Rule of the Parking Lot

Here’s a rule many surfers go by: It can’t be good, there’s no one out. A subset of this mindset is this: It must be Sooooo good because it it soooo crowded; so, yeah; I should join in, paddle out, share in the good times. A further subset is: Whoa, the surf is soooo fantastic, I should call all my surfing buddies, some kooks, and…

good times, bad times, you know I’ve had a few; but the surfing’s really much more fun, when I bring along a crew… ew, ew, ew, come on down, now

There are rules of the parking lot. Okay, so here’s the story: I got skunked at one spot along the Strait of Juan de Fuca, a notoriously (and rightfully, objectively so) fickle stretch of almost-always flat conditions (if you don’t count big-ass winds coming from north, south, east, and west, three of which will, believe me, blow the hell out of any weak and lost swells that venture in from the distant Pacific Ocean), the only other person showing up to even check the conditions being one Reginald Rory Smart (so, for scorekeepers, Smart and Dence). “Hey,” Ripping Reggie said, “what about _______–______?” “Oh, um… maybe.”

SOOO, thinking the limited parking available at this spot might be overwhelmed by Karens and Tuckers and hipsters and rippers and semi-locals and vagabonds and hobos, I hauled ass in that direction, AND, and, and when I got to the last hairpin turn, got a glimpse of the parking lot…

Empty. No one there, no one waiting for someone to leave, no one. SO, I cruise in, get my choice of parking locations, consider hiking quite a distance to even get close enough to see if there is anything even close to a rideable wave. THEN Mr. Smart cruises in. He wants to do the hike, I choose, because there might still be ample parking available for a while, to drive to a place where I can see… flatness, utter flatness, and fog, and just the start of an oncoming wind. West.

THIS doesn’t necessarily mean waves might not just show up. SO, I go back. I decide to take a nap. Reggie, in his much more accommodating accommodations in one of the vans he upgrades for the van-vagabond crowd, also naps.

BECAUSE trying to nap sitting up in a seat that, due to rusting and age, will no longer recline, I wake up after about fifteen minutes. Lo and behold, there is another vehicle in the lot; a Sprinter van. “Hey, man,” I say, approaching the open driver’s side window, “don’t you know the rule of the parking lot?”

“I’m not from around here,” is the reply. “Never say you’re not a local, man.” “I kind of thought the California plates might give me away.” “Oh.”

“SO, the rules of the parking lot; what are they?”

“Well, first, if it’s a surf spot and there are no cars (rigs is an acceptable NW alternative), it probably isn’t breaking. If there are cars, but there are boards on or in them, it probably isn’t breaking. If there are cars that seem to belong to surfers and there are no boards, it might, just might be breaking.”


So we went and looked. Almost breaking, almost rideable, almost ready to get blown out, tide almost too low to surf without damaging one’s self or equipment. A short time later (by Beach Hanging time, faster than Working/School/Zoom Meeting/Church time, somewhat slower than in-the-water time), Adam Wipeout showed up, board under his arm. He, obviously, didn’t want to do the hike twice; but, after introductions and such, he said he would sacrifice this one for the cruel gods of the Strait and go.

Reggie left, my new friend, Joel, who said he was from Oceanside, but when I said I was raised in Fallbrook, admitted he was raised in Vista… another time on our connections… ANYWAY, we both went out. His fin hit a rock on his first attempt at a ride, I got several ten foot rides on ten inch waves, and, when I eventually gave up, what with rapidly outgoing tide, increasing west wind, and no increase in swell, and trudged back to the parking area…

Joel was on a Zoom call. I changed out, left. His van was the last rig in the parking lot.

One Page Tightly Wrapped

It has become kind of a thing with me; anything I’m writing that isn’t “Swamis,” it just means something if I can keep it to one page, 12 point, Microsoft Word. This piece is not inspired so much by Trish, who claims she is an empath, and she is, if being one is somewhere beyond intuitive; she is almost always correct in her assessments of people and situations. No, this doesn’t explain her sticking with me for something over fifty years- different thing, that.

I have run into various people who have felt too deeply; a firefighter/EMT who broke mentally before he broke down physically, several veterans who couldn’t cope with what they had seen or done; but the actual impetus was trying to figure out a client who claimed empath status as if… anyway, that got me started, but then, with the love part; yeah, I kind of steered it back to Trish.

Couldn’t help it.

I have surf-related stories I am just saving up. Less than forty pages to polish on “Swamis” and I’m going to put them out there… I mean, here.

Okay, I did run into JOEL KANESHIRO, who works for BING surfboards and was up in the Northwest looking for waves, in a should-have-been-empty parking lot. We actually went out in should-have-stayed-on-the-beach conditions. Pretty sure Joel will go back, report on the total lack of surf around these parts.

                                                EMPATH, YOU SAY

“No, I said I was an empath.” ‘Was an empath’ as in you are no longer an empath? “No, I am an empath… still.” Oh. “Yes, oh.” Okay; so, as an empath, you can… it’s like you can sort of feel what others are feeling; joy, pain, deep, deep depression, anger. Correct? “Pretty much.” Okay then, this, uh, if it’s like you can get into another person’s head, then… “Didn’t say that.” So, then, maybe you only feel emotions that are directed at you. “Why are you going in this… direction.” Not to be mean, or to, um, demean; I just want to understand. Understand you.

“Well then, fine. If, for example, I see someone who is clearly struggling with some issues, emotional issues, I can feel what they, that person is… feeling.” Okay. “You say ‘okay,’ but you keep on… questioning.” No; I’ll stop. “Good.” What am I feeling… right now? “Angry. No, more like… frustrated.” Wow.

“What do you mean, ‘wow?’ You mean, wow: I guessed, but correctly?” Yes. “So, I’m not an empath; just… sensitive?” Definitely sensitive, but are you, maybe, are you sympathetic to how I feel? Am I justified in feeling… frustrated? “No, you’re bringing this frustration on yourself. I feel that.” Okay.

“What do you mean, ‘okay?’ You’re, are you trying to say, again, I only feel for others as it relates to me?” I wasn’t but, yeah, maybe. “Maybe?” Not, uh, necessarily. Do you believe we cry, when we cry; I mean as adults, not out of pain; for others; are we really crying for them as… kind of like that we’re glad it’s them and not us?

“Whoa!” Whoa? “No. Not true.” Am I being an asshole? “Obviously. An empath detects and feels the emotions of others in the same way that person does.” So, that’s, uh… what you’re really saying is you’re more aware, more sympathetic, more… feeling, caring than most… people. “Only because it’s true.” And, because you are, you’re more, we could say, vulnerable? “Probably.” Delicate? “No; that’s different.”

Different. Great; so, hey, you know, I feel for you; delicate flower in a harsh world. “Asshole.” Yes, but you understand me. “No, I don’t know why you have to be that way.” I’m not ‘that way,’ I’m this way. I have my reasons; and even if I didn’t, you would… get it. Me.

“No, you don’t have an excuse, not a real one.”

Oh, but, in my mind, I do. Am I so… self-centered, even narcissistic; me and my blocking or ignoring or not feeling all the pain in the world? “Wait. What you’re trying to say is you’re… pragmatic.” Maybe.

“But, really; it seems like you might be trying to say that I’m… something… negative… about me.”

No, I am trying to say that, maybe, it might be better to understand more and feel less.

“Do you believe that you… understand… me?”

Not even close. But I know that I love you. “You can’t just say that.” I did. “You did.” I had, um, hoped you already knew.

“I, uh, felt like I did.”

Okay. “Okay.”

Image result for photo of empath
Not my artwork. Googled “Empath.” I don’t even come close to qualifying.

The Misalignment between

…surf and work is probably fortunate. No, having multiple work options and few surf opportunities that do not require lots of miles to get to crowded and/or less than epic waves is kind of sucky, with daytime hours allowing time for work and recreation. Waves just don’t often make the trip into and down the Strait.

Really. Don’t believe me, come on out, like tomorrow. OR, join the fun at Westport or, jeez, I don’t know. Anyway, this is a quickie, I am trying to get through putting a gloss coat on he last fifty pages of “Swamis,” exciting conclusion and all, and a sudden surge of swell might interrupt my creative flow.

Then again… Sometimes things just align.

Sometime there are things I just have to write about. I can’t tell you where I surfed most recently, or how good it was, though I feel perfectly unrestrained in recounting how many times I’ve been skunked out here on the inside elbow of the last push west and north in the contiguous United States. Numerous, with sessions where it was the wrong tide and closed out but one had to surf because it was going to get windy, so one (meaning me) did, and it did get windy, so much so that it was completely blown out by the time the tide did allow the waves to properly line up. Or the time when one (still me) waited a few hours for the swell to get in, and they sort of did, but the objectively weak, measure-ably small waves completely disappeared by the time I got into my wetsuit and back down the beach. Or… or…

Or I can post something I just had to write one morning, a piece I wrote and polished and sent to Keith, because he’s in it, and Drew, because he’s a huge Dylan fan. And now you.

                                                IN DYLAN’S DREAMS, PERHAPS…

Perhaps it’s because I was working in Uptown Port Townsend the last few days, and perhaps it’s because I was bleaching and pressure washing decks until dark last night; and bleaching always makes me feel a bit like I’ve spent too much time in the pool; but, in the dream I’m trying to put back together, Librarian Keith and Bob Dylan are skateboarding on the sidewalk alongside a block of Victorian era buildings.

The action isn’t like ollies and flips and that kind of skateboarding; they are gliding, slaloming, leaning into easy turns, scootching into the entryways, clipping a hand on the corner of the alcove, coming perilously close to the curb, but staying on the sidewalk. And then I join them.

“I’ll let you be in my dreams if I can be in yours… I said that.” Bob Dylan, ‘Talkin’ World War III Blues.’

I got the impression, perhaps realizing I was dreaming, that neither Keith nor Bob really appreciated my joining in, but this being a dream and all, my knees are flexible, my ankles fine, I am spry and holding my own. Yeah, Dylan, ten years my senior in real life, is also ripping; smooth moves, never even having to put a hand up to avoid losing his white, flat-brimmed, Panama style hat. You know the one.

In another dream scene, just before I woke up, an hour later than usual; with our cat, Angelina, sounding an alarm halfway down the hallway; I was looking through a window (pretty sure it was from inside the Rose Theatre and through the ticket booth) a guy blocking a couple, a man and a woman. The man was trying to reach over the guy to get a ticket to see, of course, Bob Dylan. I had the impression this was a sort of a date. The guy blocking them doesn’t move until the man with the woman reaches over his shoulder with a wad of, yeah, cash. Rose Theatre; pretty good place to go… on a date.

“Meow! Me-ow. Wake up!” Angelina.

This isn’t my first dream featuring Dylan, and, in fact, there was more Dylan in last night’s: Somehow, I had some connection with finding a place for him to stay in the area, and two people were selected to have the privilege of hosting him, preferably in a place near the water.

“Wait a minute,” I said (or maybe I didn’t have to say it, this being a dream and all) folks know these folks, and those folks’ll just cruise in, hang out;” and Dylan says (or doesn’t have to say- and this is the older, Salvador Dali looking Dylan), “The question here is, do you know where they live?” “I do.” “Oh.”

Yes, that does kind of leave it hanging.

So, here’s a question: Do you ever have those dreams that are so real you put them into your memory bank as if some of what happened is… real?

Don’t answer; I can’t hear you. These are just keystrokes. History. I’m not here.

Anyway, I have had several dreams in which I’m in what I have to believe is some sort of roadhouse, and, somehow, I’m thinking it’s somewhere up in, like, San Bernardino (weird in itself, San Bernardino being way south from where I am), and the room is filled with musicians, sitting around, evidently taking turns playing guitar and singing; and Dylan’s there, but he’s not playing… or singing… or talking.

But then he turns to me and, specifically, he looks at a harmonica in my hand. And then I see he has a harmonica in his. And then I notice one of his eyes is kind of, I have to say, quivering. And then, pencil-thin mustache and all, he smiles. Not a friendly kind of smile; a resolved kind. Perhaps.

A different Dylan smile

Side note: I have limited time and my list of ‘should do’ and ‘must do’ is way more pressing than my list of ‘want to do.’ I want to work on “Swamis.” I am making progress. But, something I’ve already cut from the manuscript pertains to how, back in the late 60s, there was a persistent rumor of an FM radio station in San Diego that played stuff we didn’t hear on the AM channels. KPRI, barely-catchable from the North County; but what has remained in my memory cache is listening, with my dad’s earphones, and the DJ says, “We’re going to go in the back now and get our heads on,” and put on “John Wesley Harding,” in its entirety. I’m not sure if someone had to return to flip the record, but, in the years since, my mind has added someone coming in, and in a voice an octave lower, saying… shit, I don’t know what, I was fifty miles away and it was fifty-plus years back.

When I am not writing about surfing…

…or trying to make “Swamis” perfect-er, or -ish, I write about other stuff. This is my submission for the Quilcene Community Center newsletter for April. I wrote it in between getting really small surf among really big rocks, and riding blown out surf, and getting skunked. If I did manage to ride some quality waves, I certainly wouldn’t share that with the non-surfing folks over here on the near side of the Olympics. So, okay, let’s see:

Oh, yeah; I wrote about getting my second Covid shot, but, somehow, I didn’t set this up correctly to actually include the piece. Let me see if I can…

                                Anticipation of Inoculation and Other Things…

…things like the latest topic of conversation: Vaccinations. You get yours yet? Scheduled? Fully inoculated? Half? Pfizer, Moderna, J&J? Side effects? Jump in anywhere.

“Oh, I don’t think I will get one; you know, because of the…” “See you… (from a reasonable social distance) later.”

It just so happens I am getting my second dose this afternoon; heading back to Manresa Castle’s back lot, hoping I don’t have to fill out the form again, and fully prepared to not cry. It’s not that I’m all that worried; not like I cried when I got the first dose of Pfizer cold gold, the first needle stab. It’s more like I whined beforehand.

I can’t help but remind myself of another experience, back when I was eleven or so and started crying while only lining up for some shot or another, a tetanus booster, perhaps. This was quite embarrassing for my mom, me being the second oldest of seven children, and the oldest male- back when this gender bias, wrongly of course, seemed to make a difference.

“Fine example, Junior.” “Waaaah!” “I thought you might act more, well, grown up… Junior.”

Saying, “Wow, it didn’t even hurt” didn’t help after the fact. No way any of my siblings would even consider crying after my mature display.

To be clear, I did, two weeks ago, warn several of the many, many folks of the remote possibility of tears, if not full tantrum mode. Many of the many checkers and re-checkers and line monitors are actual volunteers, making themselves available for the processing and administration and delivery of a shot to individuals proceeding, ever so slowly, in our vehicles, single file.

When I finally got to the last temporary carport, sleeve rolled up, I told one of the several people there, “Yeah, I get cut and gouged and hurt all the time; it’s the knowing it’s going to happen; that’s what’s scary. You know, like, just do it; don’t tell me you’re about to.”



“No. Joking. Wait for it… wait… wait…”

One person on the inoculation squad, possibly because she believed I was making it up about my fear of needles and all, did point to another member who might be willing to slap me so I wouldn’t be concentrating on the long, sharp needle. He did look willing.

“Most of the crying, so far,” another shot squad member told me, “has been out of gratitude. You know, older people.”

I do. Older is my demographic. 65 to infinity. I have lived long enough to have had measles and mumps and chicken pox (no rubella, whatever that is) before they had vaccines (I might have to fact check that- maybe my family just didn’t get them). I am old enough to have had both runs of polio vaccines; the one with the needles, the one with the little cups. No problem with the cups; stand in line, take a swig, get a sticker. Or was it a sucker? Maybe.

Maybe it only seems like everyone I speak with is around my age. Saying I am over 65, as I did, above, is easier on the ego than saying I will be 70 in August; and no, I never answer the question of how old I am with the question, “How old do I look?” Not any longer.  So, how we survived the pandemic, so far, seems like a likely topic for lively discussion, much better than “did you hear about good old so and so?”

Whatever it is about good old so and so, it’s probably not great news; even if it’s “She’s 89 years old and just won a lifetime supply of (merely an example) Rice Krispies.” Oh, you heard that joke.  

Now, I do have a lot to say about getting older and the benefits of aging.

Benefits? Maybe next time.

So, closer to topic: Vaccinations. To tie life-saving vaccinations to Spring, we are all looking forward to actually being free of this pandemic. Like Spring (or each season) full victory over this pandemic won’t come all at once. Still, there are signs, reason for hope.

People who are way younger are now getting inoculated. I’m not talking about the Spring Breakers and the anti-vaccers and the scofflaws (scoff-mandates might be more accurate). Our son Sean, 38 and a front-line worker, is getting the Johnson & Johnson this afternoon. One of my surfing friends, somewhere around 43, just got one yesterday. J&J, one shot and done.

Since I ask pretty much everyone I come into nowhere-near-contact with about their status, I am surprised to hear how many folks have already been fully immunized. Without getting into the variants and mutants and strains of the virus, each one named after some spot; I am imagining the Miami Beach strain, the patient’s head throbbing to a sort of techno/disco beat.

So, a couple more hours and, barring any unforeseen consequences, I will be ready to (always responsibly) PARTY!

You can imagine tears of gratitude if you want. I’m a grownup, and I’m in anticipation mode.  

OH, SHIT, I JUST ‘CUT’ THE PIECE OUT OF MY FILES. DAMN IT, when Ken Burns does the 9 hour documentary on me, they won’t have it. WAIT, MAYBE, IF I… see you out on the trail.

Phonies from “Swamis”

So, as I keep pushing toward some sort of semi-final draft of the manuscript, I’m just going to keep posting stuff that I don’t hate, but realize I need to focus, focus, focus… what? Yeah, focus on moving the plot of “Swamis” forward, faster.

To set the scene here; Ginny has invited Jody to her eighteenth birthday party at her parents’ newly acquired property in Rancho Santa Fe. He is very anxious, and has many good reasons for being so.

The smell, sweet, pungent, somehow almost harsh, was unmistakable.   

“Last year’s crop was good,” one of the guys by the barn said, inhaling, holding it, before blowing the smoke out. “But this year’s gonna be mo’ betta’. Mo’ mo’ betta,’ Mon.”

It wasn’t a real accent, it was an affected, put-on, party accent; fake, put on Jamaican by the first converts, the first of generation of (Bob) Marley-ites.    This party accent was pushing against the Beatles-influenced fake British from when I was in junior high (1964-65), which had bumped up against the beatnik jazz-speak older kids were practicing, that competing with the fake down-home folk lingo/rhythm. 

Meanwhile, kids from and in the mid-west wanted to talk like west coast surfers.  It was considered cool to talk like you were already half-stoned or wasted, but you still had something possibly clever, or, better, semi-profound to say; or, at least, something that might be perceived as clever or profound to those more stoned or wasted.

People were ‘experimenting’ with drugs, as if they were scientists.

I can’t get too judgmental; I modified my speech patterns because of TV characters, reporters; Tommy Smothers and Walter Cronkite and… really can’t list all the influences.  As in my surfing, I copied, emulated, folded things into my own… own style, persona?  Yes, everything about me was affected, put on, not real.

This was some of what I attempted to fill my mind with as I backed the Falcon into a spot.

It wasn’t really working.

SO- Working my way to another brief visit with “THE END.” Thanks for reading.

what about that, huh?

I just wrote a whole long thing; then, frustratingly, it wouldn’t PUBLISH. So, here’s an excerpt from “Swamis,” currently and still being edited. This scene is over halfway through the manuscript and takes place in the parking lot at Swamis on a Sunday evening. Let’s see if hitting the ‘Publish” button works this time. And…

“I think that… Joey, I might be in love.  Maybe.”

“I think I might be.  Also.  In love.”

“Might be?”

“Am.  Have been.”  If I didn’t say, ‘Always will be,’ I did think it.  I did believe it.  Then I said it.  “Always will be.”

“Always?” Ginny leaned back into the open door, gave me a look that said both that she believed me and that she might not believe ‘always’ meant ‘forever.’  “You better.”

H …

If any emotion other than love, and in particular, new love, so front-loaded with anticipation, joyous anticipation; had the same all-out, pounding arterial intensity for people not in their teens; the result would have to be a significant increase of sudden strokes and heart attacks.    

This doesn’t make me a romantic.

I do not plan on having a heart attack while surfing, as others have, though this is often glorified in obituaries as ‘doing what he loved.’ If I do have one, it’ll be when I first look out and see irresistible-if-not-perfect waves coming in. Right there, in some parking lot, fumbling for my wetsuit, fumbling with a towel, fumbling, not skipping out on and over the water like a properly thrown skipping stone; just dropping. A different stone. A rock.

And the waves just continuing to roll in.

Maybe this parking lot, but not on this day. It wasn’t about the waves. I was standing, trying to slow my heart rate, trying to control my breathing. It was that portion of dusk when the shadow that is night starts to mix with the overcast, both descending; those few minutes when the inability to see very far in any direction seems to be reassuring. Comforting. Calming.

But it took a while.

A lovestruck eighteen-year-old with a brain overloaded with everything else might just discover he had followed a Jeep over to 101, watched it go north long and far enough to see the right-hand turn signal light up, blink. He might imagine he saw things too far away to be seen. With the world spinning, he might be frozen; thinking, trying to think, images and words tangled, waves crashing into each other.

Waves. Waves are born of chaos. Disorganized. Out of control. Of all the waves hitting all the beaches in all the world, only some are really rideable if rideable means more than just taking off and going straight to the beach. Surfable. Most waves are closeouts. Some, with time and distance, with the proper point of land, or reef, or direction, become rideable. Only a very few are perfect. Even Swamis was only rarely perfect. Perfect.   

My world was chaos. I blinked. I was standing in the middle of the opening to the parking lot, wondering how long I’d been frozen. I had one clear thought: I had to tell Ginny the truth.