“I see what happens to Dick almost as the opposite of a collapse: a standing firm, an assertion rather than a weakening of will. This is why Dick’s failure is accompanied by the affirming sense that he is not falling short of but living up to his destiny, fulfilling it. E.M. Cioran got as close as anyone to the mysterious heart of ‘Tender’ when he said of the Fitzgeralds’ time in Europe—“seven years of waste and tragedy,” as Fitzgerald himself termed it—that in this time “they indulged every extravagance, as though haunted by a secret desire to exhaust themselves.” Elsewhere, without even referring to Fitzgerald, Cioran writes that “the man who has tendencies toward an inner quest…will set failure above any success, he will even seek it out. This is because failure, always essential, reveals us to ourselves as God sees us, whereas success distances us from what is most inward in ourselves and indeed in everything.”
(lifted without permission from ‘Otherwise Known As The Human Condition’, Graywolf Press, 2011)
Middle age surprises. Crack-addicted friends with bad chips on their shoulders in 1992 have since made peace with themselves, started families, replaced missing teeth, and become altogether wonderful people. Great womanizers who cavalierly juggled supermodels in their twenties now find themselves alone, with suspicious suntans and too many Chrome Hearts rings on their fingers.
In my early-thirties, terminally single, I found it hard to get through dinners with happily married couples with young children. Their comfort and stability reminded me of all that I lacked, and my free-spirited, peripatetic lifestyle did vice versa. Now I’m on the other side of this. My single friends describe in gloating detail their sexual conquests.
Most fascinating is the whole “older I get, better I was” epidemic, especially when it comes to surfing. At Waikiki Beach a couple years back, I met a haole surf instructor who spoke in thick pidgin and advertised himself as an ex-pro.
“What years?” I asked.
“Late ‘80s, brah.”
“ASP and PSAA.”
I competed on the ASP and PSAA tours from 1986 to 1991 and I’d never seen this guy before.
A minor surf and skate pro from the ‘80s claims on his website to have “inspired the Dogtown scene and helped spark the SoCal surf/skate/snow culture.”
I have watched one of my contemporaries’ bios change throughout the decades. In the ’90s he was a “former East Coast surfing champion.” In the ‘00s he became a “former U.S. Champion.” Recently he has graduated to “former Top 16 ranked pro.”
Following this trend, I’d like to amend my own biography:
—I did not deliver a pizza to John McEnroe in 1986 but rather John McEnroe’s wife, Tatum O’Neill, who invited me in, offered me cocaine and beer, and gave me a blowjob in the Jacuzzi.
—I grew up not in the Valley but Venice Beach. My father is serving a life sentence for murdering my mother. I was raised by Kent Sherwood, Jay Adams’s stepdad. I teethed on Cadillac Wheels, catamaraned down Bay Street with Uncle Tony Alva, lost my virginity, age 11, to the ‘Malibu Grinder’ in that famous gangbang the Colony crew still talk and high-five about.
—Jello Biafra, my godfather, hurled me off the stage at the Whiskey-a-Go-Go at a Dead Kennedys/Cramps show in 1980. I was 12. After crowd surfing through “Chemical Warfare,” Connie Jacobs, with pink Mohawk and pink pubic hair (how do I know this? she showed me), burned a mi vida loca tattoo into the back of my neck.
—Madonna and I not only ate sushi and smoked a joint and had rough sex in the alley behind Femme Nu in Waikiki after the Rolling Stone shoot (see below), but also she brought me along on her ‘Like A Virgin’ tour, and paid me handsomely to dazzle with my Gene Simmons-like tongue, much to the chagrin of Jellybean Benitez.
—Tom Curren still has a tough time looking me in the eye after the three times in a row I beat him in WSA quarterfinal heats.
—During that scandalous and prolific stint between my second Palme d’or and my hang gliding accident, I was not snorting methylenedioxypyrovalerone as Vanity Fair erroneously reported. I was doing tai chi and eating raw food.
—And for the record, yes, she was a senior at Beverly Hills High, but no, she wasn’t seventeen, she was sixteen-and-a-half.
—Brad Pitt, alls I can say is I apologize, the whole thing went down before you entered the picture.
My most vivid Halloween memory is of a haunted house in Encino that had a trough full of slimy goo. In a pitch black room, a stranger, presumably a zombie, would take your hand and guide it into this strange confection. It was warm like urine, and full of what felt like bones, cartilage, sea anemones, rubbery sausages, livers, hearts, brains, cigarettes, and dead goldfish. It smelled of blood, rubbing alcohol, open heart surgery. We’d try to imitate it in the school cafeteria. Tom La Verdi would dump his milk into his half-eaten bowl of spaghetti. Jeremy Dash would add a banana peel. Ronnie Sachs would spoon in some chocolate pudding. John Thorsen would pepper in some pizza crusts, an apple core, and a regurgitated peanut butter and jelly sandwich. We’d decorate it in swirls of ketchup and mustard, and sprinkles of Pop Rocks. Peter Bishop, bully that he was, would add what he referred to as “the cherry on top”: a deeply hawked loogie. Then we’d dip someone’s hand in it, or hurl it at an enemy.