consumer culture consumer

I went out in the rain today to get the latest issue of Surfer magazine. The issue has Joel Tuddor sitting in as a guest editor and two of his subjects are people that interest me – Richard Kenvin and Tyler Warren. I get home and sit on the couch to read as B lays quietly watching the TV, her biggest ever belly moving with the little one inside, restless as ever and just two weeks shy of first light.

I read Tuddor’s introduction. He tries to be everyman but really wants us to think he’s an intellectual. “It’s OK,” I think to myself thinking of him thinking of himself. Then I read the short interview with Lewis Samuels – a man of deep intellect with a keen understanding of modern anthropology who also happens to be a wiseass who also happens to surf. “That’s better” I think but would have rather seen a little more space devoted to the witty one. Then I finally get to the RK piece. I start to read and it’s moving fast, one word after another is scanned into my reasoning centre and it seems as if nothing registers. I vow to take a brake from the article to return when I’m more prepared. Finally I get to the Tyler Warren piece. It’s short, shy and he seems humble -the kid has style to burn. I flip through the rest of the magazine and wonder “why?”

In late summer of 1987 we packed up some of our shit and traveled from rural Isnotu, in the foothills of the Andes Mountains in Venezuela, to rural central Florida where we’d settle down to live in conservative Bartow. I was immediately drawn to skateboarding. That year would be the beginning of my new life as a consumer culture consumer.

It’s hard to say why I feel compelled to read the surf magazines and follow the surf blogs. Perhaps I want to see where I fit in, to see what lineage or legacy I’ve descended from. But I won’t find one as I come from the consumer lineage, brought into the “culture” by slick magazines and sometimes-good writing. Thrasher magazine was a staple in the late 80’s and 90’s. Thrasher sucks now, or I’m just not a teenager any more who knows.

Surfing is definitely without a doubt one of the more important aspects of my life. But like many other things surfing can be simple or full of trinkets. My childhood Catholicism came replete with its statues of saints and special rosaries and candles and church clothes. Home ownership has it’s own TV shows and magazines and clubs and self help groups and messiahs of decorating. Entrepreneurship has a zillion trinkets and books and gurus. Anything and everything can be overdone and consumed 'till we’re fat and diabetic and dying.

Or things can be simple.

Most likely I will continue to consume surf culture. There’s lots of good shit out there, especially in the blogosphere. There’s RK and RT. Somewhere else there’s Doc and Mic and Sways. But I’m not Californian. I don’t see California as my Jerusalem. Its toe headed children and surf “icons” are but silhouettes on the pages of magazines crammed with advertisements for trousers and t-shirts. I’m sure that somewhere along the line I owe something to those early pioneers of surfing. But that something is so abstract, so inconsequential, and so diluted by its own commercialization that I’m probably better off making my own way, starting from scratch. Good job Joel. You’ve reminded me to look within and that I am what I do and not what I consume.

1 comment:

colleen said...

Thanks for your post and thoughts on the consumer culture consumer. As a parent of a teenage boy it is one of the biggest challenges I face. As a citizen of this culture of consumption it is one of the biggest frustrations and challenges to deal with daily.
I love how you remind me keep it real and use my body and get outside- it helps me to be a better role model for my son.
Stuff makes me feel stuffed. I like to keep it stripped down and lean so I am free to move.
Enjoy these last weeks before the birth of you little one, spend time doing what you love and nesting with your partner. Get ready for the most amazing ride and experience of your life! Wishing you and your partner a beautiful birth, Colleen