Surfing the Ocean in My Sixties

by Barbara Fischkin

(l to r) Jennifer and Barbara Get Ready to Surf 
Photo by Bob Arkow

Deep Water Background

For an opus on surfing, I recommend Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan. I am humbled each time I pick up this book. Four summers ago, at 64, I decided to try to surf. People who do not surf, and even some who do, are impressed when I mention this, as if any day now I will be gliding upright over sky-high waves and onto the shore. The truth: For me this is a very minor undertaking and would not even qualify as a hobby. In other words: It is something to sneeze at. I have yet to stand up on a surfboard.

I can get on two knees, briefly and occasionally crouch on one foot while supported by the other knee. Then splash, I fall backwards into the water. Backwards is the correct way to fall. You can see the board before it bangs you in the head. With any luck you can then grab its rim or use the leash—presumably still attached around your ankle—to pull the board towards you and safely away from other surfers. I congratulate myself for, at the least, being able to fall off a surfboard well.

Finnegan writes that if you want to be an accomplished surfer, you must start by the time you are fourteen, at the latest. The exact quote: “People who tried to start at an advanced age, meaning over fourteen, had, in my experience, almost no chance of becoming proficient, and usually suffered pain and sorrow before they quit. It was possible to have fun, though, under supervision, in the right conditions…”

I agree, with some caveats. Read more »

Don’t Want No Short People ‘Round Here

by Carol A Westbrook

It’s been over 30 years since Randy Newman released his hit, “Short People,” singing, that they

“…. got grubby little fingers
And dirty little minds
They’re gonna get you every time
Well, I don’t want no short people
‘Round here.”

Most Americans recognized this song as a parody of racial discrimination. But few recognize the true significance of this song: short people are discriminated against, too!

You don’t think there’s discrimination against short people? Think again. I’m short, and I know. I’m at 5’2, below the average height for a woman (5′ 4.6″) and well below the average height for a man, (5’ 10.2″). In fact, half of Americans are below average in height. Yet they are expected to reach up to the top shelf of the grocery store, sit on chairs where their legs don’t reach the ground, drive cars in which they can’t reach the pedals or can’t see over the dashboard. Sometimes tall people don’t even see me, they just walk right past!  Randy Newman had it down when he sang,

“They got little baby legs
And they stand so low
You got to pick ’em up
Just to say hello..

They got little cars
That go beep, beep, beep…”

Newman’s song was a reminder that racism still exists, even though the Civil Rights Act had been passed 13 years before the song was released, and the Americans with Disabilities Act has been in effect for 4 years. Songs like “Short People” raised public awareness of ongoing prejudice against people who are different from ourselves, including people of color, the disabled, and the LGBTQ. And it made a difference; America’s attitudes are recognizably changing, as we have accepted the fact that we are a recognizably diverse society. Read more »