Sunday, January 25, 2009

KAWABUNGA

When Chief Thunderthud proclaimed “Kawabunga!” one day way back in, say, 1957 in the middle of the Howdy Doody show, no one knew precisely what he was saying. There he was in the middle of Fifth Avenue, and the traffic ground to a halt. An old lady with a poodle in toe clutched at her heart. A young lady, wearing a fashionable hat, had some sort of sexual fantasy of some sort. The policeman waved his billy club. “Move along now!” he said, without a trace of an accent. Not everyone has an accent. Don’t you believe it for one second. And he wasn’t really in the middle of Fifth Avenue, but if he had an accent, who can say what would have happened and how we would remember it? The point is, we certainly remember “Kawabunga!” as we should. Don’t you think I do.

It would be years before the Australian surfers knew that Chief Thundthud really meant “ Cowabunga!” when he said “Kawabunga!” even though he meant “Kawabunga!” and not “Cowabunga!” and it would be years more before everyone in the world, including the Cookie Monster and Bart Simpson etc. would concur, although neither the Cookie Monster nor Bart Simpson use the word “concur.” Nor does Bart Simpson wear a fashionable hat. Nor does the Cookie Monster sport a billy club. Nor do I. Nor does Chief Thunderthud. Nor do accents clutch their hearts. Nor is there not such a thing that is not a sexual fantasy.

My grandfather once said, “You can either stand here, or you can stand there.” Something either is, or isn’t. It’s called the ‘domino effect' where a line is drawn in the sand by a girl named Sandy. Smiley Lewis, par example, had no front teeth. Smiley Lewis both is, and isn’t. “But if you stand there, I will beat you within an inch of your life.” He did not mean it in a suggestive way, my Pappy.

My teeth, my teeth, for the love of God.

Next: I would like to discuss spelling. “Kawabunga” is really perfectly fine, it only seems strange when we look at it now, after years of television and surfing in Australia and broken femurs. Meaning, however, is something else. Look at a word long enough and it starts to meld into a vapor of nonsensical shapes and supernovas across the iridescent galaxy of your mind. Which is nice. Stare at it even longer enough, and you plop down and die. If you believe in God, it could be worse. No worries, mate. But back then, rather than today, of course, what was said in all sincerity and with perfect clarity and correctness is now wrong. Completely wrong. One thinks of beheadings, for example. A beheading of the mind. But not if you go to church. All things change and become wrong, you have to learn to live with that. Son. Did you brush your teeth? Did they fall out–of love? That’s what they do. That’s what I was told. In surfing, the waves rise up to the sky, but they don’t really, and what you hear is not a soaring laughter, it is mispronunciation at the highest levels. You mustn’t believe everything you see.

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