I am writing this on my tablet. Dru loaned me a computer so Trish can keep the one we share while she is spending time at Dru’s house. The borrowed laptop is a Mac rather than Mic (read Mike). Mostly the mac is for continuing “Swamis.” I haven’t yet connected it to the internet. So, hunting and pecking on my tablet. Mic and Mac and now, Tab.
IS writing a novel set in my youth a way to relive what has been lost in the fifty-plus years since? Yes. And no.
NO, much of the time covered was great. Far from all. It’s over. That wave is gone. I’m having new setbacks and adventures, dramas and traumas and the occasional great ride.
YES, I get to remember the obvious people and events. In remembering, things I have not put in the easily accessed files are brought back. This is… enjoyable, even as I realize an ever higher percentage of what I write will be cut (but probably saved, elsewhere).
AND, I get to shape characters from the amazing real people I have come into contact with. Even those characters originally based on friends have become… different. This is, again, part of the fun. Each character becomes more complex, the added fictions making him or her more… realistic. Hopefully this is also true for the reader.
THE STORY I believed I knew has demanded to be something else. More and, somehow, less. I am tightening the timeline. YET, when I finish whatever counts as a writing session, I cannot help but consider where and how it could be different, hopefully better.
We can’t change the past. We can’t go back and edit out the awkward falls and crappy conditions, can’t add a few more awesome rides to past surf sessions.
The emergency part is that, because of various reasons, I’m stuck in Seattle overnight. The most recent of the various reasons is that, while going to retrieve Trisha’s car from an underground garage (and I was pretty darn unsure as to which underground garage it was- Trish, who wasn’t in the car when I parked it, did remember- The Lindeman), I discovered, after trying to go down a road/ramp at something like a 35% angle, with signs that read, “No pedestrians on ramp,” I got to huge steel doors, the kind they have, no doubt, for the garages at Fort Knox. “No attendant after hours.” The hours are 6am to 8pm. It was, like, 9-something pm, and I not only got to trudge back up the ramp, but, in order to get back to the room Trish is staying in at the Inn at Virginia Mason, I got to trudge a block over and a block up a similarly steep (or steeper) one block incline, a trek I had made no more than an hour before.
I’ll get back to that in a minute. First, allow me to complain about the heat. When I was checking Trish and our daughter in, yesterday, a woman was in the lobby complaining about it being over one hundred degrees in her room in the over one hundred-year-old, un-air-conditioned building. Yes, Seattle was going for a record number of days over ninety degrees, but, like, how bad can it be?
That was yesterday. Dru was scheduled for surgery some time the next day (today). Trish and I took off at butt-dark-thirty, picked up Dru in Port Gamble, made it to the Bainbridge ferry. Short wait, good position on the boat, no one’s car alarm went off. Dru used an app to find the hospital from the ferry, to find the place where she could get her mandatory Covid test, and the Inn. Dru called to see if she and her mom could get in early. Yes. We packed the gear in the already-quite-warm room, and I took off, ready to do the “Drive around” rather than use the ferries. Forty-five minutes or so of getting lost in parts of Seattle cut off by constantly expanding freeways, I ended up perilously close to the ferries, but still chose to hit I-5. Trisha’s car has great air conditioning.
Today, I again got up early, made it to the (I think) same ferry. I was supposed to find a place to park the car for the day. A close, outside lot was full except for several spots for charging up Teslas, and one spot for handicapped. Trish calls these ‘paralyzed parking’ spots and is probably qualified to have one. But she doesn’t, and I moved on. Down. Underground.
Now, the surgery. I am quite uncomfortable discussing the cancer surgery our forty-two-year-old daughter has (now) undergone, but I will say it was radical, I will also add that Dru’s Oncologist told her that, because of her early concern and investigation, and the early detection of cancer cells, “You just saved your own life.”
This doesn’t mean that the recovery phase is going to be pleasant or easy. While I put off thinking too much about any of this in order to avoid just totally freaking out, I am also putting off considering what is involved in the next phases. Fortunately, Dru’s two main employers have been very supportive, as have many of her many friends. And, as Dru says, “I am so grateful I live in a blue state.” I’m not sure how much the help from the state is, but it is nice there is some support for people who have situations that keep them from working.
I do know several others who have also been stricken with cancer. The fear of how to survive financially is right up there with the fear of the fucking disease (yeah, you thought I might keep it clean- I didn’t try too hard).
Anyway, the heat. While Trish and I were hanging out at the Inn, Dru in the hands and the schedule of the teams (the oncology surgeon’s and the plastic surgeon’s), I was taking advantage of the (slower than ours at home) WiFi. Checking out the YouTube, I saw surfers from Hawaii down in Mexico, and complaining about the heat. I had to wonder how hot it has to be for it to be too hot for them. Meanwhile, Seattle is too hot for me. I went out on the mean city streets to get Trish and I some food. I might not have been the only guy sweating through his shirt but… no, I might have been.
And it was the only shirt I brought.
Because the procedure and the recovery room stuff took a while, visiting hours were over by the time I made a valiant (I think) attempt to see Dru. I went to the place adjacent to the Inn. No way. I called Trish. I went down the really steep hill. I came back up. I went here, there, rode the elevator to limited floors with locked doors. I asked several people (anyone wearing scrubs, really) “Oh, you have to go to the emergency room.” Where’s that? “Just uphill from the Inn.” Oh. So, sweated through my shirt for the second time in a day. I got in, saw Dru, left, got my stuff from the sauna/room, went outside, down the super steep hill, around the corner, found the garage. Then, see above.
THIS IS WHERE everything I had written disappeared. Gone. Forever. YES, I did throw a massive fit. Yes, I wrote about it. THIS POST is now, because I am afraid not to post it, going to be on top of the semi-replacement column. PLEASE, if only to check on continuity, check out the next post down. Never mind, it’s, like, three down. Whoa, so prolific.
ANYWAY, Dru is hooking me up with a laptop. It’s a Mac, so… hoping for the best after a short tutorial. We’ll see. Pretty happy to be able to publish this. Now, just…
With the inclusion of inarguably life-changing events, we determine what we remember, over time, of the rare but truly horrific and the rare but truly blissful events.
Recalling a specific moment once makes it easier to remember, more clearly, the next time.
Memory banks and memory files, images and sounds and feelings, still shots and little videos; something that happens in the present snaps the synapses and, whoa, yeah… that one time…
I quite surprisingly and suddenly realized that the official start of Autumn is only days away, one of two moments, and I may be wrong about this, when the earth is in true balance and there are equal amounts of day and night. From that point, the next defining point is the dropping of Daylight Savings Time, somewhere around Halloween, the semi-unofficial end, for the most part, of the exterior painting season in the Great Northwest.
Yet, somewhere in here is the start of the surf season, such as it is, with the hope of North Pacific storms and waves over knee high. Hope is different than expectation. Around the Strait, even hope is tempered by experience; skunkings when forecasts call for waves, defiant winds when the forecasts call for calm.
In the Summer of 1968, the summer season defined as the interval between school sessions, Ray Hicks and Bill Buel and Phillip Harper and I were cruising in one of their cars, returning inland from a day of cruising Surf Route 101, anywhere from San Onofre to, most likely, Cardiff, in search of a beach with some possibility of girls hanging out, and with rideable waves, and with the hope that the lineup was not too crowded. We did, no doubt, surf, most likely at Grandview or Swamis beachbreak.
Whichever vehicle we were in (again, not mine) featured the latest in in-car entertainment, an 8 trac tape player. Because we were middle class suburban teens, we related to the non-bubblegum-pop tunes of Cream, the Beatles (less and less), and the Doors. Most shared, most sung along to. Yes, if we were a year younger, Led Zeppelin’s orgasmic rock might have taken over. We weren’t. We listened to the Doors. We could relate.
It wasn’t just the AM-radio/garage-band-at-the-VFW-hall stuff. Deep cuts. “Wait until the war is over, and we’re both a little older; the unknown soldier.” The war wasn’t over. It would still be there when we were older… old enough.
It was almost dark, we were parked somewhere, facing west, perhaps, more likely facing some thicket of sage like brush off Mission, the route from one or our homes to another- extending the length of the surf trip/adventure. Smoking. Click. Another tune. “Summer’s almost gone, summer’s almost gone; Where will we be… when the summer’s gone.” There was an instrumental fill at this point, the perfect four beat place in which, from my spot in the back seat, I added, “We’ll be in school.”
It wasn’t well received. ‘Fuck you’ and ‘oh, man,’ and ‘get out’ didn’t make for a unified chorus.
Yet, summer had gone on long enough that the days of not surfing, of hanging out or playing some pickup game at the high school, of listening to other groups, other songs, had gone on long enough. School was… we’d be seniors, there were girls, guaranteed. There was a certain level of anticipation.
Time seems to move faster as we get older. I have noticed. I have decided it is because, the longer we are alive, rotating and spinning, the shorter the comparative time is of any particular season. So, summer is, relatively, short. That’s my theory.
Incidentally, the reason I know it wasn’t my car is this: My vehicles never seemed to have a functioning radio. Fifty-four years later, my current surf rig’s radio started shorting out a few years ago; irritating; and then it quit completely. I do have my harmonica, and, since I usually go surfing alone, I don’t mind my singing and playing. Other than my own tunes, I will do a few of Dylan’s. I have a killer version of “All Along the Watchtower.” The Doors? No, not really.
The subject next time, perhaps, could be: “Froth.”
I’m getting some stick-on lettering made saying, “realsurfers FROTH!” So far, Keith is signed on to get one. Steve and Adam, the only others I’ve offered them to, didn’t seem enthusiastic enough; I will not beg them. So… as with everything, forever, we’ll see.
Dru is probably going to have radiation treatments, but, hopefully, not Chemo. Trish is doing most of the hanging out with our daughter over in Port Gamble, making sure Dru doesn’t lift heavy stuff. I’ve done like one night a week, but I, um… well, I do plan on going over tomorrow for the Seahawks game, partially so Trish can get her hands back on this computer, probably do some lifting.
Stephen R. Davis is staying in Bellevue and going for procedures in Seattle. He is getting a full ‘workup’ (not fun in itself) ahead of two doses of Super Chemo. I will get a proper copy of Steve’s painting of a fantasy surf spot this week and will post it here with info on how you can purchase a limited-edition copy. Evidently Steve has already promised the original to some lucky person.
Here’s a photo from March of 2004. My son, Sean, daughter Drucilla, and I were down south for a sort of family reunion/celebration of my father’s 80th birthday, arranged and staged by my sister, Suellen, and centered in Oceanside. I used the occasion to go on a sort of show-and-tell trip that included staying as close to the coast as possible, with, no doubt, stories of every spot. The south jetty, where I most often surfed before work at Buddy’s Sign Service, the building in which I worked, the pier, the auto repair shop where my dad worked two nights a week and Sundays for years, Tamarack, Grandview, Beacons, Swamis.
My plan was to write about two things here: Dru’s cancer and my novel, “Swamis.” Plans change. ALWAYS.
ME FIRST. Dru is recovering from surgery, like, a week ago. Trish has been taking care of her, staying at her place, twenty-two minutes away (if no one crashes on or near the Hood Canal Bridge, or some sailboat or nuclear submarine has to go through it) from our house. In order for Trish to do some other stuff, and to give her a break, I got to take over for a day, like, yesterday. Trish left a list of chores that I almost totally ignored. NOW, I have been telling/warning our daughter that I would not help her if she didn’t read the latest chapter I wrote, my third complete rewrite (counting the outline that turned into a sort of treatment) of my novel, “Swamis.” Dru, of course, though I had sent it to her, had not yet read it.
AND YET I came over, watched a horror movie, tried to sleep on her futon, did not make her a delicious breakfast as her mother had been doing, but did, while Dru was scrambling some eggs for simple breakfast burritos, start reading the chapter to her. There were interruptions, including a rare call from George Takamoto. I had to take the call, and somehow, managed to sit on my plate of burritos. Wouldn’t have been bad if it hadn’t been for the toothpicks. SO DRU started reading the chapter to me.
IT WAS GREAT. A couple of awkward parts. Fixable. Here’s the sort of unexpected thing: “Dad, it’s a short story.” No. “Yes. I can stand on its own. Short story.” Yeah, that’s what I was afraid of.
Over a hundred pages into the manuscript, sixty thousand plus words, CHAPTER FOURTEEN has enough of the story to ALMOST stand alone. Not completely, but, as each version of “Swamis” focuses more on the main story line, the plot, if I now go back, if Chapter Fourteen becomes Chapter Five, say, with three more after that, all leading to a non-conclusion… well, that would be a novel I wouldn’t have to beg or threaten someone to read. OR THAT IS THE HOPE.
THE OTHER THING that was on the agenda for yesterday was a zoom call with Dru’s surgeon. Bearing in mind that I am quite uncomfortable talking about this, Dru had decided to go with radical surgery with some hope if not expectation that Chemo and/or Radiation might not be necessary. THIS, almost of course, is not how it is going. Though other testing and discussion and shit has to happen, the Doctor said the two (rightfully) scary options might be in her future. THE ANTICIPATION of surgery- frightening; but she’s past that and recovering. WHAT WE KNOW about others who have undergone these procedures caused me to ambush the doctor when she asked Dru if she had any other questions. “Yeah, I do. I thought we got rid of the cancer. It’s not in her lymph nodes, so?” The doctor referred to the size of the tumor and how much it had grown since first discovered. “But the tumor’s gone. Past tense.” Not so easy. There are ‘maybes’ and ‘we don’t know yets.’ The doctor explained those and tried to lessen any anxiety. “Thank you.”
SO, Yeah. So, “fuck!” So, sure; it can’t just be over. No. Few things are easy. Nothing is EVER simple.
WE ALL GO THROUGH our lives among and between waves of hopeful anticipation and troughs of fearful anticipation. Few events are as blissfully, floatingly good or as full-stop, unbearably bad as the renderings, mosaics, perhaps, our imaginations create from the collected bits of shattered dreams, and the pieces of scattered moments of magic and peace and joy and BLISS.
What we really do, all we really can do is KEEP GOING.
I have to say that Dru seems to be more optimistic about enduring further treatment than I am. Trish, as always, will be supportive. Disappointment. Regroup. Keep going.
MEANWHILE, my good friend Stephen Davis, having made it through six rounds of Chemo, with his cancer knocked-back, is currently getting ready to take another step; a massive dose of chemicals that will do so much damage that, once through it, he will have to retake all his childhood inoculations. And that might not be the end of it. He will be unable to work or, probably, surf, for six months or so. SCARY!
OKAY, I’ll get a photo of the completed version on here. Soon.
Trisha’s and my daughter, Drucilla, arrived in Seattle on TUESDAY, the record tying 15th day of above-90-degree days in one season. So, fun. Dru was going to Virginia Mason for a surgery I have been actively avoiding thinking about and I am uncomfortable writing about. I will say the cancer surgery is radical. It is also somewhat unusual for a 42-year-old.
ON WEDNESDAY, Dru had the surgery- hours of it, with two teams, one working on the radical part of it, the second on the reconstructive aspects. THE GOOD NEWS IS it went well. What we have to look forward to in the recovery process is, yes, something I’m trying, again, not to think about. Trish has tried to tell me the details, I have tried not to really comprehend them; I just know it’s messy and embarrassing and totally necessary.
NOT thinking too hard is… okay, say the long-range surf forecast calls for significant swell five days out. Excited? Probably, but three days out the picture will be clearer, and the awesome most likely will become… less so.
I have tried really hard to not imagine the negative scenarios possible with any type of surgical procedure. MY ZEAL to not freak the fuck out, to not know more than I need to know, has not helped me in the past several days.
I will need several posts to cover all the stupid, mostly avoidable missteps I have made in trips to and from the Big, Hot, Steep-hilled, Dangerous, Emerald City. It isn’t over. It’s THURSDAY and I’m currently in Quilcene, Trish, with a hamstring injury, is in an un-air-conditioned room adjacent to the hospital, and we are awaiting news as to when Dru is going to be released. Then I get to zip back over. Most likely this will be tomorrow, FRIDAY, never a good day in the summer to try to get a ferry ride west.
I do have some mostly misadventures to write about and, in fact, did write a really lengthy piece late last night, here, like I am doing now, on the actual WordPress setup. That was, and this might be, a mistake. A message suddenly popped onto the screen informing me that there had been an error and… gone. I should have and should now, first write on the Microsoft Word, then transfer. Should.
Dru, according to her Oncologist, by not ignoring signs and symptoms, by not hoping for the best, by detecting a problem early and getting an early diagnosis… well, here’s the quote: “You just saved your own life.”
That’s the GOOD PART. I will be back with the fun/stupid/avoidably dumb parts. Later.