There’s no way this version of an essay, a replacement for one lost to the misunderstood mechanics of Mac and Microsoft, could be the same. Retelling, rewriting; stories change, only imagined word magic is dulled, made somehow transparent. They are only words.
If you are kind enough to read this, please scroll down to the previous posting. Something related to this piece was written and meant to go there. Thanks.
Drowning. Someone drowned surfing on the Strait of Juan de Fuca on Sunday. I didn’t know him, but I do know he was someone’s sibling, someone’s child, someone’s love. Perhaps I surfed with this young man, passed him on the highway or the trail, saw him in the parking area. I couldn’t put a face to the name that was being spread on the fir cone wireless, the various and overlapping circles of surfers and their surfer and non-surfer friends.
I do know something about him.
While there is little information on the actual cause of the drowning, the conditions in the water at the time are known; a rising swell in a narrow bay, mostly closeout waves, rip currents running parallel to the beach, other surfers in the area. He was pulled from the water by another surfer, a friend of a friend of mine. Attempts to resuscitate failed.
The scene was, by all accounts so far, chaotic and tragic.
More is already being discovered about the victim. As always, this adds to the tragedy.
For all our competitiveness, for all the ‘my crew’, ‘your crew’, ‘local’, ‘regular’, ‘outsider’ divisions, surfers, out of the water, are united. I realize it’s a ridiculous conceit of mine to draw some distinction between real surfers and… everyone else. It is my belief that you do the same. Slightly different criteria, no doubt.
While surfers understand something about drowning, it is also known by anyone who has ever choked on water that went anywhere even close to the lungs.
Just one jolt of that; mistiming the top of a wave you’re paddling over, breathing in too quickly after a wipeout; you will remember other times when you sucked in water or heavy foam instead of air, times you’ve choked and sputtered, times you were afraid you might not make it back to shore. If you or I haven’t been knocked unconscious by a rock or a surfboard, haven’t been held down longer than we can hold our breath… we’re lucky.
We forget that. Too easily.
Writers have, for the history of writing, almost romanticized drowning. Perhaps it is the notion that, in the end, it is, according to survivors, a sort of peaceful thing, a surrender to what is inevitable for all of us. Death. Not a violent, painful death, but a… No, that’s fiction. There is a reason for the phrase, “fighting to the last breath.”
I decided long ago that I do not want to drown. I don’t want to think about drowning.
WORD ON THE STRAIT- I want to give credit to Aaron Lennox for this phrase. Despite other claimants, Aaron is the only surfer who, in my years of surfing, ever successfully pushed me off my board on a wave. Yes, leash grabbing- different thing, Ian. The words for this posting are (hope I get this right- don’t want to call Aaron again to ask him… again): COMPETITIVE AGGRESSION. No, I don’t really understand it. My first reaction was to say how aggressively competitive I am. “Yeah, I am aware.” The page, evidently relates to people needlessly going dickwad in comments on some new (and immediately quite successful) Facebook page concerning Toyota-based campers. Look it up, I’m taking Aaron’s word it’s out there. Since Trish and our daughter Dru moderate a Facebook site, I did tell Aaron that the advantage he has is that he can cut off commentary and/or kick folks off. “They troll, but you… control.” “Yeah.”
The word on the Strait discussion was a few days ago. On Sunday, a surfer drowned on the Strait of Juan de Fuca. This became the story. The fir cone wireless and the cell phone connections began almost instantly after the tragedy. News is still sketchy. I will update when I know more. DROWNING is something any surfer has some familiarity with.
In trying to copy a piece I wrote on drowning from Word, the goal being to paste it here, I eliminated about four hours of work.
I wrote it WORD rather than on this site because I have lost stuff in the past. And still, it is gone. I blame Dru’s Apple computer.
It was against doctors’ orders. At least doctor’s advice. Stephen R. Davis, having survived a could-have-been-fatal allergic reaction to the medication given to him when he was first being treated for mantle cell lymphoma, having endured six rounds of, I’m guessing, garden variety chemotherapy, and having just gotten the second of two rounds of super chemo, designed to kill the shit out of everything except the patient, having received a blood transfusion in the morning, headed for Port Townsend some time in the early afternoon of November 11, 2022, with the intention of getting married to Sierra.
11/11/22 was important to Sierra. A guess (not my guess) was the numbers: 11, 11, and 2 x 11 (22). Made sense. No. Since Steve was kind of unclear on the reason for the date, he made some vague reference to the thinness of the veil. Cosmic. And unclear. I asked Sierra. “No, it’s that that date is one in which…” She lost me. Something about an increased opportunity for things to ‘manifest.’ Oh. Destiny is all I could think of.
Steve’s brother, Paul Davis, officiating at the boat launch by the (head)lights of a silvery Toyota.
“Veil.” “Manifest.” Interesting words. At the very same time Steve and Sierra were getting hitched (see title), a ghost conference was going on in Port Gamble. My wife, daughter, ex daughter-in-law were in attendance, along with lots of other folks who might be interested in the thinness of the veil and the possibility that something might manifest. I was asked not to attend. I’ve gone before. Evidently, my energy doesn’t mix well with the spirit world.
I had spoken to Steve several times before ll/11/22 about his nuptials, giving him advice such as: “Why don’t you f’in’ wait until you’re f’in’ better?” And, “Okay then, have Paul go over there, do the ceremony, have a reception when all your friends can go and possibly not kill you with your totally compromised immune system.”
“Um. No.” So it was set for some time around 3:30 at the Point Wilson Lighthouse. Um, no. There was a traffic accident over by Cheney Stadium in Tacoma, then another one on the Jefferson County side of the Hood Canal Bridge. I got a call from Steve that the ceremony was going to happen about 4:30, and that the wedding and the party was all being moved to the beach over by the fairgrounds. “Okay. Yes, I’ll wear a mask. No, there’s no way I can upstage you. No hugging? No problem. I’m calling Keith. I told him about it, he’s going. We’re going to represent.”
Represent? Yeah. Surfers.
Another call. 5:30. It was pretty dark by 5pm. I tossed all the stuff in the passenger seat of my work van into the back, suddenly worried what a painter’s rig might smell like to a non-painter. I checked out Keith’s ever-increasing quiver of surfboards, looked at some super secret, not to be sent over the telephone surf shots (on Keith’s phone), and we headed over.
As it turned out, Cody was also representing the surfing community. Otherwise, in the dark, with the masks and the distancing and all, I didn’t really recognize anyone. Including Steve. But, breaking the don’t upstage the groom (and, I’m guessing, Steve also meant to include his bride), the first person I saw was wearing a, no-shit, genuine, Davy fucking Crockett coonskin cap. “Hi, Erwin,” he said. “Who are you?” “Hobo Joe.” “Oh.” So, I introduced Keith to Hobo Joe and he explained why Steve calls him that. Not actually a hobo, Joe did have lava burn down his house on the Big Island, did stay with Steve for a while, did stay on Steve’s sail boat in Port Townsend. I know, none of this explains the coonskin cap.
So, word spread among the masked wedding party and the celebrants that the ceremony was going to take place down at the boat ramp. With a north wind blowing across the forty-something degree water, Paul read the opening statements, Steve and Sierra recited their vows, rings were exchanged, permission was given for the now-married couple to kiss. There was clapping and the surfer-appropriate hoots.
Sierra Davis, easily upstaging Steve.
Keith and I were among those congratulating Steve and Sierra. “So, Sierra, since I can’t hug Steve; is it all right to hug you?” No. “Sure. I understand. Virtual hugs?” Sure.
And that was it. I dropped Keith off at his house, went to the QFC, went home. Meanwhile, Steve and Sierra mingled, shared some virtual hugs with friends and family members, and headed back to Seattle. I was kind of hoping that they went through Port Gamble. With all the ghost conference folks hoping for some sign from the spirit world and all, and all the hopes and fears of a newly married couple, well, who knows what might, you know, like, manifest.
Congratulations and a (virtual) hoot. OWWWWW!
SIDEBAR- A little later on, I got a call from Trish. She saw me going into our house on the ring camera. “Is that what you wore? Paint all over your pants.” “Hey, I had on my nice Seahawks jacket.” “Yeah, but, still…” Yes, I did talk about the coonskin cap.
BONUS: Here’s one of Steve’s latest paintings. He and I are discussing ways to make some money with our art work. If he or I figure something out, I will let you know.
This is a photo of a parking lot far, far away. I couldn’t quite figure out how to… no, really; like Australia or somewhere… get the photo from the computer I am borrowing from my daughter, Dru, to, like, here. And now I have. So, yeah, check out that guy. WAIT! What about the guy eating shit behind the guy in the slot? Was there a burn? A vicious shoulder hop? What about the guys paddling out? Are they going to ruin the barrel for the obvious wave hog? Four chances. Oh, and now I see a head in the soup. If the guy who was dropped-in on loses his board, even with a leash… dangerous. It is no wonder the arms of two of the six silhouettes on the beach are up. Yeah, the sun. That, too. OH, the drama that is surfing. Love it!
So, picture this: It is 2:30 am on a Monday night/Tuesday morning, and a surfer is waking up from another dream in which the closer he gets to the water, to the perfect waves, the farther they are from him. “Oh,” he is thinking, “I should wash out my wetsuit.” This is followed by (most of this is not out loud) “Where is my wetsuit? I remember…”
“Shittttttttttttttt!” That is out loud.
Now the unnamed surfer goes to visualization, along with the self-narration. He pictures his surfboard, set, on its side, along the driveway behind his work van. “So, okay, on Monday, I moved the surfboard over against the fence. Upright.” Okay, visual of this. “Now, on Sunday…” The visual is of the surfer and another surfer we will call Adam Wipeout (though he is known by other names depending on which tide flat he is working, or surfing beach he is accepted at, or restaurant he is selling shellfish to, or seminar he is speaking at) is unloading boards from his vehicle. The surfer in question sets his board down, side of the driveway as previously mentioned, then takes his bag of dry stuff and his thermos, opens the back of the work van and sets them inside. Safely. He then takes the dark trash bag he used for his wetsuit, his rash guard with hood, and his lime green leash, just to contain any dampness in Adam’s vehicle and…
Now, the reason the surfer with his wetsuit in the bag was riding with Adam Wipeout is that the surfer’s surf rig is elsewhere, with a broken water pump. The 1987 Toyota will either be fixed or not. It has survived a lot. Begging was involved. Adam was supposed to be hunting elk, but was kind enough to pick up the surfer, in the dark. There is more to this story, but I am trying to keep it short.
Now, early on a Tuesday morning, the surfer replays in his mind what he did on Monday. He loaded the bags of trash from the eight or so trash cans in the enclosure (because Quilcene charges by the bag and Port Townsend by weight- cheaper, and he is working in Port Townsend) and then starts tossing in the bags of masking and such things from previous paint jobs and…
No, he wasn’t going to go outside and check.
Like the beautiful wave he didn’t catch (and, perhaps, some other surfer did), the wetsuit and the rash guard with hood and the glow in the dark lime green leash are… yes, he did do the visualization of him, so efficiently, tossing out the bags at the transfer station, even commenting to the guy next to him how it isn’t a competition, it just seems like one. A good motto to lessen stress is, “That wave’s gone, man.”
Hey, I gotta go. If I finish this job I can, maybe… meanwhile, I’ll do some more patching on my old wetsuit, see if those booties I bought a couple of sizes too big a couple of years ago are… see if I haven’t thrown them away.
I just need a taste of something sweet to get me by.
Honey, you should know by now, that I might never be…
Someone who’s as good for you as you have been for me…
You’d have to ask Trish; the PHOTO is either from my Senior Prom or hers. I’m guessing mine. Class of 1969. Now, I realize she appears to be looking at me with, I don’t know. I’ll look at the photo again. Okay, like, “Maybe this guy is going some place.” I certainly claimed I was… going places.
THE LYRICS: I have written other songs. They have mostly been written while I’m driving. Blues (partially because our son James is a musician), surf ditties, a couple of ballads. I have a tune or a theme. I get the first part down, repeat it until I can remember it long enough to come up with the next verse or the next line. Then repeat and add lines, and eventually, a song. I have stopped driving to write lyrics. It comes down, as any writing does, to some sort of inspiration. In this case, Trish said something loving and surprisingly complimentary, and I most likely responded with something like, “Really?”
I got this far. I’ve tried to go farther. “Great expectations…” It has to be something that relates to the fifty-four years (tomorrow, our first official date) we’ve been ‘together’ (‘together’ being totally inadequate to describe or explain any relationship), and promises, and where we thought we would be and where we are. “I promised you the moon and stars, and…”
… still working on it. The promises and the lyrics.
I could tie this as an intro for a song I wrote a while ago. “Years have passed, endless rains, broken glass, and empty trains; Yet it’s our love that sustains, through Honey Days…”
ALL RIGHT. While I have great respect for any relationship that can last, over time, I am usually dismissive or highly critical of people who announce private feelings publicly. I am a bit uncomfortable doing so, but… doing it anyway. I am not bragging. It’s not like people haven’t asked Trish, often, “Really? Him?”
“Sit together, by the shore, Diamond waves, a subtle roar; And your eyes, I still explore… On honey days, just remember.” I love you Trish. Happy Birthday!
If it was a text, I’d add heart and kiss emojis.
All original material in realsurfers.net is covered under copyright. I did have to add that.
I should say, first, that no one under the legal drinking age wants to hear a surf story from anyone old enough to collect social security. No, they’re just being polite. A surfer in his or her forties, different story on the stories. Two old farts; they’re just going to keep rambling on.
Let us say you are on Dawn Patrol, hanging in the parking lot or trailhead or pullout, lining up your board and leash and wax, slamming down the dregs of coffee that was too hot a moment ago, dressing out in whatever surf garb is appropriate for your surf location. Someone else is nearby, doing the same thing, his or her version of pre-surf ritual, and he or she just can’t help sharing his or her resume. “I surfed here” or, “This one time, I hiked into Trestles and…”
You, of course, are tempted if not expected to reciprocate. To compete, perhaps. First liar scenario. “Yeah, I surfed there, also,” or, “Ten months I worked there, just up the hill from Lower Trestles, surfed there just about every day… drove out on the beach. An hour and a half on a half hour lunch break. And, sometimes, after work, I’d go to…”
And then you go out in the water. There are expectations you may or may not live up to in real life, in current time. So, dangerous, if not, like, foolish. No, you didn’t mention your ten months at Trestles was 1975, forty-seven years ago. Next time, perhaps, depending on your performance, you might.
Most of us, I can’t help believing, are heroes in our own narrative. Even if we dip into a little self-deprecation, we probably hope we come across as, if not a flawed protagonist, at least a character or person someone can sympathize with. If we’re talking story with another surfer with similar stories of beat downs and barrels… empathize.
But wait; maybe I’m misusing the sympathy/empathy thing. Or expanding it. I don’t want to research this, but do we only sympathize with bad things? Shit. Google. Shit; guess I am wrong, we… no, there are different interpretations: sympathy and pity, empathy and understanding without sharing the actual experience. No, that can’t be right.
WOW! I am dangerously close to getting into the sociopath/narcissist thing. I have worked for an amazingly disproportionate number of people (because everyone in my area seems to need a therapist/life coach/psychiatric specialist, or a yoga instructor/hair dresser/bartender, or, for those of us who can’t afford any of those folks, a friend) whose job it is to determine just how fucked up the client is, then make sure the client never quite gets cured (assuming, cynically, that any of us can be cured of being who we are/have become). Each one of these professionals, when pressed on the question, face to face, has told me I am completely normal.
OR maybe that’s just the story he or she believes I want to hear. Not true, actually; one professional-but-retired marriage counselor (at least once divorced) told Stephen R. Davis and I that we might not be sociopaths, but we are both, definitely, narcissists. I thought he meant Steve more than me, but “Hey man, can’t we be both?” “Um, sure; I guess so.”
YES, I have told this story before, maybe here before. Redundancies tighten a tale, the obvious embellishments dropping away. Or not.
STORIES. I heard from two sources about a ‘barrel of a lifetime’ a mutual friend got. I would tell it to you, but then it would be third hand. I called up the barrel rider, got it first hand. In the course of our conversation, which, incidentally, was consistent with the two other versions, the barrel rider told me a very funny story. It wasn’t surf related, but it was a surfer’s anecdote.
While talking to another surfer this morning, and I was so tempted to tell the story. I might have if he didn’t give me the “I’ll let you go” thing. Usually, out here in the wilderness-adjacent (I stole the ‘adjacent’ thing, now it’s part of my patter), cell calls frequently get dropped. Oddly, it seems as if it’s more frequently after the other party has completed his or her anecdote and I’m about to… I should mention that all my friends are adept at competitive talking and none are afraid to tell me it’s their turn. Etiquette, it’s important everywhere.
THE MESSAGE- Don’t tell other people’s stories as your own.
Here are two gentlemen talking story:
It is “SWAMIS,” my manuscript and where I am in it that got me thinking about stories and fiction and fictional characters. Each of the main characters is damaged, psychologically if not physically. Or both. None are created. I’m not quite delusional enough to believe they are. Each is a composite, some mixture of real people I have met in my real life. As I write and rewrite and edit, I get to know each one better. I can plug any of them into a fabricated setting and know, almost, how they will react. If empathy is not sharing the same experiences but understanding how someone in that situation feels, I want the reader to be empathetic. If sympathy can be expanded to include feeling joy for someone feeling joy, I want the reader to be sympathetic.
Did I tell you how I got pounded and held down at the Groins? I felt sorry for myself. Someone on the rocks, a witness, said, “We all have to get thrashed occasionally.” We do. I recovered. Just another story, increasingly removed by time, replaced with other thrashings, other recoveries. But shit, guy could’ve been a little nicer about it.
STORIES. Try telling some surf experience over the phone to some non-surfer. It is only a matter of time when the reaction to even the frothiest, most barrel-filled tale is, “I have to let you go.”