Too-Epic “Swamis”

My novel, “Swamis,” keeps growing, keeps reaching past ‘novel’ to ‘epic novel’ length. I keep editing it, deleting stuff, then, tightening and polishing and making sure all the little moves are clear; it just keeps rolling past the 120k word zone, that fictional border that keeps a fictional story at a readable length.

Yeah, and as much as it hurts me to cut chapters, with where I am, so close to an ending that keeps evading me in the rewriting and editing, I definitely need to cut a couple of thousand words. SO, I keep moving them to the backup, shadow story, labeled “Sideslipping” on my laptop. I have published some of these on realsurfers, and, if I can swing the computer moves, I will stick some ‘edits,’ don’t want to call them ‘deleted scenes,’ here. MAYBE ‘deleted scenes’ is acceptable.

See the source image
John Witzig photo, Australia, sixties; but it sure looks like Swamis

The following is actually two big outtakes. Remember, though there is a lot of actual people and real events included in “Swamis,” this is fiction. I transplanted my best surfing friends Phillip and Ray into situations that never happened, stuck myself in there, too, mostly so readers don’t think I am Jody. I am not. And, yeah, it’s a lot of words to delete; still not enough:

                                SIDESLIPPING- OUTTAKES FROM “SWAMIS”

Here we go:

Someone I met much later, a former member of the La Jolla/Windansea group, ten years or so older than me; old enough to have dived for abalone and lobster; old enough to have ridden a new balsa wood board, said, of surfing in his era, “We just sort of plowed.”

When I switched from surf mats to boards, in 1965, diving for and selling abalone and ‘bugs’ (lobster) for cash was already over; being a ‘true waterman’ was no longer a priority.  This only added to the mystique.  There was a certain reverence, respect, held by surfers of the “Everybody goes surfing, surfing U.S.A.” era for the members of that post-war generation; beatnik/hotrod/rock n’ roll/pre-Gidget/rebellious/outsider/loner surfers plowing empty waves. 

That is, for those (of us) who actually gave a shit.

Tamarack was obvious; one peak in front of the bathrooms on the bluff, a bit of a channel; a parking lot at beach level.  Good place to learn; sit on the shoulder; wait, watch, study; move toward the peak; a bit closer with each session.  Get yelled at; get threatened; learn.

Eventually, if you wanted to improve, you would have to challenge yourself to ride bigger waves, beachbreaks with no channel, tough paddle outs.  You would have to learn to hold tightly to the board’s rails, your arms loose enough to move with the violence of a breaking wave.  If you wanted to surf the best waves, the set waves, even at Tamarack, you would eventually have to challenge a better-than-you surfer for a wave.

Chapter Eight- Thursday, March 20, 1969

Phillip and Ray lead the discussion about the murder and the excitement.  There was a bigger than usual crowd at the big concrete planter boxes, designed with seating all around, trees and bark inside them. The break was called ‘nutrition,’ between second and third periods, and there were two trailers set up where nutritious snacks like orange-sickles and twinkies could be purchased.  

Mostly Ray was talking, with Phillip adding key points, and Erwin looking out for any nearby teachers.  Mark and Dipshit Dave and three of the Billys were there. I was in my usual spot, standing in the planter, observing, listening.  Some of the local toughs and the cooler non-surfers were, unusually, part of this day’s group; listening; more friends of friends of Ray and Phil. 

Two of the Rich Kids came over from the Senior Area.  Mike, who had been my best friend up until third grade, jumped up next to me on the planter.  “Missed the excitement, huh Joey?”

“Guess so, Mikey.”

I had already heard the story.  My mind was somewhere else.  

“Um, hey; Joey; you know…”  I knew what Mike wanted to say.  “We’re still; you know, friends.”  He tapped me on the chest, tapped his own.  “It’s just… your dad.  Sorry.”

I tapped Mike on his chest, three times, held up a flat palm between us, went back to being somewhere else.   

In our freshman year, the most crowd-centric of several big concrete planters became the pre-school, break, and lunchtime hangout for the entire crew of Freshmen surfers (as far as we knew); Erwin and Phillip and me. With the administrative building behind it, the gymnasium/cafeteria downhill, most of the classrooms to the west, and a bit of shade provided by the trees, it was a good place for observing while still laying low, avoiding… avoiding the other students; the older students in particular; but also any awkward interactions with girls and rich kids and new kids who had gone to other Junior high schools, Pauma Valley (East, toward Palomar Mountain) and Camp Pendleton (West) and Bonsall (Southwest) and Rainbow and Temecula (Northeast).

Temecula. In my senior year, 1969, there were four or five kids from there; three were siblings; two Hanks sisters, one brother. These days, if people don’t know where Fallbrook is, they have heard of Temecula. Big city. “Yeah, sure, Temecula; out on The 15.”

Putting “The” in front of the name of highways came later, along with traffic helicopters and rush hour destination forecasts. Later.

I-15 was Highway 395 then, and Temecula was, often, twisted into Tim-meh-cu’-la; not for any good reason except, perhaps, it was more inland, farther East than Fallbrook, Fallbrook, a town that self-identified (with signage) as “The Friendly Village;” but was nicknamed, in a self-deprecating way, Frog-butt.

Again, the planter was a good place to observe the daily run of mostly manufactured dramas, crushes and romances and slights and breakups, from.  High ground.  The planter offered a good view of the slatted, backless wooden benches where the sociable girls, this clique and that one, sat (one or two sitting, two or three standing), in groupings established through some mysterious sort of class/status jockeying, some girls able to move from one group to another; some not.

The planter was adjacent to the Senior Area, a sort of skewed rectangle of grass and concrete with covered picnic tables.  This chunk of real estate was off limits and jealously guarded, mostly by guys in red Warriors letterman jackets, against intruders; though any senior who made any effort to appear cool (particularly when talking with underclass girls) would feel obligated to say the exclusivity of the senior area was no big deal to him. 

Girls.  Yeah, the planter was a good place to observe girls, some I’d known since kindergarten. Changing.  So quickly.  Heartbeat by heartbeat.  Girls.  So mysterious. 

It’s not that I didn’t try to understand how a (comparatively) poor girl with a great personality could be in with three rich girls, at least one of whom was totally bitchy (I mean ‘slightly difficult, quite mean, and unreasonably demanding,’ but I would have meant and said bitchy back then).  I figured it was because they knew each other before we figured out whose parents had more money than whose (ours).

…  

Phillip was new when we were freshmen.   He had come from Orange County; but he had done some surfing and his older sister was going out with a guy who was definitely one of Fallbrook High’s four or five real surfers.  Phillip and I shared a couple of classes.  I’d known Erwin since kindergarten.  He was a Seventh Day Adventist, which was, he explained, “Kind of like Christians following Jewish traditions.”  “Oh, so that’s why you’re not supposed to surf on Saturdays?”  “It’s the Sabbath.  Holy.  Sundown Friday until sundown Saturday.”  “Too bad.”  “Well; we have gone to, um, Doheny; somewhere we wouldn’t run into anyone from, you know, here.”  “Oh?”  “Yeah; hypocrisy and guilt. If surfing isn’t, you know, actually sinful…”  “Oh, but you know it is.”  “Sure is.”

Erwin was one of the only Adventists at our school, and he started board surfing right after junior high; about the same time I did; when his sister, Suellen, beguiled by “Gidget” movies and an episode of “Dr. Kildare,” probably (no doubt, actually); got herself a used surfboard and let her brother borrow it. 

Sinful, yes; addictive, undoubtedly.  I once, early September, just after school started, saw Erwin sitting on his sister’s board, toward the channel of the lineup.  Sunday.  Tamarack.  It wasn’t big, really, maybe a little bigger than had been average over the summer. 

“You’re in the channel, Erwin.”  “So?”  Closer to the peak meant closer to the crowd.  We challenged each other, had to go.  We both paddled, over and out; and sat, anxiously, outside of where the waves were breaking, watching other surfers, from the back, take all the waves.  When a set wave showed up, we were (accidently) in position.  We both; heads down, paddled for it; Erwin prone, me on my knees.  We both caught the wave.  I pearled, straight down, my board popping back up dangerously close to other surfers scrambling out. Erwin rode the wave. Probably quite ungracefully, but, if only between him and I, he had bragging rights.

Bragging rights, but only between Erwin and me.  Being ignored for a mediocre ride was far better than being noticed, called-out as a kook, told by three surfers, only one of them older than I was, to go surf somewhere else, go practice my knee-paddling in the nearby Carlsbad Slough.

I never did.  I persisted.  I got better.  I had significant surf bumps by the time I started riding boards that took knee-paddling out of the equation.

Sometimes I, or Phillip and I, would go (on a Sunday) with Erwin’s mom and his many siblings; sometimes Phillip (on a Saturday) or both of them (on a Sunday, after school, or on a holiday)  would go with Freddy and me and my mom.  Always to Tamarack.  Lower parking lot.  Freddy never surfed a board.  Surf mat; the real kind, hard, nipple-ripping canvas.  Sometimes Freddy and I would get dropped-off, try to fit into the crowd, ease close to someone else’s fire when our mom’s shopping took longer than the time we could manage to stay in the water.

Ray and some of the other guys our age didn’t start surfing until the summer before our sophomore year, so Phillip and Erwin and I were ahead of them, better than them.  Many of our contemporaries at least tried it.  Anyone newer to surfing than you were was a kook and/or gremmie.  Surfing had its own dress code and, more importantly, a fairly strict behavioral standard.  A code I thought, at the time.  It was fine to get all jazzed up among other surfers, going to or from the beach, but not cool to kook out among non-surfers. 

Even in the proper surf gear, Phillip and Ray, both blondes, looked more like what TV and movies said surfers should look like (unless you were foolish enough to believe Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon were anything even close to real- real surfers knew the extras, the background guys, Miki Dora especially, and Mickey Munoz, were the real surfers).  Erwin and I, dark haired; even when dressed in the requisite surf garb of the time, weren’t immediately recognized as surfers, weren’t immediately given whatever prestige we thought surfers received.

Or we were, and the prestige wasn’t what we thought it might be. 

By the time we were seniors, most of the other Fallbrook surfers our age had dropped off; surfing was less important than whatever they were doing; though they still looked like surfers and always asked when I’d gone last; always said we’d have to go, together, some time.

Some time.  We still rarely hung out in the Senior Area.  The planters.  

We all seemed to have cars; hand-me-downs from parents or older siblings off somewhere new.  We could go surfing alone.  Phillip and Ray had girlfriends, on and off.  Even Erwin had a girlfriend, Trish; not an Adventist.  Separate lives.  Separate adventures.  Romances.  Drama.  Sometimes we’d still surf together; usually not.

The stories of those adventures connected us. Loosely, probably.

I studied, I surfed. But, at nutrition and at lunch, pretending not to notice the swirl of so many stories around me, this concrete planter box was my social scene.

How Stephen Davis Saved the Zoom…

…LONG DISTANCE.

IF YOU WANT TO KNOW PRETTY MUCH EVERYTHING THAT’S WRONG with something you have written, read it out loud.  I figured I would start with that, only part of what happened at the “Art and Writings of Erwin Dence” Zoom event on the most recent Thursday night.

Keith Darrock, Port Townsend Librarian (he has a fancier title I can’t remember- just think librarian only more so, add in that he rips on any board in an ever-increasing quiver) and I got into the Zoom virtual space early, me on standby in my living room, he moving his laptop to an appropriate location in his home, books in the background.

Trish and our daughter, Dru, who had spent a lot of time making a slideshow from the illustrations (available for viewing on the previous post, non-slideshow) were joining-in from Dru’s place in Port Gamble.

I had spent part of the day preparing for what I hoped and imagined would happen at the Zoom event, having been way too distracted to get any significant work done the previous day because I was contacting and inviting (texting, mostly) folks I thought might be willing to participate.

WHEN I DID speak to someone, it turned into… well, I do like to talk.  I should particularly mention that I spent some time on the cell phone with a local Port Townsend (professional- as in no other ‘real’ job) writer who was gracious/foolish enough to read the entire unexpergated version of “Swamis” and give me a lot of guidance.  He said he’d probably be watching the last night of the Democratic National Convention, but, again, he was gracious/foolish enough to discuss what changes I had made to the manuscript since his review, and he did reveal why he had dedicated himself to writing.  “I just couldn’t see myself doing anything else for a living.”  “Road construction, retail sales?”  “Good luck.”

BECAUSE I had never actually written a succinct description of “Swamis,” as in 25 words or less, and I wanted to sound more author-like if pressed, I endeavored to do so.  Okay, it’s 376 words or so.  AND, because, in my mind, the audience/Zoomers might include the folks who have attended library events in the past, I went through the manuscript and picked out three pages that I thought might appeal to that educated group of hip and literate PT word lovers.  The subchapter is one of the more (I thought) semi-romantic parts of the story.

SO, 7pm Pacific Daylight Savings Time is 3pm on the Big Island of Hawaii where Stephen R. Davis, freshly freed from quarantine, is hanging out (and, yeah, I guess, working).  He was one of the first to ZOOM in, from his phone, from a vehicle, riding with former PT resident, and, by all accounts, surf ripper, McKinna (probably didn’t get the name right- I’ve heard of him but may never have met him- son of a well-known surfer, actually learned to surf in Wa. state), heading out looking for surf.

“So crowded,” Steve said, “Lots of wahines in bikinis.  Very little material.  I can’t tell you how little material there is in these bikinis.”

Okay, pretty appropriate.  By the time some other folks had joined, Steve and McKinna were going out at a surf spot with (we got to see this) some great looking waves.  Other folks had joined in, a couple of library types, as in solid citizens, but mostly local surfers I could easily name; and, if I get them to sign some simple non-disclosure agreements, I might.  Joke.  Sort of.  Permission.

If I had to summarize the evening, it was like what one would hear from a group of surfers in any beachside parking area, probably anywhere:  Who snaked who, what happened after that one session at that one spot, where did all the hipsters and hodads come from, and what about that time when…

SOMEWHERE IN THERE, about the time when I had to cut my video because of limited bandwidth from my overstretched DSL line (not that I minded this, the slideshow was designed, mostly, so that folks didn’t have to look at me) I did read my description of “Swamis,” and, most-embarrassingly, I did read the three pages I had (erroneously) selected, trying to vary the voices for the four characters.

THERE ARE sections of the novel with actual surfing, brilliantly described, with less dialogue from fewer voices.

THIS WAS WHEN STEPHEN R. DAVIS returned, chased, he said, out of the water by a “pack of rippers.  Kids.  They’re everywhere over here.  So many rippers.”  SO, we (and we, by this time, included, among others, Dru’s friend, professional DJ, Trenton, and Trisha’s nephew, and, I guess, my nephew-in-law, or, maybe, just nephew, Dylan, La Jolla surfer and recent graduate from UCLA Law School) were treated to another virtual tour of the Big Island, commentary by Steve, with continuing banter from what constitutes most of the unofficial PT Surf crew, special dispensation for ADAM WIPEOUT and, sort of, me, both of us from the SURF ROUTE 101 division.  Unofficial.

NEXT DAY REVIEW:  Fun; some good stories shared.  Trish told Dru I was nothing like Joey in my novel, told me I definitely need help in writing anything even close to romantic fiction.  Steve added significantly to if  he did not entirely save the event.  Dylan, probably used to surfing in the crowded California city surf with it’s ghetto mentality, thought it was great that surfers actually could enjoy each other’s company, even virtually.  Steve and McKinna scored some empty rights at sunset, Hawaii time.

Here’s my description of “Swamis:”

Joseph DeFreines, Jr. tells stories centered around the legendary Southern California surf spot, Swamis, focusing on 1969.  It’s a world of hippies and burnouts and Jesus Freaks and protesters, a time when words like love and peace and war and revolution might all be used in a single sentence.

Joseph’s father, a detective with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Office, has just died in, of course, mysterious circumstances; Joe has just graduated from an inland high school and moved to the coast; he’s turning eighteen and facing the draft; and he’s falling in love with a surfer girl whose father definitely has a connection with the North County’s cash crop, the area’s open secret, marijuana.

The growing and processing and selling of marijuana is progressing, getting more sophisticated, more profitable, and more dangerous.  The formerly cottage industry is evolving from the homegrown, with plants hidden in the avocado orchards and kids selling dime bags.  There is money to be laundered, good citizens getting involved.  There is, or could be, a wholesale market.

The unofficial line with the Sheriff’s Office, in a quote from Joseph, Senior, is “The world works on an acceptable level of corruption.”

When a man is burned to death just outside of the white walls of the religious compound that gives Swamis its name, that level has been breached.

While surfing has its too-obvious allure; too much freedom in too little clothing, its aura of rebellion and undeniable coolness, it also has, at least in Joseph’s mind, a certain set of high standards, a code of conduct.  He’s wrong.  He’s naïve. It’s a different world, existing con-currently with the world of commuters, the world of law enforcement, the world of pot… so many concurrent realities.

The characters in “Swamis” are complex: A detective’s son with possible epilepsy and a history of violent outbursts; a wounded returning Vietnam Vet; an ex-teen runaway-turned-evangelist; a Japanese war bride; a hired thug who becomes a respected detective; a black photojournalist; an East Indian who wanted to be a revolutionary and was banished from London; Mexican middlemen under immense pressure.  If Swamis are seekers more than prophets, they are all Swamis.  Still, none are perfect.

Maybe Virginia Cole.  To Joey.

Maybe, among the chaos, there’s the occasional perfect moment, the perfect ride on a perfect wave.

385 words.

 

 

 

 

Vivid Covid Dreams

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

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

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

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

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

                Not Out, Just Put Away

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

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

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

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

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

Manners.  Leave it.

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

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

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

“Who would have told you that?”

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

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

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

Waiting for someone else’s assessment.

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

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

Out there.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

because I’m Unable to keep my hands to myself…

“Swamis” remains incomplete. I’m working on it. I’m still cutting as much as I can, trying to logically decide or guess or divine which parts are just too, too… wrong. Too this or too that. The goal is to make it all logical and an easier read and, you know, a great American Novel. Not that easy as it turns out. I’m breaking the manuscript into more manageable chapters (meaning more of them) moving some plot items so there’s less skipping around in the timeline.

I am putting the larger outtakes into the sidework file, “Sideslipping.” I’m including two of these in this post.MEANWHILE, I’m continuing to work on illustrations. I’ve included two new ones here, and, because I just can’t help myself, I’ve done some rework on another.

THE FIRST OUTTAKE is a bit of a redundant note that corresponds to Phil and Ray getting busted after appearing on TV the day after Chulo is murdered at Swamis. That is fiction. The note is pretty much the truth about the real life Phil and Ray.

THE SECOND OUTTAKE is some explanation, obviously not for real surfers. I was asked if I did research for “Swamis.” I did. Stephen R. Davis told me about the ‘donkey’ thing, I did look up ‘punk.’ Didn’t look up ‘kook.’ Real surfers know some shit.

NOTE- Phillip and Ray were (I’ll get to this) busted, partially because of this incident, for serial ditching at Fallbrook High.  They had so many hours of detention to serve (the usual punishment, an hour served for each hour missed) that they couldn’t do the time before graduation.  They were, instead, tasked with having to pick up trash around the campus at nutrition and lunch until the end of the year.  While some students threw wrappers and apple cores and lunch sacks to the ground when they saw either (or both) of them approaching with their large canvas bags and sticks with a nail on the end; they were also folk heroes of sorts, rebels; an enviable status.  Peace signs and nods, a few slugs to the shoulder (precursor to the high five and/or fist bump); maybe an already-dated ‘far out’ or ‘right on;’ probably not a ‘groovy,’ even from some otherwise-clueless classmate. 

*The word ‘punk,’ evidently, comes from Elizabethan/Shakespearean times, referring to prostitutes; updated to include petty criminals in the early nineteen-hundreds, with a secondary meaning added in American prisons in which punks were prisoners available, willingly or not, for sexual favors.  ‘Kook’ supposedly a synonym for shit in Hawaiian, has come to mean someone who isn’t proficient.  Shitty. A friend of mine, one who has spent enough time in Hawaii to risk using some pidgin if in the right company, informs me ‘donkey’ has become a synonym for kook, even cooler when a bit of a bray is included, as in, ‘donnnnnk,’ the final ‘ey’ optional.

ILLUSTRATIONS with EXPLANATIONS: I wanted an illustration for GINNY that showed a just-turning 18 year old. My drawings tend to get too dark too quickly. Partway through this one, I told Trish I just didn’t want to screw it up. “Oh, you’ll keep going until you do.” Hope not.

The illustration that I may or may not use for JUMPER HAYES started out to be one of JOSEPH ‘JODY’ DEFREINES. Jody is half Japanese, the drawing, part way through, according to Trish, looked more like someone who is Hispanic and a bit older. “Okay, I’m adding a mustache.”

I had already completed a drawing that, admission here, started out to be PORTIA. “Looks like Jesus,” Trish said. “Okay, it’ll be CHULO then.” I added some whiskers. I was drawing in black and white from a fairly dark background and couldn’t get a white enough white; BUT I got a white paint pen and… now Chulo looks way too pretty. OKAY, I’ll use the same technique when I get an illustration properly mysteriously beautiful enough to actually be Portia.

Possibly Ginny Cole
possibly Jumper Hayes
modified Chulo Lopez (Chulo does mean ‘good looking’)

RUMORS of swells and beach openings and such things continue. Stay safe. Six feet. That’s called ‘overhead’ in the Northwest, ‘four feet in Southern California, ‘flat’ in Hawaii. Oh, you knew that. Of course.

OH, I just remembered, I added a cross to an earlier illustration of Chulo, might just add one to this drawing.

“SIDESLIPPING” YOUR WAY

I’m, apparently, anal retentive when it comes to my writing. This is why the manuscript for “Swamis” is 123,000 words long; evidently somewhere around thirty, forty thousand words too many. WAIT, maybe I’m actually just trying to share all the good, um stuff. Wait; that would possibly make me anal explosive, the opposite, I’ve been informed, of, you know… hey, I wouldn’t think anyone wants to be identified as anal, um, anything.

OKAY, so, if I have to be that; if I have to radically, ruthlessly cut out a lot of words from “Swamis,” I’m going to, yeah, save the stuff.

SO, I’ve set up a place to put it, knowing, or, more likely, hoping that some of the peripheral stories I’ve so enjoyed writing might be useful in the, say, Season 2 of “Swamis.”

Yes, my ego is pretty much intact, despite getting reviews of the manuscript by two trusted people who actually got through it, both of whom (nicely but firmly) informed me it’s just too frustratingly complicated. Not the same as badly written. So, okay. That is, yeah; I knew that. Explosive.

What I would like to do, then, is publish some of the outtakes here. Here is the first batch, plus an illustration for the manuscript by the fictional Jody DeFreines by the real Erwin Dence.

The first segment is an embellished version of two separate incidents, one in which my friend Phillip Harper, both of us 16, had me try to purchase cigarettes as I, according to him, looked older. Not old enough, evidently.

The other segment and the illustration relate to the fictional presence of Ray Hicks and Phillip Harper at the aftermath of Chulo’s death (also fiction; based, sort of, on a real story of the body of a well know surfer ending up in a dumpster in Encinitas. Phil and Ray did get busted for serial ditching as per the insert.

the day after the Chulo thing. Sorry it looks cartoony. Good luck Joey

SIDESLIPPING- OUTTAKES FROM “SWAMIS”

Here we go:

SO FUCK-ING COOL… MAN

For a short period of time, but right about this time; well past ‘groovy,’ way past anyone remotely cool (or young) calling anyone a ‘Hippie,’ I made the adjustment, from ‘fuckin’, dropping the ‘ing,’ to Fuck-ing, emphasis on the ‘ing.’  This was after running into a guy, Gordy, a year ahead of me in high school, at a liquor store in Vista.  He was sporting a full beard and long hair (longer- Fallbrook had a dress code and I’d just graduated), parted in the middle (of course), and clothing, Hippie-garb I called it, that denied his quite-upper class upbringing.

“So fuck-ing’ cool, man.  We just don’t fuck-ing’ see each other, man; like, like we used to.”  And he was, obviously, stoned, with an even more-stoned girl, possibly still in high school; headband, boutique-chic top hanging precariously on her breasts, nodding, giggling, eyes unable to focus or even adjust to the light from the coolers; next to him.

I was looking at the girl.  Maybe I knew an older brother or sister.   She looked at me, squinting, then nodding, a finger pointed way too close to my eyes.  Big smile.  “My brother Larry,” she said, “he says you’re a fuck-ing’ asshole; oh and…”  She lost her thought.  Emphasis on the ‘ing.’

“Larry.  Yeah.  Well.”  Larry.  Yeah.  Larry’s little sister.

I walked toward the counter, looked at the guy behind it; older guy, sort of leering at the girl.  “Larry’s little sister,” I said.  The guy nodded. Appreciatively (by which I mean creepily).  “She probably going to be, like…” I looked at her (questioningly, not, I hope, creepily).  “…a Junior?” she nodded.  “Like, uh, next year?”

“Uh huh.”

“Class of, uh, a second…”

“Seventy-one!  Yea!”  She made a bit of a cheerleader pompom gesture, one hand, a jump motion without actually getting off the ground.  Junior Varsity.

I looked back at the Counter Guy.  He looked at Gordy.  A little judgey, not that Gordy noticed. 

Gordy put a hand on my shoulder.  I looked at his hand.  He took it away.  I put two one-dollar bills, my package of Hostess donettes and a quart of chocolate milk on the counter, pointed to a pack of Marlboros (hard pack) on the back wall, turned back to Gordy and Larry’s sister.  Gordy sort of gave me a specific (disappointed) look.

“I know, man… Gordie; you probably don’t fuck-ing’ smoke… cigarettes.”  He and the girl both giggled.

The Counter Guy set the cigarettes on the counter, rang up the carton of milk and the donettes. 

“Pack of matches, too; please.”

Counter Guy put two packs of matches on top of the Marlboros.  “You’re seventeen, huh?”

I didn’t think.  “Yeah, I am.”

“Well,” he said, “Got to be eighteen.”

He slid the cigarettes back toward him, a fifty-cent piece and two dimes and two pennies back to me.

“Oh,” I said, “I’m eighteen, too.  I meant…”

“And you, sir?” he asked of Gordy.

“I left my license in my other pants,” I said.  Counter Guy ignored me, smiled (still creepily) at Larry’s sister.  She probably took it as flirting.

Gordy put one hand on the cigarettes, the other on my change.  “I’m eighteen,” he said, “and I can fucking prove it.”

“Didn’t mean to be so… fucking uncool, Gordy,” I said, as we stepped outside. 

“Nah; it’s cool,” Gordy said.  He flipped me the cigarettes, one pack of matches, kept one pack; pulled Larry’s sister closer to him, put his hand out as two (obviously) off-duty Marines approached (obviously Marines, obviously off duty), both looking more at her than at him.  “Either of you two gentlemen twenty-one?” he asked, pulling out several ten-dollar bills.

Neither of them was, but the next guy approaching, not a Marine, definitely was.  He looked at the two Marines, at Gordy, at Larry’s sister.  He put his hand out, said, “it’ll cost you.”

“Peace, man,” I said, walking away, waving my free hand in a peace sign.   Gordy flipped me the peace sign with the hand holding the money, but quickly, and not where the Marines could see the gesture.   Not that they or the Citizen taking money from Gordy and him were looking past Larry’s sister.  She gave each of them a very quick, weak smile, and, in a moment of self-awareness, pulled her top up a little higher on her breasts.

Class of ’71.  Yea!

Maybe I was trying to make up for my uncoolness in challenging Gordy.  Probably.  Yeah.  Flipping the peace sign was pretty much over.  On special occasions, perhaps; displayed and shared with what we would only later refer to as ‘ironically.’

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NOTE- Phillip and Ray were (I’ll get to this) busted, partially because of this incident, for serial ditching at Fallbrook High.  They had so many hours of detention to serve (the usual punishment, an hour served for each hour missed) that they couldn’t do the time before graduation.  They were, instead, tasked with having to pick up trash around the campus at nutrition and lunch until the end of the year.  While some students threw wrappers and apple cores and lunch sacks to the ground when they saw either (or both) of them approaching with their large canvas bags and sticks with a nail on the end; they were also folk heroes of sorts, rebels; an enviable status.  Peace signs and nods, a few slugs to the shoulder (precursor to the high five and/or fist bump); maybe an already-dated ‘far out’ or ‘right on;’ probably not a ‘groovy,’ even from some otherwise-clueless classmate.  

——————————————————————————————————————————-

Pan This Damn-Demic

For a small time contractor in the Pacific Northwest, it’s been kind of like a continuation of winter, but with better weather.

Not so much fun. Hope you’re staying safe. The new equivalent of Aloha, of hello and goodbye, seems to be “stay safe.” Backup is “six feet,” which, depending on how loud one says it, also means “Backup!”

Not really what I want to write about. I’m working on multiple fronts on completing “Swamis,” that is, making it better. Better includes, from the feedback I’ve gotten so far, means less complicated. So, editing. Work.

MEANWHILE, I’m working on a TREATMENT, outline, first step toward something my wordy novel is perfect for, motion picture. More like a series; it’s that complex.

MEANWHILE, I’m also trying to get some illustrations together. Here are the latest:

This didn’t start out to be Chulo; now it is.

Swamis Point with some sort of bloop on the screen. Flipping Corona. No doubt. More illustrations on the way; waiting for some from Stephen R. Davis. MEANWHILE, I do need an agent. Here’s the pitch: “Swamis,” 1969.

So far it hasn’t sold itself. Working on it. Stay safe. Six feet.

More Work is, Evidently, Necessary

I’ve sent out copies of the unexpurgated version of “Swamis” to several people. This waiting for a response, as noted in an earlier post, tends to push one further into the area of neurosis previously only visited for, say, a long weekend. That was before the omni-demic pushed the boundaries of crazzzzzinesssss to the place where we are now.

So, if I’m a bit more crazed, maybe, statistically, I’m pretty much where I was. If some of us could just go surfing, then, maybe, perhaps, then… we…

Anyway, I have gotten some feedback; and it’s mostly that I need to make “Swamis” less confusing, less prone to jumping forward and backward in time and place, fewer peripheral scenes; more reader friendly. I already knew I would have to drop some of the side stories. The thing is, I have enough of those to write another book. Maybe I will.

“Side-slipping.”

Meanwhile, I am trying to get some more drawings together, hopefully enough to put in with each chapter. Since I need to break the manuscript into more chapters, I evidently need more illustrations. I do have Stephen R. Davis working on a few; and we have discussed the look I’m going for. Black and white, kind of moody… I’m hoping he can do some real portraits of fictional people.

I’ve also discussed formatting and such things with my daughter, Dru, pressing her into service to help put together a slide show of my illustrations (not just surf stuff) that can be shown to folks who are willing to listen to a reading from “Swamis” without having to also look at me reading it. This is for a presentation with the Port Townsend Library, set up by surf rebel librarian Keith Darrock. Not set up yet; we’re working on it.

I’ll let you know, but, meanwhile, out here in crazy land, I am putting a lot of thought into the screenplay version. Too much for a movie. Prime Netflix stuff. It just takes more work. Evidently.

“Even the President of the United States…

…sometimes must have to stand naked.” Bob Dylan

This isn’t about the president, really, it’s about writers and artists, and, no, really, it’s about all of us. I’ve often said all of us are in sales; we’re all selling something, whether it’s a service or something we *created, designed, built; or something we’re promoting.

As sales people, we’re all being judged. I’ve been working on the manuscript for “Swamis” for quite a while now, and this morning, for the first time in that same quite a while, I woke up without wanting, feeling as if I had to work on it, whether I could or not.

I spent some time yesterday insuring that I have an actual Library of Congress copyright on the story that I *designed and built (rather than saying I created it- it’s a remembering and a remix and a projection and a compilation and a fitting of character to setting) trying to fit all that into some sort of structure; chiseling here, hammering there.

NOW I’m at the naked stage, sending out the product to be judged. I can’t put a value on it, can’t grade it, can’t say your reading “Swamis” will be a worthwhile experience for you.

I think it’s genius, of course.

If one doesn’t have to be crazy to consider him or herself to be a writer, sending your work (and don’t be fooled, writing is pure pleasure, editing is work) out, naked, to be judged; the necessary part of selling the thing, and waiting, waiting, waiting for judgement… that will make you crazy(ier).

I should also mention that preparing myself to ask someone to do me the honor of reading my work tends to make me a bit nauseated. It’s like that feeling you might get (I mean, probably have had), headed for your favorite surf spot because you just believe the waves will be soooo good, then knowing that way too many other surfers will have the same idea, and you, being a sociopathic wave hog, might just have to get all scrappy and…see?

Crazy.

The unexpurgated version, all 298 pages, all 23,345 words, is being put into a book version, one copy, a ‘galley proof’ by one of my clients in the real world (in which I paint houses), Mike Kenna, owner of The Printery in Port Townsend. Thanks, Mike. I have sent electronic versions to several other people, people I know will be honest in their assessment.

There’s no profit in not being honest.

MEANWHILE, while I’m waiting, I do have the opportunity, through my connection with the (currently closed) Port Townsend Library, soul rebel stealth surf ripper Keith Darrock, to do some sort of electronic reading of “Swamis.” We’ll see. I’ll let you know. I did a test video this morning, me in the living room.

No, I wasn’t naked, but I did put a shirt on; and that was with just me watching.

The Only-Recently-Passed but Already-Old Normal

FIRST, I have completed, pretty much, my complete re-re-re-edit of “Swamis,” the fake memoir, coming of age, mystery, romance novel. Yes, I do want to do a bit more polishing, and, yes, it’s probably way too long at somewhere around 123,000 words, 295 pages at 12 point. NOW WHAT?

ANYWAY, we’re all stuck in the omni-demic; surf spots on the coast of the Olympic Peninsula or on the Strait of Juan de Fuca are shut down or have access that is even more restricted than usual, and some are counting it as better-if-not-good news that the surf might not be optimum.

Here are a couple of fairly recent shots of my friend, Stephen R. Davis, setting up a wave and hitting the inside section. Now that the writing part is almost under control, I have asked Steve to do some illustrations for “Swamis.” Since the book alleges to be a memoir by Joseph Atsushi ‘Jody’ DeFreines, Junior; real person Erwin Dence, a minor character in the manuscript (mostly so readers won’t think Erwin is anything like Jody) will also be doing some of the drawings.

True to the secondary title of realsurfers, ‘Name Droppers and Shoulder Hoppers,’ “Swamis” does include some other real people (Margo Godfrey, Cheer Critchlow, Corky Carroll, Billy Hamilton, to drop a few), along with fictional characters based on individuals or composites of people I’ve come across.

I recently called up Ray Hicks. I offered to change his name, and that of my other best original surfer friend, Phillip Harper (though I only use their first names- could become Ron and Paul, perhaps), most specifically because they didn’t do most (but not all) of the things they do in the manuscript. Ray said he’s sure the statute of limitations has run out on anything he might have done fifty-some years ago.

I did have to tell Ray that, actually, some of the things we did do are in the manuscript, put onto other characters. Like, remember the time five of us got to ride in the back of a CHP vehicle because we got busted for…

Hey, it’s in the novel. Meanwhile, stay safe. Hopefully, we’re all sliding toward some better version of a new normal.

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.