer from dysentery, heatstroke, or worse in the equatorial jungle—anything to be a “traveler” and not a “tourist”!—were perhaps impossible to untangle, but it was well known that he brought so little money that he was hardly worth hustling.
  • Then he had gone out and sold them, for sixty cents on the dollar, to Chinese gangsters. It had not been a straightforward transaction. He had refused to hand over the goods until he had payment in full in hand. The whole thing had taken days, and had turned into the haggle to end all haggles. It was all totally unlike Bryan, from beginning to end, and yet he had prevailed. For the two of us, it was a full role reversal.
  • The geography curriculum, for instance, included a section on South Africa’s neighbors that depicted them as peaceful Portuguese colonies. Even I knew that, in fact, Mozambique and Angola had both fought long, bloody wars of national liberation, had thrown out the Portuguese some years before, and were both now fighting desperate civil wars in which South Africa was arming and training the rebels.
  • Okay, it wasn’t the Peace Corps—my mother’s early ambition for me—and it certainly wasn’t Nader’s Raiders. But I had become their son-who-was-helping-oppressed-black-kids-in-South-Africa, which was not bad.
  • Breathing turned to gasping, then rasping, and your mind began to play ever-shorter loops, turning over the same half-nonsensical questions: Is perseverance rewarded? Is it even recorded? Meanwhile, underneath this aimless, half-hysterical activity, your brain struggled to detect the underlying patterns in the surf. Somewhere—upcoast, downcoast, or perhaps just beyond this next shallow spot—the waves might be weaker.
  • The best available route would be obvious from almost any other vantage—from the embankment, or from that pelican’s airborne perspective—but from down in the maelstrom, where you sometimes spent more time underwater than out in the visible world, and often got just one foam-edged breath between waves, it merely danced cruelly in the imagination
  • cathedral before the locals will call it eight feet. The subscientific arbitrariness of the whole business is obvious from the fact that among surfers, wherever they live, there is no such thing as a nine-foot wave or a thirteen-foot wave.
  • my own manual dexterity having been deleted by a surf. The passage of time itself could feel distorted
  • The deeper I swam, the colder and darker the water got. The noise as the wave broke was preternaturally low, a basso profundo of utter violence, and the force pulling me backward and upward felt like some nightmare inversion of gravity.
  • Broken waves were rumbling through the pilings like small avalanches through an iron forest.
  • it was also phenomenally violent. The waves seemed to be turning themselves inside out as they broke, and when they paused they spat out clouds of mist—air that had been trapped inside the bus-sized tubes.
  • This Noriega shot—I am looking at it now—shows a dark sea; my memory of that wave, meanwhile, is drenched with silver light. That’s because I was looking south while I navigated its depths, and when I slipped through its almond eye back into the world.
  • He once wrote that he had just realized that the hospitality we received back in 1978 from Sina Savaiinaea and her family in Samoa had cost them a lot of money, relative to their wealth, and that we had repaid them with trinkets rather than the cash that they desperately needed and were expecting but were too polite to mention.
  • The heightened sense of a vast, unknowable design silences the effort to understand. You feel honored simply to be out there. I’ve been reduced on certain magnificent days—this had happened to me at Honolua Bay, at Jeffreys Bay, on Tavarua, even once or twice at Ocean Beach—to just drifting on the shoulder, gawking at the transformation of ordinary seawater into beautifully muscled swell, into feathering urgency, into pure energy, impossibly sculpted, ecstatically edged, and finally into violent foam.
  • Surfing and I had been married, so to speak, for most of my life, but it was one of those marriages in which little is said. Mark wanted to help me and surfing patch up our stubborn, silent marriage. I didn’t think I wanted it patched up. Having a sizable tract of unconsciousness near the center of my life suited me, somehow.
  • I was trying to figure out how to live with the disabling enchantment of surfing
  • Being out in big surf is dreamlike. Terror and ecstasy ebb and flow around the edges of things, each threatening to overwhelm the dreamer. An unearthly beauty saturates an enormous arena of moving water, latent violence, too-real explosions, and sky. Scenes feel mythic even as they unfold. I always feel a ferocious ambivalence: I want to be nowhere else; I want to be anywhere else.
  • In Alaska, he chartered a plane, explored hundreds of miles of coast, and, near the foot of a glacier, discovered and surfed magnificent waves, alone, off a beach marked with fresh grizzly tracks.
  • Even the ukulele had come originally from Madeira, where it was known as the braguinha.
  • It looked like a good day at Rincon. Everyone tried to attend to the nuptials, but each time somebody muttered, “Set,” many heads turned. There was some glaring, some discreet kicking with high heels, but before it was over, even Alison laughed.

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