Cloud Theory: 1969

Woven Recollections from the Return of One of Italy's First Surfers, 50 Years Later


I’ve long thought it would be interesting to explore combinations of longer format story-telling with my art in a more intentional way. Back in early 2019 an opportunity finally presented itself. The only problem was that it would require flying to Italy. If you know me, you know I’m not a traveler. Not like that. I can drive all night and all day on Highway One, but never make it to Italy. This rattled my program. I’d have to finally break down and get a passport.⠀

So in late 2019 I traveled to Italy with a surfer I'd only known long enough to drink two beers with. It was his first trip back to Gaeta, Italy, since 1969, and what might prove to be his final opportunity to see the country he fell in love with all those years ago. The details of his story emerged throughout the trip as we navigated the unfamiliar waters of the Mediterranean hunting for waves, and navigated the narrow streets and alleys hunting for cannelloni (a pasta dish that was common in Gaeta in 1969). We were mostly unsuccessful on both accounts. But this was more than just a trip to Italy, it became clear to me that this was a story that was meant for me to tell.⠀

Along the way I got to know this man well. During his time in the US Navy, as a lonely surfer peacefully stationed here during the Vietnam War, he was unknowingly among the first to bring a surfboard to Italy and surf upright along its shores. He wasn’t the first to surf there, and doesn’t think of himself that way, although his time surfing there pre-dates all the recorded history of surfing in Italy that I’ve come across. ⠀

But there's a lot more to all of us than any three-paragraph introduction can convey. This is my written portrait of possibly the first known surfer in Italy, and how our paths briefly merged together just before the world fell apart in 2020. This is the testimony of a life fully lived and a man facing his own twilight gracefully. This is a travel tale of two clueless Americans. This is an homage to the Italian spirit.⠀

This is the story of my friend, Dwight Harrington...

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Sweet Cherries for Sale

One hot afternoon I was digging a roadside view on the coast beside a nearby produce stand’s sign announcing "Sweet Cherries for Sale" and had just gotten set up when the cherry slinger walked up and told me I'd have to move.

He said I was blocking his Sweet Cherries sign. I wasn't, but I could see how from over at his stand it might look that way. I began to tell him about my road trip and how far I’d traveled to paint this spot, which he seemed to immediately take as a challenge and interrupted to inform me bluntly that he'd driven all the way from Modesto... Ouch, he got me there.

And furthermore, he informed me that he had a permit to set up there, and even furthermore that since he was there first there was no point finding a mutually beneficial solution.

He was real good at cussing too. His parting shot was

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More than Wind

I had just finished a piece from the other side of this hill looking up the coast to the north. As I painted that one, what started as a windless day quickly changed. The whitecaps had enveloped every piece of water in sight, inside the kelp, around the headlands, pretty much game over for painting outdoors.

But before leaving, I wanted to see the view from the other parts of the hill and when I looked out over this side, I saw this painting. Right then, right there. The warm iceplant in the foreground, the cool windcapped sea, the distant fog bank, all of it.

I knew I wanted to paint it, but I was fighting a stubborn cold, and after wrestling my previous painting to completion in the wind, I was rather beat. It’s a character flaw I’ll be the first to admit- I am rather lazy. I look for reasons to not do things. And today there were about 35 knots of reasons howling around this mountain by the sea.

What to do? Come back another day? But there was plenty of daylight still left. The surf wouldn’t be good anywhere in this wind, so it’s not like that was an option worth considering. What else was there to do?

But still, nothing in me wanted to push on at the moment. I headed back down the hill to the van to consider my options.

Now, I’m not too good at religion, but still I often talk to God and believe God speaks to us as well. Call me nuts. It’s all good. You may be right. I asked God what I should do, unsure if it was a good idea to push myself back up the hill and keep working. The answer wasn’t an audible voice, but it was clear all the same, it was a thought that really did not seem my own...

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Welcome Home

One night while out on the road, I stepped into a small bar in an even smaller town to sip a beer and charge my dead phone.

Open mic night was raging for a handful of locals and passer-throughs like myself.

Nursing my beer in the corner by the pool table (only spot near an outlet), and watching a few Mexican fellows play their game, I must have looked a bit too interested because next thing I knew a local had me lined up to shoot a game with him. He chose a poor opponent, I nearly didn't sink a single shot even after he cleared his from the table.

We got to chatting a bit and I mentioned I'm down from Humboldt, and he says he knows the guy that painted the Humboldt Surf Company sign years ago when they were on the plaza up there. I'm tripping out a bit because he doesn’t even seem slightly familiar to me, but he described the sign I painted pretty well.

At one point he turns to me and for some reason says...

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Ephemeral Records

At high tide that rock with the trees on it is an island, but at low tide you can walk right out to it. Over 20 years ago I ventured out to it with a friend, our minds set on climbing up to the top of it.

Except neither she nor I were the climbing types, we were just a couple of wide-eyed college kids, checking out this great big world that we were supposed to make sense of real soon.

We approached the base and made our way to the north, then to the south then back again, looking for some non-death-inducing route up the vertical side. After a few false starts, we surrendered and made our way back to the beach.

As soon as we reached the sand, we looked back and saw a couple of people climbing down off the rock. Their fluid movements made their descent look effortless. As we stood there watching their route, we realized it was a young couple, not much older than us, who were oddly... not really wearing any clothes?

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Eureka- Finding California

Stories of California: Memories, Recollections, Truth, Lies, and Points in Between


The following collection of short tales was an early attempt to establish a narrative to accompany my art in a book format. A handful were printed to test the waters, but it never went into actual production and publication.

Later on, it was submitted to Surfer Magazine and was awarded runner-up mention in a writing contest they held. I thought that was pretty cool for a painter.

Most of these stories are based on memories from my youth- junior high, high school, and college years.  Some of them are truer than others… Continue reading Eureka- Finding California

The Middle Ground

Verbal Sketches Inspired by California's Central Coast


This collection of verbal sketches was one of the first times I can recall sitting down to write, just for writing's sake.  I remember being shocked just how much I enjoyed it and marveling at where in the world this stuff came from. It was a feeling of tapping into a part of myself I hadn't ever taken the time to get know before.

Drawing on memories, cliche, and the sheer enjoyment of putting words on paper, these brief little lines of prose still bring a smile when I revisit them.

Enjoy...

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Drink Deep

For the ordinary soul who owns not a boat or a plane, the only way there is by your own two feet, one step at a time. Unless you are the ordinary soul’s dog, in which case it’s more like your own four feet, two steps at a time or something like that. In other words you’re just gonna have to hike. Eight miles. On sand and cobblestones loosely piled up between vertical mountains and the deep blue sea. Only at low tide. Higher tides and the surge of large swells will submerge that little eroding sand bridge to which your feet (or paws) will hopefully remain planted upon.

One such surfer and his dog endured that hike in the late spring one year, after a season of heavy storms, which swelled the creeks and brought with it a series of rock shattering swells and a fierce longshore current that removed all but the most stubborn sand deposits. Oh sure, they scored some quality surf, but it was a ride they took on the hike back that would Continue reading Drink Deep