Print Story Paddling Out
By johnny (Tue Aug 05, 2008 at 12:13:10 PM EST) (all tags)
Yesterday evening we did the "paddle out" for my brother Paul, which is a surfer tradition of farewell.

Paddle Out

After a little ceremony on the beach, everybody takes a flower between the teeth & paddles out past the place where the waves are breaking, & forms a circle. The decedent's ashes are cast upon the waters, and flowers thrown after them, then everybody goes surfing. Or we would have done, if there were any surfable waves last evening, which there were not: the ocean was like a lake. But the water was warm and the sun was shining and there was a gentle breeze; it was lovely. And better that way for the younger ones among us, Paul's daughter & nieces and nephews.

I guess I'm going to write some more about the several farewells to Paul. I expect it will be boring for you. Helpful for me perhaps however.


Paul died on April 29th and the memorial service for him took place on May 17. Below, I've attached the remembrance I wrote & delivered at the service. It's better than the earlier version that I put up on my HuSi diary some months ago -- more detail and less grandiloquence. I'm happy with it, and I read it pretty much exactly as written. Before the talk, I had positioned the legendary "snurfer"--the one that has "Paul Sundman" written in dark marker clearly overwriting "Peter Sundman"-- behind a curtain on the altar, and when I said "this snurfer", I held it up for a visual prop.

When my brother Pete gave his remembrance, he continued the argument with Paul over whose snurfer it actually was. This argument has been going on for 35 years, and Paul is dead, but the argument lives on. It was funny and sad.

After the big-ole memorial service, which was lovely, at the United Church of Christ in Colorado Springs, family & out-of-towners went to a reception at a kind of garden club & there we all got shit-faced. There was a movie that somebody had put together about Paul, with photos & video snippets. After dark, they showed it projected against the outside wall of a building. I was smoking a big smelly cigar, so I stood at the back of the crowd. Which was convenient, since I started getting weepy and choked up, and when I couldn't take it any more I retreated deep into the lawns behind me. There I found a bunch of Paul's macho buddies hiding out from the film. "No way," they said. "No way."

Big Thoughts, meta

I've been thinking big thoughts since Paul died. I knew he was going to go, of course, and it really was a mercy that his suffering finally ended. But his death is still shocking and I miss him like crazy and I'm thinking about mortality and the meaning of life, etc. I cannot formulate those thoughts here because they're nebulous and inchoate & furthermore would sound trite and obvious if I did try to crystallise them. So this is just a meta-bookmark to record the fact that I have been having those thoughts. Mainly, while riding my bike. Or also too-also, whilst on a train ride from Boston to New York or vice

Futile search of old K5 diaries for entry about "When I Go"

Some years ago, let's say 2001 or so, I wandered around the Cambridge, MA "Central Square World's Fair" on a very hot day. There I saw a honky tonk band that I later found out was John Lincoln Wright and the Sourmash Boys playing a song called "When I Go", about the way the singer expected his demise to be acknowledged by the universe. A couple rode up on bicycles, and, still wearing bicycling gloves and in the sweltering heat, danced a lovely two-step to the music. I'm just about damn certain that I wrote about that in a Kuro5hin diary way back when. And I wanted to see what I had written about it. And so spent a fruitless 1.5 hours of precious vacation-do-nothing time trying to find it. To no avail. The reason I wanted to find it was because, in the course of learning more about Dave Carter and Tracy Grammar, whose song "Gentle Arms of Eden" was performed by Joe Uvegas at the memorial service, I discovered that Dave Carter was the author of "When I go". He died youngish, age 49, of a heart attack. My brother Paul was 45 when he died of ALS.  Here are the lyrics to "When I go":

Come, lonely hunter, chieftain and king, I will fly like the falcon when I go
Bear me my brother under your wing, I will strike fell like lightning when I go

I will bellow like the thunder drum, invoke the storm of war
A twisting pillar spun of dust and blood up from the prairie floor
I will sweep the foe before me like a gale out on the snow
And the wind will long recount the story,
Reverence and glory,
When I go

Spring, spirit dancer, nimble and thin, I will leap like coyote when I go
Tireless entrancer, lend me your skin, I will run like the gray wolf when I go

I will climb the rise at daybreak, I will kiss the sky at noon
Raise my yearning voice at midnight to my mother in the moon
I will make the lay of long defeat and draw the chorus slow
I'll send this message down the wire and hope that someone wise is listening
When I go

And when the sun comes trumpets from his red house in the east
He will find a standing stone where long I chanted my release
He will send his morning messenger to strike the hammer blow
And I will crumble down uncountable in showers of crimson rubies when I go

Sigh, mournful sister, whisper and turn, I will rattle like dry leaves when I go
Stand in the mist where my fire used to burn, I will camp on the night breeze When i go

And should you glimpse my wandering form out on the borderline
Between death and resurrection and the council of the pines
Do not worry for my comfort, do not sorrow for me so
All your diamond tears will rise up and adorn the sky beside me when I go

No point in being fat, bald, old and ugly

Since May 17 I've basically stopped eating meat, and I've started working out a lot. I ride my bike 20 to 30 miles every day, and I've lost 25 pounds.  Recently instead of worrying full-time about money and loss and global warming and war and Republicans and hatred and ignorance and dissipation and greed and rape and sorrow, I take a break from my preoccupations and dread (and work), so I can keep working towards my goal of getting actually not fat. I ride that ole bike and I lift those ole weights. I sweat & I drink water. About 25 pounds more to go, then I won't be fat. (I've probably jinxed it by putting it in writing, but what the hell.)


Two of my nephews who here vacationing are professional rockaroll drummers, retired. Graham of Scatterbrains and Pete of Illuminea and The Flesh. We talk about music.

What is love?

Who are the Strong, and the trusted? How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? Sex? Memory, how to preserve it? To be alive? What value intelligence? How much can one comprehend? Why should one comprehend? When shall I travel again, and on what money? Sex? What parts of us are the same after all these years? Can we wait around forever?


Freelance writing. Ghost-writing books & magazine articles on software management, artificial intelligence, forensic accounting & fraud prevention & detection. And doing PR, public relations, for the people whose books I'm ghosting. The money is OK but not great, but would be bigger if I worked faster. Or smarter. As if.

OK, waves or no waves

Time to go surfing. Bye.

But first

Just for the record, here is the remembrance of my brother that I read at the memorial service. Thanks.

Paul Damien Sundman was born on September 14, 1962, in Montclair, New Jersey, the fourth son and last of seven children born to John Sundman, a native of New Jersey, and Margaret McFall Sundman, who had emigrated to the United States from Scotland after the Second World War. The family name "Sundman" is Swedish, by way of Finland, from which Paul's grandfather emigrated in the early part of the last century.

Paul spent the first year of his life in the farmhouse at 31 Grandview Avenue, in North Caldwell, New Jersey, then moved with his mother, father, brothers, sisters and paternal grandparents half a mile up the road to the new family house which was built by his father. During the years of Paul's childhood, his hometown became suburbanized as the remaining farms and woodlands were converted to housing.

From the moment of his birth he was charming, tall, dark and handsome. He was the apple of his grandparent's eye and was doted upon by his older brothers and sisters. He had a special bond with his cousin, the late Tommy Seebode.

Paul had a typical suburban American childhood, attending small neighborhood schools, hanging out with friends, playing sports, riding his bike and skateboarding.

Paul's skill at collecting halloween candy was legendary, and has been inherited by his son Kyle.

After his 8th grade, Paul moved with his parents to Perrysburg Ohio, where he attended high school for one year. The family then moved to Connecticut, where Paul attended high school through graduation.

From an early age his athletic gifts were evident. In high school he played soccer, and was named to several all-conference teams. His position was midfield. He began surfing at eight, under the tutelage of his oldest brother Michael.

It was in Ohio that a lucky confluence of events proved momentous for Paul and, eventually, for literally millions of people all over the world. The family house was located high above the Maumee River, with a long steep hill, sort of a natural backyard ski run, down to the water. Immediately after Paul and his parents had moved to the new house a big storm came up and dropped so much snow that there was a snow emergency for six weeks. And Paul had this Snurfer, a snow surfer. Already a skilled skateboarder, and with nothing else to do, he took his chops outside. We'll come back to this.

Paul attended Vanderbilt University in Tennesee, where he majored in English, minored in French Literature, and played varsity soccer for four years.

While at Vanderbilt, Paul spent a semester of his junior year studying in France. While there, Paul met Jennifer Ann Young, the daughter of the architect James Young of Colorado Springs and his wife Ann Young. Paul and Jennifer were married five years later, and celebrated their 20th anniversary in January of this year. Their son Kyle was born in 1992 and daughter Jillian in 1995.

While in high school, as a consequence of his obsession with Snurfing, Paul began a correspondence with a young man named Jake Burton Carpenter, who was struggling heroically to start a new company in Vermont called Burton Snowboards. Jake's vision was to build not just a company, but a whole new sport and industry.

Paul and Jake stayed in touch over the next several years, and eventually Paul took a summer job and he and Jake became close. Upon graduation from Vanderbilt, Paul went to work at Burton Boards. When Paul was twenty-two years old, Carpenter made him Vice President and National Sales Manager for the still-tiny Burton Snowboards. Paul  was involved with all facets of the company from manufacturing to marketing to competition boarding.

Since at that time snowboarding was still banned at many ski resorts, a big part of Paul's job was to convince safety directors that snowboarding was no more dangerous than skiing. So Jake paid Paul to go from mountain to mountain all over North America, showing the world what snowboarding was all about. Slowly, one small victory at a time, snowboarding became allowed, then took root.

As such, Paul was one of the founders of the sport and one of the first people in the world to be paid to ride a snowboard.

Paul left Burton Boards to get an MBA at Georgetown, in Washington DC, where Jennifer was working at the National Zoo. He wanted to get more formal training, but also, as Jake told me, "clearly he was in love with Jennifer and needed to be near her."

After obtaining the MBA, Paul did a two-year stint as a consultant in the corporate world on a variety of assignments.  Paul loved learning more about business, but grew weary of putting on a hot wool suit in the sweltering Washington DC summers and spending so much time in corporate meeting rooms. He  always was a hard man to keep indoors.

Paul and Jennifer  moved to Colorado Springs, where Paul soon opened his mountain bike and snowboard shop called "Momentum". It was a wonderful place full of bikes, boards, life, energy, and fun. But small retail is a nearly impossible business, and Momentum was forced to close its doors after four years.

At the tail end of the Momentum period, Paul created a clothing line called "High Ridge" for mountain biking. Like other clothes for bike riding, High Ridge clothes were padded and comfortable. Unlike all other biking clothes that were then available, High Ridge clothes did not look dorky.  Had he done nothing else in his life other than create non-dorky clothes that you can wear when riding a bicycle, his life would be worth celebrating today.

After Momentum closed, Paul went to work for his father-in-law James Young, owner of a several apartment buildings here in the Springs. In this capacity, Paul maintained the facilities, ordered equipment and scheduled repairs, provided compliance information to the appropriate government agencies, handled tenant relations, and totally computerized everything.  He was universally esteemed for his work ethic, cheerful disposition, and "people skills".  He continued in this job until he was unable to breathe unassisted.

Paul was a devoted husband and father. He was a dutiful and loving son. He was a great friend. The fact that so many of Paul's pals from North Caldwell, New Jersey, a town he left when he was 13 years old, are here today tells you something about what kind of friend he was. And as a brother, he was ideal. He was kind, he was funny, he was open, he was hardworking, he was truthful and he was loyal. He was able to administer a kick in the ass when a brother--for example, me--needed a kick in the ass. But his brotherly love was never in doubt.

He was a great soccer coach and a great teacher, not only because of his athletic gifts and understanding of the game, but also because he delighted in everybody's success.

Paul love biking. He rode 1,135 miles on his mountain bike in 1999, a number that Jennifer was able to provide for me with great precision because it's written in indelible marker on their garage wall. He liked to go early in the morning, before dawn sometimes. He once broke his collar bone, and once had a race with a bear. He loved local trails like Capn' Jacks and Buckhorn. He rode his bike to the top of Pikes Peak several years in a row in the annual race.

Paul became adept at yoga, and went from being what he described as "super stiff and inflexible" to doing some pretty amazing things.  He  took Yoga seriously and joyously, going to many classes, and getting up to do his routine in the living room at 5:30 am.

Paul loved to read books on yoga, and on the mind, and he relished autobiographies. He recently listened to Eric Clapton's and Barrack Obama's books on CD and loved them.

His taste in movies ran to comedies, and the stupider the better. He liked Monty Python and "Spinal Tap" and "Best in Show" and Will Ferrell movies. Last year Paul and Kyle and I went to see "Talledega Nights" -- that Will Ferrell movie about Nascar racing -- and the poor people all around us were terrified that the guy in the robot wheelchair was going to croak from laughter right before their eyes.

Our  brother-in-law Bob told me that Paul used to email him to talk about stocks. "He was quite the riverboat gambler", Bob said. And why wouldn't he be, after seeing what Jake Carpenter had done with Burton Boards, or what his dear friend Rob Burnett had done with the Letterman Show, or what his brother Peter had done in his career? Paul was an inveterate optimist and he believed that people were good and that they would succeed.

Paul loved music: The Band, Little Feet, Phish, the Beatles, REM, the Stones, Clapton. Recently the Dave Carter-Tracy Grammer duo, and Peter Mayer were some of his favorites.

He liked good beer and gin-and-tonic.

He was on the board of Cheyenne Commons, charged with saving and protecting the open space across the street from the house that he and Jennifer and their children have always called home.

Then he got ALS, and, as you all know, he stared down that disease with great courage, humor and grace. Shortly after getting the diagnosis, he flew with Kyle in a two-seater Husky airplane from Colorado to the Sundman annual reunion on Long Beach Island in New Jersey, and there spent several days taking 30 of us up, one at a time, for flights over over that place which is so dear to our family. Knowing that his time was probably short, he made the most of it, seeing the world, learning to ski while sitting. . . so many things. Paul researched the disease hopefully but soberly and realistically, investigating standard, experimental, and non-western therapies. I am not a scientist, but I believe that the traditional Chinese medicine he took extended the length and quality of his life.

His middle name was Damien, after the leper-saint of Molokai, and like Damien, Paul, in the face of bodily torment, was fearless and without self-pity.

He was a happy man until the day he died.

He brought great joy to so many of us while he was here, and the manner in which he embraced life and accepted its challenges will be an inspiration to all of us who loved him as long as we shall live.

< Ask HuSi | Vay-cay-shun >
Paddling Out | 8 comments (8 topical, 0 hidden)
dirty naval gazing hippie LIEbral by sasquatchan (2.00 / 0) #1 Tue Aug 05, 2008 at 12:22:37 PM EST
only care about getting less fat and not, "worrying full-time about money and loss and global warming and war and Republicans and hatred and ignorance and dissipation and greed and rape and sorrow" Or the WHALES, how can you forget about the whales ?!?


Let the whales take care of themselves by johnny (2.00 / 0) #3 Tue Aug 05, 2008 at 01:25:25 PM EST
I'm worried about the sharks!
Buy my books, dammit!
[ Parent ]
Here's lifting a pint... by ana (4.00 / 5) #2 Tue Aug 05, 2008 at 12:44:09 PM EST
to a wonderful man. And a likewise wonderful remembrance of the man.

"And this ... is a piece of Synergy." --Kellnerin

The Empire grieves for you all. by atreides (4.00 / 1) #4 Tue Aug 05, 2008 at 02:02:55 PM EST
Good FuNeral Though...

He sails from world to world in a flying tomb, serving gods who eat hope.

Sounds like he was an intereresting guy. by ammoniacal (2.00 / 0) #5 Tue Aug 05, 2008 at 02:51:08 PM EST
Peculiar musical taste for someone so young though.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

I guess he was by johnny (4.00 / 1) #6 Tue Aug 05, 2008 at 05:05:52 PM EST
an old-school guy in a lot of ways.
Buy my books, dammit!
[ Parent ]
motion by Kellnerin (4.00 / 1) #7 Tue Aug 05, 2008 at 05:07:47 PM EST
... I have been having those thoughts. Mainly, while riding my bike. Or also too-also, whilst on a train ride from Boston to New York or vice versa.

It's my experience that there's nothing quite like being in motion for getting the brain working without any conscious direction. Why do you think so many of my diaries start between here and there?

Also, belatedly, thanks for alerting us to the shark story, so that when I ended up in the elevator with a coworker who had vacationed on the Vineyard that week, I could impress him by saying, "I heard there was a big shark scare ..."

"Late to the party" is the new "ahead of the curve" -- CRwM

Yes. by iGrrrl (4.00 / 1) #8 Fri Aug 15, 2008 at 08:38:46 AM EST
Just, yes.
"I honestly pity the stupid motherfucker who tries to talk down to iGrrrl" - mrgoat
Paddling Out | 8 comments (8 topical, 0 hidden)