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Dazzling Blue #21

When I was twelve my parents got me my first surfboard—a blood red 6’6” Wilken diamond tail. The rainbow fin, bolted into a box, was scuffed on Malibu rocks. The leash was one of those stretchy bungee cord numbers—highly dangerous. It was a Christmas gift, passed down from my cousin Jeff, a few years older and a hero to me. I knew the board from when it stood in the corner of his West LA bedroom alongside a potted plant and a wall full of surf pics torn out of magazines. At that time I was far more skateboarder than surfer. The board was a bridge.

            In high school, deep in the punk scene, I started wearing my father’s shirts. Button-ups, big collars, suffocating polyester—they were more nerdy than cool, and that was the point, to poke a hole in cool. It gave my father pleasure to see me wearing them, he told me this more than once.

            When I turned eighteen, a legal adult, I was given a ring from my Uncle Jules who I barely knew. Uncle Jules lived in New Jersey, my father’s father’s brother. The ring was passed down to me because Jules Brisick and I shared the same initials. The ring was chunky, silver on the band with a rose gold ‘JB’, and a small diamond set between the letters. It had a bold, Superman-like look to it. I imagined pointing the ring at locked doors and the doors popping open. I imagined it doing similar things with tricky bra straps.

            In 2000, on a stopover in Paris en route to Biarritz for late summer swell, I bought a French army jacket at a flea market in Le Marais. It was olive green, with epaulets and big pockets. It had a militant, life-is-but-an-endless-war quality to it that appealed to me. I also liked that it was different to its US counterpart. I wore it for a decade, in London and Sao Paulo, through triumph and heartbreak. Then, a few years ago, when the nephew I’d watched grow up hit his late teens, I passed it along. I made no ceremony of it, though I did think of Christopher Walken’s great speech in Pulp Fiction, when he explains to a young Bruce Willis in which orifices the heirloom gold watch has traveled. I simply left it on his bed with a note: For you, MF. I smile internally every time I see him wearing it. 

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Four persons on a rock wearing Birdwell jackets and Birdwell board shorts

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