Each person I’ve ever met has a story. Whether it was their life experiences or their dreams, or a combination of both, everybody has a story to tell. So, with this belief firmly in mind, I set out to find a denizen of Ocean Beach who I knew would have an interesting and deeply individual story, so I could tell their story to the rest of the village.
Newbreak, the coffeehouse across from the Life Guard station is always filled with locals – many in front of their laptops, so when I walked in the other day – a cold day – I walked up to a young guy sitting by the fireplace, in front of his white Mac, showed him my OB Rag Press badge and asked him if he’d ever heard of our publication.
After a brief hesitation, he said yes, he had. I asked him if he lived in OB – a prerequisite for the interview – and yes, he lived on Niagara Avenue. Next, the most important question: would he mind if I interviewed him and took his photo for our website. Without hesitation, he said sure. I introduced myself, said I’d be right back, and went over to the counter to grab a hot mug of French Roast.
Eric Long – Happy with Music and Making Documentaries
Returning to the small, round table where Eric had perched his things, I shook hands with him again and re-introduced myself to Eric Long. Eric has an easy smile, long blonde dreads, and was willing to discuss himself with a confidence of someone about to graduate from college.
Eric told me that he had moved into OB about a year ago with a bunch of friends – all of whom play in a band. So, he’s a musician – a singer and guitar player. And he’s in his last semester at State, about to receive a degree in film production. Originally from York, Pennsylvania – he moved here about 3 and 1/2 years ago, after taking a year off to travel in Europe after high school.
York has a population of 50-60 thousand, Eric estimated. “Lots of fast-food and lots of suburbs”, and near Harrisburg, the capital, he said about his hometown. It’s near the Amish, he added.
Before he moved out west, Eric spent a whirlwind three month tour of Europe , camping mainly as he traveled and visiting Berlin, Hungary, the gorgeous Grecian Isles, Croatia and the beautiful Dalmatian Coast.
Like many who end up here in San Diego, first they were visitors with a friend or relative here – an older brother in his case; Eric just came to visit – and, well, you know the rest of that story.
When he moved to San Diego, he first found a place out near State, and then he went over to PB. But, Eric knew his environs were “not the right fit”, he told me. The place was “too aggressive” referring to the hood off Grand Avenue. “OB’s much more laid back,” he said. He got to know OB when he began coming to Winston’s.
Eric told me that he’d just finished shooting a documentary, entitled “Into the Moment”; a film that follows different personalities, and the challenges they face finding out what makes them happy. He follows two local OB fire spinners, Sherry and John, in their efforts to make their passion into a living.
What makes Eric happy is music, and he and his friends who moved into a place on Niagara have formed a 4-piece band called “Thunder Butter”, a rock and roll jam band, he said. His favorites? Phish or the Dead. He sings, and also plays lead and rhythm guitar.
“We play our own material,” Eric said – and they jam constantly. “We are fresh,” he admitted, “and we haven’t played a gig.” Back in PA he played in a band called “Swinging Fries” and also has played as a solo artist. “I had a guitar when I was 12 years old,” Eric told me, but before his parents allowed him to play, “I had to get B’s in math” . Now he plays everyday.
During the day – when he’s not jamming, he has a job doing promotional work, both video and photography, and works with Shaper Studios. “When I get it, I film live music and live events.” He does work for a TV show, “Live at the Belly Up” put on by San Diego CityBeat.
He’s also fundraising for a new documentary about street kids, a small percentage of whom get by and are happy by making crafts – real crafts, he emphasized. He’s starting the project here in OB “to talk about whole populations of artists who live out of their backpacks.”
Right now, he said, he’s working on a feature film being shot in Morocco. It’s called “When Marriage Becomes Punishment” and is about a Moroccan woman who is raped and then forced to marry the rapist – “it’s a tragedy,” he said.
In doing the score, he’s mixing traditional Moroccan music with contemporary stuff. The director was born and raised in Morocco. Their fundraising goal is $7,000 – and they’ve received a $3,000 grant from SDSU.
He sounded confident that he could translate all of this into what makes him happy. He was living his story and planned to continue in the future; he is a musician and documentary producer, and in making films, he’s dealing with creativity and art.
Our conversation drifted to politics, of all things. He voted for Obama last November, his very first Presidential election. He sees himself as fairly liberal, and he’s had his dreadlocks for five years. He does surf a little having learned on the East Coast, on the Outer Banks of Cape Hatteras.
Eric likes OB the way it is. “Everybody’s doing a great job in cleaning up the beaches, but still there’s too many people who come to the beach and trash it,” he said. But in the next breath, he said, “I see lots of people going out and picking up others mess.”
Lastly, I asked him about what he thought about the Police trailer over in the Pier parking lot. After a thoughtful moment, he said, “Don’t like it because it puts the police station too close to people’s homes.”
We finished our conversation, I collected my notes, we went outside and I took a few photos of the hopeful musician. We shook hands – and he told me that today was the first day of classes and he had to get going. We said our good-byes and I wished him well.
Eric Long proves my thesis; that every OBcean has a story, and a story worth telling. I had walked up to him as a perfect stranger, randomly and here it was, his worthy story retold.