The last song

It was nearing the end of the night. Two more songs maybe? Just one? Ben looked around and could tell everyone was getting anxious to wrap it up and move onwards to their parties, their open houses…their freedom.

“Alright everyone, last song of the night. You know what that means..find that special someone one last time. Class of 2016, this is for you!”  Was it possible for the DJs at these dances not to sound corny?

Ben’s eyes flickered frantically around the dim room. His heart rate picked up. The time had come. In his mind, he’d put himself in this exact moment countless times. It was his last shot to impress her, to make a statement, to look into her eyes.  There was no afterparty for Ben. There was no next opportunity.  After tonight was a summer of lethargic boredom and the foreboding unknowns of college.

Where was she?

There. Her yellow dress caught his eye. She was laughing with a friend.  The colorful lights of the dance floor shimmered in her eyes; those eyes that first grabbed Ben’s attention sophomore year. He smiled.

Ben took a deep breath, walked over to her, and put his hand on her shoulder. She turned.

May I have this dance? 

 

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Something for Me

***

***

As is often the case, the obvious choice was clear. It was safe. Reliable. Less likely we’d botch a Saturday.

Ocean Beach has a direct line to the Pacific. Highly exposed to South Swells, it picks up the smallest traces of energy. And with its impressive sandbars (two), it amplifies that oceanic power, sometimes opening up passageways for surfers to slip through to some other-worldly place.

OB was the call. It had to be.

At least that’s what the app said. Like most things these days, Surfline’s forecasting tools use data to predict the future. An equation is created, fine-tuned, greased and oiled, until a desired success rate is achieved. The hypothesis matches the outcome. A science teacher shakes with satisfaction.

Screw romantic waxing, adventure ain’t the same! Increased accessibility means more people. More people mean more crowds. And more crowds mean statistically there’s a higher chance of surfing next to an asshole.

So, we went against reason and drove to China Beach, a small sliver of sand East of the Golden Gate Bridge, known more for the elderly Eastern European swimmers that inhabit its frigid waters, than for its surf.

Quietly we slipped into neoprene suits and paddled a hundred feet down the coast. Just out of sight, past black swatches of seaweed, recoiling, swirling, Medusa-like, long and monstrous, was a tiny wave.

It’s a weird wave – the takeoff spot fingertips from the point. You paddle towards barnacles and seaweed, harnessing the tidal energy just before it breaks, swerving left to avoid boils in the water.

At first I was afraid. It didn’t make sense. I was used to the one-dimensional approach of Ocean Beach. I pictured rocks raking out the bottom of my surfboard. But after a few lefts, I began to ease into the routine, moving closer and closer to the point, where the wave first started to break.

Not once did I think about Ocean Beach, which was probably firing amid hoots and hollers from a jacked-up lineup. I’d discovered something far more interesting. Something that was tangibly my own.

Promises Ltd. – American Eyes

It’s just your opinion.

Jodi’s boyfriend nodded his head emphasizing each syllable.

Jodi has an ear for music. She played clarinet in elementary school and was early to the punch bowl when MGMT debuted “Time to Pretend.”

She made mix tapes for her friends, piecing together a track list, connecting beads on a necklace. She grew tired of hearing bloggers rave about “pulsating bass” and “the drop of all drops” so she started writing about music.

Jodi was looking for something. A way to measure quality so that its parts were laid out in front of her, nuts and bolts. But there were so many variables that her head rung, and her boyfriend’s words stuck.

It’s just your opinion.

It was. But her opinion mattered, right? She’d given Roosevelt the time of day. That had to matter.

But she hadn’t gotten any closer to finding a universal measuring stick and was convinced a computer generated algorithm would beat her to it. Or more likely, the Buzzfeed clickin’ generation wouldn’t care, to hungry for more! more! more! to stop.

Then she heard Promises Ltd.’s song, “American Eyes”-



It purposefully created an atmosphere for its listeners to live in. Like a protective bubble, the sound drew Jodi in until she no longer felt self conscious, abandoned all thought of quality, and wiggled into the shaky bass line.

Jodi played her boyfriend “American Eyes” and tried to describe the atmosphere it created, how it yanked at her heels, pulling her into a blissful groove.

But he couldn’t hear it. He preferred Yeezy.

So Jodi panned for inspiration, finally finding it in an old paperback on motorcycle maintenance.

“Absence of Quality is the essence of squareness.”

So she stopped outlining the forms, and instead let them speak for themselves – free to call out to anyone who listened. And when she stopped measuring, something amazing happened.

———-

Belong – Perfect Life

Hate it, love it, at least it’s different.

I’m paraphrasing but that’s the gist of Pharrell’s advice in a recent viral video. Be different because different invokes a reaction. Think of no reaction as worse than a negative reaction.

Angel investor, writer and world acclaimed hardo, Tim Ferriss, echoes this same credo in his podcast with Chase Jarvis. Be creative. Be different. Go for the extreme. Embrace the weird and abstract.

So, in the spirit of fun, The Aftermath is posting its first short story. It’s short. It’s odd. And it pairs nicely with Perfect Life. 

Perfect Life

I opened the car door sensing this wasn’t my garage. Were those pictures hung on the wall? Someone was smoking a cigarette in a frame. Was it a window with someone on the other side? I felt weird. The smell was off and the BMW was definitely not my car. The clues were compounding, climbing over each other to get on top.

Continue reading “Belong – Perfect Life”

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.

———-

 

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.

*Boom*

“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.