Too-Epic “Swamis”

My novel, “Swamis,” keeps growing, keeps reaching past ‘novel’ to ‘epic novel’ length. I keep editing it, deleting stuff, then, tightening and polishing and making sure all the little moves are clear; it just keeps rolling past the 120k word zone, that fictional border that keeps a fictional story at a readable length.

Yeah, and as much as it hurts me to cut chapters, with where I am, so close to an ending that keeps evading me in the rewriting and editing, I definitely need to cut a couple of thousand words. SO, I keep moving them to the backup, shadow story, labeled “Sideslipping” on my laptop. I have published some of these on realsurfers, and, if I can swing the computer moves, I will stick some ‘edits,’ don’t want to call them ‘deleted scenes,’ here. MAYBE ‘deleted scenes’ is acceptable.

See the source image
John Witzig photo, Australia, sixties; but it sure looks like Swamis

The following is actually two big outtakes. Remember, though there is a lot of actual people and real events included in “Swamis,” this is fiction. I transplanted my best surfing friends Phillip and Ray into situations that never happened, stuck myself in there, too, mostly so readers don’t think I am Jody. I am not. And, yeah, it’s a lot of words to delete; still not enough:

                                SIDESLIPPING- OUTTAKES FROM “SWAMIS”

Here we go:

Someone I met much later, a former member of the La Jolla/Windansea group, ten years or so older than me; old enough to have dived for abalone and lobster; old enough to have ridden a new balsa wood board, said, of surfing in his era, “We just sort of plowed.”

When I switched from surf mats to boards, in 1965, diving for and selling abalone and ‘bugs’ (lobster) for cash was already over; being a ‘true waterman’ was no longer a priority.  This only added to the mystique.  There was a certain reverence, respect, held by surfers of the “Everybody goes surfing, surfing U.S.A.” era for the members of that post-war generation; beatnik/hotrod/rock n’ roll/pre-Gidget/rebellious/outsider/loner surfers plowing empty waves. 

That is, for those (of us) who actually gave a shit.

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, if you wanted to improve, you would have to challenge yourself to ride bigger waves, beachbreaks with no channel, tough paddle outs.  You would have to learn to hold tightly to the board’s rails, your arms loose enough to move with the violence of a breaking wave.  If you wanted to surf the best waves, the set waves, even at Tamarack, you would eventually have to challenge a better-than-you surfer for a wave.

Chapter Eight- Thursday, March 20, 1969

Phillip and Ray lead the discussion about the murder and the excitement.  There was a bigger than usual crowd at the big concrete planter boxes, designed with seating all around, trees and bark inside them. The break was called ‘nutrition,’ between second and third periods, and there were two trailers set up where nutritious snacks like orange-sickles and twinkies could be purchased.  

Mostly Ray was talking, with Phillip adding key points, and Erwin looking out for any nearby teachers.  Mark and Dipshit Dave and three of the Billys were there. I was in my usual spot, standing in the planter, observing, listening.  Some of the local toughs and the cooler non-surfers were, unusually, part of this day’s group; listening; more friends of friends of Ray and Phil. 

Two of the Rich Kids came over from the Senior Area.  Mike, who had been my best friend up until third grade, jumped up next to me on the planter.  “Missed the excitement, huh Joey?”

“Guess so, Mikey.”

I had already heard the story.  My mind was somewhere else.  

“Um, hey; Joey; you know…”  I knew what Mike wanted to say.  “We’re still; you know, friends.”  He tapped me on the chest, tapped his own.  “It’s just… your dad.  Sorry.”

I tapped Mike on his chest, three times, held up a flat palm between us, went back to being somewhere else.   

In our freshman year, the most crowd-centric of several big concrete planters became the pre-school, break, and lunchtime hangout for the entire crew of Freshmen surfers (as far as we knew); Erwin and Phillip and me. With the administrative building behind it, the gymnasium/cafeteria downhill, most of the classrooms to the west, and a bit of shade provided by the trees, it was a good place for observing while still laying low, avoiding… avoiding the other students; the older students in particular; but also any awkward interactions with girls and rich kids and new kids who had gone to other Junior high schools, Pauma Valley (East, toward Palomar Mountain) and Camp Pendleton (West) and Bonsall (Southwest) and Rainbow and Temecula (Northeast).

Temecula. In my senior year, 1969, there were four or five kids from there; three were siblings; two Hanks sisters, one brother. These days, if people don’t know where Fallbrook is, they have heard of Temecula. Big city. “Yeah, sure, Temecula; out on The 15.”

Putting “The” in front of the name of highways came later, along with traffic helicopters and rush hour destination forecasts. Later.

I-15 was Highway 395 then, and Temecula was, often, twisted into Tim-meh-cu’-la; not for any good reason except, perhaps, it was more inland, farther East than Fallbrook, Fallbrook, a town that self-identified (with signage) as “The Friendly Village;” but was nicknamed, in a self-deprecating way, Frog-butt.

Again, the planter was a good place to observe the daily run of mostly manufactured dramas, crushes and romances and slights and breakups, from.  High ground.  The planter offered a good view of the slatted, backless wooden benches where the sociable girls, this clique and that one, sat (one or two sitting, two or three standing), in groupings established through some mysterious sort of class/status jockeying, some girls able to move from one group to another; some not.

The planter was adjacent to the Senior Area, a sort of skewed rectangle of grass and concrete with covered picnic tables.  This chunk of real estate was off limits and jealously guarded, mostly by guys in red Warriors letterman jackets, against intruders; though any senior who made any effort to appear cool (particularly when talking with underclass girls) would feel obligated to say the exclusivity of the senior area was no big deal to him. 

Girls.  Yeah, the planter was a good place to observe girls, some I’d known since kindergarten. Changing.  So quickly.  Heartbeat by heartbeat.  Girls.  So mysterious. 

It’s not that I didn’t try to understand how a (comparatively) poor girl with a great personality could be in with three rich girls, at least one of whom was totally bitchy (I mean ‘slightly difficult, quite mean, and unreasonably demanding,’ but I would have meant and said bitchy back then).  I figured it was because they knew each other before we figured out whose parents had more money than whose (ours).

…  

Phillip was new when we were freshmen.   He had come from Orange County; but he had done some surfing and his older sister was going out with a guy who was definitely one of Fallbrook High’s four or five real surfers.  Phillip and I shared a couple of classes.  I’d known Erwin since kindergarten.  He was a Seventh Day Adventist, which was, he explained, “Kind of like Christians following Jewish traditions.”  “Oh, so that’s why you’re not supposed to surf on Saturdays?”  “It’s the Sabbath.  Holy.  Sundown Friday until sundown Saturday.”  “Too bad.”  “Well; we have gone to, um, Doheny; somewhere we wouldn’t run into anyone from, you know, here.”  “Oh?”  “Yeah; hypocrisy and guilt. If surfing isn’t, you know, actually sinful…”  “Oh, but you know it is.”  “Sure is.”

Erwin was one of the only Adventists at our school, and he started board surfing right after junior high; about the same time I did; when his sister, Suellen, beguiled by “Gidget” movies and an episode of “Dr. Kildare,” probably (no doubt, actually); got herself a used surfboard and let her brother borrow it. 

Sinful, yes; addictive, undoubtedly.  I once, early September, just after school started, saw Erwin sitting on his sister’s board, toward the channel of the lineup.  Sunday.  Tamarack.  It wasn’t big, really, maybe a little bigger than had been average over the summer. 

“You’re in the channel, Erwin.”  “So?”  Closer to the peak meant closer to the crowd.  We challenged each other, had to go.  We both paddled, over and out; and sat, anxiously, outside of where the waves were breaking, watching other surfers, from the back, take all the waves.  When a set wave showed up, we were (accidently) in position.  We both; heads down, paddled for it; Erwin prone, me on my knees.  We both caught the wave.  I pearled, straight down, my board popping back up dangerously close to other surfers scrambling out. Erwin rode the wave. Probably quite ungracefully, but, if only between him and I, he had bragging rights.

Bragging rights, but only between Erwin and me.  Being ignored for a mediocre ride was far better than being noticed, called-out as a kook, told by three surfers, only one of them older than I was, to go surf somewhere else, go practice my knee-paddling in the nearby Carlsbad Slough.

I never did.  I persisted.  I got better.  I had significant surf bumps by the time I started riding boards that took knee-paddling out of the equation.

Sometimes I, or Phillip and I, would go (on a Sunday) with Erwin’s mom and his many siblings; sometimes Phillip (on a Saturday) or both of them (on a Sunday, after school, or on a holiday)  would go with Freddy and me and my mom.  Always to Tamarack.  Lower parking lot.  Freddy never surfed a board.  Surf mat; the real kind, hard, nipple-ripping canvas.  Sometimes Freddy and I would get dropped-off, try to fit into the crowd, ease close to someone else’s fire when our mom’s shopping took longer than the time we could manage to stay in the water.

Ray and some of the other guys our age didn’t start surfing until the summer before our sophomore year, so Phillip and Erwin and I were ahead of them, better than them.  Many of our contemporaries at least tried it.  Anyone newer to surfing than you were was a kook and/or gremmie.  Surfing had its own dress code and, more importantly, a fairly strict behavioral standard.  A code I thought, at the time.  It was fine to get all jazzed up among other surfers, going to or from the beach, but not cool to kook out among non-surfers. 

Even in the proper surf gear, Phillip and Ray, both blondes, looked more like what TV and movies said surfers should look like (unless you were foolish enough to believe Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon were anything even close to real- real surfers knew the extras, the background guys, Miki Dora especially, and Mickey Munoz, were the real surfers).  Erwin and I, dark haired; even when dressed in the requisite surf garb of the time, weren’t immediately recognized as surfers, weren’t immediately given whatever prestige we thought surfers received.

Or we were, and the prestige wasn’t what we thought it might be. 

By the time we were seniors, most of the other Fallbrook surfers our age had dropped off; surfing was less important than whatever they were doing; though they still looked like surfers and always asked when I’d gone last; always said we’d have to go, together, some time.

Some time.  We still rarely hung out in the Senior Area.  The planters.  

We all seemed to have cars; hand-me-downs from parents or older siblings off somewhere new.  We could go surfing alone.  Phillip and Ray had girlfriends, on and off.  Even Erwin had a girlfriend, Trish; not an Adventist.  Separate lives.  Separate adventures.  Romances.  Drama.  Sometimes we’d still surf together; usually not.

The stories of those adventures connected us. Loosely, probably.

I studied, I surfed. But, at nutrition and at lunch, pretending not to notice the swirl of so many stories around me, this concrete planter box was my social scene.

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