Written by Ashley Sozzi
As many of you have probably experienced in one way or another, OCSC boasts an eclectic roster of staff, resembling as interesting a cast as one may find any given day at a hodge podge San Francisco street fair more readily then what one would imagine at a sailing school. From authors to tattoo artists, photographers to skateboard makers, OCSC is a renaissance team of many talents. Over my last year working for OCSC, it became more and more apparent that the group of people I was working with was comprised of some of the most interesting, adventurous, ambitious people I had come in contact with in my short 21 years. So I set out to uncover the little known, but ever interesting facts about the people working here at OCSC. Embarking on this quest lead me down the short path to the Fleet Service building and lucky for me, into the company of Neale Jones.
As we wiped off the dew from a bench on one of those perfect Berkeley mornings where the air is so fresh and clear you feel like you could touch San Francisco if you tried hard enough, I had the opportunity to catch a glimpse into the world of a cross country biking, trumpet playing, sustainable farming, vegan truffle making author/extraordinaire. Although I hesitated to begin our conversation with a predictable “what brought you to OCSC’s Fleet Service?” as we sat down, I found myself wondering that exact thing. How does a writer/musician/ cross country biker/ sustainable farmer/ vegan truffle-making man with a Masters degree in Creative Writing and English manage to also have the time to become an expert craftsman with the skills to help maintain a massive fleet of sailboats? Well, lucky for me, the man speaks like I would presume he writes: clear, concise, and teeming with insight and entertainment. So, with no further adieu, let me introduce Neale Jones, OCSC Fleet Service staffer:
A: So Neale, what brought you to OCSC?
N: It’s actually pretty simple. I was working at a music shop and a friend told me about the opening at OCSC. Already having an interest in the maritime history of the San Francisco Bay as well as having the desire to learn how to keep a boat in good shape made OCSC a good fit. I love how with sailing, there is nothing to distract you from being there in the moment, similar to backpacking or on a bike trip, the day to day chatter we clutter our lives with is let go.
A: Speaking of bike trips, I hear you biked across the country. Can you tell me about that?
N: My brother was graduating college and going into the Peace Corps, and wanted to do a biking trip between school and when he was leaving. I love backpacking and love biking, so with this I could pack all those experiences into one trip while also seeing the country side and spending time with my brother. Although I had just got hired here, it was the chance of a lifetime. We took 10 weeks and rode from Astoria through the Columbia gorge, through Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, Illinois, the Great Lakes, down to North and South Carolina. Then coming back, we took a train from Charleston to D.C., and on to Chicago where my brother stayed. I then took the train to California through the Rockies, which were breathtaking. But it was difficult to be sedentary for the trip back, it took me a few days to travel what before had taken from August to October, I was stir crazy by the end. It’s one of those experiences though that stays with me. It was special to take the trip with my brother and let go of cell phones and only rarely have e-mail. Our only concerns were getting where we were going and having food and water along the way. Other than that it was just about taking it all in. I have memories from everyday of that trip, which is something I can’t say about my citified existence.
A: Can you tell me about one of the experiences that stand out the most from your trip?
N: The trip really solidified the camaraderie with my brother, it made us closer. There was one day when we were riding on the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina through mountainous terrain, climbing hard, when a storm swept in. We pulled off and decided to camp in a grassy area of a rest stop when the thunder and lightning started to hit. It was 2 p.m. and we set up our tent, and put out bowls to catch the rain water.
A: That sounds terrifying.
N: I remember not being scared. We just hung out in the tent the rest of the day, we felt good. We felt protected in the tent.
A: What kind of preparation went into a trip like this, and what advice would you have for someone interested in doing something similar?
N: We had most of the gear from backpacking, which translated pretty well into this trip. I had the racks, bike clothes, and the gel cushioned bike pants (which were indispensable), and then we retrofitted the bikes a bit. Having a basic knowledge of repairs like patching tires, adjusting brakes, replacing chains ect. was also important. But otherwise we just camped and couch surfed along the way. While couch surfing we were fed, given warm beds, and a given a sense of the different places through the people that you can’t get in other ways, and it made it less expensive doing it that way (couch surfing and camping).
A: Would you do it again? And if so, would you change anything the second time around?
N: Yeah I would do it again, but I would go a different route, maybe along the Canada/U.S. border or from north to south. I would also listen to myself more; we had a creepy moment with someone who invited us to stay on his property. We probably could have avoided the situation if I had listened to my initial instinct and not gone.
A: I hear you are also in a band, The Complications. Can you tell me about your part in that?
N: Yeah. I have been playing the trumpet since grade school. As part of The Complications, I play the trumpet, sing vocals, write lyrics, and develop beats on the computer.
A: What kind of music would you describe as The Complications’ style?
N: *Laughing* It’s really fun and different from the typical music experience; we try to expand the range of sounds one can incorporate. Our influences are pretty wide. We have Folk melodies and lyrics, with trip-hop and dark punk, funk with the horns and baselines. We have an industrial aspect, it’s a new wavy kind of sound, an eclectic mish-mash. Some of our influences are Portishead, Tom Waits, Joy Division.
A: That sounds really interesting! So, with a huge bike trip behind you, a novel ahead of you, and a band counting on you, where do you hope to go from here and what are your goals for the next few years?
N: I hope to be growing all my own food on a permaculture farm with wild crafting. I also hope to finish the novel I am working on, and have it published, along with a second novel. Five years is time to have two novels published, right?
Although there were many things I walked away thinking about after my interview with Neale, one though was how important it is to keep my eyes open. You never know the interesting people you are encountering everyday and the knowledge that these people are willing to share. From the logistics of a biking adventure, to ways to incorporate sustainable practices into life, to new approaches to music, I realize the people I work with at OCSC are a bank of knowledge and a teeming supply of interesting conversation. I thank you Neale for allowing both me and everyone at OCSC a glimpse into your experiences!