Speeding Surf Route 101

It wasn’t an accident that got me a ticket the other day, one hundred and ninety dollar fine for going seventeen miles an hour over the posted speed limit. I got a fucking speeding ticket because I was fucking speeding.

I do have an explanation, but not one that would get my fine reduced in a courtroom. Ya see, Judge; I was just pissed off; corona virus, people out of work, all kinda kooks coming over to the Peninsula, leisure time MFs (if you know what I mean), big trucks hauling bigger trailers and/or boats, cabover campers, and… anyway… oh, and earlier in the day, cruising up surf route 101, three vehicles passed me… me; one on a curve- had to pull over so I didn’t get hit by any shrapnel; I mean; good citizen, huh? Oh. Okay. So, I’m busy thinking about all that, and the stock market, and how black lives matter, and about Russia, China, Hawaii; whether the beaches will open in Mexico; lots on my mind; oh, and it looked like there might be waves the next day and whether I should go to bed as soon as I got home; and, yeah; I get down to 101 at Discovery Bay, over by Fat Smitty’s with his big Trump sign and folks waiting outside; not wearing masks, and I see all this traffic coming at me; so I pull out and I gun it. Now, I know it’s a 1987 Toyota Camry, but, maybe because of a hole in the muffler or something, it sounds like a sports car… and I’m moving along, thinking about the humane society and such, and… yeah, I’m slowing down because I’m catching up with other cars; you know, highway speed; and this car in front of me pulls over, over by West Uncas, in case you’re hep to this chunk of highway; and then, whoa, he pulls back out, lights flashing.

And he’s not really buying my story. “I had you clocked at 72.” “Well; I was slowing down; I wasn’t going to, you know, hit you.” Oh, I’m trying to be nice; figuring it’s all on body cam; and hoping… long story short, shorter; I get the ticket, three options, fifteen days to respond; and I instantly start thinking about how mad Trish is going to be, one, and that the surf will undoubtedly be good the next day because there’s no f’ing way I’m going to get to go.

And, of course, Trish is, mad, and, of course, there is surf, like, maybe knee high, but… but, of course, every person who owns or can borrow a surfboard is on it, and their cousins, and their cousin’s kids, and… anyway; maybe you don’t care about surfing; but, then we’re supposed to go over to our daughter, Dru’s, place in Port Gamble for dinner and a movie… George Takamoto drove the Camry; Trish went on ahead; and, and all I see out Dru’s window, heading east, are rigs with surfboards on ’em… oh, and, yeah; the movie was “Ford vs. Ferrari;” so, of course, there are jokes. “There goes Erwin.” That kinda thing.

No, I’ll probably pay the one hundred and ninety dollars.

HERE’S SOMETHING THAT I will take credit for; though it was an accident. I did a drawing, added a bit too much shading; figured I would redraw it. Because the original was on card stock, I couldn’t just tape it to a clear drawing board and use that as a template for another, hopefully better, version. So, I stuck it in the printer, but the printer ran out of black ink. So, I printed it in color. Everything that had been black came out white. So, I added some more lines and… here it is:

I may use it for my someday-to-be-finished novel, “Swamis.” Incidentally, I did use some of the time in which I would have been driving (too fast, no doubt) to and from the Strait, ripping up waves… whatever, to work on the manuscript. It is coming along. Really.

Strait Solstice Report

It’s drizzling outside. Heavy drizzle. I’ve been working for about two and a half hours on the latest rewrite/edit of “Swamis.” That would be about as long as my last surf session, if one doesn’t count getting into and out of a wetsuit; so, sure, writing session.

The Summer Solstice might mean something different out here on the Olympic Peninsula than it does elsewhere. This area, more specifically the Strait of Juan de Fuca, has become, with my lack of surf travelling, my locale. It’s a strange world where surfers wait for ocean swells to find their way forty, even eighty miles into a narrow (compared to the open seas) opening; and then we hope they, diminished in size by the journey, hit the right beach at the right angle on the best tide, and then become a really good (I am tempted to say ‘righteous’) wave.

Oh, and we’d prefer glassy and uncrowded conditions, and, if it isn’t too much to ask for, a little more size. Huh?

ANYWAY, without going through what I went through to get in my last session (hint- daylight is, like, seventeen hours) within a very narrow window, and without mentioning the number of times I was skunked or near-skunked, I will now pivot to a story from elsewhere and elsewhile:

Shuichi Conces

This is a photo Trish found on Facebook while doing some sort of research after she got a friend request from Don McLean, a guy in my class (1969) at Fallbrook High. Don tried surfing, didn’t stick with it, but his younger brother, Billy, did surf, and did manage to get my other friends and I in trouble on more than one occasion.

In fact, of the two times I spent time in custody of the Police, the second time, for curfew, along with Phillip Harper, Ray Hicks, and Mark Metzger, was almost totally the fault of Billy McLean. I have written about it. I’m not sure if Trish accepted Don’s request.

The first time I was held, for truancy, Shuichi and some other older guy (might have been the other guy in this photo) were with me. I was held, they lied, said they were going to Palomar Junior College, I got to follow the cop in my hand-painted psychedelic 1958 Buick, hang around the Oceanside Police station until my mother, who knew I was headed for a car show in San Diego, and, well, might as well go surfing, came from work to pick me up; me, still dressed in trunks, holding my driver’s license they finally returned to me; oh, and by the way, the only reason they put me in the holding cell was because I was just too nosy, checking out the station, reading stuff coming off the teletype. Criminal. No charges.

That’s pretty much the story, other than my mom did not allow me to continue on to the car show, and she did feel obligated to turn me in, in person, to the school. Detention.

Notoriety. Another story. “Oh, no; they did lock the cell. What? No, an hour, hour and a half. At least.”

The narrator of “Swamis,” Jody DeFreines, is the son of a white father and a Japanese mother. I wrote him as such because, with surfers from the sixties self-identifying as loners and outsiders, I wanted him to be more of both. I was influenced, also, because two of my longtime friends, George Takamoto and Archie Endo, are of Japanese descent.

Oh, but Shuichi is closer to Jody. We (Phil and Ray and I) once rode with him, after school, to El Toro Marine Airfield in Orange County, where his father was stationed. The plan was for him to visit his dad for a while, then we’d surf San Onofre. It seemed to me his relationship with his father was a bit, um, fraught. We waited. He came back. It was too late to surf.

Shuichi was at least one grade ahead of me. Because I made sandwiches for my six siblings and parents, and his mother, evidently, did not, he started buying lunch from me, the proceeds I then used to buy ice cream bars and such. Or gas money. I could make more sandwiches.

He was in my art class. We had a pretty redneck-ish teacher (I took four years of art, not that it shows) who once, because he feared break-ins, actually considered rigging a shotgun over one of the doors. He did, at least, discuss it. Oh, and, this tidbit might transfer somehow to “Swamis,” (changed to mostly male Big Jacket photography students) the regular teacher seemed kind of pervy toward the girls; and most of the students were girls. Artists? Yeah.

At one point we had a substitute teacher, a woman artist from La Jolla, very hip and chic, who said Shuichi should seriously consider, as a career, being a gigolo. I’m not positive she ever gave him this advice. She did tell me, and I was under the impression that she may have had some actual clients in mind. I, of course, did tell him what she suggested. Again, evidently Shuichi was eighteen as a senior, so, almost-sorta-kinda-not so shocking.

It was to me, of course. I don’t know that he didn’t follow that line of work. His latest Facebook posting showed him, fairly recently, getting married; so, I would guess, not for the first time. He still looked good. His work history seems to reflect sales, and representing this company or that, so… good on him.

OKAY, so, like somewhat over an hour on this, this session. Happy solstice to all, no matter how far waves have to travel to get to you; and remember, it’s all downhill now for the next six months.

Simplify, Clarify… Continue

I continue to struggle in completing a publishable version of “Swamis.” Mostly I’m struggling with myself. I respect the opinions of the people who have read part or all of my unexpurgated manuscript. I believe the feedback. Confusing, too many leaps in time; all true.

I AM, HOWEVER, stubborn. My most recent addition to the manuscript is included here, but first; and there may be a connection; here is a drawing I decided is too busy, too overdrawn; just not quite right. SO, I flipped the paper over, traced the outline on the other side.

simplifying is not easy

YOU MAY NOTICE that, included in this passage, is something that came from here, from realsurfers.net. It’s the chaos/dreaming/writing thing; and backs up what is, evidently, my method of writing and speaking; say enough, write enough, something accidently profound might just happen.

PROFOUND. Yeah, it’s my ego. I’ve been humbled by the process; but my goal never was to write a novel, maybe one of a series. ANYWAY, stay safe, stay sane, try not to panic, stay tuned. OH, and, not sure if this passage will make the final cut, and do bear in mind this is (mostly) fiction; here it is:

CHAPTER SEVEN- TUESDAY, JANUARY 21, 2020

I’m sitting in my de facto office, folding table in my mother’s nearly-empty condo, part of what she called the “Great Condo Wall of Del Mar,” looking out at a scarred ocean, rip lines, squall lines, light pollution; gray on gray on gray.  There might be waves, weakly pushing off the ever-refreshed rip rap protecting the ever-eroding bluffs.  Can’t tell.  A dark line halfway to my horizon can appear to be a wave.  It would be a big one.

This is where I am, not where my mind is.

I have to decide right now, at this spot in my latest edit of “Swamis,” if this is a memoir or a mystery.  If it is a mystery, I have so much material to cut, I’ve been advised, to keep from losing the reader.  That’s you.  That’s free will. 

Painful.  I wanted to include little bios of people I ran into, little details, things that would let you, the reader, know that it was real, that I was fucking there.

Does adding the ‘fucking’ make me seem angry?  I am; even though I realize why it makes sense to cut out and condense and to make sure the narrative is, most importantly, clear.

Okay.  Thank you for reading, but here’s the thing:  I’m telling the story.  To you.  I know who I am; what I don’t know, what I have to constantly worry about and wonder about, who I have to adjust my storytelling for, is you.

I don’t know you.

Again, thank you for reading.  If I’m trying not to lose you by burrowing into some peripheral background information on a background character, some wordy journey to another side story that I believe offers some possible explanation as to why I or someone else behaved in a certain way; I will also endeavor to not try to fool you or withhold information in order to create some artificially engineered intrigue.

Still, I will be saving (some of) the unnecessary scenes elsewhere, some other file, like those little plastic things for resealing loaves of bread, hundreds of them, in various colors, that my mother kept in a dedicated drawer and that I threw away; like the notes my father kept from his encounters as a deputy and then a detective; like miscellaneous nuts and bolts kept in jars for some day.  Some day.  Okay.  Move the cursor.  “Cut.”

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?”

F.O.M.V.S.W.W., Disco Bay Back, + Surf-related Stuff

FEAR OF MISSING OUT is heightened when what you’re missing out on, if you surf somewhere with VERY SMALL WAVE WINDOWS, is good surf. That’s probably all I should say, but, of course, I’ll keep ranting on. If you live and die by the forecasts, you’ll probably miss out occasionally. “I could have gone” is a surfer’s lament I’ve sung many times.

Surfing is a gift; having decent or better waves to ride is an extra, a bonus.

Easy to forget.

“SWAMIS” UPDATE: I just got the feedback on my manuscript from a professional writer and editor. I had texted him a while back, after I got some other feedback, to please stop reading. The novel needs a lot more work, and I have been making progress on a massive rewrite. The book doctor claims he didn’t get the text, and completed the editing, with commentary and a full-page overview.

I should, first, say that when I asked the unnamed writer/editor to read something from “Swamis,” quite a while back, he said he’d read it when it was completed. Meaning, not before; not the feedback on my writing style I wanted. Okay. SLOW-FORWARD to when I thought “Swamis” was complete enough to get a copyright.

“This might take a while,” he said. And it did.

Because I had given him a thumb drive, I had to wait a couple of days before I could retrieve it. Anxious days. When I stopped off to pick it up, he declined to tell me much. Like a written work, the review/edit would speak for itself. “I can’t believe you actually read the whole thing,” I said. “The reason I did is because I said I would. The reason I agreed to read and review it is because I never thought you’d finish it.”

Obviously I haven’t.

“Take a week,” he said, “cry, get mad, hate me, whatever, then go back to writing.”

I’m pretty sure it’s been a week and I’ve devoted a lot of my thinking time to figuring out how to make “Swamis” work. The good news is I have already deleted a lot of the parts he thought, rightfully, were deletion-worthy, off-topic, not contributing to the story.

AND, his comments were all accurate.

HOWEVER, he seemed to, from the beginning, keep asking why Jody wasn’t more focused on finding out who killed his father than on who killed Chulo. I have an explanation for that.

ALL THANKS for the help and feedback from the (so far) unnamed professional and the others who have read part or all of the UNEXPURGATED VERSION. Believe me, I’m expurgating the shit out of it.

TYLER MEEKS’ DISCO BAY OUTDOOR EXCHANGE is back OPEN. I’m not sure what the hours are, but if you’re passing by and it’s open, stop in.

I’ve been trying to do a few more illustrations for “Swamis,” particularly of characters. This drawing came from a small photo in the back of an old “Surfers’ Journal.” I drew it once; pencil and pen, used that version to do this simpler, cleaner one; then did a third. Too dark. The original photo was from the 1970s, and was of… I probably shouldn’t say.

MEANWHILE, if you just found out some surfer who went looking for waves just because it fit into his schedule, and scored; try to get over it. Cry, hate him… just take a week and… try to get over it. BETTER YET, get even.

Surf Movies, Hoover High

I just cut another mini-chapter in what I’m calling the ‘massive edit’ of “Swamis.” I’ve passed page 200 of what was 300, and I am, for better or more better, adding words in some places while I cut in others.

As such, I added a couple hundred words to a part on the real life swell of December, 1969. There should be surfing in a surf novel, and, although it’s not a ‘Big Wednesday’ climax, it’s not just background, either.

First, here’s a pencil and pen drawing:

I am trying to capture a certain feel- working on it

Before I get to the outtake, I could explain where it came from. I never attended a surf movie alone (or any movie at any theater or high school gym, or went to any sit-down restaurant), but I also never went with my surfing friends. I first saw “Endless Summer” with my mom and sister. I went to a movie at Hoover High with Emily, my chemistry lab partner. I was supposed to drive down in my Morris Minor, but it was, as it frequently was, broken down, so Emily and I got to get dropped off by my parents, on a date of their own. Dropped off. Embarrassing.

I went with Trish, but, for some reason (probably the broken car, again) we got to ride with my sister and her boyfriend, Alan, who might have passed for a surfer if he hadn’t, the very day, shaved off his mustache. Trish looked good, might have acted as if she enjoyed the movie. The embarrassment increased when we, as was the custom, stopped at the Carnation ice cream place. It was some time in 1969, I was a senior at Fallbrook High, and had competed for a second time in the KGB/Windansea high school surf contest. Thor Svenson, president of the Windansea Surf Club, and some members, came into the restaurant and, maybe it was my startled expression rather than Mr. Svenson actually recognizing me, but he nodded, and I nodded, me sitting in a booth with more-chic-than-necessary Trish, my sister, Suellen, and her farmboy-looking date.

I survived, and did push Trish into a couple more outings, one at Mira-Costa Junior College, closer to home; and at least one at the local Junior High in Pacific Beach, after we got married and moved there.

But, to explain where this outtake came from, a girl whose Navy doctor father had just been transferred from Virginia came to Fallbrook, mid-term, 1968, and took a seat across from me in English class. We talked surfing, I said I’d show her around, and we went, that very day, after school. I discovered, after we went to the Surfboards by Heck (it’s still mentioned in “Swamis”), that she wasn’t really interested in actually surfing. Because I was her first date in Fallbrook, probably, and because I… because I was me; Phil or Ray, or Phil and Ray called me up to see how it went. “Hey,” my father said, walking past; “A man doesn’t talk about what happens on a date.” “Nothing happened,” my mom said; “I’m sure nothing, nothing happened.” She was right, of course; other than, as mentioned, the girl figuring out I might be a real surfer, but I wasn’t even or even close enough to her on the social status scale. Fine. Different scales.

Here’s the piece:

SURF MOVIE- HOOVER HIGH- SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 21, 1968

This was all kind of normal at surf movies, sixteen-millimeter productions shown at high schools and rented theaters, even after “Endless Summer” had made the leap to the big screen.  I had attended a few, Hoover High in San Diego; fifty miles from Fallbrook and at least fifteen miles from the ocean.

This time I was with, rather than one or two of my friends, a date; a girl from my History class, who’d just moved to Fallbrook from Hawaii, said she surfed and would love to go to a surf movie.  I discovered she wasn’t really a surfer by the time I showed her the third or fourth surf spot (Grandview or Beacons, both looking pretty good) on the way down.  She discerned I probably wasn’t in with the rich or popular kids before we got to Windansea.  I drove back on 395.  Closer.  “Fun,” she said.  “Yeah,” I said.  “See you.”  It wasn’t long before she started dating a rich popular kid and I became her “I was new in town” story.

Still, I had enjoyed the movie.  I always enjoyed the scene; surfers hooting, laughing, making that sort of whooshing sound for a slow-motion ride; or being reverently silent; all in unison, all at the appropriate times.  And, even if she wasn’t an actual girlfriend, it was a date; she was pretty cute. She did look like a surfer.

Surf when you can, stay safe, see you around.

Vivid Covid Dreams

Maybe this piece is self-explanatory. Anxiety has hit us like a, um, wave; enough so that I was just thinking, yesterday, trying, as always, not to panic (in this case I was about twenty-five feet up on a ladder stuck, improperly at a bit of a left-of-straight angle that allowed me to, hopefully, paint trim up on a roof- it worked), that maybe being manic-depressive is normal.

NORMAL. Moments of bliss are, yeah, moments; and, while most of life is just kind of a glide, maybe a bit of an uphill grind, there are moments where things would cause just about anyone to… to be rightfully depressed.

MOMENTS, only, hopefully. It’s not that I’ve been more depressed than anxious, but I have been waiting to use some of my manic-ness on some waves. SOON.

I did do a video reading of this piece, tried to send it to Keith Darrock, PT ripper and librarian. I’m scheduled to do a ZOOM thing in August, connected with my novel, “SWAMIS” and I thought this might be a sort of prelude. BUT, e-mailing videos, I’ve discovered, is actually kind of tricky.

I am considering UPGRADING MY WORDPRESS ACCOUNT. This would get rid of pesky ads (for which I receive no compensation), and might allow me to post occasional videos. WE’LL SEE.

                Not Out, Just Put Away

In these anxious times, I have heard and read that many are afraid to dream while others have wild, vivid, Corona fever dreams, even without the fever.  Last night’s dream was, then, one of those, and I am writing about it before it fades into the early morning drizzle.

Write, because that’s what I do; that’s how I cope.  Whatever trauma or drama is going on, I can and mostly do think of it as part of some bigger narrative.  If dreams are meant to make some sense out of chaos… writing is dreaming; and I write.

It is, quite obviously, some sort of party.  People in nice clothes; some women in dresses, some men in sports coats.  It is one of those large rooms with a high ceiling on one side and a loft on the other, view of the water through the two-story bank of windows, sliding doors open to a deck.  Weekend cabin, second home along the Canal.  I’ve painted many through the years.  There is a large countertop toward one end of the great room, food spread out.  Party food.  Trays- cheeses and crackers, various.  Casserole dishes- various.  Three bottles of wine with interesting labels- open, glasses adjacent.  Sparkling sodas and colas in a cooler to the side; plastic cups on a corner of the counter.  Real plates, real silverware.

So, not a potluck, but guests, as is proper, have brought side dishes, bottles of wine with interesting labels.

This dream is all taking place from my point of view (POV), my perspective.  Of course.  Dreams.  I’m on one side of the room, scraping the last of some sort of dip onto my last cracker.  Not guacamole.  It might be red, though Trish claims men don’t dream in color, and, though I’d prefer her to be wrong; she is almost surely correct.  Still, I’m saying red; and there’s enough dip left that I consider either getting more crackers or scooping it up with one side of a finger.

Manners.  Leave it.

Trish isn’t here.  No, it must be one of those events where I will almost surely do something, say something embarrassing; me with my loud voice and big gestures.  She has obviously sent our daughter, Dru, in her place.  For some reason, our friend George, who avoids potentially awkward social situations more often (and less apologetically) than Trish, is here, more leaning than sitting on the edge of an overstuffed chair.

I start to say something to Dru about how soon we can leave when two men approach me.

This is the setup part: “I hear you’re a writer,” one of them says.  He is quite a distinguished looking fellow, and the statement is made without the condescension my reaction to it might suggest.

“Who would have told you that?”

This is when Dru moves away and I’m faced with two faces, my POV moving between them.  There is some sort of writing competition they are both aware of, submission deadline this very evening, and maybe I should consider entering.  At the least, they would be interested in hearing about what I write.

Here is the analysis part: I’m writing a novel.  Yeah.  And?  And when I’d written enough to get to an actual ending, I edited it, completely, first line to ‘The End.’  Then, so excited, so sure it was the genius work of a genius; I sent it out to several people to read.

This is when someone crazy enough to consider him or herself a writer gets truly crazy.  Out of his or her control, the manuscript must face the world on its own.  Waiting.  Waiting. 

Waiting for someone else’s assessment.

You only get one chance at a first impression.  I had overshot, overthought, overdone; and, as I feared, as I probably knew, early feedback made it obvious that I need to seriously edit the work; ruthlessly cut out so many of the peripherals, clarify the changes in time and place, simplify… it became obvious my manuscript might not actually be the genius work of a genius writer.

So, okay; I’m working on it; two-thirds of the way to the end; again.  But, doctors, counselors, friends, readers; now that I have eighteen point headings for chapters, fourteen point subheadings; now that I have moved whole blocks of words to where they should be, chronologically; now that I have deleted thirteen thousand or so words out of one hundred and twenty-three thousand; the tension now, the anxiety, in addition to all the other anxieties of real life, is this: Publishing, selling, getting the novel sold, published, out there.

Out there.

I must have said something abrasive and offensive and off-putting; the distinguished gentlemen are now at the far end of the room, leaning on the wall near the stairway to the loft.  George asks a question of the woman who, evidently, owns the house.  “I invited you over many times,” she says.

“Okay,” I say, full room voice, “I have songs, and a few poems, and short stories, and a couple of screenplays, and… don’t know where the other one is… two almost complete novels; so, now what?”

They don’t seem to have heard me.   Dru walks between me and them.  She gives me a look I know to mean I didn’t handle this well, and, additionally, I have just provided another story to share with her mother.  Proof. 

Time break.  I’m looking at the food on the counter.  The casserole dishes have lids or are covered in saran wrap, contents of the two-thirds-full dishes visible.  “I never got a chance at the real food,” I say.

“They’re not out of food,” Dru says, “It’s just put away.”

The woman who spoke to George appears.  She peels back one corner on a dish.  Noodles and cheese, the cheese on the top seared perfectly, only a few holes dug into the glaze.  There also might be green beans.  I’d guess green.  The homeowner looks over at the distinguished gentlemen.  “Good thing I didn’t say anything,” she says, “my daughter’s a writer and…”

“Oh,” I ask, “What kind of thing does she write?”

Dream’s gone.  I spent time I could have used on my manuscript.  Still, I have to get ready; get to Costco before the best selection of meat is gone.

Stay safe, stay sane, avoid panicking when you can, stay tuned.

Jesus from “Swamis” and Outtake on Lawyers and Liars

Trisha’s nephew, and, I guess, mine, by marriage, DYLAN SCOTT, just graduated from UCLA law school, remotely. Congratulations, Dylan. He surfs. I only surfed with him once, years ago, La Jolla Shores. It was summer, small; the waves, in my memory, were kind of a brownish color. The Diva surf school had just left the water, meaning the water was left with still way too many surfers, some of whom (one middle-aged guy in particular) looked like they would cut your throat for a chance at a knee-high closeout.

I felt perfectly justified in blocking a few bobbers out so Dylan could get a few more rides. Then again, I’ve always been a little on the sociopathic side; might have made a good attorney.

I should add that Dylan’s brother, Carson, is in Law School, Harvard; and that their mother, Greer is a judge in the state of California; SO their being part of the mix only elevates the profession.

It might become apparent that I have some negative feelings about attorneys; I insist that this has nothing to do with Greer, Carson, or Dylan; but has been developed, over time, by the lawyers I have worked for and the one time, work related, I had to hire one. I sued; they sued, I got no compensation, they offered to drop their case if I dropped mine; my only solace was that their lawyers cost way way more than mine.

My line on the subject, “Once it gets bad enough that lawyers are involved, no one wins… except the Lawyers.”

One of my clients, not a lawyer, told me writers sometimes try to get even with past wrongs through their writing. “Not an accusation,” he insisted. ANYWAY, the “Sideslipping” outtake from “Swamis” was meant to mean a bit more when Jody (spoiler) becomes one.

“Meant to mean.” Can’t believe I just wrote that.

BUT FIRST, here’s an illustration, meant to be the graphic from the side of Portia’s ‘Jesus Saves’ bus:

LAWYERS AND LIARS

Since I now have had to back-peddle to get to the meeting Jumper and I had with Dickson and Wendell, I probably should update a few other things.  Writing a book isn’t, I’m discovering, like building a case; it’s not collecting all the little incidents and data, all the witness accounts, getting all the dates right.  It’s the attorneys I was told, over and over again, by the attorneys, the attorneys who create the narrative.

I argued this, of course.  This was my line: “Oh, so who figures out the who in the whodunnit?”

Lawyers.  My mother never could pronounce the word correctly.  At her best, it sounded like ‘Wah-yers’ or ‘Liars.’  “Close enough,” my father would say.  He was from West Virginia, originally; coal country; and ‘lawyers’ always sounded like ‘liars’ when he said it.

That sounded about right to me.

There have been few attorneys I’ve ever actually liked.  I might have liked more Public Defenders than Prosecutors.  All attorneys, of course, sold their souls to even get into law school; but, while some (the ones I liked better) of the defense attorneys were loose and hip; sarcastic, with an ‘Oh, yeah; so prove it’ attitude; many of the prosecutors (the ones I hated most) were consistently sullen and sardonic (sarcasm with the underlying pain a bit obvious); and seemed to feel trapped in civil service jobs where kissing ass was (I have testimony to back this up) much more important than actual success.

The most ruthless prosecutors, I have witnessed, had, at one time, been the most idealistic defense attorneys.  The most moral-less, shameless, anything-to-win defense attorneys had been… well; they were the ones who realized they hadn’t merely whored-out their souls; they had lost them.

However, I hold my highest disdain (I should say all out hatred and disgust) for those smug and arrogant defenders of rich clients.  Sit across from one of those ‘late for a golf date’ motherfuckers a few times, their ‘mom’s boy would never do such a thing’ client so upset at how he is the one being victimized; and try to maintain some level of professional restraint.

No, really. 

And, I have seen how effective even the idea (or threat) of a real-money-backed defense can be; seen the glee in the (private practice, big office and salary) attorney’s eyes when he saw the anger in mine. Bear in mind I have also seen the victims, the fear and sorrow, the damage done; permanent damage; and that damage would only be increased with the eventual realization that justice will probably not be served- sorry; so sorry; and, and, and, and…

Some level of professional restraint.

It’s funny, to me, how every time I want to cry; I’m far more likely to laugh.

..lll

“Oceanside and Imperial Beach” Outtakes from “Swamis”

Mostly because I don’t want to ask people to be my friend, don’t want to be turned down, I don’t follow Facebook. I do have a page; would have to look up my password. Stuff from realsurfers does go there, but if you sent me a friend request, it’s not rudeness or anything personal; I just haven’t checked.

Trish, however, does have a big Facebook life. Wait, does that sound, um, like something that might be (mis)construed as a putdown? I don’t mean it that way, partially Trish monitors and assists in administering the site our daughter, Dru, set up, “I’ve heard of Quilcene.”

Shit gets out of hand on a pretty regular basis on a site meant to do things like report bear and/or cougar sightings (no, they aren’t usually cruising surf route 101 and the Olympic foothills together), lost and found dogs, such things; but, with a population of somewhere around 500, the site has many many more members, and some of them can’t help but get personal. Or political. Or both.

Trish will, if I’m around while she’s checking out Facebook, give me the ‘you have to see this,’ or, more frequently, she’ll just start laughing and I’ll have to switch out my glasses and check it out.

This is the first time I’ve saved something, and, don’t misconstrue the reason I think it’s so hilarious. It’s mean. I figure it’s just the way folks down south go to the beach.

yeah, it’s mean.

Sorry. Couldn’t help it. Here’s another outtake from “Swamis.” I’ve become increasingly ruthless as I’ve gone through the massive edit. I do have a plan for what I’m collecting/saving under the title “Sideslipping.” Later.

This is fiction. Here’s where some of it came from: I worked in Oceanside, Buddy’s Sign Service, immediately after graduating from high school, 1969. The shop was one block from the in-city segment of 101, two blocks from the Greyhound Bus Depot (two blocks and railroad tracks from the water, two blocks to the pier). Rough neighborhood.

When I went to work painting for the Navy, Civil Service, I ran into Cliff Bridge, nicknamed “The Preacher.” When other WWII vets tried to give him a hard time after his admission that his battle station was a locker, he said, “I was on a landing craft on D-Day.” Shut them up.

As far as the Imperial Beach story; I did get a chance (which I enjoyed) to paint a sixty-five foot angle iron construction tower when one of the two guys sent out dropped two pails of paint on the first day, called in sick the second. No one died, but I did see the Tijuana Sloughs going off with perfect offshore wind conditions. No, didn’t go out. Working. Scared? Maybe. The guy who later killed himself is taken from what I heard about a guy who bullied me when I was in high school.

Fiction; me taking something, rolling it in batter and deep-frying it. Kind of like a corndog.

OCEANSIDE AND IMPERIAL BEACH  

Oceanside was labeled a ‘Marine Corps town,’ a pretty rough place in the 1960s; all the rougher as the Vietnam War ramped up.  A succession of Camp Pendleton Commanders had threatened to not allow Marines to go to Oceanside on leave, particularly downtown.  Downtown was pretty much the section where 101 (with differing names up and down the coast) intersected with Mission Boulevard, the route east.  Follow it for twenty miles, you’d be in Fallbrook.

The Downtown section featured record stores and tattoo parlors and the cheap-credit-for-cheap- jewelry jewelry stores (‘a little sparkle for your girl back home,’), the pier, the beach, the stations for the railway and Greyhound Bus. It also featured the hawkers and the greasy spoon restaurants and the places lonely guys with very short hair, their faces and heads and necks (Leathernecks was a nickname from World War II) sunburned below where their hats (‘lids’ in Marine Corps-speak) had covered them during boot camp; teenagers who weren’t old enough to vote or go to bars, could hang out, try to act like civilians, and fail, before being shipped out.

And, evidently, Oceanside had reasonably priced hookers.

Oceanside.  Along with Imperial Beach, on the border with Tijuana, those two areas had the lowest-priced beach front real estate on the Southern California coast.  Both places had piers, both had consistent waves.  The Tijuana Sloughs were exotic, dangerous, legendary, with stories of lost boards ending up in Mexico, for rips and fog and for big waves.  A four-foot day at I.B. Pier turns into eight foot a mile to the south, on the border; with sneaker sets appearing on the horizon.  The only thing, I was told by a guy who surfed the Sloughs, scarier than getting caught inside by a set, was being outside, drifting south and out to sea.

A SPARKLE

I never surfed Imperial Beach; did see it while on a case that took me to the Navy’s Ream Field, a helicopter base that was constantly threatened with being phased out and shut down.  Ream Field was near the water, on very flat land.  Known as much for wind and fog as waves, in February of 1976 a Santana was working, and, from the hanger where some Civil Service worker had fallen, or was murdered, while painting a lighting tower; I could see the tops of waves, backblown spray, even from the ground.

After climbing the sixty-five-foot tower, however, I could see from the pier to, maybe, Ensenada.  The cleanness of the scene hid the riptides and put a sparkle on the polluted water. 

“Yeah, I hated the fucker,” the surviving painter said, “he just didn’t get his safety belt hooked-in… missed it.  Nothing I could do.”

Since I’ve already gone too far here, I might as well add that the accused painter had been involved in the D-Day invasion.  An eighteen-year-old Seaman Apprentice, originally from Oklahoma, “but on the Kansas border,” he was issued a forty-five and assigned to a landing craft.  “And, if anyone refused to get out; I was to shoot them.  Those were my orders.”

An embittered, divorced, alcoholic chain-smoker, he wasn’t a particularly sympathetic character.  The D-Day story was quite helpful.  “I never had to kill nobody,” he said; “They all just… went.” 

“He never killed anyone,” I said.  The dead painter’s family decided not to pursue him but continued their suit against the Navy Public Works Center.  They may have received some sort of compensation.  That was no longer my case.  The surviving painter, a few years later, in some trailer out in East County, Descanso, I think, shot himself.

SLAUGHTER ALLEY was the nickname for Highway 101 between San Clemente and Oceanside, the eighteen- mile portion that went across Camp Pendleton.  There were only guardrails between the north and southbound lanes, but bloody accidents were quite common.  My mother kept track, said, if I was going to San Onofre, even if riding with someone else, I’d better go across the base.  I usually did.  I-5 was connected by 1969, and the name faded.  

“Surf’s Up” and Other Stuff from “Sideslipping”

DESPERATELY SEEKING SALINE. Hey, it’s been too long between swells, too long since we got out there. YouTube videos just don’t replace being out there, in the water. Paddling isn’t the same as surfing. My standard line is, “If there weren’t waves you couldn’t get me into this (Strait of Juan de Fuca is colder than the actual ocean on the Olympic Peninsula) water; if there are waves, you couldn’t keep me out.”

Despite that, my most recent attempt at finding a place where one is allowed to surf and there were actually waves found me paddling, paddling, paddling. NOW, I frequently ride pretty small waves, and always say it’s practice for when larger waves show up. Not that time; but I did practice the standup part of standup surfing. Fun. Practice. Sarcasm.

I WANT WAVES.

Meanwhile, I am making some progress in my bigtime edit of “SWAMIS.” It’s way easier on the reader; chapters clearly identified, almost all the stuff related to the current/older Joseph DeFreines, Jr. cut completely. I am saving the longer cut scenes/chapters as “Sideslipping,” now up to about forty pages with about half the manuscript left to work on. Oddly, because I’ve moved chapters around and added some stuff, the actual word count has not dropped to the same place. Still, I’m hoping to get it all to around one hundred thousand words.

TO SET UP THIS CUT, Jody (Joe DeFreines, Jr.) is typing/editing a piece Jumper Hayes wrote for a creative writing class at Jumper’s house when Jumper’s parents come home. Part of one of my conceits in the story is that almost every character is part this and part that; Jody is half Japanese, Jumper’s father is a descendant of the original Spanish conquerors/settlers; and California is as mixed a melting pot as, really, almost anywhere.

MEXICAN INFLECTION

‘Mexican inflection?’ I wouldn’t have meant this in any derogatory way, necessarily; but, if there is a California inflection; it comes from the mixture of Spanish and everyone else who came here; pathfinders and cowboys and gold seekers and Oakies, post-war migrants like my parents, and, I guess, me.  One cannot deny the Mexican influence, flattened and foreshortened by all the rest of us.

And then there’s the black and gay influence: Words and phrasing and phrases; how we thought gays and black people talked, exaggerated, co-opted, stirred into the California lexicon, the California dialect, the California inflection.

Still, the Mexican influence cannot be denied.

Surfers, of course, had to be a bit different; speak with a different rhythm, introduce new words.  You know the words.  The attitude, the surfer attitude, is probably more your idea than reality, exaggerated and perverted and spread by TV and movies and advertisers.

Sure. Surfing is sexy, coolness illustrated; pirate/rebels washed clean.

Coolness, hipness; we adapt our lives, change our speech patterns, make different choices in clothing and music and attitude as we discover new, and, if not better, more modern things, newer new things; trends, fashions.

The very word, fashion, describes its temporary nature.  Subtext.  That fashion goes in and out is given to the user of the word for free.

We steal, borrow, incorporate.  The strands are pretty obvious; like blues to jazz, blues to rock and roll, blues coopted by popular AM music.  If you were born in the 1950s, you heard Sinatra and Chuck Berry on the same AM station; experienced the Beatles, then Dylan.  No, you probably got Dylan through Dylan covers, Peter Paul and Mary, the Byrds; then Dylan, then… whatever was fashionable.  Temporary.

THE REAL DYLAN

We, my Fallbrook contemporaries, suburban teenage males, isolated from the big cities, behind the times; we were Doors fans.  Of course.  My friends bought the albums.  Garage bands played extended versions of ‘Light My Fire’ at sock hops and VFW dances.  When tape players came out, some of my friends had them installed in the cars their parents handed down to them.  Or bought for them.  Four trac, then 8; Three Dog Night and Jimi Hendrix.

Somehow, I held on to the songs from the 78s my parents owned, surprisingly varied, with jazz, husband and wife duos, black torch singers, Nat King Cole.  I remembered tunes from musicals in my mom’s LP stash, “Oklahoma” and “South Pacific.”  They had LPs, 33 1/3rd, Johnny Mathis and The Everly Brothers.  I didn’t want doo wop or bubblegum pop, I wanted to hear the real Dylan.  Dylan was in the magazines, angry young man, voice of a generation; why wasn’t he on the radio?

Dylan was certainly not on KCPQ, the station my friends in Junior High went on about.  KCPQ advertised pimple cream and played Beatle songs for portable radios, songs sung in the hallways by hormone-strained voices, guys suddenly affecting English accents.  There were sanitized versions of Dylan; but no Dylan.  I didn’t want more Chad and Jeremy, more Herman’s Hermits.

Someone dropped a clue, something heard by overhearing an older brother.  There was a station from San Diego, KPRI, FM (for god’s sake), that played whole albums; radical, underground music.  I could barely get it, but I tried, over in the corner of my bedroom, while I studied, wrote; edited and typed-up other people’s term papers (for a fee); another detached, isolated, suburban (almost rural, really) teenager.

KPRI, as close to tuned in as I could get it, still had that grainy, scratchy, ringing-in-the-ear background.  I tried.  I persisted.  I listened.  That it was difficult to tune into made it better.  Way better.  FM, for god’s sake.

SURF’S UP

Channel 9, from Santa Barbara, was a similar, hard-to-tune-in mystery.  With Ray on the roof moving the antenna, Phillip at the window, and me at the TV set, we tried to get “Surf’s Up.”  It was listed in the Fallbrook-specific TV Guide; and, at best, we almost saw, or barely saw, some footage of Trestles, a legendary break, peeling.  The only audio we could hear was, “peeling like a washing machine.”

That barely-there-ness only added to the appropriateness.  “Peeling like a washing machine” became, briefly, our phrase for a perfect wave on an imperfect day.  Rare, peeling…

“We’re going,” the slow-speaking voice (opposite of am radio) of a possibly-stoned KPRI disc jockey would say, “to go in the back room and get our heads together (background chuckles); so, here’s Dylan’s “John Wesley Harding.”  Sound of inhalation, extended version.

Appropriate.  Black-and-white, scratchy-grainy TV, whispered songs with tinnitus backgrounds.

When I got my first tape player, 4 plus 4, capable of playing four and eight trac tapes; and stolen, as previously mentioned, traded for fifteen bucks and some homemade sandwiches (and a promise for more) in the school parking lot, installed (rather, wired) by a guy (can’t remember his name) who told me I, my dad being an asshole and a cop and all, should have known it was stolen.   I bought some on-sale tapes at the Buy-and-Save market: Laura Nyro, Leonard Cohen, “Aerial Ballet” by Harry Nilsson.

“What’s that shit?” One of my friends would ask.

“Good music,” I would say.

Yeah, I had some Doors, Hendrix; often wondered if I really liked them more than the Moody Blues. When Led Zeppelin came out, I just avoided it.  Or tried.  Orgasmic rock.  All these years later, KPRI is probably sports or talk or playing new age country/western, and there is no classic or hardrock station that can go an hour without playing something from Led Zep.

Orgasmic rock I called it.  Hated Led Zeppelin, but I still know most of their songs.

Somewhere in those years, I lost my California coastal accent.  Or, maybe I just thought I had.  It comes back sometimes.   “Oh, I see; you don’t like avo-caaa-do.” 

STAY SAFE, and watch out next time you see me. I may have been practicing.