Errant was the word I thought I heard the woman say. Errant Angels. It was intriguing and amusing, equally. Clever. I had to know why she used the word. Errant.
I had misheard. I was painting a small house (it would qualify as a cottage) in Port Townsend that had previously belonged to Keith Darrock and his wife. Keith, a pivotal member of the local PT surf crew, had substantially remodeled the cottage a few years ago before selling it to the current owner, Michelle.
Michelle wanted her cottage painted. It needed it. A year or two older than me, Michelle told me about her days at Height-Asbury, in 1967 or so, before the San Francisco Hippie scene was discovered and publicized and sanitized and splattered on weekly magazines.
“Have you heard about the ‘Diggers?’” I had, but I got that wrong, also. No, Michelle said, they weren’t fools who worked so others could hang out, take existential trips, find themselves; in exchange for food and lodging, the Diggers found odd jobs; sweeping, cleaning, pulling weeds; work for a teenage runaway like Michelle from Modesto.
What Michelle had said, what I had misheard, was that; having found herself, a few years later, in the mid- 1970s, in Port Townsend; before it was discovered by yet another wave of speculators, by pensioned retirees and trust babies and refugees from the supposed ‘casual California lifestyle;’ with a child and without a regular job, she started a little service company that did, yes, odd jobs. “Errand Angels.”
I like Errant Angels better.
It creates a different image, probably based on the only other time I recall hearing the word. Errant. Errant Knights, out looking for adventures. Don Quixote. Sure. I can imagine it: On their own Angels performing little miracles here and there, perhaps looking up, wondering if the Boss would approve.
Angels, ghosts, images; I have pretty much completed a way-too-detailed ‘outline’ of “Swamis.” I cut the shit out of the second unexpurgated version, purposefully not even trying to write the flowery setting/descriptive stuff. I was striving to make every move clear. I did include all the dialogue that I feel is needed. Love the dialogue. So, it’s probably dry, definitely cut, possibly not cut quite cruelly enough.
Illustration copyright Melissa Lynch. Erwin Dence asserts all rights and protections under copyright laws for original content on realsurfers.net (I was informed I should add this).
I am occasionally asked about my work. No, I am not on, nor have I ever dropped Acid. No, the drawings are not really as detailed as one might think. Yes, they take some time- not That much time. No, I am not totally thrilled with how some of the drawings turn out. Yes, I do occasionally try to save a drawing. Here are three examples:
Let me see if I can show why I wanted to rework the original Original Erwin’s.
Evidently, I never scanned the one that is now a positive (white background) drawing. The surfer (and it is always more dangerous/difficult to have a surfer on a wave, kind of looked DC Comic-ish. I will do a drawing with the reflection; just not the one immediately above.
MEANWHILE, Surf-wise- I did manage, after getting two new tires for my main and now only surf rig, to get a few waves recently. Yes, I waited for the snow to pretty much be gone, the ice not an issue. This is what kind of became the takeaway discussion issue: Surfers whose aggressiveness is a bit ahead of their actual skill level. IT DOESN’T take more than three or four good surfers to dominate any spot with a fairly narrow takeoff zone. I FOUND OUT years ago that it is easier to surf crowded conditions with a majority of the others in the water not going for waves they don’t catch, backing off at the last second, blowing the takeoff, or wiping out early enough that someone else could catch and ride that wave (a wasted wave is a sin, more so if it’s a good wasted wave).
HOWEVER, any surfer who actually gained some skill in surfing probably fit into the ratio of aggressiveness over skill. OR, maybe we all do. I do have kind of an example: It was pretty crowded. There were four or five surfers sitting outside. This GUY was catching quite a few waves. I was having success catching waves others blew or missed. The GUY had this kind of ‘look at me, I’m surfing’ kind of pose that wouldn’t quite qualify as style, no real skill at staying close to the power source of the wave. Somehow, must have been a lull, I’m out at the peak. With me in position for an outside wave, the Guy takes off in front of me. OKAY, so I just ride up under him, his board in pretty much guillotine position compared to my neck. Guy keeps riding for a bit then goes out the back. Okay, he won’t do that again. I actually had a phrase ready to tell anyone who actually saw the move. “That’s how you do that.” Didn’t really get a chance. Yeah, now, not that you saw it.
AND THEN, the guy does. Takes off right in front of me. This time I’m too deep. The peak pitches, I go under it, hoping to get back into the wave. Too late. I get to watch the guy posing, riding on. I COULD blame him. I have my reasons for not doing so. Yeah, hypocrisy might be one of the reasons.
STEPHEN R. DAVIS UPDATE: Steve was back in the hospital in Seattle over a week ago. He is still in the U.W. hospital. He had a bad reaction to drugs he was prescribed. If I said ‘bad’ I mean incredibly bad. He had a rash all over his body, including in his mouth. The rash was bad enough that he developed blisters. This is like having second degree burns on 100% of your body. It is a syndrome that can be fatal. So, yeah; bad. The permanent damage may be to his eyes. Steve said, last time I spoke with him, that it felt like his eyes and eyelids are both made of sandpaper.
Steve’s fiancé, Sierra, in a text, said the doctors think they may be able to release him soon, but, because he needs to see them several times a week, he may be staying in Seattle for the immediate future. This is all before he starts a real treatment.
JUST, maybe, because this is how these things work, I have run into several others who have gone through or are going through the horrors of Cancer. I was just working on a project with a floor guy who went through something similar to Steve’s experience a couple of years ago. He said that he was in pretty good shape going into the chemo, but when it was over, “I felt like I was 110.” He’s about 50, works a maximum of five hours a day. Hard hours.
If you scroll down, I do have a link to the GoFundMe site set up by Sierra. Steve needs to get past this; he’s a great person to share some waves with. Yeah, he’s sort of aggressive, but not over his skill set. Let’s say five over five.
You may have noticed the recent bad weather up this way. I did. Enough rain to float your septic system, enough cold to freeze your pipes, and the ones to or in your house, enough wind and snow to… yeah, yeah, a lot for Northwesterners. As with everything wonderful or traumatic in my life, I write about it.
But first, a couple of illustrations I just got around to scanning.
A Perfect Intersection and Black Ice
Every accident occurs at the perfect intersection of time and place. A second sooner or later, a distance closer or farther; no accident.
Black ice isn’t, of course, black. It is the roadway that is black. Roads. Asphalt trails, land rivers, naked to the elements. Centerlines and fog lines and the ditch. Whatever is beyond the ditch. The bank, the dropoff, perhaps a tree scarred by collisions, previous spinouts. Black ice.
One moment I am heading south on Highway 20, going up Eaglemount; complaining to myself that the guy in the truck in front of me is going slower… and slower. He’s down to thirty. Thirty.
We crest the hill, and it seems like he might be speeding it up a bit. Sure. The road was free of snow. Two hours earlier the temperature was nearly forty degrees. To, theoretically, save a few ounces of gasoline, I had it in two-wheel drive.
The truck does a slight slip, corrects.
I barely have time for this to register. No, I don’t have time.
I am slipping, sliding, sideways, trying to correct but out of control. I’m in the uphill lane, then back in mine. Half a twist and my rig is over the ditch and half slamming into, half climbing the bank, and the tree.
My vehicle, right headlight blown out, right tire smashed against the frame, radiator pushed into the fan; bounces back onto the roadway. The Pathfinder and I are now facing uphill and blocking most of the downhill lane, creating a new target for the next car or empty chip truck. I am trying to process what happened in the course of, guessing, four or five (or less) seconds from slip to slide to overcorrecting (probably), to impact. To full stop.
Assessment. I am, of course, all right. Move the car. No, the car will not move. Hit the flashers. The one on the ditch side works, the one on the side most easily slid into? Gone.
The driver’s side door works. I open it. There is a woman there, telling me she has called 911. “Oh,” and, “Are you all right?”
All right? “Yeah,” I say, “I’m… fine.”
Fine? No. I might be imagining this, but, if time slowed down at all as I was sliding toward the inevitable collision, it was just enough to allow me to be angry, embarrassed, and sorry, and all at once. At what now felt like ninety-miles-per-hour, I was confirming what Trish had said about me crashing the vehicle I had not taken to the beach even once.
Yes, I did crash, I am all right, and I am so, so determined not to add more to the incident by getting hit by the next victim of unseen ice. I had two cellphones on the seat, and two flashlights nearby. Had had. They’re nowhere to be found. My thermos and some extra clothes are on the floorboards.
Shut the engine off. The battery? It’ll wear down the battery. Yeah. No. The car’s wrecked, fool. Where’s the inside light?
The passenger side door works. I find my cellphones and one of the flashlights (the big one) in the doorway. Now there are cars above and below me. I am less of a target. The uphill traffic is getting through. Various people ask me if I’m all right. “Yeah. Of course.” I call 911. Jefferson Dispatch. My call is transferred to the Washington State Patrol. “No, one car. Just me. Fine. Fine. Blocking? Yes. Blocking.” I am put on some sort of hold. The screen on my cracked (previously) smart phone goes some previously unseen color. “Hello. Hello?”
Somewhere in here I call Trish on the non-smart phone (way better speakers, doesn’t have 171 contacts). Very calm. I am lying. She doesn’t say, “I knew it,” but she does ask if I am all right. She does say there is no way she can come get me; she does ask what I was going to do. “I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know.”
I see headlights and a flashing lightbar approaching from uphill. It’s a tow truck. It has been less than five minutes since I hit the ice.
But now, a tow truck is parking in the empty space. importantly, it is a tow truck without a vehicle on the hook; and even more importantly, it is driven by Kirky Lakeness, from Quilcene (originally, though he now lives in Chimacum or Hadlock); and, additionally (as in adding to the miraculous nature of him being here) Kirky is headed for Quilcene to hang out with his cousin, Louie.
Louie went to school with our older son, James. We have some history. For that matter, Kirk and I have some history. Kirky looks to me, on this horror movie night, every breath showing in headlights and flashing emergency vehicle lights, like a right-tackle-for-the-Seattle-Seahawks-sized Angel.
We will, Kirky tells me, have to wait for the State Patrol to get here before he can move the Pathfinder. While he is discussing this and directing some of the traffic, three rigs from the Discovery Bay Volunteer Fire Department show up. A woman jumps out of the ambulance, toting a big bag. Already passing me, headed uphill, she asks, “You okay?” “Fine,” I say; “Kirky’s fine… also.”
A minute or so later, the EMT returns. “You were the only one in the vehicle?” “Yes.” “You said ‘Kirky’s fine.’” “I did. He is.” “You sure you’re all right?”
A State Patrol vehicle shows up. The Patrolman looks to be about 19. “Oh,” I say, “You may have given me my last ticket. Couple of years ago.” “No. I’ve only been on duty six months.” Different very young Patrolman.
I give the Patrolman my license, registration, proof of insurance. He hands me a form to fill out. “No, you’re not a suspect.” “Witness?” “Yeah, use that line.”
While I am looking for light adequate to fill out the form; considering what words might make me appear less… stupid, the Patrolman chats with the responders about the recent snow and wind that combined to close Highway 101 from where it intersects with 104 to south of Hoodsport. “They had me on the side of the road. The trees are all just shaking. No, I was getting out of there while I could.”
The Patrolman gets another call. He has to get over to the road to Marrowstone Island. Vehicle in the ditch. “Ice,” several people say. Someone adds, “Why didn’t the State sand this road?” That was Kirky. “I don’t know.” That was me. “It gets icy quick.” That was one of the Disco Bay people, probably glad they didn’t have to use the jaws of life.
That’s a guess.
“No, no ticket,” the Patrolman says. “It was an accident.”
A few minutes later, I’m in the front of the cab with the Angel, Kirky; the Nissan on the hook, headed home via Eaglemount and Center Roads. Kirky drops off the rig at Mountain Mechanic, downtown. I offer to buy him some gas at the Quilcene Village Store. I jump out of the tow truck to pay (cash saves ten cents per gallon). I fall flat on my face on the asphalt.
Black ice. Perfect timing.
Yeah, I’m all right. If you want to see where I hit, check out the second tree before the guardrails start. It has several signs on it and two new scars a few feet up from the bank. If you want to make an offer on a Nissan Pathfinder, slightly damaged, you can check it out; downtown Quilcene.
STEPHEN R. DAVIS UPDATE: The last I heard Steve was back at the University of Washington Hospital. He had (has) a bad reaction to some drugs he had been prescribed. He developed a rash pretty much all over his body, including his throat and eyes. Not comfortable. I am hoping for the best. I will update.
People have been asking me for an update on Stephen’s… situation. Trish told me about a GoFundMe campaign Steve’s fiance’ Sierra has started. This was last night, with a big ass thunder-snow event closing down Surf Route 101 (still closed this morning) from where it connects with Highway 104, all the way past Hoodsport. I will cover some of that… next time.
I am posting part (hopefully enough) of what Sierra created as a GoFundMe page.
Hello, My name is Sierra-Marie, and I am fundraising to help my partner get through his cancer treatment. Stephen found out on December 16th that he has cancer, and after a week+ long stay in the hospital, the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance doctors confirmed that he has stage 4 mantle cell lymphoma: a rare blood cancer that left him with an enlarged spleen, which is what prompted him to go to the doctors, after feeling a lump while he was out surfing. The doctors believe that this cancer has been growing since about the same time Stephen lost his beautiful son, 2 years and 10 months ago. It started growing slowly, but has picked up speed in it’s growth rate in the last few months. Current statistics on this particular cancer do not look good… However, he is going to be doing a clinical trial that has had a 93% success rate in the first stage. We are scared, but hopeful that he will beat this. He is looking at at LEAST 6 rounds of heavy and intense chemotherapy, and a bone marrow transplant. Stephen is incredibly strong and kind. He has helped me heal in so many ways this past year. I really want to be able to help him through this battle; to hold him, as he held me. The stress of this diagnosis is already heavy on our hearts, but now the financial stress is definitely lingering over our heads. We know that no matter what, we will figure out a way to make it work. We have both survived so many obstacles, and this is just yet another… but we are asking our loved ones to help us in this trying time. As we contemplate moving closer to the cancer center, what things we may need to sell to get through this, and many other questions we have about life and death, the only thing we know is that so much is unknown. No matter the outcome, we will brave this storm together. If you feel compelled to donate, we would be so grateful… and if you can’t afford to at this time, please consider sharing this fundraiser. We love you all, and thank you for taking the time to read this. sending love and healing to all in this new year.
The temperature outside our place had dipped down to fifteen degrees Fahrenheit (that’s minus nine point four four four four… for Celsius fans) at the stroke of midnight, Pacific Standard Time, before un-dipping to a slightly less deadly twenty-one (minus six point one one one one… at… checking… eight: forty-six a.m. (ante-meridiem for Latin lovers, or ‘before noon’ for those who… okay, I’m thinking the difference between lovers of breakfast and fans of brunch, and, now, because I am thinking, I’m considering dawn patrollers and surfers who prefer seeing what we’re paddling out and into; and, remembering my days in crowded California waves, I can’t help but mention that the onshores usually started about 10:30 am, brunch; but, yes, P.M. stands for ‘post meridiem,’ or, for those who like to time a siesta before the afternoon glass off, um, yeah, afternoon).
So, HAPPY NEW YEAR!
You might be thinking about how low the bar must be set for 2022 being better than 2021. Try not to.
I do have a new drawing. BUT FIRST, since I did mention my friend Stephen R. Davis’s recent diagnosis, he did spend some time at the University of Washington hospital, did see a specialist in lymphomas (pleural), and was told that what he has (and Trish did look up all the scary shit) is imminently curable.
He did give up coffee, switching to smoothies. Surprising to me, since every time I’ve worked with, or surfed with, or casually run into Steve, he asked (past tense now, I guess), “Hey, Erwin; you have any… coffee?” And this is him with a bit left in a fancy store-bought cup with the wraparound finger-protecting paper. “Yeah; of course, I brought enough for me… in a thermos. Folgers. On sale. Costco.” “Oh, okay.”
Still, Steve wasn’t a coffee snob. I did ask him to return the thermos I gave him. He says he will try to find it. Steve is going back in a couple of weeks to get started on a program.
I do know other who have life-changing if not life-threatening conditions. Here’s what we do: We keep going. That was kind of the point of my drawing, originally meant, maybe, as a holiday card; now, perhaps, I can say it’s a Happy New Year’s illustration. Forward, onward, sideslipping down the line.