Five a.m. on Tuesday. The house is surrounded and topped with snow and ice. It’s cold out and the wind sounds like it wants to come in as much as the cabin fever burning within me wants to go out.
Both my parents were outdoor people, especially my dad. If weather or some kind of obligation kept him inside for too long he got downright ornery, a trait he passed down to me. We walked the beach every weekend whatever the weather. Both parents skied and taught me at an early age.
“Go take a long walk off a short pier.” Not sure why the dismissive phrase came to mind. The pier at San Clemente was not short by a long shot, 200 yards or more. I think it’s because in our minds, piers are a staple, a construct that everyone understands.
“Why do they build them? Just to fish from? Are they for people without boats?” Kyle asked. Good question, and the answer is pretty much, yes, but more. The Pier, as societal microcosm, parade, and oceangoing adventure for pedestrians, has been perfected in California.
It’s Sunday morning. We have just lifted off in the rain from J.F.K. bound for San Diego, where the plan is to rent a car for the short drive north to San Clemente, home of the Surfing Heritage Foundation. The foundation archives surfing history and works to protect access to surf spots around the world.
I’ll be meeting with the foundation’s executive director, a man of Hawaiian lineage, and a surfing god of sorts, a legend in his own time beginning in the 1960s in the waves of Waikiki.
Skating south, I squinted into the sun reflecting off the cold obsidian of Fort Pond in Montauk on Sunday, my blades carving the surface with the crisp metallic notes of swordplay.
The ice mirrored my fellow skaters. They appeared to be skating both right side up and upside down, joined at the blades. A few kids huddled, looking down through the ice in search of fish. “Through the glass darkly” came to mind, the way Corinthians suggests most of us view life — that is, imperfectly.
It’s not our seascape, hills and dales,
When I think Montauk, it’s fins and tails.
Not Rita’s mare, or ‘The Affair,’
Not the Light, or stars at night
Not Gosman’s Dock, or Blackfish Rock
Not summer’s sails, nor nor’east gales
What is Montauk?
It’s fins and tails.
Of cod, blackfish, black sea bass, winter in Montauk, One Million Years B.C., Christmas, and Susan Sontag:
I was watching a documentary about Susan Sontag the other night, an extraordinary woman very much of her time in the ’60s, a feminist, philosopher, and essayist with what were, and to some still are, radical views. As it happened, I had caught the last half of “One Million Years B.C.” starring Rachel Welch on the Turner Classic Movies channel earlier in the day. It was one of those cold rainy days last week, so perhaps I can be forgiven.
“After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back as Honored Guests”
Hill and Wang, $26
“After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back as Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan” by Ted Rall is the biggest small book I’ve come across in some time. It is at turns audacious, confounding, mesmerizing, infuriating, and disorienting.