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.     

Ginny and Joey in the Photo Lab

I’ve known for a while I might have to cut part of this chapter. Because I wrote myself into a bit of a corner by having the chapters of “SWAMIS” coincide with particular days, the chapter covering this day, with sub-chapters given letter headings, was up to “M” or so. I kind of liked the idea that both Joey and Ginny had been snobbish and/or cruel to other students they went to high school with, and this gave them a chance to do some small amount of karmic redemption.

I’ll save any other explanation for future therapy sessions, but, briefly, this is just after Virginia Cole and Joseph DeFreines, Jr. get busted making out in the photo lab. OH, and there is a setup mentioning how a Southern California Santana condition can end with a giant wave of thick fog coming off the ocean. OKAY, now you’re ready:

M…

Ginny and I were passing the Student Union. There were twenty-five or thirty colorfully dressed potential marchers, butcher paper signs protesting the war being painted, cardboard placards painted and nailed on sticks and leaned in stacks. 

Among those milling about was Alexander.

“Alexander,” I said, looking just for a second in his direction.  “He’s a guy I always thought, even though he took lunch in the chemistry lab, was, um, not that smart.”   Alexander was carrying a briefcase and sporting a goatee, a French baret, a tweed sport coat with elbow patches over a day-glow t shirt. 

Ginny stopped.  I stopped.  “He looks smart enough.  Activist.  That’s good.”

“Yeah.  I think these are the same kids who were decorating and moving chairs and tables for high school dances; and now… junior college activists.”

“What did you do?  Dances?”  A moment later.  “Oh, you just didn’t go.”

“No.  I did have to spend some lunch time in the chemistry lab, cleaning all the desks.  I was busted drawing on one in English and the word got around.  Teachers.  My biggest fear was that I fit in too well with Alexander and his friends, hiding out in the sulfur-smelling safety of the chem lab.  They seemed to think… they laughed at everything I said.  They seemed to believe I, like them, didn’t actually fit in with the ‘normals’.”

“Probably not.”  Ginny pushed hair back out of my face.  “I, um; I danced.”

“Of course.”

Alexander saw me.  Or maybe it’s that he saw me with Virginia Cole.  “Hey,” he said, “DeFreines.  One; what the fuck (he was obviously just getting used to using the word) are you (emphasis on the ‘you’), Brain DeFreines, doing at Palomar?  Two; are you still into that surfing thing?”  He did a kook surf pose, the briefcase in his lower hand.  “And, three…”

“Three; how’d I get to walk around here with such a fine looking… young woman?”

“Bingo,” he said, head nodding, eyes on Ginny.  “Al.  Name’s Al.”  He switched hands on the briefcase, offered his right hand.  “Al Weston; Palomar Peace Initiative, and, and I am passionate about peace.”

Ginny took his hand, said, “Gin, short for Virginia.”  She dropped his hand, grabbed mine, did an exact replica of Alexander’s surf pose, my hand replacing the briefcase, and said, “Surfers; they’re so… sexy.”

“Obviously, then; you must surf.”

“She does.  Obviously.  Look, Alexander; you’re… (gesturing to include the gathering protesters) really into… all this.  Activist.  Good.  Good work.”

“Cynthia,” Ginny suddenly almost shouted at one of the young women painting signs.  “Cynthia!  Come here.”  Cynthia, who looked like she was about as close to Ginny, social clique-wise, as Alexander was to me; gave a half smile and approached us.  A bit chunky, Cynthia was wearing painters’ coveralls that, probably, didn’t help, chunkiness-wise; with a few bits of paint showing and one strap undone.  Cynthia had a red bandana around her neck, another, for some reason, around one thigh, and because the collar of the paint-splattered brown t-shirt she was wearing was stretched and loose, a bit of cleavage was showing.

“You know Alexander here, Cynthia?  Al?”  Cynthia looked up at him, he at her.  “He’s, yes, from Fallbrook; but he’s so passionate about peace.”

“You are?”

“I am.”

Passionate.

“I’m, um, painting some signs.  Over there.”  Cynthia pointed to a group of tables with more young women than young men.  Al Weston made a fist, looked at Cynthia, looked at Virginia Cole, looked back at Cynthia, then back at me.  “Gotta go, Brain.  Peace.”

“Yeah.”

Alexander and Cynthia practically skipped toward their fellow activists.  “I was, uh, very mean to Cynthia,” Ginny said.  Once.  Only once.  She got even with me.  If you saw the yearbook photos of me…”

Ginny made the ugliest expression she was capable of, pushing her nose down, crossing her eyes.  Still beautiful.

“If I hadn’t gotten into surfing, I’d probably be one of them,” I said.

Ginny looked at Cynthia and Alexander, back at me.  She rubbed her own chin, then mine.  Yes, I was trying, quite diligently, to grow some whiskers.  It wasn’t really working.  Peach fuzz, even that splotchy.  “I can see that, Brain DeFreines.”

Ginny started to unbutton her sweater, looked at me when one side was off her shoulder, whispered, “Skin,” pulled it back together, buttoned two buttons, and kissed me.  Once on the cheek.  She looked at the other students, the cooler ones, the ones only watching the protesters; then back at me.  She kissed me again, on the mouth. 

I was kind of happy she wasn’t better at kissing.  Better than me, of course.  I leaned in, my hand on her arm this time.  She didn’t move away. “For practice, Ginny,” I said as the wave of fog rolled over us, turning everything gray.  I said “Ginny” again, for practice.

“Joey,” she said.

YEAH, I have a better ending for the way shorter version; for the book. “Swamis.”

AND, incidentally, I’m not sure what to call it when you wait around for the right tide, get your wetsuit on because there are some weak waves, paddle out and… nothing. I guess it’s called PRACTICE. No, that’s what I call riding really small waves. PADDLING. Yeah. Not nearly as much fun as surfing.

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.

Waves: Enough is Never Enough

I checked with Chimacum Timacum to see if the quote and the story behind it were correct. CONFIRMED. Yes, he had witnessed Keith’s ride from the perfect vantage point, on the shoulder, looking into the oncoming wave. Keith did, indeed, backdoor the peak, did get tube time, did come flying out with the mental wherewithal to add a few swoops into the mix.

SO, then Tim got a ride (no doubt pretty good to amazing). Because of the pervasive rip, they are both walking back up to the point. Tim catches up, possibly taps Keith on the shoulder and… here’s the QUOTE: “Wasn’t that enough for you?”

This is actually another Big Island shot from Stephen R. Davis

I won’t keep you in suspense. No; not enough. It’s not just Keith who can’t get enough waves, but, yeah, it is Keith. I get it. I understand how, while getting a few mediocre rides will cause any real surfer to keep going until he or she gets a pretty good ride on a really good wave, or a really good ride on a pretty good wave, or even a really good ride on a shitty-ish wave; getting a really good ride on a really good wave will not necessarily cause him or her to say, “Yes, Tim, that was as good as I can hope for during this particular session, and I believe I will now go home.”

NO. Especially not Keith. Even without factoring in that Tim might get an even better wave, possibly from deeper, or that Tim might… NO, enough is rarely enough.

I have noticed that supposedly surfed-out surfers can suddenly spring back to life and compete fiercely for waves when… No it isn’t just when I go out, late in the latest swell window, but, yeah then. And I have been on the other side of that; back out for just a couple more because Chris Erdley missed my best rides, and, hey, I can still make it to Costco before it closes.

ALSO in my cell phone conversation with Tim, we discussed, as surfers do, past sessions. As you, as an avid reader of realsurfers, are aware, I have been ready to break my resolution to not surf until I have my submission package for “Swamis” ready to go. NO, I actually said I would have to have the novel’s third or twentieth polish/edit done. Backtracking. WELL, now I’m almost there on the submission, and totally desperate to get in the water. I’d be stoked,, rocks and boils and chop and all, to surf something like the wave in the photo, and, after twenty or thirty rides, I would be ready to… no, I pretty much stay until the waves go away for any one of several known reasons, I break a fin, or I just have to get somewhere else (not always Costco) and I’ve run out of time.

AND, HEY, what do you do when your first ride in a session is quite possibly going to be your best?

Keep surfing!

But, if you do happen to see me paddling out, please bear in mind I’m kind of… hungry. Next time, something on ADAM WIPEOUT that isn’t actually about that one wipeout I keep promising to write about.

Put Me on the Witness List

There have been only two times in my life that I have watched the television all day long. This shouldn’t be a tough guess: 9/11/2001 and 01/06/21. So, with the impeachment of the titular head of the Trump Insurrection continuing today in the U.S. Senate; the result has been pre-determined by minds pre-set or programed to set aside the duties assigned any and all elected representatives of us, of we the people.

Again, not a tough guess; you know the numbers necessary to convict.

So far, after blocks and votes and dodges and procedural delays, the actual event has been a trial with evidence aplenty and courage a scarcity. It is obvious courage is a scarce commodity. While donor/sponsor/tribe loyalties are commodities, bought and saved, sold or traded to a higher bidder; and while ethics and integrity are regularly exchanged for power; courage is rare; but, we know it when we see it.

We recognize courage. We value courage. We, we the people, are witnesses. Put me on that sad fucking list.

ALL RIGHT, I apologize for, again, posting something that is not about surfing.

perhaps he imagines himself a surfer. Sorry no, not a surfer, real or imagined.

I woke up one morning, October of 1962. I was eleven. My mother had, evidently, not gone to bed. Or she got up really early. TV stations, in those days, generally shut down in the middle of the night. “We might be on the brink of nuclear war, Junior,” she said, or something similar… same message. It was the Cuban Missile Crisis. Trish remembers it because her father, a materiel officer with the US Marine Corps, was whisked away in the middle of the night, and was gone for the thirteen days before Russia and Cuba backed down.

I was ten years old on February 20, 1962, when an AV (audio/visual for those who have never seen one) cart was wheeled into the classroom so we fifth graders could all watch John Glen orbit the earth three times in a space capsule. First American! Momentous! Yea, Us!

I cannot honestly say I saw Kennedy assassinated or Oswald killed, though they were both televised. My neighbor, Gary Schuyler, a kid about my age (12 in 1963) did watch the funeral train, came outside, crying, with an update. I was pulling weeds in the rose garden, required to earn a chance to go to the beach. I questioned why Gary was so concerned. “Because… it’s important.”

Television has made us all witnesses to history.

On 9/11, Dan Nieman, a local contractor in Quilcene, called me up… not all that unusual for him, at somewhere around 5:30, something about a job. He passed on the message, and I just recently found this out, an ex-military client of his, calm by Dan’s description, had already called him, frantically blurting out, “Do you see what’s happening?” I turned on the TV in time to see the plane hit the second tower. And everything that followed.

On 01/06, I returned home early from a job, though I had been listening on the radio to the events surrounding the certification of the election. Trish had just turned on the TV, asked what was going on with the people just starting to push at the barricades in front of the capitol. “Oh,” I said, “The coup is on.”

Something I noticed is that many of the folks marching down the street from the demonstration in which the (still, at that point) President promised to “be there with you” (but, of course, wasn’t), citizens who looked like your neighbors, regular folks; once they saw the thing was getting out of hand, most of those people turned away, did not participate in the murder and mayhem, were not part of that mob.

Good for them.

We have had, thanks to the strategic delays, time; not enough to put it behind us and move on as defenders and deniers would like; but enough time to get little bios on the perpetrators, more information on the tactics and the damage; enough time for evidence enough to convince anyone still unbiased of the proximity to a tipping point that our country was at on that day.

So. Courage. At first look, the Capitol cop who was chased up the stairs by the mob did not appear to be a hero. Now we know he was. I will still give points to Mike Pence for getting the Constitutionally mandated task completed. Points have to be given for Representatives and Senators who crossed lines to certify votes, or to cast votes to get beyond all the procedural blocks and dodges.

Oh; it’s 9:26, the Trump Insurrection trial is back on, live; should you chose to watch. I have to go, but I do have a radio.

Peace and… make your own list.

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.”

The Rest of a Friday Night, from “Swamis”

This is the continuation of the last story posted. I had already moved it from the “Swamis” manuscript to the “Sideslipping” file, mostly for space. I really enjoy including the little side stories, dramas with characters not necessary for the plot. BUT, I can’t include them all. This outtake makes more sense if you read the last one, of course.

While searching for an image of late 1960 high school students cruising or hanging out, I did find this shot.

NOT EVEN IRONIC

“We’re going to, um, kind of… hang out,” Phillip said, he and Ray each with a girl next to them, all of them buzzing with that spinning, churning, barely controlled (at best) teenage electricity.

“Guess I’m not stayin’ over,” Billy B said, pretty much to me.  “What’re we going to do, Jody?”  

It’s not even ironic that Billy B and I got rides to our respective homes in Grant’s car, me in the front seat, riding ‘bitch’ (this pointed out to me by Grant with a, “Yeah, you can ride with me, if you don’t mind ridin’ bitch”).  Bigger Billy was riding shotgun, Billy B over the driveline in the back seat, also, evidently riding bitch.

“We went looking for girls… and fights, in the home bleachers,” Bigger Billy said, beer breath directly in my face.

“Shut up, man.”  That was from one or both of the two other guys in the back seat (may have been Mark and another one of the Billys, can’t say for certain), one of them adding, “Bigger Billy G paid for the beer” as a sort of explanation as to why he was there at all.

“We threw empty bottles out the windows on the way back, Jody.  Yeah!”

One of the backseat revelers said, “Could you please shut the fuck up?”

“Hey, Dickwad DeFreines,” Grant said as we turned off Mission, “Mr. Dewey’s soooo freaked out. What’da’ya think he’ll… do?   I mean; he knows my parents.”

“No, he’s… wait; he knows your father and (emphasis on the ‘and’) your mother?”

This drew some appreciative ‘ewwws’ from the backseat, and a “Fuck you” from Grant.

“You pissed in the parking lot,” I said to Bigger Billy G when he got out to let me out at the head of my driveway.

“Oh, yeah,” he said, “I did.”  When the three other doors opened, Bigger Billy G took another piss just in front of the front passenger door.  “Beer,” he said as Grant urinated in front of the driver’s side door.  I walked past the newly planted orange trees as the other guys looked around for a proper place to whiz. 

When a yard light up by the house suddenly turned on, the group scattered.  Billy G pushed Billy B aside, jumped into the shotgun position, but Billy B stuffed himself onto the seat, forcing the other Billy over.  “Who’s the bitch now?” he asked, an arm out past the other front seat Billy and out the window, three hands flipping me off as they peeled away, Grant tapping on the horn.  Shave and a haircut…

…Two bits.

SO, I KEEP HEARING RUMORS of waves. I had to run to a hardware store for a mop in a tipped-over-plant painting emergency, guy ahead of me (and most of us are difficult to recognize in masks- not me, evidently) turned and asked if I’d “been out lately.” “Not… lately lately. Recently.” “Oh, it’s been pumping.” “Oh? How do you know?” “I’ve been out… there.” “Where?” This is when he gets (properly) cagey. “Um, you know, the ocean.” “Yeah, I’ve heard of it, but, um, uh, who are you? Masks, you know.” “Yeah; I’m James.” He did give me his last name, which I’ve forgotten, said he and I have surfed together and that he’s a friend of Stephen Davis. “Haven’t seen him around lately.” “Oh, he’s been in Hawaii… for a while.” Surfing, somewhere, you know, in the ocean.

YES, I DID PROMISE to write about Adam Wipeout’s epic wipeout, but, since he told me he was cutting back on surfing to spend more time with his kids, and then went to the mountains with them for, like four or five days (and there’s some connection with Yodeling Dan here, some reciprocation for taking Yodeling Dan to semi-secret surf locations), and then, the very next day, he’s out searching for waves. THIS AFTER I told him I’m backing off on surf searching until I actually finish the final (before trying to sell it) draft of “Swamis.” AND THEN, AND ALSO, Little Reggie Smart, who also said he was cutting back, did complete four days in a row in which he found waves, each time taunting me with, “You would have loved it, Dude,” a line he has borrowed from other surf friends of mine.

SO, PROMISES. I will be sneaking into a surf spot soon; sooner if, as others have, I back out… hey, it wasn’t really like a real promise; if I just think of it as a resolution… I mean, who has enough resolve to not surf?

Bad Boy Fun/Adventure

These are some dudes waiting for a Civil Right march in Selma, Alabama in the 1960s rather than dudes waiting for the return of the rooter bus at Fallbrook High in 1968, but, yeah, the behavior does seem kinda familiar. And, dicks being dicks, I can’t help wondering if the other dicks gave the dick with the hip thrust shit about his, you know, dick. Of course they did.

I have known for a while that I would have to cut this chapter from my novel, “Swamis.” It doesn’t move the ever-tighter, ever more focused plot along enough, Grant Murdoch is not an important enough character to be given this much, um, attention; AND, despite cutting somewhere around 70,000 words, the manuscript keeps creeping up and over my self-set limit of 120,000 words.

SO, to put you in the place where I tried to make this fit; Joey is talked into going out drinking with his friends, then hanging out at the high school. Rusty McAndrews, mentioned here, is more of a critical character. Part of my original reasoning for including this was that it helps to illustrate that Joey, aka Jody, still has an ability to quickly and violently strike out when he feels threatened.

THE BASIS for the story is one that I did not witness, merely heard about; a guy who would pretend to have an epileptic seizure; roll around… the whole show. That I found that shocking (and that others I’ve mentioned it to aren’t nearly as disturbed) says… hey, I don’t know what it says.

I should restate that my real life friends, some of whom (Ray and Phillip in particular) have characters named after them, actually did very few of the things their namesakes do in “Swamis.” They did, however, do some. Erwin is also a character, mostly so readers don’t think I am Jody. However it is true that the real Phillip and Ray and Erwin, maybe Bill Buel, did get skateboarding shut down at Fallbrook High, or, at least, we take credit for it. Oh, and the urine stream, Bill Birt. I have written about him in realsurfers.

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 11, 1968

Not cutting this chapter must be defended.  I would rather not do either.

It was kind of a deal during football season, a bad-boy tradition, evidently.  Some of my friends would tell their parents they were taking the rooter bus to an away game, go somewhere and drink some beer, smoke some marijuana; and return to Fallbrook High when the bus returned.  See who went, see who won.  Fun.  Bad-boy adventure.

Fun while trying to attain that exact level of intoxication where your contemporaries would recognize it, but the teachers and chaperones, grownups, wouldn’t.  Or that was how the evening had been sold to me.  Fun.  I was pretty-much sober; a bit pissed-off and quite uncomfortable, the irritability from an incident at their drinking/lookout spot, the discomfort because this wasn’t my kind of scene.  

We’d arrived at the school a bit too early, Phillip and Ray and Billy B (one of the Billys) and I were leaning on or walking around Ray’s car; parked, parallel to the street, lights on and engine running, doors open, on the asphalt parking lot that sloped down from the school to the road in front of the cafeteria/gym.  Music was coming from his tape deck.  Cream.  “White Room,” from “Wheels of Fire,” Ray’s pick for a perfect song.  Some parents, there to pick up their kids, had waited long enough that they’d turn off their engines. 

“Maybe it went into overtime,” Ray said.

“Orange Glen,” Billy B said; “Fuck, man, we could have gone there and back by now.”

“No.  No.  We’d have missed the fun.”  Phillip looked at me, punched his left palm with his right hand, “Joey punching out Rusty fucking McAndrews.”

Ray and Billy B looked at me.  I wasn’t amused.  They were.  “I should have taken the Falcon.  Escape vehicle.”

Billy B jumped between Ray and me and made a couple of hodad/kook surf moves.  “We have to get going early enough tomorrow to beat the weekend crowds, huh Ray?”  No response.  He looked at me. “Huh, Joey?”   When I didn’t respond, he jumped over next to Phillip.  “Huh, Phil?”

“Yeah, Billy B, early.”

Billy B came a bit too close to me.  “I was going to stay over at Phil’s, but, hey, let’s just get our boards and shit and fuckin’ head out after the bus comes back.  Sleep on the beach and…”

“Nope.  And, please quit breathing on me.  Huh?”

Ray pushed Billy B away from me.  “We’ll get you home, Joey.  Jeez; you’ll be a fucking hero once word gets out about…”  Ray did a fake punch toward my chest, backed away quickly, one hand protecting his face, the other his chest.  Phillip and Billy B laughed.   My friends’ faces were still glowing, as if the beer added a certain piss-orange color to their cheeks, and they were all still a bit unsteady.  “McAndrews; never liked him… or his younger brother.”

“And, wait… his brother…”  Now Phillip was too close to me.  “Is he the guy you slammed into the…?”

“Water fountain,” Ray said.  “Yeah.  Yeah, he was.  Sixth grade.  It was, like, my second week in Fallbrook and Joey’s knocking people’s teeth out.  Whoa.  Pretty scary!”

“There’s the first bus,” I said.  We could see the lights; headlights, interior lights; unmistakably two buses, across the lower fields, over on the highway.  Highway? I never thought of it as more than a road.  Two lane road heading west, toward the ocean.  

Though the road was probably three hundred yards away, it was close enough that we could hear honking.  Suddenly a car raced around both buses, pulled back in, very close to a car coming from the opposite direction.  More horns, this time including a long blaring honk from the lead bus, and a ‘shave and a haircut… two bits’ series of honks from the car, now slowing down considerably, leading the busses.

Billy B said, “Whoa!”   Phillip said, “Fucking idiots.”  Ray said, “Grant Murdoch.  For sure.”

It was a minute or so before Grant Murdoch’s mother’s car came into view around the school buildings, tires squealing, then squeaking as it turned from the rougher road to the slicker parking area, horn honking.  

That parking lot, with its shallow drop toward the gym, and the sidewalks around the school buildings, were perfect for skateboarding if it had been allowed. it wasn’t formally disallowed until Phillip, Ray, Erwin, and I slalomed on the sidewalks one hot afternoon, August 1967- busted by some summer school substitute teacher.

The overlarge American four-door circled the four of us, backed up against Ray’s car; all four of its occupants flipping us off.  The car was parked, slightly uphill of us, parallel to the approach road, cigarette smoke coming out of the open windows, music louder than Ray’s 4 track, engine revving.  The Doors; “Summer’s Almost Gone,” as I remember, from “Waiting for the Sun.”

Reasonable; sure; we were still huge Doors fans; self-disenfranchised suburban teenage males.

And, sure, we knew these particular idiots.  This was their version of a Friday night adventure.  They had gone to the game at Orange Glen, looked for a fight on the bleachers, threw empty bottles out the windows on the highways and roads between Valley Center and Fallbrook.  Fun.

One of the idiots, another of the Billys, Billy G, sometimes referred to as Bigger Billy, jumped out of the backseat, uphill side, leaned in toward the car in the area between the opened door and the trunk area.

“Urine,” Ray said, as a stream came from under the car and down the asphalt.

“Billy fucking G,” Billy B said, laughing and pointing, “He’s fuckin’ pissing.”  His voice got louder.  “Go, Bigger Billy!  Shit; that’s a quart, at least.”

To help with any Billy confusion, Billy B-2, mentioned earlier, had, by this time, moved away; his father transferred to Twenty-nine Palms.

“Here’s the bus,” Phillip said, waving at a girl about halfway back on the still-moving vehicle, her arm out a window, more pointing than waving, pointing at something past Phillip, past us.

Seconds later, more students were pointing.

It was Grant.  Grant Murdoch.  He had fallen out of the driver’s door and onto the pavement (just out of the urine stream), and was convulsing, rolling around, his body spasming.  His compatriots were gathering around him, turning to the advancing parents, appealing for help, as the second bus arrived, with the team; and kids and chaperones and teachers from the buses started unloading.

Billy B seemed concerned, ran toward Grant.  Phillip and Ray looked at me.  “Fucking Grant,” Ray said, putting out an arm to try to stop me from walking toward the big car.

Phillip said, “Not worth it, Joey; don’t…”

Members of the Big Car Idiot Crew, each of the three near Grant, and then Billy B, were yelling; “Help him, help him!”  “He’ll swallow his tongue!”  “Oh, my God!”

Grant had just been flipped onto his back when I got to him, foamy spittle coming out of his mouth, eyes fluttering.  I stood over him for a second before I put my foot on his throat.

“Good evening, Grant,” I said, calmly.  Sort of calmly. 

A grownup grabbed me by one arm, another on the other arm, pulled me back. 

I resisted.  “What?  What!”

“What the hell do you mean, ‘what?’”  It was Martha Dewey’s dad on my right arm.  “You think because of your father you can get away with this… this… (lowering his voice) shit.”

“Please let me go, Mr. Dewey,” I said.  I thought it more a demand than a request.  “Sir.”

Grant Murdoch rolled to his side, then to his stomach, and leapt to his feet with amazing speed.

“What?”  That was Mr. Dewey, still holding my arm after the other grownup had let go.

“I didn’t know you were here, Jody,” Grant said, trying to wipe the spittle off his chin with two other dads holding him, more in a supportive way, before he shook himself loose.  “Sorry, man.  Just for fun, you know.”

While some parents were pulling their children away from this scene, Mrs. Dewey and Martha were among a group headed our way.  I looked at Mr. Dewey, his hand still on my arm.  I gave him a look that I meant as a reference to the alcohol on his breath, made a motion to suggest he should look at the lipstick on the collar of his white dress shirt.

I believed he got the messages.  He looked at his wife and daughter, approaching, then at me.  He released his grip, stepped between Grant and me, started to say something to Grant; something like, “You’ve got some nerve, young man…”

Grant Murdoch threw up.  Some beer, maybe some pizza, God knows what else. Most of what Grant threw up got on Mr. Dewey.

There were brief cheers from some of the nearby high school boys, bolder cheers from a couple of the out-of-high school guys who hadn’t yet found another place to hang out on a Friday night. 

“You got Lucky, Mr. Dewey,” I said, smiling at my own cleverness; all the more clever in that Mr. Dewey completely understood it.  “Martha.  Mrs. Dewey,” I said to Martha and Mrs. Dewey as I passed them.

Adventure.  Fun.  Friday nights.

Binge-Watching History

I kind of think, when Trump said he’d be marching with you, his beloved fans, his base, and people so enthralled you are probably contributors to his continued campaign; you believed him. Then you and he would walk, hand-in-hand, Trump flags flying, down Pennsylvania Avenue to stop the steal of… whatever it is he’s convinced you was ruthlessly ripped away from him and his gang/clan. Instead, the Prez slipped out the back, stumbled (because of the bone spurs, as you remember, poor guy) got in his armored car, picked up his McDonalds order, and cruised on down to his gold-plated bunker deep under the White House. Meanwhile all ya’ll, busily taking selfies with cops and listening to the mob leaders on their megaphones, recognizable because of their really cool outfits, decided it would be something else to tell the folks back home if you accepted their invitation to go up the stairs of the Capitol Building, then inside, and, wait… after they cart out the woman who got shot, you’re suddenly inside the Senate chambers; and, whoa, all the Senators and folks are gone. What? Are they scared of fellow Americans?

Yeehaw!

Now, somewhere in the next few hours, kinda not knowing what to do but take more selfies, you no doubt, expected Don to drop in, using only one hand, on a line from Marine One, his massive chest muscles flexed, a Bible in the other hand, and a look of confidence bordering on righteousness on his face.

a close up of an old building: A protester is seen hanging from the balcony in the Senate Chamber on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. Congress held a joint session today to ratify President-elect Joe Biden's 306-232 Electoral College win over President Donald Trump. Pro-Trump protesters have entered the U.S. Capitol building after mass demonstrations in the nation's capital. Win McNamee/Getty Images
Not waiting for the second coming of Trump, figure I’ll drop in to the Senate… photo from Washington Post. Thanks

Meanwhile, and I am not trying to say that I, in any way understand the thinking of anyone who actually believes any fucking thing our outgoing Huckster-in-chief says (not like outgoing in a friendly sense- outgoing as in out the door), but it has been noted, and noticed, that the police response to the rioters was not particularly ‘strident.’ I have, in fact, been subjected to a harsher push back after a Jethro Tull concert, not to mention getting kicked off the beach twice- way rougher. Now the Jethro Tull thing was particularly troubling and irritating because I had paid good money for the tickets. OH, you do understand that. One explanation/excuse for the softball initial response was that a big military style putdown, the kind that’s saved for Black Lives Matter marches and people who are in the way when Donny wants a photo op, is that getting harsh with overweight white people might create a martyr or two… so politely escorting folks to safety was the tactic de jour. After all, a majority of the mob members looked like people one might see at the local grocery store.

Then again, things could have gotten way more deadly than they did.

Yeah, well; since I’ve been unable to move too far from the TV, switching channels occasionally, binge-watching a sad but historic day, and reminding anyone reading that I would much rather write about real surfers actually surfing, let me say this: I feel sorry for people who are, forever, insurrectionists, part of a failed coup attempt by a loser. That, in itself, doesn’t mean you’re a loser. Go ahead, think you’re real Americans. Trump loves you. I heard him say so before he got deleted on Facebook and Twitter, not that I’d follow him there… or anywhere.

Incidentally, do you know how to tell when Trumpo (Aussie style nickname) is lying?

No, didn’t think so.

Unfortunately, what some might think is backlash is the status quo ’round these parts. Good luck.