Sometime there are things I just have to write about. I can’t tell you where I surfed most recently, or how good it was, though I feel perfectly unrestrained in recounting how many times I’ve been skunked out here on the inside elbow of the last push west and north in the contiguous United States. Numerous, with sessions where it was the wrong tide and closed out but one had to surf because it was going to get windy, so one (meaning me) did, and it did get windy, so much so that it was completely blown out by the time the tide did allow the waves to properly line up. Or the time when one (still me) waited a few hours for the swell to get in, and they sort of did, but the objectively weak, measure-ably small waves completely disappeared by the time I got into my wetsuit and back down the beach. Or… or…

Or I can post something I just had to write one morning, a piece I wrote and polished and sent to Keith, because he’s in it, and Drew, because he’s a huge Dylan fan. And now you.

                                                IN DYLAN’S DREAMS, PERHAPS…

Perhaps it’s because I was working in Uptown Port Townsend the last few days, and perhaps it’s because I was bleaching and pressure washing decks until dark last night; and bleaching always makes me feel a bit like I’ve spent too much time in the pool; but, in the dream I’m trying to put back together, Librarian Keith and Bob Dylan are skateboarding on the sidewalk alongside a block of Victorian era buildings.

The action isn’t like ollies and flips and that kind of skateboarding; they are gliding, slaloming, leaning into easy turns, scootching into the entryways, clipping a hand on the corner of the alcove, coming perilously close to the curb, but staying on the sidewalk. And then I join them.

“I’ll let you be in my dreams if I can be in yours… I said that.” Bob Dylan, ‘Talkin’ World War III Blues.’

I got the impression, perhaps realizing I was dreaming, that neither Keith nor Bob really appreciated my joining in, but this being a dream and all, my knees are flexible, my ankles fine, I am spry and holding my own. Yeah, Dylan, ten years my senior in real life, is also ripping; smooth moves, never even having to put a hand up to avoid losing his white, flat-brimmed, Panama style hat. You know the one.

In another dream scene, just before I woke up, an hour later than usual; with our cat, Angelina, sounding an alarm halfway down the hallway; I was looking through a window (pretty sure it was from inside the Rose Theatre and through the ticket booth) a guy blocking a couple, a man and a woman. The man was trying to reach over the guy to get a ticket to see, of course, Bob Dylan. I had the impression this was a sort of a date. The guy blocking them doesn’t move until the man with the woman reaches over his shoulder with a wad of, yeah, cash. Rose Theatre; pretty good place to go… on a date.

“Meow! Me-ow. Wake up!” Angelina.

This isn’t my first dream featuring Dylan, and, in fact, there was more Dylan in last night’s: Somehow, I had some connection with finding a place for him to stay in the area, and two people were selected to have the privilege of hosting him, preferably in a place near the water.

“Wait a minute,” I said (or maybe I didn’t have to say it, this being a dream and all) folks know these folks, and those folks’ll just cruise in, hang out;” and Dylan says (or doesn’t have to say- and this is the older, Salvador Dali looking Dylan), “The question here is, do you know where they live?” “I do.” “Oh.”

Yes, that does kind of leave it hanging.

So, here’s a question: Do you ever have those dreams that are so real you put them into your memory bank as if some of what happened is… real?

Don’t answer; I can’t hear you. These are just keystrokes. History. I’m not here.

Anyway, I have had several dreams in which I’m in what I have to believe is some sort of roadhouse, and, somehow, I’m thinking it’s somewhere up in, like, San Bernardino (weird in itself, San Bernardino being way south from where I am), and the room is filled with musicians, sitting around, evidently taking turns playing guitar and singing; and Dylan’s there, but he’s not playing… or singing… or talking.

But then he turns to me and, specifically, he looks at a harmonica in my hand. And then I see he has a harmonica in his. And then I notice one of his eyes is kind of, I have to say, quivering. And then, pencil-thin mustache and all, he smiles. Not a friendly kind of smile; a resolved kind. Perhaps.

A different Dylan smile

Side note: I have limited time and my list of ‘should do’ and ‘must do’ is way more pressing than my list of ‘want to do.’ I want to work on “Swamis.” I am making progress. But, something I’ve already cut from the manuscript pertains to how, back in the late 60s, there was a persistent rumor of an FM radio station in San Diego that played stuff we didn’t hear on the AM channels. KPRI, barely-catchable from the North County; but what has remained in my memory cache is listening, with my dad’s earphones, and the DJ says, “We’re going to go in the back now and get our heads on,” and put on “John Wesley Harding,” in its entirety. I’m not sure if someone had to return to flip the record, but, in the years since, my mind has added someone coming in, and in a voice an octave lower, saying… shit, I don’t know what, I was fifty miles away and it was fifty-plus years back.

When I am not writing about surfing…

…or trying to make “Swamis” perfect-er, or -ish, I write about other stuff. This is my submission for the Quilcene Community Center newsletter for April. I wrote it in between getting really small surf among really big rocks, and riding blown out surf, and getting skunked. If I did manage to ride some quality waves, I certainly wouldn’t share that with the non-surfing folks over here on the near side of the Olympics. So, okay, let’s see:

Oh, yeah; I wrote about getting my second Covid shot, but, somehow, I didn’t set this up correctly to actually include the piece. Let me see if I can…

                                Anticipation of Inoculation and Other Things…

…things like the latest topic of conversation: Vaccinations. You get yours yet? Scheduled? Fully inoculated? Half? Pfizer, Moderna, J&J? Side effects? Jump in anywhere.

“Oh, I don’t think I will get one; you know, because of the…” “See you… (from a reasonable social distance) later.”

It just so happens I am getting my second dose this afternoon; heading back to Manresa Castle’s back lot, hoping I don’t have to fill out the form again, and fully prepared to not cry. It’s not that I’m all that worried; not like I cried when I got the first dose of Pfizer cold gold, the first needle stab. It’s more like I whined beforehand.

I can’t help but remind myself of another experience, back when I was eleven or so and started crying while only lining up for some shot or another, a tetanus booster, perhaps. This was quite embarrassing for my mom, me being the second oldest of seven children, and the oldest male- back when this gender bias, wrongly of course, seemed to make a difference.

“Fine example, Junior.” “Waaaah!” “I thought you might act more, well, grown up… Junior.”

Saying, “Wow, it didn’t even hurt” didn’t help after the fact. No way any of my siblings would even consider crying after my mature display.

To be clear, I did, two weeks ago, warn several of the many, many folks of the remote possibility of tears, if not full tantrum mode. Many of the many checkers and re-checkers and line monitors are actual volunteers, making themselves available for the processing and administration and delivery of a shot to individuals proceeding, ever so slowly, in our vehicles, single file.

When I finally got to the last temporary carport, sleeve rolled up, I told one of the several people there, “Yeah, I get cut and gouged and hurt all the time; it’s the knowing it’s going to happen; that’s what’s scary. You know, like, just do it; don’t tell me you’re about to.”

“Done.”

“Really?”

“No. Joking. Wait for it… wait… wait…”

One person on the inoculation squad, possibly because she believed I was making it up about my fear of needles and all, did point to another member who might be willing to slap me so I wouldn’t be concentrating on the long, sharp needle. He did look willing.

“Most of the crying, so far,” another shot squad member told me, “has been out of gratitude. You know, older people.”

I do. Older is my demographic. 65 to infinity. I have lived long enough to have had measles and mumps and chicken pox (no rubella, whatever that is) before they had vaccines (I might have to fact check that- maybe my family just didn’t get them). I am old enough to have had both runs of polio vaccines; the one with the needles, the one with the little cups. No problem with the cups; stand in line, take a swig, get a sticker. Or was it a sucker? Maybe.

Maybe it only seems like everyone I speak with is around my age. Saying I am over 65, as I did, above, is easier on the ego than saying I will be 70 in August; and no, I never answer the question of how old I am with the question, “How old do I look?” Not any longer.  So, how we survived the pandemic, so far, seems like a likely topic for lively discussion, much better than “did you hear about good old so and so?”

Whatever it is about good old so and so, it’s probably not great news; even if it’s “She’s 89 years old and just won a lifetime supply of (merely an example) Rice Krispies.” Oh, you heard that joke.  

Now, I do have a lot to say about getting older and the benefits of aging.

Benefits? Maybe next time.

So, closer to topic: Vaccinations. To tie life-saving vaccinations to Spring, we are all looking forward to actually being free of this pandemic. Like Spring (or each season) full victory over this pandemic won’t come all at once. Still, there are signs, reason for hope.

People who are way younger are now getting inoculated. I’m not talking about the Spring Breakers and the anti-vaccers and the scofflaws (scoff-mandates might be more accurate). Our son Sean, 38 and a front-line worker, is getting the Johnson & Johnson this afternoon. One of my surfing friends, somewhere around 43, just got one yesterday. J&J, one shot and done.

Since I ask pretty much everyone I come into nowhere-near-contact with about their status, I am surprised to hear how many folks have already been fully immunized. Without getting into the variants and mutants and strains of the virus, each one named after some spot; I am imagining the Miami Beach strain, the patient’s head throbbing to a sort of techno/disco beat.

So, a couple more hours and, barring any unforeseen consequences, I will be ready to (always responsibly) PARTY!

You can imagine tears of gratitude if you want. I’m a grownup, and I’m in anticipation mode.  

OH, SHIT, I JUST ‘CUT’ THE PIECE OUT OF MY FILES. DAMN IT, when Ken Burns does the 9 hour documentary on me, they won’t have it. WAIT, MAYBE, IF I… see you out on the trail.

Phonies from “Swamis”

So, as I keep pushing toward some sort of semi-final draft of the manuscript, I’m just going to keep posting stuff that I don’t hate, but realize I need to focus, focus, focus… what? Yeah, focus on moving the plot of “Swamis” forward, faster.

To set the scene here; Ginny has invited Jody to her eighteenth birthday party at her parents’ newly acquired property in Rancho Santa Fe. He is very anxious, and has many good reasons for being so.

The smell, sweet, pungent, somehow almost harsh, was unmistakable.   

“Last year’s crop was good,” one of the guys by the barn said, inhaling, holding it, before blowing the smoke out. “But this year’s gonna be mo’ betta’. Mo’ mo’ betta,’ Mon.”

It wasn’t a real accent, it was an affected, put-on, party accent; fake, put on Jamaican by the first converts, the first of generation of (Bob) Marley-ites.    This party accent was pushing against the Beatles-influenced fake British from when I was in junior high (1964-65), which had bumped up against the beatnik jazz-speak older kids were practicing, that competing with the fake down-home folk lingo/rhythm. 

Meanwhile, kids from and in the mid-west wanted to talk like west coast surfers.  It was considered cool to talk like you were already half-stoned or wasted, but you still had something possibly clever, or, better, semi-profound to say; or, at least, something that might be perceived as clever or profound to those more stoned or wasted.

People were ‘experimenting’ with drugs, as if they were scientists.

I can’t get too judgmental; I modified my speech patterns because of TV characters, reporters; Tommy Smothers and Walter Cronkite and… really can’t list all the influences.  As in my surfing, I copied, emulated, folded things into my own… own style, persona?  Yes, everything about me was affected, put on, not real.

This was some of what I attempted to fill my mind with as I backed the Falcon into a spot.

It wasn’t really working.

SO- Working my way to another brief visit with “THE END.” Thanks for reading.

what about that, huh?

I just wrote a whole long thing; then, frustratingly, it wouldn’t PUBLISH. So, here’s an excerpt from “Swamis,” currently and still being edited. This scene is over halfway through the manuscript and takes place in the parking lot at Swamis on a Sunday evening. Let’s see if hitting the ‘Publish” button works this time. And…

“I think that… Joey, I might be in love.  Maybe.”

“I think I might be.  Also.  In love.”

“Might be?”

“Am.  Have been.”  If I didn’t say, ‘Always will be,’ I did think it.  I did believe it.  Then I said it.  “Always will be.”

“Always?” Ginny leaned back into the open door, gave me a look that said both that she believed me and that she might not believe ‘always’ meant ‘forever.’  “You better.”

H …

If any emotion other than love, and in particular, new love, so front-loaded with anticipation, joyous anticipation; had the same all-out, pounding arterial intensity for people not in their teens; the result would have to be a significant increase of sudden strokes and heart attacks.    

This doesn’t make me a romantic.

I do not plan on having a heart attack while surfing, as others have, though this is often glorified in obituaries as ‘doing what he loved.’ If I do have one, it’ll be when I first look out and see irresistible-if-not-perfect waves coming in. Right there, in some parking lot, fumbling for my wetsuit, fumbling with a towel, fumbling, not skipping out on and over the water like a properly thrown skipping stone; just dropping. A different stone. A rock.

And the waves just continuing to roll in.

Maybe this parking lot, but not on this day. It wasn’t about the waves. I was standing, trying to slow my heart rate, trying to control my breathing. It was that portion of dusk when the shadow that is night starts to mix with the overcast, both descending; those few minutes when the inability to see very far in any direction seems to be reassuring. Comforting. Calming.

But it took a while.

A lovestruck eighteen-year-old with a brain overloaded with everything else might just discover he had followed a Jeep over to 101, watched it go north long and far enough to see the right-hand turn signal light up, blink. He might imagine he saw things too far away to be seen. With the world spinning, he might be frozen; thinking, trying to think, images and words tangled, waves crashing into each other.

Waves. Waves are born of chaos. Disorganized. Out of control. Of all the waves hitting all the beaches in all the world, only some are really rideable if rideable means more than just taking off and going straight to the beach. Surfable. Most waves are closeouts. Some, with time and distance, with the proper point of land, or reef, or direction, become rideable. Only a very few are perfect. Even Swamis was only rarely perfect. Perfect.   

My world was chaos. I blinked. I was standing in the middle of the opening to the parking lot, wondering how long I’d been frozen. I had one clear thought: I had to tell Ginny the truth.

Ginny and Joey in the Photo Lab

I’ve known for a while I might have to cut part of this chapter. Because I wrote myself into a bit of a corner by having the chapters of “SWAMIS” coincide with particular days, the chapter covering this day, with sub-chapters given letter headings, was up to “M” or so. I kind of liked the idea that both Joey and Ginny had been snobbish and/or cruel to other students they went to high school with, and this gave them a chance to do some small amount of karmic redemption.

I’ll save any other explanation for future therapy sessions, but, briefly, this is just after Virginia Cole and Joseph DeFreines, Jr. get busted making out in the photo lab. OH, and there is a setup mentioning how a Southern California Santana condition can end with a giant wave of thick fog coming off the ocean. OKAY, now you’re ready:

M…

Ginny and I were passing the Student Union. There were twenty-five or thirty colorfully dressed potential marchers, butcher paper signs protesting the war being painted, cardboard placards painted and nailed on sticks and leaned in stacks. 

Among those milling about was Alexander.

“Alexander,” I said, looking just for a second in his direction.  “He’s a guy I always thought, even though he took lunch in the chemistry lab, was, um, not that smart.”   Alexander was carrying a briefcase and sporting a goatee, a French baret, a tweed sport coat with elbow patches over a day-glow t shirt. 

Ginny stopped.  I stopped.  “He looks smart enough.  Activist.  That’s good.”

“Yeah.  I think these are the same kids who were decorating and moving chairs and tables for high school dances; and now… junior college activists.”

“What did you do?  Dances?”  A moment later.  “Oh, you just didn’t go.”

“No.  I did have to spend some lunch time in the chemistry lab, cleaning all the desks.  I was busted drawing on one in English and the word got around.  Teachers.  My biggest fear was that I fit in too well with Alexander and his friends, hiding out in the sulfur-smelling safety of the chem lab.  They seemed to think… they laughed at everything I said.  They seemed to believe I, like them, didn’t actually fit in with the ‘normals’.”

“Probably not.”  Ginny pushed hair back out of my face.  “I, um; I danced.”

“Of course.”

Alexander saw me.  Or maybe it’s that he saw me with Virginia Cole.  “Hey,” he said, “DeFreines.  One; what the fuck (he was obviously just getting used to using the word) are you (emphasis on the ‘you’), Brain DeFreines, doing at Palomar?  Two; are you still into that surfing thing?”  He did a kook surf pose, the briefcase in his lower hand.  “And, three…”

“Three; how’d I get to walk around here with such a fine looking… young woman?”

“Bingo,” he said, head nodding, eyes on Ginny.  “Al.  Name’s Al.”  He switched hands on the briefcase, offered his right hand.  “Al Weston; Palomar Peace Initiative, and, and I am passionate about peace.”

Ginny took his hand, said, “Gin, short for Virginia.”  She dropped his hand, grabbed mine, did an exact replica of Alexander’s surf pose, my hand replacing the briefcase, and said, “Surfers; they’re so… sexy.”

“Obviously, then; you must surf.”

“She does.  Obviously.  Look, Alexander; you’re… (gesturing to include the gathering protesters) really into… all this.  Activist.  Good.  Good work.”

“Cynthia,” Ginny suddenly almost shouted at one of the young women painting signs.  “Cynthia!  Come here.”  Cynthia, who looked like she was about as close to Ginny, social clique-wise, as Alexander was to me; gave a half smile and approached us.  A bit chunky, Cynthia was wearing painters’ coveralls that, probably, didn’t help, chunkiness-wise; with a few bits of paint showing and one strap undone.  Cynthia had a red bandana around her neck, another, for some reason, around one thigh, and because the collar of the paint-splattered brown t-shirt she was wearing was stretched and loose, a bit of cleavage was showing.

“You know Alexander here, Cynthia?  Al?”  Cynthia looked up at him, he at her.  “He’s, yes, from Fallbrook; but he’s so passionate about peace.”

“You are?”

“I am.”

Passionate.

“I’m, um, painting some signs.  Over there.”  Cynthia pointed to a group of tables with more young women than young men.  Al Weston made a fist, looked at Cynthia, looked at Virginia Cole, looked back at Cynthia, then back at me.  “Gotta go, Brain.  Peace.”

“Yeah.”

Alexander and Cynthia practically skipped toward their fellow activists.  “I was, uh, very mean to Cynthia,” Ginny said.  Once.  Only once.  She got even with me.  If you saw the yearbook photos of me…”

Ginny made the ugliest expression she was capable of, pushing her nose down, crossing her eyes.  Still beautiful.

“If I hadn’t gotten into surfing, I’d probably be one of them,” I said.

Ginny looked at Cynthia and Alexander, back at me.  She rubbed her own chin, then mine.  Yes, I was trying, quite diligently, to grow some whiskers.  It wasn’t really working.  Peach fuzz, even that splotchy.  “I can see that, Brain DeFreines.”

Ginny started to unbutton her sweater, looked at me when one side was off her shoulder, whispered, “Skin,” pulled it back together, buttoned two buttons, and kissed me.  Once on the cheek.  She looked at the other students, the cooler ones, the ones only watching the protesters; then back at me.  She kissed me again, on the mouth. 

I was kind of happy she wasn’t better at kissing.  Better than me, of course.  I leaned in, my hand on her arm this time.  She didn’t move away. “For practice, Ginny,” I said as the wave of fog rolled over us, turning everything gray.  I said “Ginny” again, for practice.

“Joey,” she said.

YEAH, I have a better ending for the way shorter version; for the book. “Swamis.”

AND, incidentally, I’m not sure what to call it when you wait around for the right tide, get your wetsuit on because there are some weak waves, paddle out and… nothing. I guess it’s called PRACTICE. No, that’s what I call riding really small waves. PADDLING. Yeah. Not nearly as much fun as surfing.

Darryl Wood hits and Outtakes

First, I would like to thank Darryl Wood’s daughter, Kaylee, for spreading the word that my site has several posts about the legendary surfer of the Strait and the Pacific Northwest. Darryl was the first surfer I met when I moved up here from San Diego. In order to get to our jobs in Bremerton, Darryl a Union Carpenter and me a Civil Service painter, we were both forced to ride a passenger-only ferry when part of the Hood Canal Floating Bridge broke off and sank, Tuesday, February 13, 1979. The state set up the route across the canal in about a week, I met Darryl on, I estimate, checking with my googled calendar, on Monday, February 19, instantly discovered we both surfed, and on Saturday, February 24, I was bobbing around at a break I still am not supposed to name, California wax on my sister Melissa’s board, the only one I had left, wearing a diving wetsuit, no gloves, no hood; my board popping up and away when I tried to sit on it, and the waves so steep, the drop so quick, the wetsuit so ridiculously ungainly, my body so frozen that, despite being 27 years old and a pretty decent surfer, I was unable to pop up as I dropped in.

Sign of things to come.

I’m pretty sure Kaylee’s checking out my site is somehow connected to her father’s birthday, which is on St. Patrick’s Day or fairly close to it. It’s always a pleasure for me to run into or talk to Darryl. Is he, as Kaylee asked, the quintessential Pacific Northwest badass? Yes. Is he a real surfer? Definitely.

ANYWAY, I’m pushing through on polishing and editing “SWAMIS.” If writers say the story leads them, rather than that they write and somehow control the story, I would have to agree. It seems my novel is getting a bit more romantic (and I kind of squirm just typing that). The relationship between Jody DeFreines and Ginny Cole is, in the constant editing/thinking/writing/rewriting process, getting, slight squirm, fleshed-out.

I was pretty happy with the way a chapter was going, set up, dialogue, action, ending; and I was left with this. Some of the exposition would be helpful later, and I hate, as always, to just toss out… yeah, word retentive. SO, here is an outtake from the third night class Ginny and Jody are in together:

GINNY WOULD, according to the plan, earn her Associates Degree at Palomar in a year and a half, transfer to a four-year university, most probably U.C.S.D., still nearby, in La Jolla (above Black’s beach); and she would become an accountant, like her father; with her own office, like her father.

“And vote Republican, like my father.”  Evidently imitating her father, Ginny said, “If Goldwater’d been elected, Hanoi’d be a big-ass hole.”  In her own voice she added, “Big ass hole,” then looked to see if I thought that was important or interesting or amusing.  I did.

I asked her why she didn’t seem to have to go to her dad’s office, “to get a feel; do some accounting, some math shit.”

She said her father had told her “there’s plenty of time for work, for that boring shit.”

David Cole and Glor were fine with her surfing, she said, even with her hanging out with surfer boys, with her dawn-patrolling with Wally’s crew.  “My dad does Wally’s books,” she said, “everybody’s books, actually, but he says Wally’s smart; smart enough to wholesale all his pots rather than trying to go through flea markets and…  Smart. Besides, he has a son my age and…”

“And?”

“Yeah; and…  And they either figure I’m some sort of lesbian; or they figure I learned something from my older sister.  Caroline’s her name; not that you’ll remember.  She’s what my… our Real Mom calls…”

“Judith. Your real mom, Caroline your sister.”

“Yeah.  Judith says polite society would call her, Caroline, ‘boy crazy.’  Glor has called her ‘a wanton slut.’  Couple of times.  She, Caroline, got PG, preggo, pregnant… senior year.  ‘Got herself knocked up’ as Glor would, and did say.  She, Caroline, wasn’t showing, so she did get to go to the graduation.  San Dieguito, huh?  That shit doesn’t happen in Fallbrook.”

Of course, it did.  “No; boy craziness, wanton sluttiness, and preggo-ness; not allowed.  It’s all in there with the dress code.  No hats, no facial hair or hair over the ears for boys.  For girls it’s, there’s a minimum skirt length on dresses.  They will measure, girls on their knees, pervert teachers with rulers.  Really.  Two inches, I think.  Oh, and it’s dresses only; no jeans, no slacks, no culottes, no pregnancies.”

“Wait, Junior; no culottes?”

“No, Virginia Cole, no culottes.”

“My sister should have gone there, huh?”

“Caroline.”

“Correct.”

“Swamis” is Out There… somewhere

In the end, I just hit “send.” So, yeah, my first submission to a publisher is in the cosmic cloud, the ether; en route or already in England, sitting in the electronic in-box, just waiting to be hit upon. It’s a package, put together by their guidelines. Here is part of the package, my verbose answer to… you can just read it.

Erwin A. Dence, Jr.    Writers write, right?

“Swamis” is the novel it has taken me sixty-nine years to write, writing being the attempt to organize, or transfer, or translate random experiences and chaotic thought into some sort of comprehensible narrative; and then to edit the dogshit out of first and second and third drafts, cut out characters and side stories because they don’t move the plot, sacrifice lyrically flowing passages for something clearer; trade real or imagined cleverness for clarity.

The manuscript has become my main obsession; “Swamis” has become its own creature. I cannot write anything new without going back to ensure it is supported by everything written before it, and, when I’m not writing, whether awake or, increasingly, asleep, I cannot help thinking of subtle plot points, or little changes in dialogue that just might make the novel better.

The first time I made it to ‘the end,’ I celebrated my genius, briefly, then sent copies of the unexpurgated version to people I trust, readers and writers. Flaws in structure and logic and style were pointed out. I have taken (most of) the feedback to heart. The current version is so(oo-oo) ‘mainstream’ in comparison to the manuscript copyrighted in 2020.  

The creature has to stand on its own. I have staked a lot of what I have hoped my future in writing might be on this novel; however, I’ve never made a living writing, and I do want to hold onto some part of what I believe to be (or consider to be, or hope is) my voice.

I have a website (blog, if you insist), realsurfers.net. I started it as a memoir, stories of surfing in Southern California in the sixties and seventies. Because I have had a second life as a surfer in the Pacific Northwest, because it provides a platform on which to display my art and writing, because I just can’t help but write some commentary on shit going on in the real world, realsurfers (the material, not the web site- one page, scroll down) has evolved. 

Some outtakes from “Swamis” have appeared on realsurfers.net.

I currently write a column for the monthly, online “Quilcene Community Center Newsletter,” mostly optimistic pieces in the town I’ve lived in for the last forty-plus years; and I did have a (paid- $30 each) column in a weekly paper, “The Port Townsend Leader,” for about ten years. “So, Anyway…” was a take on life from the perspective of a blue collar family man. While most of the posts were semi-humorous and self-deprecating, having that platform gave me the opportunity to cover serious events including 9/11 and several financial downturns, again, from the working man’s perspective. I also felt compelled to write a few memorials on local people who passed on, and who otherwise might not have had their story told or their significance pointed out.      

Having a backstory for even peripheral characters in “Swamis” is important to me. I would like to present each of them as real, flawed, damaged. There are, possibly, probably too many side stories, too much exposition; these can be cut out, cut back, or simplified. 

I have written some poetry (“Reflections” was edited by “Surfer” magazine creator John Severson and published in 1968- I was seventeen, republished in 40th anniversary anthology); many short stories, some of which I put together and copyrighted as “Mistaken for Angels;” a collection of lyrics for thirty-seven songs, copyrighted as “Love Songs for Cynics.” I have written several screenplays, including “Inside Break,” “Definitely Not Dylan,” and “Near Life.” 

In one of my dream scenarios, aided by my tendency to imagine and remember words and scenes visually, I can visualize “Swamis” as a limited series. I have had several limited brushes with Hollywood.

“At That Moment” (originally titled, “Moment of Death”) was my second (attempt at a) novel.  The first hundred pages were double-spaced on a word processor, the next so many on a typewriter, the last pages in longhand, carrots and line-throughs and scribbles and all. 

Through my work as a painting contractor, I ran into a legitimate Hollywood producer. He sent “At That Moment” to an agent, who said the author is “A diamond in the rough.” Rough. This almost-connection meant, according to the producer, that if I had an idea for a screenplay, someone would read it. Hollywood-speak.

“Near Life” was my idea; a takeoff on the ‘near death experience.’ I worked on the treatment and screenplay in coordination with the Hollywood producer, and, after a short time, did not recognize what I had envisioned as a fairly simple story. 

Nevertheless, the screenplay was almost sold. The producer was waiting for an imminent call from John Travolta’s people, while I tried to concentrate on painting trim while… waiting. The difference between ‘almost’ and ‘sold’ is I am still painting houses. 

Not a bad career; you can see the results; and, if there’s a problem, it is usually solved with another coat of paint. There is a phase in the process, going around and around the house or office, touching up.  I refer this to the ‘tightening-up phase.’

I have self-published two books, “Washington State Ain’t No Fit Place to Live,” subtitled “If It Ain’t Raining the Bugs Are Eating You Alive,” complete with a cover featuring a couple posing, before and, on the back, after the eruption of Mount Saint Helens. The other book was a collection of columns entitled, “So, Anyway, So Far.” In both cases, I was successful as a publisher, not so much as the writer/illustrator. 

I came up with a cartoon strip, “Boomers.” I drew forty or more strips, wrote out the ideas and punchlines for many more. This led, after multiple phone calls, to a meeting with the cartoon editor of the “Seattle Times,” my wife and a child or two waiting in the car. I was told no one was really interested in baby boomers; that, yes it was funny, cartoon strip funny, and… good luck. A few months later, the (Pulitzer Prize winning) editorial cartoonist for the then-rival “Seattle Post Intelligencer” came out with a strip entitled, “Boomer’s Song.” It didn’t last very long.

“Swamis” is well along in the ‘tightening-up’ phase.  Thank you for your time and consideration.    

OBVIOUSLY I insist on taking my own course in things. SHIT, why do I do that? I have listened to feedback from folks who have read parts of earlier versions of “Swamis,” prompting me to make the book more linear, more mainstream. STILL, I remain stubbornly committed to keeping as many of the little snapshots of side characters in the manuscript. MY relentless review and edit process has brought out some subtleties in plot and character I just had to pursue; and, so far, for everything I cut, I add a bit of color or clarity to the part I’m polishing; and I keep thinking I can trim a few words later; and yet, the length, which I would love to have at exactly 120,000 words, just keeps holding steady at an additional three thousand.

AND NOW I get to wait for some answer from the great out there. Time. Waiting. Craziness plus… no, I have stuff to do. The buoys are still down around in the northwest surf zone, so I don’t have those to check out numerous times a day. Okay, it’s been an hour or so since I hit “send,” I should check my e-mails.

The Mythical Combination Swell

I was not alone in getting skunked on a recent Saturday. In fact, it was like a skunk fest. I hung out in a parking area while some surfers left, others came, others continued to hang out. Hanging out. More hanging out. Even more hanging out. Was I the victim of bad judgment, poor reading of the tea leaves, mismanagement of my relatively few opportunities to devote way too much of a day to something like hanging out, did I believe in the possibility that a ‘combo swell’ might bring waves to my chosen destination despite a history of being let down by the more-theory-than-evidence-based fact of a combo swell? YES.

This possibly secret spot is actually in New Zealand. Note the lack of booties, gloves, hoods. Wow, must be warm water.

And it’s not like I don’t know how to hang out, northwest style; acting all cool and all; it’s just that I tend to run out of coolness after a few minutes of hanging out.

Yes, I greeted some of the surfers I know from past skunkings, figured out Ian might just be the longboarder who actually goes for outside waves, asked his girlfriend, Veronica, if I ever burned her in the water. No (according to her). I asked Cole if he owns property up the hill, (info I got, via cell phone call, from another surfer who may have scored earlier in the week). No, but a friend of his does; the house I had heard of evidently really more like a carport or one of those mountain shelters for hikers. I listened to a story by a non-surfer, Mo, about a couple of incidents in Port Angeles in which cops were called. Mo couldn’t believe I had only been in one fistfight in my life. “Wanna try, Mo?” No. Before Reggie, who had been there four hours already, left, I met Reggie’s friend, Brickie, who I had, evidently, met before (but in the water, so it doesn’t count). I accepted a raw oyster from Nam. I told Sara she never needed to apologize to me for any incidents in the water (which seemed to lead others to believe they also might not have to apologize for burnings, drop-ins, in-the-ways. No, I didn’t mean them. It was one incident). I strolled through the parking area. Lots of city escapees, three red four-wheel-drive VWs with various numbers of bikes on racks. Still no waves. Then I took a nap, sitting up, in my car. Twenty minutes or so. I woke up, still no waves. I had to get on with real life.

I texted one of my surfing friends on my way back home. “Fuck a bunch of combo swell” Smile emoji.

“I’ll make up for this next time,” I told myself at the third to last stoplight in Port Angeles. Next time. And I will; or I did; can’t talk about it.

Durn. I wanted to talk about secret spots, and now I have to get going. Next time.

Desperate for a Little Getaway?

I write a monthly piece for the Quilcene Community Center Newsletter. Occasionally I post it here. Here’s the latest, with a lot of help from Trish:

                                DESPERATE FOR A GETAWAY? THE OLYMPIC PENINSULA AWAITS

Trish is helping me on this. Since I was desperately late, as usual, in getting my submission ready (and I have a reason, more an excuse, that I will spare you from), I asked my long, long-suffering wife for a topic.

“Spring?” “Yeah, yeah; what about it?”

“Well, how about that there have been three police chases in Jefferson County in the last three weeks, each with speeds over one hundred miles an hour, and your wife and daughter almost got killed during one of them?”

“Yeah, well; maybe.” “I’ll look up everything for you.” “Okay… honey.”

So, I wake up this morning, the last day of February, and there are three newspapers on my chair and a big, long text message on my phone. Now, I had offered to set up a word document on the computer to save Trisha’s fingers, but she declined.

But first, I feel I must explain a Pursuit Intervention technique (PIT) maneuver. First I had to google it, then, to fully understand, Youtube it. Wow! For those without Youtube… wait, you’re reading this on a computer, so… Anyway, the pursuing police vehicle kind of gently nudges one of the sides at the back of the fleeing vehicle, usually causing that vehicle to lose control, but, evidently, this doesn’t mean the desperado actually stops.

I figure you already know about spike strips across the road in front of the getaway car, and, since Trish isn’t really big on my mansplaining stuff, and I just looked up myself… again, sparing you.

So, here’s what I have on my phone:

“3 chases through Jefferson County in 2 weeks.

“FEB 11: afternoon, 2 men were being chased after trying to get forged prescriptions filled in Port Hadlock. Down 19 to 104. ACROSS THE BRIGDE AND FLYING OFF, WITH YOUR DAUGHTER AND WIFE COMING FROM PORT GAMBLE HEADING TO HWY 3. WIFE YELLING AT DRU TO STOP WHEN THE getaway CAR IS HEADING ONTO 3, IN FRONT OF THEM. THEN A WSP CROSSED STRAIGHT AND ALMOST INTO THEM (FROM WHERE HE WAS WAITING FOR THE CROOKS ON THE EDGE OF THE BRIDGE), ANOTHER SCREAM FROM TRISH TO STOP. SPIKE STRIPS FROM KITSAP LAW ENFORCEMENT CAUSED THEM TO GO OFF THE ROAD AND HIT A TREE.

“FEB. 21 AT 2 IN THE MORNING, DRIVER GOING AT SPEEDS OF UP TO 100 MPH BEING CHASED BY JEFF CO. S. O. CAME INTO QUIL FROM DISCOVERY BAY WHERE SPIKE STRIPS HAD BEEN PLACED AT LORDS LAKE ROAD, DRIVER KEPT GOING UNTIL HITTING MORE STRIPS AROUND MP 295. 3 DIFFERENT PIT MANEUVERS. HE CRASHED INTO A YARD, TRIED RUNNING, BUT THE DEPUTIES ARRESTED HIM.

“FEB. 25TH, MORNING. DRIVER WAS BEING CHASED BY WSP STARTING OUTSIDE OF SEQUIM, GOING EAST ON HWY 101, WHEN HIGH SPEEDS UP TO 100 & RECKLESS DRIVING CAUSED WSP TO TERMINATE THE CHASE. JEFFERSON COUNTY SHERIFF’S DEPUTIES PICKED UP THE CHASE UP TO HWY 104 WHERE, A QUARTER MILE UP, STRIPS WERE PLACED. DRIVER’S VEHICLE HAD FLAT TIRES BUT CONTINUED ON WHEN QUILCENE’S HOMEGROWN DEPUTY ADAM NEWMAN AND DEPUTY CORONADO SUCCESSFULLY PERFORMED A PIT MANEUVER AT MILEPOST 7. DRIVER REFUSED TO LEAVE VEHICLE AND DEPUTIES HAD TO BREAK HIS WINDOW TO GET HIM OUT. HE WAS arrested on numerous charges.”

Wow! I mean, whoa! The all caps just added to the excitement; kind of glad Trish switched back at the end; gives the reader a chance to catch his or her (or my) breath. It was, I thought, a nice touch to include Adam Newman. He went all through Quilcene schools with our kids (he was in Sean’s class), and, in the several discussions I’ve had with him (no tickets, yet, from him), I have come to believe he doesn’t seem to mind ticketing or arresting people he knows, “if they do something stupid or illegal,” he loves driving fast, and is familiar and comfortable enough with me to ask a question like, “So, do you just throw paint on the side of your vehicles?” “Sort of.” “Okay then, Big Er.”

Trish and I did chaperone many activities when our kids were in school. There I go again with the mansplaining.

Here’s some more. Skipping it is forgivable:

Trish had to explain the near-death incident at the east end of the Hood Canal Bridge to me several times. Dru was driving from her house in Port Gamble, heading toward Poulsbo. They got to the traffic light. Dru thought she was being pulled over by a WSP vehicle, but it pulled into the merging lane, leaving her first in line at the light. She started to go when her mother yelled for her to stop (like, “STOP!”) because Trish observed the vehicles on the bridge were pulling over as the suspect rig came speeding toward them at high speed. Dru slammed on the breaks. Zoom! The desperado turned right onto Highway 3. So, since the light turned green again, and wanting to be ahead of the bridge traffic, Dru starts going again. “NO!” Breaks slammed again. This time the WSP guy jams in front of them and joins the pursuit. The suspect went off the road somewhere on our side of the Big Valley Road. Trish got to see part of that while Dru, I’m guessing, kept her eyes on the road.

Yeah, Trish told it better- way more exciting.

So, yeah; Spring is coming, I’m scheduled (thanks to Trish and Dru) to get my first inoculation some time this week at a drive-thru dealie in Port Townsend. I’m not really clear on the details; Trish will have to explain it to me when it gets closer. Probably several times.

Stay safe out there.

At one hundred miles per hour, you may prefer one of these rigs. Note the empty surfboard racks. “Wait there, yellow car; you’re kinda crowding me here.”

SO, I did get my first inoculation, yesterday afternoon. Since I didn’t cry, I guess I’m ready for a tattoo. Maybe later.

ON “SWAMIS” NEWS, and I know you care; I’m just trying to get some illustrations together to include with my submission package, and then, off to a publisher and wait… and wait. INCIDENTALLY, I submitted my (our) newsletter piece early Sunday. Trish called me up a bit later in the day, said there was no news from the Community Center folks. “Oh,” I asked, “does that make you a bit… anxious?” “A little.” “Crazy.” “No.” “Well, that’s what it’s like being a writer. You send stuff off, you have no control, you don’t know what’s happening; you have second thoughts, you thinking, ‘oh, maybe I just suck at this,’ and…” “I have to go.”

We got word back the next morning. “Yea, Trish; nice to have a writer in your family.”

MEANWHILE, here’s what we’re working on now (that is I’m working on this, with input from conversations with my surf friends- you might be one of them): ONE, the difference between ‘dismissive’ and ‘deferential;’ TWO, the question of whether or not an awesome ride you got without any witnesses actually counts, or actually even happened; THREE, is it better to burn a surfer you know or one you don’t know? FOUR, should I fucking worry about books centering around or containing a certain amount of surf-related… stuff, probably, even most-likely doggerel, pedestrian, cliche’-ridden crap with stilted dialogue and unrealistic and exaggerated surf sequences and characters that are just… I mean, should I?

No, and yet I do. Crazy. Okay, now I’m thinking about ONE, from above. Do you know a group, the members of which are EVEN MORE dismissive of others than surfers? Yeah, musicians. Yeah, chefs. Yeah… wait, pretty much anyone who is real at what they do, or believe they are real. Yes, there was an incident; and maybe I shouldn’t have said, “Oh, you’re a musician but you can’t perform right now. So, why don’t people just start with what they really do for a living? Example; I’m a house painter, but, in my mind…” That’s when I found out the person I was speaking with was actually a musician and a trustafarian.

None of that craziness, or my reacting to someone saying, “Oh, you’re writing a book. I seems like everyone in Port Townsend is writing a book. Steve (the building maintenance man and another possible trust baby) is writing a book;” with, “Fuck him.” Not nice. AND I did ask Steve about his book. No surfing, but definitely crazy stuff. “Good luck, Steve. Want to hear about my book?”

Dismissive. OH, and since I’ve gone this far, no I didn’t look to see if new guy to a familiar lineup JAMES was already on the wave. Guess I assumed he wasn’t. Sorry, man. OOPS, got into number THREE, from above; but here’s a quote I got from TOM BURNS: “If I don’t know you, I don’t owe you.” Yeah, Tom; that’s the problem; I just know too many real surfers.

REALNESS. Realsurfers keep it real, and no, if no one saw your awesome ride; it doesn’t really count. Except to you. Then, yeah.

Easter Vacation, 1969, and there’s a story

Now, of course, it’s Spring Break, dropping Jesus out of it. I’m not arguing that, in a secular society, it is appropriate. Probably not at Church Schools. Some church schools. Anyway, it seems I had a lot of things happening on Spring/Easter vacations. Including this one; my family, plus my girlfriend, Trish, out at Borrego Springs, dirt-biking it.

me, Trish, my Dad with his usual look, two of my three brothers Jon and Philip, with theirs. Note the surfbump on my knee.

More later, maybe, on this; but, briefly, my parents had to go back to Fallbrook because one of my three sisters had some kind of (and this frequently happened on family outings- Mary Jane stepping on a stingray, for example) medical issue, chickenpox or something, and my youngest brother had some sort of issue with the rest of us, held us at bay with a 26 ounce coke bottle until Trish took it away from him. Then he sulked. Anyway, this is where I decided I was fine with dirt-biking, but after hitting a side wind at 70 miles an hour, I would take my chances with rocks and shorebreaks.

I just received this photo from my older sister, Suellen; so, I haven’t seen it for fifty-some years.

As a thank you (and hopefully she considers it as such), I sent Suellen my many-times-edited synopsis for “Swamis,” part of a submission package that is now, so very close to being ready to send off; this with me thinking of new chapters for the book. No, no. Spring break, good time to go surfing, perhaps. I have a couple of stories of surf trips to Baja. Soon.

Happy Spring!