Ironically Flipping the Peace Sign

It’s another outtake from my manuscript for “Swamis,” re-edited, because I just can’t help it, and posted here because I just can’t leave it in some bound-to-get-lost file. I like the story. It is based, mostly, on two incidents: My running into a classmate on the night of the homecoming game, five years or so out of high school, and my being declined for purchasing cigarettes when I was seventeen. Gordy was with another classmate, a girl who was my chemistry lab partner, and with whom I had gone on one date, just before I met Trish. Gordy had gone full-on hippie, did put the emphasis on the ‘ing’ part of the word ‘fuck-ing.’ All a bit anachronistic.

This was the first image in a search. I wasn’t lazy, it just works the best.

SO FUCK-ING COOL… MAN

Gordy claimed to be a surfer, though I never saw him actually in the water. On the beach a few times, talking surfing as if he had just been in, somewhere else, somewhere better, or just about to get in. Later, if it got better. He was two years ahead of me in high school and regaled the other non-surfing jocks at school. Gordy was not one of the older students Gary and I bugged and begged for rides to the beach. Once, maybe.

I was in a liquor store in Vista. Gordy was sporting a full-if-sparse beard and long hair (Fallbrook High had a dress code), parted in the middle (of course), and clothing, Hippie-garb I called it, that denied his quite-upper class upbringing.

“Still fuck-ing’ surfing, Jody?”

I took the usual few seconds to replay his sentence. He had separated the syllables, put the emphasis on the second one. “Ing!’”

“Of course.”

“So fuck-ing’ cool, man.  We just don’t fuck-ing’ see each other, man; like, like we used to.” 

Gordy was, obviously, stoned. He had his left arm over the shoulder of an even more-stoned girl, younger, possibly still in high school. She was wearing a headband, her boutique-chic top hanging precariously on her breasts. She was nodding, giggling, her eyes unable to focus or even adjust to the light from the coolers we were standing next to.

The girl 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’ stuck-up asshole; oh and…” She lost her thought. 

Emphasis on the ‘ing.’

“Larry?”

“Larry,” the girl said. “Larry Walker.”

“Oh. Larry Walker? Yeah.”  

“Yeah. Larry. You did punch him out, Jordy.” Gordy didn’t wait for my response. “Freshman football. Practice. I was J.V., just before I went varsity.”

I replayed the incident in my mind. Larry was the ball carrier. I had tackled him. Open field. He and I were both on the ground. The play was over. He gave me an elbow shot to the groin. Someone pulled him up. He pulled his helmet up and back, smiling at me with his plastic mouth guard smile. “Gettin’ tackled by a beaner’s bad enough. Some fuckin’ half-Jap…”

Straight shot. No broken teeth. Mouth guard.   

“Yeah.” Gordy and Larry’s little sister had walked away. I walked toward the counter. The guy behind it looked at me for a second, continued leering at the girl as she and Gordy came up behind me. “Larry’s little sister,” I said. The Counter Guy nodded. Appreciatively (by which I mean creepily). 

“She’s probably going to be, like…” I turned, looked at her (questioningly, not, I hope, creepily).  “…a Junior?”

Larry’s sister nodded, her nod a bit uncontrolled. “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 took his left hand off Larry’s sister’s shoulder and put it on mine. 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 gave me a specific look. Disappointment.

“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, “You got to be eighteen.”

Gordy laughed. The girl laughed a moment later.

The Counter Guy slid the cigarettes away from me, slid a fifty-cent piece and two dimes and two pennies back to me.

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

Counter Guy looked past me, to Gordy. “And you, sir?”

“I left my license in my other pants,” I said. Counter Guy ignored me, smiled (still creepily) at Larry’s sister. I looked at her. She seemed to take the leering as flirting. Gordy handed his date a bag of potato chips and returned a six pack to the cooler. 

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

“Twenty-six cents more then, for the chips.”

“Didn’t mean to be so… fucking’ uncool, Gordy,” I said, as he and I stepped outside, Larry’s sister a few steps behind us.   

“Nah; it’s cool,” Gordy said. He flipped me the cigarettes, one pack of matches, making sure I realized he was keeping the other one. He pulled Larry’s sister closer to him, slung his left hand over her shoulder and perilously close to her breasts, extended his right hand 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. The citizen 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, his hands off Larry’s sister, left hand holding his wallet, flipped me the peace sign with his right hand, but quickly, and not where the Marines could see the gesture. Not that they or the Citizen taking money from Gordy 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.

Flipping the peace sign was, for anyone under thirty or so, pretty much over by this time, the winter of 1969. On special occasions, perhaps; the act was shared with friends as a sort of code, an action we would only later” refer to or try to explain as having been done “ironically.”

IF YOU’RE STILL WITH ME, thanks. I should add that the football punch part is actually derived from an incident in which classmate Bill Birt, in practice, sophomore year, pulled off a teammate’s helmet and slugged him in the face. Kicked off the J.V. team, the coach, allegedly, said, “Now, Bill, if you only played that way in a game…” The result of blending in all the real stuff is fiction.

All original writing contained in realsurfers.net and anything taken from manuscripts for “Swamis” is protected under copywrite and is the property of Erwin A. Dence, Jr.

GOOD LUCK SURFING. And I don’t mean that sarcastically or ironically.

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.

Ginny and Joey in the Photo Lab

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

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

M…

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

Among those milling about was Alexander.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Of course.”

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

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

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

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

“Obviously, then; you must surf.”

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

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

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

“You are?”

“I am.”

Passionate.

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

“Yeah.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Joey,” she said.

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

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

Desperate for a Little Getaway?

I write a monthly piece for the Quilcene Community Center Newsletter. Occasionally I post it here. Here’s the latest, with a lot of help from Trish:

                                DESPERATE FOR A GETAWAY? THE OLYMPIC PENINSULA AWAITS

Trish is helping me on this. Since I was desperately late, as usual, in getting my submission ready (and I have a reason, more an excuse, that I will spare you from), I asked my long, long-suffering wife for a topic.

“Spring?” “Yeah, yeah; what about it?”

“Well, how about that there have been three police chases in Jefferson County in the last three weeks, each with speeds over one hundred miles an hour, and your wife and daughter almost got killed during one of them?”

“Yeah, well; maybe.” “I’ll look up everything for you.” “Okay… honey.”

So, I wake up this morning, the last day of February, and there are three newspapers on my chair and a big, long text message on my phone. Now, I had offered to set up a word document on the computer to save Trisha’s fingers, but she declined.

But first, I feel I must explain a Pursuit Intervention technique (PIT) maneuver. First I had to google it, then, to fully understand, Youtube it. Wow! For those without Youtube… wait, you’re reading this on a computer, so… Anyway, the pursuing police vehicle kind of gently nudges one of the sides at the back of the fleeing vehicle, usually causing that vehicle to lose control, but, evidently, this doesn’t mean the desperado actually stops.

I figure you already know about spike strips across the road in front of the getaway car, and, since Trish isn’t really big on my mansplaining stuff, and I just looked up myself… again, sparing you.

So, here’s what I have on my phone:

“3 chases through Jefferson County in 2 weeks.

“FEB 11: afternoon, 2 men were being chased after trying to get forged prescriptions filled in Port Hadlock. Down 19 to 104. ACROSS THE BRIGDE AND FLYING OFF, WITH YOUR DAUGHTER AND WIFE COMING FROM PORT GAMBLE HEADING TO HWY 3. WIFE YELLING AT DRU TO STOP WHEN THE getaway CAR IS HEADING ONTO 3, IN FRONT OF THEM. THEN A WSP CROSSED STRAIGHT AND ALMOST INTO THEM (FROM WHERE HE WAS WAITING FOR THE CROOKS ON THE EDGE OF THE BRIDGE), ANOTHER SCREAM FROM TRISH TO STOP. SPIKE STRIPS FROM KITSAP LAW ENFORCEMENT CAUSED THEM TO GO OFF THE ROAD AND HIT A TREE.

“FEB. 21 AT 2 IN THE MORNING, DRIVER GOING AT SPEEDS OF UP TO 100 MPH BEING CHASED BY JEFF CO. S. O. CAME INTO QUIL FROM DISCOVERY BAY WHERE SPIKE STRIPS HAD BEEN PLACED AT LORDS LAKE ROAD, DRIVER KEPT GOING UNTIL HITTING MORE STRIPS AROUND MP 295. 3 DIFFERENT PIT MANEUVERS. HE CRASHED INTO A YARD, TRIED RUNNING, BUT THE DEPUTIES ARRESTED HIM.

“FEB. 25TH, MORNING. DRIVER WAS BEING CHASED BY WSP STARTING OUTSIDE OF SEQUIM, GOING EAST ON HWY 101, WHEN HIGH SPEEDS UP TO 100 & RECKLESS DRIVING CAUSED WSP TO TERMINATE THE CHASE. JEFFERSON COUNTY SHERIFF’S DEPUTIES PICKED UP THE CHASE UP TO HWY 104 WHERE, A QUARTER MILE UP, STRIPS WERE PLACED. DRIVER’S VEHICLE HAD FLAT TIRES BUT CONTINUED ON WHEN QUILCENE’S HOMEGROWN DEPUTY ADAM NEWMAN AND DEPUTY CORONADO SUCCESSFULLY PERFORMED A PIT MANEUVER AT MILEPOST 7. DRIVER REFUSED TO LEAVE VEHICLE AND DEPUTIES HAD TO BREAK HIS WINDOW TO GET HIM OUT. HE WAS arrested on numerous charges.”

Wow! I mean, whoa! The all caps just added to the excitement; kind of glad Trish switched back at the end; gives the reader a chance to catch his or her (or my) breath. It was, I thought, a nice touch to include Adam Newman. He went all through Quilcene schools with our kids (he was in Sean’s class), and, in the several discussions I’ve had with him (no tickets, yet, from him), I have come to believe he doesn’t seem to mind ticketing or arresting people he knows, “if they do something stupid or illegal,” he loves driving fast, and is familiar and comfortable enough with me to ask a question like, “So, do you just throw paint on the side of your vehicles?” “Sort of.” “Okay then, Big Er.”

Trish and I did chaperone many activities when our kids were in school. There I go again with the mansplaining.

Here’s some more. Skipping it is forgivable:

Trish had to explain the near-death incident at the east end of the Hood Canal Bridge to me several times. Dru was driving from her house in Port Gamble, heading toward Poulsbo. They got to the traffic light. Dru thought she was being pulled over by a WSP vehicle, but it pulled into the merging lane, leaving her first in line at the light. She started to go when her mother yelled for her to stop (like, “STOP!”) because Trish observed the vehicles on the bridge were pulling over as the suspect rig came speeding toward them at high speed. Dru slammed on the breaks. Zoom! The desperado turned right onto Highway 3. So, since the light turned green again, and wanting to be ahead of the bridge traffic, Dru starts going again. “NO!” Breaks slammed again. This time the WSP guy jams in front of them and joins the pursuit. The suspect went off the road somewhere on our side of the Big Valley Road. Trish got to see part of that while Dru, I’m guessing, kept her eyes on the road.

Yeah, Trish told it better- way more exciting.

So, yeah; Spring is coming, I’m scheduled (thanks to Trish and Dru) to get my first inoculation some time this week at a drive-thru dealie in Port Townsend. I’m not really clear on the details; Trish will have to explain it to me when it gets closer. Probably several times.

Stay safe out there.

At one hundred miles per hour, you may prefer one of these rigs. Note the empty surfboard racks. “Wait there, yellow car; you’re kinda crowding me here.”

SO, I did get my first inoculation, yesterday afternoon. Since I didn’t cry, I guess I’m ready for a tattoo. Maybe later.

ON “SWAMIS” NEWS, and I know you care; I’m just trying to get some illustrations together to include with my submission package, and then, off to a publisher and wait… and wait. INCIDENTALLY, I submitted my (our) newsletter piece early Sunday. Trish called me up a bit later in the day, said there was no news from the Community Center folks. “Oh,” I asked, “does that make you a bit… anxious?” “A little.” “Crazy.” “No.” “Well, that’s what it’s like being a writer. You send stuff off, you have no control, you don’t know what’s happening; you have second thoughts, you thinking, ‘oh, maybe I just suck at this,’ and…” “I have to go.”

We got word back the next morning. “Yea, Trish; nice to have a writer in your family.”

MEANWHILE, here’s what we’re working on now (that is I’m working on this, with input from conversations with my surf friends- you might be one of them): ONE, the difference between ‘dismissive’ and ‘deferential;’ TWO, the question of whether or not an awesome ride you got without any witnesses actually counts, or actually even happened; THREE, is it better to burn a surfer you know or one you don’t know? FOUR, should I fucking worry about books centering around or containing a certain amount of surf-related… stuff, probably, even most-likely doggerel, pedestrian, cliche’-ridden crap with stilted dialogue and unrealistic and exaggerated surf sequences and characters that are just… I mean, should I?

No, and yet I do. Crazy. Okay, now I’m thinking about ONE, from above. Do you know a group, the members of which are EVEN MORE dismissive of others than surfers? Yeah, musicians. Yeah, chefs. Yeah… wait, pretty much anyone who is real at what they do, or believe they are real. Yes, there was an incident; and maybe I shouldn’t have said, “Oh, you’re a musician but you can’t perform right now. So, why don’t people just start with what they really do for a living? Example; I’m a house painter, but, in my mind…” That’s when I found out the person I was speaking with was actually a musician and a trustafarian.

None of that craziness, or my reacting to someone saying, “Oh, you’re writing a book. I seems like everyone in Port Townsend is writing a book. Steve (the building maintenance man and another possible trust baby) is writing a book;” with, “Fuck him.” Not nice. AND I did ask Steve about his book. No surfing, but definitely crazy stuff. “Good luck, Steve. Want to hear about my book?”

Dismissive. OH, and since I’ve gone this far, no I didn’t look to see if new guy to a familiar lineup JAMES was already on the wave. Guess I assumed he wasn’t. Sorry, man. OOPS, got into number THREE, from above; but here’s a quote I got from TOM BURNS: “If I don’t know you, I don’t owe you.” Yeah, Tom; that’s the problem; I just know too many real surfers.

REALNESS. Realsurfers keep it real, and no, if no one saw your awesome ride; it doesn’t really count. Except to you. Then, yeah.

“Surf’s Up,” Dylan, Led Zep- another outtake from “Swamis”

I’m still polishing the manuscript for my novel, “Swamis.” A lot of what I am doing is trying to cut out pages, lines, even words that don’t progress the story. The story.

THE STORY has changed considerably since I started the project. THE TRUTH is that this project, realsurfers, was an attempt to tell the larger story of surfing in a particular time, the late 1960s, Southern California; the draft, Vietnam, various revolutions in music, surfboard design, human rights; there’s a lot to cover. NOW I have a story and I’m trying to make all the parts, all the characters and plot twists seem REAL.

I don’t want to post pages that I cut because I rewrote them, improved upon what I am offering you. Rather, I will only post outtakes because they no longer fit in the trimmed-down, story driven manuscript. ACTUALLY, there are still sidetrips I will not be able to cut.

In rereading this passage, I do have to admit that it’s Joseph DeFreines channeling me. The fiction part is that his father was a cop, killed in a mystery among mysteries. SO:

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

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

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

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

THE REAL DYLAN

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

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

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

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

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

SURF’S UP

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Good music,” I would say.

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

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

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

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.

Ginny Cole in Color

I probably should start with the color version of the Ginny Cole illustration for “Swamis” before I get into anything remotely political. I am making progress on the novel; with at least one new character and so much concentration on how Jody’s father, Joseph DeFreines, Sr. died that I may have to severely cut back on the drama and adventure involved in the killings of Chulo and Gingerbread Fred.

Sequel? Not yet. Trish asked me if I wanted the drawing to be sort of mystical. Yeah, definitely; reflecting the time, 1969, and, more specifically, how a young person felt about the time, the place, life, love, surf, everything.

Fictional Ginny Cole on a mystical ride

I’m not actually through doing satirical political drawings. There is just too much material out there. For example, Ivanka Trump leading a public relations effort to encourage desperate and out of work folks to just ‘find something new.’ Yeah, like, um, with jobs at a premium and Republicans claiming the unemployed are just living it up on all the extra money; maybe what folks need is a new daddy. Works for her. Cake, yeah; let them eat cake; oh, and, because the owner of this outfit said nice things about her daddy; eat lots of Goya beans.

AND, I would like to do a drawing of Tucker Carlson, whose lawyers went to court recently to defend his right to tell lies; or, put in Fox-speak, Tuck-man is under no obligation to tell the truth. It’s not like he’s a real journalist. I would add, perhaps, a little sign that says, “Truth don’t matter; Ratings matter.” Yeah, it should be Truth ‘doesn’t’ matter; thanks for catching that.

Stay safe, surf when you can.

Ginny Cole at “Swamis” 1969

This is my latest attempt at the negative-to-positive technique:

Virginia (Ginny) Cole late afternoon Swamis, 1969

I’m pretty satisfied with the illustration, at least partially because it pretty much turned out as I imagined it would, hopefully, pretty; and I don’t feel the need to go back on this drawing and make changes.

Not yet, anyway. I am considering going back to the original and adding something referencing my novel, “Swamis,” Ginny Cole being a main character in the in-progress (still) manuscript.

AND, this image may end up on an ORIGINAL ERWIN t-shirt. If not, or if so, I’ll get a signed, framed, limited edition (limited, as always, by me) copy over to Tyler Meeks’ DISCO BAY OUTDOOR EXCHANGE soon, like, maybe today.

MEANWHILE, look for, wait for, or enjoy surf when you can, make sure you’re ready to vote in November, and STAY SAFE.

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.

In Order to have Faith…

…one must believe faith works. Sometimes. Ever.

It’s Easter Sunday, somewhere in the season of Passover; and it’s Spring in the Season of Corona; the era of probably-won’t-actually-die, but most-likely-can’t-surf; whatever it is History ends up calling the period of time we’re all hoping will end soon with a rush of people coming out of our houses and condos and shelters, raising our hands to the heavens and…

I have had the thought that videogamers might just come through this all, if not unscathed, pretty much the same as when it all started; soft, pale, with definite signs of carpal tunnel and eye strain; claiming dominance over a vast number of levels and worlds and whatever folks who didn’t give it all up with Ms. Pacman.

Anyway, faith. I put it in pragmatic terms (above). This isn’t because I’m cynical; but I am careful where I place my faith. People. Very few. No, no list. Faith is tested; constantly, but somehow, with an apparently endless line of challenges ready to kick the living shit out of us; most of us have managed to, if not thrive, if not find ourselves without struggles and possibly with low-bank waterfront at an uncrowded surf break with minimal crowds, warm water, no sharks, no urchin-covered rocks, no jellyfish, no… no, but we’re still going.

It seems reasonable to have that much faith, enough to say, ‘it’s going to be fine,’ fine meaning life is mostly a total shit-show, broken this and lost that. Again, so far. But, there are those moments of joy and laughter, rare instances of total bliss, hopefully enough to keep us slogging forward. Forward.

I have been accused of being, uh, religious. Okay, I kind of am, but not religiously. It’s not like yoga, where, I’ve heard, if you skip a day, your joints all seize up and your yoga pants just don’t fit right. I’m religious in that whatever incomprehensible force or being or spirit or algorithm created or caused or allowed the reality we are slogging forward in, whatever it is that pushes the planets and stars and tides and the clouds… well, I think about it; I respect it. Celebrate when and what you can.

I am working on some illustrations for “Swamis.” I have invited Stephen R. David to help out. Going for a look. Looking for a look. Working on it. Stay safe.

working on some illustrations for “Swamis”