Wait; It’s that close to Christmas? Ow!

Hey, it’s December tenth. This is when, traditionally, I seem to run out of painting work. Not always a joyous thing.

I got laid off from a temporary position with the Civil Service on December tenth. It was a reduction-in-force in Civilservicespeak. RIF. I had reluctantly gone back to work painting for the feds after a two year separation due to my desire to hit the big time as a contractor; a career move with a shaky start (and why I gave up on big-time commercial projects- not a shark, stay out of the shark tank) that cost me dearly (five months working for free, loss of retirement drawn out, first time dealing with real depression, blah, blah); though I did lose a lot of weight.

Yeah, but that was twenty-five years ago or so. I’ve gained all the weight back. And, yes, then some; but I was really pissed-off because they, supposedly, kept employees with special skills. I was pretty much the only classically-trained and the most skilled sign painter, but never did learn the most important Civil Service skill.

I’d tell you what it is, but you might think I’m KISSING UP.

Another December 10th it was announced by one of the main general contractors that I worked for that he wasn’t receiving all the money from a project he had asked and planned for, and he was going to share that misfortune with his subcontractors. Joy.

There are other examples, and, maybe, like saying the surf has always been good on Thanksgiving, I’m using the date as a sort of marker of all the DOWNSIDES OF THE SEASON; the reason people celebrate the various holidays in the darkest days of the year. Yea, we’re alive!

ALL THIS, really, just got rolling out of my fingers as I wanted to write something about how I don’t have HOLIDAY GREETING CARDS ready to sell at TYLER MEEKS’ DISCO BAY OUTDOOR EXCHANGE.

I’ve been busy. But, here are a couple of examples of cards. If I get my job finished early enough I might have some time to get to the printers. I’ll let you know.

Image (3)

Available soon. Shit, I have to get going so I can finish up another job. MEANWHILE, best to you, including some waves. I hear they’re, traditionally, good this time of year.

Advertisements

It’s not an Oyster, it’s a tag

I drew up several versions of a price tag for my t-shirts and illustrations available at Tyler Meeks’ DISCO BAY OUTDOOR EXCHANGE. I don’t think this looks like an oyster, or, maybe, an abalone shell, but Trish does.

Image (99)

And I don’t know if coloring it in helps make it less shell-like. Here’s the other version, not yet colored-in.

Image (101)

Hey, check out “Swami’s” the novel, a few scrolls and finger-rolls down. I’m working on it. Well, when I get a chance. Thanks.

A Few New Tees A Few Good Waves

I picked up some tee shirts at DL LOGOS in Port Townsend yesterday. The outfit is run by Dwane and Loren (oh, that’s why it’s DL), and they have what I (having worked in several sign shops), a fan of such places, consider a pretty cool shop.

Rather than the smell of heavy and toxic chemicals (lacquer thinner, paint, methyl ethyl ketone), it is one, warm, due to the fact that the inks need the heat to dry, and, two, has more of a plastic-y smell. It’s similar to the smell of a toy, from some years ago, that enabled kids to melt plastic around all kinds of shapes.

One of the guys, D or L, and I went through the boxes of leftover or extra tee shirts a week or so ago, got a selection of sizes and colors. From the first batch of shirts I learned that not everyone wants a L, XL, or XXL; so I got some smalls and a few more mediums.

SO, after I kept a couple for gifts, one for myself, sold some shirts to friends, one to a woman on the job I was working on, there are now less available at TYLER MEEKS’ DISCO BAY OUTDOOR EXCHANGE.

AND, rather oddly enough, as the first potential buyers were going through the selection, I realized I was a little reluctant to let the shirts in the coolest colors go; mostly because the next potential customers couldn’t see how cool they were. Mine, in, yes, the XXL, is on a sort of forest green, and, yeah, it’s fine, but in maroon…

Image (98)

Whoa!

I am working on some seasonal, surf-related cards, and, with the knowledge I’m getting from actually producing and trying to market art and products (and throwing in that I enjoy the hell out of the whole process), I will be doing more shirts soon.

Here’s are the first shirts, a black and white version of one of two new designs for tags I’m working on, and an illustration that probably won’t make it to ORIGINAL ERWIN shirts.

Image (100)

The tag is the one on the bottom. I’ll add the color version soon.

“Swamis,” the novel, complete…

…to this point. I’ve been posting chapters; and, since they’re out of order, and because I’ve made changes pretty much any time I work on it; I’ve decided to delete some earlier posts and put the First Chapters here. Thank you to those who’ve waded into the story. I can’t guarantee that I won’t change the first 15,000 words as I figure out for myself who killed Jody’s father, Chulo Lopez, and Gingerbread Fred. I have some ideas.

Again, though I’ve incorporated people and events from my past, from this time period, this is fiction. Yeah; pretty much.

Thanks for reading.

Image (92)

SWAMIS        A novel by Erwin A. Dence, Jr.

PART ONE- TOO MUCH EXPOSITION

MONDAY, JUNE 9, 1969- PERIPHERAL VISION

Almost leaping from stair to stair, I was looking at the water, the fuzzy horizon, the lines; counting, then recounting the surfers already in the water; trying to beat any other surfers who missed the true dawn patrol. Swamis was, finally, it seemed, breaking; tide dropping; swell, hopefully, increasing. It would get crowded.

Two surfers were walking from halfway up the point, along the water’s edge. I wasn’t focused on them; they were shapes, so familiar; surfer and board, nose-up or nose-down, more-or-less crosses in the grainy light, the shadows of the bluff. One was walking faster, trying to catch up. “June,” I heard, or thought I heard; then, more like a question, “Junipero?” Then, closer to the guy in front of him; “Jumper.”

“Jumper,” I thought. Jumper. Now I almost focused.

Almost. It was a moment, still just a moment, between a surfer reaching for, and touching the other man’s shoulder- it was Sid, reaching; Sid, a locally-known surfer; Surfboards Hawaii team rider; known to thrash his boards; known to take on crazy waves, to burn valley cowboys and out-of-town surfers, even Orange County magazine surf stars down to trade crowded beach breaks for a chance at Swamis point break magic- Sid, featured in a small, grainy, black and white ad in “Surfer” magazine.

I must have blinked. Sid was flat-out, on his back, parallel to that line where the sand turned hard with the receding tide. His board was floating in the shallows, Jumper’s board pressed, nose-first, to his neck; Jumper’s foot on his chest.

Jumper. Fucking Jumper. Jumper Hayes. He was back in town, back at Swamis.

maxresdefault

……………………………………………..Backspace

If we could just ‘backspace’ time ten seconds, not all the time, but for those moments we witnessed but couldn’t immediately process. Maybe ‘replay’ is more accurate. Ten seconds.

Fifty years gone, I’m trying to replay moments, bits and fragments and images and strings; strings of time; so many strings; some tangled, some free.

Oh, I broke free of the North County scene years ago; lost my contacts, forgot names, confused and overlapped stories from Grandview and Pipes and Cardiff Reef. I do still remember specific rides among thousands; remember, almost precisely, the times I was injured; held down, hit the bottom, was hit by someone else’s board; but, and I’ve tried, I can’t remember Sid’s last name.

But I remember Jumper.

In another moment, with me even with them, trying to be cool, to not look, both surfers were sitting on Jumper’s board. Peripheral vision. No, probably did turn my head. Never was cool.

Jumper’s hair was shorter than mine, but, even with the patchy start of a beard; he was still recognizable, the same guy from, probably, four years earlier, back when I was just switching from surf mats to boards; back when he caught any wave he wanted any time he showed up.  The Army or prison; stories about his disappearance varied; rumors among high school friends who quoted various upper classmen, scattered pieces from other people’s beachfire conversations.

“I heard he moved to Hawaii,” or, “No, Buttwipe; Australia. Or New Zealand.” Or, “Chicago.” “No fucking way.”  “San Francisco, then.” “Nooooo.”

Then someone would go into a Jumper surf impression, with play-by-play commentary, on any nearby surfboard; Right arm back, elbow cocked, hand like a conductor’s, flowing with the up-and-down movements on the imagined wave; subtle, the left arm lower, hand out flat; punctuated with, rather than the classic cross step to the nose, the quick shuffle, the jump; then a crouch and a shift to a more parallel stance, right hand in the wave, left hand grabbing the outside rail. Twist, weight forward; the fin would pop out of the sand.

“Island pullout.”

Someone else would repeat the performance, only, left foot on the tip in a solid five, upper torso shifting to face the wave, arms spreading wide; he would pull the skeg, make the rotation, yell, “Standing island pullout”, and shuffle back on the board, casually drop to his knees, ready to paddle out.

Yes, I participated in this. Yes, I tried to develop that “Jumper” conductor-dancer flow on my skateboard, pivoting, slaloming down my block, on inland hills, miles from the ocean. I had a long enough board, eventually, to go with the cross step; more like Phil Edwards, Micki Dora.

Style.

Jumper was probably my second surf hero. Maybe third. Heroes dominated lineups. Kooks and kids gave way, gave waves, watched them, always trying to stay out of the way.  Now this same Jumper was, quite possibly, crying, one hand on Sid’s shoulder, one of Sid’s on his. It was Sid who looked around at me with a ‘fuck off’ look.

Peripheral. No, I’d looked back.

I looked away, kept walking.  Still only a short distance away, I did what every surfer does, and always has; studied the ocean for a moment before committing; disciple before the alter.

When I looked back, from out in the water, from my lineup, the inside lineup, Sid and Jumper were half way up the stairs. Sid was one step ahead, one above. When two guys came down, Sid, probably because he didn’t know them, or because he did, made the down-stair surfers split up and go around.  Jumper moved behind Sid’s block.

A set approached. Surfers, who had been straddling their boards in the lull, dropped to prone, started paddling. At this tide, some of the waves from the outside peak were still connecting all the way through. The first one didn’t; the surfer on it lost behind a section. Two surfers went for the shoulder as I stroked past. The second wave swung wide, peaked-up on the inside. I had it to myself; another takeoff, drop, turn, cutback, back and forth to the inside inside, fitting my board into and through that last little power pocket, peeling over the palm of the finger slabs that opened to the sea. A little standing island pullout into the swampy grass. Swamis.

1948-Noahs-Ark-Cafe

TUESDAY, JUNE 24- PEACE AND FREEDOM AND REVOLUTION

If the Noah’s Ark trailer park wasn’t still there, there on the north end of Leucadia, yet another trailer park squatted up against yet another bluff along 101, protected from the south winds; if it wasn’t still there in 1969; it had been there on those trips with my family, down the coastal route to San Diego.

I understand there’s a jetty there now; Ponto.

I also can’t clearly remember if the fields north of Grandview, the original Grandview, the fields along those bluffs, were fields of tomatoes or strawberries. I know there were no houses. There were the Leucadia greenhouses, closer to the highway, in among the eucalyptus trees. Flowers. It was what Leucadia was known for. Poinsettias.

Maybe not these particular greenhouses.

Turning off 101, I drove past several. One, and this had been pointed out to me by more than one of my high school surfing buddies, belonged to the family of Jumper Hayes. On this morning, still dark, what the forecasters called ‘early morning and evening overcast,’ or ‘June gloom’ hanging on, almost misty; I saw Jumper’s old pickup, almost-flat paint a weird shade of green in the light of the yard lamp, parked outside one of the greenhouses. Only the tail, fin over the tailgate, showed this farm rig was a surfer’s vehicle.

I gave myself a bit of a self-congratulatory nod, a quick smack on the shifter, three-on-the-tree; double-clutched down to second, gunned it.

It had become my workday predawn move, up and down Neptune, checking out Grandview, Beacons, Stone Steps; possibly surfing whichever one had a more consistent peak. Or a peak at all.  If it was bigger, big enough, I would push the fourth-hand Falcon station wagon farther, along the bluff, passing the increasingly-fancy houses blocking any view of the water, to another low point between the bluffs, Moonlight beach. Rarely surfed there.  I’d then go up, cruising past even fancier homes, then around the thick white walls and the gold bulbs of the Self Realization compound, the reason Swamis is named Swamis, to Swami’s Point.

The little park once had an official name, Seacliff Park, I think; long since replaced. Swamis.

Or, depending on my hours; when I got off work I would turn onto 101 at Cardiff reef, pass the state park, try to get a glimpse of Swamis over the guardrail. If it was breaking big enough, you could see it. I would hit the parking lot and get out. Even if it wasn’t breaking, even in the dark, I’d check the view from Boneyards, the outside, then the inside break, past what my high school friends and I called Swamis Beachbreak, on, to and beyond Pipes and its namesake galvanized culverts, still shiny at that time, protruding fifteen feet or so out of the sandstone bluffs.

Maybe there’d be some last-lighters, still hanging in the parking lot; their stories of new and past glories punctuated with a hoot or a laugh; headlights and streetlights in a descending darkness and a dim glow from the horizon.

Swamis was where I wanted to surf. June gloom or bright offshore glare; breaking or not. What I felt, and was totally aware of feeling, was that my choice of route and destination was mine, mine alone; that I was pretty fuckin’ close to being free.

Within reason, of course.

Dp2HgvXW4AAoCNZ

………………………………..SO FUCK-ING COOL, MAN

For a short period of time, but right about this time; well past ‘groovy,’ way past anyone remotely cool (or young) calling anyone a ‘Hippie,’ I made the adjustment, from ‘fuckin’, dropping the ‘ing,’ to Fuck-ing, emphasis on the ‘ing.’ This was after running into a guy, Gordie, from my high school, at a liquor store in Vista. He now, suddenly, sporting long hair (longer- Fallbrook had a dress code and we’d just graduated), parted in the middle (of course), and clothing that denied his quite-upper class upbringing. “So fuck-ing cool, man. We just don’t fuck-ing see each other, man; like, like we used to.” And he was, obviously, stoned, an even more-stoned girl, possibly still in high school, headband, boutique-chic top, nodding, eyes unable to focus, next to him. Gordie put a hand on my shoulder. I looked at his hand, put my package of Hostess donettes and quart of milk on the counter, pointed to a pack of Marlboros, turned back to Gordie. He sort of gave me a look when I scooped up the cigarettes. “I know, man… Gordie; you probably don’t fuck-ing smoke… cigarettes.” He and the girl both giggled. So uncool. “Peace, man.”

Yeah, flipping the peace sign was, also, probably pretty much over.

On special occasions, perhaps; what we would only later refer to as ‘ironically.’

My relative freedom isn’t, perhaps, relevant to the story. Maybe it is; these were times when ‘freedom’ and ‘peace’ and ‘revolution’ were frequently used in the same sentence. For someone just out of high school, freshly moved to a house two blocks off of surf route fucking 101, someone working various shifts at a supermarket with a view of the ocean; joy and loneliness and a sense of being part of some grand mystery could all be felt in a very short span of time; and repeated, randomly.

Mysteries.

Why, I had been asking myself, did Sid call Jumper ‘June?’ June with a hard J; not a H sound. If his real name was, say, Jesus; well, anyone would instantly know better than to say Jesus, like Jesus Christ, but, rather, Hey-Seuss, like Hey, Doctor Seuss, dropping the ‘doctor.’

Mysteries ask to be solved. Beg, perhaps. Rumors. Surfing, waves, surfing waves well; that was a mystery. Board surfing was more than just drop in and hang on. Tamarack was obvious; one peak in front of the bathrooms on the bluff, a bit of a channel; a parking lot at beach level. Good place to learn; sit on the shoulder; wait, watch, study; move toward the peak; a bit closer with each session. Get yelled at; get threatened; learn.

Eventually, you would have to challenge someone for a wave.

………………………………………………..INLANDNESS

But there were always rumors of better waves, great waves, magical and secret spots, places uncool  freshmen kooks weren’t supposed to know about, weren’t supposed to show up at.

Grandview was fairly easy to find. There was a Grandview Street off 101 in Leucadia. Obvious. Still, when I showed up there with my friends, now sophomores, we got looks. Punks, Kooks; not ready for Grandview.  The hardest looks were from other San Marcos, Vista, Fallbrook, Escondido surfers; other inland cowboys.

Inlandness was, and still is, in direct proportion to distance from the coast. Where I lived, Fallbrook, we called Escondido Mexican-dido. That was, of course, insensitive. Maybe; but I understand Meth-condido has replaced it. Maybe some other pun has replaced that one. Don’t know.

As with, probably, anywhere, you had to persist. I did. As my contemporaries and I searched out new locations; San Onofre, occasionally Oceanside Pier; as some dropped surfing, traded it for parties fueled with liquor purchased by willing Marines (bribed with “I’ll buy if you fly”), marijuana bought from friends of friends, I had become another surf addict; and Grandview was still on my route.

By the end of my senior year, I had become accustomed to going surfing alone.

And now, here I was, almost recognized (not necessarily accepted) as a local, slipping and sliding down the more-sand-than-sandstone between houses, original Grandview, the real Grandview; and ahead of the ultimate local, back after four years or so away, Jumper Hayes.

Just ahead.

Peace and freedom and revolution.

nixon

THURSDAY, MARCH 13, 1969- SHERWOOD FOREST AND THE EMERALD CITY

I have to drop back for a moment. The story hinges on this. Chulo Lopez had been killed, murdered. His real name wasn’t Chulo; nickname; I can’t remember his real first name. It was in the paper, even on the San Diego TV news.  “Horrific” the studio commentator said.  “The San Diego County Sheriff’s Office reports Mister Lopez, a well-known surfer, was probably dead… probably… when his body was ‘posed’ against the thick white walls of the Self Realization Fellowship compound, doused with gasoline, and set ablaze. Set ablaze.” Ablaze.

The commentator’s face remained on the screen just a moment too long, mouthing ‘set ablaze’ with just a bit of a smile before a younger, hipper man appeared, turned toward the camera, swung his microphone close to his face. “It’s a frightening scene here in the North County,” he said.

The reporter stepped aside. The camera panned the crowd of surfers, non-surfers, behind the rope; some giving expressions of shock, others looking away. The angle slowly moved in, past the firefighters and cops, just milling about or talking in groups of two or three. The blackened areas on the white white stucco-over-brick walls formed a sort of outline, the darkness around a candle’s flame.

The TV camera followed the burn marks up to the gold bulbs atop the wall. There was a sort of symmetry, a repetition.  “Set ablaze.”

Chulo’s body, remains, had, of course, been gone long before the TV crew arrived.

My brother, at my mother’s insistence, had awakened me to watch the report on the late news. Channels 4, 8, and ten; those were our choices in the Fallbrook, several L.A. stations if someone climbed on the roof and moved the antenna. Since it was the lead story on each of the channels, my mom chose channel 8; the commentator was her favorite.

The camera panned the crowd.

I recognized a couple of the onlookers. Some were Surfers; some were Tourists, with an itinerary, beaches and Missions; San Diego, San Luis Rey, Capistrano; some were grown-up, Working People, taking a lunch break. Others were Hodads and/or part-time Hippies, interchangeable characters in proper hippie garb.

monk

May of 1966, in protest of corrupt Vietnamese Regime…

………………………………………IN THE SWAMIS PARKING LOT…

There always seemed to be a few of these folks hanging around, along with the ‘the Hippie Movement is dead, man’ Hippies. The Hodads and the ‘yeah, I used to surf; back in the old days’ Liars and legitimate Old Timers, were always ready to talk on and on about some past swell.

And there were the Jesus Freaks, most too young to have done the onerous deeds they seemed to be seeking salvation from; always asking, “Do you know Jesus?” “Yes,” I would always say. “Oh. Oh… (waiting for me to recant) great.” “Yeah. He is my personal redeemer and my salvation; my guide and my Lord.” At this point I would look up, extend and raise my hands, close my eyes.

Sometimes they would leave. “Oh. Can we pray together?” One of them (they usually travelled in twos) would eventually ask this.  I would act like I was thinking about it; then ask, “Isn’t religion a personal relationship between one and one’s God; or one’s non-god? Is there a group rate to heaven?”

Eventually most were out-freaked before I actually quoted scripture. This was good; I really only knew the easy verses, the hits; no deep cuts.

Still, the Jesus Freaks were way cooler than the old folks I went to church with; nodding and nodding off; and cooler than the Jehovah’s Witnesses, always ready to hand you a pamphlet selling something you were having too much fun to be interested in. I did once sell my backup board to one (or both) Mormons. The ties were pulled off; they were through evangelizing for the day.

And stoked to have a dinged-up board my dad got cheap from the impound room at Camp Pendleton. Trestles; one would be a fool to take a good board there.

I will tighten up my writing. Sorry; memories overlap like the old photos that didn’t make the album.

I have to admit I loved the parking lot scene; and that it was hard for a seventeen year old to compete with some epic swell story from some era one wasn’t part of. I certainly couldn’t; not stories with outsized characters and adventures. I always listened; the tales were always like myth, like magic; as if the coast was backed-up by Sherwood Forest and the Emerald City. Legends.

encinitas-self-realization-temple

……………………………………….GINGERBREAD FRED ON THE TELEVISION

One of those older characters, Gingerbread Fred to his friends, no shirt under a well-worn v neck sweater, who claimed to have surfed Tijuana Sloughs and Killer Dana and Mysto Breaks outside Windansea (verified, I was told, by ‘one of the Holders’), was selected for the on-air interview.

“Gingerbread Fred,” I said to my mom and my younger brother as the camera seemed to select him from the crowd. No shoes, no shirt under a well-worn v-necked sweater, almost-matching hand crocheted watchcap on his head, hair exploding from underneath it. The camera seemed to move in, then up to his face, some gray in his red beard.

“He claims to have surfed Tijuana Sloughs and Killer Dana, and some mysto breaks outside Windansea,” I said, not looking away from the TV. “It was verified, I’m told, by one of the Holders.”

“Okay” my mother and brother both said.

“I just saw the flame, man; it was so, um, uh, intense. You know?” His hands seemed outsized, moving around the same way they did when he talked surf. “Bright. You know? I thought I’d heard something, over by the…(both hands, all his fingers pointing) compound. I like to, you know, walk on the beach. There was just a sliver of moon. I was coming up the stairs when I seen it. The flames. A car was pulling away. No lights. It didn’t squeal out.” He moved his right hand to mimic a car taking off fast. Then he mimicked the sound. “Errrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrcuuuuuuuuhhhhhhhhhh! Just, um…”

His hands were out now out at his sides, palms out; a gesture, I thought, of surrender. “I ran, but… I don’t run. Used to. Thought maybe, you know, I might, could help.” The camera and the light moved in too close to Fred’s creased face. “It was like, um, the second coming; maybe; But then… then I could smell the gasoline. Chulo. Good surfer. One time…”

The camera switched, abruptly, to the reporter. “Well,” he said, “we will continue to…”

He continued. A converted school bus with “Jesus Is Lord” passed between the reporter and the camera.

“See that?” I didn’t look around to see if they did. “It’s always parked there; converting the wicked surfers.” I moved closer to the screen. I was pretty sure I saw Ginny Cole in with a couple of the San Dieguito High School crowd, but the pan of the crowd passed too quickly. No rewind.

“And now, the weather…”

1964FordFalcon_01_700

SATURDAY, MARCH 15- THE OPTIMUM VIEW

The walls at the Self Realization Fellowship were back to white when I next went to Swamis, against my mother’s warnings, two days later. It was a Saturday. Weekend. Barely light. I got there early enough to park the dust bowl tan 1964 Falcon station wagon in the choicest spot; a little toward the stairs, but front row, and offering the optimum view of the lineup. It was the same car my Mom had used to drive us to swimming lessons and church and Doctor visits, and to the beach; surf mats and Styrofoam surfies and whining siblings; the (optional upgrade) roof racks now pretty much rusted in place.

A predicted swell (this gleaned from other surfers and pressure charts in the back section of the newspaper) hadn’t materialized, a south wind was blowing. Maybe it would clean up, even get bigger.

So, I would wait. Waiting is as important a part of surfing as trying to be in the water before the best conditions hit. My shift didn’t start until ten-thirty; about the time the onshores get going. Perfect. I could wait. I had my notebook, college-ruled; I had the probably-stolen (not by me) four track tape player under the passenger’s side of the seat; and I could do some writing.

Still, I really wanted to sneak over to the crime scene, the thick, high, stucco-finished walls, gold flower bulbs perched above them. There was (and is) a wrought-iron gate in the higher, arched entrance, also topped with the flower (though it could as easily be a flame, not dissimilar to the top of the statue of liberty). This is not the actual entrance to the Self-Realization compound, a place where people go seeking enlightenment, a realization of the true self.

So, I did walk over. I expected more. I expected some explanation. Other than some obviously-new asphalt, some new soil around newly-transplanted, but full-sized plants, it looked… it looked the same as it always had; as it did even in the late 1950s. Exactly the same.

………………………………….”YES, BUT WHAT DO YOU SEE?”

“What do you see?” This is what my father would always ask me. I would know it was coming; any time he was around, anywhere. It’s the first thing I remember him saying to me. I always tried to be ready, tried to see everything, determine what it meant. I was never ready; never saw enough.

But, and maybe it’s a good thing, my father would point out the things I had missed; clues; expressions that were evasive, words that were lies, patterns and random things that weren’t random, things that meant something.

“Okay,” I would say, “I see it now.”

“Do you? Great; now analyze.”

“Analyze.” What it is and what it means.

There were cigarette butts, quite a few of them, forming a half circle, a perimeter. No one had bothered to clean up outside the police line. I positioned myself dead center, optimum view, pulled the pack (box, not soft pack) from my windbreaker’s pocket, pack of matches inside, lit up a Marlboro.

“Power of suggestion,” I said to myself, throwing the now-empty pack of matches down with the line of butts. “Peer pressure.”

There was an opened pack of matches on the ground. Half the matches were gone, removed left to right. “Left-handed,” I thought. I picked the pack up, tried one of the matches. Nope, too soggy. Rather hip lettering on the cover read, “Carlsbad Tavern.”

Yes, I did think it might be a clue; one missed clue. Important. I knew the place. That is, I knew of it. I put the pack inside the Marlboro box, that in the windbreaker’s inside chest pocket. Maybe they’d dry out.

……………………………..SINNERS LOVE COMPANY

When I approached the bluff, surfers I knew well enough to give or return a half-nod, four of five guys, and one girl, Ginny Cole (you always knew the names of the few girl surfers), were sitting on the guard rail, or standing in front of it on the bluff, directly in front of my car. Close. Optimum view.  Ginny and one of the guys, who had been watching me, evidently, turned back around after I gave a bit of a gesture that I meant to say, “Yeah, I looked; so what?”

Ginny pulled her coat and an over-sized gray bag (I would say purse, but surfer girls were way too cool  for that) off the hood of my car. Not in an apologetic way.  Two of the guys continued to lean the just-past-comfortable distance between the railing and my car.

Fine. I probably would have been sitting on the hood if they weren’t there. Casually. Observing. If it was someone else, I’d say posing. Posing.

Each surfer had a small carton of orange juice or a quart of chocolate milk in their hands; maybe a cold piece of pizza. One might have had a large coffee from the 7-11 down toward Cardiff. One very well could have had a mason jar of juice, carrot always an ingredient, some color from sick green to sick orange; always willing to share. Not with me. Maybe once.

None of them were smoking. These weren’t my high school friends, so anxious to learn how to smoke; starting out with, Parliaments, maybe, moving on to Marlboros or Winstons, arguing about which was better; urging me to be cool, to not be a pussy. Tobacco evangelists.

Sinners love company, I had thought, and I put off starting the very same habit my father had only participated in in secret; or at work, away from his children.

Carlsbad Tavern.

Still, we knew. Camel non-filters. My mother kept his last half pack in a dresser drawer with his badge and empty holster. Nothing else. Occasionally she would open the drawer.

I squeezed the cherry out, tossed the butt through the opened driver’s side window and onto the floorboards, grabbed my fairly-full quart of chocolate milk and my half-gone package of donettes off the seat, went into a practiced lean, a slouch, against the backseat door.

Frosted, never chocolate.

Posing.

……………………………DOWNRAIL SPEED MACHINES

It seems wrong to me, now; it’s obviously wrong; but, somehow, when I was a teenager, it seemed all surfers were somewhere around my age. Some younger kooks, some older surfers. Not many of those; or maybe I just didn’t focus on them; only the ones who were well known, who had been in “Surfer” magazine. If they showed up, their names spread quickly through a parking lot or lineup: L.J. Richards or Rusty Miller at Pipes, Mike Doyle at Stone Steps, Skip Frye at a contest at Tamarack; surfers you would, definitely, keep track of; just to see if they were all that good. Better. Were they better?

How much better?

But these were days of evolution in surfing; shorter boards, more radical moves, backyard soul shapers, V bottoms and downrail speed machines; and the new heroes were younger; more like my age; s-turns and tube stalls and 180 cutbacks.

The first 180 cutback, with an off-the-foam-to-bottom-turn I ever saw was at Swamis, from that landing two-thirds the way up the stairs, the one with the metal screen, ‘Old guys stop here’ carved into one of the posts. The move, so controlled, so fluid, was performed by Billy Hamilton, on a longboard; smooth and stylish. He is older, maybe even ten years older. Still, older.

Chulo Lopez was in this group. Older. Aggressive, stylish, and dominating. He had once, on a glassy evening at Pipes, given me the signal to go on the first wave of a set. Two other surfers in position to go didn’t go. Wouldn’t. I had to.

……………………………………SECOND TIER

“Chulo,” someone said, his waxed-cardboard milk carton in the air. There was a sort of muffled chorus, “Chulo,” from the surfers on the guardrail.

“They’re saying it’s some sort of… cult thing.”  “Maybe it’s kinda like… you know, those monks burning themselves up over in Vietnam.” “No; dork; that was… political.” “Did you see it? I mean, the… the burn marks. It was, shit, there were…” “The smell.” “barbeque.” “Ohhh; ick.” “All the cops. Highway Patrol, Sheriff’s deputies… detectives.” “Yeah.” “One of them asked me about Gingerbread Fred.” “Really?” “One asked me about the Jesus Freaks.” “What? No.”

One of the guys had looked at me when someone said “deputies,” elbowing the guy next to him. “Oh,” I thought, “so someone knows who I am.”

“Drugs.” That was a statement. Though it was made in the direction of the water, it was meant for the surfers on the rail, and loud enough, grownup enough for the adjacent surfers, the second tier; me; me and a couple of other surfers who knew better than to get too close to the local crew. Not that any of us formed a second-tier crew. Maybe two guys came together, but, no, random loners- not in a cool-loner way.

“Drugs,” the older man, Wally, repeated; “One way or the other. Drugs.”

Wally was a kneeboarder. Even his kneeboard, yellowed, beat up, patched-up, was old. One of the teenagers on the rail, part of the crew he drove around at dawn, was, I found out much later, his son. Wally had walked from the direction of the green, wood outhouse (still there at that time) and the stairs (at least two other stair systems since then), and had positioned himself, a bit offset, but between the bluff and the guardrail surfers. Having gotten everyone’s attention, he looked out at the water. Optimum view. as I said.

The guardrail crew reacted. “Maybe… I don’t think Chulo was even a stoner. Maybe…” “Chulo? No.” “Maybe he was a narc.” “Fuck you, man. Narc? Chulo?” “Hey, A-hole; either he was a stoner and the cops… I mean…” “Oh; so, like, if Chulo was a narc…””Chuck you, Farley; go back off in your own jackyard.” “Geez, man…”

“Narcs,” I said. Each person in the loose crowd, including Wally, looked at me before he (or she- the one girl, Ginny- remember?) looked in the direction I had nodded.

“Detectives,” I said, a little louder, hands at my mouth to (try to) focus my voice.

A big, American-made, unmarked police car; the ‘varmint lights,’ the plain hubcaps, and a “Del Mar Fair” decal on the back bumper were the clues; had driven past, on the other side of the mostly-empty double-row spots. The tail lights stayed on for a while after it was parked in the dead end of the lot. Both front doors opened. Detectives.

We had one of these Del Mar Fair stickers on the Falcon. Mark, one of my friends from school, and, more so, from the Boy Scouts; a sometime-surfer, pointed out this real-or-imagined detail of unmarked police cars. “Yeah,” I’d said, “My Dad put it on the wagon; it’s sort of a, um, like, ‘don’t pull me over’ kind of, uh, code.” This prompted several other friends to acquire and display similar decals.

The decal, faded, was still there. The one on the unmarked car was newer. Southern California Exposition. Yeah. It was always the Del Mar Fair to locals.

29065278361_e171b4f01f_b

………………………………………………JUST SAY, “THANK YOU”

Two detectives, so obviously cops, approached. Both were in their mid-forties. One was taller; tall, California Highway Patrol tall (they had height restrictions); the other huskier. Both had cop mustaches, no farther than the edges of their mouths; both had cop brushcuts; one had sideburns that probably hit the limit of the San Diego County Sherriff’s Office hair code; each one sported a colorful and wide tie to, I thought, offset their drab suits, to look hip. Hipper.

One of them stopped at the passenger side of my car, the other one came around the back and stopped at the driver’s door. Each was sort of smiling; though it was more a ‘don’t you move’ smile.

Oh. I was the only surfer left.

The shorter detective opened the passenger side door, then looked at me, didn’t look inside, but, instead, looked up and around and out. The sun shone only on the horizon; the south wind had calmed.  “Nice view,” he said, then looked inside the car. “Optimum,” I said.

Two surfers, of the too many crammed into Wally’s old car, boards and a kneeboard piled on top, flashed the peace sign as they passed me. One of them pointed forward. I knew all the locals were laughing. I returned the peace sign, turned toward the taller detective, just walking past the opened tailgate, and threw my hands onto the roof of the car.

The tall detective smiled, waved off my over-reaction. He opened my driver’s side door, looked at school books, surfing drawings on the grocery bag brown book covers, several notebooks, various 4 Track tapes scattered on the seat. He looked for the player. Not installed under the dashboard.

The shorter detective pulled it from beneath the seat on the passenger side, looked at the tangle of after-market wiring. Oh. Stolen. Obviously. He set the player and my notebook on the roof, next to my latest backyard stripped-down-and-reshaped surfboard. Rude, crude, badly-glassed.

The taller detective opened the back door. The seats were down. There were two other boards, damp towels, trunks, paper bags, empty cigarette and donette packages, empty chocolate milk containers; mildew and sweat and that burn-barrel beach smell. He closed the door with a “whe-eew.”

“We’re just asking a few questions,” he said. “Got a license, son?” I pulled my billfold out of my back pocket, stuck the license toward him.

They, of course, knew who I was.

The two detectives and I looked around at the same time, moments after the one syllable ‘whoop’ of a police siren.

Three Sheriff’s vehicles and a Highway Patrol car, lights on, blocked the entrance to the lot, the exit to 101.  Wally’s car hadn’t quite escaped.

“Oh,” the taller detective said, holding my license close to my face, then leaning down and closer; “hadn’t seen you in a while.  The, um, funeral; maybe.”

No. I hadn’t looked at any faces there. There had been other occasions, softball games and picnics. He would have been half-drunk, at least; and never able to beat my dad at… anything.

“Wendall,” I said. “Or, as my father always said, ‘Never win Wendall.’ How’s it going?”

The other detective laughed from the other side of the car, walked around the back side. “Never winned-at-all,” he said.

I didn’t look at either of them. Couldn’t. I pulled the pack of Marlboros from my windbreaker, pulled a cigarette out, took the ‘Carlsbad Tavern’ pack of matches out, looked at the logo, at the two detectives; opened the pack, red stains against the back of the cover.  “Too wet,” I said. Detective Wendall stuck a cigarette in his mouth, lit mine with a San Diego County Sheriff’s Department-logoed zippo. “Or ‘Swindling Wendall’,” I said, with a (confident, I hoped) smile.

“Swindling Wendall” the other detective, with a laugh and a hit to his partner’s shoulder, said.

“Dickety-Dick Dickson,” I said, putting the wet matches back into the windbreaker, checking the group standing almost casually outside Wally’s car. There was the back of the very-tall (of course) Highway Patrolman, Wally, four teenage boys, with Ginny Cole in the middle. They were all looking at me and Wendall and Dickson, and I was thinking only about how much I looked like a fucking narc.

It was too close and too fast to focus. I doubled-over, Wendall’s fist still in my stomach.  The cigarette popped out of my mouth, onto his shoulder. Dickson brushed it off, Wendall’s fist now a hand on my shoulder. I stood up straight. This was necessary, this was mandatory.

My father would have demanded it.

“Just say ‘thank you,’ Jody.”

Dickson stuck the cigarette back in my mouth.

“Thank you.”

cop car

………………………………………………….AN HOUR OR SO LATER

If the swell hadn’t arrived, the crowd had. The cop cars were gone. Vehicles belonging to weekend surfers and families filled the lot. There was a Chevy van, jacked-up in the back, on one side of my car, a VW station wagon (Variant), two boards still on top, three surfers at the edge of the bluff, dancing around, pointing, all hooting, occasionally, in unison.

The San Dieguito crew hadn’t returned. Somewhere else must be better.  I was digging in the back seat area of the car, pulling out trash, putting it in an old canvas-like feed bag; already two-thirds full. My damp gear was spread out on the hood, my three boards tied on the rack. The very back storage area was, I thought, pretty organized. I raised the tailgate, started to crank the window closed, then took a sniff, left it open.

I set the seat backs into position, removing more trash from where the back seat was supposed to rest, raking the papers and wrappers toward me with a crumpled paper bag from the fairly-new Carlsbad Jack-in-the-Box. Fast food.

There was something stuck between the springs of the seat. I pulled out a small yellow towel, the type bowlers use. “Back Gate Lanes” was printed on the it in red (Marine Corps colors, if I have to say it).

Still laid out, stretching into the car, I unwrapped it. Rather, I started to unwrap it. I felt it; a pistol; a revolver. I put my hand on the grip. Something fell out. A key. Not a house key. Locker key. I picked it up with my left hand.

Someone hit my butt. I tensed, my hand going into position; hand on the grip, finger near, but not on, the trigger; thumb ready to cock the hammer. The towel fell away.

“You surfing, or what?”

It was Ray’s voice, from behind me; but Phillip’s face was in the passenger side window.

I let go of the pistol; wrapped it back in the towel, shoved it between some springs in the seat; pulled myself backward, dropped the seat into position.

Phillip was now on the driver’s side. He had seen the pistol. He tried to act as if he hadn’t. We both did. “Ray; Phil; great to… yeah; we… where are you parked?”

“Is this where you’re moving to?” Ray asked.

“Optimum view,” I said.

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 25- BEANERS

It was mid-afternoon, early in my shift; and I was bagging groceries for a particularly talkative woman; somewhat older than my mother, dressed in a house dress, some sort of white scarf thing on her head, curlers bulging in some sort of random alignment under it. So, since women my mom’s age tried to look younger, hipper; this woman was, yes, older.

“Durn Texans,” she said, “worst kind of tourists.” She was talking more to the similarly-aged checker, Doris; Doris nodding politely. It was more than halfway through Doris’s shift and some of her willingness to chit-chat enthusiastically had worn off. “Surfers,” the patron said, kind of looking at me. “Surfers from… Texas? Texas. What do you think… (looking at the name tag on my apron) Jody? Jody?”

“Jody?” I mouthed, looking at the nametag on my bright green apron; acting as if it wasn’t my name. It wasn’t. I’d been looking for another, better nickname for years. Jody was my father’s joke. Jody.

“Jody’s got your girlfriend,” my father would say, drill instructor voice pop-pop-popping the cadence. “One-two, one-two, one-two-three-four… one-two…three-four.” Jody.

I shrugged. I did notice the woman had some sort of east coast accent; northeast, not that I could discern Philadelphia from New Jersey from anywhere else; but she hadn’t lost the European edge, that inflection; rhythm, maybe.

She pulled several items out of the bag I had, probably, overloaded. “I would rather make more trips, Jody.  If I had big muscles, like you…” She smiled. I opened another bag.  She put her heavy purse on the counter. “And they all have money. They want to rent by the week. They get sand in the shower; make a mess. Drink.” She looked from me to Doris, now looking for the price on a dented can of string beans. “One threw up on the sidewalk. Awful.” Back to me. “And… and they chase around our young girls. Believe me…”

I was distracted, not sufficiently interested.  I did nod, but the woman checked me out for another moment; Jody, in the apron, my hair not long enough to pull back (but parted in the middle), my mustache more like peach fuzz; and she turned back toward Doris. “Believe me, Doris, if I didn’t charge them extra, I’d never…” She kept talking; I continued bagging, but I wasn’t listening.

Jumper Hayes, over by the big front windows, was talking to Tony, the shift manager. They, obviously, knew each other. I guessed this might be the first time they’d seen each other since Jumper’s return; each with a hand on the other man’s shoulder; laughing at… laughing at things that weren’t really funny.

Jumper pulled up the left sleeve of his t shirt, poked at a scar on his bicep with his right hand, laughed. Tony started to roll up his right pant leg, stopped, sort of grabbed at it, kicked it out to show it still worked.  They both looked over at two young men, in clothing appropriate for working in hothouses (though more than I would have worn in that wet heat), standing, obviously nervous, closer to the big bags of dog food, fertilizer, and charcoal, each with a check in his hand.

“Wetbacks,” the woman said. “Beaners,” she added, in case I hadn’t gotten it. I put her ice cream in a white, insulated paper bag, placed it in with her TV dinners. “Guess they can’t just go to the bank like regular folks, and…”

Tony, an older man with a bow tie and one side of his shirt untucked, did his sort of half-limp walk over to another register, opened it with the key on his belt.  The two workers, on a signal from him, backed up by one from Jumper, approached. Jumper handed one a pen, pointed to the back of the check.

“Y’all need some help out with that, Ma’am?” It was the closest I could come to a Texas accent.

A woman with two children, one in the cart, her free arm holding the older child’s right arm pretty much straight up; approached the other register. She looked at the two men taking their cash. Each turned toward Jumper for a moment, folding and pocketing the bills, on his signal, before stepping away. She looked at the manager. She looked concerned. She looked at Jumper.

Jumper stuck his hand out. Tony took it, put his other hand on Jumper’s shoulder.

Jumper smiled at the child in the cart, smiled at the kid not yet released from his mother’s grasp. He nodded at the manager and smiled at the woman. She smiled back, let go of the bratty child, who, immediately, grabbed a candy bar from a nearby rack, stuck it, wrapper and all, in his mouth.

The woman pushed her cart toward the other exit, clutching the strap of her purse, her receipt, and her green stamps in one hand.

swamisoverview

FRIDAY, JUNE 27- CHUBASCO

I was taking one last look from the bluff at Grandview, trunks and towel over my board; just in case the waves were not what they sounded like in the dark. It had to be surf from some distant storm, some chubasco in Baja, or… I didn’t really know; I had heard some waves come from as far away as New Zealand. Travelling. Hitting islands, wrapping around headlands; peeling; like the images from the magazines; perfect, a slideshow in my mind.

This wasn’t perfect; storm waves overwhelming a beachbreak. Maybe I would try Swamis; or Cardiff Reef.

“Bagboy.” He may have said it more than once. “Bagboy; it’s closed-out.” I didn’t respond. “Fallbrook.”

“What?” I turned to my right.

Jumper stepped around, from my left, and was almost in front of me, “Fallbrook. Bagboy. You.”

“Don’t live in Fallbrook anymore. After graduation, we…” He cut me off with a swipe of a hand.

“So, not a valley cowboy; huh?” He bowed his legs in a sort of stage cowboy movement.

“Never was.”

“But you did live in Fallbrook. Right?” I nodded. “Maybe your daddy knew enough to not live where he worked.” I probably looked suspicious. I was, of anyone who mentioned my father. Apprehensive would be more accurate. “Wanted to keep his family safe; away from… from his work. Don’t blame him.” I didn’t have time to respond. ”You going out?”

“I, um… it’s pretty, uh, big. Maybe it…” I stopped myself, looked over at the waves; broken lines, ugly green-gray, no discernible peak, closing out.  “You?”

“Hey, Fallbrook; I will if you do.”

“Really?” I may have been a little too thrilled by this statement.

“Fuck no, bagboy; it’s fuckin’ closed out. There’s no glory in surfing this shit.”

“I guess not.”

“Swamis, now…” He waited a second. I tried to nod slowly, like I hadn’t already thought of it, tried not jump up and down or break into a run.  ”Swamis… should be fun.”

Jumper turned, walked away. I followed. He turned around, walking backward, about halfway to the street, at the place where I could go down the washout or back to my car. “Should be,” I said, breaking into a run as I passed him.

07-1969-pocket-calendar

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 19- DEVIL DOGS

I probably could explain why I mentioned Virginia Cole before I wrote about this incident. Easily explained. I noticed it the third or fourth time I went over this chapter, editing, re-re-re-editing. She is important to the story.  Rather than rewriting, I’ll leave it (mostly) the way I originally wrote it. Our memory is a sort of self-editor; saving important or meaningful things, allowing the peripherals and tangents, hundreds of side stories and thousands of background characters, to drop away.

Virginia Cole is a main character.

Ginny Cole was, to my seventeen-year old self, perfect. Maybe some of the girls I’d gone all through school with were great, but, yes, I’d gone all through school with most of them. Yes, there were, always, because Fallbrook is on the east side of the triangle that is Camp Pendleton (Fallbrook, Oceanside, San Clemente); new girls, daughters of Marines, who would come into the school, three years here and gone. From kindergarten on there were daughters of Civil Servants, daughters of pharmacists and ranchers and irrigation contractors and builders.

Ginny Cole was… she was miles away from dusty Fallbrook. Mysterious, exotic, distant; and she surfed. She would what that means; surfing. There’s what it is, and what it means. Perfect.

………………………………..IMAGES, TIME-EDITED

Ginny Cole was like the best photos from surfing magazines; like my best rides. I could bring her image into my mind at will; images from the few times I’d been on the beach or in a parking area or in the water with her. Not with her, around her. It’s not like she knew me; another teenage surfer, awkward out of the water, not skilled enough to be noticed in the water.

Except that she was a girl. She could surf; graceful, dancer-like moves. She would be noticed.

I noticed.

Ginny wasn’t the only girl surfer in the North County; there were others; but she was serious, she was good. A couple of girls were better surfers. I had seen Barbie Barron, Margo Godfrey… Barbie in the water and in the parking lot at Oceanside’s shorter jetty.

I saw Margo with Cheer Critchlow at Swamis on a still-winter afternoon; uncrowded, big and nearly blownout; pretty scary. Yet, they were just casually walking out, chatting; pushing through to the outside peak. Scott and Jeff and Erwin and I shoulder-hopped, choosing only the smaller waves on the inside, watching any time either would take off.

Coolness, casualness, some sort of self-confidence, some sense of comfort in one’s own skin.

Things I lacked, things I appreciated.

The days were just getting long enough to make it from Fallbrook to the beach before dark. My 9’6” Surfboards Hawaii pintail was on one side, last of the longboards of my youth was on one side of the rack on Dave’s VW Super Bug, his pre-graduation gift. I think his newer-but-stock Hansen was on the other side. Dave (Dipshit Dave, Double-wide Dave, couldn’t sell Dangerous Dave as a nickname) had picked me up as I raced from my last class. He floored-it across the Bonsall bridge, despite an overlarge truck coming the other way, chose going through Vista rather than toward Oceanside. “Faster,” he said.

“Faster, then,” I said. “Dangerous Dave,” I said, as sort of a reward.

We were just coming down the ramp at Beacons when Ginny and another girl (no, I didn’t know or don’t remember her name) were coming up, boards under their arms, colorful towels over the boards; side by side; laughing. Ginny’s canvas purse/bag was hanging on one shoulder.  The stainless steel turnbuckle closure on Ginny’s shortjohn wetsuit was disconnected, unsnapped.

There was skin showing. Freckles on her shoulder.  Bare shoulder.  Soft, even with the strain on muscles from holding the surfboard. I do know I mentioned it, but I was seventeen, she was seventeen. Ginny was perfect (also mentioned), and she might just have to look at me as we passed. I gave Dave a hip check, my only basketball move, pushing him toward the scrub and iceplant on the hillside.

Still at a distance, she did look. Her eyes are green. So green. Translucent.

“Virgin-e-ya,” a voice from behind her said; “Virgin-eee-yaaa.”

If I said everything stopped, it would be an exaggeration. But it did. I stopped.

Virginia Cole blinked. She and the other girl lowered their heads, their smiles gone. They passed Dave and me single file, Ginny in front.

There were three guys, in street/school clothes, clunky polished shoes; high school age, at the bottom of the ramp; kind of congratulating each other. They weren’t surfers. Jerks.  The guy who had made the remark was in the lead, crushing and tossing his empty beer can into the brush as they headed up. Jerk Two, half a six pack of Coors held/balanced on his chest, handed Jerk One another.

Dave shook his head, tried to step in front of me. He wasn’t fast enough, convincing enough. At the halfway point of the path, at the curve, I blocked them with my board, held sideways at my chest.

“What?” It was the lead guy; maybe a bit flushed; his smile changing to a sneer. Maybe not quite a sneer; just one of those ready-for-confrontation looks.

“Nothing, A-hole; just thought you might want to rest a second.”

“Fuck you.” The front guy, and I probably should give a more complete description of him and his high school-aged buddies, both adding their backup “fuck you;” but I won’t. He was just another high school Jerk, the acne on his cheeks a little redder than usual, probably, from the exertion of trying to walk in soft sand in leather wingtips, from the climb.

“You were a little disrespectful. Don’t you think; Jerk?”

Jerk’s crew and Dave looked up at the top of the bluff. Evidently Ginny and her friend were looking down. Jerk and I had to keep looking at each other.

“Ginny… Ginny Cole? Ginny Coldddd? She’s a stuck-up fuckin’…”

……………………………………………ALMOST-NUCLEAR

I’m trying to go through the words a teenage jerk would give for a girl in 1969. It would have been stronger than bitch, but certainly not cunt; that would be nuclear. Twat was almost-nuclear. Not so much a west coast term.

Somewhere in the previous school year, rained-out, my P.E. class had to go into the gym. The girls were playing volleyball in their unflattering red outfits, rather like overalls with the arms and legs shortened; and the boys, in our white t shirts and unflattering red shorts (though cool guys always tried to get away with wearing boxers underneath, hanging out just enough), were hanging by the front doors. We knew enough not to make rude (and loud) comments, but some new guy from the East Coast made some disparaging remark using the term, ‘Broad.’ How dare he call our ‘chicks’ ‘broads.’ Several (other) guys had wanted to give him a swift punch to the kidneys. No one (including the east coast kid himself) would say who did.

I dropped my board. Jerk and his friends, and Dave looked at it, fin up.

Hitting someone in the face is nuclear. The shoulder, maybe; was acceptable. “Harder!” “That all you’ve got?” Push, push back, a few glancing blows and a tie up; this was suburban teenage fighting. And, as Jerk pulled his right arm back, I hit him with a straight shot that instantly bloodied his nose and lip.

It wasn’t full speed. I had held back.

The other two guys were, obviously, trying to decide between fight and flight. Everything stopped. Again. I looked at my hand. Jerk put his left hand to his face, looked at the blood. The other two guys looked at the blood on his face and hand, stepped away from their friend.

“Devil Dogs,” Dave said to the friends, his biggest smile on his (slightly-pimpled, had to add this) face; “Joe’s a fuckin’ Devil Dog.”

I picked up my board. There were several drops of blood on it.  I wasn’t sure if I was thrilled or sorry. Not enough of either.

“It’s just… um… you were rude.” Jerk looked like he might apologize; or, worse, cry.  “Hey,” I said, taking Dave’s towel off his board, handing it to Jerk. “My dad made me go. It’s really… it’s Devil Pups. Marines. Didn’t want to go.” I stood aside, opening the ramp. “We’re going to go surfing now.” I took the towel back, handed it to Dave. He took it with a shrug. “Just, um; you’re okay, huh?”

Jerk nodded. We walked on.

“Hope he doesn’t cry,” Dave said. “Your dad would’ve… I mean; if you ever even started to… to tear up; he’d of…” As we reached the sand, the sun way too close to the horizon, Dave ran next to me, looked closely at my face.

I wasn’t crying, quite, but I was not thrilled. I wasn’t sorry. I’m pretty sure I smiled, maybe even laughed. “Devil Dogs!” I ran for the water, didn’t look back at the bluff until I was knee-deep. The sun bounced back at me off windows, car windows, house windows. Silhouettes. Maybe one of them was Ginny, I thought. Maybe I was wrong.

Dave caught a wave before I did.

abosworth-9673

MONDAY, JULY 21- MAN ON THE MOON

This was the day after man first walked on the moon. I had surfed. Somewhere; maybe Stone Steps; trying to find a little peak in the peak of Summer; summer and all that meant in a Southern California beach town recently isolated by the completion of I-5.

There was talk, at that time, of the North County beach towns (Leucadia, Encinitas, Cardiff-by-the-Sea, Del Mar) suffering when 101 was no longer the main coastal north-south route. Whether they did or didn’t depends on your interpretation of ‘suffering.’

In the still images and video (and, actually, film) clips that are stored in my memory, there was (though I may have imagined it there) a TV in the front of the classroom, black and white only, set on an AV cart, tuned to the non-stop coverage of the moon landing.

A Woman entered, looked at the fifteen or so grownups and almost-grownups scattered around the classroom, each with a stack of papers on individual desks that were exactly like the ones at Fallbrook High, and probably Vista, San Marcos, Escondido, Orange Glen, San Dieguito (those same beach towns); the districts that fed into the Palomar Junior College District. She looked at one of the papers in her left hand, erased “Biology 101” from the chalk board.

“Now,” she said, “now;” speaking louder when no one looked up after the first ‘now.’ “You people are right at the line; the cut off. Your choices… (louder) are limited. You may not get all the classes you wanted.”

Creative Writing; yes. And I wanted English 101. Yes, I had tested high enough to skip the remedial, non-credit English; I wanted… Art; yes, definitely. Basic Drawing. Two classes still open. 8am. Of course; too early for real artists. Monday, Wednesday. Okay. Being under eighteen (the cutoff might have been twenty-one at that time), I was required to take a Physical Education class. Fall Sports was closed. Badminton. Really? Closed. Shit. Weight Training. Still open. No. Fuck. Okay.

Okay. A-okay.

I was pretty pleased, partly because I was there; here; signing up for ‘high school with ashtrays,’ junior college; college nonetheless. I was still writing, erasing, writing when Jumper Hayes entered the room, gave the Admissions Woman a big smile, which she seemed to appreciate. He surveyed the room, pointed toward the empty seat next to me (at the back of the room) with his rolled-up papers, and sat next to me. He scooted (noisily) his desk unit closer; like he wanted to cheat off me.

“Bagboy,” he whispered.

I scooted my desk away. Jumper followed.

The Admissions Woman looked around at the noise, but, again, only returned what I had to believe was another reassuring smile from Jumper. I feel compelled to mention that the Admissions Woman was probably about twenty-something, something under 25, and was, despite her pulled-back hair and Summery-patterned dress (no sleeves, no hose, tanned legs- I noticed, and no shoes) trying to seem a bit more professional, even stern, than she was able to quite pull off. She was rather like a substitute teacher trying to maintain in a room of recent high school graduates, professional students, draft dodgers, returning veterans.

“No shoes,” I thought, looking down at my huarache sandals. With socks. Socks. That wouldn’t happen again. No dress code here.

“Bagboy,” Jumper said; “I thought you were going to some big time University. Word is, what I heard is… you’re a brain.”

“No.”

“No? Okay. Maybe not. It’s not like it, brains, show. I mean… (looking at me a bit closer) I don’t see it.”

“I was… upstate… inland; not my idea; but…” I’m sure I smiled, despite myself. “Brain? Who would…?”

“One of those Avocado-lovin’, guacamole dip…dipshits; Bucky Davis, maybe; John Amsterdam; why would I remember? I’m not a brain…I’m not like you.”

Admissions Woman, taking a handful of papers from an older man; probably forty, at the door; looked at them, scratched Philosophy II and Beginning Photography from the chalkboard.

“Shit.”

“Philosophy II?”

“No, beginning photography.”

“Oh. Sure. And, incidentally, Amsterdam still hates you. Brand new Dewey Weber performer.” He shook his head, moved his hands to illustrate a board crashing on another board. “Got to hang on to your board, Bagger.” He paused. “You prefer Bagboy… or Bagger? Bagger sounds a little more…” He nodded, nearly winked. “Or Jody?”

“That… Amsterdam’s board; wasn’t me. Different Fallbrook punk, man. Jody, that was my dad’s joke.”

“Yeah. Sure. And Tony, at the market; he’s in on it.” He was nodding; I nodded.

“They were both in the Corps. Not that they knew each other then; Tony was only in Korea; but…”

“As was I. In the Corps. Not Korea. Or is it ‘As I was?’” Jumper saluted; quickly, crisply; properly. He looked over at my papers. “Different wars, man. You takin’ any English classes, um, neighbor?” When I looked back, he went back to nodding. “Wrong side of 101. Too bad. You probably have to go five blocks to get across, but… guess you’re a Leucadian now.  As far as I know, you and I; maybe… (he moved his hands back and forth in a balancing motion) Carson Holder; we’re probably the closest things to Grandview locals.” I blinked “So, well…”

When I determined nothing was following ‘well,’ I said, “beats living in Frog-butt; huh?”

Jumper laughed, looked at the woman from admissions, gave her another, bigger smile, kept it when he looked back at me. “So, guess you don’t have the horse anymore.” He let that hang for the moment it took for me to look around. “Any longer? No longer have the horse?”

He didn’t drop the smile. I’d love to think I didn’t seem surprised. Or rattled. Or angry. “No, we… the horse…” I restacked my papers, whispered, “Fuck you, Jumper;” scooted my desk away, again, a bit more noisily than I might have preferred. Jumper was still smiling.

“Oh. Sure; and the horse I rode in on.”

readers_moonlanding-articleLarge

……………………………………………………EASY A
Jumper stood up, his desk unit like a skirt, walked closer to me. He slid his preliminary class schedule in front of me, pointed to Criminal Justice; pointed to the same title on my schedule. “I am going on Uncle Sam, though; G.I. Bill. Semper Fi, (whispered) motherfucker. Full ride, man.”

“It’s California… Man; free education. And, besides; I’m not interested in…”

“Easy A, Jody; and… (back to a whisper) Marine Corps; cops; it’s a family tradition. Isn’t it?”

I crumpled up the first and second versions of my schedule in my right hand, stuck my middle finger out and a little too close to Jumper’s face. Surprised at how instant my anger had been, how it was staying at that level, and how Jumper’s reaction continued to be a smile (“Insolence,” my father would have said); I pulled my hand back almost immediately, flattened-out what had been a fist, and slapped my hand on the papers to the desktop.

“If my father… I’m… everyone knows who my father was. If I…” I looked at my form. “I’m done, June, Juni, Junipero… Mr. Hayes. Fifteen units. Full load. Done.” I stood up, picked up and straightened the other pages. “I’m not fucking interested in being a…” I lowered my voice, looked around the room. No one was looking up from their papers. “…a fucking cop.”

“Marine Corps, then. Huh?”

“You know…” he just refused to drop that smile. “…You know, there’s really nowhere else to go after the ‘fuck you’ exchange.”

“I never said it.” “Okay. Bye.” “Did you hear about Gingerbread Fred?”

“What?”

“Dead. Gingerbread Fred is dead.” “No. I hadn’t…” “I’d have thought you would’ve… broken neck… Swamis… fell down the top part of the stairs. Supposedly. When we’re taking Criminal Science…” Now we were both standing. Jumper pointed his papers toward the front of the room. “Funny how it’s all, like, science, huh?”

The Woman erased Psychology 101 from the board just before I got to her. I looked at my form, I looked at Jumper Hayes. He still had the same smile, mouthing, “Easy A;” stepped in front of me, very close to the Admissions Woman. “We’re both taking Criminal Justice, Miss… (looking at her name tag) Julianna Goldsworthy (stretching out each syllable).” He stepped back, went into a sort of superhero pose. “Do I look like a cop, Julianna?”

Julianna seemed too, maybe, bedazzled to respond with more than a nod. And a smile; a smile she dropped when she turned toward me. “Family tradition,” I said, “Easy A.”

Jumper looked at me, looked at Julianna, at the TV, back at Julianna; “Big deal, huh; man on the moon and all?”

Julianna looked back at Jumper. Her smile, half as big as it had been, returned; but the nod seemed twice as enthusiastic.  She almost giggled. “Soooo cool. The moon! Historically (lowering her voice) fucking cool.”

“Uh huh,” Jumper said, sharing her little ‘oops’ expression. He stuck a fist out, shook it, said, “To the moon, Alice.” We three, and a couple of others listening-in, of course, got the allusion.

Jumper looked at me, me maintain a serious expression, turned back to Julianna Goldsworthy, motioned her a bit closer. “I want to find out who killed Chulo Lopez and Gingerbread Fred. Mr. Joseph DeFreine, Junior, here… DeFreine is a fancy to say ‘French’; you can call him Jody… probably; he wants to find out who really killed his father.”

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 16- NIGHT CLASSES

It wasn’t actually dark, just that empty, colorless sky, sunset shades fading. I was walking quickly, then running, on the sidewalks, past the blocks of classrooms, most unlit; a camera strap around one wrist, piece of paper in the other hand. “Should have scoped this out,” I said, probably out loud.

There were mostly older men in the first classroom with lights on and a door open. White-haired and conservatively dressed. “Photography Two?” “No, kid; real estate.” Laughs, two guys pointing to the next building over.

Everyone in the correct classroom seemed to know each other; standing around in small groups, some in those multi-pocketed news photographer coats; versions, I thought, of great white hunter jackets.  I looked down at my favorite vinyl windbreaker, now-faded red with a thick white stripe, selected because it had big pockets, pockets being an important part, evidently, of being or looking like a photographer.

Most of the Photography II folks were men; not as old as the potential realtors; but, I couldn’t help thinking, probably mostly interested in artistic nude photography. Artistic. Nude.

Then there was Ginny Cole; hair pulled back, a pretty-neutral-colored and oversized sweater and Levis, that large, gray-and-stained, possibly-canvas bag on the desk in front of her, waiting for some one to start the class; that Ginny Cold look on her face.

Not that I knew her.

I did know the look; the don’t-even-think-about-it expression probably necessary for a girl’s survival in the surfing community. Or any community.

Still, I sat in the desk next to her. She didn’t look around.

“It’s like a pervert convention,” I said. No response.

“The trenchcoats.” Pause. No response. I chuckled, scanning the room again. Virginia didn’t. “I surfed Pipes this morning… pretty good; came here from work (all the while I’m probably nodding like a fool). At the market. Cardiff. Got a great deal on grapes.” Nothing. “Seedless.” I thought I saw a bit of a smile, quickly dropped. “You get any waves?” No response. “They’re seedless; on sale.”

Virginia Cole turned, possibly just to make me stop talking. This time she had the ‘drop-dead-and-die’ look ready to go; possibly even moving to the ‘may-your-dick-fall-off-before-you-drop-dead-and-then-die’ look; but, just as she turned, as can happen in the hours after a person surfs, a stream of water, trapped in the sinuses, poured out of Ginny’s nostrils. She quickly brought a hand up to stop it.

She looked at her hand, looked at the puddle on the desk, looked at me. I don’t know if I was smiling. Sure, had to have been.

Her expression was almost a smile. “Seedless, huh?” It was a smile.

“Okay, class;” a voice from the front of the room announced, “time to pick a partner for the dark room.”

I took the neckerchief I had around my neck (part of my junior college-cool outfit), handed it to Ginny. She looked at it for a second, unraveled it, wiped her nose, her eyes on me. Green, yes; translucent. Then she reset her polite-but-serious face, dropped the neckerchief onto the puddle.

I raised the Yashica 35-millimeter camera, briefly considered pointing it toward Ginny.

“My mom, she bought from a Vietnam veteran at her work; he’s dying, maybe he’s died by now, of some, some unspecified disease. I think it might be syphilis. ‘So young,’ my mom said. ‘Fifty bucks,’ my dad said; more like a question. ‘Fifty bucks?’ ‘It’s for Junior,’ she said. ‘Guess it’s better than that Brownie,’ he said. So, it’s mine.”

I knew I was blathering; ridiculous. I almost wanted to see, again, her ‘drop dead’ expression. Though I never took the shot, that’s still my top Ginny Cole image.

………………………………………………….IN A DIFFERENT LIGHT

Something about a woman in a dark room; the lighting so different; highlights and profiles, a certain intimacy. Maybe I was a little too thrilled. This wasn’t a date.

I was worthless. When it was obvious I didn’t know my way around a darkroom, she took my camera, made sure it was rewound, opened the back, took out the roll of film, unfurled it, placed it into the tray of developer. “How did you even get into this class?”

“Beginning photography was full.” I just stood by. Soon, the first roll of film I would ever (watch/assist) develop was in the fixer. I had to piss. Desperately. I couldn’t leave. “You?”

“Me? What?” She didn’t understand what I tried to pass on to her with a shaking of the hands. “Me. Took it while I was in high school. It’s… possible. It’s allowed. Quit dancing.”

She looked at my feet. “No shoes?” I looked at her feet. Tan, brushed leather almost-hiking boots. Hush Puppies. “Shoes. Shoes. Good. I had some Hush Puppies; got them because Phillip, he had some. I kind of…” I put my hands on my knees. “Bowlegged. Sort of. I ran them over at the heels. They were… I liked them. You?”

She just shook her head. She nodded toward my roll of film. I gave her a look that requested her permission. She gave me a look that said, ‘yeah, dumbass, you can pick it up.’

I grabbed my roll from the tray, by the edges, held it up to the reddish lights; negatives, 35 millimeter white and black images of waves, of people, strangers, in the parking lot at Swamis; of Erwin and Phillip and Ray, my closest high school surfing friends, from the last time we all surfed together; Swamis beachbreak.

Ginny took the roll from me, hung it on the line with her five rolls of negatives; flowers, and that dark and heavy kind of iceplant, and palm trees and sunsets and clouds, and various groupings of the San Dieguito surf crowd in the Swamis parking lot.

The professor approached. “He’s had to figure out… he will… you don’t belong,” she said. “You can leave for a minute. Just… just stop dancing. Please.” I couldn’t. “Go; Junior; we’ll make some contact prints.”

“Uh huh,” like I knew what that meant. I avoided eye contact with the professor, side-stepped him and one of the big jacket guys.

“Virginia,” the professor said; “how many rolls this time?”

I looked back. Ginny was resetting her polite face as the professor approached her, but, for a second, maybe…maybe she seemed to be looking past him, actually seeing me, almost smiling; but then, there’s something about darkroom lighting… a different light.

…………………………………………………………….ARTSY

When I returned, slipping through the ante-room and the blinds of heavy plastic, into the chemical smell and red-tinged darkness, past the professor and other students, Ginny Cole was examining the drying negatives; her five rolls, my one.

“Are you taking this class just to save money on developing?”

“No. Uh, maybe; partially. It’s more like… yes.” She had four rolls hanging and one fully-developed roll on the counter, on a towel, dobbing the top side with the other half of the same towel. That’s the one I tried to look at. She pulled it up and away. Thirty-five-millimeter negative images.

I backed-off, threw my hands up in a ‘no contest’ gesture. “Secret stuff?”

“It’s just… it’s not that… it’s not secret. They’re nice enough to let me… should have developed these last semester. Not… not secret.”

“Okay. Not secret. Private. Sure. Private.”

The ‘private’ thing was too much to put between two people in a darkroom who really didn’t know each other. I looked around the room. Two Big Jackets and the professor were looking at what I caught as nudes. Sure. Private. One of the Jackets pulled out a magnifying glass. Another Jacket slapped him on the back.

I looked back at Ginny. “Artistic,” I said. She looked at the men, back at me, shook her head.

“Yeah. Artsy.” Ginny picked up and held the roll, by the edges, backlit. There was a shot of someone blocking the path at Beacons with a board. It was me. Oh.

“Oh,” I said.

“Telephoto lens,” she said. “You should get one.”

“Uh huh,” I said, checking the other shots, one a closeup of the Jerk looking up, blood (white on the acetate) on his nose and mouth.

“It’s not like you’re my hero or anything.”

“No,” I said. “Telephoto. Have to get one.” She handed my neckerchief back to me. I looked at it, looked at her. “Perfect,” I thought. “I’m not a narc,” I said.

300px-Claymore_Recon_placement

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 22- “OVERRUN” CREATIVE WRITING- JUNIPERO DELANO HAYES

Overrun. There weren’t enough Claymores; or someone had set them off too soon; or there were just too many of them.  Charging. Vietcong.

It wasn’t a firefight; we were doing most of the shooting.  Our position wouldn’t hold. We would be overrun. Too many, running, charging, pushing others forward; leaping over branches and bodies. Almost all of them were yelling, screaming; their screams mixed with ours, with the screams and moaning of pain, the constant-but-irregular beat of gunfire.

We couldn’t kill enough of them. Not fast enough.

We shot as many as we could. There were more coming. “Fall back!” the Second Lieutenant yelled, just before he fell back, dead; two over from me. A couple Marines ran. Others backed away, automatic weapons fanning the clearing.

I stood up, firing blindly; left to right, right to left; from behind the trunk of a blown-down tree. Screaming.

I felt the first bullet. Heat, then numbness, my left arm suddenly useless. I saw the expressions on the faces; fear and anger and determination, then surprise, as I dropped two of the three soldiers coming at me.  Closer. So close.

The second one fell forward. His momentum versus a bullet. My rifle was jammed against his chest. I kept firing.  As I was falling backwards, the third soldier struck me in the side of my head; and kept running.

Overrun.

This is battle. Fear and anger and determination.

I was never unconscious. Time had become nothing; blood in my eyes.

I was lying next to Billy, PFC, smartass guy from Houston; dead, wet, and cold; cold by Vietnam standards. Vietnam, that steaming, sweating, triple-canopy jungle, shit-tinted rice fields, scared yet smiling villagers; Viet-fucking-by-god-Nam.

The two soldiers; kids, really, not Regulars; conscripted villagers, rice farmers with guns; the two I had just shot, were on top of me, all of us in another awkward pile; their blood mixing with mine. I was behind the tree, squirming as close to the trunk as I could get. More than a dozen feet stepped on me; running, charging, now chasing rather than attacking.

There is a tradition, as old as man, as old as war: Once a position is secured, soldiers come back and make sure each one of the enemy soldiers; the vanquished, the defeated, the overrun; is dead. Rifles and clothes and some measure of revenge are the spoils; souvenirs; guns, clothes, ears.

Savage salvage.

Almost instantly, flies and crawling insects attacked. They know death. They know the difference. The flying and buzzing and crawling.

At the Little Bighorn, I thought, and I’m not sure why; I was trying so hard just to be quiet; women from the tribe smashed the heads of each one of the dead enemy soldiers; with the exception of, it’s said, General Custer. Out of respect. Respect?

That was legend; history. The history of man is the history of war. You don’t have to know history to know the truth of this.

I was just trying not to move, to be still, quiet, alive; when I heard new moaning. Low, close. It was the enemy soldier, the kid, on top of me; but, maybe, getting louder. I couldn’t allow this.

Maybe it had been a prayer.

So sorry.

The noise, the gunfire and the yelling, which had been getting farther away, maybe an hour or so after the initial attack, was now coming back toward me. Marines, motherfuckers; don’t like losing. Reinforcements. And we had the firepower. An airstrike would be called in; cannons or mortars or planes, followed by fresh troops.

At least, if I was in the targeted grid, it would be quick.

Some of the same shoes, jungle tennies, that ran over me before; ran over me again. I never lost consciousness. Eventually I heard calmer voices, mopping up. “Here’s one,” a voice said. “You alive?”

“I think so,” I said.

The next thing I remember was the sound of a helicopter. V-woop, woop, woop.

That’s when I allowed myself to truly pass out.

“We killed the fuck out of them,” the Gunnery Sergeant said. “Good to hear,” I said. “You’re walking. You’ll have to wait for the next one.” “Don’t think so,” I said, lifting my empty rifle with the arm that still worked.

Overrun.

il_570xN.1664784855_n7tg

…………………………………………..TOO MUCH EXPOSITION

You have read enough to, probably, believe the “Overrun” piece sounds like my writing.  Maybe. It wasn’t like my writing at the time. Nothing like it. This was Jumper’s story. Shocked by it, surprised; I was equally surprised when he asked me to edit it; more surprised when he seemed so casual as I read it out loud.  He was casual, even detached, happy with most of the changes, with the flow of words.

“Semi-colons,” he said. “They’re like, um; somewhere between comas and periods,” I said. “Sure.” “It’s, it’s like, when someone reads it, out loud; it’s the rhythm. “Sure. I get it.” “I’m not changing anything, Jumper; maybe just, uh, rearranging a few things.” “Sure. Semi-colons.”

“Maybe we should take out the ‘motherfuckers’ in the, um, ‘Marines, motherfuckers, don’t like losing’ sentence.”

Jumper laughed. I stopped reading. “So, uh, no; if you read it right, it’s… (standing up at the dining room table in his parent’s house) ‘Marines, mo-ther-fuck’-ers…’ like… hey; here’s something. The Lieutenant… his name was… it wasn’t his name; we called him Berkeley; it’s where he was from. Or, at least, he went there. Anyway… fucking Berkeley. He was a gung ho motherfucker when he got in country. ‘America!’ By this time, though; he… hey; I was the second whitest guy in the platoon. Want to know how he died?”

“Who? Berkeley? No.”

“Okay.” Jumper sat back down, looked at my corrections and editing on his story, looked at the Smith-Corona typewriter, sitting in its open case, and taking up one-eighth of the space on the heavy, farm family table. He looked at the new piece of paper, “Overrun,” in upper case, at the top. “I should have taken a typing class, Jody. You?”

“Yeah. A whole year. Eighth grade.” He stood back up. “Glad I did.” I sat down in front of the typewriter. “Would you feel better if you told me?”

“What?”

I checked the spacing. “Double space,” I said, nodding at the page.  “I mean, about Berkeley. Feel better?”

“Not really.”

“Okay.” I started typing, looking at the page on the table. I pulled a piece of masking tape from the inside of the case, hung the first typed draft onto the leading edge of the open case. Rather like a curtain.

I heard a door open and close. “Another time,” Jumper said.

“Sure.” I set my fingers and started typing.

……………………………………AND ON

I still have Jumper’s piece, written by a twenty-two-year old, edited by a seventeen-year old. Almost eighteen. My own first submission to the Creative Writing class is long gone, long forgotten. No, not completely.  “…streams in the sand, saline flows, returning to Mother…”

Cringe.

The professor, from England, at Palomar on some sort of exchange teaching program, did read mine to the class. I didn’t cringe then. Squirmed in my seat, perhaps, ready for the praise.

“Too much exposition,” he said, “and so obviously influenced by Dylan.” Then, he added, to some laughter from the group, in a pretty solid Dylan impression; “For example: ‘You’re so like the colors on the backstop of the wild and winsome waters.’ (pause) Babe.”

You could now go back and read “Overrun” with an English accent. I must add that the bell rang before the reading was over, before the professor could give Jumper credit; and no one moved from their seats.

Jumper seemed so casual.

I say casual, but, while I took a desk in the middle of the room, toward the window, Jumper sat in what he called the “Wild Bill Hickock seat,” only the wall behind him, clear view of the room. Clear view of the door. Casual. Surfers praise casualness, the (learned) ability to be stylish, cool, in the most critical positions. When I’m in the tube, ‘locked-in’, on any wave of consequence, I really just want to scream.

And I have. But that’s me; Jumper would be, yeah, casual.

Then again, I didn’t need the Wild Bill Hickock seat.

rose-parade

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 20- “WHAT ARE YOU?”

I was typing, typing away. Jumper Hayes was next to me, leaning over the large wooden table.

Mr. Hayes, Jumper’s father, laughing at something his wife had, evidently, had said, walked into his kitchen, two bags of groceries in front of him. His wife, also laughing, also packing two bags, was behind him. Jumper went through the large opening between the dining room and the kitchen, took the bags from his mother, set them on the counter. Mr. Hayes entered, set his bags on the table.

When the bags were deposited, everyone looked at me. Typing. Typing away on the Smith-Corona, the portable case’s lid back, the curtain that was the first draft, scratched-out lines and filled-in lines, arrows pointing to where the new phrases would go, moving back and forth with my breathing.

I did look around, but, and I still can’t say why, felt more compelled to finish than to be polite. Typing.

“It’s Jody, Joe DeFreine. Junior.”

No; I did know why I felt compelled to finish. Jumper wouldn’t have wanted his parents to see what he had written.  Not that he said that. I could tell. I thought I could tell. I was almost done, anyway. Two pages, double spaced.

“Oh.” That was from both of Jumper’s parents, though Mr. Hayes said his ‘oh’ a bit flatter; less surprise in his voice.  Mrs. Hayes looked around at me several times as she took out cans and jars, started placing them into cabinets on either side of the sink. Mr. Hayes took one of the bags off the table, set it beside the refrigerator in the kitchen.  I kept typing, looking from the page on the table, to the page in the typewriter, to Jumper.

“He’s a better typer,” Jumper said, “Typist.”

“I work at that store,” I said, nodding toward the bag still on the table.

“He does,” Jumper said. “Bagboy.” There was a pause, nods all around. “He’ll move up.”

More nods. “I will.”

Mr. Hayes seemed to want to look at what I was typing. Jumper looked him off. He shrugged, took the second grocery bag to the counter. “Bagboy; that is a good place to start,” he said.

I was a bit surprised, or, at least, I did notice that there was no noticeable ‘Mexican’ inflection in Mr. Hayes’ speech. He sounded (and I know how this sounds) white.

I kept typing.

……………………………………………………MEXICAN INFLECTION

‘Mexican inflection?’ I wouldn’t have meant this in any derogatory way, necessarily; but, if there is a California inflection; it came from the mixture of Spanish and everyone else who came there; pathfinders and cowboys and gold seekers and Oakies, post-war migrants like my parents, and, I guess, me. One cannot deny the Mexican influence, flattened and foreshortened by all the rest of us.

And then there’s the black and gay influence: Words and phrasing and phrases; how we thought gays and black people talked, exaggerated, co-opted, stirred into the California lexicon, the California dialect, the California inflection.

Still, the Mexican influence cannot be denied.

Surfers, of course, had to be a bit different; speak with a different rhythm, introduce new words. You know the words. The attitude, the surfer attitude, is probably more your idea, exaggerated and perverted and spread by TV and movies and advertisers.

Sure. Surfing is sexy, coolness illustrated; pirate/rebels washed clean.

Coolness, hipness; we adapt our lives, change our speech patterns, make different choices in clothing and music and attitude as we discover new, and, if not better, more modern things, newer new things; trends, fashions.

The very word, fashion, describes its temporary nature.

We steal, borrow, incorporate. The strands are pretty obvious; like blues to jazz, blues to rock and roll, blues coopted by popular AM music. If you were born in the 1950s, you heard Sinatra and Chuck Berry on the same AM station; experienced the Beatles, then Dylan; no Dylan through Dylan covers, Peter Paul and Mary- then Dylan, then… whatever was fashionable. Temporary.

We, my Fallbrook contemporaries, suburban teenagers, isolated from the big cities, behind the times; we were Doors fans. Of course. My friends bought the albums. Garage bands played extended versions at sock hops and VFW dances. When tape players came out, some of my friends had them installed in the cars their parents handed down to them. Or bought for them. Four trac, then 8; Three Dog Night and Jimi Hendrix.

Somehow, I held on to the songs from the 78s my parents owned, surprisingly varied, with jazz, husband and wife duos, black singers. I remembered tunes from musicals in my mom’s LP stash, “Oklahoma” and “South Pacific,” Johnny Mathis and The Everly Brothers; I wanted to hear the real Dylan; he was in the magazines, why wasn’t he on the radio?

Like every other mystery, someone mentioned there was a station from San Diego, KPRI, that played whole albums; not bubblegum pop; radical, underground music. I could barely get it, but I tried, over in the corner of my bedroom, while I studied, wrote; edited and typed-up other people’s term papers (for a fee); another detached, isolated, suburban (almost rural, really) teenager.

KPRI was hard to tune in, with that grainy, scratchy, ringing-in-the-ear background. But I tried. I persisted. I listened. This was similar to the way channel 9, from Santa Barbara looked and sounded when, Ray on the roof moving the antenna, Phil and I tried to get “Surf’s Up,” listed in the TV Guide; and almost saw, or barely saw, some footage of Trestles, peeling, “like a washing machine.” That barely-there-ness only added to the appropriateness.

“We’re going,” the slow-speaking voice of a possibly-stoned disc jockey would say, “to go in the back room and get our heads together (background chuckles), so, here’s Dylan’s “John Wesley Harding.”

Appropriate. Black and white and scratchy-grainy.

When I got my first tape player, stolen, as previously mentioned, traded for some homemade sandwiches (and a promise for more) in the school parking lot, installed (rather, wired) by a guy who told me I should, my dad being an asshole and a cop and all, would know it was stolen; I bought some on-sale tapes at the Buy-and-Save market; Laura Nyro, Leonard Cohen, “Aerial Ballet” by Harry Nilsson.

“What’s that shit?” One of my friends would ask.

“Good music,” I would say.

Yeah, I had some Doors, Hendrix; often wondered if I really liked them more than the Moody Blues. When Led Zeppelin came out, I just avoided it. Or tried. Orgasmic rock. All these years later, KPRI probably playing new age country-western, no hardrock station can go an hour without playing something from Led Zep.

Somewhere in those years, I lost my California coastal accent.

-2428886956723908344.jpg

…………………………………………..TYPING

The typing was almost done when Mr. Hayes returned, pushed Jumper out of the way, put a photo, 11 by 14 inches or so, framed in silver, in front of me. It was a color photo, but slightly oranged-out, of two men in fancy Mexican attire, big sombreros, each on a horse dressed-out with silver-decorated tack and heavy, shiny saddles.

I looked at it, quickly, turned back to my typing, hit the last two keys, pulled the paper out, handed it, past Mr. Hayes, to Jumper. I stuffed his preliminary copies, two pages, one longhand, one typed, into the case, closed it, looked at Mr. Hayes, looked at the photo.

He moved it next to, then leaned it against the case. There was Mr. Hayes. There was my father.

I looked back at Mr. Hayes. “The Del Mar Fair?”

“No, a parade; Escondido, I think. No; it was the Camp Pendleton Rodeo; the year the guys from ‘Bonanza’ showed up.”

“Yeah. Um; you look… great.”

Mr. Hayes laughed. “Your father; big, blonde, John Wayne-looking guy; he’d of out Don Diego-ed Don Diego if he got the chance.” “Yeah.” “So; I mean I never met your mom.” “We did go, sometimes; but my Dad… lots of events.” “Sure.”

I knew what he wanted to ask. I didn’t want to help him.

“So, Joe… what are you?”

“Dad… He’s, he’s Hawaiian.”

I laughed, stopped laughing quickly, looked at the photo, stood up, grabbed the handle of the typewriter case. When I looked around, Jumper, his father, his mother were in front of me, waiting. I couldn’t seem offended.

“Hawaiians,” I said; “they’re made up of the actual Polynesians and…” I didn’t want to continue.

They were nodding, like they’d believe the Hawaiian thing.

“Not Hawaiian. My mother is Japanese. My father, between the wars… he got malaria… you know, we’re all… we’re… I mean, I’m…”

“Benito,” Jumper’s mother said, handing her son a coke, top popped off; offering another to me. I shook off the offer, looked at the Hayes family, took the bottle.

“I’m from California,” Mr. Hayes said. “Way back. Original land grants; Spanish; but… but, we’re all… Mestizo; aren’t we?”

“Mestizo,” I said.

“The Hayes name,” Mr. Hayes said, opening the first of two bottles of Coors he held in one hand; “it used to be De Jesus. Can’t really sell too many… plants and flowers…” He and his son both laughed. “Flowers by Jesus.” He handed the first bottle to Jumper, who set the still-full Coke down to take it, popped the cap off the second, took a drink, said, as he and his son toasted, “Hayes.”

“Mestizo,” Jumper said.

“Mestizo,” I said. We waited for Mrs. Hayes to get her own coke opened. Jumper nodded toward his. She took it off the table. Jumper folded the typed page into quarters, put it in his pocket. I probably frowned at this. It belonged in a folder.

We toasted. “Mestizo.”

 

PART TWO- SHUT UP AND TELL THE FUCKING STORY

SHADOWING

If PART ONE is what is currently called an origin story; what any editor, or, even, I would call (and already have) too much exposition, now we’re going to get into the story part of the story. I’m thinking about this, how to assemble the pieces, take the threads and…

…just a second. I am intimidated by the task, conscious that I’m writing (telling) this story pretty much the way I want to, but, perhaps, not in a style one might call ‘literary’.  That is, literary with my own negative shading on the word (did you notice I wrote ‘one might call’?) And I do realize the style I can’t seem to get away from is not strictly ‘conversational’.

Maybe my style is as stilted and, possibly, condescending as any style I would, gladly, criticize. Criticism is the very heart of being literary. Or maybe that’s the way I think of it; imagining how my writing can be dissected. Gleefully, intelligently; that’s what I’m imagining. So, intimidated.

I did, perhaps, once believe I was a poet, a writer. Years of writing reports, stripping away the whys to focus on the facts, the who was where when what happened; there was less and less poetry.

Maybe, definitely, I have lost whatever wonder I had when I was at the time and place I’m trying to recreate here.

Still, the years of dealing (professionally, at least) with victims and perpetrators are now past. Past. It wasn’t all alleys and tears and anger; there were moments, moments when, pushing out of a 7-11 at 5:30 in the morning, third black coffee refill since dusk; I noticed that the light was clean, the pre-dawn sky an off-white vacuum, with just the hint of yellow-green, the slight-but-offshore flow pushing away Pacific Ocean-influenced moisture. In those moments when I’d look west, look for those lines moving in from the distant horizon, I would always wonder what the surf was doing.

Wonder.

 

 

the  and the tenuous grip I always tried to keep in the world of fiction, of flowery prose and tightly wrought poetry

 

 

Jody’s Father’s Smith-Corona Portable

CLUES are the key in writing “Swamis,” the novel. It really seems that, as I continue with the process, the story is telling itself to me. It is a mystery novel, after all, but, though I know where I want it to go; I’m constantly surprised by clues that suddenly appear.

That is, though I’m trying to break the story into little pieces, keep it off a simply-linear path, dole out the clues, flesh out the characters, keep the plot plausible; I am attacked by some new thought.

Let me admit now that I haven’t decided who killed Chulo Lopez, Gingerbread Fred, and Jody’s father.

Here are a couple of ways it could go: Jesus Freaks, Pot Growers, Pot Traffickers, Sheriff’s Officers.  I’m about 13,000 words into the story, and I just looked up the average length of a novel- 60 to 90,000. I don’t want to pad the story*.

*This is amusing to me because I keep getting sidetracked; I’m writing about people who are my age, from a certain era; I’m including real people, and (variations on real) experiences, and personal knowledge from that era, 1969; all to make the story real.

Real-er.

Although the characters are all fictional, composites, they are becoming more real to me; from sketch to renderings; and I’m increasingly aware I can’t totally control them.

SO, I’m excited to see where they go.

THE LATEST clue/plot device/whatever that came to me is the typewriter. At first it was a typewriter that Jody is using to type up a paper for Jumper; but then I remembered a typewriter, belonging to my parents (Mom mostly) I was allowed to use. A portable Smith-Corona in a case.

il_570xN.1664784855_n7tg

NOW I’m imagining Jody, typewriter on the hood of his old station wagon, parked at Swamis… oh, and I’d better look up 60s era Falcon station wagons; see how the tailgate worked, if the windows were electric or had a crank; don’t want to misrepresent.

Real, realer, realistic.

A Couple Chapters from “Swamis”

 

“It’s just… um… you were rude.” Jerk looked like he might apologize; or, worse, cry.

I’m trying to move forward with the novel, but my time for working on it is limited, and every time I start, I seem to start at the beginning; and when I’m working on my other projects, like making actual money at my actual work (house painting), I seem to get caught up in how the plot is going to go.

I run so many scenarios through my mind; so many choices; and when I go with one, I have to go back to earlier pages; clues, building blocks. The result of changing and editing is, if I publish what I have written, I can’t really ask readers to go back and reread.

SO, I’m hoping this portion is pretty much complete; AND I’m starting it with something from the immediately-previous chapter. So….

 

“Hey,” I said, taking Dave’s towel off his board, handing it to Jerk. “My dad made me go. It’s really… it’s Devil Pups. Marines. Didn’t want to go.” I stood aside, opening the ramp. “We’re going to go surfing now.” I took the towel back, handed it to Dave. He took it with a shrug. “Just, um; you’re okay, huh?”

Jerk nodded. We walked on.

“Hope he doesn’t cry,” Dave said. “Your dad would’ve… I mean; if you ever even started to… to tear up; he’d of…” As we reached the sand, the sun way too close to the horizon, Dave ran next to me, looked closely at my face.

I wasn’t crying, quite, but I was not thrilled. I wasn’t sorry. I’m pretty sure I smiled, maybe even laughed. “Devil Dogs!” I ran for the water, didn’t look back at the bluff until I was knee-deep. The sun bounced back at me off windows, car windows, house windows. Silhouettes. Maybe one of them was Ginny, I thought. Maybe I was wrong.

Dave caught a wave before I did.

MONDAY, JULY 21- MAN ON THE MOON

This was the day after man first walked on the moon. I had surfed. Somewhere; maybe Stone Steps; trying to find a little peak in the peak of Summer; summer and all that meant in a Southern California beach town recently isolated by the completion of I-5.

There was talk, at that time, of the North County beach towns (Leucadia, Encinitas, Cardiff-by-the-Sea, Del Mar) suffering when 101 was no longer the main coastal north-south route. Whether they did or didn’t depends on your interpretation of ‘suffering.’

In the still images and video (and, actually, film) clips that are stored in my memory, there was (though I may have imagined it there) a TV in the front of the classroom, black and white only, set on an AV cart, tuned to the non-stop coverage of the moon landing.

A Woman entered, looked at the fifteen or so grownups and almost-grownups scattered around the classroom, each with a stack of papers on individual desks that were exactly like the ones at Fallbrook High, and probably Vista, San Marcos, Escondido, Orange Glen, San Dieguito (those same beach towns); the districts that fed into the Palomar Junior College District. She looked at one of the papers in her left hand, erased “Biology 101” from the chalk board.

“Now,” she said, “now;” speaking louder when no one looked up after the first ‘now.’ “You people are right at the line; the cut off. Your choices… (louder) are limited. You may not get all the classes you wanted.”

Creative Writing; yes. And I wanted English 101. Yes, I had tested high enough to skip the remedial, non-credit English; I wanted… Art; yes, definitely. Basic Drawing. Two classes still open. 8am. Of course; too early for real artists. Monday, Wednesday. Okay. Being under eighteen (the cutoff might have been twenty-one at that time), I was required to take a Physical Education class. Fall Sports was closed. Badmitton. Really? Closed. Shit. Weight Training. Still open. No. Fuck. Okay.

Okay. A-okay.

I was pretty pleased, partly because I was there; here; signing up for ‘high school with ashtrays,’ junior college; college nonetheless. I was still writing, erasing, writing when Jumper Hayes entered the room, gave the Admissions Woman a big smile, which she seemed to appreciate. He surveyed the room, pointed toward the empty seat next to me (at the back of the room) with his rolled-up papers, and sat next to me. He scooted (noisily) his desk unit closer; like he wanted to cheat off me.

“Bagboy,” he whispered.

I scooted my desk away. Jumper followed.

The Admissions Woman looked around at the noise, but, again, only returned what I had to believe was another reassuring smile from Jumper. I feel compelled to mention that the Admissions Woman was probably about twenty-something, something under 25, and was, despite her pulled-back hair and Summery-patterned dress (no sleeves, no hose, tanned legs- I noticed, and no shoes) trying to seem a bit more professional, even stern, than she was able to quite pull off. She was rather like a substitute teacher trying to maintain in a room of recent high school graduates, professional students, draft dodgers, returning veterans.

“No shoes,” I thought, looking down at my huarache sandals. With socks. Socks. That wouldn’t happen again. No dress code here.

“Bagboy,” Jumper said; “I thought you were going to some big time University. Word is, what I heard is… you’re a brain.”

“No.”

“No? Okay. Maybe not. It’s not like it, brains, show. I mean… (looking at me a bit closer) I don’t see it.”

“I was… upstate… inland; not my idea; but…” I’m sure I smiled, despite myself. “Brain? Who would…?”

“One of those Avocado-lovin’, guacamole dip…dipshits; Bucky Davis, maybe; John Amsterdam; why would I remember? I’m not a brain…I’m not like you.”

Admissions Woman, taking a handful of papers from an older man; probably forty, at the door; looked at them, scratched Philosophy II and Beginning Photography from the chalkboard.

“Shit.”

“Philosophy II?”

“No, beginning photography.”

“Oh. Sure. And, incidentally, Amsterdam still hates you. Brand new Dewey Weber performer.” He shook his head, moved his hands to illustrate a board crashing on another board. “Got to hang on to your board, Bagger.” He paused. “You prefer Bagboy… or Bagger? Bagger sounds a little more…” He nodded, nearly winked. “Or Jody?”

“That… Amsterdam’s board; wasn’t me. Different Fallbrook punk, man. Jody, that was my dad’s joke.”

“Yeah. Sure. And Tony, at the market; he’s in on it.” He was nodding; I nodded.

“They were both in the Corps. Not that they knew each other then; Tony was only in Korea; but…”

“As was I. In the Corps. Not Korea. Or is it ‘As I was?’” Jumper saluted; quickly, crisply; properly. He looked over at my papers. “Different wars, man. You takin’ any English classes, um, neighbor?” When I looked back, he went back to nodding. “Wrong side of 101. Too bad. You probably have to go five blocks to get across, but… guess you’re a Leucadian now.  As far as I know, you and I; maybe… (he moved his hands back and forth in a balancing motion) Carson Holder; we’re probably the closest things to Grandview locals.” I blinked “So, well…”

When I determined nothing was following ‘well,’ I said, “beats living in Frog-butt; huh?”

Jumper laughed, looked at the woman from admissions, gave her another, bigger smile, kept it when he looked back at me. “So, guess you don’t have the horse anymore.” He let that hang for the moment it took for me to look around. “Any longer? No longer have the horse?”

He didn’t drop the smile. I’d love to think I didn’t seem surprised. Or rattled. Or angry. “No, we… the horse…” I restacked my papers, whispered, “Fuck you, Jumper;” scooted my desk away, again, a bit more noisily than I might have preferred. Jumper was still smiling.

“Oh. Sure; and the horse I rode in on.”

……………………………………………………EASY A
Jumper stood up, his desk unit like a skirt, walked closer to me. He slid his preliminary class schedule in front of me, pointed to Criminal Justice; pointed to the same title on my schedule. “I am going on Uncle Sam, though; G.I. Bill. Semper Fi, (whispered) motherfucker. Full ride, man.”

“It’s California… Man; free education. And, besides; I’m not interested in…”

“Easy A, Jody; and… (back to a whisper) Marine Corps; cops; it’s a family tradition. Isn’t it?”

I crumpled up the first and second versions of my schedule in my right hand, stuck my middle finger out and a little too close to Jumper’s face. Surprised at how instant my anger had been, how it was staying at that level, and how Jumper’s reaction continued to be a smile (“Insolence,” my father would have said); I pulled my hand back almost immediately, flattened-out what had been a fist, and slapped my hand on the papers to the desktop.

“If my father… I’m… everyone knows who my father was. If I…” I looked at my form. “I’m done, June, Juni, Junipero… Mr. Hayes. Fifteen units. Full load. Done.” I stood up, picked up and straightened the other pages. “I’m not fucking interested in being a…” I lowered my voice, looked around the room. No one was looking up from their papers. “…a fucking cop.”

“Marine Corps, then. Huh?”

“You know…” he just refused to drop that smile. “…You know, there’s really nowhere else to go after the ‘fuck you’ exchange.”

“I never said it.” “Okay. Bye.” “Did you hear about Gingerbread Fred?”

“What?”

“Dead. Gingerbread Fred is dead.” “No. I hadn’t…” “I’d have thought you would’ve… broken neck… Swamis… fell down the top part of the stairs. Supposedly. When we’re taking Criminal Science…” Now we were both standing. Jumper pointed his papers toward the front of the room. “Funny how it’s all, like, science, huh?”

The Woman erased Psychology 101 from the board just before I got to her. I looked at my form, I looked at Jumper Hayes. He still had the same smile, mouthing, “Easy A;” stepped in front of me, very close to the Admissions Woman. “We’re both taking Criminal Justice, Miss… (looking at her name tag) Julianna Goldsworthy (stretching out each syllable).” He stepped back, went into a sort of superhero pose. “Do I look like a cop, Julianna?”

Julianna seemed too, maybe, bedazzled to respond with more than a nod. And a smile; a smile she dropped when she turned toward me. “Family tradition,” I said, “Easy A.”

Jumper looked at me, looked at Julianna, at the TV, back at Julianna; “Big deal, huh; man on the moon and all?”

Julianna looked back at Jumper. Her smile, half as big as it had been, returned; but the nod seemed twice as enthusiastic.  She almost giggled. “Soooo cool. The moon! Historically (lowering her voice) fucking cool.”

“Uh huh,” Jumper said, sharing her little ‘oops’ expression. He stuck a fist out, shook it, said, “To the moon, Alice.” We three, and a couple of others listening-in, of course, got the allusion.

Jumper looked at me, me maintain a serious expression, turned back to Julianna Goldsworthy, motioned her a bit closer. “I want to find out who killed Chulo Lopez and Gingerbread Fred. Mr. Joseph DeFreine, Junior, here… DeFreine is a fancy to say ‘French’; you can call him Jody… probably; he wants to find out who really killed his father.”

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 16- NIGHT CLASSES

It wasn’t actually dark, just that empty, colorless sky, sunset shades fading. I was walking quickly, then running, on the sidewalks, past the blocks of classrooms, most unlit; a camera strap around one wrist, piece of paper in the other hand. “Should have scoped this out,” I said, probably out loud.

There were mostly older men in the first classroom with lights on and a door open. White-haired and conservatively dressed. “Photography Two?” “No, kid; real estate.” Laughs, two guys pointing to the next building over.

Everyone in the correct classroom seemed to know each other; standing around in small groups, some in those multi-pocketed news photographer coats; versions, I thought, of great white hunter jackets.  I looked down at my favorite vinyl windbreaker, now-faded red with a thick white stripe, selected because it had big pockets, pockets being an important part, evidently, of being or looking like a photographer.

Most of the Photography II folks were men; not as old as the potential realtors; but, I couldn’t help thinking, probably mostly interested in artistic nude photography. Artistic. Nude.

Then there was Ginny Cole; hair pulled back, a pretty-neutral-colored and oversized sweater and Levis, that large, gray-and-stained, possibly-canvas bag on the desk in front of her, waiting for some one to start the class; that Ginny Cold look on her face.

Not that I knew her.

I did know the look; the don’t-even-think-about-it expression probably necessary for a girl’s survival in the surfing community. Or any community.

Still, I sat in the desk next to her. She didn’t look around.

“It’s like a pervert convention,” I said. No response.

“The trenchcoats.” Pause. No response. I chuckled, scanning the room again. Virginia didn’t. “I surfed Pipes this morning… pretty good; came here from work (all the while I’m probably nodding like a fool). At the market. Cardiff. Got a great deal on grapes.” Nothing. “Seedless.” I thought I saw a bit of a smile, quickly dropped. “You get any waves?” No response. “They’re seedless; on sale.”

Virginia Cole turned, possibly just to make me stop talking. This time she had the ‘drop-dead-and-die’ look ready to go; possibly even moving to the ‘may-your-dick-fall-off-before-you-drop-dead-and-then-die’ look; but, just as she turned, as can happen in the hours after a person surfs, a stream of water, trapped in the sinuses, poured out of Ginny’s nostrils. She quickly brought a hand up to stop it.

She looked at her hand, looked at the puddle on the desk, looked at me. I don’t know if I was smiling. Sure, had to have been.

Her expression was almost a smile. “Seedless, huh?” It was a smile.

“Okay, class;” a voice from the front of the room announced, “time to pick a partner for the dark room.”

I took the neckerchief I had around my neck (part of my junior college-cool outfit), handed it to Ginny. She looked at it for a second, unraveled it, wiped her nose, her eyes on me. Green, yes; translucent. Then she reset her polite-but-serious face, dropped the neckerchief onto the puddle.

I raised the Yashica 35-millimeter camera, briefly considered pointing it toward Ginny.

“My mom, she bought from a Vietnam veteran at her work; he’s dying, maybe he’s died by now, of some, some unspecified disease. I think it might be syphilis. ‘So young,’ my mom said. ‘Fifty bucks,’ my dad said; more like a question. ‘Fifty bucks?’ ‘It’s for Junior,’ she said. ‘Guess it’s better than that Brownie,’ he said. So, it’s mine.”

I knew I was blathering; ridiculous. I almost wanted to see, again, her ‘drop dead’ expression. Though I never took the shot, that’s still my top Ginny Cole image.

………………………………………………….IN A DIFFERENT LIGHT

Something about a woman in a dark room; the lighting so different; highlights and profiles, a certain intimacy. Maybe I was a little too thrilled. This wasn’t a date.

I was worthless. When it was obvious I didn’t know my way around a darkroom, she took my camera, made sure it was rewound, opened the back, took out the roll of film, unfurled it, placed it into the tray of developer. “How did you even get into this class?”

“Beginning photography was full.” I just stood by. Soon, the first roll of film I would ever (watch/assist) develop was in the fixer. I had to piss. Desperately. I couldn’t leave. “You?”

“Me? What?” She didn’t understand what I tried to pass on to her with a shaking of the hands. “Me. Took it while I was in high school. It’s… possible. It’s allowed. Quit dancing.”

She looked at my feet. “No shoes?” I looked at her feet. Tan, brushed leather almost-hiking boots. Hush Puppies. “Shoes. Shoes. Good. I had some Hush Puppies; got them because Phillip, he had some. I kind of…” I put my hands on my knees. “Bowlegged. Sort of. I ran them over at the heels. They were… I liked them. You?”

She just shook her head. She nodded toward my roll of film. I gave her a look that requested her permission. She gave me a look that said, ‘yeah, dumbass, you can pick it up.’

I grabbed my roll from the tray, by the edges, held it up to the reddish lights; negatives, 35 millimeter white and black images of waves, of people, strangers, in the parking lot at Swamis; of Erwin and Phillip and Ray, my closest high school surfing friends, from the last time we all surfed together; Swamis beachbreak.

Ginny took the roll from me, hung it on the line with her five rolls of negatives; flowers, and that dark and heavy kind of iceplant, and palm trees and sunsets and clouds, and various groupings of the San Dieguito surf crowd in the Swamis parking lot.

The professor approached. “He’s had to figure out… he will… you don’t belong,” she said. “You can leave for a minute. Just… just stop dancing. Please.” I couldn’t. “Go; Junior; we’ll make some contact prints.”

“Uh huh,” like I knew what that meant. I avoided eye contact with the professor, side-stepped him and one of the big jacket guys.

“Virginia,” the professor said; “how many rolls this time?”

I looked back. Ginny was resetting her polite face as the professor approached her, but, for a second, maybe…maybe she seemed to be looking past him, actually seeing me, almost smiling; but then, there’s something about darkroom lighting… a different light.

…………………………………………………………….ARTSY

When I returned, slipping through the ante-room and the blinds of heavy plastic, into the chemical smell and red-tinged darkness, past the professor and other students, Ginny Cole was examining the drying negatives; her five rolls, my one.

“Are you taking this class just to save money on developing?”

“No. Uh, maybe; partially. It’s more like… yes.” She had four rolls hanging and one fully-developed roll on the counter, on a towel, dobbing the top side with the other half of the same towel. That’s the one I tried to look at. She pulled it up and away. Thirty-five-millimeter negative images.

I backed-off, threw my hands up in a ‘no contest’ gesture. “Secret stuff?”

“It’s just… it’s not that… it’s not secret. They’re nice enough to let me… should have developed these last semester. Not… not secret.”

“Okay. Not secret. Private. Sure. Private.”

The ‘private’ thing was too much to put between two people in a darkroom who really didn’t know each other. I looked around the room. Two Big Jackets and the professor were looking at what I caught as nudes. Sure. Private. One of the Jackets pulled out a magnifying glass. Another Jacket slapped him on the back.

I looked back at Ginny. “Artistic,” I said. She looked at the men, back at me, shook her head. “Pervert convention.”

“Yeah. Artsy.” Ginny picked up and held the roll, by the edges, backlit. There was a shot of someone blocking the path at Beacons with a board. It was me. Oh.

“Oh,” I said.

“Telephoto lens,” she said. “You should get one.”

“Uh huh,” I said, checking the other shots, one a closeup of the Jerk looking up, blood (white on the acetate) on his nose and mouth.

“It’s not like you’re my hero or anything.”

“No,” I said. “Telephoto. Have to get one.” She handed my neckerchief back to me. I looked at it, looked at her. “Perfect,” I thought. “I’m not a narc,” I said.

 

This One Might be a T-Shirt Keeper

Trish told me to just quit looking at it. I had just put the larger and smaller versions in frames, fresh from getting the original reversed at the FedEx place in Silverdale, with help from a Hawaiian transplant I’ve dealt with before.

While he didn’t immediately see the wave in the last drawing, he said, of this one; “Oh yes, I can see it; the surfer, the board…”

Image (98)

The next time I go to Port Townsend, I’m going to check in with the guys who printed my last t-shirts, see if, maybe, they have some on hand they can use to get some out kind of, well, faster… and, having learned a few things from the first batch, I know now that a lot of surfers go for mediums; some for small.

So, though the double-x shirts are gone (one each to me), I do still have a few larges and extra larges, and some shirts are still available at Tyler Meek’s DISCO BAY OUTDOOR EXCHANGE.

MEANWHILE, I’m working (or better get to work) on some greeting cards using some of the best ORIGINAL ERWIN’s.

Like the promise of waves, coming soon.

AND, Yes, I’m still experimenting with the drawing of reverse images; but I do really enjoy the practice.

All Respect on Veteran’s Day

NOTE: The day after I wrote and posted this piece, I received a comment from GP Cox. He has a site focused on paratroopers in the Pacific Theater in World War II. I did go to his site, pacificparatroopers.wordpress, and checked it out. What is somewhat, at least, ironic is that my father intended to enlist in the Army Air Corps, but, because he was only seventeen, he was not allowed. The family story is: He walked on down the hall.  There is a link to the paratroopers site with the comment. Check it out; and thank you to GP Cox.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Because it is Veteran’s Day I want to extend my respect and gratitude to those who are serving or have served our country in the military…

…particularly in times of war; and, it seems, it’s always a time of war.

War is a failure of diplomacy, of compromise, of any promise of advancing civilization beyond our ancient-but-constantly-renewed tribalism. War is a consequence of the fear-hatred-action model. Either we’re on the side of coveting and going after that which we can not merely bargain for; or we’re defending against those forces.

The history of human beings is a history of war. War defines us.

This is what I was taught; yet this thought that war is wrong comes directly up against the war movies, the Cowboy-and-Indian sagas; swarming and falling; heroes prevailing or sacrificing all for some noble cause.

This “Noble Cause” idea is always there; it has never been defeated.

My childhood friends and I played Army, played Cowboys-and-Indians. Occasionally play would turn to a fight. Not necessarily noble.

I’m working on a novel, “Swamis,” that takes place in 1969, the year I turned 18, required to sign up for the draft.  I had just graduated from high school in a town anchoring one point of the triangle of Camp Pendleton. My parents both worked there. Most of Camp Pendleton was in the Fallbrook school district.

Though my father went into the U.S. Marine Corps before Pearl Harbor, and was at Guadalcanal and other horrific battles; contracted malaria, was wounded numerous times between World War II and his time in Korea (which coincided with my birth and, while he was there, the birth of my next sister down); my mother served in Washington D.C. in the office where decisions on rationing were made.

When I was in my teens, while my father was a civilian cable splicer for the (separate) phone service on Camp Pendleton, my mother worked in the base photo lab alongside some of those who took now-iconic photos from previous and ongoing wars.

One of her coworkers was our neighbor, father of children whose ages lined up with the kids in our family. You couldn’t meet him and not see that he had been damaged by what he had been through, what he had seen, what he had photographed.

The Vietnam War and all its associated drama were covered almost live; campus protests and jungle patrols. And there were stories wherever one went. Parents of friends were over there, in the military. Older brothers of friends were there, sons of people from my church were there; at least one of whom died there.

Coming of age is, of course, always difficult. At almost eighteen (an age in which my father was at Guadalcanal) I had to sign up for the draft; but I was working in a sign shop, going surfing pretty much every morning, and deciding between a church-run college and the local community college. Either way I’d be registering as 2-S, a student deferment.  Though there was a lot of talk among my peers of which branch to sign up for, Coast Guard Reserve getting the nod in the surfing community; there was also the often-repeated rumor that this war was going to go on for years, and, once the student deferment no longer applied, it was Vietnam for sure.

This is where the novel comes in: The narrator, who is not me (though I am a resource), has to make a similar decision on the draft. On December 1, 1969, the first (supposedly fairer than the existing system) lottery draft was held. Every male born before 1951 was eligible. I was born in 1951; the next year would be the critical one for me.

I thought I could remember the exact numbers of my birth date for the first and second lottery drafts. 36 for the first year; 174 for the second. I looked it up. I had remembered correctly.

Somewhere between the first and second drawings I made (possibly- certainly seemed so at the time) the biggest gamble of my life; changed my status to 1-A.

They never called me, I never called them.

It’s way more complicated than that, of course. My church had training for those who could serve as medics. Some heroes of the Seventh Day Adventist Church had done so. It would be easiest, if drafted, to just go in the Army. Two years. “Cannon fodder,” was the word on it. My father told me that if I went in as an officer, he wouldn’t care which branch I went into, but if I went in enlisted, it had better be the Marine Corps.

But here’s what happened: A little over two years in a sign shop got me qualified, barely, to get a job as a journeyman painter with the Department of the Navy in San Diego at 20 years old; 1971. I went to work with veterans of World War II, Korea, and with returning vets (slightly older than I was) in the apprenticeship program.

All of these folks were affected, if not damaged by what they had seen, what they had participated in. Although veterans are not fond of talking to non-vets, they will talk among themselves, and most of the people I worked with were veterans.

I worked with a guy who (and his peers never guessed it) piloted a landing craft on D-Day, was issued a 45 and orders to kill anyone who wouldn’t disembark; I worked with a man who was on several ships that were sunk, who fought against Rommel’s forces in North Africa.

When I transferred to the shipyard in Bremerton in 1979, I worked with a guy who was on Navy river patrol boats in Vietnam. He was very quiet, didn’t want to talk to anyone about it. “Yeah, like the movie; only real.” Another Vietnam veteran, who, when I would see him talking to his real peers, seemed unable to get past his experiences. He died (and I can’t help think his Vietnam time contributed to this) in his mid-thirties. Another painter, who sported an ever-longer beard and hair, was willing to tell me how, on an off-station project in Spain, an American guard said something about his hair, and, if he was a Marine… “I am a ___-______ Marine,” he answered.

Grandpa

There are no ex-Marines. My father was a Marine when he died. “Very bad things happen,” he said, when the subject of Post Traumatic Stress disorder came up, “you just have to keep on going.”

I don’t know war. I have seen what war does to people. To ask someone to go to war is to ask them to go against what most of us are taught, to possibly die or possibly kill another human being for some noble cause. If the cause isn’t actually noble…

War is the tragedy of man.

To those who serve, who have served; all respect. I do mean all respect.

 

If it’s not chiaroscuro, maybe it’s…

…possible the illustration could be described by some other word that is, itself, defined as an image with an almost equal amount of black and white.

Image (97)

I discovered this ‘equalness’* when I took the original drawing, the negative of this image, to a printer to be reversed. I didn’t have that version reduced, so I can’t show it here, but, probably because I just can’t leave space, black or white, bare; the amounts of toner necessary to print either version, according to the guy behind the counter, were pretty much the same.

*I wanted to use the word ‘equanimity’, but, when I looked it up, it referred to a state of calmness despite whatever existential craziness is going on.

You’re right; I didn’t have to use the word ‘existential.’

SO, this one probably won’t become a t-shirt. Like everything; art, writing, paint contracting, marketing of art and writing; I’m still working on it.

AND trying to maintain some level of equanimity-ness.

MEANWHILE… Evidently some t-shirts are being sold at Tyler Meek’s DISCO BAY OUTDOOR EXCHANGE, located on SURF ROUTE 101, the main route to the ‘still wild’ Olympic Peninsula.