Back to Swamis

My daughter, Dru, and this is partially because one of the various jobs she has taken has her selling books and cards and artwork and such items at a store called WISH in Port Gamble, gave me, for Fathers Day, a set of skin tone markers, double-ended, one side for narrow lines, the other for brush (type) strokes.

I haven’t done much drawing since I became obsessed with completing the manuscript for “Swamis.” I have completed a way better version, sent it out to some folks, and started working on a treatment for… I don’t want to reveal too much about this except that writing for a visual medium is forcing me to focus. No, not just Hollywooding it up; but, yes, it does mean eliminating way too much of the exposition and side characters and side stories that I am unwilling to part with otherwise.

Prose Retentive Disorder, obviously.

Here is my first attempt to do something with Dru’s gift:

It didn’t start out to be Chulo; but now I’m saying it is Chulo.

Let’s see how this compare to an earlier illustration:

Close enough for now. Yeah, Chulo looked like Jesus, or what we believe Jesus looks like.

Meanwhile, hopefully you’re surviving the heat. A few feet into the local water and… ah!

A Little Deeper, Out of Respect

PART ONE- They die anyway.

It was a bit of a joke as I was checking out at Wal-Mart, happy to have an actual cashier. “You buy them pedialite and baby food, you get these absorbent pads to stick under them, you do what you can, and they die anyway.”

The cat hung on for years longer than we thought it would, and yet, when I came out to the mud room it had taken over for the last few months, found it dead, away from the spot it had been pretty much stuck in for the last few days, aimed for the door, I was considerably more saddened that I would have imagined.

I’ve seen this before. As a first responder with the local volunteer fire department, I came into a scene where the patient, someone I had been a member of various crews that took him to the emergency room twelve times, each time in the middle of the night, each time with him in a panic… on the thirteenth aid call he was gone, halfway out of the bed, halfway into his pants, reaching. It is an image I cannot forget. Reaching.

The reaching is far from the only mystery connected with those moments before death. After death; for all our pondering, we don’t have much more than a few clues.

If I don’t dwell on thoughts of mortality as much as I could, I am, occasionally, faced with the reality. Everything dies.

I dug a hole in one corner of a flower garden by the driveway (appropriately) used the same shovel to carry the cat to it. A bit deeper, out of respect. I put a tile over some of the dirt, added some more, put in another tile. I broke that one up. Same shovel. There is no marker over the grave. I don’t know what religion the cat practiced.

NOTE: When I read this part to Trish, saying Oreo might have been a Buddhist, she said, “Hell, no; that cat? When she was younger… she was a killer. I used to have to throw rocks at her, run the hose on her to keep her from killing birds… she was horrible.” There was a suggestion that Oreo may have been a holy roller. Nothing specific.

PART TWO- Not Our Cat

A lot of thoughts go through your mind when you’re burying a cat that was never yours. The neighbors at the head of our driveway moved away and left the cat. This was a few years ago. Dusty Dave, who claimed he couldn’t catch the cat, called it Oreo.

Not allowed in their house, Oreo would, invariably, be stationed outside their pumphouse. Let me describe Oreo. She was, obviously, black and white, but, somehow, the placement of the colors gave her the appearance of a cat that had lost one too many fights. Kind of like a broken nose thing, plus, perhaps, a few pieces missing from her ears.

It isn’t actually surprising, with a succession of renters also not caring for it, that the cat started moving our way. We have had, over the past forty years, a succession of cats that started out as feral and ended up as ours. We have one now. Oreo never adapted. Not a house cat. At first, in the winter, she was an outside/mudroom cat. I pretty much turned over my drawing room (more like a closet) and our mud room to the cat. Then, when she got more feeble, and at Trisha’s insistence, I added an outside area/cat run (quite nice) so Oreo could kind of be outside without being way-too-easy prey for the numerous predators quite willing to carry her away.

See the source image
Please go from this image to one of David Letterman feigning throwing a cigarette butt, his eyes squinched and with a ‘fuck you’ expression

PART THREE- “I had to bury a dead cat.”

That was the text I sent Aaron. He was going to help me with a project and I was running late. Taking a break halfway through the job, Aaron said, “Oh, you actually did have to bury an actual cat.” “Yeah. Actual.” “I thought it was a euphemism for taking a dump.”

“In the future, it will be.”

“Swamis” UPDATE: I have the latest version complete and out to several people I know will be honest in their feedback.

HEAT UPDATE: It is unfortunate that heat waves and actual waves do not always happen at the same time. WAVE UPDATE: I did do some surfing recently. WAVE FORECAST: Flat with occasional non-flatness.

OH, WAIT!- The last time I went surfing, one of two kooks in the parking area was kind of raving about the last time he had gotten it really good at that spot. “I have a photo.” He stuck his phone in my face. There were some waves in the background. “Hey,” I said, “That’s my van!” Somehow, though I had to tell them it wasn’t, like, all time good, just seeing my van in the photo became the highlight of my day.

Mildew and Drizzle and Cliff Mass

 This is the piece published in the Quilcene Community Center (online only) Newsletter for June.                               

Promising Sunshine, Threatening Rain

This time of year, the too-brief period between Memorial and Labor Days, the season where we can, at least, turn down the heat we’ve been running pretty much non-stop since, at least, the day after Halloween; the weather can offer pretty much anything except, maybe, snow and/or ice. Thunder and lightning; oh yeah, that can happen; rare but sometimes sensational.

While the everchanging weather is usually spread out over the length of a day, or days, we often can get our atmospheric variety show’s highlights in an amazingly short period of time.

“Don’t like the local weather?” Yeah, you know the answer. “Wait an hour (or a minute- varies).  

In the midst of the brightest, purest sunlight, the wind blowing up the Hood Canal and the rain drifting in from over the Olympics can unite, and we get, yes, wet.

There is a reason Quilcene is always in contention for the Mildew Capital of Western Washington. Yeah, yeah, Lilliwaup, Eldon; close, but we have mildew changing, in any season, from the common and traditional green to orange, yes, orange, the orange-er the better.

And thick enough to peel.

Not just mildew and mold and lichens, not just funguses and algae, Quilcene is also know for drizzle. It’s real, it’s here. Yes, I know, you can look on the doppler and, no, no rain; and then look outside. Drizzle.

It is a conspiracy, obviously designed to fool potential tourists into venturing over to the Peninsula, and then, when they look our way from the Hood Canal Bridge, they opt for Sequim or Port Townsend. The dirty work of doppler manipulation, I’ve heard whispered, is carried out by corrupt meteorologists. I’m still undecided, but the evidence, well, it’s there.    

I am not an expert on weather. Need one? Cliff Mass. He puts out weather analysis and forecasts for the Great Northwest so detailed and science-based and data-driven that I can’t even begin to follow. He does have a great voice; used to love hearing him on the radio.

Even with all that, even Cliff leaves himself an out. “Possible.” “A good chance.” That kind of thing. “Not my fault.” Oh, but it is.

Basically, from what I can comprehend, our weather is influenced by several factors, evidently in some sort of constant struggle against each other. Our proximity to the tentacles of the Pacific Ocean, our location on the lee side of the Olympics, the fact that Canada and its Frazier River Valley can give us the coldest winter and the driest, hottest summer days, the variants in the ambient pressure and the… okay, I’ve lost myself.

I’ll just look outside. Oh. Drizzle. Again.

Just starting to turn a lovely shade of orange. Wait for it… wait…

One would think, with the summer solstice on, historically, June 21, we might be blessed with bright and sunny days. No. Sorry. June Gloom is a thing up and down the West Coast. In San Diego it meant overcast conditions until about 10 am. Here it means drizzle until 11:48 (or so).

It seems logical that the amount of non-drizzle/overcast-ness would be pro-rated from there to here. Probably not.

Anyway, being someone dependent on the weather for work, I have learned to basically ignore forecasts; this despite Trish updating me on the latest from channels 4, 5, and sometimes 13. “Okay, it’s raining now,” I might say, “but…”

Not to get too deep in conspiracies, but TV weather folks do enjoy scaring us; and there has to be some connection with the guy selling the expensive gutters during the segments. Suspicious.

I have been known to take a van-nap during a weather delay. It is my policy on painting exteriors to always paint the areas that are the least protected first, saving the covered areas for the less-than-perfect conditions. For this reason, I love eves. Thirty-six inches; great.

It has been presented to me as a fact, an almost-fact, or near-fact, that the weather gets drier the farther one gets between Quilcene and Port Townsend. So, I’ve been told, at Highway 104, half as much rain, Chimacum halved again, Port Townsend… yeah, I expect it to never rain there.

I have been fooled; expected sunshine, got drizzle. D R I zzzzzzz L E. Really. You never hear that advertised.

People from elsewhere often ask me what time it gets dark on the longest day up in these parts. For comparison, I might say, in San Diego, where I haven’t lived for well over forty years, the sun goes down on the longest day somewhere just after 8pm.

“Well,” I say, “around here it gets dark around 3:30, 4pm. The sun goes down at, like, quarter to ten.”

I could be exaggerating. Check with Cliff.    

Legends and the Rest of Us

Here’s what, before I actually start writing it, this piece is meant to include: A remembrance of a local surfing/boatbuilding legend; something nice about a local living legend; and something not too whiny or snarky about how many asterisks are attached to my own advanced-age surfing.

Okay, we’ll see how it turns out.

The first thing Clint Thompson, temporarily back on the Olympic Peninsula to do what he does (extremely fine carpentry on expensive boats) reported seeing (to Adam Wipeout) was, when he got a view of the lineup, me burning Tim Nolan. Not the first time, and I did, as I did the last time, apologize to Tim for shoulder-hopping, with the excuse/explanation, “I didn’t think you would have made the wave.” True, I believe, this time, probably not true of the previous infraction.

Yes, guilty with no credible explanation. Place that asterisk next to my name. *Greedy wavehog.

Michael “Miguel” Clay Winterburn is a name I have heard for many years, though, to my knowledge, I never met him. A pioneer of Northwest surfing, held in the highest esteem in the world of boat building, he passed on late last month. His obituary is online in the “Port Townsend Leader” and the “Peninsula Daily News.” I took the photo I am using and more information from the Port Townsend Marine Trades Association.

I recommend checking the testimonials out. Particularly interesting to me was the Leader article mentioning he left behind five children, numerous grandchildren, several siblings, and “Three beautiful wives.” Obviously Miguel also left behind hours of stories from the Santa Cruz surfing and shaping scene, to the boat-building/sailing days, to his life as an instructor for others. Highly regarded. Legend. True.

May be an image of 1 person, beard and outdoors

If this man is not familiar, the pose is. A moment, perhaps, of contentment, a view of the water.

I have seen surfboards Miguel made, some still in use. Rico, better hang on to that one.

Here’s a photo of Tim Nolan receiving an award for his boat designing achievements from his contemporaries. High praise, indeed. I found this while researching Miguel Winterburn.

Maybe it’s coincidental, but Tim, Miguel, and Clint are all part of a world I bump up against but have very little knowledge of. Boatbuilding. As surfers, they are not, of course, alone in this. In fact, I know several other local surfers who have a connection (“Boatyard” Mike, Lacy the sailmaker, for example) to the industry.

What we seek, as surfers, is some closer connection to the water. Since I also mentioned Adam James of HamaHama Oysters here; yeah, with his time out on the tide flats and in the water, Adam does have a chance to keep tabs on where what is happening, combo-ing checking oyster beds with a rising swell. The closest I come is painting houses on waterfront. No, haven’t painted any at a potential surf spot in a while.

Because I collect all the little bits and pieces and irritations and joys of life, then try to assemble the random parts, attempt to transform the mundane into some sort of story, and because… okay, mostly I’m full of shit. What I was thinking about on my way out to search for waves and hopefully find and ride some was this: Anticipation, I decided, is a mixture of considering just how excited it would be if the waves were glassy, uncrowded, lined-up; and the mental preparation for having to accept that the surf might be blown out, totally overcrowded, crappy, or just not there.

I figured my chances were about 60/40. Yet, there I was, speeding, only vaguely letting the truth set in that anyone who would be competing for waves was either ahead of me or already there, and there was no way anyone was going to pass me.

No, this didn’t slow me down.

Okay, I have other things on my ‘must do’ list. I’ll get into my other faults next time, or the time after that. What I had planned on writing about was ‘harshing one’s paradigm,’ a phrase I heard a few years ago, one that didn’t catch on enough to be overused. The context here is that I believed I was surfing well the last time I paddled out, felt that combination of contentment and exhaustion, actually got a few compliments.

It took a day or two for the head-swelling to go down and the asterisks to start kicking in. *I have a big-ass board (actually 10’6″), *use a paddle, *surf almost entirely on my knees. *Add in the previously mentioned wave hogging and *lack of etiquette (I actually, even with earplugs, heard a guy in the lineup tell a woman, ‘No, there’s no rotation here’), *factor in that the surf spot is not, like, super critical, that *I’m fat and *old, and you get… shit, I suck.

Fine. Okay. The thing is, and I told several people this: “I am totally aware of the asterisks next to my name, and I don’t give a fuck.”

But, of course, I do. Probably 65% don’t care, 35% care too much.

So much of surfing is so connected to the ego, our self-image. The session before last, I was at a difficult, critical spot. I caught, maybe, twenty waves, got thrashed by four or five, got pitched, got rag-dolled, got three or four decent rides, got one really good ride (in my own judgment), and freely admitted I was eighth best out of seven surfers. *With asterisks.

I still count it, as I do almost every session, as totally worth it. Enjoyable.

What we do, too often, is harsh other surfer’s paradigm. My friend (apologies for ranting on) told his girlfriend, Sierra, both of them watching two young girls having a ball in tiny, blown out waves, that that is what surfing is supposed to be. Maybe I’ll get into more apologies next time, but I would like to apologize to Concrete Pete for kind of wrecking his story of a young surfer who was so impressed by some of the older folks out there in the water going for it.

Meanwhile, surf in peace, live in peace. For those who pass on, rest in peace.

Out on Surfroute 101- Thinking and…


A Washington State Patrol officer was seriously injured Tuesday morning when the driver of a stolen pickup struck his vehicle on U.S. Highway 101 at Discovery Bay. (Photo courtesy of the Washington State Patrol)
Gasoline and Craziness out on Surfroute 101. Photo from Peninsula Daily News

This scene is about ten miles from my house.

I was kind of looking for the photo of the individual accused of perpetrating this and other crimes a couple of days ago; the photos Trish showed me while I was trying to eat dinner and watch a recorded episode of “Jeopardy.” It might be better that I didn’t immediately find it. The mug shots from some previous arrest of the, um… thinking of a word… individual who started a rampage by dousing patrons at the gas pumps at the Long House, adjacent to the Casino at the tight little curve in 101 at the corner of West Sequim Bay.

“You know. I get gas there. There. He was shooting them… with the gasoline… gasoline. With the… nozzles. He set this van on fire; before he stole the pickup. A guy at the Long House… they can shut down the pumps. Look.”

I had to turn away from “Jeopardy,” put down my milk glass to check out the photos.

“Uh huh.”

Trish continued to read the account from the online version of the PDN (Peninsula Daily News). The perpetrator stole a pickup truck (used by either a glass installer or marble countertop person- empty at this time), hauled ass down 101, passing people on the right, in unsafe spots. When he got to Discovery Bay, there was the Washington State Patrol inspection vehicle (above) on the side of the highway, the officer having just inspected a semitruck.


The result: The Officer and the alleged asshole both had to be airlifted to Harborview in Seattle. The Officer was, last I heard, in stable condition, the suspect under arrest, medical condition… don’t necessarily care.

But, here’s the thing: I had kind of been kept abreast of this during the day. Two vehicles past my place while I was loading up; lights and sirens, heading north. I was heading to Port Townsend, and ordinarily would choose 101 to State Route 20; but, because I had to go to the Post Office in Quilcene, Trish had time to warn me off that route. “Big accident,” she said. “Road’s closed.” Center Road. Okay.

When I got to the house I am working on in PT, the homeowner was aware of the situation. Internet. And I got a call from Reggie, stuck in the backup long enough to call off meeting with me. Okay.

Now, these road closures for accidents, with pretty much only one road from everywhere else to the north Olympic Peninsula, happen occasionally. Too often. But, what made me pause, made me think, made me pause “Jeopardy,” was Trish saying, “If you had been there, at the gas pumps, you would have killed the guy.”

Wait. “What?”

“I mean, if he sprayed you with gasoline, held out a cigarette lighter toward you.”


No. No. I don’t think… No, I don’t want to kill anyone.

Okay, so that’s the thinking. Here’s the rethinking: I am so close to having enough faith in my manuscript for “Swamis,” and a critical part of the plot is that Chulo is doused with gasoline and set alight (yeah, ‘set alight’ is in there), and yet, pretty much every night I’m rethinking some little element of the story that might not make total sense to the reader. A couple of nights ago it was a fight scene. How would Rusty react if Jumper and Jody were teamed up? Okay, go back, address that.

But last night it was whether I have put enough drama into Jumper’s reaction to his friend having been doused with gasoline. The incident is revealed in several parts, but never directly described. If you’ve ever had gasoline spilled on you, you know it, at least, stings. If you’ve ever, stupidly, tried to use gasoline on a burn pile or camp fire, then had it flash back at you when you tried to light it; if you’ve had the hair on your arm singed or your eyebrows curled… no, none of that is enough. Drama.

Now, I could use this time to actually go back into the manuscript instead of posting this. Maybe I’m not quite ready. There are options. I’m thinking, rethinking, oh, so close.

Crazy road closures; yet another reason for any reasonable surfer to choose Westport. Always waves, always a party!