Try something new this weekend! Yeah buddy, you!

 Sanibel Island, Florida, 2009

Sanibel Island, Florida, 2009

You know what's almost gone? August! And it's taking summer with it!

A few months ago there was something new you were thinking about trying this summer. Stand up paddle boarding perhaps? Chess? That green stuff in jars that yoga people seem to enjoy drinking or eating or whatever they do with it?

Well, it's now late August. Did you do take on something new? Summer isn't over, friend, but you can see the end of it from here. You better get cracking. 

For what it's worth, I'd suggest something that's completely new and an entirely different than anything you've tried before. Sure, trying tenor saxophone when you already play alto saxophone puts you ahead on the learning curve. But do you really need two goddamn saxophones? When you could have a saxophone and a unicycle instead?

Of course, this isn't about "having." It's about "doing." And for me at least, doing something completely new puts me onto the fastest funnest part of the learning curve.

The part where every single thing you do is learning something new.

The part where you have zero ego attached to the activity.

The part where you can revel in your ineptitude and be a child again.

Last summer, when I was learning to play the ukulele, I came across this Ted Talk videoIt's about how to learn anything in 20 hours. The rumored 10,000 hours it takes to be an expert at something? You probably don't have that kind of time this weekend. But 20 hours? You could get a good jump on that.

 

Wanna live on an island? Yes! Maybe! How the hell should I know!

Over the years I've done just about every goofy thing you can do on an island. Some may have been illegal. Others just ill-advised. I've also done a few things that I regret. But the one thing I've never done on an island? I've never lived on one.

Some (slash many slash most) would say living on an island is a cliche. But in the words of Prime Minister Pete Nice, of seminal '90s hip hop trio 3rd Bass: "I beg to diffa." The real cliche isn't living on an island. The real cliche is thinking about living on an island while you're driving your pale ass through another Lansing or Lincoln or Lafayette winter with one of those grinning Life Is Good hammock dudes on your ice-encrusted Jeep Wrangler spare tire cover.

But we've probably all thought about living on an island. And I suspect with this year's election cycle, some of us are thinking about it more than usual. This inkling usually leads to researching what different islands might be like. Which inevitably leads to watching those horrible island real estate reality shows on tv. A guilty pleasure? From my perspective I'd say no because "guilty pleasure" implies that there's some sort of pleasure involved. For me anyway, "guilty anguish" would be more accurate. Although some of my distress is rooted in "oh man that looks nice," most of it comes from a much darker place.

For starters, the Americanization of faraway places drives me crazy. And yet that seems to be the measuring stick for every home buyer on these shows. Is the location convenient to beaches, mountains, rainforests, yoga studios and Whole Foods? I love the house but can we "open up" the kitchen? Is there a photogenic palm tree nearby that will help me boost my Instagram following? You know what though? In this regard, reality shows are pretty accurately capturing the reality of many Americans abroad. So I'll let it go. 

Beyond that though, there ain't much reality in those real estate shows. I've been to more than a few of the islands they've featured and they were damn near unrecognizable. Although the production crew must be going to these different places to shoot footage, by the time they cut it together and lay in that same damn steel drum song, they all seem exactly alike: wide beach shot, our home-buying couple trying out standup paddle boards (or kayaks when clumsy), some local flavor via woman selling sarongs, cocktails with comically oversized hunks of pineapple jammed in 'em, a walk along the beach, awkward backlit kiss, steel drum crescendo, cut to commercial.  

I'd say the travel magazines give a better sense of a place than the tv shows. But they're travel magazines, not "live there" magazines. So you're going to get plenty of "While on St. Whatever, be sure to visit Quaint But Clean Beach Bar and ask Bar Owner for their special Rum Drink With Fruit Juice!" News you can use if you're just visiting. But not much help if you're really trying to get a handle on a place. 

Of course ultimately, and obviously, you're going to need to put sandals in the sand to really understand an island and the people who live there. But since you can't visit them all, it takes some narrowing down.

Google is fine for the officially sanctioned tourism stuff, and a click on Image results gives you a quick sense of an island's purtiest places and/or most convenient scenic overviews. But to start digging in properly, I'd suggest a Wikipedia search. It's the perfect dashboard for the factual underpinnings of a place. 

If everything checks on the Wiki page, then I do a blog search.  If there's one thing ex-pats love more than being ex-pats, it's blogging about being ex-pats. Every island I've ever looked into has at least a few people living on it who are blogging their every move. Throw in an additional mix of transient yachties, backpackers, and "digital nomads" (maniacal bloggers all!) and you'll have more first-hand information on a place than you'll know what to do with. 

I can also recommend this: My favorite "one-stop-shop" site for island investigation is Women Who Live On Rocks. It's run by Chrissann Nickel, a Californian who's been living the island life since 2006. While she writes a lot of posts (really well), the beauty of the site is that it also features living-on-rocks wisdom from women all over the world. And they're organized by island (click HERE, then go to "Meet The Women" in the upper menu, then scroll down.)

Given the name of the site, you'll gather it's got a female perspective. Which means, yeah, I'm the pervy dude in the corner eavesdropping on girls' night. But the posts are consistently real, occasionally raw, and always well written. It's the best perspective I've found yet on what it's really like to live on a particular island. The ups, the downs, and the in-betweens. 

Once you've got your prospective islands narrowed down, of course, the final step (and the finest step!) is to start investigating your short list in person. I've been fortunate to visit quite a few islands over the years. As ongoing research projects go, it doesn't get much better: a mix of cultural investigation, historical education, spiritual adventure, and high grade rum. 

I still have no idea whether I'll ever actually pull the trigger and make a move (if I'm being completely honest with myself). But I know I won't stop looking either way.

Cue steel drums. Dramatic sunset. Awkward backlit kiss. Cut to commercial.

Hope for the best, plan for the best

10 years ago, my friend Brad and I did a week-long fishing trip in the Florida Keys. On the last day of that trip, we planned a follow-up trip for a decade down the line.

Our follow-up trip kicks off with a 5:45 am flight tomorrow morning. We'll be fishing by end of day.

I have two points:

1) I'll be "Gone Fishing" for the next 9 or 10 days. So things are gonna be even quieter than usual around Bring Limes HQ.

2) If you have trouble getting trips onto your calendar, plan them a decade out. Nobody is going to object 10 years in advance because they'd look like an asshole. Then, all you need to do is lie in the grass and wait patiently. Next thing you know, you're on your way!

Yup!

One year in

I just realized that this past weekend was the one-year birthday of Bring Limes. It went entirely uncelebrated, as I believe all one-year-old birthdays should.

 Francis Bay, St. John, USVI

Francis Bay, St. John, USVI

I've been to more than a few of those first birthday parties: the ones where the guest of honor is focused mostly on shrieking, random naps, arhythmic clapping, and the shamelessly frequent pooping of pants.

This description might also encapsulate Bring Limes to date.

A year in, I'm still not sure exactly where this is headed. I know I love water and music and, occasionally, words. I know I love curiosity. I know I love having a positive worldview.

I also know that if I don't actively seek out support for a positive worldview, I'm going to get buried in these increasingly grim times. The past year has been a rough one in that regard. The dumb and the mean and the loud have only gotten dumber and meaner and louder. Although I've chosen to avoid politics here, and commentary on world events in general, I see the atrocities just like you do. They affect me, and my world, just like they affect yours.

My carefully considered response? Sweet-ass surf vids and pictures of sea urchins. This is silly, of course. Ukulele-ing while Rome burns. But I need it.

As a distraction? Yes, I need it as a distraction. More important, though, I need it as a reminder: To go. To do. To be. No matter how weird shit gets.

This time last year, my schedule was such that going and doing and being weren't in the cards. So instead, late at night, I'd put on the google goggles and write about what I found. About other people who were going and doing and being. To remind myself it can be done. 

And I'll be damned if it didn't kind of work. Bring Limes has led me to palm-lined islands (literal and figurative both). It's led me to yoga and ukuleles. It's led me to some non-hippie stuff too.

So now it's a year later. I have no idea where to go from here. But I'll keep going anyway. And doing. And being. 

Thank you so much for coming along. 

 

"What a better way to die. Having fun!"

Oh I like this woman.

It's not because Dilys Price has been around for 82 years. In and of itself, that doesn't mean much to me. By this point in life, I've come to find that our allotted time on earth is largely luck of the draw. Someone reading this will see 100 years. Someone else won't see Season 7 of Game of Thrones.

Sure, our habits related to diet, exercise, and high-grade gin might throw a few extra tickets into one bucket or the other. But in the end this is still a random drawing. I've been surprised too many times to think otherwise. 

So. The fact that Dilys is 82 years old is neither here nor there. The fact that she's the world's oldest woman skydiver? Okay that's pretty cool. But what really gets me is this: listen to the dance in her voice. Watch her eyes. She exudes excitement about doing what she loves, naysayers be damned. She's good energy at 82 years old and, I bet, she's always been.

Lots of people aspire to be cool old people (myself included). Thinking a switch will flip when we hit 65 or 75 or 85 and viola! We're lovers of life! Suddenly we're parasailing and starring in viral videos where we're dancing to hip hop at wedding receptions. 

But it's not like that. There's no switch. Loving life doesn't get easier as we age.

The best way to be a cool old person? Be a cool middle-age person first. And a cool young person before that. Find what you love and do it. Regardless of age. Naysayers be damned.

Along the same lines, you might also enjoy meeting Snowflake: Love Something So Much You Forget To Go To The Toilet

 

What to do on an island

 Coleman. St. John, USVI.

Coleman. St. John, USVI.

There's lots of things to do on an island. There's also lots of things to not do. Typically, I'm there for the not doing. I'm a man of leisure after all. But dang! Doing nothing is getting hard!

For the last week or two, I was on St. John. It's a U.S. territory which means that, among other things, normal AT&T data rates apply (unlike the much better named LIME network which covers most of the Caribbean but involves international roaming rates).

So your phone on St. John works exactly like it does at home. This makes it easy to check in on things. Stay on top of a few issues. Touch base to keep things moving while you're gone. It allows for travel in a way that wasn't remotely possible just a decade ago.

And that's a friggin' bummer bro!

Regular travelers know there are a number of ways to fine-tune the features on your phone: Only receive calls from certain people, eliminate all incoming data, etc. Feel free to Google the options (if you're a total nerd). For the rest of us, I recommend this:  

Bring Limes Tech Tip!

  1. Go for a long morning hike to a beautiful area (e.g. Ram Head, Saint John, USVI). 
  2. Take lots of unnecessarily selfies, in square, panorama, and video formats.
  3. Make your way back down to the water (e.g. Salt Pond Bay) where you've left a cache of snorkeling equipment.
  4. Wade into the water. Savor the coolness. Slip on your fins and mask. 
  5. Decide where to snorkel: Reef or grass? Fish or turtles?
  6. Notice the clarity of the water. It's unbelievable. You'll never ever get used to it.
  7. Realize that your phone is in your pocket.

Phone problem solved!

Now here's a few pro tips if you're really looking to maximize your enjoyment of the above plan: 

First, see if there's a primary provider of cell service on the island (in St. John it's AT&T). Then make sure the phone you're dunking is the only one in your group which uses that service (the rest of my family is with Verizon which won't help you at all on SJ.)

Second, go to an island where electricity, wifi, and cellular service are prone to random outages (which is to say, any island). This will limit your opportunities for alternative solutions.

And then... ENJOY!

Honestly, not having a phone was fantastic. Instead of calling ahead to see if a place was open, it required physically going there (like some kind of a caveman!) and talking to someone.

Weaving around one of the most beautiful places in the world, Jeep windows down, local radio at wild volume, shoes in the back (probably, who knows), old-school paper map flapping around. These are not bad things. 

I'll admit that I did miss having a handy camera. And an infinite jukebox. And a flashlight. But that's all I missed. That was it. That was completely and entirely it.

Sea urchins. Because why not, that's why.

One of the best parts of travel, at least the way I put trips together, is all the time there is for random whatnot. I'm a big fan of random whatnot. Random whatnot is the best kind of whatnot there is.

I've spent entire afternoons crafting artisanal (aka homemade and a little crappy) swizzle sticks from pieces of sea fan. I've rubbed Coors Light aluminum pint bottles with beach sand for hours because I thought it would be cool to have plain silver canteens. I've also done things that some might consider a waste of time.

So okay. Here I am in St. John, surrounded by my family and some of the most beautiful land and seascapes I've ever seen. And for whatever reason, I decided it was really important for me to photograph sea urchins. Like, all of 'em. It doesn't make any sense whatsoever. Which I guess is maybe the point. 

Anyway, here's some pictures of some goddamn sea urchins.

 

 

 

Been naked much lately? Me too!

 St. John, USVI

St. John, USVI

I'm currently perched on a cliff above the waters of Kiddel Bay, on the southernmost edge of St. John, USVI.

I should probably mention that since I've been here I've been naked. Quite a bit. As a jaybird. As the day I was born. But I'll get to that in a minute.

We arrived to St. Thomas late Sunday afternoon. Spent the night in Charlotte Amalie, grabbed a bite, and had a generally fine evening. But we were just staging, actually, for Monday morning's ferry to St. John. 

It seems I'm the only person I know who hasn't been to St. John. Its popularity as a travel destination is what a vexillologist would call a red flag. I would call it the same. (A vexillologist is a professional flag maker. I am just a guy with a strong distaste for tourists.)

But we're here anyway, my family and I, based on reports of a kajillion killer shore dives and hiking trails for days. 

Straight off the ferry, we bought a bag of genips (aka skinips on Grenada, aka chinups on Carriacou, aka spanish limes on google), and we pointed the Jeep to the remotest corner of the island we could find. From Cruz Bay to Coral Bay to the end of the paved road to the end of the dirt road to here.

So far, I have to say, the place has lived up to its reputation. Stellar reefs and deep-water boulder fields. Shark, turtles, tarpon, 'cuda, rays, cero, squid, plus all the reefy regulars flashing every color in the crayon box.

But this isn't a freaking travelogue. You're here for the nudity.

So okay. Down here, as it turns out, I'm the early riser in my family. No idea why. Given my taste for late-night rum, this is a goddamn miracle, not to mention a troubling indictment against the up-and-at-em-ness of my squad. But I'm not complaining because it means dawn is entirely mine. And these dawns have been especially good.

I've mentioned that I recently became a fan of early morning yoga. I wouldn't say yoga is entirely "my thing," at least not in the same way that, say, the sound of the ocean or being a smart-ass are my thing. But I like yoga enough that on my first morning here, it's how I decided to greet the day. There's an overlook next to our place that seemed perfect. I carefully considered what I needed to bring with me. But slowly I realized I didn't need jack shit.

Happiness, I'm convinced, is the result of reduction. Of removing everything that's not absolutely necessary so you can focus on what is. In the case of yoga, all you really need is you. Or in my case, all I really need is me. And so that's what I've been going with. Just me and the sun and the sea.

It's a helluva thing when the waves are crashing against the rocks and the sun is pressing warm against my skin. Birds are flitting all around me and singing like I'm in the scene from that old Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah movie. Except with less racial stereotypes and more dangling and flopping.

I have to say it's a great way to kick off the day. Especially when it's followed by some time in an outdoor shower. Of course my teenage boys think the whole thing is weird af. Mostly because, you know, the whole thing is weird af. But I'm going to stick with it while I'm here.

They're sleeping at that hour anyway. And. I so rarely get a chance to drive life into the corner, as Henry David Thoreau put it, and reduce it to its lowest terms.

At least not without the cops showing up. 

144 Days Ago

On a truly crappo day in early February, I put together the details for a dive trip. Scheduled for late June. I blathered on about it at the time, naturally, as I do. But now it's June. Now we're packed. Now we're almost on our way. 

The timing isn't the best, as it turns out, with lots of work related whatnot afoot. If I hadn't already planned it then, we wouldn't be going now. But it was planned then. And as such, we're going now.

The packing is complete (see photo, it didn't take long), Heading to St. John Sunday morning. In the meantime, I'm thinking I might start planning for something 144 days for now.

Your summer anthem is ready for pick up: Wow by Beck

Well, it's officially the first day of summer. And I've found my official summer jam.

I didn't realize this was the case the first five or six times I heard Wow by Beck. My initial take was that it's another one of those interesting style exercises that Beck does from time to time. A reverb-y flute-EDM mashup with a hip hop bottom end. AKA "interesting style exercise" right?

But no! Upon the next 500 listens I came to realize it's as good as anything he's ever done. His downbeat 2002 album Sea Change is one of my favorite records of all time. But nothing beats happy Beck. And this is Beck at his happiest. 

Wow shimmers and glistens. It makes you wanna shake your ass, but slow and grind-y even though you know you're too old for that shit. And the lyrics, a perfect mix of positivity and wtf.

It's my life, your life
Live it once, can't live it twice
So nice, so nice
Song's like a tidal wave, take you on a getaway
My friends, your friends
Love 'em every day like it's just about to end
Now we're pissin' in the wind cause it's so pine fresh
Right now
Yeah I, I wanna get it like

Wow! 

I love this song.

Fish + Words + Other Slippery Things

 

You can learn a lot from a fish. 

I strongly considered following that line up with "because they spend so much time in schools." One more Dark & Stormy and I might have pulled the trigger.

But for real. Fish. They're like geniuses! Because whatever it is that I need the most on any given day? They seem to understand it better than I do. Sometimes they let me catch them at will, just like that, and hold them up for the world to see. Other times, they'll leave me casting for days on end without even a fin-flash of hope. 

The fact that they let me catch them at all is a huge leap of faith on their part. But not letting me catch them is, by far, the greater gift. Life's greatest lessons so often follow extended periods of desperately flailing about. Of blindly waving sticks over dark water.

When everything is working, the living's easy like George and Weezy. (Jeffersons reference? George Clinton/Lil' Wayne reference? Your choice!)

I spent last week fishing in northwestern Ontario. Everything was working. Despite rain and temps in the 40s, the fish proved to be very generous with their time. We caught one after another. "We figured 'em out," as the saying goes. Times like those feel like the catching is a permanent situation. Like fishing will be this easy always and forever. Now that you've figured 'em out.

bringlimes.jpg

Writing is the same way. Sometimes the words rise up from the depths and just jump right into your damn boat. Everything works and the words pile up all around you, into sentences and paragraphs so many you can't even count. You figured 'em out, these words, and there's a sense that they're going to stay figured out, for always and forever. 

The main challenge on those days is deciding which specimens to hold up for the world to see and which to toss back over the side. The implication of the toss-back, of course, is that there are more ideas where those came from. The clear thinking, the concise articulation, the natural rhythm of writing well... you've got all that figured out. Tomorrow will bring another easy boatload. No need to push hard today. Easy come, easy go.

The no-big-deal toss-back is definitely a form of hubris. But on those days where everything is clicking, it's maybe an understandable one. 

Holding your ideas up for the world to see is another level of hubris all together. Look at me! I figured it out! Read it! And weep! I alone was able to catch the uncatchable!

Of course in reality all ideas are catchable. Not only that, all the best ideas have already been caught. Look at any piece of writing and you'll see the telltale hook marks from prior writers, prior people who figured out the same things you did; only long before you and better conveyed.

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

To be honest, I'm not sure where I'm headed here. I noticed some similarities between fishing and writing. That's how it started. I thought I'd be able to shape those similarities into a finely crafted treatise on the feast/famine dualities of fishing and writing and life.

Clearly I was wrong about that. Upon review of the previous 548 words, I see I've been fishing, but not catching. Typing, but not writing. Time to stop casting for the day. Hopefully they'll be biting better tomorrow.

Blue Highways + Last Exit To Elsewhere

I haven't read Blue Highways: A Journey Into America. Clearly though, I better. It's a book written by William Least Heat-Moon in 1982 which chronicles his late '70s roadtrip across America.

For a taste of it, we've got this damn fine video called Last Exit To Elsewhere. It features VO taken from the book, paired with footage filmmaker Dan Sadgrove shot while on a recent 5,000 mile road trip of his own. 

The tone, of both the VO and the visuals, are entirely different than your typical roadtrip video. The piece doesn't culminate with tight tan bodies leaping from cliffs into the sea. There's no final call to action. There's no Go For It Bro! There's just this tone, throughout. Of searching and sadness too. 

The video culminates with a realization: "I still dream... but I'm not restless anymore." Is it wisdom? Surrender? A bit of both I suppose. I've come to the same understanding myself after extended time on the road.

I imagine one of these times the feeling might stick for me. But not quite yet.

Daan Verhoeven: Rising to new depths

I'm not a religious person. But the photography of Daan Verhoeven has got me thinking about it. He specializes in images of freedivers. But to my eyes it seems he's capturing angels – rising and falling both.

I first discovered Daan's work on Instagram. For context, my typical Instagram session is a sliding scroll through my brain: a discombobulated mish-mash of aggressively filtered rum drinks, bomb-ass Sprinter van conversions, and women in bikinis holding fish. As you might guess, there's also plenty of diving photography in the mix.

But when a @daanverhoevenfreediver image shows up? It stops me in my tracks every time. The quality of light is what hits me first. He shoots using only natural light which, at depth, can be ridiculously dramatic. (I'd mention Caravaggio here but ain't nobody coming to Bring Limes to hear about Caravaggio.) Next is his sense of composition: the relationship between the divers and the space around them. With the boat above or the bottom below. With water. It's no surprise Daan is a freediver himself. There would be no other way to capture the spirit of the thing the way he does.

Finally, his images exude the gravity of freediving. There's an understood danger here, especially at the competitive level which is mostly what Daan shoots. Depths routinely reach more than 100 meters. Breath hold times can push 8 or 9 minutes. Deep water blackout is always a risk, and usually catastrophic, even for the best freedivers in the world.

My version of freediving is an entirely different thing. It's me vs. fish. And since the fish around here are almost always shallower than 30 or 40 feet, so am I. Of course, there are risks in anything (e.g. shallow water blackout). Realistically though? The worst case scenario for me on any given day? No ceviche for Johnny.

But still. The sensation of being at depth, at any depth, is a peaceful important thing for me. I don't know if my connection to water is rooted in the primordial, the prenatal, or something less profound.

But I know it feels just like Daan Verhoeven's photographs.

Remember, you're doing this for yourself

I would argue, vehemently, that Rodney Mullen had a greater impact on his sport than any other athlete has had on any other sport.

Rodney Mullen invented street skateboarding. He was figuring things out in the early '80s that are the foundation of everything that's come since. Seeing him skate in five different decades (!) has been a beautiful thing.

But man there's so much more to him. He does a lot of speaking these days. Ted talks and so on. The thoughtfulness and perspective and connections he makes, between skating and life, is really inspiring to me.  

The super short episode of the Bulletproof Thoughts series below features some of his thinking around the fear of falling and the importance of getting back up. If that strikes your fancy, I'd definitely suggest this longer interview. He's my kind of people.

Hey ho rock and roll! J Roddy Walston!

Last Friday found me bouncing through a variety of airports, making my way home from a Craft Brewers Conference. The departure from Philadelphia was early. It was raining. And I was wrapping up a week where the ale flowed fast – America's finest beers officially sanctioned and entirely free. 

It’s mornings like that where no one would blame you for listening to an Ambient Chill mix. Just close your eyes and zone out to the sound of gently cascading synth pads buttered over the shimmery cooing of angels. But no. Not me. Not last Friday. And not this Friday either. Maybe never again.

Because last week I saw J Roddy Walston And The Business play live. And holy shit.

For the record, I love music. All kinds of music. Hip hop, classic country, EDM, reggae, pop, whatever ya got. I go through crazy phases, weeks or even months at a time, where I'll obsess over, say, Pretty Lights' second album. Eventually though, life always seems to lead me back to the front of a small stage, looking up at four men with amps and hair and disorderly intent.

All music has the potential to steal your heart. But the right rock and roll band? On the right night? They'll do more than steal your heart. They'll rip it from your chest and hold it out in front of you so you can watch it. Beating and glistening and alive.

That was J Roddy Walston And The Business last week. They're a phenomenal live band – proof of how powerful live music can be. I strongly suggest you catch them the next time they roll through your town. They'll remind you of stuff you maybe forgot: That pianos are better than keyboards. That drums aren't necessarily machines. And that neither are we. 

Here's a little taste, toned down a bit since they're playing inside a van. 

And here's their most recent album called Essential Tremors