Thursday, April 27, 2017

More Surfing Memories

Last week, Larry guest blogged about surfing his most memorable wave.

I used to go to the beach, too, but after trying the sport once or twice, nearly drowning and being hit in the head convinced me it wasn’t for me. Since I chose to go along, I decided my role was to document Larry’s surfing.

I started out using an old wind-up 8mm camera. When the camera wound down, the filming slowed. I could only take a few minutes’ worth before it stopped altogether. From the first camera, we graduated to a battery-operated one. As the batteries started to die, the film slowed down, so the pace changed.
In about 1968 or 1969, we edited the bits and pieces together into four separate films, each about fifteen minutes long. We recorded “soundtracks” on our reel-to-reel recorder off-air from our RCA Wall of Sound stereo. Later we re-recorded the same songs onto audiotape. All the music, except for an updated version of “A Summer Place,” is from the same era as the films.

For quite a few years, we showed the films (with the “soundtracks”) to groups of our friends. We had surfing-themed parties where Larry narrated the movies.

In the late 1990s, I took the films and tapes to a service and had them converted to VCR tapes. A few years ago, I had them converted to DVDs. Unfortunately, Larry’s great narration is missing, but the films are fun to watch, even today.

The first one is of Dana Point in the days before the marina was built. Very few films were made at “Killer Dana,” so these are quite rare.

This one contains some of our very favorite scenes of Laguna Canyon Road and Salt Creek Beach.

Most of this film was shot when Larry and I were dating.

The last of the old films was shot after we were married and features Larry’s brother, Casey.

Larry now has a GoPro camera he can mount on his board, his head, or his wrist. He edited and assembled these films and selected and added the music. In these, he is surfing with his friend, Bob Schwenck.

The photos in this video were taken by our friend Richard Zodnik.

This is the most recent of his videos. They are surfing at Doheny Beach.

Hope you enjoy watching these as much as I did taking those I shot and also the ones Larry took with his GoPro.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Surfing A Ten-foot Wave, Sunset Beach, 1988

Larry K. Collins, my husband, co-author, best friend, and cohort in crime is my guest blogger this week.

Having surfed for the past sixty years, I’ve ridden countless waves. Many are forgettable. Still, a few will stay in my memory forever. Even today, I can close my eyes and relive every movement and feeling of the glorious ride.
I decided to describe one memorable ride. But to do it without the surf jargon and clich├ęs normally used to describe the sport and make it accessible to people who have never surfed or even seen the sport. Here is my attempt.

I’m sitting on my board beyond the surf line, facing out to sea. Twenty yards inshore, fifteen or more other surfers, most not even half my age, jockey for position on the incoming swells. I sit farther out, as my ten-foot surfboard allows me to catch waves earlier. They ride the shorter high-performance boards.
Even though I’ve done this countless times, my heart still races as I spot a swell building over the outer reefs, and see the wave begin to take shape. Others see it, also. They begin a hasty paddle out toward me. I turn and start to paddle, arms digging deep into the water. I’ll need speed to catch this one. I glance over my shoulder to position myself. It’s going to be steep.
As the swell lifts the board’s tail, I rise, my left foot forward, my weight pressing the nose down against the wind, right foot steady for balance, knees slightly bent to absorb the bumps and undulations of an ever steepening face.
Before reaching the bottom, I shift my right foot back and press hard on the right-hand rail. The board obediently sweeps right to line up with the wall of water stretching out before me. Two steps forward to the trim spot, the fastest position. I’ll need all the speed I can muster. Behind me, I hear the thunderous roar of the collapsing wave.
My hand dragging on the liquid wall adds stability. My heart’s pumping, mind awake, senses sharp. The wave arches over my head, and in a kaleidoscope of greens, blues, and whites, splashes into the sea beyond my board. I’m in the tube, the barrel. I’m steady in the eye of the storm. Water sheets from the roof above, hitting my face and chest. I blink to clear my vision and crouch lower to urge the board onward.
Then I emerge into the light, out of the tube, and back again on the green wall. Ahead, I see the wave collapse and another tube heads my direction. Time to get out. I sweep a turn to drive the nose up the vertical face, past the lip, and ten feet beyond. I kick the board away, so as not to land on it, and splash on my back into the warm Hawaiian water.
A quick breath, then I feel the pull of the leash attached to my ankle. I’ve made it over the wave. My board did not. I’m pulled backward and drawn below the surface, clawing at the water, struggling against the maelstrom behind me. Finally, the board slips free. I fight to the surface and pull myself aboard.
It’s not over. Another wave looms outside. I stroke for the rising horizon, lungs gasping for air. Oxygen-starved arms feel like I’m pulling noodles through molasses. Offshore winds feather the wave’s crest as I sweep up the wall, over the top, and down the back. Another thirty strokes, and I’m safe outside again. I let out a yell.
It doesn’t get any better that this.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

NYC Part VIII - Cruise and Farewell

This is the final blog about our trip to NYC. (I bet you thought it would never come.)

All day Sunday, we wore our ID tags to identify us as part of the choir group. These are similar to the images on the posters used to advertise the concert.

When I visited Kim last week, she showed me her signed poster. All of the choir members received them as a thank you for participating.

Following the concert, we boarded busses to take us to the harbor. This time, they not only held the choir, but also the orchestra and Michael’s entourage. We heard they had chartered ten of them. We were on the fifth one to leave the city.

We arrived at the dock and then followed the crowd to the far end where the largest boat, the Hornblower Infinity, awaited us. Clearly it was our destination since it was completely lit up.

We presented our tickets and then found seats on the upper deck. Food and drink stations were available on both decks. The buffets included beef, pork, chicken, lots of different salads. Separate desert bars offered a variety of choices (always Larry’s favorite part).

During the cruise, Michael W. Smith once again thanked everyone for their part in creating this fabulous evening.

The views of the lights along the harbor at night awed us. Many of the landmarks appeared different when lit up. The yacht took us to Brooklyn and then turned around and headed back toward NYC while we dined.

As we returned to port, the boat took a detour toward the Statue of Liberty. Even though we were unable to walk on the island or climb the statue, this view of Lady Liberty brought to mind the lyrics of “There She Stands,” which we had heard earlier in the evening at the concert. I confess, I was moved to tears seeing this symbol of freedom in person.

Soon we reached the dock and disembarked. Busses awaited us and conveyed us back to our hotel, tired and euphoric after one of the most memorable days of our lives.

Early the next morning, we met Kim in the lobby. Their flight was earlier than ours, so this was our last chance to see her before we left. After we kissed her goodbye, we asked the concierge to arrange for a taxi to meet us to take us to the airport.

After breakfast, we finished packing and went to the lobby. Our taxi arrived right on time. We had a delightful ride, so different from our arrival. During the trip, we enjoyed talking to our driver, Mohammed. This young man had relocated from Miami to experience the big city. He said he enjoyed meeting people from all over the world.

Once more, we had encountered a wonderful New Yorker—the perfect ending to our NYC experience.

Our flight proved to be uneventful. We were ready to be home, but it will take some time to fully process the whole experience. 

Thursday, April 6, 2017

NYC Part VII - The Concert

After a short rest at the hotel, we changed clothes and made our way to Carnegie Hall. This time, we entered through the main entrance while the choir members went to the artists’ entrance.

On the way in, we picked up some of the cough drops we’d heard about during our tour. They use only those wrapped in wax paper rather than cellophane because they don’t crinkle during the performance.

Our tickets were in the center section, fourth row, on the aisle. Unfortunately, we were on the opposite side of the stage from Kim, but we spotted her occasionally behind the harp during the performance.

Before the performance, the church pastor, Jack Graham, made a surprise appearance. All the choir members were thrilled to see him there. The choir was introduced before Michael W. Smith took the stage. “If you have ever wondered what angels sound like, you are about to hear the closest thing on earth.” The director did not lie.

The show started with an acapella version of “Shine on Us.” (All music is hyperlinked to YouTube performances. The only one I could find of the acapella version of the Michael W. Smith arrangement of this song is from a high school choir. Kim verified the arrangement. Since their Carnegie concert was not recorded, I don’t have their version.)

During the rehearsal, the conductor/director, David Hamilton, worked with the choir to change from their usual all-out, full-volume style to modulate this song. As he worked with them, we heard a real transformation. Before the concert, choir members expressed concern about this piece since they would have no orchestra or piano to cover any errors. They delivered their best performance of the night. (Yes, I’m biased, but this is the type of choral music I most enjoy.)

This photo was taken during rehearsal. Kim is in the front row just to the right of the microphone next to the seated man. (I believe he may be the choir’s director.)

Finally, Michael W. Smith took the stage. The program began with the “Glory Overture.” This song made me cry during rehearsal. The actual performance was no different. There followed several songs he has recorded like “Great is the Lord” and “Down to the River.” (Video is with the Prestonwood choir at a performance in Texas. If you look closely, you may spot Kim.) More of his well-known songs followed, interspersed with some I hadn’t heard before like, “The Giving,” “Heroes,” and “There She Stands,” his tribute to the Statue of Liberty following the 9-11 attack. All of these have become favorites. The first half ended with “Gloria from Angels We Have Heard on High.”

During intermission, I made a quick visit to the gift shop. During our tour, I had spotted a few items I wanted to buy as mementos of this special trip. The most famous joke about Carnegie hall goes like this:
A performer (identified variously as Jasha Heifetz, Artur Rubenstein, or Jack Benny) was walking on the street in New York City when a passerby stopped him to ask, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” The answer was: “Practice, practice, practice.”
The joke has become a staple at the hall, and many of their souvenir items feature the words, “Practice, Practice, Practice.” I bought myself a t-shirt and mug with the saying. I also got Kim a different mug, also with the same words.

Back in my seat, I was ready for the second half. It began with several of Michael’s well-known songs. They included a song he recorded with the Prestonwood choir, “We Are Alive.” (This song is available for purchase on the Prestonwood Choir CD Songs of the People.)

By the time we reached “Mighty to Save” and “Breathe,” the entire audience was singing along, whether or not it was the original intention. We looked around us. The hall was packed, and we thought some of the people near us might have come from the Brooklyn Tabernacle—including their choir members. The sound of over 2,000 voices plus the orchestra, choir, and soloist internalized the music. Powerful stuff.

The concert ended with “Agnus Dei.” The video is from a performance at Prestonwood Baptist Church prior to the Carnegie Hall weekend. (Kim is in the front of the very first choir shot as well as several other places in the video.)

Of course, by the end of this one, the audience was on its feet. The applause rolled on and didn’t stop.

As expected, Michael returned to the stage for an encore. Following a charming story and the first encore, he began to play the familiar chords of my favorite of his songs, “Friends.”

For many years, our church had a rite of passage for our graduating high school seniors. One Sunday, either in May or June, the high schoolers took over the worship service. They planned and executed the whole thing. The graduating seniors gave the message. Our high school adviser, Connie Mills, always chose “Friends” as the closing song for those special services. Every time I hear it, I am taken back to those wonderful days.

I sang and cried at the same time, along with others around me. I did not need to apologize.

For years, we had tickets for some of the great performance venues in Los Angeles: the Dorothy Chandler, Royce Hall, Ambassador Auditorium, Schubert, etc. We had a box at the Hollywood Bowl for three years. During those years, we heard many great performers like Itzhak Perlman, James Galway, Jean-Pierre Rampal, the Kings Singers, and on and on.

As we regained our breath at the end of the concert, I turned to Larry. “This is the best concert I’ve ever heard.” This was not an idle comment. He responded with, “yeah, and the second half was the very best singalong ever.”
Indeed, the entire evening was magic. But we weren’t finished yet.

Please enjoy the links to some fabulous music. Unfortunately, the concert itself wasn’t recorded or I would give you the link to buy the CD.
Next week, we wrap up our trip to NYC with a dinner cruise in NY Harbor.