Over Time, Comparatively Speaking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HAPPY EQUINOX!  

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

FUCKCANCER UPDATE:

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

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

No, it’s never that simple, never that…

…easy.

Here’s a photo from March of 2004. My son, Sean, daughter Drucilla, and I were down south for a sort of family reunion/celebration of my father’s 80th birthday, arranged and staged by my sister, Suellen, and centered in Oceanside. I used the occasion to go on a sort of show-and-tell trip that included staying as close to the coast as possible, with, no doubt, stories of every spot. The south jetty, where I most often surfed before work at Buddy’s Sign Service, the building in which I worked, the pier, the auto repair shop where my dad worked two nights a week and Sundays for years, Tamarack, Grandview, Beacons, Swamis.

Swamis, just before the applause on the bluff.

My plan was to write about two things here: Dru’s cancer and my novel, “Swamis.” Plans change. ALWAYS.

ME FIRST. Dru is recovering from surgery, like, a week ago. Trish has been taking care of her, staying at her place, twenty-two minutes away (if no one crashes on or near the Hood Canal Bridge, or some sailboat or nuclear submarine has to go through it) from our house. In order for Trish to do some other stuff, and to give her a break, I got to take over for a day, like, yesterday. Trish left a list of chores that I almost totally ignored. NOW, I have been telling/warning our daughter that I would not help her if she didn’t read the latest chapter I wrote, my third complete rewrite (counting the outline that turned into a sort of treatment) of my novel, “Swamis.” Dru, of course, though I had sent it to her, had not yet read it.

AND YET I came over, watched a horror movie, tried to sleep on her futon, did not make her a delicious breakfast as her mother had been doing, but did, while Dru was scrambling some eggs for simple breakfast burritos, start reading the chapter to her. There were interruptions, including a rare call from George Takamoto. I had to take the call, and somehow, managed to sit on my plate of burritos. Wouldn’t have been bad if it hadn’t been for the toothpicks. SO DRU started reading the chapter to me.

IT WAS GREAT. A couple of awkward parts. Fixable. Here’s the sort of unexpected thing: “Dad, it’s a short story.” No. “Yes. I can stand on its own. Short story.” Yeah, that’s what I was afraid of.

Over a hundred pages into the manuscript, sixty thousand plus words, CHAPTER FOURTEEN has enough of the story to ALMOST stand alone. Not completely, but, as each version of “Swamis” focuses more on the main story line, the plot, if I now go back, if Chapter Fourteen becomes Chapter Five, say, with three more after that, all leading to a non-conclusion… well, that would be a novel I wouldn’t have to beg or threaten someone to read. OR THAT IS THE HOPE.

Dru and I, 2004. Still surfers in the water. Dru’s hair now is back to dark, mine is pretty much white. No, I, unlike Trish and our three kids, was never a blonde. I do enjoy it when people think I might have been.

THE OTHER THING that was on the agenda for yesterday was a zoom call with Dru’s surgeon. Bearing in mind that I am quite uncomfortable talking about this, Dru had decided to go with radical surgery with some hope if not expectation that Chemo and/or Radiation might not be necessary. THIS, almost of course, is not how it is going. Though other testing and discussion and shit has to happen, the Doctor said the two (rightfully) scary options might be in her future. THE ANTICIPATION of surgery- frightening; but she’s past that and recovering. WHAT WE KNOW about others who have undergone these procedures caused me to ambush the doctor when she asked Dru if she had any other questions. “Yeah, I do. I thought we got rid of the cancer. It’s not in her lymph nodes, so?” The doctor referred to the size of the tumor and how much it had grown since first discovered. “But the tumor’s gone. Past tense.” Not so easy. There are ‘maybes’ and ‘we don’t know yets.’ The doctor explained those and tried to lessen any anxiety. “Thank you.”

SO, Yeah. So, “fuck!” So, sure; it can’t just be over. No. Few things are easy. Nothing is EVER simple.

WE ALL GO THROUGH our lives among and between waves of hopeful anticipation and troughs of fearful anticipation. Few events are as blissfully, floatingly good or as full-stop, unbearably bad as the renderings, mosaics, perhaps, our imaginations create from the collected bits of shattered dreams, and the pieces of scattered moments of magic and peace and joy and BLISS.

What we really do, all we really can do is KEEP GOING.

I have to say that Dru seems to be more optimistic about enduring further treatment than I am. Trish, as always, will be supportive. Disappointment. Regroup. Keep going.

MEANWHILE, my good friend Stephen Davis, having made it through six rounds of Chemo, with his cancer knocked-back, is currently getting ready to take another step; a massive dose of chemicals that will do so much damage that, once through it, he will have to retake all his childhood inoculations. And that might not be the end of it. He will be unable to work or, probably, surf, for six months or so. SCARY!

This is a not-quite complete version of Stephen R. Davis’s painting of a mystical, possibly mind-created spot. Steve took it off the frame, took it to the PRINTERY in Port Townsend. There it was scanned on the big-enough unit used for blueprints, which doesn’t print in color, and transferred to a thumb drive. Steve has ordered prints of various sizes. The plan is to produce several, possibly full-sized giclee prints, up about a hundred limited edition (which would be numbered and signed) photo prints on 11″x14″ paper, with the possibility of also doing a number (limited by Steve) of smaller versions, some as greeting cards. I am not sure what Steve plans to do with the original. Trish and I have one of his original works, directly across from our bed. From that distance, it looks perfect. Part of the magic. If you notice, the land on the left of this painting is totally abstract, nonsensically so. If you Iook at the wave in the foreground in the completed version, it is perfectly rendered. If you step back, just far enough, the whole scene is fantastically real.

OKAY, I’ll get a photo of the completed version on here. Soon.

Insert your own uplifting aphorism here.

Sometimes You Beat the Heat…

…sometimes it beats you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HERE ARE a few things people say about the weather:

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

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

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

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

“It always cools down at night.” Thankfully.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perfect.

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

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

Camping and Not Camping and, like, yeah, I mean, you know… huh?

“So-oooo, it was, like, well, you know, I’m, like, so very wiped-out… you hear what I’m saying? Oh, it wasn’t one of those, you know, like I’m stink-bugging and Waikiki beach bunny falling off for no, you know, good reason; I got clipped after, you see, free-falling on the backdoor bomb. You know what I mean? Oh, it’s not like I wasn’t in there, the belly of the beast, you know. I mean, like, you hear me? Yeah. Okay. Doesn’t matter; I got it all on the go-pro. So, um, I was… oh, yeah, I, like, lost my leash; it was totally just fuckin’ ripped off my ankle as I was, like churned and bounced around, and, you see, it was big ass hold-down; and I, I come up and I’m… gasping. Urrrrrrrrrrh! So, now, I’m totally in, like, the impact zone, the vortex. Oh, man, I’m in the deep end of the pool, but, you know, like the rocks are, like, right there; and the water, it’s, you know, like, kinda swirling, swear to God sucking me down the beach and out to sea in the radical riptide. You got this? Yah, so, me, I’m not fuckin’ panicking, but here comes another macking, maxed-out drainer; and, holy shit, man, I am starting to freak when it comes down… yeah, it detonates… detonates, and, yes, believe it, right on my fuckin’ head. Yeah, I mean, so heavy! But, different subject, huh? I mean, hey, those triple cheese and tarragon-stuffed mushrooms were delightful. The artisan Gallega knots with the vinegar and goat butter… extra delightful; and the ganosh. Dee-light-ful. But… big question; might I have a little top-up, some more of that Seghesio Rockpile Zinfanfel 1994? It goes so well with the S’mores. Cool. Right on. Love this camping life. Hope you brought enough gas for the generator. And, oh, am I still going to have to use those public restrooms? There’s, like, way too many Shitters, and not enough… shitters. You know what I mean?”

It’s not like I haven’t camped. I have. Actually, I’ve done a lot. It’s just that I would rather not. This time of year, the Strait is even flatter than usual. So, the coast is an option. It is an option many are taking. Maybe too many. It does make sense, the camping thing. If someone is going from for example, from Seattle to, say, somewhere in the vicinity of, I don’t know, Neah Bay, taking the time and paying the fuel costs, and, most likely, the monthly tab on some fancy-bad-ass and tricked-out rig, might as well stay a while.

THE DARROCK RULE- Paraphrased, Keith would say, “You should surf for at least as long a time as it took you to get there.” So, last time I went, with a side-stop, it took me an hour and twenty-three minutes to get to a spot that was, you know, breaking. Though the waves pretty much quit after an hour and twelve minutes, I persisted. Of course, if you’re five minutes away… surf, like, longer.

I do have a big-boy van. Work van. Yes, I am aware that I could take out all the painting stuff and… camp. I do think about it. In the summer, a person could surf late, eight hours later, back in the water. In the winter, well, the nights are just too long, and I have stuff to do at home.

TO EXPLAIN the caption (above)- I just wrote about the ‘Hey, man,’ thought I might write about some other common word usage AND mention a few of my concerns about camping. Let me admit, first, that I never take off for even a pre-dawn surf venture without going, like, you know, number two. Number one, rarely a problem. I have become pretty creative, partially because clients rarely invite painters inside to use the bathroom, and, even if they do…

I do have a couple of camping and surf trip horror stories to back up my number two… PTSSD. Mexico, Baja and mainland, church camp… I could tell these tales if we were, like, sitting around a fire and you actually aren’t good at playing guitar and you don’t want to hear any more of my harmonica and/or singing.

Their loss.

“Wait a minute; that breakfast burrito’s starting to kink in. Oh, no!”

OKAY, I am posting this way down here, past where you have, no doubt, given up. I’m not trying to blow up a spot. Take Westport, for example. Go. So, and I don’t understand why my friends don’t think this is genius, I have a little slogan. “Invest some time in Hobuck; Keep the change.” Variation- “Spend some time in Hobuck; Keep the change.” Not that this alone keeps me from going, but the campground has really nice showers, just a less than thrilling ratio between users and facilities.

Good luck. See you on the road.

WAIT! I am claiming Copyright on the slogans, and pretty much everything I write. “Lesser Genius.” Yeah, that, too!

The Nod-Back and the Hey, Man

                                “Hey, Man…”

As I was completing my day, loading up my work rig, I did some chatting with the owner of the house across the street, a guy whose house I painted a couple of years ago. I can’t remember his first name, but his last name is White. Somewhere in the usual tangle of conversational starts and non-finishes and peripheral stories, electric bikes and Teslas and Sprinter vans, the general theme being coolness and those of us who seek it, Mr. White said, “Well, you always have the ‘hey, man’ thing going for you.”

Yeah, I was a bit confused by the statement as well.

What Mr. White and I decided, jointly, is that even pissed-off people can only go so far in calling out those who they (the possibly rightly pissed-off person) consider, rightly or wrongly, somewhat cool.

It isn’t that I am or have ever been that… cool. Trish told me, years ago, when we were first dating (specifically, we were in my thrashed Morris Minor and approaching a guy from my high school class who was hanging out downtown with some other guys and leaning on the really cool car he had actually done some work on, and I gave him the nod), that I’m always trying to be that. Cool. “Give it up. You might never be cool.”

Whether he or any of the other guys returned the nod should be irrelevant. It isn’t. It’s totally relevant. It is relevant because I have not given up trying. If he (just remembered his name- Gary Press) did do the nod-back, great; if not; well, I probably had some excuse.

I have, in my own mind, pulled myself up a few notches on the coolness scale. I’m still surfing, getting out there, a little over a week away from my seventy-first birthday. It’s more like coolness by attrition.

I am taking the information from this googled image at face value. It’s on the internet, must be true.

A couple of things about the nod, the nod-back, and the ‘hey, man:’

ONE- When our older son, James, was in high school, a classmate, Troy, would come over to our house. This wasn’t all that easy. We live out of town. Troy would show up by looking through a window or just plain walking in. Troy had some situational, some physical, and some mental… disadvantages. Troy would explain his surprise visit with, “Hey, mon, got the game?” James probably did. He and Dru and Sean were, it seemed to me, pretty nice to Troy. Several times his stepfather would bring him over. If I was around, I got to hang out with that guy. Once the stepfather spent most of our conversation time staring at the profile of the hill across the way, talking about aliens and big foot.

“Uh huh.”

TWO- Surfers are, and have always been, reluctant to embrace new surfers on their (not arguing this part) territory. “Who’s that?” This may be particularly true with spots as fickle as those on the Strait of Juan de Fuca. I only recently, when a dude paddled out at a spot I claim as a ‘regular’ if not, strictly speaking, a ‘local’ (not that there are many true locals that far out), and said he’d never been to that spot before. “Well,” I said, “You don’t have to come back.” Even though the waves had dropped off to the usual none-to-one foot, he probably will. Persistence. Make a note of it.

So, a friend of mine was walking back from checking a spot and ran into two or three other seekers, seeking. “They gave me the nod,” my friend told me. “What did you do?” “I refused to give them the nod.” Add your own level of irony to another story from the same friend, different spot, more difficult access. “There was only one guy out. He wasn’t friendly. I said (paraphrasing here), like, ‘hey, man…’”

Persistence. Next time, I would guess, full nod exchange.

THREE- “You ever go to Doc’s restaurant,” I asked the guy whose house I had painted. “Not often,” he said, “But I was there when Richard Sherman did the tip… in the endzone.” Okay. “So, a couple of years ago, I was painting the place. Remodel. Reggie got the gig. So, this electrician starts talking. Mentions Hawaii. So, naturally, I ask him if he is a surfer. ‘Of course,’ he answered. ‘It’s Hawaii.’ So, according to Reggie, I stew about this for a while, then I go up to the guy and say, ‘Hey, man; just because you lived in Hawaii, that doesn’t automatically make you a surfer.’”

“How did he react?”

“He was kind of all right with it. So, what do you say when someone does get… angry?

“I don’t know. What?”

“You do know.”

“Yeah. Hey, man…”

Real Kooks and…

…the rest of us. Franticly, desperately seeking surf. Franticly, seems like it should be spelled differently. Anyway, us, real surfers.

I must be a bit more surf deprived than I allowed myself to believe. Because it’s Sunday, I Youtubed the latest chapter, number 7, I think, in the eleven-episode series on Kelly Slater; like I even care about any mental anguish a guy who (apparently) can go wherever he wants in the world to get the best waves available. Maybe I do care. On Monday, a new clip might be available from Nathan or even JOB, at some point there may be a new cut from Mason Ho. If I get the chance, I will check them out.

Already off topic. I was just vulnerable enough to google “San Diego Surf Cams,” ended up with constantly stalling videos provided by Hansens Surf shop. Cardiff Reef. Sunny, choppy, crowded, a cop car cruising the parking lot. These are cameras that a person can wait for some period of time, then move the angle. No, I didn’t wait. I ended up at a cam at Tarramar Point. I did surf there quite a few times back when I lived in the North County. Oh, no one out. Camera move. Many people out, most on long boards. Many, many surfers, bobbing and floating and waiting. I did see a guy on a shortboard on an insider. Cool.

Not a kook. Some percentage of the bobbers and floaters and back-offers and folks who will just blindly paddle and/or block your ride are kooks.

Right-hander, left-hander, straight-hander (term borrowed from ‘shortboard’ Aaron.

It depends on how you define kook.

If a kook is someone who is just thrilled to be in the water and among waves, trying to improve, trying to… yeah, there’s that. I qualify. Hodad? No. Being a surfer is an important part of my self-image, but it is only one item in a list of self-descriptions, categories in which I constantly try to improve. Father, husband, painter, writer, artist- surfer slides back and forth in importance.

Home improvement guy, mechanic, gardener… secondary list. Still, I do try to do better. Example: Just bailing-wired what remains of the burned-out tailpipe on my surf rig after it hit the ground, just bought a small freezer after ours developed a problem I couldn’t fix by watching Youtube videos on “What to do when your freezer doesn’t cool properly.” It must need a part. I’ll get to it. Soon.

Later.

Meanwhile, I’m writing this outside in an attempt to allow the proper birds to eat some of the seed and peanuts we put out. If I leave, the pigeons (non-locals, incidentally) will attack. A horde of them. Some, no doubt, are kooks. Tough to tell.

Okay, I better check the forecast. Yeah, kind of bleak. Hopefully there are waves where you are or where you’re going.

WAIT. Perhaps I should mention that part of my description of a real surfer is someone who has a high level of respect for waves, a certain, and I can’t really verbalize this adequately, reverence toward the ocean. There is some difference in that than having respect for every individual sharing a lineup. Okay, shouldn’t have said that; makes me sound kind of dick-ish.

As I always say, I am trying to do better at sharing. Always say it, usually mean it.

On the Bubble

Out of the lagoon and crawling ashore. “Yeah, I’m okay, thanks for asking.”

I’ve told the story enough times now that I kind of know where the laugh lines are. And there’s been almost enough time since my incident that I can see the humor in it myself. Almost.

No, there is something rather amusing about a surfer with an ego as large as mine is, with years of experience in the ocean getting himself in trouble in the water. There is, also, perhaps, some sort of karmic re-balancing in the story if I was able to tell it in full.

What prevents this ‘whole truth and nothing but’ is protecting the not-really-secret but kind-of-secret, and definitely fickle-by-nature, definitely rarely breaking spot where the not-quite-drowning event took place. This not-blowing-up-the-spots is sort of my attempt to get along with surfers who put in the miles and the disappointments and the skunkings to occasionally find a decent wave.

Actually, it doesn’t matter where the story happened so much as what happened. I was caught inside numerous times by relentless waves and a raging tidal current. Both legs of my wetsuit filled with water to the knees, my leash got tangled up and weighted down with kelp, I, somehow, got pushed out of the impact zone. Unable to make any real progress paddling, I thought I could just drop down and walk up to the beach. Nope, too deep. It was probably after the third drop down that some camper on the beach called 911.

Yeah, amusing. I wasn’t drowning. I wasn’t panicked. I was kind of pissed off.

More like embarrassed. More so when a surfer, Kim, in street clothes but contemplating going out, ran over just as I pushed my board up onto the beach, then crawled my big ass self up behind it. I had to struggle to get my leash detached and the water out of my wetsuit, the last of the legs clamped securely around my ankles. Kim carried my big ass board up to my car while I lumbered my way behind her. Thanks, Kim, helping out the old guy.

Old guys. Shit. There were several examples of the karmic reset in this morality tale. When I was suiting up, with several surfers in the water, a car pulled up next to mine. I didn’t see a board inside but thought the driver was a sometime surfer I had recently seen at another fickle, not-breaking-at-the-time spot. “Hey,” I said, “there’s kind of an age limit on surfing… huh?”

It wasn’t that guy. It was, in fact, a woman. Similar hair, that’s my excuse. “I just came here to watch,” she said. “Oh. Well. Um, if there’s a… bubble, age-wise, I’m probably just over it… myself.” “Uh huh.”

Still, I did wonder why she thought there might be waves and riders at this spot at this time. And then I had someone help me zip up my wetsuit, and I went out.

My fairly new wetsuit: Back zip. Last one was front zip; didn’t need help. I have added some length to the pull string on the zipper. My age: 71 in August. So, I’m not only old, I’m… well, my friend, Stephe n Davis, describes me as a Clydesdale, work horse… large. Big shoulders, short legs. My triple-x suit is tight in the top, with legs meant for someone, like, 6’4″. I’m not.

This isn’t a problem if I don’t spend much time under water. It actually has been a problem before. A few months back, different secret(ish) spot, got some great rides and some wipeouts, had the water in the legs issue, not as bad, but my new, glow-in-the-dark leash, somehow, got all tangled up around my legs. Again, there was an extreme rip along the inshore that wasn’t at all helpful. That time, pushing my board up onto the beach, Adam Wipeout was walking back from a long ride.

A minor irony here; the board I’ve been riding for a few years was purchased from Adam. On payments. On another occasion, a different spot, I had a little trouble, after surfing pretty well, getting out of the shorebreak and up the steep beach. Old guys are not always nimble. My/Adam’s board was loose, hitting rocks, while I was getting pummeled. Lesson: Don’t take the first wave of the set if you plan on getting out of the water. Adam, also out at that spot on that day, of course, did a seven-point (out of ten) dismount, ran up the beach, came over, pulled his/my board up to safety. Yes, it is paid for… now.

I have surfed again, in that wetsuit. This time I rolled the legs up about five inches. A sort of cuff. Fits tight against the booties. Uneventful. I would really rather concentrate on the surfing.

Oh, the 911 call? Yes. I was on the phone with Trish, explaining the situation, when Steve got out of the water to see if I was all right. Police turned up. Two cops. “Heard there was someone in trouble in the water.” I raised my hand. “So, you’re all right?” “Evidently.” “Oh, hey, Steve; how’s it going?”

They were through with me. It isn’t like they were going to jump in and save me.

I will get into some other karmic/positioning/priority/burning issues another time. Meanwhile, another tip: If you’re surfing over rough rocks, booties help.

Younger old guy with Stephen Davis after he rescued my paddle from the pilings- different story, different wetsuit. Can’t say I’m thinner now. Definitely older.

Cutting Margo Godfrey and Cheer Critchlow from “Swamis”

Margo Godfrey, Santa Cruz, Oct 1969

In my attempt to cut and whittle and refine my manuscript, “Swamis,” into something, one, readable, and two, sellable (could have said marketable), I am eliminating this portion. Changes: Virginia (Ginny) Cole is now Julia (Julia), Erwin as a character (put in because some readers might believe Joey (aka Jody) is me, is gone. Out. I should (will) add that Trish did go to junior high in Oceanside with Barbi Barron and was a temporary member of Barbi’s unofficial Oceanside girls’ surf club before Trisha’s dad got transferred to the East Coast. I did see Barbi frequently at the Oceanside jetties and the pier when I was working at Buddy’s Sign Shop in (let’s call it) O’side. I did have a night class, public speaking, with Cheer Critchlow, Palomar Junior (now Community) College. He did, and I reminded him of this, at a high school contest at Moonlight Beach in 1968, in which he was a judge, eliminate real people Scott Sutton and Jeff Officer and me in our first (and only) heats. I never met Margo, did hear and read about her.

With those notes, the story is sort of (kind of) true (if fiction is sliced from real life).

CHAPTER 14- WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 1969

For reference, this was a week and a day before my father’s death, four weeks before Chulo’s.  

Ginny Cole was, to my seventeen-year-old self, perfect.  There is no way my memory, in the fifty-plus years since, could have further enhanced that image, that belief.  Perfect. 

Some of the girls I had gone all through school with were great, and I could easily supply a list of those I’d had crushes on, but, yes, I’d gone all through school with most of them. There were, always, new girls; daughters of Marines stationed at Camp Pendleton, temporary duty, three years and gone.  They came from or went to Twenty-nine Palms, Camp LeJeune, Barstow; occasionally one would come from Hawaii, Philadelphia, even overseas.

Fallbrook is on the east side of the triangle that is Camp Pendleton- Fallbrook, Oceanside, San Clemente. From kindergarten on there were sons and daughters of Civil Service workers, pharmacists and ranchers and irrigation contractors and teachers and real estate agents and builders. There were those whose fathers lived, during the week, in apartments in the vast smoggy sinfulness of Los Angeles.

If we were isolated, purposefully, there were always newcomers with stories of different places. Exotic, mysterious, sophisticated, up to date.

Ginny Cole was, in my mind, miles away from dusty Fallbrook. Mysterious, exotic, distant; and she surfed. Ginny would know what it means that someone surfed, and she would know the allure, more fiction, even fantasy, than reality, of surfing itself.  There’s what surfing is, and what surfing suggests, what being a surfer says about a person- the aura around the reality.  Perfect.

Ginny Cole was like the best photos from surfing magazines, like memories of my best rides. I could bring her image into my mind at will, or without willing it; images from the few times I’d been on the beach or in a parking area or in the water with her. Not with her; around her, near her. It wasn’t like she knew me; another teenage surfer, awkward out of the water, not yet skilled enough to be noticed in the water; but working on it; hoping to be a surfer who, when I took off on a wave, people would watch.  

Teenager fantasy, of course, in the same way, playing pickup football, my friends would self-narrate: “Roger Staubach drops back… and the crowd goes wild!”  There were always witnesses in my mind when I would skateboard; carving bottom turns and cutbacks, pulling up and into the curl, crouching, hands out, locked in, eighteen miles, straight, from the nearest saltwater.

Competing.  Improving.

It was more than that Ginny was a girl in the lineup. She could surf, ride a wave with graceful, dancer-like moves, always close to the power. She would always be noticed.

I cannot honestly swear that it wasn’t that I wanted a surfer girl girlfriend the way a girl might want a football quarterback, a lead guitarist in a garage band; the way a guy might want a cheerleader or that girl who’s always just so nice. And so pretty.

Ginny wasn’t phony nice or made up pretty. She was just-out-of-the-water pretty; she was real; she was perfect. I saw it. I assumed everyone did. 

If I did see Ginny as perfect, I did think winning her over would be difficult, challenging. There would be other suitors. I knew I was ridiculous, naïve; definitely, but I was competitive. I didn’t know her, couldn’t see more than my romanticized image of her. I did hope that if she shared that obsession with and addiction to surfing, she might understand me.

Still, also, and always, I knew I was ridiculous.

 …

Virginia Cole wasn’t the only girl surfer in the North County; there were a few others: Barbie Barron, Margo Godfrey. I frequently saw Barbie in the water and in the parking lot at Oceanside’s shorter jetty, or over by the pier.  Southside.

I once saw Margo with Cheer Critchlow at Swamis on a still-winter afternoon; uncrowded, big and blownout. Pretty scary. Yet they were just casually walking out, chatting, wading out on the fingers of rock, pushing through to the outside peak. Scott and Jeff and Erwin and I, our portable crowd; four inland cowboys, shoulder-hopped, choosing only the smaller waves on the inside, watching any time either Cheer or Margo would take off.

Coolness, casualness, some sort of self-confidence, some sense of comfort in one’s own skin.  Things I lacked, things I appreciated, qualities I believed Virginia Cole had. Yes, I do realize how this makes me sound; exactly like a seventeen-year-old on the cusp, the very cusp of… everything.

MORE NOTES: I am also tightening the timeline for the story. I have to. One thing all the over-writing has given me, besides so many back-stories for characters I have to eliminate or cut back on, is the knowledge that there is at least one main and worthwhile story in “Swamis.” I will keep cutting back and hacking and going down the line until… yeah, until.

ALSO: I have changed some other names, partially because I have written words the real people didn’t say, put them in situations that are totally and completely fictional. My best surfing friends Ray and Phillip- sorry, you’re now Gary and Roger (names from childhood neighbors), Wally Blodgett, who drove kids around for dawn patrol, is now Petey (kept the Blodgett part). Sid (whose name I borrowed from a real surfer who was in a Surfboards Hawaii ad in mid-sixties, can’t remember his last name) is, so far, still Sid. I will let you know who else changed as the manuscript changes.

ALSO: Pretty shitty spring for waves on the Strait AND pretty shitty weather for painting houses. YES, it would seem that would give me more time for writing and drawing. So, maybe it’s not THAT shitty.

Good luck to all the real people and real surfers. Remember, this stuff is copywrite protected.

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.