I’m really bad at remembering names, so, having asked for it twice, I tried to bookmark Mark’s name by connecting him with where we met; at the checkout line at the QFC market in Port Townsend.
Evidently we had passed each other before. You know how things all seem to happen at once? I meant that more as a statement. Nothing is happening, you’re going through some mental checklist, droning through, and then a sort of overload of information is hurled at you from several directions at once.
So, I’m checking out, punching-in my phone number, and I sort of casually look back at the next person in line, a guy in his early twenties with blond hair a bit out of control; and he’s looking at me as if I’m supposed to, maybe, recognize him. I don’t, really, but then he says something. I don’t really hear it, so I step closer to him.
He repeats, “Are you getting in the water much?”
“Do I, um, know you?”
“No; but I’ve seen you, like, every time I go to Wild (not the real name) Rivers.”
Oh, so now I’m thinking, running tape (this is a mixed metaphor-sorry) through my brain’s old school computer.
“Erwin Dence,” I say. “Actually, I started out the year surfing…”
I have to do something with my bank card. Swipe. “Pin?” No. “Credit.”
So, I’m through, stuff in a paper bag, but I’m still talking to Mark. Or trying to. “Do you know any local surfers?” “Not really.” He names a name. “Works at _____” I forget where, but, “Yeah; I talked to that guy over at Noodles (not the real name) Beach.” “I mostly go to the Straits.” “Yeah. I’ve been doing some surfing in town; not a good winter, so far, for…”
Evidently the checker at the counter next door doesn’t have anyone in line, so he interjects with something about “Surfing,” in kind of a fake-excited tone, then, for the enlightenment of the other checker, “Spicoli (the character from “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.”) This throws me off. Am I Spicoli? Is Mark Spicoli? Why would either of us be Spicoli?
Caption: The real fake Spicoli; slightly more interesting because he’s at a market.
“You know,” I say, mostly to the other checker; “Ridgemont was really based on Clairmont High, and I used to…” “Dude,” my checker says.
“Hey,” I say, to Mark (not to either checker), “have you checked out my website? It’srealsurfers.net and I…” “I don’t do the internet.” “What?”
“I’m with you, brother,” says my checker. “Oh, I ‘surf’… the internet,” the other checker says. “Yeah, but,” I say, “you should drop into my site because…”
It doesn’t matter. The conversation is over; though, both of us headed for the parking lot, Mark says he saw me in line and thought, “Hey, I know that guy.” I tried to get a glimpse of his vehicle, hoping that might jog my memory. Maybe. Was he out, sitting on the inside on a short board while I was totally wave-hogging the rights? Did he nod at me from the back of a Chevy Suburban (impractical because of the mileage) on a crowded day with the rights working? Was I my usual self, pushy in the water, political on the beach? Probably.
It’s worth noting that, when we see other surfers in non-surf settings, we’re all in the same tribe; one slightly removed from the cashiers and the other shoppers.
Driving home, I suddenly thought I should have said, “Getting in the water? Not nearly enough.”
BONUS: While googling ‘surfing port townsend’ images I came across this photo of an old friend, Joel Levy. Joel was a chef, a small businessman, and a cornet player and singer who performed around Port Townsend with various incarnations of his Cafe Combo. He sang in a big band-big voice type of style, preferring the standards. I did some painting at his house, graphics and custom stuff. “You know what I want,” he’d say. “No, not that; more, um, whimsical.” To keep the market theme going, following at a respectable distance behind Trish (my usual position when I’m not shopping via Blutooth- so rude, so fun), I ran into Joel one evening. “Some enchanted ev-en-ing” I sort of belted out. Trish increased her speed; Joel tried to act like he didn’t know me. Later, he said, if I’m going to try to sing, don’t try to go big; don’t emulate him. Good advice, but I mostly sing in moving vehicles, alone, backing myself up on harmonica.
It was a sad day when Joel passed on, partially because his life was sort of unraveling around him. He wasn’t a surfer, but he was real.