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The Simplicity of Life

Posted by James Fulbright on


I have greatly enjoyed writing my blogs these past few months. What’s even more gratifying is when someone comes into the surf shop and tells me how much they have enjoyed reading my blogs.

It’s a labor of love for sure. Having said that, I have struggled immensely with my latest blog. It has been quite some time since I have written a new story: and for good reason. I have sat down twice and written hundreds of words about a topic that I wanted to discuss; a topic I have a tremendous amount of passion for and a topic that I have a pretty significant amount of knowledge and experience discussing. I’m talking about surf movies.

I’ve never met a surfer that didn’t enjoy watching a surf film. Whether it was a film produced by an actual surfer or a Hollywood film producer, surf films are ingested by surfers like a good slice of chocolate cake.

No matter how ridiculous or sub par the filming or how corny the plot may be, we all love to see surfing of any kind on the big screen or even on a TV or computer monitor. I originally had the idea to write about the life and death of the surf film but it took me soooo long to regurgitate the story, Matt Warshaw beat me to the punch!

I’ve been working on this topic for what seems like an eternity! When it takes you so long to write a blog that the idea and even the actual name of the story get published before you can even finish it, well… maybe it wasn’t meant to be.

I will state the obvious though: the surf film is quite dead in the water. Over a year ago, all my sources of buying surf film DVD’s for resale had already contacted me to say that digital downloads had killed the hard copy versions. It went from having roughly 30+ annual releases on DVD or Blue-ray to pretty much zilch.

I for one have no interest in watching the newest surf film on my “smart phone”. How about you? I care not about watching a sub-par digital download either. I need more substance. I need more cowbell dammit! I live on an island where internet connections are like crack whores—sketchy and D-grade (that’s a compliment too), and despite the promotional claims, it DOES NOT love you long time.

So, without further ado, let’s change the subject. I’m ready to go 180 degrees on you and write about something else; something I have even more passion for than surf films. I’m talking about life itself.

Yes, I’m going to get philosophical on you! I have neither the wordsmith skills nor the cocky desire to follow Matt’s act, but I do know a shit-ton about life, so here is “just a touch”.


We all have one thing in common. That one thing is in the form of a question-a few questions actually. What is the meaning of life? Why am I here? What is true happiness?

That’s some heavy shit that some heavy hitters throughout history have tried to tackle. Philosophers like Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, and Dave Chappelle have weighed in on the subject, but it took a very long bus ride home from San Blas to College Station in 1979, on a one-star bus, for me to not only ponder the meaning of life but to actually answer one question we all have: what is true happiness?

If you know the answer to that question, the rest just falls into place. But first, let me clarify what a one-star bus is. The quality of buses in Mexico are denoted by stars. A five star (Cinco Estrellas de Oro) is the highest, where the seats are very plush, the stops are few and far between and the bus has its own bathroom!

A one-star bus stops anytime someone on the side of the road waves them down, has no A/C, no bathroom, first-come first-serve seating, and chickens and goats are welcome. You leave in the winter and arrive in spring. It’s a good idea to either have a good book, like Tolstoy’s War & Peace, or three bottles of Mexican cough syrup. Either way, minimal fluid intake, a long bumpy ride and a lot of deep thoughts are in your immediate future. In other words, it’s a bucket list experience!

What got me to rehash this previous profound revelation was an incident I had yesterday while walking my little dog Telly Savalas in the neighborhood. Telly and I have a personal relationship with all of the other dogs in the near vicinity of his condo (the airbrush room). We interact with each one of them as we make our way down the Ho Chi Minh Trail. I named it that due to the vast amounts of ordinance dropped along the way.

Anywho, we came upon a familiar house with two huskies who love to savagely harass little Telly every time he walks by. He always just calmly stops and pees on their bush and smiles at the awesomeness of their fence. It is a daily ritual that we both immensely enjoy. I bet you didn’t know there was free entertainment along the Ho Chi Minh Trail did you?

Well this time, as we passed the twin Huskies I saw one of their handlers, a kind looking older woman, in the yard painting one of their home shutters on saw horses. I smiled and said, ‘Hi, Ma’am…beautiful day isn’t it?”. The gates of hell just suddenly opened up right then and there! Out came you know who.

This kind looking, slightly older woman tried her very best to burn a hole thru my skull and into my cerebral matter. Without saying a word, she subliminally instructed me to immediately go back to whatever hole I crawled out of and fall onto a rusty sword.

The second thought I had was that she really was the perfect candidate to enjoy the San Blas to College Station bucket list trip and that I should start booking charters. The first thought was, “why you witch with a bee”. This woman was obviously a very unhappy person. She probably thought she could save a few dollars and bought cheap paint and now she was on her fourth coat or something…who the hell knows.

The fact is, she was wound up like a spring and my presence could not be tolerated. This was one of my long-time neighbors mind you. It got me to thinking about my long bus ride and what I had learned along the way…and it’s this:

I had left school in the middle of the semester to go on surf walk-a-bout in Mexico because I was flunking out, my smoking-hot girlfriend from South Africa had ditched me for a college basketball player who gave her a blood diamond on their first rendezvous at Dudleys Draw and my grandmother had disowned me because I had let her down.

I went to college to be an architect and suddenly had changed my major to professional backgammon player and night-time foosball hustler. My financial future seemed bleak, so I had decided to ditch it all for a few sweet rides at Matanchen Bay.

Well, it was flat. I wandered aimlessly for few days, hoping to get my bearings, until I decided to return to reality. It was on that bus ride back that I noticed something completely contrary to popular belief in the United States. The local Mexicans literally had nothing as far as money and material possessions were concerned, yet they seemed so much happier than anyone back home.

I was dumbfounded and perplexed. The majority of the people in Mexico are poor. They live in squalor conditions and have very little material possessions: especially back in ’79. As I peered out that bus window, looking at their thatched huts, watching them actually sweeping the dirt ground, swinging their young in hammocks, it was apparent that they knew something that I didn’t know.

Nothing in life can make you any happier than friends and family. Nothing. The simple act of swinging their young in a hammock gave them great joy, pride and well being. Simplicity in their lives gave them an inner peace that shined like the brightest star in their faces.

As our bus slowly passed through each pueblo, men, women and children alike would look me straight in the eye, as I peered out, and would smile and wave. I thought to myself, “when was the last time someone waved at me back in the States and if I was to wave at someone back home, would they wave back”? I wondered if strangers would look at me in disgust or disdain and be intimidated by the fact that I acknowledged their presence by waving at them?

I decided that when I returned to the States that I would perform an experiment. I would smile and wave at strangers and see how they reacted. I can assure you-everyone I smiled and waved at in Mexico returned the gesture in kind.

Unfortunately, I cannot say the same thing about the reactions (or lack there of) I received once I returned home. People were shocked. No bullshit. We all seem to live in some cocoon. We are so consumed with our mortgages, our car notes, our credit card bills, our appearance, our toys and electronics…the list goes on. It’s an endless tit for tat. Make money, spend money, buy this, sell that, go into debt, get out of debt. None of it brings true happiness.

Simplicity does though. It really does. My family and my friends bring me joy and happiness. Yes, we all have the burden of living in a capitalist society. We all have bills to pay and jobs to go to. That doesn’t mean though that we have to sacrifice kindness and compassion toward others. Even if they are a total stranger, give ’em a smile, say howdy or wave to them as they drive by on their way to the slave mill. See if they wave back.

Life's Meaning

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