Going through some jour­nal entries from a few months ago and found this from a Seneca quote:

[The wise man] does not have to walk ner­vous­ly or cau­tious­ly, for he has such self con­fi­dence that he does not hes­i­tate to make a stand against for­tune and will nev­er give ground to her.  He has no rea­son to fear her, since he regards as held on suf­fer­ance not only his goods and pos­ses­sions and sta­tus, but even his body, his eyes and hand, and all that makes life more dear, and his very self; and he lives as though he were lent to him­self and bound to return the loan on demand with­out com­plaint.

Nor is he there­by cheap in his own eyes because he knows he is not his own, but he will act in all things as care­ful­ly and metic­u­lous­ly as a devout and holy man guards any­thing entrust­ed to him.  And when­ev­er he is ordered to repay his debt he will not com­plain to For­tune, but he will say;

I thank you for what I have pos­sessed and held.  I have looked after your prop­er­ty to my great ben­e­fit, but at your com­mand I give and yield it with grat­i­tude and good will.  If you want me still to have any­thing of yours I shall keep it safe; if you wish oth­er­wise, I give back and restore to you my sil­ver, both coined and plate, my house, and my house­hold.”

Should Nature demand back what she pre­vi­ous­ly entrust­ed to us we shall say to her too: “Take back my spir­it in bet­ter shape than when you gave it.  I do not quib­ble or hang back:  I am will­ing for you to have straight away what you gave me before I was conscious–take it.”  What is the harm in return­ing to the point from whence you came?”
‑Seneca, On the Short­ness of Life

This flesh­es out the basic ideas of non-attach­ment and how it ensures tran­quil­i­ty.  I espe­cial­ly like the idea of “take back my spir­it in bet­ter shape than you found.”  Liv­ing well for the expe­ri­ence alone of liv­ing well and right­eous­ly.  This whole of idea of not being a slave to any­thing lends free­dom to my thoughts and ideas.

See you soon.


I found I love the Amer­i­can West, that there’s a whole hell of a lot of coun­try out there that is still pret­ty untouched, that there’s noth­ing like the warm rays of first light on a cold desert morn­ing, that free­dom is worth run­ning fast and loose for, and that the most impor­tant things for me are hap­pi­ness, health, peace, love, and joy.

I’ve found that wealth fol­lows all that stuff, that dogs are the ulti­mate ani­mal com­pan­ion, that shar­ing hard­ship with one good friend is bet­ter than din­ing in lux­u­ry with a hun­dred, and that the high­est qual­i­ty peo­ple and expe­ri­ences come to you when you focus on doing your best in life.

I’ve found I’d rather have less than more and that the adage, “The more you know the less you need” rings true for me.

Thought you’d dig it.  Been lis­ten­ing to a lot of Willie Nel­son late­ly, I’ve found he always affects my mood towards free­dom, hobo style.  It’s a good thing if I can keep a han­dle on it.


[Fwd: RE: Commonalities amongst good operators]


sense of humor/levity

show gen­eros­i­ty

con­scious of diction/vocabulary

Jus­ti­fi­able self con­fi­dence and belief in self

read for pro­fes­sion­al devel­op­ment

Joy in their work

care for oth­ers

Respect for blue col­lar work and crafts­men

Atten­tion to detail


Self aware­ness of ability/capability

Under­stands the place of phys­i­cal­i­ty

Will­ing­ness to face facts

List mak­ers

Writ­ten goals

Talk­ing to your­self

Lack of patience when it comes to self improve­ment

Tak­ing the job seri­ous­ly

Desire/excitement to learn new things

Will­ing­ness to eat new ideas

Will­ing to put in time to increase com­pe­tence

Patagonia and me

Am read­ing “Let My Peo­ple Go Surf­ing” by Chouinard and these pas­sages stood out enough for me to adapt them to my own work, with inspi­ra­tion for a more con­crete per­son­al phi­los­o­phy.

Phi­los­o­phy of Archi­tec­ture (from Let My Peo­ple Go Surf­ing, Y Chouinard
1. Don’t build a new build­ing unless it’s absolute­ly nec­es­sary.  The most respon­si­ble thing to do is to buy used build­ings, con­struc­tion mate­ri­als, and fur­ni­ture.
2. Try to save old or his­toric build­ings from being torn down.  Any struc­tur­al changes should hon­or the his­tor­i­cal integri­ty of the build­ing.  We rec­ti­fy mis­guid­ed “improve­ments” made by pre­vi­ous ten­ants and strip way fake mod­ern facades, end­ing up we hope with a build­ing that is a “gift to the neigh­bor­hood.”
3. If you can’t be retro, build qual­i­ty.  The aes­thet­ic life expectan­cy of the build­ing should be as long as the phys­i­cal mate­ri­al’s life span.
4. Use recy­cled, and recy­clable, mate­ri­als like steel gird­ers, studs, re-milled wood, and straw bales.  Install fix­tures from waste mate­ri­als like pressed sun­flower hulls and agri­cul­tur­al waste.
5. Any­thing that is built should be repairable and eas­i­ly main­tained.
6. Build­ings should be con­struct­ed to last as long as pos­si­ble, even if this ini­tial­ly involves a high­er price.
7. Each [house] must be unique.  The heroes, sports, his­to­ry, and nat­ur­al fea­tures of each area should be reflect­ed and hon­ored.

Patag­o­nia Phi­los­o­phy:
a deep appre­ci­a­tion for the envi­ron­ment and a strong moti­va­tion to help solve the envi­ron­men­tal cri­sis; a pas­sion­ate love for the nat­ur­al world; a healthy skep­ti­cism toward author­i­ty; a love for dif­fi­cult, human-pow­ered sports that require prac­tice and mas­tery; a dis­dain for motor­ized sports like snow­mo­bil­ing or jet ski­ing; a bias for whacko, often self-dep­re­cat­ing humor; a respect for real adven­ture (defined best as a jour­ney from which you may not come back alive–and cer­tain­ly not as the same per­son); a taste for real adven­ture; and a belief that less is more (in design and in con­sump­tion)

My Phi­los­o­phy:
A uncon­di­tion­al love for indi­vid­ual humans I meet, a deep and lov­ing con­nec­tion for the nat­ur­al world; a curios­i­ty about how things work, a deep root­ed intent to help oth­ers reach their poten­tial; a healthy skep­ti­cism toward author­i­ty; a love for dif­fi­cult, human-pow­ered sports that require prac­tice and mas­tery; a dis­dain for motor­ized sports like snow­mo­bil­ing or jet ski­ing; a respect for real adven­ture (defined best as a jour­ney from which you may not come back alive–and cer­tain­ly not as the same per­son); a taste for real adven­ture; and a belief that less is more (in design and in con­sump­tion)

soil and health…

I prob­a­bly should have added a few choice pieces of writ­ing lift­ed off of Steve Solomon’s web­site (

Here are a few to whet your appetite.  I think you’ll real­ly dig this guy:

I have irrad­i­ca­ble propen­si­ties toward inde­pen­dence, the expres­sion of per­son­al sov­er­eign­ty and the exer­cise of lib­er­ty.

Great dying words: “I do not regret the jour­ney. We took risks; we knew we took them. Things have come out against us. There­fore we have no cause for com­plaint.” Cap­tain Scot­t’s jour­nal, writ­ten while freez­ing to death in the Antarc­tic.

Only the lead dog sees new scenery.

If one want­ed a way to eval­u­ate the worth of an indi­vid­ual, it could be done by mea­sur­ing how much uncer­tain­ty a per­son could tol­er­ate. Most peo­ple can’t tol­er­ate much uncer­tain­ty at all and will cre­ate things to be cer­tain about rather than stand with one foot on a banana peel and the oth­er firm­ly plant­ed in mid-air.

The apparen­cy is, that an “open-mind­ed” per­son gives every view­point unbi­ased con­sid­er­a­tion. But I’ve nev­er suc­ceed­ed at con­vinc­ing an “open-mind­ed” per­son of any­thing. Give me instead a per­son with firm opin­ions, any­time! I’d pre­fer encoun­ter­ing some­one with firm­ly held views that con­flict with my own. At least this per­son can make up their mind. Some­one who can “make” their mind, can change their mind. In actu­al­i­ty, open-mind­ed­ness is one of two phe­nom­e­na: either some­one with noth­ing at all between the ears, so that all thoughts mere­ly go in one ear­hole and out the oth­er, or, an “open mind­ed” per­son is one who gives the ideas and view­points of oth­ers no real­i­ty what­so­ev­er.

Look at a man the way that he is, he only becomes worse. But look at him as if he were what he could be, and then he becomes what he should be.“Goethe.

All this is tak­en from:


re. Zion, reading, and sheepdogs

Awe­some, I’m stoked to meet him.  I’m look­ing for­ward to the Zion trip, I’m going to have to break off from the Indoc course for a day or so but that should­n’t be a big deal.  I’m think­ing about build­ing an (ama­teur, I know) wood bed/rack for the truck until I fig­ure out exact­ly what I’m going to do.  Look­ing for­ward to talk­ing with **** both at the Games and in Zion.

I haven’t read “On Com­bat”, still fin­ish­ing Blood and Thun­der.  It’s my bed­time book, so I’m only knock­ing out a few pages a day.  Not sure what’s up next on the read­ing list, prob­a­bly a good trav­el book about a guy and his dog.

The Games are upon us, so next week is major cook­ie mak­ing time, then a long dri­ve up to Aro­mas.

Also, I think I told you already, when I get back from the Games I’m going to set a date to speak with some local SD SWAT guys re. Min­dEx stuff; I’ll talk to **** (do you know him) when I get back about squar­ing that away.  Very excit­ed about that, it will open up all kinds of doors.

Re. the sheep­dog stuff:  I like it and under­stand it, and I can real­ly see how it res­onates with many of the guys we both know.  I think there’s a cat­e­go­ry that’s miss­ing.  I don’t see myself (along with a few oth­er peo­ple) as a sheep, sheep­dog, or wolf.  I mean, is Bil­ly the Indi­an school guy a sheep?  A sheep­dog?  A wolf?

I’m not super inter­est­ed in pro­tect­ing oth­er folks, but am very keen on being inde­pen­dent and ready for the wolf when he comes slip­ping past the wire, more with what’s at hand than any spe­cif­ic instru­ment.  Is that blind­ness or denial?  Are you real­ly a sheep when you don’t have a gun?

if you want to be a sheep­dog and walk the war­rior’s path, then you must make a con­scious and moral deci­sion every day to ded­i­cate, equip and pre­pare your­self to thrive in that tox­ic, cor­ro­sive moment when the wolf comes knock­ing at the door.”  ‑DG

I’ll tell you this; I feel more like a loose­ly inde­pen­dent fer­al sono­fabitch that has friends in all tribes, and I’m real hap­py with how I live.  I’ve got a great wife and part­ner, two good dogs, and the means to always make a liv­ing with­in my head and my heart.  I don’t feel a need to car­ry a gun, and I don’t see the val­ue in pin­ning my iden­ti­fi­ca­tion (even in a small part) on being a pro­tec­tor.  Maybe I’ve been com­post­ing my own shit too long, but I’d like to see some more gar­den­ers, or shep­herds, or wild and kind humans.  Folks with­out maybe the agili­ty or nat­ur­al weapons of a sheep­dog or wolf, but who use their minds to do many more things than tend a flock of veg­e­tar­i­ans.  Was Gand­hi a sheep?  A sheep­dog?  Hell, he was a wolf to the Eng­lish, and a war­rior to his core, but not in a way that fits into Gross­man­’s cat­e­gories.

But if you are autho­rized to car­ry a weapon, and you walk out­side with­out it, just take a deep breath, and say this to your­self…


Maybe he meant a weapon beyond the sense of a gun, or knife, but I don’t think so.  I think this is the kind of think­ing that holds us in sta­sis; we move nei­ther for­ward nor back­ward.  We still have wolves and we still have bad ass sheep­dogs.  It is damnably excit­ing to be a sheep­dog (or a wolf), but it’s drain­ing too.  Even Gross­man says it; you can’t be a sheep­dog 24/7.  Well, then who the heck are you?

How do we move into a soci­ety where we don’t need as many sheep­dogs?  How do we cre­ate a soci­ety that is not one of sheep, or sheep­dogs, but maybe some­thing that wolves avoid…going with the ani­mal exam­ple, why not bears?  They keep them­selves to them­selves, they eat just about any­thing they can catch, and a sane wolf stays the hell away from them.

None of that is a judg­ment on how you live; I like what you do and I’m damn thank­ful for cops and sol­diers; being a sheep­dog is a good, hon­or­able, dif­fi­cult job where you have to make deci­sions every day about a line I’ll hope­ful­ly nev­er cross.

I just feel that we’ve got a lot more dis­cus­sion ahead of us before we make a 3 way split in what defines, even in a small way, a per­son.  I see such poten­tial for mak­ing shep­herds out of sheep­dogs, some­thing I thought of (although not by the sheep/dog/wolf def­i­n­i­tion) as a long-term goal for kyk13.

Hell, re-read­ing that I can see maybe I’m tak­ing it too lit­er­al­ly (or per­son­al­ly).  I do want to make clear that I like sheep, sheep­dogs, and even the occa­sion­al wolf, and I see a place for all of them as well as a few more ani­mals in a good and healthy eco-sys­tem.  Look­ing for­ward to more dis­cus­sion when we meet again in the flesh.

Ok for now,

TDI Injection pump seals

Hav­ing suc­cess­ful­ly made it  through chang­ing out the seal between the dis­trib­u­tor cap and the injec­tion pump a few months ago, I fig­ured that chang­ing out the top cov­er seal and the QA seal would be a snap, espe­cial­ly since I just got VAG COM.  Not so.  I went to scribe marks on the for the QA and scribed them on the wrong sur­face, so I’ve been ham­mer mod­ding my way back to nor­mal rpms and some­thing close to the right injec­tion quan­ti­ty.  Still a long way to go, and I ham­mered the ever-lov­ing fuck out of my hand today in the process of stop­ping a run­away engine.

Still, I like mechaniking away on my car.  It always feels so damn good to be in con­trol of your life.


Unselfish­ness is the bedrock of right­eous liv­ing.  One must be unselfish before under­stand­ing and apply­ing impec­ca­bil­i­ty, sto­icism, breath­ing and smell, asceti­cism, finite time, build­ing blocks, and a com­mon thread.

Seven Days to Freedom

On a warm May morn­ing last spring I walked out of my house in San Clemente and down
the over­grown trail to Trestles’s for an ear­ly surf.  I pad­dled out to glass and the peace that comes with a morn­ing ses­sion.  Tues­day morn­ing, twen­ty surfers.  A four foot swell com­ing in from the south, just above aver­age waves in long sets, sep­a­rat­ed by 15 min­utes of com­plete peace on the water.  To my left, towards the enor­mous twin breasts of the San Onofre nuclear plant, ten surfers, all but one wear­ing a wet­suit.  The one with­out a suit was well built, tan, with medi­um length dark hair tipped with blond from the salt and the sea.

After catch­ing a wave and pad­dling back out, I found myself almost next to him, per­haps five feet away.  As he turned away for a per­fect left, I caught a glimpse of his back, a mass of criss-cross­ing scar tis­sue
, the white lines appar­ent against his surfer­’s tan.  Jesus, I thought, what hap­pened to him?  I saw him skim down the line, his head and shoul­ders ris­ing and falling behind the crest of the wave he rode.  He was good, smooth, with the kind of move­ment you get from long hours on the water.  Forty min­utes lat­er both of us were still out there, and by chance, and I admit, some, I found myself next to him again. 

I gave a nod.  “Nice morn­ing.”  “Yeah, not many like these, eh?”  He turned, look­ing for a set to roll in, and unable to con­tain my curios­i­ty, I burst out.  “What hap­pened to your back?”  He turned and looked at me.  “What do you think?”

God­damn, looks like you fell in a thresh­er to me.  When’d it hap­pen?”  The words ran away from me, and an embar­rased silence filled the space between us.  “Sor­ry, did­n’t mean to be nosey.”  I turned away, pray­ing for a wave to come and let me ride off.

In the spring of ’98,” he began, and I turned around.  He smiled at me.  “Not many peo­ple ask.”

He began again.  “In the spring of ’98, my girl­friend and I sold most of what we had, packed the rest, and flew to Moroc­co.  We went to learn Ara­bic, and because we were in love with the desert, and the mys­tery of Africa, and trav­el­ing.  We went to a lan­guage school for two months, tak­ing class in the morn­ing and work­ing in the after­noon, her dying cloth and me chop­ping wood.  The jobs did­n’t pay much, but we did them more for the expe­ri­ence and the oppor­tu­ni­ty to learn the lan­guage than we did for mon­ey.  We’ve got enough.”  A shy smile.  He was proud, almost arro­gant, of hav­ing “enough”.

After two months we decid­ed we knew enough of the lan­guage, and the wan­der­lust was strong, so we bought two camels for a hun­dred bucks each and start­ed to tour the coun­try.  For six months we went every­where we could think of, climb­ing high into the Atlas moun­tains, smok­ing the most amaz­ing  hash, com­ing back down and loung­ing on the beach, haunt­ing old cities, look­ing for old movie sets, talk­ing with peo­ple.

We were in the mid­dle of a two week trip into the back coun­try when we real­ized she was preg­nant.  It would be our first child, and nei­ther of us want­ed any­thing to go wrong.  We had­n’t planned for it, but it also seemed roman­tic to have a baby in the desert.”  He blushed.  It was hard to imag­ine him say­ing “roman­tic”.

We came in to re-sup­ply in Fez, in the north.  As we came into the town, we real­ized some­thing was wrong.  There had been some prob­lems with the gov­ern­ment, but nei­ther of us had giv­en it thought.  Fez was tense, guys in the streets with AK’s, peo­ple hur­ry­ing every­where, you did­n’t go out­side with­out a pur­pose.  We left Fez with the ris­ing sun, after a hot, uneasy night.  Sketchy.  We made camp a about an hour beyond town, hob­bled the camels, unrolled our blan­kets, and built a fire.  After a long night of talk­ing and think­ing, our options were three.  One, to stay in Mor­roc­co and con­tin­ue our trip by camel.  We had three and a half months left on our visa, and we felt it was a shame to waste the time and run home as soon as we felt a lit­tle threat­ened.  Two, to walk back into town, hire a taxi and go straight to the air­port, fly­ing back to Cal­i­for­nia the next day and damn the expense.  It was prob­a­bly the wis­est option, but our least favorite.  Three, if we could nei­ther con­tin­ue our trek nor fly out of the coun­try, we would try and cross the bor­der to Alge­ria and find a flight out.

We decid­ed to sleep on it, go back to town, re-assess the sit­u­a­tion and make a deci­sion.  Ear­ly the next morn­ing we woke, broke camp, and by late after­noon were on the out­skirts of Fez.
The town was on fire.  As we got clos­er, we began to meet peo­ple going the direc­tion we were com­ing from.  We asked them, “What’s going on?” and they answered, “War.  The gov­ern­men­t’s tak­en the town.”  We turned around again and walked back to safe­ty.  Our three options had turned to one.  We would trek to Alge­ria.

After two weeks of dodg­ing patrols, we crossed the range of moun­tains that runs down the spine of Moroc­co, and were days away from the bor­der.  We took shel­ter out­side an old goat cor­ral and lay down to rest.  We were tired, but not beat.  Hun­gry, but not starv­ing.  At that point, we were basi­cal­ly two kids hav­ing a bitchin’ time, a lit­tle scared, but enjoy­ing every­thing.”

We woke to kicks and slaps, the camels scream­ing, and gun­shots.  At first we thought we had been caught by a ran­dom gov­ern­ment patrol, and prayed at least for some kind of legal process, a tri­al, any­thing.

It was clear after a few grunts in Ara­bic that these weren’t gov­ern­ment, but ban­dits.  Hell, they were doing more or less what I’d have been doing in their shoes.  Tak­ing advan­tage of the eco­nom­ic sit­u­a­tion.  Look­ing back, I can’t say I blamed them, and it end­ed being great kar­ma  that we we
re cap­tured, but what hap­pened after…”

He paused.  “Well.  What hap­pened after, eh?  They kept us for two days, and at sun­rise on the third, after the morn­ing call to prayer, we were tak­en to a thick wood­en post plant­ed firm­ly in the ground and tied bac
k to back.  A line of men faced us from ten yards away, all car­ry­ing auto­mat­ic rifles, AK-47’s.  We were going to be shot.  Nei­ther of us could speak.”

The surfer stopped talk­ing.

Jesus”, I said.

He looked at me, com­ing back from his sto­ry.  “Not exact­ly a morn­ing ses­sion kind of sto­ry, eh?”

She spoke up that day, my chick, and saved us.  She’d been read­ing the Koran for ages, was all into that funky reli­gious shit, you know how some peo­ple are, search­ing for God, look­ing for some­thing.  She found it, found it that morn­ing, and pulled us back from the oth­er side.”

She was tak­ing fast, stum­bling over her­self but at the same time very clear, and it took me a while to make the tran­si­tion back to Ara­bic; we had been talk­ing in Eng­lish since we left Fez. I had to pay atten­tion and trans­late in my head what she was say­ing.  Appar­ent­ly there’s some old fuckin’ cer­e­mo­ny for pris­on­ers in the desert, from the Koran or some fuckin’ book, some­thing to give them one last shot.”

He half smiled, and I knew right then that he was immense­ly proud of him­self and embar­rassed at the same time for what­ev­er had hap­pened that day in the desert.

The deal is, and you’ll want to remem­ber this if you’re ever round­ed up some dark African night,”.  A quick smile.  “Remem­ber to request the sev­en days to free­dom. Or, maybe not.”“The sev­en days bit is a lie.”  A quick gri­mace.

You ever seen a camel up close?”, he asked.

At the zoo, not close.”

They’re big ani­mals, man, and stub­born.  Got­ta whip ’em some­times to get ’em to do what you want.  You use a camel whip, leather, ’bout three, four feet long, braid­ed at one end for a han­dle.  Oth­er end is a hard, two-inch wide strip.”

For sev­en days, one man, a vol­un­teer, can take pun­ish­ment from a camel whip.  Nine lash­es a day, five in the morn­ing, four in the after­noon.  Dur­ing those sev­en days the man may make no sound, and is allowed no food.  If, after sev­en days, those con­di­tions have been sat­is­fied, the cap­tors are oblig­ed to free their cap­tives.  Noth­ing more.”  He cleared his throat.  “Fuck­ers are harsh.”

He turned and stretched, a cal­cu­lat­ed move­ment.  His white scars stood out in the sun.

Six­teen days”, he said.

If you make a sound, or eat, you start over.  Once you begin, you suc­ceed. Or…”  His voice fad­ed. 

Usu­al­ly, you die.”

Jesus H. Christ.  Who the fuck was I talk­ing to?  The moment seemed sur­re­al.  The sun reflect­ed off the water, the wind was begin­ning to pick up, off­shore, a rar­i­ty.  I looked around.  We were sur­round­ed by oth­er surfers, lis­ten­ing to the sto­ry.  They had pad­dled over unno­ticed as they caught bits and pieces.

You smoke pot, man?”, the stranger asked.  I looked at him in dumb con­fu­sion.  “What?”

Dope, man, d’y­ou smoke fuckin weed?”  Off bal­ance, I answered.  “Yeah, when I can get it.”  “Don’t ever let those fuck­ers tell you dope’s bad, brotha, it got me through”.

Two days into it, I was deliri­ous.  They left me tied to the post, tied my chick to anoth­er one.  She
tried to help me when they whipped, but could­n’t get near.  She was chained up so she could get close to me, maybe five feet away, no far­ther.  They fed her, talked to her, shot the shit.  It was so wild, here I was get­ting whaled on, and five feet away, five fuckin’ feet, my girl­friend is talk­ing about the rights of women.  Fuckin’ chicks.”  He smiled, and in that instant I saw every­thing good and noble about him.  I can’t explain it, not even now with a com­put­er screen in front of me, safe and warm in my own house, with the dis­tant sound of waves com­ing through the kitchen win­dow.  I saw a guy give a bum a hot sand­wich on a cold win­ter night once, that guy had the same look on his face, like… redemp­tion.  I don’t know. 

The stranger start­ed talk­ing again.

After three days I had noth­ing left, no food in my gut, no fat on me, no reserve.  The dope kicked in.  All the hash we’d smoked in the moun­tains, before she was preg­nant, before the war, before we were caught, came out of what was left of me, and I was in love with mankind, man, I was high as a kite, high­er than I’d ever been.  When they hit me I’d smile, and imag­ine my chick was just peel­ing skin off my back after a sun­burn, me on my bel­ly, her on top, strad­dling, on the beach right here, at Trestle’s.  That’s what got me the extra days.  On the fifth day I yelled out, “Hard­er, Achmed, I can’t feel it.”  I don’t know if he under­stood what I said, but I felt it that day.  The sev­en days start­ed over.”

Four days lat­er, the same thing.  My chick was scream­ing at me when she saw me open my mouth, she knew what was hap­pen­ing, she was watch­ing me fade, it was bad, you know.  Right after I said it, some­thing smart-ass again, you know, “Come on, take me to the next lev­el”, I saw her mouth open.  I could­n’t hear any­thing, but I knew I’d fucked up.  Because.”

It was­n’t hurt­ing ME, man.  I was beyond.  I was at the next lev­el.  I could­n’t feel it.  But it was her.  She was preg­nant, watch­ing me, watch­ing her man being beat­en to death, and she was so brave, women are strong, man, and she’d fig­ured out how to get through, know­ing how men are, and me, and how we like a chal­lenge, how we all want to be test­ed, how we all want to be The Few.  And I was fuck­ing it up.”

The guy was cry­ing.  Right in the mid­dle of about a hun­dred surfers, waves pil­ing up, pass­ing under us, you could see the heads bob­bing up and down, we were all a part of the ocean then, a part of each oth­er, feel­ing this guy’s sto­ry.  It was incred­i­ble, I’ll nev­er for­get it.  The sun, the cold water, the scars on his back, a light off­shore breeze just rip­pling the water.  It was a day to surf, but we were all lis­ten­ing.  Mes­mer­ized.

Sev­en days lat­er I won.  They cut the straps that held me to that block of wood and I fell over like a bag
of shit.  My chick was on top of me, cry­ing, and I could feel her tears hit­ting my bones, I saw pieces of my skin on the ground around the post, and my blood, and the rest…

I don’t remem­ber what hap­pened until I land­ed in Madrid.”

“She did it all after that. She told me after they cut me down they just walked away. We had noth­ing. No camels, no food, no water. Man, I’ll always hold the door for a chick, every one of them deserves, fuck­ers are strong. I would’ve lain there till the birds come, but she picked me up and tromped off to some vil­lage. Got a taxi to some dirt run­way air­port, sweet talk­ing about fifty peo­ple along the way, got to Algiers, got on anoth­er plane to Madrid, called my folks, got mon­ey wired in, and I was home four days after I was cut off that post. Three years ago, that was.”

Got two kids now, the one we made in the desert and one from here. Fig­ure I’ll tell ’em when they ask. Fig­ure I’ll tell any­one when they ask, you know?”

He looked at me.

Jesus. What’d you do when you got back?”

Noth­ing real­ly. I laid on my bel­ly for a while.” Short laugh. “Don’t real­ly do any­thing now. A lit­tle gar­den­ing, watch the kids. Surf. The chick sup­ports us. Got a web­site for desert explor­ers, you know. Fig­ured she does­n’t want any­one else to get hurt like us. Great chick. The best.”

He turned, and I saw his back again. “Jesus.”

Lat­er, man.”

He lay on his board and gave three or four deep strokes as a mam­moth wave rolled through. He shot by fifty surfers in twen­ty yards, the pack that had sur­round­ed him. Stand­ing up flu­id­ly, he gave a whoop, a quick turn back, a smile. All of us watched, see­ing him dis­ap­pear behind a wave, rid­ing free­dom, untouched. It was a long wave, and he rode it all the way to the beach. He jumped off his board, picked it up and splashed through the shal­lows to the tow-head­ed lit­tle boy run­ning towards him. I could­n’t hear any­thing, he was maybe 200 yards away. A light haired woman came walk­ing down the beach toward him, car­ry­ing anoth­er kid, a baby.

I turned, and caught a wave.

Ten Days

13 Feb­ru­ary 2001.   Jour­nal entry: “Tomor­row we will attempt to make San Juan del Sur.  We have spent the evening talk­ing with ‘Har­mo­ny’ and ’ Sli­p­away’.  The weath­er reports they have giv­en us are not good.  We are run­ning low on food, and the wind is still high.  This moment seems very seri­ous now, with our lives hang­ing in the bal­ance.  This is why, though we do not admit it now in our time of fear, that we trav­el.  This search for the crys­tal clear snap deci­sions that decide our mor­tal­i­ty.  For the moment when the words we say and actions we take mat­ter.  This emo­tion is one that can­not be found at home, one that should not be found any­where nor­mal humans have the abil­i­ty to per­ceive.  This is the moment before bat­tle, before strug­gle.  This time smells like…VICTORY.”

We did­n’t know it then, Jason, Bruce, and I, whether or not we would be vic­to­ri­ous.  We were off the coast of south­ern Nicaragua, well into our sec­ond week of heavy wind sail­ing in a small boat.  We were sail­ing from San Diego to Vir­ginia via the Pana­ma Canal.  In our first month of sail­ing, we had only six days total of heavy wind, and those six days were down­wind scream­ers-the boat flat, putting up a wake and mak­ing amaz­ing time.  We had seen dol­phins off the bow in the morn­ing, glo­ri­ous sun­sets, seals fol­low­ing the boat for hours, and sword­fish jump­ing at night.  It had been per­fect.

Our bod­ies were a deep sailor brown after thir­ty-five days of being on the water, and our hair was bleached blonde.  We had sailed over 1,000 miles and had safe­ly got­ten through the Gulf of Tehuan­te­pec, where the rip­ping off­shore wind makes the end­less Pacif­ic a bar­ren dan­ger zone of vicious­ly chop­py seas.  It howls in Tehuan­te­pec, the wind scream­ing through at any­where between forty and six­ty knots.

Boaters wait in groups for a weath­er win­dow, or calm spot, when the wind dies down to around twen­ty.  Twen­ty knots is about twen­ty-four miles an hour.  Imag­ine dri­ving down the road in a car with no wind­shield, doing twen­ty-five miles an hour.  You can’t see very well, it’s hard to breathe, your skin dries out, it’s dif­fi­cult to hear what your friends are say­ing. Now imag­ine going to the bath­room off the side, or drink­ing cof­fee, or eat­ing.  It gets unbe­liev­able.

After three days of con­stant­ly get­ting thrashed by the wind and sea, we pulled into port on the far side of Tehuan­te­pec for eigh­teen hours; enough time to make phone calls, stock up at the gro­cery stores, do laun­dry, and take off again.  We thought we’d sail straight to Cos­ta Rica, an easy four day trip under the right con­di­tions.  Under any oth­er con­di­tions, it becomes a mat­ter of tenac­i­ty, hope, and sur­vival.

05February01, Apoc­a­lyp­so Log Entry

Strong East­er­ly this morn­ing, lumpy seas.  Wind went right so we tacked to a new way­point inshore off El Sal­vador.  Hop­ing for smoother water and may stock up on H20 in El Salvador/ Upwind sure is anoth­er ball game then down­wind! ‘Apoc­a­lyp­so’ does­n’t like steep chop,slamming; hard to sleep.  No one would respond on Chan­nel 16 for weath­er fore­cast.

We were 20 miles off­shore, the skies were sun­ny but the wind was howl­ing and the water was cold.  The Hum­boldt Cur­rent had dipped toward shore on its way up from Antarc­ti­ca, and the water tem­per­a­ture had dropped to the high 50’s.  The only warmth to be had was below.  “Below” was in the cab­in, a space that was three and half feet high at the high­est, about two feet in the bow where our head went when we slept and just under six feet of sleep­ing space.

It was tight, two men on a large couch with walls.  It had no ven­ti­la­tion, and when the weath­er got bad we stopped wash­ing our­selves-it was too much of a chore.  Below was warm and damp and stank.  Below was dark, and when the waves came over the cab­in, water would come in and Below would get wet.  Below was the nicest place to be on the boat.

On deck was where the boat was sailed.  On deck had unend­ing wind, cold sea spray, and no pro­tec­tion from the Cen­tral Amer­i­can sun.  Jason and I were on deck at least 18 hours a day, usu­al­ly more.  We stood 3 hours on, 3 hours off watch­es dur­ing the night, and we both stayed up dur­ing the day.  The log entry for the next day is in my hand­writ­ing this time. “2–3 foot wind swell.  Uncom­fort­ably upwind.  Still slam­ming, slept 2 hours last night. Yes!!!”

The next day; “Approach­ing Tamarindo, Bay of Fon­se­ca.  Hard going, no sleep for Nik or Jason, boat leak­ing port­side at the bow, re-thread­ed jib sheets, still 15–20 knots on the bow.”

We anchored at Tamarindo that night, think­ing we were safe, but as soon as we had anchored, a fish­er­man drove up in his pan­ga and through repeat­ed bro­ken Eng­lish and our dic­tio­nary Span­ish, told us to head up the bay for bet­ter anchor­age; we were in dan­ger.  We had been sail­ing for 3 days, and had 12 hours of sleep between Jason and I, with Bruce in a sea­sick coma below.  We did not want to move.  We cooked a salty goulash, then got our heads togeth­er.  Our anchor­age was rol­ly, not much bet­ter than sail­ing, and we fig­ured going up the bay could­n’t be worse.  We pulled anchor, and three tired boys and one beat up boat head­ed deep­er into El Sal­vador.

As soon as we round­ed the head­land into the Bay of Fon­se­ca, the wind died down, and the phos­pho­res­cence lit up our wake in an elec­tric blue.  We rode an incom­ing tide into anchor­age just off the Navy base in La Union, El Sal­vador.  We stayed on anchor for that night and the next, resup­plied and got mov­ing again.

We left at 8 o’clock the evening of the 9th, on an ebb tide.  We had a gen­tle wind behind us through the night, warm with the smell of the earth and tinged with salt from the sea.  It took us across the bor­der and into Nicaragua the next morn­ing, then died.  We jumped in the water to wash off the night, got out, dried off and sat around wait­ing for the morn­ing onshore breeze.  This was the sail­ing we remem­bered; calm morn­ings, clean bod­ies, the feel­ing of crisp­ness, of being a new per­son from the day before, of hav­ing made it through anoth­er night.

After 20 min­utes of no wind and the boat drift­ing, we decid­ed to start our tiny motor.  I was yank­ing away on the cord when I heard Jason yell “Breeze On, get the reef in!” I looked up to see a dark spot on the ocean head­ing for us, and Jason and I hur­ried­ly dropped the sail down to our first reef.  Putting in a reef means low­er­ing the sail and tying off the bot­tom end to make the sail a small­er tri­an­gle.  Sailors reef when they get more wind than the boat was designed to take with a full sail up.  From that point until I sailed into Cos­ta Rica, we had at least one reef in.

That day, the 8th of Feb­ru­ary, was the begin­ning of a heavy­weight beat­ing that would last a full sev­en days.  Those weren’t nine to five days, with Com­fort reach­ing out warm hands to you in the evening, those were five full-on days of man pit­ting him­self against Nature, of strug­gling to sur­vive, of think­ing about liv­ing every sec­ond.  Those were some of the best days of my life.  I don’t have a sense of time, or sequen­tial events.  I have to look back to the jour­nal I kept, as well as the boat’s log.

13February01 Jour­nal Entry

Anchored in Nicaragua, emer­gency line out… 35+ kts of wind.  The hard­est sail­ing I’ve ever done-very tired, cold and wet….  Ho. Lee. Shit.  Anchored, thank sweet baby Jesus.

Lat­er that day…It’s amaz­ing, the wind.  It whis­tles and howls and screams in the shrouds.  Jason reck­ons it’s got­ten up to 40 knots.  Wish we had an anemome­ter.  Our nav light broke last night-maybe the bulb.  This is good time for think­ing.  I don’t wish for any­thing so much as for the wind to die down.  For a while it was burg­ers and fries, milk­shakes, bis­cuits and gravy etc., but my world has devolved to one small boat in heavy wind off of Nicaragua.

I remem­ber sail­ing less than 100 meters off shore to avoid the seas that build beyond, of hav­ing to sail through a plume of smoke a half mile long, from a fire on the shore, and lis­ten­ing to Les Mis­er­able five times in a row because I could nei­ther leave the helm, nor wake up Jason to change the CD.  I remem­ber think­ing of my fam­i­ly, won­der­ing what they were doing; glad they didn’t know the dan­ger I was in.

Every phone call or e‑mail I sent back to them was full of cheer­ful lies.  It wasn’t until I fin­ished my trip, and had flown back from Jamaica, that I told them how many times I saw that tall gaunt fig­ure, Thanatos.  I remem­ber cracked brown lips, sores from sit­ting in salt water, sun poi­son­ing; lit­tle white pus­tules on my arms, and thick, salty hair.

On the morn­ing of Feb­ru­ary 14th, 2001, we set off for San Juan del Sur, leav­ing our emer­gency anchor­age.  We had decid­ed the night before to go for it.  The reports we had were of 70 knot gusts of wind two miles off shore, and 15 foot seas.  The only food we had left were pro­tein shake pack­ets, which had to mixed with water.  We had one gal­lon of water for three peo­ple.  We did not know how long our trip would take.

When I told ‘Sli­p­away’ and ‘Har­mo­ny’, two oth­er boats that had emer­gency anchored near us, of our short­ages, they told me to come by in the morn­ing and accept a pack­age of food and water.  I declined.  I would do this on my own, with my own body, with my own pro­vi­sions, with no out­side help.  Jason and I had a bit­ter argu­ment about it, but I was the Cap­tain and the final call was mine.  We left with no help.  All three of us dressed in all our foul weath­er gear-Jason and I had full suits, Bruce had only a jack­et.

We pulled up the sail in 25 knots of wind, Bruce and I haul­ing in 300 feet of anchor line, fifty feet of chain, and the 20 lb anchor. Sweat dripped down the inside of our foulies, our faces were red with the rush of blood, we were pulling the boat into the wind.  We had our deep reef in, the small­est amount of sail pos­si­ble with­out tak­ing every­thing down.  Jason drove, and Bruce and I hiked out.

Hik­ing out is hang­ing as much body weight as you can off the high side of the boat to help coun­ter­act the force of the wind on the sail.  As soon as we left the shel­ter of the anchor­age, into the full 35 knot force of the wind, we were knocked down, the boat slammed on its side.  A knock­down is an awe­some expe­ri­ence.  As in awe-inspir­ing that Nature can put a 2,000 lb boat on it’s side with the force of her windy breath.  A knock­down means it’s time to put in anoth­er reef, but we had no more reefs to put in.

We had our small­est sail up, we had 300 pounds of flesh hik­ing out, the only thing we could do was to point high­er, or into the wind more, to lessen the pres­sure on the sail.  When you point too high, the sail begins to luff, or flap, as the lead­ing edge of the sail gets wind equal­ly on both sides.  Luff­ing a sail destroys it, the con­stant snap weak­en­ing the fibers as the wind screams past.  For the next 8 hours the sail nev­er stopped luff­ing.  That day is still clear to me.

The beat­ing sun, the scat­tered clouds whip­ping over­head, the spray com­ing off the bow wave, the feel of the waves as they passed under the boat.  We sailed so close to shore where the ocean changes from deep water to shal­low reefs that waves like watery whales would hump up under our boat.  We could eas­i­ly see hous­es on the shore, the trees around them per­ma­nent­ly bent under the con­stant overseer’s lash of the wind.  I remem­ber incred­i­ble igneous rock for­ma­tions, huge twist­ed arthrit­ic fin­gers reach­ing out of the sea.  I remem­ber the blue of the water, the white foam in streaks on top, and the icy feel of Poseidon’s touch when we dug into waves.

We made it that day, made it to San Juan del Sur.  When we arrived at the har­bor entrance it was 3 o’clock.  We had been sail­ing 8 hours, cov­er­ing 20 miles of the heav­i­est wind we would see on the trip.  As we tacked up the har­bor towards the shore, the fish­er­men gath­ered on the decks of their 60 foot boats to watch us.  As we passed them, our lean, gaunt faces peer­ing out from under the hoods of our jack­ets, they screamed and whis­tled in admi­ra­tion.  They knew the fury of the ocean.  I have nev­er been more proud.


Con­text:  I orig­i­nal­ly wrote this piece dur­ing my first semes­ter at col­lege.  It was for an Eng­lish class, and the pro­fes­sor had asked us to write about some­thing dan­ger­ous we had done, and how it relat­ed to the char­ac­ter Chris McCan­d­less in Jon Krakauer’s sto­ry “Into the Wild.”  Here is the final para­graph of the paper I sub­mit­ted:


When I read about Chris McCan­d­less and his final days, I saw in him pieces of my jour­ney.  The free­dom, the inde­pen­dence, the pit­ting of man against nature, the accep­tance of your own strengths and weak­ness­es.  I know how McCan­d­less felt when he died.  It is some­thing that I have done my best to explain, and still can­not come close.  It is the feel­ing of being at the helm of Des­tiny, of steer­ing your own course, of fol­low­ing your heart.

It is a self­ish life, not tak­ing into account the feel­ings of fam­i­ly or friends.  Before leav­ing on my jour­ney I was con­stant­ly told to stay in San Diego, to find work with my friends, it’s so much eas­i­er to surf every day, you can learn how to sail slow­ly, please, stay with us.

I could not, as McCan­d­less could not.  We two have shak­en hands with Death, have felt those bones press­ing into the flesh of our palms.  Chris McCan­d­less could not let go.