It would be great to say that it’s unusual when the larger wave, the window of opportunity, the short span of time when the pulse of swell peaks, happens only some mathematically even number of times on a weekend. It just doesn’t seem to be true. One winter the interval between pulses seemed to find it’s high point on Sundays. Sundays, like five in a row before it shifted slightly, but enough for surfers who can move schedules around enough to hit a peak at mid-day on a Tuesday.
And it would be not completely honest to say I, usually proud to be self-employed, could take a full Tuesday; more likely I’d take off early and hope, or take off lake and hope that, when I pulled off the highway, bumping down some pot-holed gravel (or not gravel) road, I’d find lined-up, groomed, empty lines.
It does happen. Not last weekend. The angle looked good but the swell wasn’t supposed to build, and Saturday morning found Trish and I preparing to take the Port Townsend/Keystone ferry to Whidbey Island, navigate up, past the unseen-but-rumored breaks on the western, straight-line-on-the-Strait-and-to-the-open-Pacific side, then inland to I-5, down a bit, and east to the jaggedy (compared to our Olympics) Cascade Mountains.
We hadn’t quite reached Deception Pass (flat, though I’ve seen it 8 feet- once) when Adam “Wipeout” James called. He was waiting for his wife to get home so he could take off, hoping to score the awesome waves he’d enjoyed last Saturday and Sunday while Keith Darrock and I, who did surf both days, still managed to miss. “Best ever” seems to be Adam’s standard session report; no matter where he goes. Maybe not this time. “Good luck,” I said, making use of my new bluetooth while Trish drove, “it doesn’t look good. The buoys… And it’s windy here.”
Okay, enough of that. We were headed to Darrington for a performance by The Fabulous Kingpins. The event was a sort of prop-up-the-locals free concert, the cover tune band from Moscow first hired last year to perform, four months after the horrific landslide in nearby Oso, Washington on March 22nd that obliterated a huge swath of land, more than a square mile, changed the direction of the Stillaguamish River, and killed 43 residents. Imagine your favorite hillside park suddenly obliterated by a huge wave. Driving past, it still looks like some sort of rough-and-rocky preparatory work for a mall parking lot.
That would be Moscow, Idaho. I-da-ho. Red state, inland. No surf atoll. Trish and I sent our son James there (his choice, actually) in 1994 to attend the Lionel Hampton School of Music at the University of Idaho. And he did well, for a semester or two. He had auditioned for the Kingpins, but they didn’t want a 17 year old guitar whiz. Now he’s a 38 year old guitar god, Jaymz Dence’, wailing through solos adapted from, but more evolved than the originals on a wide range of classic rock tunes. You can’t help but hear the influence of every guitar player from any-or-everywhere, back porch swamp blues pickin’ to fully-orchestrated concert hall recital, James continues to be a student of the craft. Guitarcraft.
So, how did it come to pass that I got the opportunity to go on stage with my son, play a little harmonica?
Because my son had a little faith that, despite my reservations, I could do it (read ‘wouldn’t blow it’). Because Jaymz convinced the bandleader, Cliff, that I (yeah, I’m wearing my lucky, performance-only Hawaiian shirt, but over my Quilcene Shindig T-shirt featuring a drawing of this son, in this, lean-back, pained-expression pose) wouldn’t embarrass him or ruin the Kingpins reputation. So, even though I couldn’t hear what I was playing, and, despite my eyes being opened, really couldn’t focus on anything, it was a thrilling ride; and probably my ‘best ever’ party wave.
A video shot by our daughter-in-law, Rachel, shows I was not-quite-awesome, but capable. Sorry, I can’t post it here; but my daughter, Dru, is trying to post the video on the “I’ve heard of Quilcene” Facebook site. As Trish told our son, still packing up the equipment while we were headed west on the last ferry out of Edmonds, “It made his year.” Oh, more than one. Thanks, Jaymz.
Meanwhile, Adam Wipeout was sleeping in his car, probably tired from his session at the very peak of the swell, and would awake to more ‘best ever’ waves. More on this later.