A week surfing in Mexico. I always think I'm a way better surfer than I probably am. I paddle out confidently and in my mind everyone around me is an amature, if I mess up it's never my fault. The truth is I'm pretty average but I enjoy it anyway and I got more than my fair share of waves. Perfect 3-6ft everyday. I surfed almost every spot on the Baja peninsular from rocky beach breaks to endless right-handers on shallow reefs. The weather is unseasonably cold, the water too. One day we hiked around the coast and find beaches carpeted with dead fish. Thousands and thousands. Everyone thinks it's a sign of course but then people always think everything is a sign. There's a feeling that there's more bad weather, more earthquakes, more omens, global warming and whatever else. I think it's also likely that there are more people now, so more are affected when disasters happen and it's more thoroughly and intensely reported.
20 million were lost to famine in India in 1896.In1918 Spanish flu killed as many as 50million worldwide, pretty harsh after WW1 killed 9million. In 1923 over a hundred thousand killed by earthquake in Japan. In 1931 a flood in China killed over 2 million people.
In 1816 a volcano in Indonesia caused the world to have no summer, for a year the global temperature dropped and strange weather effects were reported as the ash filled the sky. This was just after the Napoleonic wars, Europe was recuperating. General fatality rates doubled worldwide. I imagine they thought this was the end of the world. Clearly it wasn't.
In 1908 a meteor hit Tunguska, an unpopulated area of Siberia. Over 2000 sq kilometres of forest was knocked down by the blast that was equal to a thousand atomic bombs. It broke windows hundreds of kilometres away. It wasn't even investigated until 1921 and a proper exploration in 1927. The greater world didn't really hear about one of the largest meteor strikes in human history for over 15 years after it had happened.
Imagine that happening today. The world would know about it moments later and there would be panic. I imagine that there's nowhere in the world where such disasters might strike and affect no-one in the 21st century.
The more populated part of Baja is Cabo and we explore some other resorts and the neighborhood. We meet local surf legend Mike Doyle. He was a surf champion back in the 50's and now runs the surf school at the local break. He's weathered and old but still surfs and kite boards. He's a bear of a man and has the most lovely and energetic wife. They invite us to a house party hosted by a wealthy industrialist. Mike tells me stories of surfing in spots that are now overdeveloped and mobbed that in his day were desolate and lonely. He surfed the world before anyone knew what surf was. He surfed with Duke (Paoa Kahinu Mokoe Hulikohola) Kahanamoku, the godfather of surfing. I ask him if it bothers him that those lonely breaks are now packed with surfers, he says you have to evolve or dissolve.
All the people at the party are old and burnt but good fun nonetheless. There's great food and a free bar and even entertainment from a bunch of dancers who spin fire sticks around like a minature cirque de soliel. The owner of the multimillion dollar villa makes his money by installing systems that control toxic environments at quarries and factories, steel plants and mines. Business is clearly good. They go to church a lot, they are kind and generous. I get talking to his friend Lance. He's a retired lawyer. Lance actually retired many years ago very comfortably but was convinced to come back for one last case. That case lasted for the the last 15 years and destroyed him. An airline pilot friend came to him complaining of health issues that may have stemmed from an oil leak in the cockpit a year previously. On investigation the fluid was indeed toxic and they sue the airline for compensation. The airline claims the fluid was not toxic but the lawyer is persistent and proves otherwise. The airline has an enormous legal department and funds at it's disposal and keeps what should be a very open and shut case tied up for fifteen years, hoping the claimant will just run out of money. Lance has to put all his own money and his house in to keep fighting for justice. Miraculously he eventually wins against the mighty corporation but the settlement is tiny compared to the effort and investment in the fight. He tells me before he took the case he had always been on the corporate side and he had always won. He had a confident perspective because of that and an idealism that was then crushed when he tried to take on a worthy battle against the very people that had made him rich and successful. On another night I hang with Amanda from HK, Eva and Maggie (who has her own tv show called Nikita). She's about to start filming a second series. They've organized a private movie on the beach at the front of the resort they are staying at and we sit by the fire stuffing our faces in the dark watch Bonnie and Clyde, the 60s classic. The pace of it is just so different to contemporary film it's hard to be engaged. Everything seems cliche. But that's because we've seen inspired remakes of every scene in a thousand films since then.
On the plane back to civilization now and one foot into the airport and one is confronted by the usual painful experience. Masses of people being herded through the usual system of baggage inspection, security where people still haven't learned to take off all their metal shit and mobile phones, and inevitably the airline finds a way to screw more money out of you. Even though I paid over the top for my flight they get another $150 out of me for the surfboard, even though it was only $100 coming here, then Cathay get another $200 out of me for changing my flight time. Airlines just fuck you ever time. They are shameless about it. They know that any change or excess or whatever you present them with when you get on that flight is an opportunity to screw you for more money because, they have worked out very well, that you have no choice. Any change you make to your plans is for a reason so they know you will pay. They know your other option is don't get on the flight, don't take on that excess baggage. The whole airport experience is clearly contrived to get money out of you. There's a glut of shops and restaurants and bars, there's an atmosphere of urgency of consumerism, as if airport shopping is more imperative than regular shopping and, of course, it's all overpriced because there's no choice. If you remember you need a power adapter, there's no chance to zip back to wanchai for a 10 dollar one, you'll just have to buy the airport 50 dollar one.
And try finding a water fountain. They hide them so you have no choice but to buy bottled water. Waiting for the boarding I grab a cup of tea and I watch a teenage girl get a coffee and add 8 sachets of sugar into it. She tastes it then adds three more. Not surprisingly she's overweight. She has a t-shirt on that is from a country and western singer's tour. Some people are straight out of a movie. On the plane my 2 hour flight, that cost me $500 plus $150 for the surfboard, doesn't come with lunch. If I want a sandwich or a beer you have to pay for that too. I tell the stewardess that I'm dissapointed at having to pay for a beer after being fleeced for $650. She says she's been in the same position and it makes her upset too and she gives me a free sandwich. It actually makes me happy. But of course, I should be grateful I have the freedom and resources to even get on a flight anywhere in the world, to be able to surf, to experience air travel at all. I guess the issue is that it's so inconsistent. That on one flight you get all you need and it's reasonably priced and on another its awful and you pay double. That the guy next to me paid $200 for his flight but I paid over double. It's such a scam.
In LA I make a new friend, her name is Gretchen Jones. She is a fashion designer and is articulate and driven and I'm engaged by her ideas and inspirations. She is working in NYC about to launch her new season. She seems to be doing well. She's from the middle of nowhere so I ask how she managed to make it NYC. She tells me she knew what she wanted, to get into the greater fashion world, but was no connected to it in any way, so she took the innovative step of applying for a reality show called Project runway. She not only made it on the show, she won it. It was a way in, a fast track, though she clearly works incredibly hard and has much talent. She found a way and is seizing the opportunity. Now I'm getting on the flight to hk. Home sweet home. Fuck I always miss HK. Being away really puts the city into perspective and I just love the town. I take a Xanax thinking that I'll wake up on the tarmac at hk at 6am ready for the day but somehow I'm up 5 hours too early and don't wanna take another because I just don't like taking too many of any kind of chemical. So I watch a documentary that follows troops in Afghanistan in the heaviest warzone, a dense valley where they have multiple firefights very day. I can only imagine how difficult it would be to return to civilized life after living in such an intense situation, having your brothers die in front of you, being close to death yourself or taking life. I imagine it would be like living in an aquarium. Looking through the glass at this other world that has different rules, concerns, dramas, perspective. And there you would be inside this fishtank, nobody understanding you except for other fish. It reminded me of being sick for so many months and as I made my way daily to hospital, being driven by friends, I would look out of the windows as people went to work, or helped their kids on the school bus or bought coffee at Starbucks and how that world was now so different to mine. How my day would be so abstract compared to other peoples. How I felt like an observer of human beings but somehow I wasn't one of them anymore, I was this oddity with a different pace and set of concerns. I think all people feel like this at sometime in their lives. Sometimes this is good but at other times it's scary and people desperately try to find a way to be included, to be connected. Then I watch a movie called Garden State. A friend reminded me of it recently and I realize I hadn't watched it since it first appeared many years ago. It's lovely and sentimental and romantic and has a cute soundtrack. It makes me think about love of course....but that's a whole other story that I'm not going to reveal on a blog. The girl that reminded me of the film told me she had seen it many times, it was very insightful as to who she was. Movie choices are often revealing. I recommended that she watched the Charlie Kaufmann film, Synecdoche. I wonder if she thinks it's an insight into me.
A Prophet Blade Runner Donnie Darko There Will be Blood Michael Clayton Solaris Happy Gilmore