Letter From California
02/14/10 0413.28 PST
San Jose, California
Last Thursday word flashed out from Half Moon Bay that the infamous Mavericks surfing contest was on, it’s a go, Mavericks is here! Discovered by popular surfing only 20 years ago the event has nevertheless gained in popularity and knowledge as the sea and weather gods, completely at their own whim, suddenly decide that 30 variables will click into place that will create monster waves off a local coastal shelf. Half Moon Bay, usually a semi-deserted sleepy place, was yesterday inundated with tourists, onlookers and surfers, wave riders and helicopters scurrying about in the excitement, a South African awarded the $50k first place prize.1
Another cachet of surf for the famous California waves, for the snowfall has been excellent this year, the snowboarders frolicking and flying about for months in the picturesque Sierra Nevada resorts. California is a Republic of approximately 30 million souls, the striking mountains and majestic curling waves make for pretty pictures and a good story, but proportionally only a tiny percentage of Californians actually physically surf, be it snow, sidewalk or sea, 27,000,000 going about their business today and every day without ever twisting a board in their lives.
That is not to say in any sense Californians who do not surf wouldn’t be upset if somehow the snow or sea went away and our people couldn’t, and it’s not nearly as implausible as it sounds, global warming could take the snow and no one truly knows what will happen to wave patterns in times of accelerated climate change. Everyone should have the chance to strap on a board or spill in the waves if they wish, of course, and it would be a monstrous error not to pass that opportunity on to future generations. Good luck and god yes stay safe at Mavericks today, dudes, safe journeys home, the rest of us Californians going about our everyday business as usual, monster waves and mountain ranges remotely, prettily in the background.
The foreground, unfortunately, continues to reveal new and developing signs of the times, literally, that are disturbing and sad. Tax season has arrived with February and a prep business off Winchester Blvd. hired two sign wavers, the guys dress in robes and foam Statue of Liberty headsets as they hawk their employer’s tax wizardry. I often train on a course with my Trek for 20 mile runs on Winchester, I see the sign wavers often, and I think it’s sad some of our young people have to take work like this in any attempt to get a life, I don’t want to imagine what it’s like to be 25 right now with so little work available.
UAW protestors, the first to have picketed in San Jose for at least the last 50 years, suddenly sprouted in front of the beleaguered Toyota dealership off Capitol Expressway, upset and trying to raise awareness by waiving signs that Toyota is about to close the NUMI plant in Fremont, 4,000 workers gone, lord knows how many ancillary workers to follow them in the massacre. NUMI, a strange hybrid plant from a joint venture with GM, is the last auto manufacturing plant in California, just an amazing sentence to write and contemplate.
The United States does not have an industrial policy for its workers and industries, heavens no, that would be the dreaded government interference in the holy free market! It’s total horseshit, of course, America has always had an industrial policy, it’s for sale, presently Finance and Banking bought it. We save and bail out banks, but not companies that keep our little people working. We’ve been watching in California, we see the screaming signs of it, the empty marshmallow platitudes of DC meaning less every day in the grinding misery of it all.
Part of which is watching desperate, destitute souls begging for food and spare change at traffic ramps and supermarket parking lots. I have lived in the Bay Area all of my life save for a term in the Navy and have only seen the begging signs and their heartbreaking owners suddenly appear in the last 5 years, before then of course there were beggars but never this consistent bedraggled small crowd of them, some of them women, which was also not seen before. Hard times, need food, one woman’s sign said at Safeway last week.
Surf’s up, snow’s good, and times are awfully hard. I keep thinking DC and Sacramento will read the signs and see the faces, but things just grind more slowly down, little people waving anything they can to warn of a State and country slipping away.
 Pillar Point Harbor is actually the site of my most glorious career accomplishment, for somehow it was decided at a small company I used to work for that rock fishing out of Half Moon Bay was the perfect group outing for me to organize, since I used to work and fish out of that harbor so much. I dutifully did everything and then watched our Director, a true asshole, puke for three hours on the boat. Best work moments I ever had, and I’ve been awarded statues with big checks in the Valley.