WRESTLING ELEPHANTS

By Jamie Brisick

The Rat-a-tat of Memory

Surf Collective NYC

Peanut Butter and Jelly

Her face invited swan dives, her blue eyes made him want to strap on fins, mask, oxygen tank. She was licking a cherry Popsicle. Her tongue was red and shiny. They were in the lunch area, sitting Indian style on the pavement. He reached into his brown bag, pulled out a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. For most of his 11 years he'd been a cut-off-the-crusts kind of kid, but no more. Not since they'd started eating lunch together everyday. She licked, licked, licked, then chomped the tip off the Popsicle. A wild mustang whinnied in South Dakota. A bush elephant whipped its trunk in Tanzania. A sword fish breached in the South Atlantic. He studied her face, her perfect skin. He peeled apart his sandwich. He wanted to tell her something big, something infinite. Instead, he brought the two sides of the sandwich to her cheeks, pressed hard, and planted a kiss on her cherry mouth.

November 4, 2014

These Corners That We Write Ourselves Into #19

Grayfox pad, Point Dume, Malibu, October 2014

October 25, 2014

Food Porn Doused In Salt Water

Obsessive Instincts: A Hang with Rin Tanaka

Rin Tanaka was twelve years old when he first saw the movie On Any Sunday. The roar of Triumphs and Harley Davidsons, the soundtrack bursting with songs about freedom and flying and tasting the sun, Bruce Brown’s signature narration, that killer climax scene in which Steve McQueen, Mert Lawwill, and Malcolm Smith tear up the sand dunes—all of it enthralled him. But what really jumped off the screen and slapped him awake was McQueen’s 501s.

            “New Levi’s was very expensive,” said Tanaka, a short Japanese man who, despite his fifteen years in the U.S., charmingly, often humorously, butchers English. “This is the reason I went to Tokyo, to Harajuku. In 1980 they just started vintage clothing business in Japan. Nobody called it vintage, just used.”

            Tanaka has published twenty-one books, all of which feature his obsession with vintage Americana. His primary subjects are surfers, skateboarders, bikers, rockers, and hippies. His titles are specific: Motorcycle Helmet: 1930s-1990s, or Motorcycle Jackets: Ultimate Biker’s Fashions. He is best known for his My Freedamn! series, ten volumes strong and counting. On his website bio Tanaka calls himself a journalist and photographer, but he is more than this. He is a hunter, collector, timekeeper, and fetishist. Tell him you saw a rare 1930s biker jacket at a Salvation Army in Bakersfield, and it’s a good bet he’ll drop everything and charge up there.

October 18, 2014

Finned and Gilled

It started kicking in real strong on Day 2. One wave I was Neil Armstrong walking on the moon, the next I was Cortes sailing across a glassy Atlantic, the next I was Lawrence of Arabia riding high across the Nefud Desert. A pod of dolphins frolicked past and squeaked knowingly. A sea hawk glided along the shimmering surface and nodded a subtle "Welcome to the Kingdom." There was talk of a big shark around the corner at Wategos, but that was the least of my conerns. I was finned and I was gilled and nothing could touch me.

 

photo: Kane Skenner

August 14, 2014

Under A Heaving Rincon Lip He Planted A Hand And Grabbed A Rail And Burrowed Himself In The Water…

...It was less a maneuver than a disappearing act. The crew at the hut turned away. The photographers aimed their lenses elsewhere. The seagull that was flirting with the wave assumed that she was riding solo.

June 8, 2014

Aquaman

The first blow was learning that Santa Claus was a lie. Then I found out that Superman was a fiction, and Speed Racer, and Willy Wonka too. All this would be made up for later in life, though, when I met Mark Cunningham, aka Aquaman.

June 8, 2014

I Was Visited By A Majestic Hymn

I was visited by The Power and The Glory
I was visited by a majestic hymn
Great bolts of lightning
Lighting up the sky
Electricity flowing through my veins

I was captured by a larger moment
I was seized by divinity's hot breath
Gorged like a lion on experience
Powerful from life
I wanted all of it -
Not some of it

—Lou Reed, "The Power and the Glory"

June 6, 2014

In Tava-Tavarua

June 5, 2014

From A Taxi In Beirut

June 5, 2014

Rhymes With Shove

“Put your hand on it,” she said, and he did. “Not there, silly.” She moved his hand to her heart.

They’d been eating lunch together everyday for the last two weeks. His mom always packed him a green apple. She’d shave the skin off with a plastic knife, the way her dad had taught her, then cut it in half. They talked about HR Puffnstuff, Scooby Doo, the fart Mr. Tapie ripped in the middle of class. Sometimes they argued. He was a Nestle Quik man, she’d recently switched over to the new Hershey’s chocolate powder.

“Feel it?” she said, pressing his hand against her heart.

Her heart was racing.

“What is it?” he asked.

“One guess.”

“Gimme a hint.”

She looked out to the handball courts with a dreamy face. A bunch of third graders were playing Smear the Queer. “Starts with an L,” she said. “Rhymes with shove.”

June 3, 2014

Even When I’m Not Thinking About You I’m Thinking About You

June 3, 2014

In A Mud-Caked Village in Guerrero

In a mud-caked village in Guerrero, Mexico my heart went pitter-patter for this lovely woman. She spoke no English, I spoke little Spanish, but we both knew that four or five lifetimes ago we lived in the same town in the south of Spain, or was it Argentina? I was especially polite to her father. She spent a lot of time in the mirror before Sunday Mass. There was the soccer ball that rolled into her lap during a game with my cousins in the park, and there were the hundred swallows that batted their wings in my belly when she threw it back. We were never lovers, but we yearned for each other in a Garcia Marquez sort of way.

May 7, 2014

The Bekaa Valley

On a Waves 4 Water mission to Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley we distributed 100 or so water filters to Syrian refugees.

May 2, 2014

We Dropped A Bomb On You, aka Best of Slake, is some wonderful stuff. Baby.

April 26, 2014

These Corners That We Write Ourselves Into #18

The Derby House, Encinitas, CA, April 2014

April 26, 2014

Room For Two

Two surfers sit side by side on a sapphire blue sea. A wave looms. Both stroke out to meet it. They wheel around, paddle, pop up to their feet. In front, regular foot, deeply tanned, sun-bleached blond hair, Janet MacPherson swoops off the bottom with balletic arms. She rides a 9’ Takayama ‘In the Pink’ model. She feels her way through the trim line the way she did back at Malibu in the days of Dora and Fain. She is seventy-six years old. Behind her rides Sean MacPherson. Tall, slender, tan, sandy brown hair, age forty-eight, also regular foot, Sean rides a 6’6” Al Merrick Flyer. His casual style harkens back to the seventies when grace and flow trumped big maneuvers. He smiles broadly.

I have not actually seen this mother-and-son ride take place, but it’s easy to imagine. Janet lives in Malibu, Sean in New York. On holidays they gather at one of Janet’s homes in Baja or Costa Rica. After too many plates of Thanksgiving turkey or too many drinks on New Year’s Eve, they slip out for a wave together. This family ritual has been going on for over thirty years.

http://www.surfersjournal.com/current_issue

April 24, 2014

Amid Chaparral and Coyotes: Anna Ehrgott, Sagebrush Bags