A Nu Yawk Frame of Mind
Billy Joel and I grew up together. Well not exactly, he lived in
Hicksville, Long Island; I lived in Huntington. They're about 20 miles
Billy is almost exactly my age. We grew up during the same times and
went through the same life phases. His music was and has been my
constant companion and it's as though he's been writing about my life
(excluding marrying the super model part :)
Two weeks ago I had the extraordinary pleasure of attending a Billy Joel
concert in Washington, DC's spanking new MCI Center Arena. This is the
4th one I've been to in my life and each has been different. The crowd
was a remarkable mix of Boomers, Xers, and young teens. I have never
seen such a wide demographic at a show except for "Da Dead". Yet there
was a eerie similarity across generations that was startling, Bald heads
(for different reasons), Colored hair (for different reasons), tattoos,
and lots of denim.
Billy's music is an acquired taste. He's alternately been hated and
praised by critics over the years. It's an "in your face" attitude.....
I'm tempted to say, A Nu Yawk kinda thing, you probably wouldn't
understand. But the man has been very successful, so his message has
obviously had a wide appeal. Billy is pure New York and his music is a
reflection of the place and times he (and I) grew up in.
On many a surfing trips Billy's tapes were the only tunes we would
constantly play. He spoke to me and my friends in ways the other
counterculture artists did not. His song titles catalogued our progress
through young adulthood like no one else:
Angry Young Man
I go to Extremes
Keeping the Faith
This is the Time
Big Man on Mulberry Street
Only the Good die Young
We didn't start the Fire
All about Soul
River of Dreams
The Downeaster Alexa
As much as the Boomers enjoyed this show I was absolutely amazed at the
response by the Xers and Teens. It was obvious many were there with
their parents who sometimes mumbled along with the lyrics. But we were
surrounded by thousands of young people who knew "EVERY FRICKIN WORD
OF EVERY SONG!!" Billy's lyrics have somehow transcended the generations to
appeal to many of the sons and daughters of my contemporaries.
During an especially moving song called Goodnight Saigon I was terrible
moved and almost brought to tears by what I saw. There was a group of
Vets, judging by their battle ribbons, campaign pins and hats who were
accompanied by their young adult sons. During this song the men and sons
clung to each other with frightening intensity as they cried the lyrics
to each other:
"We came in spastic like tameless horses,
We left in Plastic, as numbered corpses."
The air was electric with emotion and the arena was awash with feeling
during that song. It was an extremely powerful moment. If you get to see
this man on tour, I recommend you go. He does some nice ballad work
too, and his drummer, Liberty DeVito is the living personification of
the term "Bar Band Drummer".
Billy is a lifelong resident of Long Island. In his song, "The
Downeaster, Alexa" he speaks of the cause of the commercial fishing
industry on Long Island, and the men whose way of life is disappearing.
A long time boat owner (his personal craft is a converted fishing boat)
I recently heard Billy is partner in a boat building company that hires
these former fishermen. When he was a young man, Billy used to work the
boats during the summer. He hasn't forgotten his roots.
Too many surfing trips to Long Beach, Montauk, Cedar Beach, Gilgo, the
Hamptons, Robert Moses etc, were accompanied by Billy's music. At the
concert almost every song brought to mind a great memory of waves and
surfing. I was strangely delighted at being transported back into my
sport by mere music.
Every concert Billy has ever given ends the same way. After he finishes
with his epic hit "Piano Man" he says to his fans, "Don't take any Shit
It's a Nu Yawk Frame of mind.
"Music is the shorthand of Emotion."
"What we play is life."
With a certain amount of wonderment I read the story of 3000 students
from Michigan State who battled riot police last weekend because they
were forbidden from drinking illegally at some spot on campus. There
have been other protests and demonstrations at other campuses in support
of being allowed to drink this year. What's going on here?
Now I come from the 60s generation where demonstrations and protest had
a worthy purpose and social cause. Plus in New York the drinking age was
18 then and my college had it's own beer bar in the basement of the
student union, so being allowed to get shit faced was not an issue. I
remember being part of huge demonstrations that protested the Vietnam
War and the killings at Kent State. I was arrested once for laying down
with hundreds of others blocking the entire Long Island Expressway
during rush hour one year (a true act of courage if you know anything
about New York drivers) to protest......something. Not only did we
believe in what we demonstrated against, but the protests were usually a
good place to meet babes who at the time didn't wear bras, and who were
taking the "pill" :^) (Viva Le Revolution!!)
In three years of college, campus demonstrations in support of major
social issues succeeded in shutting down our school and canceling
finals. And what did my friends and I do with our early dismissal from
Why we went surfing, of course :) Man, did we believe in protesting :)
Foon (Tie dyed, fried, and put to the side)
"There are only two forces that unite men - fear and self-interest."
Jose Borrero wrote:
I had a similar experience in college, it had nothing to do with protesting,
but it still shut down the school for a few days. Back in the opening week of
my sophomore year at the University of Florida (Fall 1990 I believe) an event
went down known as "The Gainesville Murders" 5 students were found brutally
hacked to death in apartments around G-ville.
I remember that case Jose. One of my neighbors drove 20 hours straight
to go retrieve his daughter from that school when it happened.
I find it curious how our interest in surfing invades the fabric of our
personal history. I revealed recently I was surfing on the day that
Martin Luther King was murdered. I was also surfing all day in July of
the year when men first walked on the moon. That night, while the rest
of the world witnessed what was till then, the most astounding episode in
the history of man's exploration of his universe, I was fast asleep in
the arms of my Italian girlfriend in the basement of her summer house.
Even when she shook me awake for the very moment ("One small step for
Man".....) I blearily
mumbled, "yeh, yeh, yeh, tell me about it tomorrow." Geez, I hope I
dreamed of good waves that night.
I was also in Coacoa Beach surfing when Apollo 13 launched, and finally
the day Kennedy was shot I was almost in tears. Not because of what
happened, but because I was unable to pickup my brand new Jacobs
Surfboard from the surfshop, which was closed.
Don't you all find it interesting that as a person, sometimes when
history is being made or very important events occur, we fixate on the
sport of surfing. What is that all about?
Foon (Member of a Generation that Ended a Presidency and a War on the
back of some cheesy little protest songs, a cheap wine called
Boones Farm, and a free concert in a cow pasture :)
About this time of year MrsFoon always takes off for some strange and
exotic land. This year it's LA; I know, that's not very exotic. And
about this time of year I manage to injury myself while she's gone.
(Last year it was a badly sprained ankle and an almost broken wrist). In
fact, she makes money by betting me I will. When she travels, for some
reason I get careless and clumsy and being away from her watchful eye
and stabilizing influence makes me wind up hurting myself.
This year I was hoping for something minor, but MrsFoon was frightened
by the prospect that I would be washing windows, even though it was at
(Yes, I do windows; it is one several domestic skills I am still useful
for. If you ever get tired of hearing complaints from your spouse about
spending too much time surfing, offer to do the windows. Then when you
come home late from the beach and get "that look" just mention, "Don't
those windows look great honey?!" Works every time :)
She warned the neighbors that at the first sign of me hanging out a
second floor window to clean, they were to stack mattresses underneath
them. Since I married a smart woman who always covers her options, I
noticed too she had upped my life insurance an extra $50k. Thanks honey
(she loves me!)
So now I'm out $100 because within 24 hours of her leaving I managed to
burn my head on my catalytic converter while I was under my truck
changing the oil filter. Damn thing burnt right through one of my
favorite hats too! This caused me to seek solace in a couple too many
Tangeray and Tonics, and I guess I fell soundly asleep, or passed out.
I suppose you've seen the print and television ads for this apocalyptic
film called "Deep Impact." It's an "end of the world" story based on
some giant comet slamming into the Earth at supersonic speed. (Mom's
Foon says that's not the way it's going to happen and up till recently she
was certain it was gonna come in the year 2000. But since her stock
portfolio is going great guns -she just bought Pfizer on a hot tip, the
maker of Viagra, she figures the end of the world will come when
McDonalds and Microsoft merge).
The impact of the giant comet throws up the Mother of all Waves and sure
enough New York City is right in the way. During my disturbed sleep I
was dreaming about this circumstance and the dream was filled with the
image of this 3000 foot wave approaching New York as it is seen in the
TV ad.(This will teach me not to drink gin and watch Television by
The wave is just enormous and my perspective is that of someone sitting
and waiting outside for this monster. As it rears up it appears as
though everyone, all of New York and for that matter the rest of the
world is caught inside! I'm the only one in position and I've got
priority! I realize it will be the last wave for all time and it is my
responsibility as the only surfer in the world in position, to ride it
well. My heart is pounding as the monstrous feathering lip approaches
and I look inside to see the whole of Manhattan being swallowed up by
the deepening water. (Where's a K2 Challenge photographer when you need
one!!) The entire horizon is filled with an immense wall of water and I
whirl around to deep stroke into the approaching mountain, screaming at
the top of my lungs:
I wake up violently, the shouted words still echoing in my head and
dieing on my breath. I'm covered in sweat lying in my own bed and I
reach out instinctively to touch MrsFoon to gain reassurance from her
presence....knowing of course she's not there. It is 3:00 am and I
cannot fall back asleep. All I can think of is the consequences of being
in front of a 3000 foot wave as it breaks. Finally I fall fitfully back
asleep with only one thought in my feeble subconscious. "Did I make
it?" (Well yeah that, and "Did I really pull off that roundhouse cutback
without popping my fins" :)
The rewards for staying home this weekend and executing a monster
Honeydo list are many. The sense of accomplishment of doing all the
things you've set out to do without injuring yourself too badly, and
the prospect of spending a long Bachelor's Weekend at the Foonbunker
next weekend. By then I will either be dead, or very ready to get some
watertime. I hope the conditions improve on Thursday.
Foon (Deeply Impacted by the absence of MrsFoon)
"It was a Woman who drove me to drink - and you know, I never even
"Television is an invention that permits you to be entertained in your
living room by people you would never have in your home."
Nanosecond n. one-billionth of a second, Websters New Collegiate
I'm a fairly careful guy. With my record of personal injury I have to
be. The drill at the Foonhouse, before I go anywhere is, I go to kiss
my wife good-bye and she gives me a visual and verbal check: Shoes tied,
zipper up (uh, on some days we check to see if I'm wearing pants or
shorts first), no loose garments like sleeves or pants legs dangling to
get caught in or trip over, and finally medical cards and emergency
medical information in my wallet. Check. I'm good to go, bye Dear.
Careful as I try to be, when I get in the water, my natural instinct to
protect myself gets set back a few notches and I take some chances I
wouldn't normally take. So much more so when I was younger, but the
resiliency of youth and a fairly sharp learning curve got me through
some bad spots.
So at middle age the synapses are still firing, despite years of brain
cell loss due to bad habits, but the reflexes connected to their signals
are not responding as quickly.
A case in point was when I was paddling out a few years ago during the
wonderful conditions after hurricane Eduoard. The sets were evenly
spaced and if you timed it right you could actually get outside dry
headed. After a few exhilarating rides I was paddling out and saw a
fairly large (for us) rogue wave zeroing in on me. My years of
experience led me to believe I was just going to make it over, or it
would break very closely in front of me and I would have to duck dive. I
kept a wary eye on this monster and believed I had plenty of time to
take action. As the wave crested I began my duck dive as quickly as
possible, but not fast enough. The wave caught me square in the middle
of the back and just drove me down like a pile driver. A vicious working
ended my session for the day.
Likewise while traveling along a wave face, it is usually instinct and
reflex that gets you out before getting caught. How many times have you
stretched your good judgment to squeeze just a few more feet of wall
out of that thing before bailing? The difference in time between a
successful escape and a terrible beating seems like a nanosecond. And as
I get older I'm beginning to add a lot of nanos on to my lead time for
I don't believe the Nanosecond came under discussion 3 years ago when we
dissected the concept of Surfer's Time (for you vets, you may remember
the epic thread that explored how we as surfers are not subject to the
normal sweep of the hands of a clock). But I do believe it is something
we all live with every day as we challenge the vicissitudes of mother
ocean (Look that up in your New Collegiate).
Foon (counting the nanoseconds until MrsFoon returns :)
"The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough."
"Time is the rider that breaks youth."
"Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its pupils."
Surf Report - the Bunker - 5/15-17/98
I write this report (wracked with muscular pain, but smiling like a
Cheshire cat) from the balcony of the Foonbunker after a terribly
satisfying weekend. You want details?
Let's see, there must be some I can remember.
Location: A town on the Delmarva Peninsula
Conditions: Light or no winds mostly, Consistent but well spaced sets.
Warm, Clear weather.
Waves: Depending on tides (of course) knee to shoulder, an occasional
head high with fairly organized and lengthy lines. Like any beach break,
relentlessly unforgiving at low tide. Good for bodyboarding and
shortboarders who could turn on the speed. Longboarders didn't have a
chance until mid to high tide. I clocked several rides of 10-15 seconds
with more than a few cover ups.
Temps: Water 50-55 F. Air 75-80 F. The sun was a warm and welcome guest
after almost two weeks of sporadic rain.
Tides: Low at dawn and early evening, High around noonish or soon
Crowds: Gee, I think I saw 5 guys at one break. I mostly surfed with two
Equipment: My personal Pocket Rocket- the Foonsponge, a Toobs BC Drive
with channels and some Devil Eyes painted on the bottom (my own
peculiar shark repellent and line-up psycher), O'Neill Legend 3/2 full
suit, 2mm fin socks (no gloves), Fins -Profin "Blades" (made in
Malaysia), Miami Hurricanes ball cap, Bullfrog Gel sunscreen (45 spf),
Quiksilver boardshorts (xxl), Wetstuff rashguard. (I believe that covers
I canceled my predawn run to the coast on Friday when I heard a HazMat
accident on the freeway tied up one of my roads to the beach for hours.
Leaving at noon, I hoped to catch an afternoon or evening session even
though it would be low tide.
My first glimpse of the Bunker Beach was encouraging. From the balcony
with binoculars I could see 8-10 beach breaks thinly populated with the
after school and skipped-work crowd. The swell was chest high and several
riders were dropping some meaty waves. A slight sidewind speckled the
otherwise smooth wave faces. I suited up and went in for a pre-dinner
session sharing a cozy little sandbar just North of the Bunker with two
friendly and generous bodyboarders. Within minutes we were hooting and
cheering each others rides. Later I checked my watch - two hours and a
dozen good rides had gone by. I slept very well that night (as well as I
can without MrsFoon).
Saturday: Up at dawn (5:40something) I take my coffee and binoculars out
to the balcony and already I can see a handful of riders spread out over
6-8 blocks. Though it's low tide and the breeze is ever so slightly
offshore, the size and form have definitely improved overnight. The
swell from the previous 2 weeks of storms is much better organized and
the satisfyin "thump" of breaking waves has me finishing up my coffee in
a few gulps and heading for the beach. I surf gleefully until 10 am,
then drag my aching carcass out for a break.
The wind never really picks up as usual and so the conditions continue
to be tempting right through high tide. I head back for an afternoon
session at 1 pm and surf with two kids and their Dad for three hours.
The waves get hollower as the tide drops and become what I call,
"shoehorn" waves. Standups can crouch and shoehorn themselves into a
tasty little tunnel just after takeoff, but better be out of it by time
the waves taper. I stop counting after tucking myself into 10 of these
little things, never once losing my hat to a wave.
I practice throwing walls of spray doing off-the-lips, which seems
amusing to my buddies in the water. I guess seeing an big, old
bodyboarder stylin, and carving is a funny sight. I don't care, I'm
having fun. Later in the afternoon I'm thankful that my hat and a
liberal coat of Bullfrog has kept me from getting my face fried. I see
way too many people on the beach getting roasted on the first hot
weekend of the season.
The afternoon session ends abruptly when a particularly zippy turn
twangs a calf muscle like a bow string. As I torque my board out of a
bottom gash, the calf seizes up with a knifelike charlie horse that has
me muttering the F-word with more sincerity than usual.
As I slowly paddle in I come upon a very young boogier struggling
against a strong rip current. He's getting sucked out fast and is more
than a little panicky. This massive rip is the Foonbunker Beach's
classic beachbreak flaw. It is an outgoing river of water that is very
noticeable if you know what to look for. For those who don't know how to
use a rip current to get outside, it can be a dangerous and scary thing.
Timing is crucial since waves breaking in the ripzone often pack more
water and power than most. I tell the kid to hang on to my sore leg and
I arm paddle us out of the rip and into shore. No one even notices us
since there are no guards on the beaches yet this season. The kid says
thanks, and apparently means it though he's somewhat shy and shaky. As I
stretch out my sore calf I can't help but grin - this was a really good
With MrsFoon on the Left Coast recently, my bachelor weekend at the
Bunker is a rare reward for being a good husband. By aceing the monster
honeydo list last weekend, when the weather really sucked (I even did
windows and planted flowers) I got to wallow in all that Bunkerlife can
offer. A few friends and I ate things that were not good for us, drank
a little too much Sauza Commemerativo (hey Tim, thanks for the tip, I
found it), smoked a few stogies and watched movies late at night that by
definition, are not exactly "chick flicks."
In that regard I should say among the genre, Penitentiary Women VI:
"Escape from the Prison Ship," is the quintessential merger of Titanic
and Moby Dick.
"Look Captain Assgrab!! Thar she Blows!!" And indeed she does. The epic
and climactic scene with the "first mate" alone is worth the $3 rental
fee. Who'd of thought that a boat full of cuties would go down so fast?
It is amazing what 10 women, with not a lot of clothes can do to escape
a sinking prison ship. The horror!! The bravery!! The hair mous!!! Why
this was not at the "Can" film festival, I'll never know ;^)
The four sessions I logged over three days were as much fun as I've had
since Trinidad last November. And that's what it's really all about,
isn't it? Just having some fun.
When I picked MrsFoon up at the airport (damned 2:00 AM Redeye) I was so
delighted to see her. She'd had a good trip which included three
sessions of Cosmic Bowling late at night with her niece and nephew, and
five trips to Tommy's, her favorite burger joint in the valley.(Hey, I
got a Tommy's hat outta the deal) But I did feel slightly guilty at the
thought of wondering when her next trip would be (June -early Hurricane
"The formula for happiness is to be very busy with the unimportant."
Pretty Good Guacamole
No I don't cook in the outback, or relish road kill casserole. My vegie gardens in the
1970s revealed that my cost of fresh tomatoes would run
$10.75/lb. The insects, groundhogs and white-tailed deer ate a lot
better than I did. So up front I'm no gourmet(right Will?) And I'm sure
the purists and cuisinators will cringe when they read this, but here's
a little quac recipe I've thrown together over the years. I say it's
pretty good cause every time I make it there's never any left over. My
guests usually kill two batches of this stuff in one party.
4 ripe California Avocados
1 Small Bermuda Red Onion
2 spring onion
1 or 2 Vine Ripened Tomatoes
2 chili peppers, you pick your degree of heat.
1 Red Bell Pepper
1 Juicy Lime
Gut and shell the avocados in a bowl. Mash till pasty. Dice the rest of
the ingredients except the lime, and combine.
Squeeze the lime juice into the quac and season to taste with salt,
pepper, chili powder, a bit of garlic or cumin. Chill and serve with
crispy thin tortilla chips and margaritas.
Roadfood - The PB&J. Put peanut butter and Jelly on some bread. Eat it.
For a crunchy PB&J, add sand to taste.
"A gourmet is just a glutton with brains."
Philip W. Haberman Jr.
"A recipe is only a theme, which an intelligent cook can play each time