“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.

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