Another “Swamis” Cutback

Shoppers saving their ‘good hair’ for later. I do love this photo. Not mine, but…

UPDATE- There will be a paddle out on Sunday, January first to honor and celebrate the life of real surfer Omar Jamaludin. It will be held at a break Omar and many of us consider our (favorite or a favorite) spot. No, not H****ck.

I am, finally, getting to the end of where I have now decided “Swamis” should end. While I have been actively, consciously trying to cut down or cut out anything that doesn’t further the main plot, I found myself with ninety thousand words and needing more than ten thousand more. THIS EXCERPT is from a chapter in which Joey is working at the fictional San Elijo Grocery Store, known as Mrs. Tony’s to the locals. There was, in the late sixties, a grocery store there, across the railroad tracks and highway 101 from the San Elijo State Beach. It featured a high wall of windows facing the view. I do recall Phil Harper and Ray Hicks and I, well into a week or so of camping and surfing, going into the market, and my becoming aware that I was probably close to maximum sun exposure. So, chocolate milk and Hostess donettes, back across the street.

The in store information is largely from Trish working at the Quilcene Village Store in Quilcene (in the 1980s) while it was known, by locals, as “Mary’s Village Store.” It was easy to get credit, easy to put purchased items on your tab. Mary also accepted, from the right customers, post-dated checks. And, she did some payday lending. Ten bucks on Monday was repaid with eleven on Friday. And, as the fictional Mrs. Tony and other checkers do in the manuscript, Mary and other checkers (not Trish) wore their hair in curlers at work, saving their ‘good hair’ for their men at home.

So… Swamis- a Sunday in March of 1969. Joey redefines is the narrator.

I was getting faster, steadily, at the register. I had already memorized most the prices on the most frequently purchased items, read others, only guessed on a couple; always, as instructed, ‘guessing up.’ And I was smiling, and sliding the goods, and bagging, and loading the carts, and responding positively to whatever clients said; I was making change and putting new balances on old tabs.

By my lunch break, 2:20, each of the Tonys told me I would get faster. Eventually. 

Just before what was supposed to be my afternoon break, 4:20, I checked out one customer, Sylvia Crawford, whose account card featured a red line under the balance. Sylvia Crawford, then I, looked over at Mr. Tony. He mouthed ‘okay,’ with a smile, followed by a bit of a stern look for Sylvia Crawford. Her expressions went from relief to a purposefully awkward smile, one meant to, if not conceal, to acknowledge the awkwardness and thereby lessen her embarrassment. She had offered no explanation of why she was behind, or when she would try to catch up. I was grateful for that. I just smiled. Neutral smile. As instructed.

After my smoke break, I held up a three-person line to get Mrs. Tony when a guy with a rather full cart slid a Traveler’s Cheque across the counter. “Where you from?” Mrs. Tony asked him. When she found out it was Arizona, she said, “Sure. Too hot there already, that’s my guess.” She took over checking out his purchase. I did the bagging and the moving of items from counter to bag to cart.

“Now, Jody,” Mrs. Tony said, the Arizona guy still there, “If this was an out of state check, you’d have to say ‘no.’ With a ‘sorry,’ of course.”

“What if, Mrs. Tony, he had been from, say, Minnesota?”

“I’d have said, ‘sure, still too cold there’s my guess.” Arizona Guy and Mrs. Tony both chuckled. Still, her look told me I could have stayed quiet.  Should have.

When Arizona Guy and the three other customers were gone, she said, “Jody. I know you’re smart. What you aren’t is better. None of us is better than our customers.” She put her right pointer finger high on my nose. She slid the finger down slowly and held it there for a moment. “They might want to tell us their business. Selling them… stuff, that’s ours. Got that, huh?

“Yes, Ma’am.”


“Got it.”

At about 5:45, I rang up purchases for a guy in his mid-twenties. He had a clean shirt on, but there were some grease stains on his hands and forearms, and he was wearing dark blue mechanic’s work pants and hard leather shoes. He held out a check made out to Jack Jacobs, and flipped it over. Jonathan Jacob, Junior’s signature was at the top, “pay to the order of Richard Haber” below it, and a signature, “Richard Haber” below that.

“That’s me,” he said. “Richard Haber. Two-party check. I already signed it over.” Richard Haber flipped the check over and set it on the counter. “Jackie Jacobs says you do this all the time.”

I smiled, took the check, pointed at Mr. Tony at the first register as I walked away.  

Mr. Tony looked at the check, looked at Richard Haber, who was busily bagging his own groceries. “Don’t recognize him.” That was in Mr. Tony’s version of a whisper. In his loudest, announcement voice, Mr. Tony said, “Mrs. Tony, can you come to check out stand two?”

Richard Haber, Mr. Tony, several other customers, and I all looked around for Mrs. Tony. “Friend of John Jacobs, Junior,” Mr. Tony said in his normal-but-still-loud voice. “Jackie Boy Jacobs.”

Richard Haber had loaded the groceries into a cart by the time Mrs. Tony almost ran down the cereal and bread aisle and to the middle register. Her apron and scarf were off, and her hair was out and brushed. Only two clips on her bangs remained. She had makeup on, far less than what she would describe as ‘whorish’ on another woman. Her lipstick, however, was color I had overheard her refer to in a conversation with Doris as Revlon red.

“Almost closing time,” Mrs. Tony said, more to me than to Richard Haber, “It’s Sunday.” She took the check in her left hand. “Better start sweeping up, Jody. I mean, Joey.”

The oversized dry mop and the other clean up items were already staged against and in the very middle of the front windows. On my walking away from the middle register, and with several gestures from Mrs. Tony, two of the customers who had been waiting moved over to her husband’s line.

“No. Sorry, kid,” Mrs. Tony told Richard Haber, in a low-but-not-low-enough voice, “Jackie Boy Jacobs stiffed Mr. Tony and me good.” Richard Haber waited as Mrs. Tony walked over to the file cabinet, pulled a card out from the bottom of the ‘H-I-J’ stack. She held the full card, three red lines under the last entry, by the top edge, hitting it against her left forearm as she walked back to the register. Don’t know what you did for him, but…”

Mrs. Tony pointed at pieces of paper suspended on strings above the filing cabinet until Richard Haber followed her eyes. “Bad checks,” she said, “Never could collect. I used to have a board… with names of cheats and deadbeats, over on the back of the register… so’s people could see them. Some guy from the County, a detective. He…” Mrs. Tony looked at me, the message being to return to her register. I leaned the mop against the cabinet. “He said naming names might be what’s called, ‘bad form.’ But, Richard Haber, I still got every one of the names…” She tapped her forehead. “…Up here.”

Mrs. Tony put Jonathan Jacobs, Junior’s check on the top row of keys on the register. She looked at the total for the items on the counter, hit a key, opening the drawer. She took out five dollars and sixty-five cents, moved it all into her left hand, and said, quietly, “Or you can try the bank. Tomorrow. Or… maybe, if you see Jackie boy, see if he’ll come in and… honor his debt.”

“I need more money than that,” Richard Haber said. He removed several items from the bags, set them on the counter: A half-gallon of milk, a loaf of bread, a medium sized jar of peanut butter.

“Tell you what, Richard,” Mrs. Tony said, ringing-in the items, sliding them backwards on the counter, “take the bottle of Red Mountain… on me… and Mr. Tony. And, good news, you’re out of it. Lesson learned.” She looked at me, mouthed ‘lesson learned.’ I nodded.

Richard Haber wasn’t halfway to the door when one of the customers from Mr. Tony’s line, probably about their ages, late forties, headed back toward Mrs. Tony’s and Doris’s and, for a few hours, so far, my register. “Quitting time, Lenny; me and my mister are… going out.” Lenny smiled, turned back toward Mr. Tony’s register. “I got my hair undone, my lips painted up, and…” She kicked her right foot out toward Lenny, half-whispered, “Got my ‘chase me, catch me, fuck me’ pumps on,”

“You do look… delectable, Loretta.”

Loretta La Rosa shook her head, turned toward me. “You didn’t hear that part, Jody… I mean, Joey.” I shook my head. “So, Joey… Miss Cole? Huh?”

I shook my head again and started loading the items Richard Haber couldn’t afford into an empty cart.

“Swamis” is copyrighted and, as is all original material in, the property of the author, Erwin A. Dence, Jr. All rights are reserved.

On the Eve, the Cusp, the Verge of…

…Whatever is coming our way.

Something bad to struggle with, possibly overcome; something good to be, hopefully, savored and appreciated. The world is confusing and frightening and chaotic in its changes; and monotonous and boring; and, in almost the same moments, tantalizing in its possibilities. Life has a taste so bitter in our defeats, so delicious in our too often too late realization of its beauties; the patterns and colors we should have seen; the tiny miracles we should have better appreciated; the worth of the people who cross or even block our path.

There is a reason the dead of winter; the darkest, shortest, and coldest of days; is celebrated. It isn’t out of joy. It is out of hope.

I’ve never had the faith to flow with the season and its challenges. I freeze up, unable to do what I can do until I can do what I have to do. This may or may not make sense to you. Though I claim, and claim it to be true that I cannot hold on to sorrow or depression, I do realize it when I am in their grip. Sorrow and depression are heavy. They are exhausting. They cannot be allowed to hold us back or down.

Make a move; something positive.

This is what I do. I write. The frozen pipes, the broken shoe lace, the snow and the ice, the branch in the highway that bounced and hit my car, the fuckers who somehow used my bank account to purchase their presents, the recent deaths of people I knew, or knew of… I try to put this and more into some context.

And I try to make some small repairs. Sometimes things get fixed. Sometimes it’s more than half-ass. A small victory is still a victory.

I’m not over it; I’m not… joyful. I am trying to just keep moving, When I realize, later, that I have survived the darker days, I tell myself I should have had more faith. Should have. If we know sorrow and depression are heavy and exhausting, joy, in any quantity, is lighter than air.

Joy, then.

WAIT. I should add that my hope for my family and loved ones, to my friends and theirs, to real surfers everywhere, to those I don’t know, and to the assholes who hacked my account; is that we (yeah, me, too) recognize joy and have joy and share joy. Peace is a bonus gift.

The Winter of… to be determined

Allow me to just kind of run through my thinking on this:

I have sent out several posts focused on the tragic death of Omar Jamaludin. The story has moved rather quickly. He was missing for almost twenty-four hours. His body was discovered. Somewhere around another twenty-four hours, a suspect was arrested for the hit-and-run. Omar was buried. Surfers attended the funeral, representing the rest of the surfing community. This morning I received a text from a mutual friend (and surfer). It was a screen shot (my guess) taken from an instagram posting sent out last night. The suspect, who is named in the post, is to be arraigned on December 29. He lives three minutes away from Omar’s residence, has prior convictions for Driving Under the Influence, for which he is on probation. He is also in violation of a current court order to have a breathalyzer installed in his truck.

According to the message, the prosecutor on the case encourages people to show up for the arraignment or to write a letter to the judge, the desired effect being to assure the alleged perpetrator receives the maximum sentence.

I am perfectly willing to write a letter concerning Omar’s character and the loss to his family, loved ones, and the surfing community. We all have heard stories of people with multiple DUIs continuing to drive under the influence. And doing damage. Most of us, undoubtedly, know people who fit into this category. My concern is what we don’t know. Will the defendant, who has, according to news reports, admitted to driving the truck, plead guilty? What is the maximum sentence? Is it enough?

It is, currently, almost exactly twenty-four hours before the official Winter Solstice (1:47 pm, Wednesday, December 21). It snowed most of last night, it’s 31 degrees outside, there’s a lot more snow along the Strait. Road conditions are… variable, but not good. Winter, with the long, cold nights, the short, damp, dreary, dark, gray days. But, as the Summer solstice can remind us that we are rolling downhill to Winter, after tomorrow… yes, some reason to be optimistic.

I did ask you to follow my process on this. I had an accident last year… black ice, sideslipped into a tree, totaled my car. I could have taken a different route. I could have… I have avoided Highway 20 in even questionable conditions since.

It isn’t difficult to imagine the suspect, guilty until admitting or being proven guilty, saying he has changed. Or he will change. If that promise was broken before… it would make a difference.

This wasn’t an accident- only. It was preventable. The ‘run’ part makes it a crime. Vehicular homicide, manslaughter, this or that degree. A life was lost. It is probably impossible not to put a value on that life, Omar’s, and compare it to the perpetrator. Punishment, revenge, and redemption.

We judge, but we are not judges. Thankfully.

Throughout my thought process it has been impossible not to make some assessment of Omar. This is my opinion, based only on what others have said about him; on my observations of him in the water, trying to find some connection and flow with the waves, dealing with crowds and over-competitive surfers (including me); and from a limited number of conversations. He seemed very calm. He seemed to not have any of that frustrated anger or animosity some surfers have.

Again, I didn’t know him well, but I know Omar added value to the lineup. The surfing community, the chaotic mix of kooks and stylists, just-for-fun occasionalists and serious hardliners, was a few points better because Omar was a part of it. I have no doubt he added to the greater community as well. It is so important that the perpetrator know the damage he had done, the grief he has caused.

Yet, I cannot, and forgive me for this if you think it wrong or misguided, help but wonder how the Omar I imagine him to have been would judge the person who killed him and ran. I believe I would be a harsher judge.

The email address for the Prosecutors’ Office is

To all who mourn and struggle and fear and hope…

When I get some information on where the arraignment will be held, and an address to send any thing relevant, I will update.

Omar’s Funeral and “Little Rod at Grandview,” from “Swamis”

This is a posting by Nam Siu. I got it as a text image from Reggie Smart. It speaks for itself. It speaks for many of us, even all of us who consider ourselves part of the diverse group of individuals who make up the Northwest surf community.

Thank you for representing. Peace.

Meanwhile: Because, in my attempt to shorten and tighten my manuscript, “Swamis,” I have to eliminate storylines that give more background, more exposition than plot, I have been aware for awhile that I would have to cut this story about Rodrigo and Sid and the narrator, Joey DeFreines. SIDE NOTE: I will probably have to change SID’S name. I did want to include some real people in the novel. Putting real people in fictional situations might be… dangerous. And I know very little about the Sid who was in a Surfboards Hawaii ad fifty-five years ago or so, hanging ten. I did know his last name. I no longer remember it. I am not skilled enough at researching to find him. AND, I put the character in situations the real Sid might not be stoked about. NO, he’s not a bad guy. SO, new name. I have a few in mind. For now, he’s still Sid.

So, still thinking.

The parking lot was about three-quarters full. The wind was just changing to onshore. It was relatively glassy. Kelp beds would dampen the chop. Another truism learned early in any surfer’s evolution, is that winds, rising to clear the bluff, kept a spot like Swamis from getting blown out just a bit longer. The sun was high enough that the entire lineup was free of the shadow of the bluff.

Though it would easily fit inside the station wagon, my new-to-me Surfboards Hawaii six-six was resting on the Falcon’s factory model roof racks; proof, perhaps, that I was no longer riding garage soul boards made using foam from stripped-down, reshaped long boards. If no one else noticed the change, it was important to me.

My towel, once white, with palm trees and a sun and some ridiculous allusion to surfing, was spread out on the hood of the Falcon. My windbreaker was hanging on the sideview mirror. I was wearing my almost-matching Hang Ten t-shirt and trunks. The one-third full quart of chocolate milk and the three PeeChee folders were spread out on top of the towel. I opened the top folder, took out a red notebook. I grabbed the chocolate milk container, closed the spout, shook it, opened it, and took a drink as I moved to the front bumper. I set the milk beside me and did a half-sit lean onto the hood. It was a pose. I was aware. Posturing. Not like Hodad posturing; but posturing.

            I thumbed through the pages. Notes and little sketches of cartoon teachers and classmates, cartoon waves, psychedelic lettering for various surf spots.

GRANDVIEW. That was enough. I visualized:

            The Hawaiian guy, probably my age, and I were the only ones on the south side of the almost channel. We were on the lefts. The rights were a bit bigger, a bit more lined up, better. He paddled over to me, sat closer than necessary.

“Right’s better… huh?”

“Yeah,” I said, “I was there before, at the peak, before… everyone else got here.”

“No,” he said, pointing to the empty space between houses. The vantage point. The access. “I saw it. Sid ran you out.”

“I thought Swamis was his spot.”

“All spots are his spots. He burned you, though. Saw it.”

“I guess all waves are Sid’s waves.’”

“Assholes always be assholes.” The Hawaiian Guy laughed. “I’m goofy; so lefts good with me.”

“Yeah.” I kept looking at the rights. Surfers, paddling back out, seemed to be looking at both of us, but mostly at me.

“You… you’re not so popular ‘round here. Huh?”

“Not popular. My father’s a Sheriff’s… detective. Kind of a… hardass.” The Hawaiian guy nodded. “Half-Japanese,” I said, before he could ask.

“Half-Portuguese,” he said. “Thereby, I’m… Hapa Hawaiian. But here, Mainland, people just take me as… Hawaiian.” I nodded. “Rodrigo. My name. My dad also surfs, so I’m called ‘Little Rod.’ I’m okay with it.”

“Joe DeFreines. My, um, friends call me… Joey.”

Little Rod looked over at the rights. There was a lull. Six or seven surfers were in a loose pack at peak. Sid was still the farthest surfer out. Apex. “What do those… people call you?” I didn’t answer. “Hey, Joey; follow me.”

Rodrigo paddled out and toward the main peak. With every stroke, he would point out toward the horizon. The peak pack started to notice. He yelled, “Outside!” He started paddling harder. There was a set coming, though not an outside set. Two surfers turned and paddled out. The others maintained their positions.

“Your wave, Joey!”

Little Rod blocked the one surfer who tried for it. I went. Bottom turn, two up and down moves, kicked out in the closeout section. The blocked surfer caught the second wave. I was paddling back toward the lefts, watching the peak as I went over the second wave. The third wave was the one. Bigger, peakier. Little Rod paddled hard. Sid was sitting toward the tail of his board, the nose up, parallel to the wave. He was ready to turn and take off on the shoulder, but, seeing Rodrigo’s furious paddling, knowing Rodrigo’s intent, Sid spun around, paddled, at an angle, even with, then beyond the peak.   

Two deep. Rather than backing off, Sid attempted a takeoff and failed. He went over the falls as Little Rod dropped in. He ripped it. Backside. Sid swam.

The surfer Rodrigo had blocked flashed him a peace sign as he paddled back out. Rodrigo returned it, moving his hand into a ‘hang loose’ gesture; the first time I had seen one.

Rodrigo joined me and two other surfers at the lefts. The three of them laughed. With Sid just getting to his board inshore, I did not. “Joey,” Rodrigo said, “I’m here with my uncle. Not my real uncle. Hawaii, lots of uncles and aunties. He’s shaping at Surfboards Hawaii. No one’s gonna fuck with me. And, Joey, you surf… not bad.”

“Not bad’s… good. For now. You rip it up, by the way.”

“I do.” Rodrigo laughed. “Things go on ‘round here, Joey. Got to ask… you a narc?”

I laughed. “No, Hot Rod. No one tells me shit.”

The four of us at the south peak watched as Sid paddled back out. His eyes were on the rights, but he did flip the bird with his left hand, twice, between strokes. “So, Joey; if I asked you if you know Jesus…?”

“Jesus?” I thought of the many churches I had attended: Vacation bible schools, revivals. “Jesus. Yeah, he’s either half-God or um, guess he’s hapi human.”

I laughed. We both laughed. “Hapa, Joey; hapa human.”

All excerpts or outtakes from “Swamis” and original content are copyright protected. All rights are claimed by the author, Erwin A. Dence, Jr.

The Surf Community, and, admit it or not…

… like it or not, there is a worldwide community of people who understand that beyond the ‘that was fun’ level of casual wave riding, there is something more, something deeper. There are deeper levels, not merely in performance, but of connection to the energy of the ocean. It is not necessarily spiritual, but it is a respectful of the ocean, and appreciative of the gifts received. That surf community- in particular the northwest surfers who roam the coast and the Strait, and occasionally, the larger world- we, us… we have just lost another real surfer in a tragic, cowardly, criminal way.

Update- December 15- A suspect has been arrested. He has, according to the “Seattle Times,” admitted to driving a Ford pickup that, allegedly crashed into a fence and struck Omar.

This won’t bring closure. Nothing really does. It may not bring justice. It has been easy to believe that no one would be held to account. Though the circumstances under which the suspect was identified are still unknown, the news is somewhat gratifying. Still, the loss to family, loved ones, the surfing and greater community is incalculable.

Every rideable wave is a gift. We remember the best ones long after they are gone.

Omar will be remembered.

Information is still hard to come by, but what began as a missing persons report turned into a hit and run. Fatal. Hitting a pedestrian may or may not be an accident. Leaving the scene is not. Omar was near his home in some part of what to me is all, whether it’s Burien or Bellevue, one big and confusing city. Seattle/Tacomapolis. He was out for an afternoon walk. Bear in mind that four pm is pretty much twilight. Omar didn’t come home. Missing person.

Evidently Ian, formerly of Urban Surf, posted the missing person report on ‘media.’ According to the call I had with Adam, after I missed a call around six-thirty pm the next evening/night, Reggie saw the post and responded with, “Is this a joke?” Not a joke.

The posting was deleted. I was, not at all ironically, in traffic headed home from completing a small project in Tacoma (last exit before I-5, go straight until it dead ends, turn right, third building to the right), trying to hear Adam over the (still) rush hour traffic, all the other drivers hellbent to get somewhere and me just trying to not get into an exit only lane. And Adam was subdued. “So, man, it’s just like…” He was saying ‘man’ a lot. “So, Omar… yeah I know Omar. Just, just… what happened? Is he… it’s something bad, isn’t it?” “Well, man… Yeah.”

The call dropped with me on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. I pulled off at Port Orchard exit to get some gas. The light at the end of the offramp was green. I could have just gone. I was turning right. There was a woman walking across the road in front of me, two backpacks on, headphones, a cell phone in her hand. It isn’t like this was a town; it was another freeway exit with two gas stations, two fast food places. Again, that a car/pedestrian accident could have happened is in no way ironic; it is coincidental. I was thinking about Omar.

I heard about Omar, probably, before I met him, most certainly from Reggie. And I have seen Omar many times over the last several years. If surfers have varying levels of competitiveness in the water, if surfers break into tribes seemingly without provocation; whether forced by fickle waves or by choice, when hanging out in parking areas with other surfers, it is actually kind of hard to not be a little more than just polite or civil. Given enough time, we might just become, perhaps, decent to people who are looking for the same thrills and sensations you or I are. And, if that person is genuinely nice and obviously decent, it should be impossible to rationalize being a dickhead. Should be.

The last time I saw Omar was such a situation. He was parked next to me. I had surfed, but was not ready to leave. It could get better. It might. I pointed at Omar’s car. “No racks,” I said.

Omar pointed, then got out. There were several boards on the rocks in front of his car. “They fit inside,” he said, reaching back into his dedicated surf rig for a wetsuit. The waves might get better. They will go away.

I’m considering if I should include what Omar and I talked about for ten minutes or so. Since I am often accused of not having a filter, of not being able to not talk about what is on my mind at any given moment, I will. A little. White people. Yeah. Maybe it is because I had just received the DNA results back from the 23 and Me thing and I am not what I claim to be. None of us are. If you say something negative about Black People or Jewish people or Native Americans, I might just say that I’m part Black or Jewish or Native American; just to see how you respond.

Omar responded calmly and politely to my rant. If it seems to you that I brought up a subject obviously race-related out of white guilt or bring it up now as some sort of virtue signaling, no; it is what Omar and I discussed, and even if I choose to delete two paragraphs here, our discussion will remain in my memory. Again, I was ranting, Omar as someone wise enough to be calm.

Still, at this moment, half a day after the missing person was found, with questions unavoidably filling in the places where there are no facts, no reports, no answers; it all goes very scarily negative.

So I will remember that when I said that blue eyes are a mutation, and that people who trusted those with blue eyes did so at their peril, Omar looked at me. We both laughed. Omar asked, “You going back out?” “No. Maybe I’ll… watch. Rip it up!”

The loss of Omar is, after the recent loss of Gabe by drowning, another tough blow for the de facto northwest surf community. Prayers and best wishes, never even nearly enough, to Jasmine and the rest of Omar’s family. As far as justice… justice… now I’m thinking about justice.

Cat Days and Cancer and…

Drucilla ‘Dru’ Dence just after her last radiation treatment. Her course was originally set for thirty sessions, but they cut it down. Nice. They increased the voltage, or the duration, something, so that was less nice. It’s all pretty scary. Fuck Cancer. Sorry for not being trying to hide the ‘fuck cancer’ in some sort of sneaky, subliminal way (like cancers themselves- sneaky). I totally screwed up the shot of Dru inside the place, ringing the bell. Some sort of tradition, started, I joked, after someone saw a similar setup at Arby’s. “If you like the service, ring the bell.” Three times is the standard. I did criticize Dru’s weak first ring. She nailed it on the second and third. “Three rings, for ‘fuck cancer,’ huh?” “Yeah, Dad; can we go now?” “Sure. You hungry?”

I don’t want to take any more credit for getting Dru to the doctors’ appointments and to most of the sessions. Trish did almost all of that, Dru drove herself several times. Because it’s cancer, none of this is really over. She was told that she would feel weak for several weeks, her body still kind of ‘cooking’ from the radiation. “Cooking? They said, ‘cooking?'” “Cooking. Yeah.” And there’s more; the post-surgery reconstruction process is coming up; follow up visits; it’s not over. (insert your own verb here- you know mine) Cancer!

Updating the post-bone-marrow-transplant situation for surfer/artist///all the other things he excels at- Stephen R. Davis: The post-treatment weakness is, he says, less of a problem. He is stronger. His blood, and, in particular, his immune system, nearly and purposefully destroyed, is doing what blood is supposed to do, All good. He still can’t get too close to too many people, he still can’t do physically demanding work or surf for months. So… again… DING ding-ding! Yea, STEVE!

Dru and Steve are doing what they can to bring in some money: I’ll update on Steve’s latest surf-and-non-surf related paintings soon.

WORD ON THE STRAIT- Aaron Lennox does not want credit for the phrase. So, okay, Aaron. Still, the lack of surf, as always, is a point for discussion. It is particularly frustrating when it would seem that winter, and let’s face it, winter starts well before the solstice, should be the season for swell to come into the Strait. And yet… not so much.

Adam ‘Wipeout’ James offers a word on that- “There’s the ‘dog days of summer.’ I think it should be called the ‘cat days of winter.’ Many of us have been surfing around the Strait long enough to believe the truth of that. “Historically,” Adam said in a recent cellular conversation, “the best and most consistent swells… last year, for example, they came in in…”

Oops; dropped call. Cell service is also remarkably inconsistent out this way.

Is that a wave? Is it? Is it?

FUTURE TOPIC- Who is in your phone tree (archaic term)? Who do you call if you know the surf is going off? Who do you call because that person might just know if it is going off? Answers? Next time.

ONE LAST THING: There has been some talk about New Zealand. It has seemed like a worthwhile destination, surf-wise, a some day destination, since “Endless Summer.” Just wondering, why did people ever leave Old Zealand? My guess? Next time. You’re thinking ‘Hodads,’ aren’t you? OH, and… fuck cancer!

“Swamis” before Christmas

It has become an unwanted tradition that work is scarce in the short cold days on both sides of the winter solstice. If Christmas came in July… different story. “Swamis” the novel, has been almost done for far too long. In ‘The Time of Covid’ I completed two versions and an outline/treatment, all with the same issue: A lack of focus, what one person who tried his best to read the second unexpurgated version, he claims, called “A slice of life… too much so.” So… slices. He was, of course, correct. I blamed the narrator, Joseph Atsushi DeFreines. Focus, focus… uh, what?

I have been devoting as much time as I could to turning a manuscript into a novel.

I believe I am closer, but not… quite… there. Yet. And, kind of a surprise to me, the relationship between Joey (aka Jody) and Julia Truelove Cole (nickname Julie) has taken up a higher percentage of the manuscript. I credit Julie. It is the beginning stages of a complicated (I hesitate to say) love story.

The timeline has been shortened. I plan to end the story where it begins; Jumper Hayes, severely wounded in Vietnam, returning to the surf at Swamis- after the death of his best friend, Chulo and Swamis parking lot character, Gingerbread Fred. Sequel? Impossible to say. I need to complete this one. Bonus – Overwriting the shit out of my manuscript has given me so much other material, so many side stories. Over-thinking and over-explaining the characters has made them real enough in my mind that I can almost predict what each would do in a different situation. Other than Joey and Julie. No, none of the characters behave as planned.

Which is great. I started the latest re-write, slashing at the dialogue and action that didn’t move the plot, probably a third of the way into the manuscript. I devised new ways to insert details into the manuscript, a line rather than a page. It has helped. With a fairly clear vision of how to end the novel, with the newer chapters having a more consistent flow and style, I still have to go back and work on the beginning.

Without going off on how fiction eliminates too many of the side characters to focus on developing relationships between the main ones, edits out too many slice of life moments to focus on moving the narrative quickly enough, I admit to doing the same thing. Joey’s detective father, and Jumper, though still key players, move into the background. Action wise, the story still has three incidents in which characters die. No car chase, however, no violent revenge. Not yet.

With all the side stories I have to eliminate, one that I could never quite fit into the narrative timeline is one I include in a rewritten Introduction. The two versions are not all that much different, but I took the opportunity to include an actual surfing story. Q Oh, the joy of just making stuff up!

BUT WAIT! Before we get to that, here is this posting’s… WORD ON THE STRAIT with AARON LENNOX- “Salivating with a chance for froth!” Some explanation might be needed here. While the official position is that there are never any good waves on the Strait, and that the best we can hope for is “Almost,” as in almost good or even almost rideable, occasionally, in the midst of real and actual doldrums, there is some hope for an ‘almost’ session. This becomes a serious topic on various text threads between surfers. Secondary Word- “Some people are polythreaderous. They have multiple thread partners.” What?

Anyway, if you’re in a pre-froth state, just starting to salivate… good luck.



San Diego County Sheriff’s Office Detective Sergeant Joseph J. Defreines was asked to speak at a meeting of the Chambers of Commerce from several cities and other unincorporated towns in the North County. He was there to answer concerns about marijuana. In particular, he was asked to address how to control the growth of growing and selling the illegal crop. It was August of 1968. Tall, well built, blonde, my father was quite impressive in his full uniform. Daunting, even. “You ask me about arrests,” he said. “You tell me who to start with; you don’t say where to stop.” The room was, after my dad allowed the coughs and whispered comments to subside, quiet.

“The world works at an acceptable level of corruption,” he said. “As business… people, you understand this.” The chairman of the Oceanside Chamber stood up. “You’re not the first person to say this, Joe.” “Probably not,” my father said, lifting a heretofore full glass of red wine, “Then let me add…” He toasted the room in three slow moves, making eye contact with selected people in the room, then took one drink that emptied most of the glass. “It’s not a particularly low level.”

Joseph Jeremiah DeFreines- March 15, 1926- February 27, 1969.

I choose to start the story at exactly this time and place, Monday, June 7, 1969, because, though my father was dead; though I was responsible for his death; though I was facing the draft, college, or Vietnam; though everything in my life was uncertain, muddled, frightening; I was exactly where I had long wanted to be; Swamis Point with a four-foot swell.

            The stories we are told, the stories we tell, are taken and reshaped from some bigger story, one without some definite beginning or contrived and convenient ending, one that continues after the players move on. Or die.

All good surf stories start or end in the dark. Some barely awake surfer powered by anticipation, fumbling with wet towels and trunks, trying to beat others with the same incentive, to get a few seconds-long rides on liquid energy, possibly making a wave that shouldn’t have been made.

I have selected scenes, and cut scenes, and edited passages, manipulating if not controlling the narrative. This story will begin and end in the dark. As such, “Swamis” is a surf story.

            “Swamis” is a coming-of-age story as well. It has to be. I was almost eighteen, an inlander, dreaming of being a local in the North County beach towns, dreaming of some sort of relationship with my idea of the perfect surfer girl. Not one who sat on the beach, one who complimented her man’s ‘good rides, made excuses for awkward rides, my vision of a perfect surfer girl was of one who surfed. I had one in mind.

This is, then, a love story. The best love stories end sometime after a shared sunset, perhaps, in the dark. This story will, also. Not that that story, with romantic visions hit hard by real life, was over.

            Mystery? My father constantly added to his collection of easily dropped aphorism, little witty sayings. “There are no mysteries,” he would say, pausing in this one, as he did with most, before finishing with, “Someone knows.” Another pause. “You just have to ask the right person.” Pause. “Or persons.”

That Joseph DeFreines had an assortment of phrases at his disposal is not a mystery, really. My grandfather was a preacher. A preacher needs a certain ready-to-go phrases. Here is an example, passed down from my grandfather: “I search for a glimpse of the reflected glory of our Lord and Savior in the countenances of my brothers and sisters.” I never met the man. He didn’t go to my father’s funeral. I didn’t go to his.

There are mysteries in my novel. Some are solved. Only a few are resolved. Though I am trying to write the story fifty-plus years on, I have always taken note of details, almost forcing myself to know and to file away moments, images, dialog, back stories of people only tangentially connected to a straighter storyline; these are important to me. I have deleted and edited and manipulated so many side stories and characters to present a reasonable version of a flawed-character-as-detective novel. Please make note of and accept my apology for straying from a simpler narrative.

I have the stories retrievable from my memory, and I have notes. Years and years of notes.

I am setting a deadline: Completion, with something worthy of getting copies made, before Christmas. Before. It might make a great gift. Let’s see- Original manuscript, with illustrations, locally printed, packaged in a customized PeeChee folder (a reference to habits of the fictional author); Oh, and limited edition, maximum of one hundred copies, hand signed by the author/illustrator… WHOA! I better get to work.

NOTES: Information on the recent drowning is still going back and forth on the various social threads. When I have more info, I will let you know. ALSO, all the rights for everything in this and all postings on is copyright protected. Rights belong to Erwin A. Dence, Jr. ALL QUOTES by Aaron Lennox, including “Word on the Strait,” belong to him.