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Old Math – New Math – No Math

If you follow this blog regularly, you know that I am a semi-geezer who is chiseled from the stone of another era. I have a strong reverence for the 1950’s and 1960’s which polished my rough facets into a finished urban American.

I come from a time when the Three R’s were standard fare in public schools and I have benefited greatly from my education. While all three are woefully lacking in today’s education system, it is the third R – ‘rithmatic that seems to have been completely lost in its various manifestations over the years.

As you have probably guessed, I hail from a time when math was the old math: You know, the kind that made sense and was actually used on a daily basis. I was once a paperboy some six decades ago and I remember being able to make change for any dollar amount without employing a calculator or cell phone. It was pretty basic stuff actually! I have gone through life using my old math just fine. I can use basic algebra and trigonometry to build things, figure the mileage in my car and just about any other task that requires math. I am a poster child for the old math.

When my son was in school, the dawn of the new math was upon us. I learned it as well, mainly to correct homework but also to maintain my mind up to date. After all, no one wants to have a brain with an expiration date that has been exceeded. I was okay with both old math and new math but I practiced the antique version more out of habit than anything else.

And then a strange thing happened. As the years progressed, I noticed that young people working as cashiers in markets and stores had become completely bereft of math skills. I once gave a stunned youngster a ten dollar bill and 16 cents for a purchase that came to $4.16 and was met with a vacuous stare for over a minute. Finally, the youth queried, “What are you doing dude?” The fact that I am not a dude aside, I gently explained that I was trying to make the transaction simpler so he could just give me back bills sans the change. Youth interrupted still didn’t get what I was doing so I finally gasped, “Christ, just give me six bucks!” He immediately complied but in such a manner as to convince me I could have asked for 50 bucks and it would have been the same to him.

This scene was repeated many, many times over the years to the point where I now don’t want to embarrass anyone so I just hand them a bill and wait for them to have the computerized cash register figure it all out for them. My pockets have become heavier in the process and I am still at a loss as to what happened to math in our world.

Occasionally I will be greeted by a cashier roughly my age. After all in today’s world people have to world into their eighties just to stay alive. With a knowing wink and a nod, I will slip them the even change. They make the transaction correctly and sometimes say, “Oh, you took the old math too!”

We’ve gone from old math to new math to no math. How would one ever compute the ratio of Facebook friends to phone contacts? As this old mather would say: Bummer!

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Lessons From A River Runs Through It

As a fly fisherman, I have always enjoyed Norman Mclean’s book, “A River Runs Through It.” I also enjoyed the Robert Redford movie immensely as well. The two combined have provided me with many lessons to deal with my mid-life and senior years. They also served as an inspiration for my book, “The Blackest of Canyons and Other Micro Tales of Fly Fishing,”

Mclean’s tale is painted against a canvass of fly fishing in Missoula, Montana and provides the reader with a wealth of lessons and observations for dealing with life’s ambiguities and general unfairness. Here are several examples found as quotes in the book and movie:

From the book:

“The hardest thing usually to leave behind, as was the case now, can loosely be called the conscience.” That’s the starting point for all of life’s lessons. To truly learn these lessons we must first find our conscience.

From the book:

“At sunrise, everything is luminous but not clear” Very prophetic words indeed!

That is the initial challenge of every day we are on this earth; to see what is really in front of us as clearly as possible. It always reminds me of my time working in Hollywood, California. Luminous? Yes but very unclear!

From the book:

“Something within fishermen tries to make fishing into a world perfect and apart—I don’t know what it is or where, because sometimes it is in my arms and sometimes in my throat and sometimes nowhere in particular except somewhere deep. Many of us would probably be better fishermen if we did not spend so much time watching and waiting for the world to become perfect.”

Many of us, myself included, have wasted valuable time waiting for the world around us to become more perfect. It ain’t ever going to happen so learn to deal with the imperfect world! (I have.)

From the early part of the movie:

“The world is full of bastards, the number increasing rapidly the further one gets from Missoula, Montana.”

That applies to many peoples’ thoughts as they struggle to understand those around them. These true words in any given geography serve to remind us that life can be unfair but we must deal with it and the people in it just the same.

From the movie’s middle section, the brothers discuss Jessie’s visiting obnoxious California brother:

“I asked, “Do you think you should help him?”
“Yes,” he said, “I thought we were going to.”
“How?” I asked.
“By taking him fishing with us.”
“I’ve just told you,” I said, “he doesn’t like to fish.”
“Maybe so,” my brother replied. “But maybe what he likes is somebody trying to help him.”

This illustrates a basic truism; all people want to be helped. It is often not the result but the effort that is sought and counts the most in the end.

Late in the movie, the Reverend Mclean states in a sermon:

“For it is true we can seldom help those closest to us. Either we don’t know what part of ourselves to give or, more often than not, the part we have to give is not wanted. And so it’s those we live with and should know who elude us.”

While these words provide little comfort, they do provide a rationale for one of the biggest frustrations in life; not being able to help those we love. I have had great doses of this most of my life, with my son and many close friends. Fortunately my wife is the exception; we don’t elude each other in the slightest.

From late in the movie:

“We can love completely what we cannot completely understand.”

This is one of the very key lessons to be learned from Mclean’s work. It applies to all of us. Our inability to completely understand something or someone should not diminish our love for the same. Understanding and faith often don’t go hand in hand.

Of course, the final lesson may be drawn from the final lines in both the book and the movie:

“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of those rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters.”

This is a powerful description of what we all seek but can rarely find; the true words and voices from our own world to guide and comfort us. To a fly fisherman and everyone else, the waters are life itself, For this fly fisherman, they do haunt indeed.

If you have not read this book or seen the Redford film, please give them both a try. You will be amazed at all of the subtilties that apply to your own life and the lessons that can be drawn from both. There are many humorous scenes as well. You certainly don’t have to be a fly fisherman to enjoy these. Likewise, I believe you will enjoy my book mentioned above as it also seeks to impart a few hard learned lessons from my own life. I guarantee you’ll like it! Tight lines!

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Humor: When It Does And Doesn’t Work

Most of us would like to think we have a sense of humor. It is a uniquely human trait and one that we all share in some degree. The problem is that humor is not universal. What’s funny in one language or culture often is not funny in another.

Years ago, my wife and I moved to Italy. We lived in a small village where people have an extraordinary sense of humor. However, my first time out as Shecky Greene proved to be a disaster. We were visiting a new friend who was in her mid-70s. She is very quick so I thought I would try out an old chestnut from my college years: What’s black and white and red all over? Of course, I had to explain that red and read sound the same in English but mean different things. I should have stopped right there. When you have to explain a joke ahead of telling it, well it’s usually a bad omen. However I proceeded to give my friend the traditional answer: a newspaper. She got all of that just fine. But then I said, “In my college years the answer was a wounded nun.” My friend scowled at me and then flatly said, “That’s not funny at all. I went to school to study to be a nun.” Oops! It seemed as though language and culture were not the barriers; it was simply that I did not know what my friend had studied in her youth.

I learned over the years to stick with current events and learn what is generally considered humorous in other languages and cultures. The language thing is super important. In Italian, there is not such phrase as a pain in the ass. They put it much more delicately: Spina al lato – Thorn in the side. Eventually I learned to make jokes about political leaders but never the Pope. Comparing Berlusconi to Pinocchio was okay, but the Vatican was off limits. Interestingly, jokes are often followed by the uttering of “Porca Maddona” which translates as “Filthy Virgin Mary.” That one I don’t get! A good joke in Italian often refers to local politicians as thieves, the Caribinieri as the Keystone Cops, etc. Italians aren’t fond of authority. Hence it is just fine to joke, “Guarda Berlusconi. Sua faccia e’ proprio della pele di culo!” (Look at Berlusconi, His face is really skin from his ass.)

Also I learned that self deprecation is a central part of village humor in Italy. I have been telling jokes at my own expense for years now. One of their favorites is when I explain that I once asked for a senior discount for my wife and I at a museum. The young lady selling the tickets took a long look at me and then said, “You can have the discount because you’re old but your daughter will have to pay full price.” Cute and unfortunately a true story.

The two jokes I learned to stay completely away from are the following: “Hey Luigi, is thata U-Boat? No thata one there belonga to Uncle Sam.” It just isn’t funny in Italian plus you can’t tell it by putting those extra vowels on the end of every word… they already end in vowels.

The other one involves the advertisement in the local classified newspaper ads. “Italian World War II rife. Like new. Only dropped on the ground once.” They get that one but they are not amused. The best I’ve ever received was an acknowledgement that the joke was understood followed by “We’re lovers not fighters.”

These days I stick to jokes about the current Prime Minister, myself and anything to do with belittling authority. Yes, it doesn’t hurt that Prime Minister Renzi does look like Mr. Bean. I’m always fair game and local government is already a joke just needing to be retold.

On a serious note, one true mark of language fluency is your ability to tell a joke and make people genuinely laugh in another language. Try it, it’s fun!

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Once Upon A Time In Northridge

When I graduated Sylmar High School in the fall of 1966, I immediately enrolled as a freshman at San Fernando Valley State College. This institution became known as the California State University at Northridge some years later. After I graduated with my Master’s Degree, I had my diplomas reprinted to reflect the new name and the signature of the then current governor of California, Ronald Reagan.

My university years were a mixture of intellectual pursuits and hard work, both on and off campus. My undergraduate years were particularly arduous. My studies consumed my entire life. I recall only one real date after my sophomore year. My German professor was a heavy, kindly older woman who used to grab my cheek and shake it while saying, “You work too hard. You should have some fun, maybe get married!” She was probably right but I persisted with the hard work and graduated in three years instead of the usual four with my bachelor’s degree in hand.

I worked extremely hard in college. often holding two part-time jobs to finance my schooling. In addition, I usually took a minimum of 21 to 24 units of study as well as double summer sessions of classes. Every semester, I had to petition the school to allow me to take heavier than normal course loads. My schedules were exhausting and required me to arrive very early on campus and stay for the full day everyday.

My habit back then was to go to bed at 2 a.m. then awake at 5:30 a.m. and then to be on campus by 6:30 a.m. I always went to the campus cafeteria as it was the only part of the campus open before 7 a.m. There I had my breakfast of coffee and cigarettes. Often, there was no one else around. For my first two years, my visits to the cafeteria were as regular as the campus tower clock, save one interruption.

Almost from the very start, I noticed that there was indeed normally only one other student in the cafeteria at that hour. She was a young girl who was always seated at the opposite end of the cafeteria. Gradually, I got to know this young girl. Her name was Gina. She was quiet, smart and beautiful. I think she was a history major. We struck up a friendship but neither of us seemed to have had the time to get very romantically inclined. After several months, our relationship graduated to having the occasional dinner together and oddly enough joining each other for target practice with pistols and rifles on the weekends. Gina liked to shoot. She was a great shot but I was always better by a huge margin as I had learned to shoot from the very early age of five. In an attempt to show off, I would drive four penny nails through plywood boards with a .22 rifle without a scope and blow bottles apart after quick-drawing my .38 Colt. Yes, I was pretty damned good with a rifle and a pistol in those days. In the end, Gina and I had probably very little else in common except for being early risers and having a passion for firearms.

Things with Gina and I progressed slowly and we became very good friends, although I really didn’t know much about her. Our dinners and weekend forays became more frequent as our relationship grew over 18 months. We became a couple of sorts. It was a comfortable arrangement that required little of me except for buying ammo. And then it happened! I arrived one fall morning for my usual repast of coffee and cigarettes. There was Gina, as always, but with two new faces. The faces were actually two guys straight out of “The Godfather,” complete with double-breasted suits, Panama hats and seemingly broken noses. I was caught completely off-guard. Gina stepped back as the two approached me.

“We’se hear you’se pretty good with a piece!” they exclaimed in unison. I was dumbfounded as well as naive. “A piece of what?” I asked in desperation. There was a long silence in which I thought maybe they meant a piece of ass. I really didn’t know. I was feeling threatened. As they moved still closer to explain, the grand epiphany hit me like a mighty slap on the face. “Holy shit, no, no, no.” I mumbled. I was so distraught that I bolted from the cafeteria, preferring to arrive for my first class an hour early rather than face the grisly crew another second. I exited the cafeteria as the “cappo di tutti toppi.” I kept muttering over and over again, “Oh shit!” for about a week as I carefully avoided meeting Gina at the cafeteria early in the morning.

When I finally found the courage to return timidly to the cafeteria some weeks later, Gina was no more. She had vanished from the cafeteria and campus completely. In the 55 years since, I have never seen her again. A pity really. Gina was a dark-haired beauty, sensitive and with a gift for discharging a .38 revolver most accurately. She could have been my soul mate…. who the hell knows? I was just a young book-worm with no knowledge of a “piece” in the Mafia sense of the word. I only knew that I was a better shot than Gina.

I often look back upon this instance with a deep forgiving smile. Gina, years later I finally learned who you were. I also learned later in life about your whole family and their fame. However, with all of the fear, confusion, naivete and years aside, I still remember you as a sweet, affectionate, lonely girl who I met once upon a time in Northridge. And yes, I was damn good with a piece…. I still am!

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Lunedi Senza Parole #81

Indovina dove! Guess where! (This one is easy!)
Foto © Allen E. Rizzi

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Read my latest novel – Hey, Mister Publisher Available in paperback or e-book. You will definitely enjoy this book if you are from the 1970’s.

Follow songwriter Al Sapetello as he takes you through the back streets of the 1970’s music business on his way to the top. Where will the road lead him? The 1970’s music industry is explored from the inside out, exposing both the beauty and the ugly underbelly of the business. Presented with authority by veteran songwriter Allen E. Rizzi, Hey, Mister Publisher will give you a new understanding of music and the people who make it.

A Day Late And A Song Short

We all think that tomorrow is always to be found in the plural, only to learn later in life that it just ain’t so.

In 1974, I lived in an apartment complex in Woodland Hills, California. There were several other musicians living there and gradually I became good friends with one, Ray Allopenna. Ray and I played a lot of guitar together, wrote a couple of songs and over time we became the entertainment at the local bar around the corner named The Loading Zone. Life was simpler then and even then we knew it. We were even a little bored.

My time in Woodland Hills finally came to an end and I moved to nearby Granada Hills. When I last saw Ray, he said he was going to Hawaii to open a charter fishing business. I wished him luck and said I was going to get my life back together. We both promised that we would get back together someday and play some more music together.

Time’s currents are often swift and take us to places we had not imagined. Ray and I never did play anymore music together. He went to Northern California and I later went to Oregon and then on to Italy to live. However, in between each page of the calendars, I thought of Ray and hoped that someday we could fulfill our promise. After my Odyssey around the world, I finally settled in North Carolina and once again embraced my guitar like an old friend. As I played, as I wrote, Ray was always there in my mind.

On April 22, 2011 I decided to track Ray down in an honest effort to honor that promise we had made decades before. After several marathon sessions on the computer, I thought I had located him. I quickly dashed off a letter. After no reply, I searched a little closer and found his obituary posted online. It seemed that I was a day late and a song short after all the years. There is no one word in the English language to describe how I felt and lacking at least a modest adjective, I did what all song writers do; I sat down over lunch and wrote a song titled, One For Ray. In all modesty, it’s a great song and a great tribute to an old friend but it will never see a publisher’s desk. Some things need to be kept as private treasures from the past.

Here is a song that Ray and I played the hell out of back in our early clubbing days in 1974 along with the back scene I wrote for my book, Three A.M. – The Complete 1970s Song Lyrics:

Carry On
© 1974 Allen E. Rizzi

V1 Sittin’ around in Woodland Hills,
Drinkin’ too much beer, paying too many bills.
Some people say it’s fun alright,
But I haven’t seen a girl all night:
Carry on….


V2 I don’t know about this old town;
The people are crazy, the air is brown.
What the hell, I’ve got heated pools
And I stick close to Uncle Boots’ rules:
Carry on….


V3 Guess it’s time I did the vacate scene;
‘Cause my money’s gone, the times are lean.
Hope to God there’s some light up ahead
‘Cause I need my lovin’ and I miss my bed:
Carry on….

Coda Carry on…. And on…. And on…. And on.

Back Scene 2011:

Carry On was written at the Penfield Apartments in Woodland Hills during the time that I played with Ray Allopenna at a club around the corner called The Loading Zone. It was the most requested song on our playlist that included mostly Jim Croce, America, etc.

It was originally penned as a joke of sorts because we were bored with our little lives in our little apartment building. The line “and I stick close to Uncle Boots rules” refers to the apartment superintendent who always wore Nazi Storm Trooper style boots. (I think he may have actually been a Nazi camp guard.) The song is also notable for its use of bar chords (this was my first attempt). Credit should also go to Ray Allopenna (deceased 2007) as I am sure he contributed in some way to the music, if not the lyrics. This one really brings back some good old days from a very long time ago!

AER 7-11-2011

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Personal Favor

Let me start by saying I don’t like whiners. I have never been one and I am not going to start now in a sincere hour of need. That being said, I felt it proper and needed to inform my readers that I have been diagnosed with colon cancer and must undergo a traumatic surgery (hemicolectomy) on January 6. I am confident that things will work themselves out in the end. However, in the interim I worry immensely about my wife of 40 years and the financial burdens that are sure to come.

I am not going to ask for a Go Fund Me campaign or whine, “Why me?” I am certainly not going to beg for any type of charity. I know all too well that we all have our daily confrontations – All of us. What I am asking is, if inclined, that all of you please consider buying two or more of my many books to help us minutely defray the costs that are looming large. It is an honest ask from an honest person.

If, in return, I can repay you with some joy, entertainment and a little wisdom, I would be pleased beyond measure. You can find my books here:

A big thank you to all of my wonderful followers and friends.



PS – I hope to be back soon! My posts have been pre-written into the future so there will be no absence of continuity. Happy New Year to you all! 🍷🍷

A Long And Happy Road

No, this is not about The Yellow Brick Road! Well, maybe it is after all… Read on!

Like Dorothy I was a bit lost 40 years ago. I was in the midst of a stint as a successful songwriter and a successful single parent. Although most said I had everything, what I did not have was a wife. I had been single for many years after a disastrous first marriage and everyone around me thought I should get married. I agreed but I was in absolutely no rush, saying “When it’s right, it’s right but just because I’m a single parent doesn’t mean that I HAVE to get married.”

I was both set and content in my ways. In addition, I had seen more than one or two young ladies shy away from me because of my parental responsibilities. A single dad sounds sexy these days but it was no picnic four decades ago. The beginning of one road became the end of another.

Through the haze of time, I remember being at a party with some friends. I was not much of a party goer and the crowd seemed the same as I had seen throughout the 1970s: Over-indulgent and boring for the most part. As I was ready to leave, I noticed a young lady in black crushed velvet pants and recognized her as working in the same sky scraper that I did at the time. Obviously something bit me at that moment but I took my leave nonetheless. I needed some time to filter my initial attraction.

A week or so later, I found myself riding the elevator with this same woman. As I started to get out at my floor, I turned and awkwardly asked, “So, would you like to go out sometime? The young woman answered abruptly, “No!” as the elevator door slammed shut. Well back in the day, I had a pretty good sized ego so I muttered, “Bitch!” and went on my way.

Another week and a half passed and for some strange reason I left a note on the windshield of her car with my phone number on it. I guess I’ve always been a die-hard at heart. After a day, the phone rang and I stepped on that road for real. We went on one date and have been together ever since. After a year living together we were married on January 1, 1982. So today we have been married 39 years and have been together 40 years. That’s a long time and a whole lot of road together.

January 1, 1982

Of course there’s much more to the story and to the length of that happy road. Let’s start with the marriage. I am Roman Catholic and my wife is Jewish. We wound-up being married in a reformed temple that had just been constructed. An hour before the ceremony, the Rabbi called to inform us that the temple has not been carpeted yet and suggested we move the whole affair to his garden. I told the dear man that guests were already on their way and we would have to go ahead as planned. Then I looked in the mirror and decided my mustache was too light. I quickly brushed in some of my brides henna only to discover I now looked like Mario of video game fame. We were really in a rush so I put on some straight Clorox bleach to dull the color. Yikes! Of course, I had burnt my upper lip to a crisp. As we used to say in high school, “Smooth move Ex Lax!”

The ceremony went wonderfully fine without any problems with two minor exceptions: When it came time to break the wine glass, I was worried that a mere goy might not do it properly so I slammed my foot down so hard that the resulting retort was probably heard all over the city. The other glitch was not so minor. When it came time for my wife to say “I do.” there was an long awkward silence. In the time that it took my bride to respond, I had a flash of thoughts about her second thoughts. Actually, she was just a little nervous (Whew!)

In 39 years, we have travelled the world, lived in California, Oregon, Italy and North Carolina, all the while making every day like the first day of our great adventure together. There has been a newness each day that has never tarnished. We have grown together, tackled obstacles hand in hand and found a reason to be happy each step of the way. The road has indeed been long and happy.

25th Anniversary 2007

Rachel is my dearest treasure, my partner in everything and simply the most beautiful woman that I have known. That’s a lot to be thankful for in travelling any road! So today, I would like to tell her in the presence of my readership world, “Thank you for showing me that road! I love you! Happy Anniversary!

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Be Kind To Yourself

Here’s another of my songs from the past. Be Kind To Yourself was written in 1979 and is included in my book, Three A,M, – The Complete 1970s Song Lyrics.

The lyrics have sort of become a personal mantra of mine throughout the years. Take a read and a listen and see if you don’t agree.

Be Kind To Yourself
© 1979 Allen E. Rizzi

V1 Thanks for the words that you left at my door;
They must have been hard to compose….
But if you’re running away to find a new day,
Open your love, don’t bring it to a close….

Brdg. Instr.

V2 If you’re looking for love, laughter and life,
Be sure that your eyes really see….
And after awhile when you learn how to smile,
You’ll find that love is the key….

Ch. Be kind to yourself….
Let your circles widen with every day;
Be kind to yourself….
Let yourself flow in every way…. In every way.

V3 Here’s hoping your journey is easy and swift,
But don’t be surprised if it’s slow….
It will take some tears and quite a few years
Before you learn what you need to know….

Ch. Be kind to yourself….
Let your circles widen with every day;
Be kind to yourself….
Let yourself flow in every way…. In every way.

Coda Be kind to yourself….
Let your circles widen with every day;
Be kind to yourself….
Let yourself flow in every way…. In every way.

Back Scene 2011:

This song was probably inspired by an old girlfriend and life-long friend Mary Ann. I remember her leaving a goodbye note at my door in Woodland Hills in 1975 but I wrote the song as a retrospective 4 years later. I had always wished the very best for Mary Ann and had always encouraged her to first and foremost “be kind to yourself.” It may as well have been influenced by Geri. Both were very important women in my life. Be Kind To Yourself is one of my strongest songs. It was recorded and released three times. The song was the most requested of my tunes when I played my final years in clubs.

AER 7-11-2011

Here is the original rough demo tape from 1979.

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Short Moments From A Long Time Ago

We all have those short moments tucked away in the dusty little corners of our minds. They are times from the past, often encapsulated and accessible only along with other small bits from decades ago. The human mind is a wonderful thing, rich in its ability to recall minute details from a long time ago. Nature’s hard disc is in many ways superior to the device on which this is being stored.

For me, many of those short little moments are gathered from my time surfing in Southern California during the 1960s. They are loosely stitched together in my brain as sort of a patchwork quilt; warm to the re-cognitive touch and comprised of thousands of little scenes. Like many my age I enjoy visiting my quilted past regularly, perhaps in fear that someday soon I will lose the ability to recall these wonderful moments. The Rising Sons Surf Club was the center of my universe five and a half decades ago and my experiences with the club and my many friends form the nucleus of those many short moments.

I have written of some in my book, Fifty Years Ago – A Surfing Trilogy: And Other Surfing Stories from the 1960’s. Many, many others remain scattered in all that gray matter, looking for an escape every now and then. This morning was such a time. Several of these sprang forth so I’ve recorded a few of them to share here; short moments from a long time ago:

Late 1961 – I slowly shoved my first second hand surf board into a still lagoon-like ocean near the southern part of Zuma Beach. I was scared but determined to use surfing as a therapy for a badly broken and mangled leg. That first moment on a surfboard still warms my heart. It was my freedom bell that I heard calling in the ocean.

December 1963 – Sunset Cliffs near Santa Monica. I was already pretty good in the ocean. Lots of friends were around. We surfed the whole day and for the first time I felt I was a part of a larger whole; a shared surfing spirit. Looking back, it wasn’t much of a break that day but then surfing is about a whole lot more than waves.

Summer 1964 – Carpinteria, California below Santa Barbara. I first met a local guy named Joe. He showed me and Kenton Morse the local breaks and many a terrific looking surfer girl in Santa Barbara. I still remember attempts at romance with mousy blonds. Frivolous? Yes, but what a way to spend your formative years!

Early 1965 –  Rizzi’s Reef. This was the only time in my life that I felt terrified. I paddled out into the midst of a gigantic swelling Pacific Ocean and felt total loneliness and abandonment. Somewhere in the folds in my brain, the image of an insurmountable surf still hauntingly remains. Victory carried the day but Lord what a day it was! They even named the damned place after me.

June 1965 – Hopson’s Beach, north of Ventura. Although I had already been in and won many surfing contests, this one was special. It was the last contest that I surfed with Darwin Dorn. The morning was misty cold and foretold Darwin’s death some months later. I can still taste that cold morning mist of salt spray even now.

August 1965 – Torrey Pines State Park near San Diego. Some friends and I had stopped to watch the sun slide into the Pacific Ocean as we headed for Mexico. We noticed a woman sitting at a table decorated for a party; she was sobbing quietly. She was a bus driver and she had invited all of her co-workers and friends to come to a picnic at the park. Not one person showed up. She offered us her hot dogs and we stuffed ourselves as the sun was extinguished in the horizon along with an unknown woman’s faith. It is still the saddest moment that I can recall.

September 1965 – Night surfing at Malibu. I was hit in the neck with a flying fish while paddling out through the kelp beds. I’ve never been struck so hard since that night. The hickey-like bruise stayed with me for weeks. Lesson: Don’t underestimate our finned friends.

Sometime in late 1965 – The break was so large at C Street in Ventura that we had to run out to the end of the pier ahead of pursuing police, throw our boards off the end and dive in after them just to get “outside.” One ride in and we repeated the whole deal until we were finally busted.

Spring 1966 – Several of us had been in the water all morning at “Little Rincon” when a camera crew from Surfer Magazine showed up in the early afternoon. We obliged by showing off our best stuff for four hours straight. That afternoon, I invented a move called “The Riz”; up to the nose, do the ten, hang your heels over the nose, followed by a reverse nose pullout. It is not grand by today’s standards but the feeling of being supreme still remains.

August 1966 – A crisp break at Malibu’s “second point.” I was there showing off for a gathered crowd of onlookers. It was nice to be on top of my sport. I remember the day as pure cocky. The only real competition that day was a fellow named Miki Dora. Remember Miki? I do and I miss him.

June 1967 – The pier near San Simeon, California. I was there just looking at some nice large swells rolling under the pier after a weekend in Santa Barbara when a young girl approached me. She had heard of me and had a look of desperation in her eyes as she asked me for some recognition. I had never known sweet adoration before. Before I could oblige with tales of conquering waves, her parents protectively whisked her away and the sun set abruptly with a silent splash. Another very short moment.

Spring 1970 – Loops Restaurant in Carpinteria, California. By then, I had graduated college and I went up the coast late at night to visit old friends and do a tiny bit of local wave pounding the next day. As I sat in the now defunct eatery near midnight, I wrote “In Loops, Carpinteria” (©1970 Allen E. Rizzi)

In a car, going far,

Travelling the going away road at night;

Looking to the deep dark future

            For that something bright;

            Stalking the lusty past,

Like a hunter for lost game,

Only to find the redundant now;

            Hunter, traveler;

                                    They’re both the same.

Yes, short moments from a long time ago remain tall in the mind. Is there really any other fuel that keeps us going on quite so well? A half century and more later, I tend to think not!

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