Adventure of the Weeks, D-Man, Mixed Bag, Music, Writing

Meru – When Shit Goes Down

Shit happens.

You’ve heard it. You know it. But sometimes it’s hard to believe. Or questions accompany it. Why does shit go down? How did this shit happen? What is this shit?

The specifics often don’t matter. Shit is shit. And it happens.

But when you’re in deep shit, it’s hard to see out of it. It consumes you to your core until it’s hard to imagine surviving this shit.

Case and point is Meru, a film that gives an intimate look into three people fighting through obsession and loss as they struggle to climb The Shark’s Fin – a peak that has turned away climbers since it’s tectonic birth.

Jimmy Chin, world renowned alpinist and skier, stars in the film. He’s the good-looking, charming member of the team, who is both a seasoned dirtbag (he lived out of his 1989 Subaru Loyale for 7 years climbing and skiing around the country), and an outdoor magician – miraculously popping out of an avalanche that buries several acres of trees in Jackson Hole.

Most striking is that Chin is an eternal optimist who finds humor in in eating oatmeal and cous cous 12 days in a row. He laughs when he explains that the final pitch of Meru is called the House of Cards because the rock is thin and sketchy – one forced move and the whole thing tumbles.

And where Chin really excels is when shit goes down. As the climbers approach 20,000 feet, fellow climber, Renan Ozturk, has a stroke. He’s incapacitated – his movements stunted and his jaw locked into submission. The team retreats to their hanging tent, cold and scared shitless at the look of panic in Renan’s face as he battles to utter a hopeful word.

There’s no hero’s speech of optimism. No macho declaration of we will prevail! Chin and his team sit in silent contemplation, leaning up against the sides of the tent, shaking from a heavy Nepalese storm.

Night passes and Renan feels better. The team gears up and moves upwards, still intent on summiting. But months later I’m still haunted by Chin’s expression during this crisis (pictured above). It’s one of the few times his beaming smile is eclipsed with an expressionless stare as he confronts the unknown – the indecipherable moments that will follow.

It’s a weighed approach – balancing optimism with reality – embracing the severity of the moment without falling deep into the crevasse of despair. And when things do get better, Chin is called on to ascend the final pitch, The House of Cards, the crux that could send the three climbers and the top of the mountain tumbling into the Himalayan valley below.

Chin jumps on the final pitch like a hungry leopard spotting its prey and pulls himself to the summit. If there’s fear in his eyes, it’s indistinguishable. He’s a man possessed by one thought in his brain – get to the top.

As the viewer we’re blown away by the first ascent. No crampons have touched the snow that Chin now stands on. But for me, more impressive is Chin’s composure during the darkest moments of the expedition. He’s able to tap into a psychology that’s widely documented but rarely utilized – experiences whether positive or negative are the guideposts for moving forward, for progress, for learning.

These experiences can take many forms. Some make us ecstatic, others leave us terrified. But all of them shape us like hands molding clay, morphing our mental capacity into new and exciting shapes. And if the present is the sum of our experiences, than we should channel our inner Jimmy Chin and embrace every single one – sad, happy, distressing, awkward, surreal.



Adventure of the Weeks, D-Man, Mixed Bag, Stuff Besides Music

Swallow Tail

Gordon’s eyes twinkled.

“Here’s my number, kid.” He tapped the eraser on his number 2 pencil against the wall where his digits were scrawled.

“If you start shaping a board by yourself and get stuck, call me.”

I promised Gordon I wouldn’t call late at night, and assured him that I probably would get stuck. Hand shaping a surfboard was harder than I thought. We’d cut, shaved and sanded off countless layers of foam for hours, until somehow, a smooth, slick vessel emerged – a retro fish – designed to glide down the line like a knife through butter.

“Boss take a look at this.” said the guy at the front desk. “Someone tagged one of your boards on Instagram.”

Gordon looked at the computer screen and laughed. “You know what. That’s fucking stupid. The wave ain’t gonna be empty if you’re posting about it all over the internet.”

Months went by and the fish didn’t get near the water. Heavy El Niño swells pounded Ocean Beach’s shoreline, dragging huge piles of sand down the beach.

My fish (now equipped with a quad fin set up and a fresh wax job) sat propped up on a cardboard box in my room, waiting patiently for a soft takeoff and a dreamy right.

When 80 degree weather hit the Bay, wispy offshore winds came with it, and on Saturday the fish jumped to life on a smooth right-hander at Stinson. It felt solid and moved with my feet. Suddenly all the talk of concave bottoms, swallow tails, and soft rails clicked.

“Duncan, you want the board to flow from front to back. Keep it symmetrical on both sides. And remember you can always remove foam, but you can’t add any.”

I paddled back into the lineup with a grin.

“Let me see that for a second” said a buddy in the water. He took off on a left, leaned backwards, arching his back towards the face of the wave. Immediately I knew he felt it too – this was a damn good board.


Adventure of the Weeks, Flowebro, Mixed Bag, Stuff Besides Music, Writing

Mountain Passed

Klaus hands us the final piece of paper work needed to complete the car rental, his thick German accent reminds us: “Remember boys, she’s old, no long trips, she’s a city driver, low mileage, lower speed.”

Three weeks later, our 1998 Toyota Tazz weaves it way through the mountain passes of the Cederberg Wilderness, 240 km North of Klaus’s ‘German Auto Rentals.’

About every ten minutes, a Range Rover Safari rig roars past us, unhappy with our 20km pace, engulfing our car in a cloud of yellow dust. But often, right after the pass, a thumb or shaka would slip out of the driver’s window, amused by the low suspension car with a blue and white igloo cooler strapped to its roof, crawling along roads usually dominated by 300 horsepower machines.

Each time we pass over a good size rock, my ass clenches and my backs arches, awaiting the torturous noise as a slab of broken boulder scrapes along the bottom of our 4-gear wagon.

The temperature in the arid valley is exacerbated by the five bodies stuck to the torn seats. The air conditioning doesn’t stand a chance. My thigh sticks to the one next to me. My knee’s are pressed tightly into my chest; a case of cold Black Labels occupies the floor space below me. I lean my head out the window for an escape from the sweltering heat.

Then I see it!

The perfect drop in, the cleanest line, the ideal turn space, and even a fifteen foot mando-air carved delicately into the side of the mountain. Suddenly, the jagged rocks are disguised by fluffy pillows of powder, the dry cedars become maps for tree runs, and the the crystal clear pools of water are held still by thick walls of ice.

The cooler on top of the car is replaced by a rack of cleanly waxed skis, and the driver now navigates slowly to avoid the streaks of black ice lining the mountain pass. My sticky cotton shirt becomes hidden beneath layers of flannel and down.


“Holy fuck boys! That was a huge rock! Someone get out and make sure we didn’t loose any parts down there!”

The warm rocks press into my knees as I peer under the car. My laughter echoes off the mountain walls.

Adventure of the Weeks, Chayed Out, Flowebro, Mixed Bag, Stuff Besides Music

Lost in the Garden

Anton scrambled up the tree with ease. I followed, screeching like a monkey the whole way up.

You know the moments I’m talking about? Those moments when the only thought pulsing through your head is: it’s fucking awesome to be alive! Well I had one yesterday, perched on a tree branch, sixty feet up, lost in the Kirstenbosch Gardens, Goldfish playing below me, and an orange sky above me.

It felt great to be back in a tree. My brothers and I used to spend allot of time in trees.

As we climbed as high as the branches allowed us, Goldfish announced that they were playing their final piece of the night.

The live sax almost knocked me backwards off my branch.

A familiar place and sound for: D-ManWCT, and Jamboys.


What people are really looking for in young artists is originality. I think that they are more interested in that kind of creative energy than in technical polish. It’s really about creating something that is totally mind blowing and unique and that represents you.

– Vincenzo Natali (from Breaking In)

Cue the music!

Adventure of the Weeks, Chayed Out, D-Man, Mixed Bag, Stuff Besides Music

The HNNY Challenge

I’d like to do something unusual with this post. Something we’ve never done here on The Aftermath. I’d like to challenge you – the listener, the reader.

Earlier this week I was listening to a song on my Spotify discovery weekly playlist as I ran laps around Alamo Square park. Halfway through I found myself in a trance, my mind blank and limbs moving swiftly. For any runner this feeling is the pinnacle – effortless movement. Your legs lead the way and your body follows.

Flow is often fleeting. One second I’m wrapped in its embrace, and the next I’m huffing and puffing up a hill. And working in an office doesn’t help. After 8 hours huddled in front of a monitor, back arched, fingers rigidly perched on a keyboard, it’s hard to suddenly snap into a Zen-like state for the sake of a good workoutYou run the risk of bringing the action items and deliverables of the day right into your run. Two miles starts to feel like like another deadline – something you have to do, not want to do.

But on this particular run, I was cruisin’. Each step felt lighter than the last and I decided to veer from my typical route, exploring dimly lit streets and steep hills.

I glanced at my phone to see what track was playing. Who was responsible for this slow ebb?

Champagne Problems is 22:46. And no it’s not a mix. It’s one melody weaving in and out of a steady, calm beat.

Play it right now on your shitty computer speakers and you’ll quickly be bored. But, if you shake off everything that’s been trailing you all day, silence your iPhone, and focus your mind, HNNY’s remix can take flight.

Run, write, walk, lift, paint, draw, skateboard, bike, make love, think, cook – it doesn’t matter. The only rule is that you have to do it for the duration of HNNY’s Champagne Problems – 22 minutes – and seek some of the good stuff – effortless movement.

Adventure of the Weeks, D-Man, Mixed Bag, Stuff Besides Music, Writing

A Letter From BP

Last week my grandfather mailed me a letter. It arrived right on time.

I was packing for a weekend excursion to Mammoth to ski and visit some new friends. The drive was going to be long and monotonous but it looked like El Nino was about to dump all over the Sierras.

I opened BopPop’s letter and a printed note and newspaper clipping fluttered out. It was a New York Times article by Roger Cohen, “Ways To Be Free.”

“When you grew up in an unmapped, unwired world and find yourself in this one – observing panic when GPS fails or the extent of online status anxiety – you can’t help wondering if somewhere along the way freedom got lost.

As I read I could picture BopPop huddled over a pair of scissors cutting an outline around the article, tucking the newspaper clipping into an envelope. Then he shuffled to the front door to clip the envelope to his mailbox, sending it off to California.

I liked “Ways to Be Free.” It was the philosophical stuff that got me going. Freedom. Technology. Happiness. What’s the relationship there? It got my brain clicking. It also referenced Barbarian Days (one of my favorite books) and praised the author, William Finnegan, as a genuine Kerouac – a true disciple of “suck-cess.”

I tucked the newspaper clipping into by bag, loaded up on coffee and sour patch kids and hit the road.

In Mammoth I found myself bouncing around in the backseat of a Dodge Durango nicknamed “Bruce.” Our merry crew cruised along frozen back roads, dipping into potholes, hydroplaning through massive puddles. We turned right at a dilapidated, blue church and pulled into a parking lot, just as the sun began to lower herself below the horizon.

I don’t know if the world is freer than a half-century ago. On paper it is. Yet minds feel more crimped, fear more pervasive, possibility more limited, adventure more choreographed, politics more stale, escape more elusive.

I turned off my phone and stored it out of sight, deep in a backpack pocket.

We left the car and walked onto a path of wooden planks, embarking into the darkness. My senses lurched awake – my boots crunched on the frozen ground, a cold wind stung my bare knees, I clutched a wine bottle.

We arrived at our destination and began stripping off our winter coats and wool socks, crawling into the hot spring. The water was warm and smelled like sulfur. I tried to picture the magma chambers bubbling deep beneath the surface, boiling molten rock.

We stayed for two hours – passing around the red wine, shooting the shit underneath a cloudy night sky and when the bottles were light and apparently empty and our fingers had turned to raisins, we plotted a mad dash across the frozen tundra to get back to the Dodge Durango to crank the heat.

It was slow going and we fumbled to dry off and put clothes on our sticky, wet bodies. “Come on!” someone yelled as they jogged ahead, eager to be warm again. I lagged behind. Not because I wanted to be left alone but because it was dark and I was tipsy – sopping wet on the frozen tundra.

It felt good to be alone in the cold, bare-skinned and grinning. Really good. I relished the moment, stopping to stare at the mountains, my mind soaring – unrestrained and wild.

“Freedom is still out there. We all have our idea of it, the deferred dream. Your psyche builds layers of protection around your most vulnerable traits, which may be closely linked to that precious essence in which freedom resides. Freedom is inseparable from risk.”

With my wool socks tucked into my jacket pocket, I walked towards the Durango. But suddenly it dawned on me that I’d left my bathing suit back at the hot spring.

“Be right back!” I yelled, turning around, sneaky happy to be back on the dark trail.

Adventure of the Weeks, Chayed Out, D-Man, Mixed Bag, Stuff Besides Music, Writing

Mixtapes: From Scratch

The corner boys and hood rats bumped Rich Homie Quan – base throbbing in someone’s trunk. I smiled. It was entertaining to hear the energetic world rattling below me.

In my mind’s eye I envisioned Surfline’s blue-transparent chart in the darkness of my girlfriend’s apartment. She was sleeping, breathing rhythmically while my brain ran through familiar calculations. At 10:00 a.m. Sand Dollar was going to be 5 – 6 ft. With light winds from the East? Glassy. But Surfline was also predicting that the swell would weaken throughout the day. Unfortunately there was always the possibility of getting skunked.

But I committed, solo, to 7 hours on the road – praying that wind, water, and swell would cosmically align to create the hallowed moment when the shallow sandy ocean floor would rush beneath my fiberglass board.

The drive down Highway one is beautiful but lonely. As I passed Monterey my cell service dropped and I was left alone in a quiet car without Spotify, Soundcloud, a radio or any means of listening to music. I rolled down the window to listen to the air rushing by, but immediately felt bored.

Suddenly I noticed something shiny escaping from the glove box. It was a beat up, old CD that was labeled From Scratch in black sharpie. I doubted it would even work, but popped it into the CD player to give it a go. And fuck it was fresh! Kelsey, is a hip hop head to the core and a natural playlist generator. I opened the glove box to see that she had twenty – thirty CD’s rolling around – vestiges of her musical past.

I stepped on the accelerator, weaving around hairpin turns, anxious to get to Sand Dollar before the winds turned South, listening to each mix tape – flooded with nostalgic memories of old school hip hop – Gang Starr, Pete Rock and CL Smooth, Talib, Mos Def. – transported into a musical black hole, swimming in the amalgamation of Limewire rips, 90’s mashups, illegal downloads and cool, cunnin’, soulful hip hop.