Chris Cote and I had gone to New York City to see the premiere of Taylor Steele’s latest surf movie Campaign 2 at a bar in the East Village. The premiere also coincided with a Billabong promotional tour of the East Coast, so at the bar we hooked up with Peter Mendia, Brian Hewittson, Sanoe Lake, and Dave Rastovich. It was the first time I’d met Rasta, and we had a cool conversation about the Gold Coast, the Blakey brothers, and various other topics.
At the end of our conversation, Rasta mentioned that later in the night he wanted to go to Times Square-the neon-lit noise vortex of the world’s busiest city-sit in the middle of the traffic divider, and meditate. He said he wanted to film himself doing that for a couple hours and later turn it into a time-lapse piece for a movie he’s working on with some friends back home. Dave told me how speeding up the film would make all the cars and people move past him at several times normal speed, though he would look perfectly still amidst the chaos. But he was worried that while he meditated, someone might steal his video camera. Oh, the dilemmas of modern Buddhism!
In an attempt to seem cool and impress a famous pro surfer, I volunteered to guard the camera during the meditation session. I’d consumed just enough Absolut tonics to volunteer for pretty much anything at that point.
At the end of our conversation, Rasta was stoked and so was I. We made a pact that no matter what happened the rest of the night, at some point we’d meet up, get a cab to Times Square, and he would meditate while I stood guard. We may have even shaken hands to seal the deal. Then, about five minutes after we made our plan, I lost track of Dave.
I ended up in a “bar” Cotà‡ found in Midtown. I put quotes around the word “bar,” because it was infinitely more like an out-of-control party at a frat house, complete with Guns N’ Roses blaring, dudes in cowboy hats, and several hundred drunk 22 years olds screaming the lyrics to 80s hits. It was there that the night became somewhat blurry. I may have danced, and it’s possible I kissed a woman who told me she sleeps with a gun under her pillow, but I can’t be sure. My head was spinning, and I was lost in the haze of collegiate irresponsibility.
And then, suddenly, Dave was standing right in front of me, smiling kindly, and asking, “You ready?”
Ready? Ready for what? The next bar? The next song? The next … Then it dawned on me. We were going to Times Square. I felt like a kid who’d been mischievously playing with his friends only to have his mom show up to whisk him away to some obligation he dreads-church or Grandma’s house. Hell no, I wasn’t ready! I was partying, man. Couldn’t he see that?
But I could tell from Dave’s smile that not only was he excited about this project, but also that he’d probably been patiently waiting all night in loud bars surrounded by drunk idiots talking his ear off about how they saw him in Blue Horizon, and that I had become a crucial, if small, part of the program.
Realizing I had to live up to my promise, I put on a smile, bid everyone good-bye, and Rasta and I made our way to the exit. Just to twist the dagger a bit, as we squeezed through the bar toward to the door, I ended up pressed to one of the most beautiful women I’d ever seen. Six feet tall with big brown eyes and Eastern European cheekbones, she wore a little white T-shirt that perfectly outlined her perky breasts and slender midriff. She was on her cell phone, but as we stood in front of each other, our stomachs touching, I heard her say, “I’ve got to call you back.” We stared into each other’s eyes for what felt like five minutes, and it was there, in that lame bar, pressed firmly to the woman I might spend the rest of my life with that I realized the importance of following through on this commitment I’d made. I’m not sure why it happened there, but it did, and before I could say a word to the girl in the white T-shirt, I ducked out the door and ffollowed Rasta into a cab.
We got to Times Square around 2:30 a.m. and scouted out a spot in the traffic median that separates the uptown and downtown traffic on Broadway between 45th and 46th Streets, which at all hours is nonstop. Rasta put his handheld video camera on the ground, propped it up with a discarded show bill, pressed record, sat down about twenty feet in front of the lens, and went into a trance. Deep into a trance.
Honking cars, scantily clad prostitutes, drunk college kids, and sweaty German tourists streamed by us in a never-ending procession of humanity, but what really struck me after 30 minutes of sitting there in the middle of traffic was the noise. We were surrounded on all sides by every noise imaginable, which coalesced into an auditory fog. Cell phones, rap music, cab radios, human voices, police sirens, high-pitched ringing, white noise, ads for Fords-you name it, and it’s playing in Times Square. And below it all, from the belly of the city, came a din reminiscent of the guttural noise produced by a choir of Tibetan monks. New York, it seemed, was screaming, groaning, and calling all at the same time.
Around 3:15 a.m. the cops showed up. First, just one came. “Who is dis guy?” he asked in a thick New York accent. I explained what was going on, told him who Dave was, and he told me he’d be back. He returned with a couple more cops, who seemed puzzled that someone would be doing something other than selling drugs, hooking, or somehow getting in serious trouble in this location.
As Rasta explored his inner kingdom, the cops ran his name through the New York Police Department database looking for warrants. At 4:00 a.m. it was decided that no one wanted Rasta in jail, including Homeland Security, and they all left except the first cop, who stayed behind and shyly asked if I’d get him Dave’s autograph for his buddy who surfs. “No problem,” I told him and took down his address.
For the next 45 minutes, I meditated on Rasta, who meditated on the voice of New York City. The night was warm and humid, and I sat on the curb and watched the patch of sky above me lighten with the first signs of sunrise. The reality of who I’ve become was very clear to me at that moment. My weaknesses and my strengths were obvious as the faint smell of trash wafted up from the myriad manholes that hide the bowels of the city from people on line for theater tickets. I was struck by the realization that our time here is finite, and that I need to be nicer to my parents.
Starting around 4:30 a.m., Rasta rose in slow motion, turned, and walked away from the camera. When he was done, I told him about everything that had gone on around him during those couple hours, and he couldn’t believe it. “No way,” he kept repeating. I gave him the address to send the autograph to, we shook hands, and then he went downtown and I went up. When I got back to the hotel, Cotà‡ had eaten a $10 bag of pistachios from the mini bar and was passed out on a roll-away bed. I fell asleep as the morning sun filled our room with orange light.