Attack of Ubiquiplastic

After I wrote my last blog, I became aware of how much plastic we use in our daily lives –  painfully, maddeningly so. Plastic is EVERYWHERE. Did you notice too, just how much of the food, clothing and furniture we buy are wrapped in that lightweight crap? And have you considered, how, after the unwrapping, we wrap the wrapping in a big plastic bag to dispose of it? Then it’s off to the landfill, out of sight and out of mind for the majority of North Americans.The coup de grace in the Attack of Ubiquiplastic was delivered the other day along with a set of patio furniture. EVERY single piece of the set came wrapped in clear, lightweight plastic. There were a lot of pieces requiring assembly and the result was a LOT of plastic. As we unpacked six arms, then three seats, lots o’ legs and ten cushions, each neatly wrapped up in plastic, I kept picturing the large swaths of clear plastic flying through the air, landing in the ocean and ultimately suffocating a sea turtle or other hapless creature.
What did we do before all this plastic came into existence?
According to the USEPA, the amount of plastic in municipal solid waste in America has increased from less than 1% of the total in 1960 to about 12% in 2006. In 2007 (most recent data found), US production of plastic reached 116 billion tons, up from a measly 26 million tons in 2003. And less than 12% of all these plastics are recycled annually.
YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE.We’ve become too accustomed to things being clean and neat. We expect all our fruits and vegetables to be wrapped in plastic bags so we can get them home without soiling our hands or the inside of our reusable grocery bags. As consumers and voters we can change our habits and we can demand that the companies whose products we buy change along with us. Express yourself by choosing companies that minimize their use of non-recyclable plastics, actively recycle plastics and make significant contributions to environmental causes that encourage pollution awareness. There is no need to wrap a patio set in layers and layers of plastic so that it can be delivered to the consumer. There are alternatives to plastic and where absolutely necessary, biodegradable plastics are increasingly available.But despite all the technological know-how and facts readily at our disposal to help us reduce our contribution to the stream of garbage in the environment, people, it seems will continue to say “Fuck the Planet” for their own selfish reasons. Case in point:  Public reaction to the new Sun Chips biodegradable bags. The people at Sun Chips didn’t like that their bags contributed to the waste stream.

So they reduced the amount of material in each bag by 10%, eliminating five billion square inches of packaging from their production stream. Then, this year, they introduced the first fully compostable chip bag. Watch it disappear in this time lapse video! In response, some consumers are complaining the new material is too noisy. Some were so annoyed that they stopped buying Sun Chips. WTF?! It’s hard to believe that these are the actions of a rational, planet-loving person. Please…don’t be THAT person. And if you are THAT person, GET OVER IT. This is change we can live with.

To the Faithful

I do believe it is time again for a break from the Canada to Mexico line of writing, never mind that we haven’t even arrived yet in that place of beans, rice and tequila.

Other things have my attention for now and I would like to share these with you, my dear and faithful reader (I use the singular here intentionally, as I suspect that the few consistent readers I had, have likely left me for someone more faithful in their blogging).

If you find that my writing has taken on a slight haughty air, it is without doubt the result of my reading about the adventures of Don Quixote. Yes, that self-same knight errant that influenced so much of modern literature is the current focus of my attentions, despite the translation hailing from a time (1885) when the British tended to use many words that are no longer in popular usage, particularly in North America. The translator, a John Ormsby, has been taken to task for being too faithful (there is that word again) to Cervantes’ literary style, resulting in a somewhat confusing and dated work that is clearly influencing this reader’s writing. (Confused yet?)

So please forgive me today’s inauthentic style as well as my lack of faithful correspondence via this blog. No doubt I’ll ask your forgiveness again, much like is done regularly throughout important relationships, but let’s just take it two failings at a time, shall we? And yes, you are important to me gentle reader.

My lack of faithfulness has resulted from three things: 1) I recently flew from Mexico to Maui, where my dearest and I recently acquired a new home and where, therefore, many boxes required unpacking; 2) Before and after arriving here at the end of July, I focused on reading rather than writing. I finished two of Kerouac’s works, On the Road – the original scroll and Big Sur, the first several chapters of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and am now reading both Steven King’s On Writing and Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quixote.

To write we must also read. However, the reading is currently overwhelming the writing. The move has a lot to do with this, but I must also state reason number 3, for why there has been little writing: 3) I am basically a very undisciplined and lazy person who currently prefers to cook delicious meals, drink wine and watch television, than get up early and force myself to compose something. As you can imagine this not only hampers the writing, but has expanded my waistline considerably. This just won’t do.

I could also argue that my lack of productivity results from my lacking a place to write that has a door that can be closed against any interruptions or distractions, a condition which Mr. King says is essential if we ever hope to become a productive and successful writer (let’s not get into measures of success just yet, it’s the former that we are most concerned with at this point).

Currently,  (yes I mean at this very moment) I am writing at a plastic fold-out table acquired from CostCo, that chain of warehouse discount stores where things are sold in quantities so great as to cause refrigerator crises of gigantic proportions. Who among you has a fridge with room enough to store three 1 gallon containers of milk, five heads of romaine lettuce, four pounds of Parmesan cheese, three dozen eggs, two whole chickens and a partridge in a pear tree?  The CostCo table rests at the confluence of the living and kitchen areas of our new home and has a view (if I turn my head 90 degrees) of a spectacular, lushly-vegetated canyon that leads to a picturesque ocean bay. 

The reason I have to turn my head 90 degrees  to see the view is because the table is rectangular and this is the only way it fits in the available space, but also because, again according to King, a view is counterproductive to writing productivity. He suggests we are better off writing in a closet (as I do when in Mexico) where distractions are kept to a minimum. For example, even though I am right this minute facing 90 degrees from the spect-damn-tacular view, the multitudinous windows in our new abode make it possible for me to look up and note that it is raining again. You might think rain good for productivity, but in this case you would be wrong…because the sun is also shining. It is raining and sunny out and this is a common, but always interesting fact of living on the island of Maui. It makes me want to run outside and look for the inevitable rainbow. Now that’s a serious distraction. Hold on, I’ll be right back…
Alrighty then, the rainbow has been appreciated and photos taken, back to the task at hand.

So the point is this, I’ve moved and I’m trying to get back into the groove of writing every day despite the multitudinous distractions that living in a new place, particularly a gorgeous place like Maui, represents. Yes, this entire blog is one great big excuse.

The Gutenberg Project is an online repository of classic literature available to you the reader for FREE! Check it out.

Taking Flight

Very near the new home on Maui is a special place or, more specifically, a special wave. The location is known as Pe’ahi (PAY-ah-hee) and the wave as JAWS. The wave is famous because when the swell direction and size are just right it breaks in a surfable wave that is several stories high.
To surf big waves (arguably one greater than 18 feet tall), it is necessary to be incredibly strong so that the speed of the board matches that of the wave. The bigger the wave, the faster the wave and the greater the speed necessary to catch it.

Some surfers are purists and believe that the only way to surf big waves is to paddle into them. Others have discovered that the paddling speed limitation can be overcome by the use of personal water craft (PWC) or jet skis, which tow the surfer onto the face of the unbroken wave at speeds equal to or greater than that of the wave. Tow-in surfing, as it is called, has made it possible for surfers to surf waves previously uncatchable – waves like Jaws.

Laird Hamilton, a life-long resident of the Hawaiian islands and all-round waterman, made tow-in surfing famous and is undeniably the best big wave surfer in the history of the sport.

On November 25th, conditions in the bay in front of the house appeared favorable to produce the kind of waves that tow-in surfers need to practice their sport. Waves 30 feet or more in size were looming large and crashing audibly on the rocky point a good mile away.

Driving by Ho’okipa Surf break on our way west towards town, the waves were huge and closing out. No one was in the water, an unusual occurrence. Then on the way back home a neighbor drove by with a PWC hitched to the back of his truck and a rescue board was thrown in the truck bed. That was a sure sign.

We drove the 2 miles west and made our way through the pineapple fields that border the surf at Jaws. Cars and more cars were coming and going, confirming my suspicion that today was the day. A crowd had gathered on the cliff overlooking the break. Down below were 15 or more PWC, half of them with surfers on the back or towed by a tow rope. Between where they sat and the horizon was a series of lines or “corduroy” – swell lines, long, deep and intimidating.

We watched along with about 30 others from atop the steep cliff that borders the ocean along most of the North Shore. There were serious photographers with big zoom lenses and tripods, locals with video cameras and digicams and European tourists speaking a number of different languages underdressed for the cool, misty weather.

As a set approached, two PWCs and their surfers began to jockey for position. The craft moved outside and then turned gradually shoreward. They moved slower than the forming wave, allowing it to catch up to them. The pilot determined where the peak would form and positioned rider accordingly. As the peak began to feather in the offshore wind, the better riders took a line deep into the pit forming below the peak, gained speed and released their hold on the tow line. The sling shot effect gave them added speed and their position on the wave so far away was detected mostly from the trail they carved along the face of the wave. Binoculars made the rider more apparent and the experience more real.

As the lip of the wave came thundering down, rider carved up and through the now concave face and then, careening back down the face, gained speed to outrun the jaws of the wave. A collective holding of breath, the crowd mind-surfed the wave with each rider, ooing and ahhing as they cheated death time and again. Wondering at their ability to hold it together as the wind flew up the face of the wave, bringing blinding water with it. Their balance and strength in the face of great opposing forces made apparent to all onlookers.

That night lying in bed, the waves pounded the coast, entering the subconscious to become part of the dreamworld where huge looming masses of water, speed and wind surrounded the dreamer. Exhilaration, and the closest thing to flight without wings.


To see some incredible video taken at Jaws go HERE.
To learn more about Big Wave Surfing Click HERE.