DESPERATELY SEEKING SALINE. Hey, it’s been too long between swells, too long since we got out there. YouTube videos just don’t replace being out there, in the water. Paddling isn’t the same as surfing. My standard line is, “If there weren’t waves you couldn’t get me into this (Strait of Juan de Fuca is colder than the actual ocean on the Olympic Peninsula) water; if there are waves, you couldn’t keep me out.”
Despite that, my most recent attempt at finding a place where one is allowed to surf and there were actually waves found me paddling, paddling, paddling. NOW, I frequently ride pretty small waves, and always say it’s practice for when larger waves show up. Not that time; but I did practice the standup part of standup surfing. Fun. Practice. Sarcasm.
I WANT WAVES.
Meanwhile, I am making some progress in my bigtime edit of “SWAMIS.” It’s way easier on the reader; chapters clearly identified, almost all the stuff related to the current/older Joseph DeFreines, Jr. cut completely. I am saving the longer cut scenes/chapters as “Sideslipping,” now up to about forty pages with about half the manuscript left to work on. Oddly, because I’ve moved chapters around and added some stuff, the actual word count has not dropped to the same place. Still, I’m hoping to get it all to around one hundred thousand words.
TO SET UP THIS CUT, Jody (Joe DeFreines, Jr.) is typing/editing a piece Jumper Hayes wrote for a creative writing class at Jumper’s house when Jumper’s parents come home. Part of one of my conceits in the story is that almost every character is part this and part that; Jody is half Japanese, Jumper’s father is a descendant of the original Spanish conquerors/settlers; and California is as mixed a melting pot as, really, almost anywhere.
‘Mexican inflection?’ I wouldn’t have meant this in any derogatory way, necessarily; but, if there is a California inflection; it comes from the mixture of Spanish and everyone else who came here; 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 than reality, 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. Subtext. That fashion goes in and out is given to the user of the word for free.
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, you probably got Dylan through Dylan covers, Peter Paul and Mary, the Byrds; then Dylan, then… whatever was fashionable. Temporary.
THE REAL DYLAN
We, my Fallbrook contemporaries, suburban teenage males, isolated from the big cities, behind the times; we were Doors fans. Of course. My friends bought the albums. Garage bands played extended versions of ‘Light My Fire’ 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 torch singers, Nat King Cole. I remembered tunes from musicals in my mom’s LP stash, “Oklahoma” and “South Pacific.” They had LPs, 33 1/3rd, Johnny Mathis and The Everly Brothers. I didn’t want doo wop or bubblegum pop, I wanted to hear the real Dylan. Dylan was in the magazines, angry young man, voice of a generation; why wasn’t he on the radio?
Dylan was certainly not on KCPQ, the station my friends in Junior High went on about. KCPQ advertised pimple cream and played Beatle songs for portable radios, songs sung in the hallways by hormone-strained voices, guys suddenly affecting English accents. There were sanitized versions of Dylan; but no Dylan. I didn’t want more Chad and Jeremy, more Herman’s Hermits.
Someone dropped a clue, something heard by overhearing an older brother. There was a station from San Diego, KPRI, FM (for god’s sake), that played whole albums; 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, as close to tuned in as I could get it, still had that grainy, scratchy, ringing-in-the-ear background. I tried. I persisted. I listened. That it was difficult to tune into made it better. Way better. FM, for god’s sake.
Channel 9, from Santa Barbara, was a similar, hard-to-tune-in mystery. With Ray on the roof moving the antenna, Phillip at the window, and me at the TV set, we tried to get “Surf’s Up.” It was listed in the Fallbrook-specific TV Guide; and, at best, we almost saw, or barely saw, some footage of Trestles, a legendary break, peeling. The only audio we could hear was, “peeling like a washing machine.”
That barely-there-ness only added to the appropriateness. “Peeling like a washing machine” became, briefly, our phrase for a perfect wave on an imperfect day. Rare, peeling…
“We’re going,” the slow-speaking voice (opposite of am radio) of a possibly-stoned KPRI 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.” Sound of inhalation, extended version.
Appropriate. Black-and-white, scratchy-grainy TV, whispered songs with tinnitus backgrounds.
When I got my first tape player, 4 plus 4, capable of playing four and eight trac tapes; and stolen, as previously mentioned, traded for fifteen bucks and some homemade sandwiches (and a promise for more) in the school parking lot, installed (rather, wired) by a guy (can’t remember his name) who told me I, my dad being an asshole and a cop and all, should have known 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 is probably sports or talk or playing new age country/western, and there is no classic or hardrock station that can go an hour without playing something from Led Zep.
Orgasmic rock I called it. Hated Led Zeppelin, but I still know most of their songs.
Somewhere in those years, I lost my California coastal accent. Or, maybe I just thought I had. It comes back sometimes. “Oh, I see; you don’t like avo-caaa-do.”
STAY SAFE, and watch out next time you see me. I may have been practicing.