This is an edited post, including the headline. It was a bit… harsh-er.
I am giving the credit for the “Baja, Humbug” to Stephen R. Davis, recently back in the northwest after an extended stay on the Big Island, and a surfer who has ‘posted up’ at length at lengthy point breaks in Lower California. And, he plans on returning; maybe even fairly soon.
I may have added the now-deleted nasty part. I could have, of course, chosen less coarse language, but, really, if it was “Baja, Humbug, pretty much any other negative noun,” would it be much less offensive? It wasn’t, like, exuberance or locker room bluster, it was cell phone bluster and a sort of sour grapes response to texts focused on tales of recent (like half an hour ago) and allegedly great waves (yeah, like bragging, possibly exaggerating or enhancing or embellishing) that neither Steve nor I were present to share or score or verify.
These texts were sent by surfers (more than one) we both know, and, yes, I do the same thing, but I wasn’t, in this instance, the one flaunting my luck and success. I was the one whining, going all negative, dredging up the crude vernacular (Language or dialect that is spoken by average citizens of a particular place, or is language used within a particular field or industry- YourDictionary) when the avuncular (Suggestive of an uncle, especially in kindliness or geniality- Merriam-Webster) would do.
Yes, I looked up both words just to make sure I was using them correctly.
I must admit that I have a habit of sharing my occasional successes out looking for waves with others; not in a grandiose or braggy kind of way, just, like, matter of factly, honestly. Such as: “All time Epic and Yes, I scored, I ripped, I… hello… you still there?”
I was on the phone with Stephen R. Davis, me on my job, he on his, and things… escalated. Others were scoring. Somewhere in here, with those swells that might or might not work around these parts, the iffy-ness and the almost-ness, and with the Christmas season upon us even before Thanksgiving, Steve came up with, “Bah, Humbug; I’m going to Baja.” It’s a quick jump from there to, “Baja, Humbug, Citizens and Surfers.”
Yeah, we could have said that.
There is FOMO, the Fear of missing out; and there’s ROMO, the Reality of missing out. Or, it could be the Reminder of missing out. NOW, if I were truly avuncular (and a surfer from Hawaii- not Steve- did call me ‘uncle’ recently, which, in the Hawaiian vernacular, can be a word used when greeting or refering to an older person due some modicum of respect- to which I, in response, asked, “So, like, how does an uncle refer to others? Like, nephew, niece?”) I might respond to the gloating with something like, “I am actually truly and incredibly happy you got choice waves. I’m sure you distinguished yourself among the other surf riders. God obviously loves you soooo much more than me. Why did you even get out of the water? etc. etc.”
I am, actually and truly, thankful that I have friends in the social chaos of the surf culture out here on the other, or another North Shore.
Okay, right after I check and try to read something into the readings from the ever-dropping number of available buoys, I am going to check out the various definitions of ‘Friend.’ I sort of believe that if someone totally critical of my surfing or my personality or my sometimes aggressive surfing in crowded conditions, or, perhaps, someone I have been critical of for any reason: if that surfer and I met at some remote location, say, Baja or Kansas or Seattle, we might consider each other as… kind of… friends.
Ba-ha! and Ho ho hooooo! Friends and uncles and aunts and nephews and nieces.
The easiest way to show one of my clients some of my artwork is to have her check out my website. Because it is really just one page and really disorganized, it makes sense to, occasionally, pull some already-scanned drawings out of my media file and display them here. SO, HERE:
STEPHEN R. DAVIS is back in the Northwest. He didn’t, like, hep me to the timeline for his arrival, but I was out in the very unusual circumstance of barely-rideable waves (the usual being what is known as ‘flat’ anywhere and everywhere), and I look around, and there’s someone paddling out, too much sort of burnt-orange hair hanging out from a hood. I try to focus with my better eye and the one that has developed ‘floaters,’ and can’t help but think, “Who the fuck is that and why is he trying to steal the Stephen Davis look?”
Anyway, he’s back, and, he claims, I actually and purposefully kept him from going on several waves and burned him on another. “Yes, Steve, I did. It was you ‘welcome back’ burning.” “Okay.” “Okay.”
Steve hasn’t cut all ties with the Island. A former Port Townsend ripper, Makenna (sp?), who I never, to my knowledge, met; the son of a surfer, sent Steve this photo. Yes, the guy does rip.
I don’t have a lot more to report, surf-wise. A succession of rainstorms, most centered too far south to send swell of any size down the Strait, have soaked and saturated and… yeah, kind of depressing. Welcome back, Steve; anxiously awaiting my pay-back burning.
I would endure, possibly without audible grumbling, numerous burnings, and multiple instances where people just can’t seem to not shoulder hop or be totally (not fond of bailing) in the way on a decent wave; I will happily paddle out for sessions where the wind or the tide are wrong, or the waves are weak and sloppy; all because I prefer pretty much any surf session over any skunking.
Yes, the scenery, if one looks, can be spectacular. The mountains are getting snow, leaves are still falling, some still hanging on trees. Yes, the clouds, when it isn’t just one massive and all-encompassing cloud, can be beautiful. Yeah, yeah; but I can’t wait to get that session where I set my sights on a set wave, a bomb; I’m in position. I look over at Steve. He smiles. He goes. Welcome back.
ALSO: The showdown between Nam and I, pretty much set up by Reggie’s claim that Nam is the “King of the Strait,” postponed several times because he was getting out of the water, or I was, or something; it is ON. ON I tell you. We were both recently in the water at the same time. I wanted to ask observers on the beach who outsurfed whom. I did yell at Nam on one wave that “Posing is not the same as ripping,” but there were too many people and not enough waves, and I am well aware that most (or a high percentage of) folks seem to like Nam, and I am, um, less popular.
My lack of popularity is something my friends like to point out. Frequently. Here’s one from promoter Reggie: “You know that one woman surfer… not a fan of you. Well, she…”
Nam, pointing out that neither of us caught that many waves (I’ve never caught too many waves), said the session shouldn’t count. “Oh, then I’m going to claim victory.” “Wait. Two out of three.” Fair enough. Next time.
According to Trish, all us Olympic Peninsula surfers, and the surfers who cruise up 101 or come over on the ferries; yeah, let’s be inclusive, even if it’s only to be accurate; each one of us acts as if, after this little swell window or this session, waves will never return. She’s right, of course. There will be other opportunities. And Trish doesn’t have the answer to “Okay, so, like… when, exactly?”
WAIT, because Chimacum Tim wants to be mentioned, this because he seems to believe realsurfers is more than it is, I should mention he just had a birthday. Forty-something. This was pointed out by his wife, Shay (might be Shae, not sure). “Oh, why isn’t he here surfing with you?” “Back issue.” Now, I did send him a text on my way home. I did say, because Shay asked me to, that she was ripping (I’m really not that generous on rating ripping, and I really didn’t hang around to observe), but, because I do admit the truth when I have to, Chim Tim (and part of this is that he told a friend that, “you know, Erwin does actually surf pretty well”) is a pretty decent surfer. In fact, though I hate to gossip, someone did say Tim was doing some good surfing on a fish, impressive enough that that unnamed individual was considering adding one to his quiver.
So, Sunday, Seahawks, and, hey, is it still raining? Or is it about to rain? Or will it ever stop raining?
…I will try to make this one brief. You know, like a blog post.
Today, November ninth, 2021, is the fifty-third anniversary of Trisha’s sixteenth birthday. When I tell people who know me but don’t know Trish (other than what I say about her- nice things, and frequently- She is the person I most often quote- this means something) that I attended her sixteenth birthday party… “Um, what? Really?” “Yeah,” I usually add, “I was seventeen, so it wasn’t like, you know, that pervy.”
The problem I have with stories is keeping them simple. This is the problem with (not to get off the subject of Trisha’s birthday) my manuscript for “Swamis.” Too many stories.
Simple, simple, okay. So, I was at this party on a Saturday night at the house in Fallbrook that Trisha’s parents rented while Trisha’s father was in Vietnam. Trisha’s mom was playing bridge. Trisha’s older brother, Jim (back from Vietnam), was the theoretical chaperone for the event. He had a date with him and wouldn’t have wanted to seem uncool, so he wasn’t going to interfere with any teenage shenanigans that may or may not occur.
How I happened to be invited involves friends of Trish thinking friends of mine, specifically the real Phillip Harper, Ray Hicks, Dana Adler (as opposed to the fictional Phillip and Ray in “Swamis”- I won’t mention my manuscript again) would be great guests; but how to get them there? Oh, through me.
It wasn’t Trish who invited me. One of her friends. It was done over the telephone; something like: “So, you know this new girl, Trish Scott; it’s her birthday on Saturday… (cut out stuff here) …maybe, if you come, you could get ahold of a couple of your friends (see above).” “Sure… (gulp, giggle) …love to. I mean, like, I’ll see.”
Now, I had already met the thin, blonde, mysterious new girl with the Vidal Sassoon hairstyle (as opposed to the hair-sprayed-to-death poofed- up semi-beehive dos still fashionable in rural North San Diego County), and the monogramed sweaters and sophisticated East Coast clothes.
It wasn’t like Trish and I ‘met cute’ at another party (and it wasn’t like I attended many parties) in Janie Pollack’s family’s barn in Oceanside. I was, um, intoxicated (not all my fault), and I was rude and sarcastic when Trish went into the cleaned-out stall where Phillip (with his own date drama going on- Ray was in the hayloft with the sister of Phillip’s date) and I were smoking cigarettes and trying to look as cool as possible (easy for Phillip- I was only slightly recovered enough to actually look out of both eyes at once). Trish, because she had seen me pass her driveway taking one of my siblings to the Junior High, and I’m driving the exotic Morris Minor, very reasonably asked me where I lived.
Trish does remember my line. “In a house; on a street; in a town; with my parents.” She could have just left. I continued. “Debby Street. They were going to name it ‘Erwin Street’ but it was too controversial.”
Okay. My friends and I agreed I had blown that opportunity all to shit.
But, then, while I was pretty much stealing art supplies (I was a senior, fourth year of art, handed out supplies during my class), and Trish had an after lunch crafts class, and I came out just in time to see her walking into the classroom looking all classy and sophisticated and pretty and… well, I saw this as another opportunity. “Hey; where do you live?”
Trisha didn’t even stop walking. She turned her head toward me, gave me the coldest ‘drop dead’ expression. I should say the best-ever ‘drop dead’ expression.
That was a moment. The moment. This girl has passion.
And her passion was directed directly at me.
And then, because my fifth period class was almost directly across from the Art classroom, and because students seemed to gather at the doors before the bell, Trish and I exchanged enough looks that others noticed. And then Phillip said a girl in a class he had but I didn’t said, “that girl asked about you.” “Which girl?” “You know, that girl.”
Okay, okay; so I went to the party. If Ray and Phillip didn’t attend, Dana did. I may have brought a present. Some other dude thought he and Trish were, because he had tried to pick up on her at the Friday night after-football dance, and I didn’t go to dances because of my religion, kind of… together. Oh. He and I had a bit of repartee at the party. Somewhere in there I had to go to town to get cigarettes, invited Trish. My English touring car was actually a mess, with wet trunks and mildewed towels and discarded not-quite-empty chocolate milk containers and such in the backseat. And I’m digging around in the mess to find enough change to buy cigarettes. “You shouldn’t smoke,” Trish said. “I know. Oh, and, since you used to live in Oceanside and you used to surf, would you like to maybe go surfing with me… tomorrow?”
Back at the party, I gave up on the repartee. I went home. I leaned on the counter in the kitchen, suffering, as I remember, my most serious bout of teenage angst. And doubt. Everyone else was asleep. But wait, Trish had agreed to go surfing. In the morning. It was like a date.
I do believe I have told the story of the day after Trisha’s sixteenth birthday before. It ends with me saying something like, “So, maybe we should… kiss.” Trish agreed. We had to set up a sort of… procedure. “Okay. One, two, three…”
I do, occasionally, get a well-deserved ‘drop dead’ look from Trish. I still, if I’m waiting for her to come back into a room, or back home from somewhere else, hate the waiting. If she makes me anxious, I can still make her nervous. If she calls me on a job and I notice I had been thinking about her, it’s because I so often think about her. She is still the person I most often quote, the person I most hate to disappoint. We can still make each other laugh. We share years of stories.
Happy birthday, Trish. I love you. One, two, three…
I’ve been using whatever ‘creative’ time I have to plod forward on the manuscript for “Swamis.” Maybe it’s because the exterior painting season seems to end around Halloween, and because it has been raining like it’s already November (and now it is), but I have spent little time on drawing.
Well, I’ve worked on a couple, drawing, doing some magic at the PRINTERY in Port Townsend with the help of STEVEN, master copy magician. I have another one ready to get reduced, black to white switched, reduced… stuff like that. I have had some requests for ORIGINAL ERWIN T SHIRTS. Sorry, I have none. I am still hoping Tyler Meeks will reopen the DISCO BAY OUTDOOR EXCHANGE. We’ll see.
OKAY, quick story. Because we don’t use the printer all that often, and don’t have an actual, you know, like, office, the printer seems to get stored in the hallway. Trish is going to a GHOST CONFERENCE this weekend in PORT GAMBLE and needed tickets printed up. Naturally, the paper in the back was all twisted up, a piece fell off the printer, I had to figure out how and where and… yeah, I was surly about the whole thing. BUT NOW, since the printer’s out and I’m using it.
OKAY, I’m through. Hope you’re finding some waves. I’m still recovering from the ‘no booties, no earplugs, sudden sets’ session.
This is another chunk of my manuscript for “Swamis” that I have to cut. It is backstory on one of the main characters, Portia Langworthy, and… and I love dialogue. Maybe too much. Despite going into the manuscript with the purpose of cutting-and-pasting this particular scene, I couldn’t resist making a few, just a few, changes.
Because, yes, I care. The main way I sort of justify the hours I’ve spent in thinking, writing, editing, rewriting, and now cutting portions of my novel is that I know the characters well enough, hopefully, that I may not need to include a backstory for each one. Maybe it’s enough that I know where they come from.
I will have other characters’ stories cut and moved here. My hope is that a smaller portion of literary fruitcake is about all one can be expected to… read. I do feel compelled to add that this is copyrighted material, cut or not.
We’d been in the office too long. We were all a bit more… relaxed.
Dickson closed the door when he reentered with two more cups of coffee, handed one to Jumper, said he put a little coffee in with the sugar. Wendall took the other cup, said Frederick Thompson had not been drunk or under the influence of drugs as far as the medical examiners could tell. “Just crazy.”
“Helicopter pilot, Korea, then Vietnam, early on,” Jumper said, as if this explained something. It seemed to.
Wendall lit up another cigarette. “And… all of this… craziness, Langdon is claiming, and he has the ear of the politicians, is because of the Sheriff’s Office laissez-faire” (he pronounced it la-zy-fair) “policy toward pot growers and dealers in the county.”
“Miss Ransom got that part right,” Dickson said, “La-zy-fair for sure.”
Wendall leaned over the desk as far as he could. “It wasn’t your father, Jody; Gunny thought he had it under control. It’s just… grown… too fast, too many new, um, participants. We knew about Chulo; that he was collecting money from the hippie dealers. Chulo and…?”
Jumper and I both said “Portia” at the same time.
“Oh yeah,” Wendall said, “Portia. She’s actually Patricia Sue Langley. Patty Langley, runaway from, um, Many Wives, Utah; busted for petty theft…ha ha… back in ’65. No, um, end of ’64. She was a minor, so… So… and… oh, then she got… sexual. Oceanside. Marines, mostly; easy pickin’s.”
Dickson interjected. “Not our, as you know, jurisdiction.”
“Oh, but then Patty got herself down to Leucadia,” Wendall said, “across 101 and down from where you live now, Jody; one of those motels.”
Dickson pointed toward Jumper. “Second one past your family’s place.”
“When I was a kid,” Jumper said, “Chulo and I’d go around, pick up coke bottles at the Log Cabin Inn, other motels; turn them in for the, the deposit. Good money for a kid.”
I felt compelled to join in. I spoke quickly to make up for the obvious lack of interest by the others. “A neighbor kid, Roger; he and I went to this ball game down by Live Oak Park. Fallbrook. Roger’s brother was playing. We picked up bottles; took them to the guy at the little… the stand. The guy said they were his bottles, wouldn’t give us the deposit money.”
“You tell him who your dad was?”
“No.” I looked at Wendall, Dickson, Jumper. They were waiting. “Roger did.”
Wendall cleared his throat. Loudly. “So. Jody’s dad… Gunny… Joe; he always liked to point out how most all the motels were on the south-bound side; like that showed nobody’s coming up from San Diego looking for a place; it’s all from the north. L.A.”
“Anyway,” Dickson said, “guess she… Patty, um, slash Portia, got tired of… servicing… Jarheads; fresh-outa-boot-camp Ji-rines; they’d probably want to go two or three times.” He did a subtle hip thrust motion, adding, “First time ought to be free. Ha! Probably wouldn’t even make it out of his skivvies.”
Wendall took over. “It was my call. Disturbance. The proprietor actually called it in; but Gunny and…” Wendall pointed over his shoulder. “Gunny and Big Imagination here show up. I’m standing outside a room with some fat business type from Covina… West Covina. So… fat. He claimed he hadn’t gotten his money’s worth.”
It was a brief pause, but Dickson took the story. “So, Joe goes, ‘money’s worth of what?’ The guy… hey; it’s your story, Wendall. Did you take a bribe on that one?”
“Well.” Wendall looked around to make sure everyone was watching. “Sort of. Gunny, he goes up to the guy, looks down at his…you know, package. The guy was in… he’d put on his business jacket. Seersucker; some sort of sales guy green. Sears or Pennys; one of those. No shirt, and, you know, tidy whities; size, um, enormous. For his butt. No big bulge; not that I would notice. Black socks, the kind you hold up with garters. Garters. This Chipper, Mortenson, shows up and the… West Covina guy is acting like we’re supposed to be… like we’re on his side. Mortenson, you remember him, huh; tough bastard, loved to pull over kids.”
“And beaners,” Dickson said, looking directly at Jumper, before giving Wendall a sweeping ‘take-it-away’ gesture.
Wendall was leaning forward, both elbows on my dad’s old desk. “So, Gunny, he’s got Mr. West Covina’s wallet in his hand and, I guess, repeats, ‘Money’s worth of what, Mr. um, Redwick?’ Red… wick.”
We all may have chuckled. Wendall continued.
“So, Patty’s standing there, wrapped up in a blanket. Not because it’s cold… and the motel owner, older woman who thought she’d be renting places for artists; like, you know, like Leucadia’s Newport Beach or something; she’s got an arm around Patty, and Patty’s got a bottle of Coke up against one eye, and Gunny’s just waiting for Humpty Redwick to answer. And I say, ‘Maybe he was getting some, um, advice on, um, clothing choices.’ Morty… Mortenson, this cracks him up. But Gunny’s all business; serious. I mean, Morty’s seen some shit. He’s a vet, too. Korea, at least. Army. Chosin Reservoir. Bad shit. And he’d been cruising up and down 101, ‘Slaughter Alley’ for years. He was still, those days, still on a motorcycle. So, yeah; blood… tough guy, and he’s just… laughing.”
Wendall put a cigarette in his mouth, pulled out his Sheriff’s Office Zippo from his shirt pocket, snapped the lighter open with a jerk of the wrist, hit the wheel with a snap of the finger. More theatrics. “So, now Morty sees your dad’s serious. I mean, Morty was big, but Gunny was looking… you know how he could… that look; fierce, fierce-like; and Gunny he… he opens up Redwick’s wallet, then holds every photo of the guy’s wife and kids up to his face; whole, you know, string of them; and then shows them to me. And the owner. And Patty. Gunny takes out all the cash. He asks the proprietor if the motel fee has been paid. She says, ‘Diner’s Club,’ and Gunny holds a twenty and a couple of singles up in Redwick’s face, puts that cash back in the wallet, sticks the rest out toward Patty, sticks the wallet back into Humpty’s inside coat pocket.
“Probably two hundred bucks. She, Patty, she shakes her head. And I say, ‘Oh, the advice,’ and she, no one would take her for dumb; Patty says, ‘Maybe Mr. Redwick should switch to some, um, boxers… maybe some, uh, dark color; that might be a choice.’ She takes the money. Now Gunny’s smiling. We’re, all of us, laughing. Not Redwick. He does look a little relieved, maybe.”
Wendall stopped, inhaled, blew the smoke out kind of forcefully. We all watched the cloud get sucked into the fan, some of it actually going out the window.
“Wait. Wait. So, Morty gets a call; three car pile-up by the Carlsbad Slough. He gets on his bike, starts it up, peels out. Lights and sirens.”
Jumper filled in with, “Not your jurisdiction.”
“Right. Then, two doors down, this other guy tries slipping out of a room. Gunny’s watching Patty. She must of looked over. The motel owner, she seems, um, concerned. Gunny gives me a look. The other guy, he tries to duck back into the room. I run down… yeah; I can run… I push open the door, grab this guy. He must have thought it was all over when Morty left.”
Wendall did a sort of relaxed pose, casually inhaled, slowly blew out smoke.
“And?” Jumper and I both asked.
“And…” Wendall looked pleased. “And there’s another, definitely underaged girl inside; not beat up, but… I mean, it was obvious. So, short story long, it all went official. Other than the money.”
On the surfing front; I decided to surf some small waves without my earplugs and without booties. It wasn’t like, critical. Would have worked out fine except… you know how you’re in the water, and you just think, ‘Why can’t it just be, like, four feet and barreling?’ and it never seems to happen? And then it does. And you’re too busy getting alternately thrashed and thrilled to go in and… no, these rare events demand strict attention.
Result: Stephen Davis says he will not invite me to Hawaii; locals don’t abide with blood in the water. AND both feet are cut and gouged AND one ear is still plugged up. “Worth it?” you might ask. “Sorry, can’t hear you right now. Ow!”
Of the various sins in surfing, the numerous ways in which one can breach, bend, or break etiquette, the backpaddle is the hardest to pin down, and, possibly, the toughest one to get over. Arguments and hurt feelings and judgements passed down upon the perpetrator are the backbone of many a after-surf, parking lot discussion.
Yeah, and even I have been accused of paddling around, past, or through (depending on the crowd size) surfers politely waiting for a turn, possibly giving them a greeting (“Hey, gettin’ enough waves?” for example), only to take off on a wave that fellow participant in the sport would have paddled for, possibly caught, and definitely ripped and shredded. And then, of course, I just kind of, uh, ride that purloined (reference to Edger Allen Poe intended) power pocket.
Yeah again. After a friend of mine was called out for this infraction/sin/crime during several almost successive sessions, and explained the situation to me… well, it went like this: “So, was it, like, you see the guy, paddle past him, take the very next wave?” “Yeah, and he drops in, claims it was his wave.”
Analysis: It was the timing, more than the intent. The intent is, as always, to get more waves, better waves. If someone is clearly demonstrating an intent to go for a wave, and there’s a very high likelihood that that wave will be caught… no, don’t go. If the person was actually paddling for the wave but you’re faster… worse.
It isn’t new. My friend Ray got into a deal years ago at Pipes. Someone backpaddled him, he kept going, suddenly he felt a surfboard bumping into his legs. In that instance, the disagreement was taken to the crowd of locals who control the peak most days, most of them there most days. It was discussed, the ancient precedent of ‘closest to the peak’ priority was brought out, everyone in the pack agreed.
It’s tricky shit, indeed.
Man, if only I had some of that cool SPF 56 sunscreen.
Photos from a movie adaptation of “Lord of the Flies.” I actually read it. It made an impression.
I continue to tighten my manuscript. This is something I cut. Because, some day, in some quite obviously self-imagined and delusional future, publishing it here might be prove to be instructional; and really, truthfully, because I have severe Written Stuff Retentive Disorder (RSRD), and hate to just throw stuff I’ve written into some dark void; because I feel the need to explain where stuff came from and why I thought this stuff needed to be in “Swamis,” the novel, originally. But, without explaining why it now needs to be cut, here’s… this:
No, not quite yet. I steal stories from other people’s lives, rearrange stories from my own. My father is not the same person as Joseph DeFreines. No, but the story is stolen (or adapted) from a real life incident, one in which my father was sent home, quite bruised up, after an altercation on his Civil Service job with the then phone service on Camp Pendleton, run with civilian workers and Marine supervision. My father’s boss was always a Marine. The phone service has long been since taken over by corporate providers.
One of the Marines assigned to the crew did refuse my father’s kind request to get off of the backhoe. Somehow, in the incident, someone wrapped a chain, at speed, around my dad. He came home bruised. There was an investigation; mostly, I have to guess, on how polite my father actually was in his request. The “So, not a fair fight then?” quote is probably pretty accurate.
My father kept his job, retired from it.
The story was meant to show something about the character of Officer and then Detective DeFreines. The story of an incident between Joseph DeFreines, Junior and another Little League player was one of several anecdotes showing how Joey/Jody DeFreines, particularly when he was younger, was capable of violence. That background information would, hopefully, set up some tension going forward in the novel as the situations become more intense.
I took (or stole) the nickname Shiner from a guy I was in the local Volunteer Fire Department with. I never asked him where the name came from, never really had a run in with him… except that one time, when I borrowed his turnout gear and climbed under a car with a severe gas leak. Shiner was pissed, the gear was… well, it may or may not have been salvageable. Shiner and I do exchange nods or more when we run into each other at the Quilcene Post Office. So…
My father didn’t tell war stories from the World War II or Korea. “Long gone,” he would say. He created new stories. With the driest, wryest sort of expression he would retell ‘The Kindly Step Out of My Car’ story.
I was thirteen, had just started board surfing, and my mom promised she would take us to Tamarack, but only after we went to Freddy’s little league game. I had been removed from my team after an incident. The discussion between the coach and my father ended with my father saying, “No, I won’t let him quit; you have to say you’re kicking him off.” Decided.
My mom guilted my dad into meeting us at Freddy’s game. “It is in Vista, Joseph. You work in Vista.” He showed up, fourth inning. Some kid’s dad was three innings drunk and belligerent, screaming at players and coaches and umpires from the right field fence.
To calm the Drunk Dad down, my dad walked him over to the parking lot. He did not invite Drunk Dad to sit inside his brand-new unmarked car, and especially not in the front seat.
“With him ready to puke and all, I did, politely, ask the gentleman to, kindly, step out of my car.”
At this point there would be a pause or a switch in tone, or an actual wink.
My mom and some Fallbrook folks and I watched from the left field bleachers. Vista folks grouped up on the right field side. We couldn’t really hear what was said. Pantomime. Several Vista Dads headed toward the show. A Friend of the Drunk Dad, also drunk, hit my father across the back (three cracked ribs) with a bat (all were wooden in those days- hickory, mostly), and, when my father turned around and requested a fair fight, politely; smack (severely bruised left arm).
In telling this story, my dad, in his professional and quite monotone voice, would say, “At that point, the gentleman did get out of my car, but decided to tackle me from behind. So, I’m on the ground, I look up at these two, um, citizens, and I say…”
On the various occasions when my dad would break into this story, someone would finish his quote. “So, not a fair fight, then?”
Both of the Drunk Dads ended up on the ground, a foot on one (broken jaw), a bat (in my dad’s left hand) tight against the chest of the other (bruised sternum).
My father’s next line was, “So, the judge asks me if I’m sure I said, ‘kindly’ in a polite sort of way. Since he’d already given the Drunk Dads total exoneration and the Sheriff’s Office, worried about being sued, had paid for all their medical expenses, I said, ‘Judge; when I say kindly, I don’t always say it… politely.’”
He told the story enough times that the pauses were appropriately placed, the timing perfect. “Politely.”
Because I do tell stories, here is “More Tits, Bobby:”
“You shouldn’t have run,” my father said, “it made you look guilty.” Oh, we were. I was eleven (1962), my down the block neighbor, Bobby Hudson (who got away, temporarily) and I had been digging through my dad’s assortment of “National Geographic” magazines in one of the big greasy drawers in the old Post Office oak desk that became the base for the garage workbench.
“It was Bobby’s idea. He was finding the pictures, I was just…”
“Looking? Yes. Junior, I heard ‘More tits, Bobby,’ from outside.”
I didn’t consider, at the time, why my dad kept those particular issues, each one containing at least one topless ‘native,’ in that drawer.
The “Just Smile” story:
This was, again, the summer of 1965. I was almost fourteen, had started surfing, but was expected to live up to my commitment and to graduate from Little League to Pony League baseball. That didn’t happen.
“Anger is almost always because we’re mad at ourselves,” my father said. I hadn’t told the Coach and wouldn’t tell my dad why I punched out the kid from Rainbow, wouldn’t tell him what the kid called me. I knew I didn’t have to.
“The next time someone gives you… guff,” my dad said, as he exited and I was about to enter the one bathroom at our Magarian tract house, “just smile. Really. Laugh; it’s even better.”
“So, he wins?”
“He’s still on the team. Is that winning?”
“But Dad, see; I did do that. I did… smile.”
I wanted to cry; knew I couldn’t cry in front of him. He knew I’d cry if he left. He stayed. We practiced my smile at the bathroom door mirror, trying to find, so we could eliminate it, the one I gave the kid from Rainbow before I smacked him with his own glove.
“That one, Junior; that is one scary fucking smile.”
It was the first time he used any swear word at all in front of me. It was an evil, crazy smile. I tried to hold it, broke into a laugh. And my dad laughed.
“Half of that, that would be perfect. People like that; they have to know you mean business but you’re holding back.”
“Here’s my… on-the-job smile.” Confident, with a faked friendliness, his eyes moving, calculating. Anyone receiving that smile would have to know Joseph DeFreines was capable, if necessary, of violence. “Practice, Junior; and, really, don’t feel like you have to get even. If you knew that kid’s family, um, situation, you’d… save your guilt and, and your anger… for something bigger.”
Guilt? I hadn’t felt particularly guilty for hitting the Kid from Rainbow, or for striking out of Little League.
“Oh, incidentally,” my father said, with a slightly less friendly version of the same smile, “since you’re freed up from baseball, I’ve signed you up for Devil Pups.” He did a little marching move on the way out of the hallway. “One two three four… one two… three four.”
“Nip,” the Rainbow Kid called me, again, two days later, in the cafeteria; loud enough for those in the vicinity to hear. He was smiling, others were laughing. “Jap,” he added.
I sat down next to my tormentor, squeezing another Rainbow kid over. Rainbow, for reference, is an area East of Fallbrook, out on highway 395, now Interstate 15, south of Temecula, which is now huge. I set my metal tray of food in front of me, looked at each of his friends until they looked away, looked at him, at his swollen eye. If he didn’t look as if he’d take his words back, he did look a bit worried as I moved even closer.
I know I had my new smile on my face. Practice. “Shiner,” I said, and laughed.
There was a pause. I waited. Patiently, eyes on the Kid.
“Shiner,” someone else said; then another; everyone at the table except Shiner laughing.
And then Shiner laughed. The nickname stuck. Shiner. Never surfed. Became a civilian Firefighter at Camp Pendleton.
Okay, so the “More Tits” portion: True stuff, based on my neighbor, Bobby Turner, and me going through Bobby’s father’s collection of “National Geographic;” definitely porn for eleven year olds.
I have, incidentally, figured out a way to include a condensed version of the “Kindly” story in with the STUFF currently in the manuscript.
PREVIEW: I am working on a piece on the most disputed part of surf etiquette; THE BACKPADDLE. No, I am not admitting to any guilt; merely pointing out the subtleties. Soon.
This is a photo of a Northwest parking area in 2015. If I had taken the shot a few minutes earlier, there would have been one more VW. Timing. And times. Now there would be Sprinter vans and almost-Sprinter vans, properly built-out, and trucks and… oh, my Toyota is in the photo… wow, didn’t realize I’ve had it this long.
Long enough that plastic parts have become brittle enough to just break, hinges have rusted. It’s dinged and has a certain and hard to disguise smell of mildew. The muffler may or may not be totally gone (it is… gone), the radio doesn’t work (other than an occasional whine from the back speakers), but the air conditioning (with the original coolant from 1987) does work, even better since George Takamoto replaced the fan motor (eliminating my need to slam the dashboard until it came on). Tough car, hard to kill; tough enough that, when my daughter’s car had some issues, Dru is borrowing it. Sure, with prayers and best wishes from Trish, and instructions from me to put a towel on the driver’s seat and to not try to open either of the back doors, and to not slam the back hatch, and to check the oil frequently, and more.
So, same car for me, same attitude, same desire to ride waves.
What hasn’t changed on the Strait is the opportunity to wait; wait for the tide to fill in or drop out, wait for the swell that was predicted, that was actually showing on the buoys, wait for someone to give a real explanation for why waves have not shown up, and for someone to tell you exactly when they will.
Or where. Somewhere else.
Oh, it is definitely going off somewhere else.
And when waves do show up, according to the word in the parking area; oh yeah, it’ll be on. ON! The competition to get more waves or better waves, to do more on each wave, to… if you surf, you know there is not only a struggle against currents and squalls and rocks and closeout sections and, sometimes, even getting out to the waves, but there is the challenge of dealing with other surfers; each of us intent on ripping, wailing, cruising, crushing, gliding, or otherwise riding whatever waves are available to the very limit of our ability. And maybe, maybe we will surf just a little bit better than we ever have.
Yeah, it’s the ‘maybe’ that brings us back. Recently, trying to stay on topic here, I got out of the water, commented to Darren, someone I have seen often over the years; and, yes, the guy who let me paddle in on his board when mine was caught in the rip (as was I), that several surfers had just gotten the ride of their lives, not, necessarily, because they are really good, but more because they caught a slow one and made the wave; and, because they got that one ride, they now believe they are better surfers than they actually are; and because they got that ride at this particular spot, they would, no doubt, return.
“I was just thinking the very same thing,” Darren said.
If I really think about it, all the above stuff about others is probably also true of me. And Darren. And you. Maybe it is a different spot; one wave you thought you wouldn’t make, couldn’t make, and then you did. That’s what brings us back, pushes us out of the comfort of our home or our built-out van, out into the water.
All right. Again, I have written something far different from what I anticipated, what I planned. Sorry. What I wanted to say… well, several things. I will try to be brief.
First, every surfer is a badass ripper in the parking lot. I have walked past surf spectators for whom the waves weren’t good enough (some who scoffed because they were good enough for me), come in from challenging conditions and asked why certain badass rippers weren’t in the water, asked others why they were surfing on the inside section. Rude.
Every surfer has a history; most of us have a past that includes those perfect moments, perfect rides. If I listed my own history, the question that would have to be asked is, “Why don’t you surf better now?”
I have my explanations, and, although I am rude and blunt and an admitted asshole, I probably won’t ask you for yours. Then again, if we talk long enough, I probably will.
The greater struggles are with ourselves, with our expectations and our underlying sense of ourselves and where we fit into some larger society, where we put ourselves in some pecking order, and where we think others place us; and whether we are satisfied with that position.
I wish I didn’t care about all that. I do.
Too long. Got to go. There may or may not be waves. If we run into each other somewhere, feel free to introduce yourself as the best surfer in the parking lot. “Oh,” I might say, “glad to meet you.”
I am at a point in my tightening the plot of “Swamis” where the narrator has to have a reason to take a night class in Police Science. The scene has the introvert (with exceptions) Joey/Jody running out of the Public Speaking class (with some backtracking as to why). The inspirations are these: My old neighbor in Encinitas, Frank Andrews, who did some painting with me on weekends, told me that if he had to give a speech or take an ‘F,’ he’d choose the failing grade. This was shocking to me. I would race through any oral report. The other thing is the actual night class I did take at Palomar Junior (long since ‘Community’) College. I wrote about my experience for this site in 2013, so this is a rerun. Or a reprise.
Greetings to Cheer, seems like you’re doing well.
There probably should be some time stamp here. Along with the peak of the Baby Boomer wave, I graduated from Fallbrook Union High School in 1969. “Sixty-nine, Man!”
Before I went to Palomar Junior College, the closest I’d come to hanging with anything that could be called “the North County Surf Community” was when I was on the Fallbrook wrestling team, going against San Dieguito. That school district included Leucadia, Encinitas, Cardiff, maybe even Del Mar; and excluded Carlsbad and Oceanside- separate tribes, separate Junior College. But Fallbrook was included in the Palomar district. Sure, Escondido and Vista were also included. But, what going to Palomar meant…
…it meant a lot to me. Now I knew other surfers ‘from school.’ I could nod to them, maybe, on campus, or, better, at the top of the Swamis stairs; maybe even hang for a while, comparing notes on the surf, they drinking homemade smoothies, some talking about Jesus; me with my chocolate milk, and, having already used a few swear words to describe the crowds, unable to testify, to say I also had a deep love for our living Savior from before it was cool.
I knew who Charles ‘Cheer’ Critchlow was before he showed up in Speech 101, one of the night classes I took to allow more time for work/surf/girlfriend/church, Speech. It was his image, tucked into a little tube, that was on the sign for Hansen Surfboards, A photograph had been in “Surfer” Magazine, tucked into another tube at a surf contest in Santa Cruz. I’d seen Cheer and Margo Godfrey casually walking out to surf the outside peak at Swamis on a big choppy afternoon when Scotty Sutton and Jeff Officer and I kept to the inside peak.
Mr. Critchlow had actually, though he was also still in high school, been a judge at a North County high school surfing contest at Moonlight Beach. Jeff and Scott and I, though we’d ripped in the warm up, were harshly eliminated in our first round heats. We were gone so quickly that several girls from my school showed up after we’d taken off. Maybe I’d lied about even being in it.
No, Jeff’s Dad took us to 15th Street in Del Mar, near where they had a beach house- and we ripped it up again. No points.
Cheer Critchlow was one of the surfers I viewed, from the shoulder, wailing from fifty yards deeper in the pit during the first day of the swell of 1969. “They (the surfers who were successful) must have some Hawaii experience,” I said at the time.
When I gave a speech on our trip to Mazatlan in my nervous-as-shit, rapid-fire delivery, Cheer Critchlow spoke clearly and calmly, and with some humor, about his first time surfing big Sunset Beach with Mike Doyle.
“So, Mike just told me, ‘If you don’t just go, you’ll never go.’ And I went.”
When I brought in a surfboard I’d shaped and painted as a visual aid, Cheer brought in templates he’d used with and borrowed from, again, Mike Doyle.
When I gave a speech on my future plans, writer, artist; Cheer’s speech revealed school was part of his backup plan. He’d tried very hard to be a professional surfer, and it wasn’t working. Maybe someday, he said, a surfer could make a living from surfing. Very convincing, moving, successful speech.
*Interesting because the character I thought would be the closest thing to a true villain in “Swamis” is a Certified Public Accountant. No, not based on Cheer Critchlow, but, since I am just reworking the part of the story where Joey and Mr. Cole meet, and, because a CPA’s most valuable asset is a perceived or real belief that this person is trustworthy, and since I already had the fictional CPA possessing that same combination of confidence and coolness, with just enough self effacing modesty, qualities Cheer seemed to have… to seem… well…
No, David Cole doesn’t surf, but his daughter, Virginia, does.
Still, he could have given me, maybe, a few more points at Moonlight.