I always believed surfers are either apolitical or apathetic, too busy to check out much beyond weather and surf forecasts, maybe follow a few YouTube channels; AND, if a surfer/rebel/individualist were to be political, I assumed he or she would be liberal.
OF COURSE, until I had cash stolen from my vehicle (twice) while I surfed, I believed real surfers had a sort of honor code that meant surfers don’t steal from other surfers. OKAY, so it was, like, $66.00 or so, pretty much take home pay from my $1.65/hr wage back in 1969; and I did write off the first theft (shame on him) as having been done by, obviously, a non-surfer. HA! Shame on me.
ANYWAY, the elections are coming up and my postings might just get a touch political. I hope you’re not touchy.
SO, SCANNING the internet a bit past the surf forecasts, I discovered the CHUMPS4TRUMP site, with it’s motto: “Last time was for four years, this time it’s for life,” and it’s slogan, “If you voted for Trump, you’re already a member.” Anyway, there’s some advice for Trump-agators (apparently some illusion to draining some metaphorical swamp and filling it with those willing to pay more for a position- bids accepted) who might also claim to surf (sometimes, once in Hawaii, back in the day, once a year at private beaches in third world countries- or Malibu) or consider themselves actual surfers (as in, own a Wavestorm and a fake boogie board).
Here it is: Please stay out of the water between now and November 4th, election day; The Donald has decreed that “a lot of folks say salt water might be polluted; that’s what they say, so, be safe; don’t get a cold; don’t go in. Hang in the parking area; that’s almost like surfing; a lot of people say.”
BUT, gators (special shout out to agi-gators and protest infil-gators), when you do vote, Wednesday, November 4, you must remember to, one, do it in person, and two, don’t look like a snowflake in a designer mask. If the deep state or other local overlords force you to wear a mask, chumps4trump, incorporated. LLC, recommends BURLAP; available in a variety of shades of red; and, yes, made in America by the same folks who bring you the My Pillow. Oh, so wonderfully fluffy and white.
ALL RIGHT, since any true Trump-ladite would have given up reading by now, the truth is I made up a lot of this stuff. So, I lied. It used to be a bad thing.
So, here’s the truth: Trump doesn’t give a fuck if you get sick. The actual election day is Tuesday, November 3, and, because the Trump Person who donated enough to get the opportunity to weaken his competitor has done his damnedest to screw up and slow down the UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE, when you get your ballot, send it in immediately or bring it to a secure ballot dropoff spot. Hopefully, enough people will be monitoring these sites to make sure our votes don’t get, um, uh, lost.
It’s not like I’m apologizing. I have some real concerns about businesses failing, a lack of any kind of support for small businesses and want-to-be-working folks from the Republican-controlled Senate, the members of which can’t even discuss anything Don won’t sign- and can’t believe him when he says he supports anything Fox doesn’t pre-approve. No matter how the investment class keeps playing the stock market, this shit will eventually hit the fan. BUT, MOSTLY, it is very difficult for me to believe that anyone can believe in (as in he loves America more than himself) or vote for the (I’ll leave out the adjectives- you know what he is) current President. If you made the mistake once, shame on him…
IF YOU WANT TO KNOW PRETTY MUCH EVERYTHING THAT’S WRONG with something you have written, read it out loud. I figured I would start with that, only part of what happened at the “Art and Writings of Erwin Dence” Zoom event on the most recent Thursday night.
Keith Darrock, Port Townsend Librarian (he has a fancier title I can’t remember- just think librarian only more so, add in that he rips on any board in an ever-increasing quiver) and I got into the Zoom virtual space early, me on standby in my living room, he moving his laptop to an appropriate location in his home, books in the background.
Trish and our daughter, Dru, who had spent a lot of time making a slideshow from the illustrations (available for viewing on the previous post, non-slideshow) were joining-in from Dru’s place in Port Gamble.
I had spent part of the day preparing for what I hoped and imagined would happen at the Zoom event, having been way too distracted to get any significant work done the previous day because I was contacting and inviting (texting, mostly) folks I thought might be willing to participate.
WHEN I DID speak to someone, it turned into… well, I do like to talk. I should particularly mention that I spent some time on the cell phone with a local Port Townsend (professional- as in no other ‘real’ job) writer who was gracious/foolish enough to read the entire unexpergated version of “Swamis” and give me a lot of guidance. He said he’d probably be watching the last night of the Democratic National Convention, but, again, he was gracious/foolish enough to discuss what changes I had made to the manuscript since his review, and he did reveal why he had dedicated himself to writing. “I just couldn’t see myself doing anything else for a living.” “Road construction, retail sales?” “Good luck.”
BECAUSE I had never actually written a succinct description of “Swamis,” as in 25 words or less, and I wanted to sound more author-like if pressed, I endeavored to do so. Okay, it’s 376 words or so. AND, because, in my mind, the audience/Zoomers might include the folks who have attended library events in the past, I went through the manuscript and picked out three pages that I thought might appeal to that educated group of hip and literate PT word lovers. The subchapter is one of the more (I thought) semi-romantic parts of the story.
SO, 7pm Pacific Daylight Savings Time is 3pm on the Big Island of Hawaii where Stephen R. Davis, freshly freed from quarantine, is hanging out (and, yeah, I guess, working). He was one of the first to ZOOM in, from his phone, from a vehicle, riding with former PT resident, and, by all accounts, surf ripper, McKinna (probably didn’t get the name right- I’ve heard of him but may never have met him- son of a well-known surfer, actually learned to surf in Wa. state), heading out looking for surf.
“So crowded,” Steve said, “Lots of wahines in bikinis. Very little material. I can’t tell you how little material there is in these bikinis.”
Okay, pretty appropriate. By the time some other folks had joined, Steve and McKinna were going out at a surf spot with (we got to see this) some great looking waves. Other folks had joined in, a couple of library types, as in solid citizens, but mostly local surfers I could easily name; and, if I get them to sign some simple non-disclosure agreements, I might. Joke. Sort of. Permission.
If I had to summarize the evening, it was like what one would hear from a group of surfers in any beachside parking area, probably anywhere: Who snaked who, what happened after that one session at that one spot, where did all the hipsters and hodads come from, and what about that time when…
SOMEWHERE IN THERE, about the time when I had to cut my video because of limited bandwidth from my overstretched DSL line (not that I minded this, the slideshow was designed, mostly, so that folks didn’t have to look at me) I did read my description of “Swamis,” and, most-embarrassingly, I did read the three pages I had (erroneously) selected, trying to vary the voices for the four characters.
THERE ARE sections of the novel with actual surfing, brilliantly described, with less dialogue from fewer voices.
THIS WAS WHEN STEPHEN R. DAVIS returned, chased, he said, out of the water by a “pack of rippers. Kids. They’re everywhere over here. So many rippers.” SO, we (and we, by this time, included, among others, Dru’s friend, professional DJ, Trenton, and Trisha’s nephew, and, I guess, my nephew-in-law, or, maybe, just nephew, Dylan, La Jolla surfer and recent graduate from UCLA Law School) were treated to another virtual tour of the Big Island, commentary by Steve, with continuing banter from what constitutes most of the unofficial PT Surf crew, special dispensation for ADAM WIPEOUT and, sort of, me, both of us from the SURF ROUTE 101 division. Unofficial.
NEXT DAY REVIEW: Fun; some good stories shared. Trish told Dru I was nothing like Joey in my novel, told me I definitely need help in writing anything even close to romantic fiction. Steve added significantly to if he did not entirely save the event. Dylan, probably used to surfing in the crowded California city surf with it’s ghetto mentality, thought it was great that surfers actually could enjoy each other’s company, even virtually. Steve and McKinna scored some empty rights at sunset, Hawaii time.
Here’s my description of “Swamis:”
Joseph DeFreines, Jr. tells stories centered around the legendary Southern California surf spot, Swamis, focusing on 1969. It’s a world of hippies and burnouts and Jesus Freaks and protesters, a time when words like love and peace and war and revolution might all be used in a single sentence.
Joseph’s father, a detective with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Office, has just died in, of course, mysterious circumstances; Joe has just graduated from an inland high school and moved to the coast; he’s turning eighteen and facing the draft; and he’s falling in love with a surfer girl whose father definitely has a connection with the North County’s cash crop, the area’s open secret, marijuana.
The growing and processing and selling of marijuana is progressing, getting more sophisticated, more profitable, and more dangerous. The formerly cottage industry is evolving from the homegrown, with plants hidden in the avocado orchards and kids selling dime bags. There is money to be laundered, good citizens getting involved. There is, or could be, a wholesale market.
The unofficial line with the Sheriff’s Office, in a quote from Joseph, Senior, is “The world works on an acceptable level of corruption.”
When a man is burned to death just outside of the white walls of the religious compound that gives Swamis its name, that level has been breached.
While surfing has its too-obvious allure; too much freedom in too little clothing, its aura of rebellion and undeniable coolness, it also has, at least in Joseph’s mind, a certain set of high standards, a code of conduct. He’s wrong. He’s naïve. It’s a different world, existing con-currently with the world of commuters, the world of law enforcement, the world of pot… so many concurrent realities.
The characters in “Swamis” are complex: A detective’s son with possible epilepsy and a history of violent outbursts; a wounded returning Vietnam Vet; an ex-teen runaway-turned-evangelist; a Japanese war bride; a hired thug who becomes a respected detective; a black photojournalist; an East Indian who wanted to be a revolutionary and was banished from London; Mexican middlemen under immense pressure. If Swamis are seekers more than prophets, they are all Swamis. Still, none are perfect.
Maybe Virginia Cole. To Joey.
Maybe, among the chaos, there’s the occasional perfect moment, the perfect ride on a perfect wave.
Thursday, August 20, 7pm Pacific Daylight Savings Time. So, to Zoom in, and, frankly, I’m a bit worried about this, particularly since I can’t seem to figure out how to highlight stuff so it’s easy for you, but, okay, https://zoom.us/j/91279664230
Allright. No, not really, but, when the event starts, moderator/curator/librarian/ripper Keith Darrock is planning to show some of my illustrations. This is partially so Zoomers don’t have to see my face, and it was totally my idea. Yeah, Keith agreed. It seems like the easiest way to do this was to put a bunch on my site, let Keith scroll down. As such, I have attempted to move some from a thumb drive. We’ll see how that works. Stand by.
Things went wrong when I tried to post this yesterday. I had three or four paragraphs written, then did the cut-and-paste thing. OOPS! I had two copies of the text, taken from my manuscript for “Swamis,” and, when I tried several ways to speed up the deletion of the unwanted second version; errrrrrr, I eliminated the other stuff.
Anyway, this particular chapter is, in my work of fiction, written by 22 year old Jumper Hayes, freshly back from and severely wounded as a Marine in Vietnam. It’s 1969, and he asks the fictional Jody, just turning 18 and a fellow student in a Creative Writing class at Palomar Junior College, to type up what he had written.
What is very important to me is that anyone reading “Swamis” be certain that the writer was there; that it is accurate and has the feel of the place at the time. Since I wasn’t in Vietnam, I asked Trisha’s brother, my brother-in-law, James L. Scott, who was an officer in the Marines in Vietnam, to provide some feedback.
And he did. He said it read like it was written by someone who wasn’t there. He particularly pointed out the lack of swearing.
SO, here’s my solution. Jim said it was ‘better.’ I’m thinking he’s giving it a C+, maybe more like, hopefully, a B-. Check it out.
Wait, here’s what I was doing while Jim was in Vietnam. That’s a board, the “Sunshine Super Seed” with me, a board Scott Sutton made, sold to Trish. Her mother thought Scott ripped Trish off, so I bought it. Very thick. I could, at the time, knee paddle it.
CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE- WEDNESDAY SEPTEMBER 17, 1969
This is the piece Jumper submitted in Creative Writing class:
There weren’t enough claymores; or someone had set them off too soon; or there were just too many of them. VC. Local irregulars. Them.
It wasn’t a firefight. We were doing most of the shooting. Our position wouldn’t hold. We would be overrun. Too many of them, 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 fast enough.
“Fall back!” the LT yelled, just before he fell back, dead; two soldiers 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. 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 charlies 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.
This is battle. Fear and anger and determination and confusion. Falling back and falling down.
I was never unconscious. Time had become nothing; time was blood in my eyes.
I was lying next to Sammy, PFC, smartass fucker from Houston; dead, wet, and cold; cold by Vietnam standards. Vietnam, that steaming, sweating, triple-canopy jungle, rice fields that smelled like shit, scared yet smiling villagers; Viet-fucking-by-god-Nam.
The two gooks; kids, really, more like conscripted villagers, rice farmers with guns; the two I had just shot, were on top of me, all of us in an awkward pile; their blood mixing with mine. Pressure on my other wound. The bad one. I was behind a tree blown down by one of the previous air strikes. I was squirming under the bodies and as close to the trunk as I could get. More than a dozen feet stepped on us; running, charging, now chasing rather than attacking.
There is a tradition, as old as man, as old as war: Once a position is secured, others make sure each one of the enemy fighters; the vanquished, the defeated, the overrun; is dead. Weapons and clothes and some measure of revenge are the spoils; souvenirs; guns, clothes, ears.
Almost instantly, flies and crawling insects attacked. They know death. They know the difference, they don’t fucking care. 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 more legend than 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 felt movement, heard moaning. Low, close. It was the kid, on top of me; not dead, getting louder. I couldn’t allow this.
Maybe his moaning 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 might be called in; cannons or mortars or planes or helicopter gunships, fifty caliber machine guns; 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. Retreating. I clung to consciousness. Eventually I heard calmer voices, mopping up. “Here’s one,” a voice said. “You alive, pal?”
“I think so,” I said.
The next thing I remember was the sound of a helicopter. V-woop, woop, woop.
“We killed the fuck out of them slopes, Gunny,” the Marine at the landing site, said. “Good to hear,” I said. He said, “You’re walking. You’ll have to wait for the next one.”
I wasn’t walking. I was standing. The next evacuation would be mostly bodies. “Don’t think so, Corporal,” I said, lifting my empty rifle with the arm that still worked.
CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO- SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 1969
I’m dropping back a few days. Jumper Hayes and I were in the formal dining room at his parents house, his chair moved to one of the corners of the table, mine at what I guessed was his father’s spot, my typewriter case open in front of me.
“Overrun” was Jumper’s story. Surprisingly shocked by his original, hand-written version; I was equally surprised when he asked me to type it for him; and more surprised when he seemed so casual, even detached, as I read my third draft out loud, then handed it to him as if it was done. Complete. Ready to hand in.
“Sounds good. Mostly. Different than I’d of thought.”
“It’s your words. Mostly.”
“Semi-colons,” he asked, “they’re, um, useful?”
“They’re like, um; somewhere between comas and periods,” I said.
“It’s, it’s like, when someone reads it, out loud; it’s the rhythm.”
“Rhythm. Yeah; I heard that, like a, um, cadence. Semi-colons.”
“It’s like surfing; smooth flow…” There were hand gestures here. “Take off, drop, turn, set up, swoop… flow. Didn’t you ever think surfing is like…”
Jumper pointed to my free hand. “A little jerky on your set up there, Jody.”
I dropped both hands. “I’m not changing anything; maybe just, uh, rearranging.”
“I only asked you to type it up, man.”
“Yeah; well; editing; it’s a, uh, collaborative… process. Some stuff has to be… cut.”
“Oh? Collaborative… editing process? Well, Jody, seems like you cut out a lot of fucking, cocksucking, motherfucking, shit-stomping, goddamn swearing, there; makes it sound like it was written by some draft-dodging, tit-sucking, flag-burning, mom’s boy, queer-bait, pussy, shit-bird, asshole, cocksucker who wasn’t fuckin’ there.” When I seemed adequately shocked, he added, in a bit of a whisper, with a bit of a smile, “I was… there.”
“Okay, Jumper,” I said, pointing to the second page, “I did leave in the ‘motherfuckers’ in the, um, ‘Marines, motherfuckers, don’t like losing’ sentence.”
Jumper laughed. “So, uh, no; Jody; you have to own the words. If you read it right, like you’ve ever fuckin’ sworn before; maybe, in your life, it’d be, like…” He rose from his chair. “‘Marines, mo-ther-fuck’-ers…’ like… hey; here’s something, Jody: Our LT… 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.” Jumper looked at me when he said ‘motherfucker;’ we both nodded- good flow. “He was ‘God Bless America! Fuck everyone else!’ Yeah. Really. A couple of months in country, though; he changed. Hey; I was the second whitest guy in the platoon. Want to know how he died?”
“Who? Berkeley? Not really.”
“Okay.” Jumper sat back down, looked at my corrections and editing on his story, looked at the portable Smith-Corona typewriter, sitting in its open case, and taking up one-eighth of the available space on the oversized, family table, almost more like a picnic table with a shine and doilies. Most of the surface was covered in stacks, neat stacks of newspapers, invoices, order forms, bills and correspondence. Again, neatly stacked, properly dusted.
Jumper looked at the new piece of paper spooling around on my typewriter. “I should have taken a typing class, Jody. Valuable.”
“Yeah. A whole year. Eighth grade.” Jumper sat back down. “Glad I did.” I sat down in front of the typewriter. “Would you feel better if you told me?”
“Double space is appropriate,” I said, nodding at the page. “I mean, about Berkeley. Would talking about him, what happened, would it make you feel… better?”
“Okay.” I started typing, looking at the page on the table. “Maybe another time.” I pulled a piece of twice-used masking tape from the inside of the case, hung the previous typed draft onto the leading edge of the open case. Rather like a curtain. “Or never. I’m putting some fucking, ass-licking… um, just tell me where to put in the swearing. Where it’s… appropriate.”
I heard a door open and close. I heard voices. “Use your best fucking judgment,” Jumper whispered, his eyes going between the hanging pages and my face; “oh, and I wasn’t calling you a… an asshole. Didn’t mean you.”
“Sure.” I set my fingers on the proper keys, eyes on the last draft, and started typing, whispering, “draft-dodging, tit-sucking, flag-burning, mom’s boy, queer-bait, pussy, shit-bird, asshole, cocksucker.” By the time I got to “who wasn’t fuckin’ there” it was less than a whisper.
In time I converted the Jumper swear to “Draft-dodging, flag-burning cocksucker; tit-sucking, mom’s boy, queer-bait, pussy asshole.” Better flow, I thought. I cut out ‘shit-bird,’ I owned the words.
This is the version of Jumper’s piece I kept; “Overrun,” written by a twenty-two-year old, edited by an eighteen-year old. Just turned eighteen-year old. His submission included more swearing and was, again, shockingly well received by the students, highly praised by the professor. My own first submission to the Creative Writing class is long gone, long and purposefully forgotten. No, not completely. “Rivulets, streams in the sand, saline flows, returning to Mother…”
While simplifying my manuscript for “Swamis” has actually become more complicated, I have also spent some time complicating illustrations; adding more color than necessary, going full psychedelic. Maybe that’s all right and even acceptable; the story does take place in Southern California, 1969.
You’re most likely too young to have any memories, or, if you were there, it may be more flashback than memory. A former cliché that may, through disuse, may have reached the statute of limitations on repeating is this: “If you can remember anything about the 60s, you really weren’t there.”
Okay, I googled it. The quote has been attributed to: Paul Kantner, Robin Williams, Paul Krassner, Pete Townshend, Grace Slick, Timothy Leary, and others. If you know who all of those people are… whoa! Look at you!
So, here are my latest workings:
ANYWAY, I’m still getting my stuff together for the ZOOM event with the Port Townsend Library, Thursday, August 20, 7pm. There’s supposed to be a slide show of some of my stuff so people who tune in don’t have to look at me. Here’s a link: https://ptpubliclibrary.org/library/page/art-and-writing-erwin-dence OKAY, so how do I make that all blue so you don’t have to type it all out.
Oh, some of these and others are available at Tyler Meeks’ DISCO BAY OUTDOOR EXCHANGE. Stop in when you’re cruising out to the Peninsula, Thur-Sunday, 10am to 6pm.