Friday, December 19, 2008

Why are there no Monumental Wonders of the Modern World?

I was walking back from a meeting in Paris this morning and passed by the Arc de Triomphe. It is truly a magnificent structure, quite large, decked with all sorts of fantastical and impressive sculptures. One usually sees pictures of it from quite a distance, so its immensity was surprising. That, and its familiarity, tend to diminish what is actually a very impressive thing.

Apropos of my recent blog post on being able to imagine alternate realities, as I walked by, I contemplated what an extraordinary amount of both time and money must have been expended in the Arc’s construction in the early 1800s. Construction was begun in 1806, but the Arc was not fully completed until the mid 1830s. It took hundreds of men more than twenty years to build what is simply a monument to some sort of greatness.

It occurred to me that the modern world has never even attempted such a monument on anywhere near such a scale. A comparable effort today consisting of thousands of men toiling for tens of years, with modern engineering methods and modern building materials, would be mind boggling in its grandeur and sophistication. Our newest monuments, such as the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, are such small endeavors in comparison as to not even be mentioned in the same breath.

Of course the modern world does build impressive structures; the new World Trade Center in lower Manhattan, at a cost of tens of billions and construction time nearing ten years, will certainly be impressive. But our biggest buildings today are all commercial endeavors – their patrons spend the capital required with the express intention of receiving a return on that investment. And they look like commercial endeavors.

Can you imagine spending such a sum or amount of time constructing a massive monument which does nothing other than celebrate some sort of greatness? The thought is absurd.

It made me wonder why the modern world has no great monuments.

A couple of thoughts occurred to me:

First, monuments of this scale generally require egos. If you think about the wonders of the ancient world: the pyramids; the Taj Mahal; the Arc de Triomphe (I know, that’s not really ancient, but you get my point), they all were commissioned by a king, emperor or dictator. In the Arc’s case, it was Napoleon Bonaparte, returning from victory at Austerlitz.

Well, none of the countries of the modern world which can afford such largesse have any kings, emperors or dictators. We’re all liberal democracies.

Second, most of these great things were built to celebrate some great victory by someone over somebody else. Well, as Francis Fukuyama pointed out in the early 1990’s, with the ascension of liberal democracy as the government of choice among the first world, history is essentially over (one could certainly argue about the recent rise of Islamic Fundamentalism – Is there a new monument in our future?).

Finally, and this is a point closely related to the first, a liberal democracy is not wont to squander its resources doing something so inane as building a monument. It would much rather spend its money providing for its people or investing in its infrastructure.

Now, I am not naïve enough to actually believe that history is over. But given these prerequisites for grand monument-building, it makes me wonder when, and under what circumstances, the next great wonder of the world will be constructed. If Fukuyama is really correct, the answer is never.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

More Notes from Europe

I rented a car this time. Actually, I prefer to drive rather than take trains. I become more intimate with foreign lands if I have to negotiate their roads.

European cars are much like American ones. The differences are small, but can be irritating. The most obvious differences are the placement of switches, etc., especially those surrounding the steering wheel.

When driving a car, motions like hitting the wipers, bright lights or cruise control are second nature. One doesn’t think about where the blinker switch is.

On the car I’ve been driving today, everything is reversed compared to what I’m used to. When I try to hit the blinkers, I end up washing the windshield. I think I must have the cleanest windshield in the Northern hemisphere today. I give it a good soaking at every corner.

I also have trouble with the lights. On the way to Amiens this evening I was in the left lane, traveling very fast just behind another car. It had been raining slightly, and the roads were dirty, so this time I really did need to clean the windshield. Instead, of course, I flashed the high beams at the poor guy in front of me, even though we were already traveling at something like 180 miles per hour. Being a good driver like Europeans are, he immediately switched over to the right lane so I could pass him. Being embarrassed that I’d just flashed my high beams at him, I couldn’t really slide in behind him inconspicuously. So I sped up to pass, well aware of how fast I was already going.

I was driving a Mercedes diesel. Well, diesels have a lag before acceleration kicks in. So when I stepped on the gas, nothing happened, especially since I was already pretty much cruising. So then I really stepped on the gas, just as the lag was over, and shot by the other guy at what must have approached 250.

He must have been thinking to himself "wow, that dude must really be in a rush..."

Gotta run, more later.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Notes from my Europe Trip

Sitting on the plane heading home from Hamburg, here are some random thoughts from the last few days:

• Daily life entails many more interactions with random people than one realizes until one is self-conscious about language. It turns out that we have short conversations with people all the damn time: the flight attendant; the taxi driver; the chick that you bought an Orangina from at the bodega; the bellhop; the maid walking down the hallway. Usually when I am traveling to Europe, I’m either with Teresa or local management and they do the talking. This time, I was mostly alone.

• My initial inclination upon reaching France is always to begin these conversations in French, especially if it is as simple as “bonjour!” Most people recognize a foreign accent immediately and helpfully revert to English. Some don’t recognize the accent, and continue to say something, often incomprehensible to me, in French, and then I have to figure out what to do: either stupidly nodding my head, pretending that I know French better than I do, or saying “excuse me?” in English. Either way, I feel stupid.

• This time, I only spent two days in France and then sped onto Germany. The change in language threw me for a loop, and thus I was generally mute with a nod of the head when greeted with a “guten tag.” Most people recognized the difficulty and continued on with comments about the weather or something in English. Again, I felt stupid. The strangest thing happens to me in this situation, though: when I respond to them, I’m speaking English with a weird German accent, as if that’s going to help them understand me. I can’t do anything about it. I sound like Mike Myers or some other silly comedian doing a parody of a Nazi. I can only shake my head in disgust after the short meeting is over.

• Germans, in Hamburg at least, are painfully polite. The best way to describe this is their behavior at crosswalks. Hamburg is a big, bustling city with even more pedestrians than cars. Stoplights and crosswalks are very carefully marked and lighted. The funny thing is, everyone obeys the crosswalk lights, all the time. I happened to be at a crossing of two one way streets, both very narrow, with no traffic on them at all. As I approached the intersection, people started piling up at the corner, obviously waiting for the light to change. I got to the corner, and looked down the tiny street – it could not have been more than 15 feet across – and saw that there was not any traffic in sight, anywhere. And yet not a single person was venturing across. About twenty people had piled up on the sidewalks on either side of the street, and they all stopped and waited, some picking up their cellphones and looking at email or something. The light changed, and they all flooded across the street. Having lived in New York for many years, it was very odd.

• I stopped by my grandparent’s old house from 1955-1959 at 47 Harvesthuderweg, right on the lake just down from the American Consulate. The street was gorgeous, and I can only imagine that the Finlays led a charming life back then. The house itself was under construction, so it was hard to see what it might have been like in its former glory.

• If I have time, I’ll write a funny story about the plane ride to Paris, where I suffered uncomfortably close living quarters with a French couple for about seven hours.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A New Appreciation for Led Zep

The older I get, the more I realize how superior the wizened brain of an old fart like me is, compared to the brutish, one-dimensional sorts which are housed in the admittedly superior bodies of teenagers and twentysomethings.

One of the benefits of a mature brain is a highly developed ability to imagine alternate realities, particularly with regard to analyzing history. I’ve noticed this ability in myself increasingly over time as I’ve gotten older.

The latest particular example was some time recently when I was reading about Luther and his posting of the 95 theses on the door of the Church at Wittenburg. I happened to be reading an article about recent political events in a journal, and the author invoked Luther for some reason or other. Not being terribly interested in the main thrust of the article, my mind wandered back to 1517, and started imagining what it would have been like to be German, reading those theses at the time. I wondered what it was like to believe in God back then, and I had a series of the most wondrous revelations. I realized just how much knowledge we had collectively gathered since 1517, and then, expertly, I purged all of that knowledge from my brain, leaving myself a somewhat befuddled, mostly ignorant middle-ager (middle age being a period of history, not a period of life).

Well, as such, I momentarily believed in God in a very different way than we probably do today. It was a belief that transcended just about everything else.

I probably had some ability to imagine this way when I was back in college, but it was an order of magnitude less developed than today. As they say, it is a shame that college is wasted on youth.

Anyway, today I was driving home from work when deejay Carol Miller came on Q104.3 with her latest installment of Get the Led Out, her tribute to Led Zeppelin. She described the genesis of the BBC Sessions, only the second live recording of Led Zeppelin music ever, released in 1997. The material includes sessions recorded in front of public BBC audiences from 1969 to 1972, of mostly new and (at the time) unreleased material.

She played Stairway to Heaven from a 1971 session. As the song started to unfold, it sounded very familiar, even down to the peculiar way that certain notes were picked out in the acoustic guitar opening. It piqued my curiosity.

I live in a reasonably remote area, and radio reception is uncertain on the roads near my home. I could sense the radio was about to go on the fritz, but my heart was beating a little stronger, and I realized that I really wanted to hear this song, and so I pulled off to the side of the road in quite an inconvenient spot.

The song continued to unfold, and I was amazed by it. Of course I have heard Stairway to Heaven thousands of times. I've even heard it many, many times recently, listening, as I do, to Q104.3 and other like stations.

The thing which amazed me as I listened were the same things that amaze me in the studio version that we all know: the careful lyrics of Robert Plant; the unconventional but somehow incredibly satisfying drum riffs of John Bonham; the varied and surprising transitions; and finally the inexorable progression from plaintive ballad to screaming tumult.

Those who know something about music know the magic which can be wrought in a studio. As this song became second nature to me over the years, somehow I came to the opinion that many of those quirky aspects of Stairway had been crafted in the studio when it was recorded. It was a masterpiece of modern music created with the benefit of mixers and afterthought.

But no, here was a live recording which predated its studio version, and it proved that Led Zeppelin meant all of these things to be in that song from the very beginning. They crafted the whole damn thing from scratch. I was stunned. Robert Plant and Jimmy Page had always been held in my reasonably high esteem, but now they were sitting in the Pantheon of Gods.

As I sat listening to the song reach its crashing conclusion, cars occasionally whizzing around me, I realized what it must have been like to be sitting in that 1970 audience listening to such a strange sound.

Only 38 years of history can give us the dull equanimity required to sit listening to Stairway to Heaven and not either wonder or rejoice. Kids today take it totally for granted. They’ve heard it so many times, and the kinds of music which it invented have become so standard, that the song is unremarkable today.

But to those studio audiences in 1970, it must have been quite something indeed.

It took progressing to a point in my life where my knees creak to imagine life before music as I know it, transport myself back to 1970, and truly enjoy Stairway to Heaven.

Middle age (the life-stage this time) brings on all sorts of neuroses, including an unquenchable thirst to regain youth. Well, age does have certain benefits, including the ability to be filled with wonder while sitting in a car at the edge of the road, imagining an alternate reality as if it were my own. Kids need substances to achieve such bliss; I can do it all by myself.

PS: If you haven’t done it in a while, go get yourself a pair of really good earphones, put on Stairway to Heaven, and pretend that you’ve never heard it before (without substances!).

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Traffic-free biking

Best time to go for a bike ride in the New York metropolitan area: during a Giants game. There's nobody out on the road.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

CNBC Update

Mouthbreather Index: Negative

Was at the Yale Club again yesterday. There were only about four people watching the show, which was covering political news instead of the usual nauseating second by second market updates.

Larry Kudlow was interviewing McCain. Larry asked McCain if he'd seen the latest Investor's Business Daily which showed McCain lagging in polls even among investors. McCain offered an audible sigh in response, and Larry said something witty.

So there were a few open mouths, but it was because people were laughing. That's why I gave it a negative reading. Not only did people seem resigned to the fact that Obama might win, but the tension from our financial crisis seems to have dissipated completely.

Again, for background, look here and here.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Book Recommendation

Just finished The Year of Living Dangerously, and I highly recommend it.

It is a romance set in a time and place where romance was still possible, because the world was uncertain and shifting, and life's decisions could be swayed one way or another, creating possibilities for both tragedy and good fortune.

The descriptions of Sukarno's Indonesia of the mid-60's and the political turmoil surrounding it are haunting, and create the perfect backdrop for an interesting novel.

It was apparently made into a movie, and I'm setting off right now to NetFlix to put it in the queue.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The real cause of the financial mess

Caution: severely off-color blog post potty humor

Sometimes as I ponder this latest financial crisis, I wonder about its origins, and then I just look around a little bit, and it’s not so much of a mystery.

The thing which strikes me is the ridiculous excess which characterizes modern American life. It is ubiquitous, but we hardly ever notice it. It has softened us, and prepared us for the great calamity which is now upon us.

Take the bathroom here, for instance. I am staying right now at the Four Seasons in Palm Springs. It does happen to be a particularly over-the-top place, but this story could be told at any number of hotels which are affordable even to the masses.

The bathroom is a deliciously marbled thing, with expensive, shiny new fixtures everywhere. The commode is stationed luxuriously in its own little compartment, itself walled and ceilinged with marble. The door to this space thunks with an authoritarian permanence when closed. The space is hardly larger than the commode itself. My wife, I am sure, would love the floorplan of this particular bathroom, as it would provide a buffer from the more unsavory aspects of her spouse.

Anyway, on the wall, conveniently placed at eye level while sitting, is a phone. A phone.

Now, come on.

Admittedly, I do some of my best thinking while stationed thusly, but seriously. Have we now gotten to the point where everyone is so busy that they cannot even afford to finish their business before trotting off to a real phone to make an important call?

Who in God’s name has ever used one of these phones?

I can imagine the call to my broker going something like this:

Ring. Ring.

“Hello, ________ speaking…” (name changed to spare the innocent)… (that would be you, T)...
“Dude, what’s up?”
“Hey, man, to what do I owe this honor?”
“Well, I’ve been thinking.”
“Uh oh. Whatd’ya got”
“Well, I’ve been thinking…uuuuunhhhhhhhhhah!”
“What??”
“What..”
“You grunted!”
“What??”
“I heard you grunt or something.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“I distinctly heard a loud grunt. What the hell are you doing there?”
“Oh that. Oh, well, that was the cat.”
“The cat?”
“Yeah.”
“I thought you were at a hotel? Ritz, or something?”
“Oh yeah. Four Seasons.”
“What?”
“Yeah, well, that was the neighbor’s cat.”
“The neighbor’s cat? What are you talking about?”
“Hey, nevermind, long story. You’re changing the subject. I’ve been thinking here.”
“OK, about what?”
“Well, I’m thinking that this market is about to tank on us major-domo, and I should be selling everything and parking it in cash.. uuuuunhhhhhhhhhah!”
“There you go again!”
“What do you mean, I just figured this out myself!”
“No, the grunting!”
“What?”
“You just grunted again!”
“What are you talking about? I am talking about selling everything!”
“Dude, are you crapping?”
“Well, man, I know you got some strange shit going on upstairs – I thought that analyst guy was working out? – but I don’t want you making shit up on my time!”
“I am not the one grunting!”
“You’re hearing shit.”
“MARTHA! Can you pick up that phone!”
“Hey, stay with me here.”
“OK, what about this cash? I told you man, your cash is safe. It’s in money markets…”
“No, you’re not getting it…”
“Hey, man, I gotta go.”
“What?”
“I gotta go, man, got a big client on the other line…”
“Wait!”
Click.
"Crap!"

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

All Suits Today

I've had this theory, ever since about 2002, that there is an inverse correlation between the formality of business attire and the exuberance of financial markets.

Although I did not recognize it at the time, the first indications of such an inverse relationship showed up in the late 1990's, with the dotcom equity explosion. If you remember, Alan Greenspan characterized that time in our history as one of something like "irrational exuberance." As the 90's progressed, as the NASDAQ index climbed higher and higher, and as the Masters of the Universe became tech gurus instead of Wall Streed gurus, business attire in general began to mimic the dress of the twentysomething internet billionaires who seemed to be popping up regularly: wrinkled khakis, logoed polo shirts and Docksiders.

As these billionaires became more ubiquitous, and as Wall Street bankers took note of their dazzling newfound wealth, this attire even seemed to trickle right down onto Wall Street itself; New York adopted business casual, first on Fridays, but when the dotcom explosion seemed almost complete, it became the norm all week long, in summer, winter, whatever.

Well, then the dotcom bubble burst. Some people immediately reverted to wearing suits. That's when I noticed the relationship. However, the reversion was not complete; some institutions kept with the more casual wear. Others didn't know what to do (like MidMark) and effectively had no dress code at all. Younger analyst types would sport casual wear, while older management started wearing ties again. The trend toward more formal continued up until about 2005.

Then, the Masters of the Universe became hedge fund managers. Well, since they were beholden to noone, they got to work in casual dress again. The cycle started over again, although it was not quite so complete. Portions of Wall Street, particularly investment bankers, still wore suits. But it was not uncommon in 2006 or early 2007 to have meetings, during which there might be discussions about the movement of billions of dollars, attended by people wearing jeans with rips in the knees.

Well, now the real estate bubble has bust, and the financial wreckage is like nothing anyone has ever experienced before.

I went to a meeting at the Association for Corporate Growth this morning. It was attended by about 100 bankers, lawyers, accountants, private equity folks, and probably some hedge funds too.

All suits. 100%. All of them, dark. Polished wingtips. Not a polo shirt to be seen...

Monday, October 20, 2008

Congratulations Andrew!

Congratulations are due to Andrew Friedman and the Tampa Bay Rays, who last night beat Boston in game 7 of the American League Championship Series, and will start the World Series on Wednesday night.

Some of you may remember that Andrew was an Associate here at MidMark for several years until joining the Rays. After two years in player development, he became general manager(article about his background here).

Andrew is now the toast of the Major Leagues, and everyone wants to know a little bit about him, inlcuding his background. So, naturally, MidMark has been getting a little press, which is a strange thing.

According to the New York Times, we are "an obscure private equity firm in New Jersey." In another paper we were described as a firm which ruthlessly extracts profits by buying and breaking up companies.

Well, I suppose I am happy to remain obscure, as long as we're making profits!

Congratulations to Andrew. I'm definitely a fan, even though my heart still belongs to Baltimore.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Thoughtless Bastards...

Blog Post Caution: Potty Humor

I just had another disappointing trip to the men's room. I really hate it when none of the prior inhabitants of my stall has been courteous enough to leave any reading materials strewn about the floor for me to pick up. It's really thoughtless of them.

Since I obviously cannot count on any of my work colleagues for something so simple, I am thinking that I'll have to buckle and get my own subscription to Sports Illustrated or Men's Journal. I wonder if publishers will deliver to men's rooms? The addressee would be something like this: Stall 2, Men's Room, 2nd Floor, 177 Madison Avenue, Morristown, NJ 07931.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

CNBC Update

Mouthbreather Index: 25%

If you don't know what I'm talking about, see here.

I was back at the Yale Club today. It was late afternoon, at the tail end of another 700 point rout of the Dow.

I counted again, this time eight folks stood about watching events unfold on CNBC. Only two had their mouths hanging open this time. One, an older gentleman, fully reclined on one of the couches, looked like he might have his mouth open pretty much all the time, but I counted him anyway. The other was a younger gent, a bit overweight, whose lips were actually closed, but it was quite easy to tell that the jaw had slacked up considerably behind his sloppy maw. He definitely merited a count. I almost snapped a picture of him on my cell phone to share with you.

At 25%, I'd say that people have pretty much gotten used to the news...

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A Deadbeat Employee

The latest email exchange between me and our controller:

-----------------------------------------------------

From: Werner, Judy Sent: Wednesday, October 08, 2008 2:19 PMTo: Finlay, MattSubject: Lunch Tab

Matt –

Your lunch tab now stands at $214.12. Please reimburse petty cash ASAP.

Thanks!

Judy

Judith Werner
MidMark Capital
177 Madison Ave.
Morristown, NJ 07960
Phone: 973-971-9960
Fax: 973-971-9963
jwerner@midmarkcapital.com

P Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail. Thank you.

-------------------------------------------------------------

Judy,

Come on, cut me some slack!

I'm right in the middle of trying to package up my lunch tab in a collateralized debt obligation so I can sell it to an unsuspecting pension fund in Iceland. I'd move faster, but the rating agencies aren’t cooperating.

M

PS: I’ll run over to the bank machine right now…

Matthew Finlay
Managing Director
MidMark Capital
(973) 971-9960
http://www.midmarkcapital.com/

------------------------------------------------------------

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Creaking Old Man, Drinking

Lost the Club Championship tennis match today to a college boy, 6-0, 6-1. He was gracious in his drubbing of me; I was not quite as gracious in receipt of the drubbing. I'm now sitting in my favorite reclining leather chair drinking a beer -- my knees hurt, my elbows hurt and my muscles are sore. I still feel better, though, for having tried to beat the little bastard.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Dudelar, what's up with the "lar"s?

What's with the "lar"s in my blog names?

Well, as you know teenagers have their own language. When I was in high school, a synonym for "awesome" or "terrific" was Luscious, for some reason. In addition to that, friends would often append a "lar" to the end of a name or moniker as a sign of affection, as in "hey dudelar, let's go get some steak and cheeses..."

When I got to college, people started calling me Finlar, as an example of the latter. Later, it transitioned to Finlarscious, as the two were combined. Finally, as usual, I was given the dimunutive formation of that name, and I became just Larscious.

Thus, the lars in my blogs. Actually, there's one more interesting aspect to that story, but you'll have to get that from me verbally late at night after a few beers.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Mouth Breathers

September 23rd, 2008

So I was at the Yale Club this morning for a quick game of squash.

I entered the men’s locker room at about 11AM to find the television tuned to CNBC, which was covering the Senate Banking Committee’s meeting with Ben Bernanke, Chris Cox and others on the federal government’s proposed $700 billion bailout plan.

Now, men’s locker rooms are pretty genial places. There’s a lot of banter and jibe, like “hey Gus, you trying to corner the market for raw materials in the tire business with that new roll in your gut?”

Not so this morning. It was dead silent. In fact, of the ten or twelve people standing around half-dressed watching the show, fully half of them – I counted – had their mouths open. Slack-jawed, they were. The act of dressing and undressing was happening at a glacial pace, eyes trained on the not-very-interesting visage of Ben Bernanke being grilled by Chris Dodd.

Now, it’s not that any of these people had not heard the news. Shocking news has been dribbling out practically every day since I woke up last Monday to find that Lehman Brothers had declared bankruptcy and was being liquidated, and Merrill Lynch – Merrill Lynch! – had been acquired in a stealth deal overnight by Bank of America.

No, all of these people had heard all of the news. It’s just that the news, in this case, is so spectacularly stunning, that even after having digested it for a week and a half, still nobody really knew what to say. It takes some pretty serious stuff to get well-bred Yale Club types to stand around with their mouths hanging open.

With Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley having converted themselves into banks last Sunday, the last of the investment banks is gone. Gone! That’s a way of life for all of these people, just vanished into thin air!

I wonder how long it will be before everyone can close their mouths again.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Score One for Mother Nature

So, Hanna got me all excited, with its projected 30-40 knot Southeasterlies, and after taking my three kids to their three separate soccer games last Saturday, I hitched up the trailer and high-tailed it down to Sandy Hook, hoping the Feds hadn't closed it.

To my delight, it was open when I got there, although my first inspection from afar suggested that I was the only person who would venture out in such conditions. To my further delight, however, I found that about 25 other hardy windsurfers were either sailing or rigging up when I got to the windsurfing spot (not a kite to be seen...).

I rigged my smallest sail (5.0) and headed out. It was perfect bayside, and I was just barely overpowered most of the time, a bit more overpowered at others, but I was mostly able to hang on, enjoying a mix of flat water and chop hopping. I learned a trick for sailing in tropical storms - the real veterans had brought goggles. Sailing at 20 knots in 30 knots of wind caused the rain to sting badly, and it was almost necessary sail with eyes closed. I stopped at the beach to rest for a moment, standing in the water next to some other guy.

"You sail here a lot?" I asked.
"Yup."
"Anyone ever sail oceanside in this kind of stuff?"
"No idea."
"How bout you?"
"Ha! Maybe twenty years ago... I got a family..."
"Hmmm..."

I sailed for about two hours, then headed across the spit to fill up my water bottle, figuring that I'd call it a day. When I got across, I spotted a single lonely sail in the surf oceanside. I ventured down just as the guy was climbing up the beach with his rig to rest.

I asked him if he was staying a while, because I wanted to try some wavesailing, but I didn't want to try it alone. He said he was staying til dark, so bring it on. I noticed, but did not note at the time, that he was youngish, with bleached hair, probably qualifiying him to be sailing in the surf during a tropical storm. I nervously brought my rig down to the beach and stood around with him for about twenty minutes watching the surf and getting pointers from him.

He ventured out again, and I said what the hell and headed out after him. My first two attempts were disastrous. I carried my rig over the small shorebreak, but then when I got out to waist deep water, the rip currents were so strong, they just tore me off my feet and sent me hurtling down the beach (which also happened to be downwind...). I tried sitting in the water and half-water starting, but every time I was about to get up, another roller would come in and toss me and my rig about like a rag doll. I was gasping for air, and eventually, I had to give up and limp back to shore. Unfortunately, even though I'd only been in the water for a minute or two, the current had dragged me several hundred yards down the beach. By the time I carried my rig back to the launch spot, I was completely spent.

By this time, it was getting late, but I was not going to give up without punching through. I rested for a good long time, and finally followed the guy back in the water. I flailed about again, but somehow managed to work into deeper water and was able to waterstart. I got up and started to sail out, but was immediately met by a 6-8 footer just cresting. With my last bits of energy, I was able to tiptoe over it before it broke, and once on the other side, I was free. Unfortunately, the crashing surf had banged my booms up the mast. The harness lines were so high, I couldn't hook in. I had to drop my sail and fix the booms, all the while being swept by the currents down the beach. Finally all set and in deep water, I water started, got up, and prepared to head upwind.

That's when the wind really hit.

The eye of the storm was supposed hit North Jersey about 8:30 PM, and by this time it was about 7:15 and getting dark. In the time that I was getting out, the wind had just started to scream. I knew I was in trouble as soon as I had hooked in. I could not hold on. The wind would get under my board and force my whole rig into the air. I was seriously spooked. This would have been of little concern if I were sailing bayside, but here I was surrounded by huge cresting rollers, feeling very lonely out in the ocean, even though the other guy probably still had an eye on me.

I dropped the sail, turned my board, and water started to head back in. By the time I made it, I was half a mile or more down the beach. I pulled the board onto the beach and looked upwind. My eyes were immediately stung by a major sandstorm blowing down the beach. Unfortunately, I also wasn't able to carry my whole rig - I had to separate mast and sail and carry them separately. I reluctantly left my board, and headed up the beach with my sail, darkness quickly encroaching. After about fifty yards, I heard a crashing sound behind me, and turned to find my board being tossed down the beach like a piece of paper. I found a stake, tied my sail to it, and went back for my board.

Forty five minutes later in complete darkness, I finally sat in my car, too tired to unrig.

The other guy, who had been sailing the whole time doing flips and massive jumps off the big waves, was casually whistling as he derigged in the parking lot next to me...

As he pulled out, he said "Good to meet you! See you next time.."

Ha! Next time!

Welcome!

Well, here I am. Feel free to peruse the site, and gather all the random thoughts that have slipped out of my brain here.