Over Time, Comparatively Speaking

                         With the inclusion of inarguably life-changing events, we determine what we remember, over time, of the rare but truly horrific and the rare but truly blissful events.

Recalling a specific moment once makes it easier to remember, more clearly, the next time.

Memory banks and memory files, images and sounds and feelings, still shots and little videos; something that happens in the present snaps the synapses and, whoa, yeah… that one time…

I quite surprisingly and suddenly realized that the official start of Autumn is only days away, one of two moments, and I may be wrong about this, when the earth is in true balance and there are equal amounts of day and night. From that point, the next defining point is the dropping of Daylight Savings Time, somewhere around Halloween, the semi-unofficial end, for the most part, of the exterior painting season in the Great Northwest.

Yet, somewhere in here is the start of the surf season, such as it is, with the hope of North Pacific storms and waves over knee high. Hope is different than expectation. Around the Strait, even hope is tempered by experience; skunkings when forecasts call for waves, defiant winds when the forecasts call for calm.   

In the Summer of 1968, the summer season defined as the interval between school sessions, Ray Hicks and Bill Buel and Phillip Harper and I were cruising in one of their cars, returning inland from a day of cruising Surf Route 101, anywhere from San Onofre to, most likely, Cardiff, in search of a beach with some possibility of girls hanging out, and with rideable waves, and with the hope that the lineup was not too crowded. We did, no doubt, surf, most likely at Grandview or Swamis beachbreak.

Whichever vehicle we were in (again, not mine) featured the latest in in-car entertainment, an 8 trac tape player. Because we were middle class suburban teens, we related to the non-bubblegum-pop tunes of Cream, the Beatles (less and less), and the Doors. Most shared, most sung along to. Yes, if we were a year younger, Led Zeppelin’s orgasmic rock might have taken over. We weren’t. We listened to the Doors. We could relate.

It wasn’t just the AM-radio/garage-band-at-the-VFW-hall stuff. Deep cuts. “Wait until the war is over, and we’re both a little older; the unknown soldier.” The war wasn’t over. It would still be there when we were older… old enough.

It was almost dark, we were parked somewhere, facing west, perhaps, more likely facing some thicket of sage like brush off Mission, the route from one or our homes to another- extending the length of the surf trip/adventure. Smoking. Click. Another tune. “Summer’s almost gone, summer’s almost gone; Where will we be… when the summer’s gone.” There was an instrumental fill at this point, the perfect four beat place in which, from my spot in the back seat, I added, “We’ll be in school.”

It wasn’t well received. ‘Fuck you’ and ‘oh, man,’ and ‘get out’ didn’t make for a unified chorus.

Yet, summer had gone on long enough that the days of not surfing, of hanging out or playing some pickup game at the high school, of listening to other groups, other songs, had gone on long enough. School was… we’d be seniors, there were girls, guaranteed. There was a certain level of anticipation.

Time seems to move faster as we get older. I have noticed. I have decided it is because, the longer we are alive, rotating and spinning, the shorter the comparative time is of any particular season. So, summer is, relatively, short. That’s my theory.

Incidentally, the reason I know it wasn’t my car is this: My vehicles never seemed to have a functioning radio. Fifty-four years later, my current surf rig’s radio started shorting out a few years ago; irritating; and then it quit completely. I do have my harmonica, and, since I usually go surfing alone, I don’t mind my singing and playing. Other than my own tunes, I will do a few of Dylan’s. I have a killer version of “All Along the Watchtower.” The Doors? No, not really.

The subject next time, perhaps, could be: “Froth.”

I’m getting some stick-on lettering made saying, “realsurfers FROTH!” So far, Keith is signed on to get one. Steve and Adam, the only others I’ve offered them to, didn’t seem enthusiastic enough; I will not beg them. So… as with everything, forever, we’ll see.

HAPPY EQUINOX!  

“Whoa, dudes; it’s like… Fall, man; it’s the best. This one time… Hey, thanks for loaning me your spare suit; you should know, three more steps, I’m peeing. Traditional. So, like, glad it’s less crowded. Those Summer-only kooks, huh? I totally plan on dominating. Say, you even wax up this board?”

FUCKCANCER UPDATE:

Dru is probably going to have radiation treatments, but, hopefully, not Chemo. Trish is doing most of the hanging out with our daughter over in Port Gamble, making sure Dru doesn’t lift heavy stuff. I’ve done like one night a week, but I, um… well, I do plan on going over tomorrow for the Seahawks game, partially so Trish can get her hands back on this computer, probably do some lifting.

Stephen R. Davis is staying in Bellevue and going for procedures in Seattle. He is getting a full ‘workup’ (not fun in itself) ahead of two doses of Super Chemo. I will get a proper copy of Steve’s painting of a fantasy surf spot this week and will post it here with info on how you can purchase a limited-edition copy. Evidently Steve has already promised the original to some lucky person.   

Sometimes You Beat the Heat…

…sometimes it beats you.

This is my September submission for the Quilcene Community Center Newsletter. I am posting it here first. Yes, I really want to talk about my eventually radical fat boy/caveman kneeboard and how, lineup-wise, my policy will be, “Okay, then, sit next to me.” Yeah, next time, this will be explained.

Sometimes the heat is and can only be described as ‘excessive’ or ‘oppressive.’ You step out of your house or your car, cooled, somewhat, what we call, ‘conditioned,’ and your body cannot hold back a ‘whew,’ blowing out a breath that is, at whatever body temperature your brain and your clothing try to maintain, still cooler than it is outside.  

“Sum-mer-time… and the livin’ is… easy…” Ira Gershwin and DuBose Heywood, from “Porgy and Bess.” Just to give credit. Don’t listen to the Janis Joplin version on a hot day. Just a warning.

Oh, wait, I’m writing this for September, and I’m writing it six hours or so after the latest heat advisory (or red alert, depending on location and distance from large bodies of water) ended and the more acceptable drizzle started. Drizzle, yea!

I’m pretty sure you weren’t one of those who complained (or, maybe, speculated), when it was cool and rainy into June, and even July, that we would never get a Summer.

No, we haven’t had the severe smokiness or anything the meteorologists would label a ‘heat dome,’ but we have had days, many of them, in a row, where, say, a painter could leave drop cloths out overnight without fear that this act might be construed by whatever entities control the weather, as a challenge.

So, yes, even if it stays kind of cool and rainy until the end of October, Halloween, the unofficial start to the cooling season, we have had a summer.

I did see a lot of photos of sexy women in and around waterfalls, but not wanting to appear, I guess, pervy, I choose to use this one; partially because the dude is in sort of a prayer position, possibly asleep. This choice might make more sense as you read on.

HERE ARE a few things people say about the weather:

“Hot enough fer ya?” Yes. Fifty-five suits me fine, if I’m working outside, sixty-five if I’m, like, hanging out. No, I rarely hang out.

“Great day for painting, huh?” What are you doing?

“It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.” So, when are you going back to Arizona?

“Surfer, huh? Do you wear a wetsuit? Is the water cold?” Yes. Yes. Yes, it’s salty, too. Thought I’d throw that one in. Yes, seventy-five degrees is great… on the beach.

“It always cools down at night.” Thankfully.

“With the days getting shorter, even if it gets hot, it’s not for that long.” This one goes with, “We rarely get more than three days in a row of hot weather.” Response- Thankfully, and Until we do.

“I don’t know how people face it when they wake up and it’s going to be a hundred and eight degrees; and there’s nothing but that kind of heat in the forecast… for weeks on end.” I don’t know, either.

“You know, a lot of times, it’s cooler here on the Olympic Peninsula than anywhere in the continental United States.” It’s cooler in Port Townsend.

“You just have to get acclimated.” I do. I don’t want to.

“It’s okay to sweat.” Yes, in the gym, and with a few exceptions, pretty much not anywhere else. Side note- no one wants to see almost anyone else shirtless. Make your own exceptions.

“When it is really hot it is difficult to sleep.” Churches seem to have the perfect temperature for that.

“Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” Yeah, well, I researched that, and though the quote is often attributed to Mark Twain, it may have come from Charles Dudley Warner, a neighbor and fellow writer; not that you should care. But I do disagree. We have…    

AIR CONDITIONING- Magically, though the radio and the rear window wiper and numerous other things don’t work, the air conditioner on my 1985 Toyota Camry does, though it seems to work less effectively on longer trips. At some point, there just doesn’t seem to be enough… oxygen. On my work van, no, and the vent and fan are inadequate.

We have one of those window air conditioners in the living room, a different deal in the back bedroom. Somewhat relieved that the (extended) winter heating season is over, I will soon find out what the cost of comparative coolness is.

Though I try to follow the shade as I am painting, I am occasionally required to finish up a job in the sun. I finished up a job recently on the hottest day of the year (to that point), at the hottest part of the day (5:30 mid-summer). After almost stripping off my shirt, I spent the next day, recovering, five feet from the air conditioner, mostly watching a surfing contest in Tahiti on the big screen TV. It was probably hot and humid there. Why would I care? Where I was, it was 69 degrees, somewhere around 50 percent humidity.     

Perfect.

Oh, one last thing: “Do you know how you can tell tourists are from the Northwest, anywhere in the world?” Yes. We’d be the ones in the shade.

SURFERS AND COOLNESS- I’ve spent my life trying to figure this all out. What I have noticed is that ultra-coolness on the beach does not always transfer intact to proficiency in the water. Still, I do try to up my beach game. See you out on Surf Route 101.

Breaking Down in Gig Harbor- Part Two

Because everything that happens is part of some bigger story, because I try to capture bits of that story as they fly by, because, objectively, it is kind of an interesting if not unique tale, I did write about my work van breaking down in Gig Harbor. I will check out the version I wrote for the Quilcene Community Center Newsletter, then, more than likely, make some… changes.

                                                Another Chapter in the Serial

I was driving my van home from the repair shop, and I was… anxious. Very anxious. There was a noise like a nearly worn-out fan coming from the front of the van. I had checked. It wasn’t, thankfully, the blades hitting the radiator. There was another sound, like sheet metal vibrating and clanging. And then there was the occasional clunk.

Clunk, like the engine was taking a breath, like the automatic transmission couldn’t decide which gear to go into. Clunk.

My hands were gripping the steering wheel. The rain was coming down at a just-under monsoon volume. The wipers were not quite keeping up. My breathing was overwhelming the defroster. The traffic was at the race-stop-slow-race-repeat phase of the afternoon retreat from the major cities, Tacoma in this case, that starts sometime before four pm and ends sometime before midnight… depending. 

I called everyone I have on my contact/speed dial list on my supposed-to-be-stealth flip phone. None of my contacts, almost exclusively family and other surfers, picked up.        

Trish, who had driven me to Gig Harbor, was ahead of me, somewhere, headed for our daughter Dru’s house in Port Gamble. Dru had picked me up a couple of weeks before, on another rainy night, when my van just stopped running. I would have turned on the radio for the distraction if I wasn’t so concerned, wasn’t listening so intently for some sounds that might suggest the van might make it the sixty-some miles from Gig Harbor to… home.

Clunk.

What I know about vehicles making that dead air hiccup is that one only gets so many clunks. I know this because my father, a mechanic, supplied me with a stream of almost-dead vehicles from the time I got my license; rigs that would break down for a variety of reasons: Overheating, lack of oil, abundance of speed; and after a variety of warning signs, the random clunk being one of the most dire. The direst. I learned to be the guy steering the car at the dumb end of the tow chain. First but not the only rule: Don’t hit the lead vehicle.  

I continued the habit of buying cars and work rigs, each with a variety of the problems associated with high mileage and advanced age. Cheaper. I have been given several vehicles. Each was almost worth it. Few of my discount vehicles have survived me. In fact, more than a few people have told me I should write a book about my life as a serial vehicle killer.

There are many good stories if good means entertaining for someone other than me. Perhaps you read about my recent black ice experience. The damage was enough that repairing the rig with mega miles and many little quirks and dings, a vehicle I bought for four hundred dollars, (practically a gift) didn’t seem like a reasonable choice, money-wise. Tragic, nonetheless; I never got to take it on a surf trip.

I need a work rig. Replacing even an older vehicle has gotten expensive. When the van broke down with electrical problems that are inarguably associated with high mileage and a lack of a recent tune up, the repair costs didn’t seem too onerous. That is, when I finally found a garage that would work on a vehicle built in the last century (computer thing- diagnosis). When thieves stole the catalytic converter in the garage’s lot, caught on camera, and slammed into my van to evade the local Gig Harbor Police, also caught on camera, doing additional damage, and escaped; and the garage, which had total control of my van, informed me that their insurance wouldn’t cover it; and the Gig Harbor cop who called me (when the garage didn’t) to ask if I wanted to be a victim (“No”), and if I would press charges if the perpetrators were caught (“Hell, yes”), and I asked him if they even got, like, a license number or something from the red truck, with trailer, featured in the above-mentioned video (“It was probably stolen”); well, all that just adds to the intrigue, the excitement of the story. For just a bit of added color, or fun, with a one-hundred-dollar deductible, there was almost three hundred dollars the garage wanted, over what my insurance company would cover.  

Oh, and the broken lights and front-end damage, from the thief crashing into my van to (successfully) evade the cop; that could be dealt with, my insurance provider said, on a separate claim. The assumption is that the crooks in the possibly stolen vehicle (with trailer) were most likely uninsured.

Makes sense, I guess.

When I did make it home. I immediately investigated as to whether a replacement catalytic converter needs a break in period. Yes. This, Google and YouTube agreed, is accomplished by getting the engine up to running temperature, then racing the engine at high rpms for about four minutes. This, quite obviously, had not been done. Worst thing, according to Google, is to just drive a vehicle home, ever so slowly.

Clunk.

The repair shop manager had not even told me there would be a needed procedure. He might have if I hadn’t said something sarcastic (a comparison with Les Schwab and vacuuming) when he said the mechanics had not replaced the “Doghouse” (in garage talk), the cover for the portion of the engine that extends into the cab of a van (in regular talk), because they hadn’t taken it off. True, that was Stephen Davis and me, hoping the fix was something simpler (it wasn’t).

I did get an automated text from the chain repair shop’s corporate level just as I was hitting another storm cell at the bottleneck at Gorst (which is right before the bottlenecks at Bremerton, Silverdale, Poulsbo, the Hood Canal Bridge). How would I rate the service I had received?

I’m still thinking about it.

“Vehicles I Have Killed. An Incomplete List.”   

Photo borrowed from Bing. Something about therapy for folks with meth addiction issues. Issues. Perhaps I assumed it was tweakers who stole my catalytic converter. Perhaps I’m wrong that they won’t get caught, won’t face charges. Perhaps it is wrong to believe that there might be a downhill spiral associated with some addictions; but shit, man, you fuck with my work vehicle, you’re fucking with my livelihood. I really don’t care how hard you work at stealing shit, it still isn’t a job. Good luck, get help, and, meanwhile, fuck you!

If you’re still with me… it’s like ALL the buoys are down. No, I don’t blame tweakers.

Gifts for the Truly Deserving…

  …and the rest of us.

Waves, rideable waves, somewhere on the scale between junky/fun and perfect, are a product of strong winds at a distance, a favorable or lack of wind at a beach that has the right bottom contour, the right orientation to the swell; and at a tide level that suits the spot; high tide here, low tide there; incoming, outgoing. It takes so many factors to produce a perfect wave. Or a near-perfect wave. Or a fun wave.

A gift.

Sure. It isn’t difficult to acknowledge this.

It is too often said that surfers, surfing, should be the happiest folks around.

So, here’s a couple of stories kind of fitting for the season of dark and storm and rain and occasional offshore winds, occasional combinations of factors, occasional gifts:

another gift

ONE- Most of the breaks on the Strait are adjacent to streams and rivers. Heavy rains have moved rock and gravel and forced long walling swells into sculpted peaks, directed the incoming energy down a line.

What natural forces have created; the same forces can also destroy. So it was that what was once a rarely breaking spot became a sometimes wonderous break; and then was altered, gravel moved, bottom contour shifted. Another wave, gone.

With the wave went the crew that tried to localize the break with threats and aggression.

Well, next spot, same behavior.

Bear in mind that there are very few true locals. Realize that if you play the local card here, you are a visitor everywhere else. An interloper, a, let’s just say, guest.

We should also admit that localism works, to an extent. Ruin someone’s fun, that person might not come back. This from surfers who endure multiple skunkings in exchange for occasional waves, write that off, justify the expense of traveling and waiting and not working.

I am talking about a specific incident; but that one assault, and I will call pulling the leash of another surfer who has, by our long-established priority guidelines, the right to that particular wave; that one aggressive, self-centered, possibly dangerous and possibly criminal act, that assault is one among, if not many, too many.

TWO- It was (here’s one from the past- just to keep it out here) “Colder than a snow-capped brass witches’ tit.” I was aware that it was a day we probably would have been surfing, but it being December, this was the only day a painting job in Silverdale could be completed.

With help from Reggie and Steve, it was. At dark, another frontal system showing.

Exhausting, but Steve, for one of his jobs, had to go to Lowes. I had the van for transporting the twelve-foot baseboard stock. Okay. I wanted to treat Steve and me to some Arby’s. I wanted to get some gas at Costco.

Costco is the training ground for aggressiveness. Parking, checking out, moving through the aisles; split second decisions are needed.

I was headed pretty much straight for the gas pumps. I got to a stop. I was turning right. This guy in a truck was turning left. I had priority. He cut me off. Then, turning left into the non-full waiting area, he cut off someone coming straight. Another priority foul. Fucker.

But me, no, I was calm, putting in cards, punching in numbers, looking over at the fucker in the silver Silverado, topping off his tank. I didn’t call him out. I just spoke, with my outdoor voice, to the guy across from me. “Hope the asshole has some place really important to get to.” Shit like that. None of it really mattered. The Silverado shithead grabbed his receipt and peeled out.

“Mine, mine, mine!”

THREE- Enroute to Arby’s, I had to go down to the traffic light with the longest wait time in all of Silverdale; just past, on the right, The Lover’s Package and the Sherwin-Williams, both closed; and on the left, a church.

Ahead of me I see a thin man in a boony hat pushing a man in a wheelchair across the road, left to right. Whoa!. Dangerous. I pulled my big ass van into the center of the road so some other hurried Silverdalian wouldn’t hit them.

Best I could do.

Long light. I got to watch this: The guy in the boony hat gets the wheelchair to the curb. The guy in the wheelchair is too big to get him and the chair up to the sidewalk. The wheelchair guy pretty much falls out onto the sidewalk. He has one leg. One. He does a half crawl across the sidewalk to a post for, I don’t know, a light or something. Boony hat gets the wheelchair up to the sidewalk. The guy with one leg pulls some blankets and, maybe, a jacket off the wheelchair. He maneuvers himself until he has his back against the pole. The boony hat guy starts covering him with the blankets, parks the wheelchair. They both, possibly, prepared for the night; a cold fucking night.

The light changes. I turn left onto Silverdale Way, make an immediate right into Arby’s. I wait for Steve. We go inside. I order. They don’t have milkshakes. Damn. I get a large drink, only a few cents more than a small. I create a ‘graveyard,’ a mixture of most but not all of the available drink choices. It is something I learned from chaperoning, back when my kids where in school. Delicious. Two classic beef and chedders for six bucks. Great for the ride home.

No, I didn’t do anything to help anyone. I could have. Two for six bucks. I was tired. It would be forty-five minutes to get home, if the bridge was open and no one decided to crash and close the highway.

No moral here, no high ground. Writing this doesn’t do shit for the one-legged guy or the boony hat guy. Wait, maybe there’s this: Given the choices each of us has, multiple times every day, to be an asshole or not be an asshole; occasionally choose not to be an asshole.

I could add, whether or not you believe in angels, for that guy in the wheelchair, the thin man in the boony hat… angel.     

The Mythical Combination Swell

I was not alone in getting skunked on a recent Saturday. In fact, it was like a skunk fest. I hung out in a parking area while some surfers left, others came, others continued to hang out. Hanging out. More hanging out. Even more hanging out. Was I the victim of bad judgment, poor reading of the tea leaves, mismanagement of my relatively few opportunities to devote way too much of a day to something like hanging out, did I believe in the possibility that a ‘combo swell’ might bring waves to my chosen destination despite a history of being let down by the more-theory-than-evidence-based fact of a combo swell? YES.

This possibly secret spot is actually in New Zealand. Note the lack of booties, gloves, hoods. Wow, must be warm water.

And it’s not like I don’t know how to hang out, northwest style; acting all cool and all; it’s just that I tend to run out of coolness after a few minutes of hanging out.

Yes, I greeted some of the surfers I know from past skunkings, figured out Ian might just be the longboarder who actually goes for outside waves, asked his girlfriend, Veronica, if I ever burned her in the water. No (according to her). I asked Cole if he owns property up the hill, (info I got, via cell phone call, from another surfer who may have scored earlier in the week). No, but a friend of his does; the house I had heard of evidently really more like a carport or one of those mountain shelters for hikers. I listened to a story by a non-surfer, Mo, about a couple of incidents in Port Angeles in which cops were called. Mo couldn’t believe I had only been in one fistfight in my life. “Wanna try, Mo?” No. Before Reggie, who had been there four hours already, left, I met Reggie’s friend, Brickie, who I had, evidently, met before (but in the water, so it doesn’t count). I accepted a raw oyster from Nam. I told Sara she never needed to apologize to me for any incidents in the water (which seemed to lead others to believe they also might not have to apologize for burnings, drop-ins, in-the-ways. No, I didn’t mean them. It was one incident). I strolled through the parking area. Lots of city escapees, three red four-wheel-drive VWs with various numbers of bikes on racks. Still no waves. Then I took a nap, sitting up, in my car. Twenty minutes or so. I woke up, still no waves. I had to get on with real life.

I texted one of my surfing friends on my way back home. “Fuck a bunch of combo swell” Smile emoji.

“I’ll make up for this next time,” I told myself at the third to last stoplight in Port Angeles. Next time. And I will; or I did; can’t talk about it.

Durn. I wanted to talk about secret spots, and now I have to get going. Next time.

From BOB DAVIS: Subj.- Surf Colonization

I got a comment from Bob DAVIS; it showed up in my e-mail, with a request to moderate, as in Approve, Disapprove, send to junkmail, or hell, or to just send it to trash.

I hit ‘approve.’ BOB’S comment is somewhere on realsurfers.net. It may show up under comments on my “About” dealie, originally written in 2013 when I started realsurfers, MOSTLY to tell parts of the same story that I was trying to tell in a screenplay, “Afternoon Glass-Off” (probably could have dropped the ‘off’ part), aka “Inside Break.” The story is from pretty much the same time and place in which “Swamis” is set; late sixties, Southern California.

I highlighted ‘mostly,’ above, because, after 24 years in the Great Pacific Northwest, I was, at that time part way through another chapter in my surfing life, here. NOW, in the beginning, I didn’t realize the danger in romanticizing the Northwest surfing scene, and, in particular the surf on the Strait of Juan de Fuca. I did name some surf locations, early on, did SUGGEST there might be waves… rarely. If surfing has blown up in Washington State, and folks continue to search out and be disappointed at known surf spots, it really can’t be blamed on my esoteric, no where near viral little blog.

BUT, if realsurfers is important enough for BOB DAVIS to write a comment, here, BOB, is your moment:

Hi, Please take down your posts about the surfing in the pacific northwest, purely out of respect for people who live here. We only get to surf good waves a few times a year, so if we have to deal with people coming up from California or elsewhere to get our waves that we only get a few times a year. first off, it makes no sense that they would want to come on a surf trip to a colder place, but also it is a fickle place and risk that chance of wasting their plane ticket doesn’t make sense to me. Why go to surf someone’s home that only breaks a few times a year when you could go to other more consistent surf breaks and not ruin someone’s life? This is just not okay from a moral standpoint. Please consider peoples’ lives and stop colonizing places.

This is not the Pacific Northwest. It is, apparently, already colonized.

HERE, BOB DAVIS is your answer: NO.

OH, and BOB, thanks for checking out realsurfers.net. If you happen to see me on one of the few times a year you get a few decent (and, wait, you did kind of admit there are rideable waves hereabouts) waves (and I am kind of recognizable- old guy, fucked up knees), say “Hi.”

Big Island ‘Haole Local’ finds Surf Redemption

Now that Stephen R. Davis is kind of settling into Big Island life, and has made progress toward, possibly, becoming what he referred to another surfer over there, a “Haole Local,” I speak with him less regularly than when he was over here on the crookedy corner of the contiguous states. I mean, like, really, what do I have to say, surfwise? King tides and southwest swells and skunkings and underwater gravel migration that cuts a wave-killing channel through my favorite reef? Mean-muggers and packs of high-fiving white guys on SUPs who, obviously, got their training chasing ferry boats? How the number of new surfers add to the Olympic Peninsula demographic of most frustrated surfers per hundred thousand?

Yeah, the usual stuff, plus, since it’s this time of year where every surf trip starts AND ends in the dark, and the political shenanigans continue, unabated, as does the virus, and the unavoidably (except by Congress) obvious toll the pandemic has taken on regular folks (for example- several Port Angeles restaurants in business the 42 years I’ve been here have for sale signs in front of them) continues to rise; and, oh yeah; it’s Christmas time, which, if I had my choice, would take place in August when I actually have some money for presents (my kids don’t call me the Christmas Dick because I seem particularly jolly)… so, again, just the usual stuff is going on in my life, making it extra pleasant to get a call from Stephen R. Davis.

Steve called me to say he’d gotten redemption at a sketchy break that features a dry-reef-takeoff, a couple of cruisy sections, and an opportunity to get barreled or pummeled. We did talk after an earlier session in which one of the non-Haole locals said something that Steve understood, but, with him using the pidgin pronunciation, left me with no clue as to what he was talking about, even when I made him repeat it. But, placing it in context, because, when he looked around, all the other surfers were heading for shore, I’m guessing the phrase probably meant something like, “The tide’s too low, Haole.”

Now I imagine Steve nodding, as if he understood the implications, but staying out for an uncontested wave of two.

As I said, this time, with some water on the reef, Steve, who says, with the opportunity to surf consistently, he is surfing better than he ever has, and he was already a very good surfer; this time… redemption.

WAIT! I was just watching some pipeline footage and suddenly reef that Steve said he was doing the outfit with the two hands in the wave face, meaning one hand behind him. “Wait,” I exclaimed ( or asked, perhaps- less dramatic), “you mean like Clay Matzo at Honolua Bay?” “Yes. ” “So, you Marzoed?” ” Guess so. ” “Okay.”

Steve sent me a few photos. This one is a little beefcake-ish and buttcrack-ey, and he says it isn’t him, though he claims he can’t remember the name of the guy and, although I just don’t know of that many people who have that much fucking hair (and I have seen some Stephen Davis wannabes).

Merry Christmas from Stephen R. Davis or Stephen R. Davis doppelganger

It’s a bit interesting to me that I’m working on this while considering how much weight a 4/3 full wetsuit adds to a surfer, that with a one mil vest (with hood) and booties, all of which take in and hold a certain amount of saltwater and/or urine (no, not the hood, urine-wise); and that I have two baggies of assorted chocolates on a side table, and a selection of seasonal cookies easily available; and that working on finishing my novel “Swamis,” (self promotion here) and whatever else I’m doing from a chair that can recline if I’m too tired to sit upright is not exactly like burning calories.

I did mention the Christmas Dick thing.

Anyway, and not just because I have some free (as in no one is paying me for it) time, I will, soon, post some photos my friend and contemporary Tom Burns sent me illustrating a trip some of his friends took to the channel at Mavericks on that recent day, best in years, you are probably already familiar with. But, just because my sister Suellen sent me this, I may as well include a shot of our dad, Suellen, me, and my next sister down, Mary Jane, en route from Surf City, North Carolina to San Diego, December 1953.

“I see the big crack, yeah; but when do we get in the water?”

Merry Christmas; try not to be a (not a sexist comment- I’m talking behaviorally) dick; in or out of the water; and, for godsake, Steve or non-Steve, tighten up those boardshorts!

Surf Interest/obsession/addiction…

“It’s a real thing. Surf addiction.” That’s a quote. Not from me, but from someone else accused of, and I would say guilty of, having the same addiction I’ve been accused of having, by Trish, for the fifty-two years, approximately, that we’ve been together. Oh, but I had the addiction before I met her.

Okay, I’m still at the stage where I am thinking about how to write this; which means, really, how to organize all the bits and pieces bouncing around; get all the stories and theories and ideas to flow, to break evenly, A-frame peak to shore. Yeah, I’m considering the dilemma and the choices facing those of us who have an obsession with a recreational activity/sport/lifestyle/addiction that is, on its face, kind of arbitrary and self-centered and possibly ridiculous and obviously unnecessary and… oh, you disagree? Sorry; that’s how surfing appears to someone who doesn’t realize the way one good ride on one good wave hooks even the goofiest kook, gives him or her (increasingly her) the desire to get an even better ride on an even better wave.

See the source image
“Did you see it? It was awesome! Man, I’m never gonna quit this surfboard sliding thing! Cowabinga!”

GOLF, MOUNTAIN CLIMBING, BOWLING, chess, gardening, baking, a million other activities someone somewhere is addicted to are, to be clear, equally unnecessary in someone’s image of a real world.

I’m sure you’ve also considered that surfing takes place in one of thousands of alternate universes, or even, individual universes, each one bumping into or taking off in front of someone else’s universe. Whoa; all that thinking’s TOO DEEP for me;

SO, let’s consider this PART ONE, in which I admit, or explain, or confess, as that might be closer to the truth, as I have to multiple surfers and, particularly, to non-surfers; that, in my relationship with Trish, love of my life, surfing has always been the other woman. NOT, I should add, a secret other woman; Trish knows her very well; and has her own, not to get all gender-y here, or get confusing by spending some time on the times Trish and I were in the water together (though I am thinking of one particular afternoon we were both caught outside on surf mats in some serious conditions); connection with and love for the ocean. And that connection predates… me.

THERE is a lot that goes with the easy phrasing, the other woman and our long-term affair with a true if not, obviously, faithful (fickle, angry, playful, stubbornly calm) force of nature. The ocean doesn’t love us back. Sorry. Okay; maybe sometimes; but the ocean is always beckoning; the rhythm too close to the beating of our hearts. MAYBE that’s too dramatic.

THE LATEST DRAMA in which the subject came up involved a friend (I’ll see if he’s cool with me dropping his name here) whose girlfriend (and the participants aren’t high school age, but the ‘would you rather go surfing or stay with me?’ thing is, no doubt, involved) broke up with him, again, after her latest attempt at an intervention apparently failed. The ultimatum, if there was one (dangerous, those ultimatums) failed because, as he quoted her, “You’re on your phone all day; and it’s not like ‘normal’ stuff, Instagram, Twitter, porn (she may not have said ‘porn,’ but it adds something); no, you’re looking at buoy reports and surf forecasts and webcams (surf spot webcams, to be clear).” Yes, that is true, but sometimes he’s also surfing, or more likely, hanging out waiting for waves, searching for waves.

HE was telling me about the breakup when another surfing friend called me back, no doubt to see what I knew about any possible wave activity. SPEAKER PHONE. “No, surf addiction, that’s a real thing.” There’s the quote. Now I have to check with him, a surfer as addicted as any I’ve known, to see if he’s ok with his name being sailed on the cosmic winds. I’m guessing he isn’t. ANYWAY, he disclosed that he has had some serious discussions with his wife, and he, as we all do, offers to cut back on scheduling his life around time and tides and buoy readings.

“Have you ever considered going and not telling her?” That was my question. I have never done that. Honest. No, I’m actually not lying. “Yeah; did that once. She asked me how come I had seaweed in my hair.”

THE FIRST STEP, evidently, in quitting any addiction, is wanting to quit. “So,” name redacted (at least temporarily), “Do you want to quit surfing?” Head shake. “What did he say?” “No, he doesn’t want to quit surfing?” “What about… hey, that’s a pretty serious step. He could just cut back.”

Cutback. Bottom turn. Climb back into the pocket…

The next day, having missed what another surf junkie described, me getting this second hand, third hand, maybe, as ‘the best he’s seen it in quite some time;’ the non-recovering surf addict did, indeed, head toward the shoreline, searching for whatever it is we search for; constantly, relentlessly, with a certain disdain for the things we must do (work, for example) in order to answer that siren’s distracting but clear call.

IN PART TWO… I have no idea; I’m thinking about it.

This from a guy who surfs on his knees

I was on my way back home, south on Surf Route 101, and, as is part of most of my surf expeditions into the cell-free zone (not free if you pay roaming/Canada fees), I had lists of things to get in the Vortex that is Sequim.  So, checking out at Costco, I notice the checker, on the other side of plexiglass, has a black facemask with images and writing.

Oh.  I was, of course, curious.  “I, um, can’t read everything on your, uh…”

He pulled the mask taut, and, though I can now read it, he tells me what it says.  “Stand for the flag, kneel for God.”

“Oh.  Okay.  That’s, um, a little political, isn’t it?”

“A little, maybe, but that’s what I believe.”

“Sure.”  Pause while I sign the check.  “Um, uh, what about if someone’s, say, on his knees, but he’s doing this?”  I make the sign of the cross, punctuated, as I often do, with a throwing out of the right hand as a sort of shout out to God.  I know what it means; an acknowledgement that I have serious faults.  I kind of figure God also gets it.  God, after all.

“Oh,” the checker said.  That’s it.  He’d already told the girl who asked if I wanted any boxes that he was going on break in eight minutes.  My receipt was on the cart and I was shuffling toward the exit.

It took a while before I thought, if he was, and I’m pretty sure he was, referring to football players kneeling during the national anthem, a gesture referencing the social injustice that can be denied but not, evidently, corrected; I could have mentioned that I have observed, when a football player is seriously injured, injured enough that the game has to be stopped, other players, from both teams, gather around the medical team and the injured player, and take a knee.

Are they insulting the flag?

How would I know?  I was busy thinking about how many waves I caught, how many hodads and kooks and rippers were around, what other spots might have been breaking; almost forgetting that, though I’m certainly not above praying for surf on the way out, I am a bit lax in thanking God for a beautiful day and a few fun rides.  Yeah, that’s from me, kneeboarding; not out of any disrespect.

 

June Submission- Greenness

My submission was late for the Quilcene Community Center Newsletter. It’s now June 12 and I never got one over the electronic network. Because I post these pieces here, usually, I probably should apologize for it taking this long. There is some surf news to report; I did just recently surf with Nick, nicknamed, probably only by me (and because I got it from him) God.

He took off in front of me; twice; but said I deserved it. I will explain next time. Meanwhile, and partially to help the financially struggling United States Post Office, which, out here in the boonies, I particularly appreciate; I am considering preparing and sending a number of postcards to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC, 20500. No manifestos, just brief notes, like, um, maybe, “Which voices are you listening to right now?”

First Amendment, folks. Still, because of the omni-demic and all, I am considering wearing gloves in the process. That I am also considering sending them anonymously and from a different zip code; well, the farther-out folks on both ends of the conservative/liberal spectrum do agree that, as Americans, we always have to worry about our rights, alienable and otherwise.

Again, only positive messages. Like, uh, “Considering building a bunker: any ideas?” “Juneteenth? Really?”

Surf Route 101; somewhere in Washington State

                        OBVIOUSLY READY TO FROLIC

It’s Saturday, May 30, 2020, and, here in Quilcene, Washington, Spring’s last push toward the eminent arrival of Summer, is, other than the bright yellow blooms on the non-indigenous Scotch Broom, the changing of the landscape from grays and browns and more grays, to green. 

Maybe it just seems like it was a massive invasion, a sudden and overwhelming onslaught of green.

Everything is green.  The north side of the car you parked because you really had nowhere to go.  Green.  That patch of dirt where you had the car parked.  Green.  And all the trees, shrubs, hayfields; green and growing, unchecked, undeterred by the intermittent dry days, pushed forward by the rainy days, greens in shades from almost yellow to almost blue. 

Greenness, everywhere, and so crazily active you can see grass grow, leaves spread, plants crawling out of their pots before you can get them in the ground.  Blackberry vines are winding their way through your flowerbeds, dandelions outgrowing your lawn, thistles and nettles competing for the chance to sting you, you out in your Summer clothes… Ow!

Okay, I could have gotten all lyrical here, but the truth is, I’m a day past the deadline and I’m racked with guilt.  Racked?  Is that a word derived from THE Rack, medieval torture devise?  Maybe.  I won’t Google it.  YES, if you are receiving this a day later than you anticipated, it is my fault.

I won’t make excuses.  I hate excuses.  The guiltiest people have the best excuses.

So, here’s mine: I went surfing.  Friday.  Dawn.  Yeah.  Could have been writing.  The first two vehicles I passed while heading north on Surf Route 101 very close to Lake Leland, were towing boats.  No, not those big boats that loom over the truck hauling them.  Those boats are headed to or from ocean waters.  The next car had one of those very plastic kayaks on top of it.  Again, it was a Friday, and I don’t know what these folks, were supposed to be doing, but they were obviously ready to frolic.

Obviously.  Not me.  I was going stealth.  I had my board hidden inside my work van, with six ladders on the roof.  Incognito.  BUT first, in order to go surfing on Friday, one day ahead of what might just be a weekend rush from people cooped up anywhere east of the Olympic Peninsula, I had to try to use the best scientific data available to divine that there might be waves on the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  BUT, first, I had to finish a job in Bremerton on Thursday. 

Quite late on Thursday, and it’s an hour home; so tough to get up early enough to drive an hour and twenty-two minutes (on average) and be in the water before the sun comes up at… checking… 5:21 am.  Didn’t make that.  Got there at 7:10, surfed two hours, took a nap in my wetsuit, on a towel, in the reclining passenger seat, went back out in the very small waves for another hour or so, then went shopping at Costco, then Walmart, then QFC.

I do have an explanation for why it is necessary to shop at each of these stores.  I did skip Home Depot and Office Depot, and might have gone into Michael’s if they let people in.  Not yet.

With groceries to put away, and quite tired (not, you say, that it takes maximum energy to tap on a keyboard), and having passed so many recreational vehicles, other surfers, cars and trucks towing boats and trailers with motorcycles, and, of course, motorcycles, and all the folks who come over on a Friday in an attempt to beat those who foolishly wait until Saturday, I got home around 4:20. 

“…foolishly wait until Saturday…”

Okay, you’re right; I could have taken a nap and written a piece on… wait a minute; I did actually write a piece on how people are afraid to dream due to anxiety connected with the whole Covid omni-demic.  I do dream; and I did write about it. 

Although the piece didn’t seem totally appropriate for the Quilcene Community Center Newsletter; here’s a bit of it.  “If dreams are meant to make some sense out of chaos, writing is dreaming; and I write.”

Not necessarily ahead of a deadline.  Be safe, be well, dream fearlessly, and definitely frolic when you get the chance.

Oh, maybe that’s a good message for the White House; “Are we having fun yet?”