John gets to Maverick’s

March 9, 2005

I flew to San Jose & drove a rented car to Maverick’s today (Wednesday, actually, now, yesterday) & was overwhelmed.
Mav’s sent me an email 9:30 p.m. Tuesday night saying the buoys were the highest in 5 years, in spite of the fact that they’d had the big wave contest only a week ago (Wed., the 2nd).  I didn’t go to that, too many people & press.  It’ll be on Network TV, NBC Sun 24 April.  I’d already re-filed my Mav’s travel “kit” figgering it was over for another year.
I read the email around 10 a.m. Wed.  Went & looked at the OB surf, & said, YES!!!  Now’s the day (you &) I had planned for.  Sorry I cdn’t alert you to come along.  Home by 11 a.m. as Stephanie was leaving for school, called SW & Budget & was in taxi by 11:30.  Stepped on plane at 12:09.  Left the ground at 12:30, flight barely 2/3 full, comfy!  Touched down at 1:30.  Smooth so far, but then it took me 45 minutes to get out of the San Jose airport in my rented car.  Drive OK, ’til I left the freeway & hit a 2-lane hwy thru the mtns, 6 miles in 30 minutes.  Missed the turnoff to Mav’s, but finally got there after a mile hike & a scrabble up an incredibly steep & slippery 2-300 feet cliff face, much worse than Black’s.
But there it was.  A half-mile + out.  This incredibly huge wave. sets of waves.  Breaking so big they wd obliterate the sight of the next one in back, in spite of our fairly high seat up on the bluff.
We’d been to North Shore Hawaii for 14 days in ’94 so I cd watch big waves, & I did; 8 of those days I saw 30+ feet (what the Hawaiians wd call 15′) waves being ridden.  It cost us $1500, which works out to c. $190 a day of big surf.  This trip was comparable, will come to about $200 for a half a day.
But these monsters dwarfed Waimea.  Tow-in surfing, w/ a Jetski pulling the surfer on  a short board w/ feet straps like windsurfers.  You don’t need a huge 10-12 feet board like the paddle-in surfers have to use, but which are useless anyway to catch waves over 50′ (25′ Hawaiian style).  W/ my 7X50 binocs, sitting on a piece of plastic I’d brought, hot day, I first saw a tow-in surfer ride for the longest time on the front top edge of this mountainous breaking bowl, white water just back of him, on & on, I cdn’t believe it, then he dropped down did a ballsy bottom turn & back up to the top & then it went on & on again.  At least 20 seconds, maybe 25 on this absolute killer monster.
2 Jetskis & a 3rd I’m sure was for rescue.  Later a lone paddle-in surfer.
Before, at the (full) parking lot, I recognized well-known SF big wave surfer Mark “Doc” Renneker in a wet suit & asked him if he’d been out.  No, he was going.  Later I saw him & redhead walking on the beach far below.  Then the redhead came walking back.  Then later walking out again w/ a longer board w/ 4 other surfers.  But before that, I had seen that lonely paddle-in surfer out there which I’m sure was Doc.  He doesn’t believe in tow-in.
I saw much much more, both tow-in rides & paddle-in rides.  & I saw guys (there’s only one gal who regularly surfs big Mavs) get crushed by the monsters.  Even at the end of the ride, or afterwards, by the next monster.
I was there from 3:30 to sunset @ 6.  Gingerly clambered on hands & hips carefully down the cliff, while a pleasant older man (younger than me) guided me.  Took pix at beach level to go w/ those up above. Probably useless because of the distance & the sun in the west, the direction we were looking.  Tho’ I gave my email to a woman pro photographer who said she’d send me some pix.
Then 2 paddle-in surfers came out of the water, so stoked they were shouting & hollering to each other.  So I talked w/ them awhile.  At one point, one said that lots of the waves were just too big to paddle into, as tall as 10 men stacked on top of each other.  Meaning, there were 60 feet waves out there!!!!!


Long difficult drive back to San Jose in the dark on unfamiliar roads, missed turnoff.  Got a burger. Got to the gate for my 8:55 flight 15 minutes before.  Flight barely
1/3 full, sat in emergency exit seat w/ lots of room, saw Wild Turkey on the likker list, asked if it was 101 proof, she didn’t know, but came back & said it was, so I celebrated!
Arrived at our house simultaneously, LITERALLY!!!, w/ Stephanie.


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The last Monday

Thinking about that last Monday evening, I remembered that I told John that I was going to teach my friend’s literature class the next day on Tuesday, that I wouldn’t be gone long, and that I would be back as soon as I could.  I had a very comfortable bed in his room where I had spent Sunday night.

For four days, there had been a steady stream of visitors, and I’m sure that John was exhausted–(I’m assuming that even though he was comatose, he could hear at least some things.)  Now I wonder if John thought, well, she’ll be fine, I’m out of here.  So he waited for me to caress him one last time, and then he took in a deep breath and he did not breathe out.   John died his own death and it was a very good death. This was something that Rilke had written about in The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge (1910): the importance and the difficulty of dying one’s own death.

In his book, Rilke on Death and Other Oddities, John quotes passages from Rilke that speak to the unity of life and death; we can’t have one without the other. “We must learn to die: all of life is in that,” Rilke wrote.  When John made the decision not to have major surgery, he accepted the death he had talked about and studied about for his whole life.  He said, “I’m going to miss life.” Indeed.

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John Mood Obituary

John Mood died a year ago, on a Monday night, Feb. 22, 2016. He was 83 years old. My name is Stephanie; John and I were together and married for 45 years. For the past year, I have been going through his papers, files, books, records, CD’s, and videotapes. In my small way, I want to honor John’s memory by writing about his work, his many interests, and the legacy that he left. I propose to write a biography about a man who spent his life thinking about death, about meaning in life, about our responsibilities to the life we’ve been given.  As time goes on, I will post more about this.

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Rilke & Meteors

The cosmos is undoubtedly loving it!  Just before an asteroid comes closer to Earth than any yet known, the largest meteor in 105 years hits the Earth.  & the last one, in 1908, also hit eastern Russia.  Go figure!  I am sorry about the injuries, but the astronomical event is awesome.  I myself have once seen a meteor explode in the sky & several times have seen meteors disintegrate into  pieces.  I have in my possession 5 meteorites from 3 different falls.  [When in space, they are called meteoroids, when burning up in the atmosphere they are called meteors, when pieces hit the ground they are called meteorites.)

Rilke was fascinated by meteors along with every other astronomical phenomenon, as I discuss in chapter 5 of my Rilke on Death book.  His great poem “There stands death” (November, 1915) ends with the lines “O falling star / seen once from a bridge—: / Never to forget you.  To stand!”  This refers to a brilliant meteor he saw in Toledo, Spain.  Then there is his gorgeous poem on a meteor shower (June, 1924, Albert Flemming):–

Do you remember still the falling stars                                                                                           that like swift horses through the heavens raced                                                                         and suddenly leaped across the hurdles                                                                                              of our wishes — do you recall?  And we                                                                                         did make so many!  For there were countless numbers                                                                   of stars:  each time we looked above we were                                                                      astounded by the swiftness of their daring play,                                                                                while in our hearts we felt save and secure                                                                               watching these brilliant bodies disintegrate,                                                                            knowing somehow we had survived their fall.

Of course, there are a few people who have, indeed, been hit by meteorites, though none suffered serious injury.  But remember, with Rilke, “Watch the skies!”



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Rilke on Music

For a long time, Rilke enjoyed music somewhat but at the same time tended to be suspicious of it because of the emotions it arouses.  He questioned emotions which weren’t directed to some specific phenomenon, natural or human.  But then, having just turned the age of 38, he had an intense love affair with a young professional classical pianist, Magda von Hattingberg, who had written him a fan letter.  Once the epistolary courtship morphed into a face to face relationship, she played in person Bach, Beethoven, Schumann, on the piano for him almost daily.  Rilke gradually began to appreciate music on a new level.  He told Benvenuta, as he called her (he liked to give names to his lovers), that she had enabled him to understand music at last.

And he did for the rest of his life, after their brief romance ended.  He even wrote several remarkable poems about music, some of the best verbal articulations of what music is & does that I know of.  Here’s one of them, entitled simply “To Music”:—

Music:  breathing of statues. Perhaps:                                                                                                stillness of paintings.  You language where languages                                                                      end.  You time,                                                                                                                                          placed erect on the course of vanishing hearts.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Feelings for whom?  O you transformation                                                                                        of feelings into what?—into audible landscape.                                                                                You stranger:  music.  You heartspace                                                                                                grown up from us.  Innermost ours,                                                                                                   which, exceeding us, crowds out,—-                                                                                                   sacred farewell:                                                                                                                                         when the inner surrounds us                                                                                                                 as the most practiced distance, as the other                                                                                             side of air:                                                                                                                                                   pure,                                                                                                                                                           gigantic,                                                                                                                                                     no longer lived in.                                                                                                                                               [My revision of Edward Snow’s 1996 revision of J. B. Leishman’s 1960  translation.]

This may look difficult, but really is not.  Just read it as a series of metaphors &/or images of what music is.  They  are stimulating individually & build magnificently.  And notice the references to emotions (feelings).

I translated 2 more of Rilke’s poems on music in my Rilke on Love & Other Difficulties:  “Gong” & “Music.”  Read them the same way as I suggest doing with this one.




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Rilke on Murder

“Murderers are easy to understand,” bluntly says the German-language poet Rainer Maria Rilke in his 4th Elegy.  Then why do we spend so much time on them?  When another awful one happens, the news media go berserk & everyone spends hours reading & watching & discussing the accounts.  Are we really that dense, that unimaginative?

In one of The Sonnets to Orpheus (II, 11) Rilke goes deeper & observes, “Killing is a form of our wandering sorrow . . .”  In contrast to that, we feel sorrow for the victims only briefly, and then we want vengeance & retribution & punishment.  But laws actually stop only some people.  The death penalty?  Kill people to teach people that killing people is wrong?  I don’t think so.

What about the murderer within all of us?  Even ol’ Jesus spoke of that:  “You have heard it said ‘You shall not kill & whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.’  But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment.” (Matt. 5:21-22)

Perhaps the form our sorrow takes (for others) is misdirected.  Perhaps we are really unconsciously sorrowing for our own death.  Most people don’t like to think of their mortality, & indeed many think they won’t die when they die.  Good luck with that one, is all I (& Rilke) can say.

There ain’t nothing new in all this.  I discuss it a bit more in the “Epilogue” of my Rilke on Love book, which I wrote in 1972.

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Xmas 2012 Atmospheric Display & Rilke

Most evenings, my wife Stephanie and I periodically go outside in front of our house in Ocean Beach, San Diego, (facing south) 3⁄4 mile from the ocean and look around, especially at the heavens. We like to see what, if anything, is going on.
This past Xmas night, after a pleasant evening meal with friends, we settled in at home for the night. Then, about 8:15 p.m. (PST), Steph stepped outside and saw the waxing gibbous Moon directly overhead, with a 22° halo around it and, as a brilliant bonus, Jupiter inside the halo and very very close to the Moon. She called me out and as we looked, we saw it was an even more complex atmospheric display than we originally thought. For around the Moon was a corona (a fuzz caused by water droplets in the atmosphere, not to be confused with the quite different corona around the Sun visible during a total solar eclipse). But oddly, the corona brightened a bit at its edge so that there appeared to be a small faint ring about 2° out from and around the Moon. We had never seen that. And just inside this small quasi-ring was Jupiter, maybe about 1.5° from the Moon. And all around this was the huge 22° halo (caused by ice crystals high in the atmosphere).

We had never seen this combination of lunar corona and halo at the same time. Obviously what was going on was that there was a layer of water droplets up in the atmosphere causing the corona, and above that, higher in the atmosphere, a layer of ice crystals causing the halo.

But the display was not over. We kept going out every now and then, and slowly began to notice that the movement east- ard of the Moon was pulling it away from Jupiter, so that the planet was now on the edge of the coronal ring itself. Then, even later, about 10:20, the Moon had moved so far away that Jupiter was outside the coronal ring. Of course, all this was still taking place inside the 22° halo. Quite an intriguing site!

So much so that even one local TV channel of the evening news showed a photo of the Moon and the halo and gave a reasonably accurate account of what caused it. But Jupiter was not mentioned at all and of course, neither was the motion of the Moon. Still, how often does one hear and see something so pleasant from the disaster-riddled TV news?

The next morning, I looked up the info in Astronomy magazine and discovered that earlier the Moon had sailed by Jupiter by a stunningly close 0.4° at 7:00 p.m. EST earlier that evening on the East Coast. Of course, we could not have seen it then, at 4:00 p.m. PST, but how lucky we were to spot the grand lunar, planetary and atmospheric sites later from here in San Diego from our front yard.

Rilke had an intense & abiding interest in & knowledge of all things astronomical.  I give several examples of this in my book “Rilke on Death & Other Oddities,”  Chapter 5.  For example, he often mentions vivid meteors he has witnessed.  Read the pages on astronomy in that chapter for more examples.

Thanks to the Cosmos!  So remember, watch the skies from wherever you are.

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“Temple Grandin” (2010)

I don’t keep up.  A recent clear indication of this is that I’d never heard of Temple Grandin, autistic 65-year-old & revolutionary Ph.D. scientist in the gentle care of domestic animals, until I saw the movie of that name a few months ago.  I discovered that most of my friends had known of her for years, even though they hadn’t yet seen the film.  It simply blew me away.  I’ve now seen it 7 times.  It stars Claire Danes in an unbelievable performance.  One can’t even recognize her from other movies she’s been in.  In fact, after researching her, I discovered I’d already seen her in 2 movies & have now seen her in 3 more, & in none of them does she particularly stand out.  It’s as though the part of Temple Grandin touched her deep inside & out came her character.  She spent a day with the real Temple Grandin who was also consulted on the film throughout.  Indeed, the DVD has as one special feature Temple Grandin herself, the director & one of the writers, giving commentary all the way through the movie.  I usually avoid those like the plague, but this time I watched it completely mesmerized.

Of course, the real Temple Grandin is as unbelievable as Claire Danes in the movie. I have now read 3 of her books (2 on her autism & one on domestic animals, the gentle care & treatment of dogs, cats, horses, cattle, poultry, zoos & wild animals).  If you own a pet, read that book!  I shall read more, & see the movie again as well.  So should you.


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“Valley Girl” (1983)

I saw this movie, one of my all-time faves, again the other night on TV.  It’s one of those teenage romance movies which fill the theaters in the summers when all the kids are out of school  But unlike most, this one turned out to be terrific.  I judge movies by how often I enjoy watching them (just like listening to rock music albums), & I can’t count the number of times I’ve viewed this one.  It’s the story of Julie from Valley High meaning the San Fernando Valley north of L.A. (Deborah Foreman in her 1st starring role) & Randy (Nicholas Cage, in his 1st starring role) from Hollywood High.  It’s full of the “Valley girl talk” so popular back then (even Frank Zappa put out a hilarious single 45 satirizing it), plus the tough punk talk up in Hollywood.  The two meet at Malibu beach & are instantly smitten.  Randy & his sidekick Fred Bailey crash a Valley party & off the plot goes, crackling all the way.

What the critics didn’t realize until 20 years later is that the plot is stolen from Shakespeare’s “Romeo & Juliet” with a happy ending.  I knew it the 2nd time I saw it; for a big clue is a clear shot of a movie marquee with the title “Romeo & Juliet.”  Randy of Hollywood High is Romeo (the Montagues), Julie of Valley High is Juliet (the Capulets), Randy’s rival for Julie is Tommy (Tybalt), & Randy’s best friend is Fred Bailey (Benvolio).  The film is directed by Martha Coolidge & shows a woman’s touch.

The music is awesome:  Modern English “I Melt With You” is the theme song for Randy & Julie, & you hear (& see) the Plimsouls (“A Million Miles Away”); others are the Psychedelic Furs, Sparks, Pat Travers.  The film has considerable nudity & drinking & pot smoking.  It is hilarious as well as being satiric & romantic.  Check it out!


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