Adventures of Hoogrrl!

A person who appears to be ambling aimlessly, but is secretly in search of adventure.

Browsing Posts published in June, 2006

“If the only new thing we have to offer is an improved version of the past, then today can only be inferior to yesterday. Hypnotised by images of the past, we risk losing all capacity for creative change.”

–Robert Hewison

Last week, we visited Guadeloupe, an island in the French Antilles that is also a département of France. We thought we were taking a quick weekend jaunt to a tropical Caribbean tourist destination, when in fact, we’d entered France—tiny French Citröens and Peugeot, pain au chocolat from the local patisserie each morning, and euros! Passion Fruit drinks were a daily treat and reminded us that we were indeed in the tropics. We rented a small car and circumnavigated each of the two islands that make up Guadeloupe—Basse Terre and Grande Terre—stopping along the way to gaze at black, white, brown, and golden sand beaches.

Basse Terre is the lusher, mountainous island and sports a volcano called la Soufrière. Volcanic rock has blackened the beaches on BT. The Route de la Traversée cuts through a national park that encompasses the central mountains. One walk began at the Maison de la Fôret, just off the Traversée, and a sign said it would take three hours to complete the walk. Four hours later, after we’d picked our way sixteen times across a river swollen by heavy rains and dotted with slick rocks, looped around twice when we missed markers, and tramped through mud and slime without potable water, we arrived back at the two-lane Traversée road to find an ambiguous arrow that pointed neither east nor west. We had no idea in which direction we should walk to return to the Maison de la Fôret. National Park faux pas: sending inattentive tourists on an alleged three hour hike that does not end at the starting point. We reasoned that we should walk downhill and walked along the shoulder-less road for another hour before finding our car again.

I wore a skirt for crying out loud!

Grande Terre is drier and flatter. We found my favorite beach on this island—Anse Laborde, just north of Anse Bertrand—where we ate a delicious grilled chicken sandwich on baguette at La Restaurant aux Coins des Bons Amis, a tin-roofed shack at the edge of the sand. High rocky cliffs guarded the northern shore of Grande Terre and sugar cane fields spread out across the island and abandoned cane mills dotted the horizon.

Sipping a passion fruit drink and relaxing aux Coins des Bons Amis

June is the beginning of the rainy season so we saw little sun. Each day began with a heavy rain and then rain fell intermittently throughout the day and lasted short periods of varying length. If we were walking in the woods, we could usually find a giant leaf to stand under or break off and hold over our heads while we continued walking. Sometimes, the rain drops were as big as my fist and no kind of umbrella could have kept us dry. Constant cloud cover moderated the temperature but the humidity rarely dipped below 99%.

Using an elephant plant leaf as an umbrella during a rain shower.

Our favorite restaurant was called Chang, a Vietnamese restaurant on Grande Terre, just off the main road, west of Le Gosier. To enter, you press a button requesting admission and then push open the heavy metal gate when the buzzer sounds. Once inside, a grand welcoming staircase brings you up to a large gazebo decorated with typical tacky Vietnamese art and a swimming pool that can be crossed by walking across a sturdy wooden bridge. The menu was authentic and the food was delicious, if somewhat modified to accommodate the local palette. Our friendly waiter enjoyed explaining the menu to us in detail as if we’d never eaten Viet food before. I kept quiet for fear of disappointing him. The restaurant was so good that we returned the next night for dinner.

June 4, 2006
New York Times Magazine

Wave Rider by Steven Kotler

My earliest childhood belief was a sneaking suspicion that the world was more mysterious than people were letting on. It’s hard to say how much of this was suburban boredom and how much heartfelt sentiment, and in the end it didn’t matter. By the time I got to college, that little notion had grown into a bad case of Jonathan Livingston Seagull-itis. When two semesters of philosophy failed to satisfy, I dropped out and moved to Santa Fe because the New Age was booming.

Santa Fe was the rabbit hole, all right. There were ashrams, monasteries, strange teas, stranger mushrooms, Sanskrit chants, Native American medicine men with headdresses made from whole otter skins, folks on the run from the law, folks on the run from much worse. I signed on for the whole tour; it lasted for years. By the time I returned, I could sit in full lotus for six hours at a time, but I never, not once, achieved a mystical anything.

During the next decade, I lost interest. I still hoped there was a place where exalted magics were possible but no longer lived in that part of the world. Since I didn’t go in for the big-invisible-man-in-the-sky theory, there wasn’t much left. Instead I went in the opposite direction, becoming a science geek, a fervent devotee in the high church of observable phenomena. And then, in my mid-30′s, I got Lyme disease and whatever faith I had in the miracle of modern medicine — for me, the apogee of rational materialism — was lost, too.

My first year was spent with doctors who were convinced that I was faking my sickness, my second with doctors who were unable to cure it. By then I had lost 25 pounds. Truthfully, I was done. Long ago I decided that given the right set of impossible circumstances, calling it quits was always an option. There was a lot of melodrama that year: sleeping pills in the medicine cabinet, a couple of bottles of bourbon for added insurance, a trusty ballpoint for any sad-sack attempts at epic poetry.

It was around that time that I got a phone call from a friend who wanted me to go surfing. For certain, it was a ridiculous request — even if you ignore the Lyme fatigue that kept me in bed many days. My last wave-riding experience took place almost a decade earlier, in monstrous Indonesian swells, and that time I nearly drowned. But even before that, the sport was never much fun for me. I learned to surf in San Francisco, where the water is freezing and the waves are serious. Just paddling out often felt like a life-threatening experience. I remember days when I never made it to the lineup, never mind catching a ride. The few rides I did catch were often short, often mean, the currents often treacherous. Eventually I stopped trying.

But here was my friend, telling me the waves would do some good. And I suppose I was just too depressed to argue. What the hell, I thought, I could always kill myself tomorrow.

My friend took me to Sunset Beach; unlike its Hawaiian namesake, Southern California’s version is a beginner’s wave predominately peopled by geriatrics, the unskilled, the terrified. Most surfers learn there and never go back. The waves are soft and slow, and on the day we went, there was no swell in sight. The surf was barely two feet high, but the water was warm and the tide low, and despite my wobbliness I could just about wade to the lineup.

Thirty seconds later, a wave came. Because it was a junk day at a junk break, there were no other takers. I was rusty, but I spun my board around, paddled twice and was on it. Somehow I got to my feet and drove down into the wave. There was a gauzy line of foam forming on the crest as a cradle rock of acceleration sped me into the trough.
Surfing is not found among remedies — common or otherwise — for chronic immune conditions, and since I had rejected just about every mystical system known to man, I didn’t think it was time to start believing in some aquatic hippie nonsense about communion with the water. All I know is that when that ride was over I wanted another and another and another. The ocean was offering me a taste, no more, but for the first time in two years, for that one wave-riding instant, I felt the thrum of life, the possibility of possibilities.

Five waves later I wasn’t just exhausted, I was disassembled. Those five waves led to 15 days in bed, but on the 16th I drove back for more. I caught five more waves and spent another two weeks recovering. The ratio would stay bad for months, but there was no way around it: I started to feel better, and the world started to feel mysterious again.

Steven Kotler is the author of “West of Jesus: Surfing, Science and the Origins of Belief,” to be published this month by Bloomsbury and from which this essay is adapted.

We hosted a Memorial Day cookout and invited a few of our favorite peeps. Card carrying Latino Mark Ricklingmixed up deliciously tart yet sweet mojitos. I think he said somebody on his mother’s side was from Puerto Rico and that qualified him for the status, and to make mojitos. He was impressed that I had Havana Club mojito glasses “imported” from Cuba, as well as assorted mojito stirrers “borrowed” from various Havana bars.

At the end of the evening, only a few were left lounging on the terrace and playing a game in which each person answered one question from each of the others in the circle. Thankfully, I came to the game late and did not have to answer many questions and was able to avoid answering them even when it was my turn. However, the questions were usually more revealing of the person asking than the person answering. For example, Dave asked Jeannie: “What does the role of regret play in your life?”

Soteri asked me how I felt about the phrase: everything happens for a reason. A total softball because he already knew what I thought about it. Everything happens for no reason. Jeannie was our collective therapist and our role model for living. She’s designed her life for her own happiness and to satisfy herself and no one else. Nicole’s impatience with the mundane is even greater than mine!

The slivered, smiling moon hung from the end of the Metropolis crane. The unseasonably warm day kicked off what I think will be a long and lazy summer. A feast of ribs and chicken and other picnic fare settled into our tummies. Music filled the evening air that had been cooled by a stiff 8th floor breeze. Candle light flickered at our feet. Time slowed.

Parker said she couldn’t think of a recent time when she’d been truly happy and I suggested maybe she’d look back on that night and smile happily.