My first book, published in the mid-80s, makes it into the land of irony. The ironic part is that the book - about mothers accepting their lesbian daughters - still sells.
A person whose financial requirements are modest and whose curiosity, skepticism, and indifference to reputation are outsized is a person at risk of becoming a journalist.
– Louis Menand
I’m a surfer – or at least I was until a few years ago when aggression in my fellow surfers seemed to spike. Waves are a finite commodity and over the last decade, as the numbers of surfers has swelled, feelings of scarcity and anger descended. At my local Santa Cruz break, it’s routine to hear lots of “that my wave” banter and see surfers finagle to “steal” waves from each other.
It can get aggressive. One day I witnessed a fistfight in the water itself. The morning I myself yelled at a beginner cluelessly bobbing right in my path, I left the water feeling pretty bad about the sport. I’ve been back out, but only a handful of times.
Instead, I’ve taken up cycling. I’ve joined ranks with those leggy Lycra clad folks speeding the Berkeley Hills – only in my case, speeding is an overstatement. On the steep parts, my legs spin but still I go practically nowhere. Sometimes, I suffer the long windy uphills at a speed akin to walking – and sometimes I dismount and actually do walk.
And what happens then is astounding.
The first time I was pushing my bike a man called out “Are you ok?” as he spun by. Then, just a minute later, a set of two bikers actually stopped to see if I needed a tool, or help with a tire.
I waved them off and chalked their kindness up to some screwy alignment of the stars, but the next time I was out – and again pulled over to the side – three separate cyclists checked on me as they passed.
I had no idea the cultures of biking and surfing would be so different.
I’ll bet you that even if I were drowning, there’d be surfers whose only interaction with me would be to make sure I wasn’t messing up their ride.
Today, while cycling up behind the Claremont Hotel, I pulled over to rest. Despite the 35-degree incline, an approaching cyclist offered “do you need help?” and a smile.
I’m getting stronger on the hills, so I’m sidelining myself less, but even so, the friendliness of the buff bicyclists with their rippling calves and second skins of neon and black is remarkable. I’ve discovered a secret society of NICE people, and I’m thrilled.
I miss the salt and sea spray, but I’ve become an aficionado of asphalt. And when I do make my way back into the surf, I plan to bring some of that two-wheeled kindness back with me.
A bike trip through the West Bank: A sign that "gifts" this road from the American people. (No signs that say we paid for the IDF's automatic rifles, however.)
Jolene has been a fan for ages ... and I of her.
I love this week's column - and was so inspired by the couple. Of the great many that I have met, these two seem - honestly - like they have one of the most loving and considered. Plus, of the 70 comments, I was heartened by the fact that the great majority were supportive. I can't understand people who argue about the column, but in this case, there was definitely some education happening.
I'm three years in with my weekly column in the San Francisco Chronicle, On the Couch. I'm still compelled by the stories I hear, by the crazy way the world turns. Here are some favorites: