Between the Skunk and the Squall

I thought I had a few minutes to write something. I do. A few minutes. I have five semi-scheduled appointments I didn’t schedule late enough to cover my writing addiction. There were a couple of subjects I’ve been thinking about. One of them is not “Blowing up the spot” by posting photos of not-secret-surf-spots on the Gram, along with commentary on just how perfect your life is. Good for you.

Another topic is inviting all your out-of-town friends for a longshot chance at something breaking on the always fickle Strait. Whether you or your friends get waves is, even if the forecasters forecast waves, largely a matter of timing. The window in which any particular spot might have rideable waves is almost always quite small.

Here is very recent example: A local surfer was taking the path back after surfing. He runs into a dude heading toward the water. “Is it HAPPENIN’?!!” Pretty much on repeat. “Um… I don’t know you. I…” “Oh, I’m a friend of so-and-so’s. Came up from Portland.” “Oh, so-and-so.” Whether the surf was happenin’ or not is incidental. It just so happened that the local surfer knew so-and-so, kind of. Nevertheless, the response could have been, and probably was a nicer version of, “Get fucked and go back to fucking Portland!”

Sounds harsh. It’s a variation on the classic 60s Malibu line, “Get fucked and go back to the valley.”

I selected this photo while googling “Surfers in parking lots.” First one up. (Surfers changing into their wetsuits in the parking lot of Chesterman’s Beach. (Photo by Christopher Morris/Corbis via Getty Images). I had to use it. The car is a much nicer version of my surf rig. So, then I had to google Chesterman’s Beach. Tofino. Three surfers ready to rip. It is obviously happenin!. Now, I am not trying to blow up a spot I have never been to, but, wherever these obvious rippers came from, I am sure they were welcomed in the lineup.

I am not trying to relitigate or even discuss local/non-local stuff. Pick a spot, move in as close as you can get, never go anywhere else. Anyway, on my most recent surf adventure, not feeling too guilty because I have a job very close to several potential surf locations, I sort of disregarded my years of accumulated historical, anecdotal data on what tide and angle and wind direction and all might work and went. It wasn’t working when I arrived. Typical. Almost happening. There were two other vehicles in the parking area. One was a guy who came over from the Methow Valley, Eastern Washington. He had lived for a while in Port Townsend, worked for a guy I have painted for, not that any of this makes up for him driving, like, forever, to get to this spot. He was actually ready and waiting for Hobuck to open up. Evidently (blowing up the spot here) Hobuck may have.

The other guy, who never came out of his rig, was from Wenatchee. Also East of the mountains. I didn’t take the time to discuss his surf history.

The next rig that arrived had a guy from Westport and a guy from Gig Harbor. The Gig Harbor guy knew some surfers I also know, had a few stories I hadn’t heard about several of our mutual acquaintances.

How do I know this stuff? I ask.

Not almost enough for those two, they headed elsewhere, continuing their search. I went out. I got lucky. Pretty decent before the wind came up and the swell dropped off. I surfed, went to my job as other surfers went out, others arrived, checking it out. As I was leaving, another guy cruised in. He knew some surfers I know.

The next day, one of my friends told me the spot I surfed got good later in the afternoon. “And who did you hear that from?” He heard it from the guy (he told me his name, I just forgot it) who, obviously, stuck around through the tide and the squalls and the drop in swell. So, kind of the fir cone wireless, the little social networks we all seem to develop. Still, better than, “Yeah, he posted it on Instagram.” “Hope he didn’t call it the ‘Best ever!’ It wasn’t.”

I have learned not to name spots on my little site; even those that are not secret. It is not so much the spot as the window, and besides, do we need more surfers in the lineup?

Time’s up. I have to go; don’t even have time to check to see if I know anyone up Tofino way. FIR CONE WIRELESS, kind of happy with that little variation, in case it’s remote, on the COCONUT WIRELESS.

No offense to Portland.

Original E Hits North Shore Ha-waii-eeee!

Hawaii. No, it’s not the first time one of my t-shirts has hit the 50th state in the Union. Stephen R. Davis rocked (I don’t usually use this expression- fits with Steve) one or two of my designs, and, if I remember correctly, shared one with Cap. Not sure. Anyway, the Erwin Original shirts have been there before Chris Eardley, ripper on the North Shore of the contiguous US, showed up there.

Chris was nice enough to send me a photo. Here’s how the text exchange went:

Whoa! Is this, like the Volcom House? Florence residence? JOB’s pad? Wait, is that wave even rideable?

Chris: “Got my lucky shirt here at Pipe. Got some good waves at Sunset Point this morning before it got huge. The shirt keeps its lucky streak!”

Erwin: “Holy fuck, Chris, you hangin’ wit’ day (sp. I meant ‘da’) boys AND resenting (meant ‘representing’) OWWW! And I don’t use !!!!s without cause. Hopefully the slab work here helped you conquer. I have watched so many north shore videos I feel like I know the crew. Good luck!!!! Yeah, more of those, writer shakas.”

Yes, that is exactly how I wrote it; not that I actually talk like that.

More Erwin: “If you would send shot to __________ (email address, not really secret- we do get lots of unsolicited stuff). I would be proud and stoked to put it on my site. It’s just another north shore.”

Chris (next day): “I just got back, scored some great surf. Lots of positive comments on your shirt and, as usual, it brought good luck. It’s usually my shirt of choice when I hit the Strait because I’m on a streak with it!”

OKAY, so Chris followed local etiquette by not telling me about surfing in Hawaii until it was too late for me to show up. Good.

Erwin (while about to change lanes on freeway en route to job in Gig Harbor: “Great” (third attempt at completing this particular verbal text- no period or explanation point- or … I hate it when it shows up as something like- “. dot dot” or “Great” comma).

Because I wasn’t sure Chris would send the photo to my e-mail address, and because I wanted to share the shot with the few (seriously, few) surfers I have phone numbers for, I sent the photo to Stephen R. Davis with a request to send it back to me. I have a problem transferring photos from my phone to the e-mail. It could, possibly, be remedied if I allowed some sort of hookup that might mean every email would ping on my phone. Steve did send it, but Chris also came through.

Chris (via e-mail, and there may be a slight amount of redundancy, not that it bothers me): “Here’s a shot of me at Pipeline sporting an E. Dence original. I got quite a few compliments on the shirt in Hawaii, stayed up on the (other) north shore and scored some great surf. Did NOT surf pipeline, of course, but as you can see, had a pretty good view from the safety of the deck. Aaron’s coaching at some local slabs paid off as I pulled into some challenging ones elsewhere, though. For my next Erwin shirt, I think I’ll seek a lighter color as black got a little toasty in the Hawaiian sun.”

Chris Eardly is a guy who runs for fun, travels to the East Coast for Hurricane Season, hits the slopes and… yeah, he qualifies as a real surfer (skateboarding and snow stuff are optional, perhaps- but helpful). He is part of the PT Crew if there is such a thing, and, if there is, it would be so loosely connected and… really, how would I know? As far as scoring on the Strait- yeah, I thought that was pretty funny. Chris’s reference to Aaron might be the elusive and well-traveled “Short Board Aaron.” Slabs? It’s a matter of definition and proportion. And location; as in, somewhere else. So much for the disclaimer.

As far as Original Erwin t-shirts- If you have one, hang on to it, don’t spill paint on it. I haven’t made any in several years. I have no stockpile of them. I have done some drawings that could be shirts, I do plan on getting some more printed up, but… right now… collector’s items. Am I trying to hype up the value? Yes.

Not available… yet
For light colored t-shirt, perfect for tropical climes… coming soon.

Give Me Some Good News…

I have written some lyrics for songs over the years. It is surprising to me how many years ago some of them were developed as I drove from here to there or wherever. Or back home from wherever. Songs, not poetry. Not that I have that much disdain for poetry; it just seems a bit more pretentious than… okay, I have purposefully written a few poems.

Since I have been playing harmonica (harp to hipsters and such folks) long enough (since 1969 or so when Buddy, of Buddy’s Sign Service, gave me a Hohner full-sized slide chromonica- current replacement cost- $224.88 at Guitar Center) that I have enough Blues Bands and Special 20s, as well as the cheapie versions by Hohner and other manufacturers, with blown reeds to, someday, get them all together (or as many as I can find) with some resin and create some sort of assemblage. So Artsy. In my mind, it would be the kind of thing where any observer would have to ask, “Do you know what harmonicas cost nowadays?” More than they did when you bought one, just to try it out.

It is not accidental that many of my lyrics fit into a blues format. My older son, James, is a musician, mostly a guitar player. James started out with Heavy Metal, studied Classical Guitar at the Lionel Hampton School of Music, did some sessions at Port Townsend’s Centrum Blues Festival (not that he attended classes. He claimed that going to the week-long retreat, paid for by his grandfather, gave him access to “The Bad-asses,” he and some of them jamming on the porches of the old buildings at Fort Warden), moved on to blues-jazz fusion with his own bands, while playing lead guitar with The Fabulous Kingpins, a long-time cover tune band.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned James before. Sorry; I got started, kept going.

SO… blues, harmonicas, lyrics; the harmonica is an instrument one can play while driving. Legally, I believe, if one isn’t distracted. One hand. While I can play a range of songs… note of caution- wailing out the last verse of “All Along the Watchtower” will blow out the reeds with notes you only meant to bend- I do use my alone/driving time to write/play/sing loud enough to almost overcome the noise from the blown-out muffler on my surf rig.

I do have a working radio on my work van, with pre-sets to one NPR station, one hip Seattle station, one cool station from Everett, and one local one from Port Townsend. But… when the news is redundant and or horrific, when the folks are begging for funding, when the music is shitty or the talking heads are discussing topics I don’t actually care about, I can hit an alternate list. Classical FM, an AM station I’ve never bothered to tune out. Or I can play harmonica and sing a variety of songs I know some or all of the words to. “In the Early Morning Rain,” “Brother Can You Spare a Dime” are two examples.

It might not be surprising that a collection of songs I put together and got a copywrite for (I would have to look for the actual date- it has been a while) is entitled, “Love Songs for Cynics.” Not that I’m all that cynical. I do have some, you know, like, love songs in the mix. Here are a couple of the titles: “Ain’t Got No Problems with Lolita,” “Honey Days,” “I Just Wanna go Surfin’,” “And So am I,” “You Made me what I Am.” Oh, that one is a bit cynical.

The NEWS. A problem with watching dire weather forecasts, looking at confusing and not-necessarily-epic surf forecasts, reports from Seattle about homeless camps and people stealing catalytic converters and drilling holes in gas tanks to steal ever-more-costly fuel, network news about Ukraine and Putin and tanks and shelling and evacuations and refugees is… it is just too much.

I WAS THINKING, specifically, about this song. I tried to remember all the lyrics. No, it’s not about peace; it’s really kind of whining, poet-like. However, with a little tweaking…

“Give me some good news, please, no more bad; You know I’m crazy, but I’m not mad; Guess disappointed’s the word I’d choose; Come on, can’t you give me some good news? Something that might shake away these blues.

Something that might shake away, something that might take away, you know we can break away from these blues; If only you could give me… some… good… news.”

There is also, along with the other two verses I can’t totally remember at the moment (on a thumb drive somewhere, a printed copy somewhere else), an outro with this:

“…You know and I know and we know and they know, the world has blown a fuse; And God ain’t grantin’ no more interviews; so, come on, can’t you give me… some… good (big finish here) NEWS.”

James and me a few years back, bending notes, breaking strings, blowing out reeds.

OKAY, I’m going to check that surf forecast again. Not to dissuade anyone, but it looks a little… sketchy.

“SWAMIS” UPDATE: I’m four chapters in on the total rewrite and I’m condensing and tightening what I wrote in the outline I wrote to condense and tighten the over-expansive two earlier versions. It’s actually going pretty well. I just did more on Portia and Baadal Singh, set up Chulo and Gingerbread Fred for the chapter after the next one, and I’m thinking… can I just eliminate that one, move on to Chulo’s murder?

Thinking. It’s what I do when I’m not playing harmonica.

“Is the Water Cold, Erwin?”

I had just ‘accidentally’ burned my friend, Stephen R. Davis. “I’ll block for you,” I had said, though there were only four of us out and neither of the other two surfers would even dare take off in front of someone that deep on the wave. I still maintain that I hadn’t meant to catch the wave, and I did pull out as soon as I could, and Steve did ride it another sixty yards or so. BUT, yeah, I did burn him.

The other two surfers in the water were Darrick and Nam, both of whom play into the story. I was telling Trish the tale from a slightly different angle the other night because we had run into Nam at the Home Depot. Trish and I were looking at (not purchasing) appliances and flooring and Nam had been looking for waves on the Strait, and, as it often happens, chose riding tiny ones over being skunked.

The story was from the first time (probably four years ago now) I had been aware of being in the water with Nam, well before his persistence and hours surfing, or at the skate park, or on the slopes had turned into a competent wave rider. Steve, paddling back out, yelled the line at me. “Is the water cold, Erwin?”

Derrick was halfway out. He paddled past Nam and said, “I don’t know who you are, but you’ll get a wave before Erwin gets another one.”

“Accident,” I said, knowing Derrick is kind of a stickler for proper surf etiquette. Like Steve, Derrick also kite surfs. Even if he didn’t pop up thirty feet in the air on occasion, he seems to hang on to a certain non-kookiness and coolness I’ve given up on long ago. “I’ll give Steve ten bucks for screwing up his ride.”

A few minutes later, Steve and Derrick and I trading waves and pretty much ignoring Nam, I was going for a set wave. Derrick, a bit down the line, took it. On his way back out he said, “Guess I owe you ten bucks now.” I explained I was too far in for it. No charge (except, of course, Derrick charging the wave).

SO, the cryptic quote. Yesterday, Steve, not yet free of the effects of horrific drug reactions was in Seattle getting a second round of Chemo. I was trying to finish up a project for a condo association, trying to be positive and upbeat while tightening the work up as close to perfect as I could get it. ALLRIGHT, here’s what I say about perfection: “It’s difficult to attain and impossible to maintain,” to which the representative for the condo board I was dealing with, who always wore his “Let’s go, Brandon” hat, said, “Yeah, perfect really gets in the way of good.”

Good. So, Steve, using Sierra’s phone, says, “You know, Erwin, all those folks who ask, like, ‘Is the water cold?’… They all live in Port Townsend now.”

Steve’s latest paintings.

I really wanted to get to this: Steve started these before the diagnosis and the treatment, and the bad drug reaction and the chemo. He did some more on them the other day when his eyes, which were, at the worst point in this, at risk of having cornea meltdown, were working enough to continue. He has been working with another Stephen, over at the Printery in Port Townsend with the goal of turning some of his work into prints.

Steve has really had a tough few months. I told him I would rerun the GoFundMe page Sierra put together for him. Next time, for sure. It’s Stephen R. Davis. You can find it, AND, if you can blow up the image (above) on your device, do it. Totally worth it.

JUST to finish up on Nam, it was Trisha’s idea for me to do an illustration from the photo Nam’s girlfriend took of him. Trish, incidentally, thought Nam was polite (he might be Canadian), and a totally cutie pie.

Nam and I are still in contention whenever we are in the water. It’s official. So far, 2-1, my favor, best out of one million and one.