Excerpt from “Swamis”

EVERY time I find time to work on this novel (and it is fiction, mostly), I seem to start out at the beginning, edit, change; so much so that, when I’m out of time, I haven’t really advanced the story. SO, this is a chapter a little way into it; setting up some sort of romance I haven’t totally figured out yet. YET. I will.

WHAT is surprising is how much my partially-planned story changes as I get farther into the plot.  AND what I do, after I write something new, is think about how this can be better said, better written, better told.

AND I enjoy this part of writing also.  More to come.

FEBRUARY 1969-

Ginny Cole was like the magazine photos; like my best rides; I could bring her image into my mind at will; images from the few times I’d been on the beach or in the water with her. Not with her, around her. It’s not like she knew me; another teenage surfer, awkward out of the water, not skilled enough to be noticed in the water.

Ginny wasn’t the only girl surfer in the North County; there were others; but she was good. I had seen Barbie Barron, Margo Godfrey… Barbie in the water and in the parking lot at Oceanside’s shorter jetty; Margo with Cheer Critchlow at Swamis on a day that was uncrowded, big and nearly blownout; both just casually walking out, chatting; paddling for the outside peak. My two friends and I shoulder-hopped, choosing only the smaller waves on the inside.

Coolness, casualness, some sort of self-confidence, some sense of comfort in one’s own skin.

Things I lacked, things I appreciated.

The days were just getting long enough to make it from Fallbrook to the beach before dark. My 9’6” Surfboards Hawaii pintail, last of my (youthful) longboards, was on one side of the rack on Dave’s VW Super Bug, his pre-graduation gift. I think he his newer-but-stock Hansen was on the other side. Dave had picked me up as I raced from my last class. Dave floored-it across the Bonsall bridge, chose going through Vista rather than toward Oceanside. “Faster,” he said.

“Faster, then,” I said.

We were just coming down the ramp at Beacons when Ginny and another girl (no, didn’t know her name) were coming up; side by side; laughing.  The stainless steel turnbuckle closure on Ginny’s shortjohn wetsuit was disconnected, unsnapped.

There was skin showing. Freckles on her shoulder. I was 17. Ginny was perfect, and she might just look at me as we passed. I gave Dave a hip check, my only basketball move, pushing him toward the railing.

abosworth-9673

“Virgin-e-ya,” a voice from behind her said; “Virgin-eee-yaaa.”

If I said everything stopped, it would be an exaggeration. But it did. I stopped.

And Virginia Cole did look at me. She blinked. She and the other girl lowered their heads, their smiles gone. They passed Dave and I single file, Ginny in front.

There were three guys, in street clothes, at the bottom of the ramp, kind of congratulating each other. They weren’t surfers.  The guy who had made the remark was in the lead, crushing and tossing his empty beer can into the brush as they headed up. Dave shook his head, tried to step in front of me. He wasn’t fast enough, convincing enough. At the halfway point of the path, at the curve, I blocked them with my board, held sideways at my chest.

“What?” It was the lead guy; maybe a bit flushed; his smile changing to a sneer. Maybe not quite a sneer; just one of those ready-for-confrontation looks.

“Nothing, A-hole; just thought you might want to rest a second.”

“Fuck you.” The front guy, and I probably should give a more complete description of him and his high school-aged buddies, both adding their backup “fuck you;” but I won’t. He was just another high school jerk.

“You were a little disrespectful. Don’t you think; Jerk?”

Jerk’s crew and Dave looked up at the top of the bluff. Evidently Ginny and her friend were looking down.

“Ginny… Ginny Coldddd. She’s a stuck-up fuckin’…”

I’m trying to go through the words a teenage jerk would give for a girl in 1969. It would have been stronger than bitch, but certainly not cunt; that would be nuclear. Twat was almost nuclear. Not so much a west coast slang. It didn’t matter. I dropped the board. Jerk and his friends looked at it.

Hitting someone in the face is nuclear. The shoulder, maybe; was acceptable. “Harder!” “That all you’ve got?” Push, push back, a few glancing blows and a tie up; this was suburban teenage fighting. And, as Jerk pulled his right arm back, I hit him with a straight shot that bloodied his nose and lip.

It wasn’t full speed. I had held back.

The other two guys were, obviously, trying to decide between fight and flight. Everything stopped. Again. I looked at my hand. Jerk put his left hand to his face, looked at the blood. The other two guys looked at the blood on his face and hand, stepped away from their friend.

“Devil Dogs,” Dave said to the friends, his biggest smile on his (slightly-pimpled, had to add this) face; “Joe’s a fuckin’ Devil Dog.”

I picked up my board. There were several drops of blood on it.  I wasn’t sure if I was thrilled or sorry. Not enough of either.

“It’s just… um… you were rude.” Jerk looked like he might apologize; or, worse, cry.  “Hey,” I said, taking Dave’s towel off his board, handing it to Jerk. “My dad made me go. It’s really… it’s Devil Pups. Marines. Didn’t want to go.” I stood aside, opening the ramp. “We’re going to go surfing now.” I took the towel back, handed it to Dave. He took it with a shrug. “Just, um; you’re okay, huh?”

Jerk nodded. We walked on.

“Hope he doesn’t cry,” Dave said. “Your dad… I mean; if you ever even…” As we reached the sand, the sun way too close to the horizon, Dave ran next to me, looked closely at my face.

I wasn’t crying, quite, but I was not thrilled. I wasn’t sorry. I’m pretty sure I smiled, maybe even laughed. “Devil Dogs!” I ran for the water, didn’t look back at the bluff until I was knee-deep. The sun bounced back at me off windows, car windows, house windows. Silhouettes. Maybe one of them was Ginny, I thought. Maybe I was wrong.

Dave caught a wave before I did.

Advertisements

Why is my site blow-oh-oh-ing up?

image-138image-132image-128

The following for realsurfers.net has been growing slowly but steadily since I started it three years ago or so. HOWEVER, it’s been getting massive numbers of hits (for me, probably low for most porn sites) over the last week or so; I don’t know where it’s coming from, and I’m kind of freaking out; thrilled and refusing to believe it’s happening at the same time. It’s, perhaps, not unlike getting locked into an overhead wave at a spot with a brutal bottom contour.

I’ve been working quite (surprisingly) hard recently, doing some writing; some drawings; some cartoons, some of which I hope might show up in “the New Yorker” (and all will undoubtedly, eventually show up here); and shipping off and working on the realsurfers coloring book. My sister, Melissa Lynch, has been helping spread the word on Facebook.

With the difficulty in convincing anyone to have painting done this time of year, the surf either not happening or not at the right angle for anywhere close, the ground frozen and the temperature brutal, I’ve been trying to do what I can to advance my artsy career, such as it is.

image-139image-140

Still, I’m behind on my (okay, once, I’ll call it a…) blog. I have some news and some photos from Hydrosexual Stephen Davis, last heard from wayyy down in Baja, and have some new drawings to add to existing stories “Inside Break,” and “Locals Only Kooks Go Home.” I am working on editing the coloring book down to 48 total drawings (cheaper to ship), checking into setting up a PayPal deal so people can buy the book, and cleaning up my site. Keith Darrock may be helping me with this (we’re negotiating). Keith, Associate Librarian in Port Townsend, is also working on planning for the Third Occasional Surf Culture on the Strait of Juan de Fuca Event. We’d love to get William Finnegan, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author of “Barbarian Days,” involved, live or (maybe, even) on Skype. If you have any influence (and we’re reaching out to surf journalism legend and Surf Culture headliner Drew Kampion for help) in getting (just guessing at his surf nickname) Willy Finn involved; yeah, use it.

So, shit’s happening; and if you’re promoting/linking/doing anything that’s helping, thank you. Since the start of what may or may not be a virus, Trish, long stating that Facebook is her thing, not mine, has been helping get some stuff on the Facebook site our daughter, Dru, set up. I think I’m at Erwin Dence, Jr, Facebook-wise, and I’m also at realsurfersdotnet@gmail.com.   So, thanks; I’m getting back to work.

Illustration for “Fortune Point”

Trish thought the drawing looked like a “young kid, kind of chunky, maybe.” Yeah, fine; let’s say that’s what I was… you know what? I’ll just post the drawing, also added to the story by Rico Moore, next down, for your scrolling and reading pleasure.

Image (86)Thanks, Rico.

Real Surfers “Real-ly” For Surf Literature

…the first one, ever; goes to William Finnegan for “Barbarian Days.”

I’m sure he would be stoked. Okay, maybe mildly amused. Maybe just cool about the whole thing. I just heard the last of the hourly NPR newscast the other day, announcing the winner of some award. Didn’t hear what award, but something literary.  I was excited. I called up Port Townsend librarian (and surfer) Keith Darrock, who had saved the book for me when they got it in. I may have been the second one to check it out. My friend Archie Endo also mentioned the book was out. Real life surf writer/editor Drew Kampion endorsed Finnegan as a writer, quite impressed he had written a two issue (unheard of in its rarity) “New Yorker” piece on Doc Renneker, legendary surfer. “Yeah, he’s legit.”

So, I read it. Not straight through; but as straight through as I could manage.

“I don’t know. Maybe it’s the Booker Prize. Don’t they have something like that?”

No, I found out; it’s the Pulitzer! Whoa. Now, that’s something.

It might be that part of the reason I loved the book so much more than some other books on surfing I’ve read, or started to read, or scimmed and abandoned, is that Mr. Finnegan is a real writer; a really good writer. And…he’s been there; surfing and other war zones; and he can maintain a coolness that most of us cannot; he can put into words what we can feel, not explain, and yet recognize as authentic. Passion and critical situations are sometimes best described from just a bit of distance;  with the right amount of objectivity. “Yeah, that’s it. He got it right.”

finn-458x640

The explanation for why the book had a bigger impact on me than it seems to have had on Keith is, perhaps, that Finnegan and I are contemporaries. I looked it up, he’s actually a year younger than I am; started surfing at a similar time. He is able to describe the beginnings of what his reviewers always seem to call “a lifelong passion;” trying to learn, to improve, to fit into whatever tribe one finds himself among.

While he was exploring now-well known spots around the world, I was surfing now-way-more-crowded spots in a less crowded Southern California. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to hear how that went for him.

william_finnegan_c_the_new_yorker_400

I actually was impressed enough to hold off of returning the book after I’d read it, asking Keith what would happen if I went over the deadline. And (this is actually unusual) I watched a video of Mr. Finnegan doing a reading at some event in New York City, with non-surfers making up most of the audience.

And he was cool; not talking down, now rolling his eyes, not even, noticeably smirking as he looked back to the page he was reading.

I have to admit I take some (probably improper) solace in knowing that, possibly to make up for his wanderings during his youth, he’s still working. Of course, when he’s not, he might be snagging a few tubes at Tavarua, staying at the now-known island, with a real bed and untainted water.  So, a minor honor, indeed, but the first ever “Real-ly” is for you, Mr. William Finnegan, Jr.