Susceptible

“‘The music,’ he said, he always said, always said, ‘is in the words. Pause. The words, one, the words, one, two, the words. Pause. The music, one, is in, one two, the, one, two, three, words.’ He was right.”
“No. No. I’ll, uh, admit… he had the genius thing you and I didn’t… poor us; had to earn shit; but he was always… I’ll pause here, not to sound, um, musical or anything, always… susceptible. It’s why he got screwed up originally, why he became a Jesus Freak, it’s why he got back into drugs again. Enlightened. Geez. Like, because he could drop too much acid and still seem, uh, lucid, lucid to his drugged-out and, on drugs or not, dumb-ass friends. Geez. Assholes. White trash… He thought; on the drugs thing… God, man; I don’t know what he fuckin’ thought. He thought it was easy. He thought it was all good fun. He thought wrong.”
“You’re right. Susceptible. I always thought; always believed, maybe, he… he was… was he, maybe, ni-eve? Or maybe we were because we believed in the whole ‘work hard and you’ll succeed’ bullshit.”
“Oh. Oh; yeah; yes. Definitely. Us not him. Sure. Sure, but, man; we’re still alive, still struggling. Moreover… is ‘moreover’ the right word here?
“Probably. Moreover?”
“Moreover, what he was was, mostly, he was…susceptible.”
“Susceptible? (there’s a long pause here, during which my youngest brother and I look at each other, look at several surfboards leaned up against a wall in my garage) Yeah, sure. Susceptible.”
SUSCEPTIBLE
My brother, our brother; no, he wasn’t a musician, wasn’t a poet’, maybe; probably wasn’t more than a guy who wanted to form some kind of life that included surfing whenever it was good. I don’t have to argue with our other brother about this; he’s right. Sidney took the easy way out. Well, what he thought was easy. It worked for him; for a while. I still have the board Sid gave me; classic Surfboards Hawaii pintail; no longer the clean white with the fine pin stripe at the overlap, the dings from a couple of sessions at that reef break that really wasn’t a surf spot (but was never crowded) still not patched. Still, since I have this outlet, such as it is, before I go over the story (and it’s a story I’ve told, I’ve written, I’ve re-written); let me publish something my brother did write. Maybe it is poetry. Maybe it’s just words and pauses, that, if read out loud, as poetry should be read; and, say, try this- slur over the words, because, and my brother also believed this, even the actual words aren’t as important as the music- maybe it is music.
CAR CHASE
A car door will not stop a bullet;
A door and a femur will,
There is pain; the numbness, alleged, promised, that is a lie;
Another lie.
With every car that passes I feel, or hear;
No longer able to discern a difference;
The sound of a wave;
That first sound.
Oh, that’s it, that’s right;
The same bullet that only pierced the front windshield,
My car charging the roadblock, my head down,
Hoping the motor might stop a bullet or two;
That bullet (or those bullets) took out the back window;
Collapsed: diamond chunks not blown out crumbled.
And now, headed for the sea; whoosh;
I hear the sea, whoosh; I hear the sea.
Closer.
*Syd

That was fiction. He’d left the back hatch open on his van, imagined the rest. He knew he was running. Or, more correctly, he felt like he’d been running, though he was really just hiding a darker reality behind his visible life with whatever screen** and story*** and as much sheen he could afford. For a while, it was all pretty damn shiny; surf trips, friends with names we might read in a magazine or hear on TV, vehicles that were so impractical, surfboards one should hang on a wall ridden and given as gifts. Secret gifts too good to give back. Or up.
*Changed, by Sid, from Sid, short for Sidney. Yeah; of course. **I’m thinking the facade of a house just west of 101. ***Fictions about background, actual income sources, actual investments, actual relatives; just about everything.
Oh, and I must now say this is fiction. Just a story. Don’t go looking for real life equivalents, for ‘based-on’s, though, yes, the ‘whoosh’ from Sidney’s piece (he only thought he was being chased, only imagined being shot); I did use that in a piece already posted, on the sounds of a rainy Seattle. I stole it; sure; but really, I remembered it, and I believed it to be true. Truth.

SUSCEPTIBLE-     Part One- The Devil and the Fear of Darkness
I couldn’t save Sidney. Roger couldn’t save him. By the time Roger called me about the desert airplane drop and the intercept of the small plane, and the attempted bust and the shootout and the escape, Sidney not among the bodies at the… he called it a ‘showdown,’ two guys in a four wheel drive at the junction on miles of dirt roads and the only highway back, two bodies and bags of recovered drugs when the showdown was over; when he realized the escaped member of the party, the guy the other guys tried to kill when they thought he had ratted them out; when he just knew that guy had to be Sidney, possibly wounded, but not at the scene…
“Hi, Laurie; Roger. How’s everything? You barbequing?”
“No. I know you think that’s what we suburbanites…”
“Is my brother around?”
“What’s wrong?”
“Nothing. Nothing.”
But it was something.
“Don’t fuck with me, Roger. What is it?” The pause here is probably twenty seconds. That’s a long telephone pause. Still pausing, waiting. “It’s Sidney. Sidney, isn’t it?”
“Yeah. So… yeah. Is Mikey around or not? I don’t have time to…”
“MIKEY!”

Years earlier, Sidney turned to Jesus when he decided his life had sunk low enough; about the time, he later told me, when he gave up sniffing glue, not so much because he could hear (or feel) his own brain cells popping, but because his partner-in-sniffing, both sharing the tube and the paper bags, had popped enough that Sidney could no longer understand him. “He was gone.” I should say ‘turned back to Jesus,’ since we all had enough of a religious upbringing to share the beJesus out of us, to convince us that we were probably, most likely, doomed. Because I like to wrap things up in some terse phrase, I began to claim that “we learned guilt and hypocrisy at an early age.” Because I was the oldest, I had to hide or deny (hypocrisy) my intense fear of the dark; because Sidney possibly learned more of the verses of the Bible, or paid more attention, he developed a fear of the actual Devil. Because Roger was much younger, and because our father died while he was younger, and because our mother met up with several (two, really) future step-fathers who couldn’t care less about religion (I was old enough they had little influence on me or my fears), Roger developed only a fear of failure. Intense, actually.
It was cool, in those days, to announce your love of the risen savior, the redeemer, the Lord; but the religion was mixed in with so many other notions that…I shouldn’t discuss religion, really; I had become free (by circumstance more than will) of the trappings and the niceties and the hypocrisy. The Jesus Freaks offered a simple message; as Jesus had; it just became more complicated when groups were formed, organization was needed.
Somewhere in this complexity, Sidney moved up, and, when other simple believers lost their enthusiasm and fell off, he moved on to other groups; cynics, paranoids, studious zealots who could find scripture to back up their own fears. And Sidney could study deeper, explain the subtleties in a seemingly-clear way. Groups became smaller; Sidney moved higher. And funds were needed. Money. The Devil Incarnate; in various incarnations; but real.
Now, it might be easy for you to compare what I just wrote about my brother did in impressing other druggies by merely being able to somewhat communicate. Fine, but, I, the brother with the fear of the dark, still think him a genius; and still feel the loose-but-real restraints of the morals I was taught, the things I believed; goodness and evil and redemption; I held to my fear of the dark; almost savored it. And, after all, my father told both of us how, back in the war, he had seen The Devil. In the Dark.

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Dawn All Christmas Day

There are things we all have to do today; traditions; people to visit; maybe a movie, maybe dinner out. Or in. Maybe you get to watch the expressions; anticipation, excitement, possibly unguarded joy; of your children, of those you love, unwrapping gifts. Maybe someone you love is watching your expressions. Maybe you’re sleeping in as a gift to yourself. I have things to do; some place far away to be later that means doing this is as close to surfing as I’ll get today; oh, maybe check out the waves near my Dad’s house in Ilwaco if I get there in time.

I did, as always, check the buoy reports. Errrrrhhh. Someone is getting a present; a few slides while the rest of us… well, if it happens to be you, great. Anticipation, excitement, possibility unguarded joy. May the waves wrap around you, and, then, unwrap at just the perfect moment.

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But, now, tomorrow; that’s a different story. Whoa; just discovered the colors got way too bold; at least on this computer.

Darryl Wood, Legendary Northwest Spotfinder

The first surfer I met in the Great Pacific Northwest was Darryl Wood. That was in February of 1979, just after half of the Hood Canal Floating Bridge, the link from the Olympic Peninsula to the rest of the world, had been ripped from its moorings in a very localized storm that included hurricane-force winds, along with a powerful tidal surge, that shift made stronger by the almost record low pressure, and waves pushed higher on the sixty mile fetch of the ancient fjord, all focused on the center of the bridge, opened to allow the pressure through, pushed open like a gate, and gone.

A week later, Washington State had brought in a passenger-only tour boat from Seattle, set up some connections with a bus company on the Kitsap County side, and I met Darryl, and many other commuters I might never had met if the bridge wasn’t gone. It was the first boat of the morning, both of us headed for work at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton. Darryl and another guy from Port Angeles, whose name, and I apologize for this, I have long forgotten, were car-pooling, now only as far as the Southpoint ferry dock. A Civil Service painter, I had just transferred here from San Diego. Darryl and the other guy were Union guys, working on a new facility connected with the dry-docked nuclear-powered vessels. I do remember that Darryl down-played his role as a carpenter, but said his friend was a ‘superstar among the laborers.’

A week later I, a person who had thought I was through with surfing, was surfing, in a diving wetsuit I had just purchased and would later give to a Gary Gregerson,  a friend and fellow signpainter at the shipyard, who planned to use it for walking around in creeks. Sure.

I should say I was attempting to surf at a spot you could then access, after first navigating some winding roads, by driving straight toward the Strait, past the guy who would step onto his back porch, six feet from your vehicle’s window, then pulling to the right on top of firmly in-place riprap. It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon, 38 degrees, there were three other surfers out, each of whom asked where I came from; and the water was freeeeeeeeezing. My sister Melissa’s board, the only one I hadn’t sold before leaving Mission Hills, longer than the one I had been riding, didn’t float as well with the cumbersome extra rubber, my hoodless head felt like each wave I pushed through was filled with ice cubes, my feet almost instantly went numb, the wax seemed to be as effective as rubbing the board with suntan lotion, and the waves were fast and steep. I caught several waves, couldn’t help but get barreled, and never got to my feet.

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Darryl Wood, with coffee cup, his longtime friend and fellow surf adventurer, Arnold, and several other members of the local Surfrider Chapter, cleaning up this parking lot just rolled over by another storm.

“The more things change,” huh?

“You still, um, riding most waves on your knees, Erwin?” “Well, no, I, uh… yeah, pretty much. Get a longer ride and, maybe… how are you doing?” As older guys do, and Darryl is a bit older than I am, we both talk about knees without internal padding. He added shoulders damaged from years of swinging hammers and lifting beams and such.

Still, Darryl remains the surfer I most admire and respect from my tenure in the northwest. He has held, tenaciously, to his Christian values, maintained his sense of surf etiquette, and, although he considers himself quite conservative, he is able to look past the posturing and pettiness of a succession of amped-up surfers. Including me.

I asked what Darryl what he thinks of the increasing number of surfers hitting the Strait, so changed from the days when he personally knew most of the surfers in the area, and knew the landowners who had gates blocking access to secret spots. He shrugged. “If it’s breaking on a weekend,” he said, “there might be fifty, sixty surfers.” This wasn’t a weekend.

On this same day I ran into the guy who owns this access, just checking on the storm damage. I had heard that the lot could be closed if surfers abuse the place (or when this guy passes on), and kissed-up pretty much to the limit of my ability to do so. “It’s not for overnight camping,” he said, expressing his displeasure at having, in the past, before “Darryl Wood and those Surfrider people” put the sani-can in, suddenly finding things he didn’t want to find while weed-whacking.

“See you in another ten years or so,” I said as Darryl and his crew moved on to survey some other properties the Surfrider Foundation oversees. We both turned to watch my friend Keith Darrock make it most of the way across another slightly-chopped-up line.

“He’s good,” Darryl said. “Yeah; always does the tuck.” “Always a pleasure,” Darryl said, taking another glance out, at the indicator, the one outside the lefts. It was breaking. He gave a nod toward the water. Always a pleasure.

A Teaser on The Continuing Saga, Formerly a Mystery, and soon to be a majorly independent motion picture event, of the Paddle in the Dolphin

NOW that I’ve written it, gotten it out, I’m over it. I hold no ill will toward Raja, and hope we can hang out in the future. He does seem to have the same appreciation for the thrills, absurdities, posturing, and generally high-schoolish behavior involved in surfing anywhere. I’m calling us even. Hopefully Raja will also. PEACE, and I don’t mean that sarcastically.

This is Raja, his given name. I asked. He was born and raised and still lives in Edmonds, a city on the Seattle side of Puget Sound. I’ve seen Raja numerous times over the past several years while surfing on the Strait of Juan de Fuca. His beard keeps growing; hipsterrific.  A few months ago, in an act Raja still claims was not malicious, he found my paddle, which had been ripped from my hands while negotiating the last sixty yards of an inside tube. Now, as I have previously written, I would have bailed on the wave had it not been for the just-mentioned tube. And, hey, the paddle floats, right?

DCIM101GOPRO

Raja in left profile. The other two angles are on file.

Oh, those are my fingers. Just can’t seem to get them out of the shots.  Now, you can make your own decisions on whether Raja is a hero for causing an (allegedly) intimidating and (by definition) notorious wave hog to have a few moments of, well, humiliation; or a punk-ass bitch who has never actually said he was in any way sorry for the non-malicious act.  The ‘punk-ass bitch’ is not malicious, Raja (and friends of Raja), and was recommended as the appropriate description by someone who had heard [my version] of the story, and preferred punk-ass bitch over [my choice] hipster dick. Yes, I know you, Raja, and all hipsters, deny your hipster-ness, and, if ‘hipster’ is in any way a pejorative term, this is also not malicious in intent.

There’s intent and there’s actual consequences. Um, yeah; sure.

I’ll get back to this. I’m working on the complete story. I am over it. I think Raja is counting on the wave of prestige for showing up, kind of, a 64 (no, I was only 63 at the time) guy without having to do it on actual waves.

Check back another time.

 

PB Point Never Breaks

HEAD SONGS- It may have been an early Fleetwood Mac instrumental playing in my head. Whatever it was it was perfect for the afternoon, some mix of northwest swell and just the right tide creating fast lines from near Pacific Beach Point to the south end of the parking lot at Tourmaline Canyon. It was turn-and-tuck on each thin, fast, backlit wave, tuck until you are finally engulfed by the tube.

PBpointTourmlne

SUMMER SOLSTICE: The longest days in San Diego seem to end by 8:15 or so. In the three years or so, starting in November of 1971, I lived in PB, just up the long steep drop to the parking lot, I always checked PB Point. It seemed like there should be great, Swamis-like waves there; there just weren’t. No, not ever. On one summer day, unlike the first story (and probably with a different tune moving as a different wave in my head), the waves were peaky, with the best peak halfway to the actual point. I went out after work and stayed long enough to walk back up the hill in the dark, across the street to the La Jolla Bella, long since, I’m sure, condo-ed out and priced out of reach for a newly-married couple, even if both work.

ANOTHER SUMMER DAY, not working on workday, I was out on a little peak just off the actual point. Starting out shoulder-hopping, I was soon mid-peak, then back-dooring the wave, most likely on my Surfboards Hawaii twinfin, the going-right fin moved as far forward in the box as it would go, the going-left fin back because, if I must explain, I surfed differently going backside; more forward-trim going right. I also had my first leash/kookstrap on the board, already shortened by breakage because they were then made out of something like surgical tubing, effected negatively by saltwater corrosion. So, mid-peak, I took a hit, the board slid out from under me, the leash dragged me, kicking and clawing, across the reef. I came up with green stuff under my fingernails. Perfect. Go again.

tourmaline-Rocky-Bluffs--Courtesy-Lisa-Field--SanDiegoorg_54_990x660_201404241143

WINTER SOLSTICE: On the shortest days of the year, it seems, as I remember, to get dark in San Diego somewhere between 4:30 and 5pm. I mention this because, in the Northwest, way farther north, but also farther west, the longest days go close to 10pm, but the shortest days turn dark before 4:35. Interesting. Not really, but, on one of those winter afternoons, PB Point was working. It was, and I don’t exaggerate on wave size, six feet. I must admit I’m daunted by larger waves (less daunting, more excitement on a point break compared to a beachbreak), but I found myself comfortable. And the waves just got bigger, until, just before dark, it was, by my standard, eight feet and I was still more excited than concerned. The darkness closed in so quickly, exhausted, looking way down the beach toward the lights, that I decided to go up the cliff. I climbed a fence or two, went through some rich person’s yard, and walked back down the road toward home.

PBPoint

ONE MORE STORY: My friend from Fallbrook, my first surfing accomplice, Phillip (long since Doctor) Harper, and his first wife, Pam, because they had to work weekends, would often come down to San Diego, or we’d meet at Swamis or somewhere, on a Wednesday or Thursday. On one of these visits, Phillip and I were surfing quite small and pretty crappy beachbreak at Tourmaline. I wiped-out on a wave, my even-shorter leash wrapped around the back of my board, and, when I came up, the board hit me right in the eye. What was interesting was, because I thrashed (and still thrash) boards, and rarely patched them (or patch them), a week or so later the glass on the nose of the board was broken away. It would have been a different result, Jack.

OKAY, TWO STORIES: That board was getting so thrashed that I would frequently go home with several new cuts on my legs from the board. On one winter afternoon, the tide very high, most of the surfers not catching any waves, I was taking off, kicking-out close to the shore riprap, close to the parking lot. When I got out, a tourist, an older woman probably escaping snow or something, said, “You look like you were having the most fun out there.” “Probably was,” I said, some new line of blood running down my leg.

THESE DAYS, because I need new gloves, I seem to get a new wound on my hands from each session, though, donning my old (properly thrashed) suit for a second session, recently, I noticed, later, that I had new scratches on my knee where the wetsuit was ripped. Should repair that.

New Semi-Surf-Related Art by Melissa Lynch

My sister (and realartist) Melissa Lynch sent me her newest illustrations the other day. I, of course, a little confused by the technique but excited by the images, asked if I could use them on my site.

troubledshoresI

TroubledShoresII

The illustrations are titled “Troubled Shores I” and “Troubled Shores II,” and refer to the ongoing Mideast-to-Europe refugee crisis. They demand some study, and with the world-wide implications of desperate people sacrificing everything to escape violence and terror, finding greed and fear and, for way too many, death at sea; with politicians using fear and hatred as campaign strategy; with radicalized assholes killing for some perverted version of what they claim is religion but is not about any god but, rather, about more power… well, we can’t help but be caught in this.

It’s interesting that Melissa includes the Statue of Liberty. Perhaps the ‘huddled masses’ already here are… yes, the drawing has me thinking of things I was already thinking of, the consequences of whipped-up fear and hatred; but my worst fears are that there is no other America to run to.

Here’s what Melissa wrote to me:
I sent them for your use if you want to use them. No worries if not. They are mixed media, using a transfer method for the background texture, which is images from the internet about the refugees, a photo of the Statue of Liberty, and the “Raft of the Medusa” by Théodore Géricault (1791–1824). Then I drew on that background with pastel chalk. It was for my class and the assignment was to use the “Raft of the Medusa” as a springboard to react to current events. I titled it “Teeming Shores” or “Shores 2015”.

I used the same method and “appropriated” your wave illustration on an earlier piece (giving you credit of course). You might be interested in it too. If so, feel free to use it.
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The Raft of the Medusa as inspiration 
Alternate process; Collage: Photo-copy transfers, Glue, and India Ink. 
* Wave background appropriated from my brother, Erwin Dence. 
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Raft of the Medusa Inspired – Detail
This is a detail of a larger work which was inspired by the painting by Géricault, depicting a great tragedy. 

This work depicts myself playing in the sand as a child, a wave threatens to wipe me out. The woman in the foreground depicts my mother who passed away when I was very young, and my father, distraught with sorrow, and despair. The other women surrounding me and holding back the wave depict the many other “mothers” who stepped in to help protect and guide throughout my life; sisters, sister-in-law, step-mother, friends’ mothers, teachers, and aunts, and as an adult, my very dear friends. The wave itself, appropriated from my brother, though depicted here as a destructive force, also represents his help and guidance in my rearing, without which I wouldn’t be who I am today.

PS. “The Ragged Line” illustration was accepted to the Illinois Board of Higher Education 1 year exhibit!
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I am claiming (because it’s the way I remember it) Melissa drew this to illustrate a short story I wrote with the same title. I take no credit for her talent. And, since I’m showcasing her work, here’s another, Winter At Sea:
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