Jody’s Father’s Smith-Corona Portable

CLUES are the key in writing “Swamis,” the novel. It really seems that, as I continue with the process, the story is telling itself to me. It is a mystery novel, after all, but, though I know where I want it to go; I’m constantly surprised by clues that suddenly appear.

That is, though I’m trying to break the story into little pieces, keep it off a simply-linear path, dole out the clues, flesh out the characters, keep the plot plausible; I am attacked by some new thought.

Let me admit now that I haven’t decided who killed Chulo Lopez, Gingerbread Fred, and Jody’s father.

Here are a couple of ways it could go: Jesus Freaks, Pot Growers, Pot Traffickers, Sheriff’s Officers.  I’m about 13,000 words into the story, and I just looked up the average length of a novel- 60 to 90,000. I don’t want to pad the story*.

*This is amusing to me because I keep getting sidetracked; I’m writing about people who are my age, from a certain era; I’m including real people, and (variations on real) experiences, and personal knowledge from that era, 1969; all to make the story real.

Real-er.

Although the characters are all fictional, composites, they are becoming more real to me; from sketch to renderings; and I’m increasingly aware I can’t totally control them.

SO, I’m excited to see where they go.

THE LATEST clue/plot device/whatever that came to me is the typewriter. At first it was a typewriter that Jody is using to type up a paper for Jumper; but then I remembered a typewriter, belonging to my parents (Mom mostly) I was allowed to use. A portable Smith-Corona in a case.

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NOW I’m imagining Jody, typewriter on the hood of his old station wagon, parked at Swamis… oh, and I’d better look up 60s era Falcon station wagons; see how the tailgate worked, if the windows were electric or had a crank; don’t want to misrepresent.

Real, realer, realistic.

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Swamis ’69- So Far- Tightening it Up

This is going to change. Every time I look at this, I seem to start at the beginning, move, slowly, on toward where I want to be, that being writing more, new stuff.  The great part is, as the plot develops, I can go back and change things to make the story better.  Better is what I’m going for, great. It’s not there; yet; but I’m working on it.

SWAMIS ‘69

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SECOND WEEK OF JUNE, 1969- PERIPHERAL VISION

Almost leaping from stair to stair, I was looking at the water, the fuzzy horizon, the lines; counting, then recounting the surfers already in the water; trying to beat any other surfers who missed the true dawn patrol. Swamis was, finally, it seemed, breaking; tide dropping; swell, hopefully, increasing. It would get crowded.

Two surfers were walking from halfway up the point, along the water’s edge. I wasn’t focused on them; they were shapes, so familiar; surfer and board, nose-up or nose-down, more-or-less crosses in the grainy light, the shadows of the bluff. One was walking faster, trying to catch up. “June,” I heard, or thought I heard; then, more like a question, “Junipero?” Then, closer to the guy in front of him; “Jumper.”

“Jumper,” I thought. Jumper. Now I almost focused.

Almost. It was a moment, still just a moment, between a surfer reaching for, and touching the other man’s shoulder- it was Sid, reaching; Sid, a locally-known surfer; Surfboards Hawaii team rider; known to thrash his boards; known to take on crazy waves, to burn valley cowboys and out-of-town surfers, even Orange County magazine surf stars down to trade crowded beach breaks for a chance at Swamis point break magic- Sid, featured in a small, grainy, black and white ad in “Surfer” magazine.

I must have blinked. Sid was flat-out, on his back, parallel to that line where the sand turned hard with the receding tide. His board was floating in the shallows, Jumper’s board pressed, nose-first, to his neck; Jumper’s foot on his chest.

Jumper. Fucking Jumper. He was back in town, back at Swamis.

If we could just ‘backspace’ time ten seconds, not all the time, but for those moments we witnessed but couldn’t immediately process. Maybe ‘replay’ is more accurate. Ten seconds.

Fifty years gone, I’m trying to replay moments, bits and fragments and images and strings; strings of time; so many strings; some tangled, some free.

Oh, I broke free of the North County scene years ago; lost my contacts, forgot names, confused and overlapped stories from Grandview and Pipes and Cardiff Reef. I do still remember specific rides among thousands; remember, almost precisely, the times I was injured; held down, hit the bottom, was hit by someone else’s board; but, and I’ve tried, I can’t remember Sid’s last name.

But I remember Jumper.

In another moment, with me even with them, trying to be cool, to not look, both surfers were sitting on Jumper’s board. Peripheral vision. No, probably did turn my head. Never was cool.

Jumper’s hair was shorter than mine, but, even with the patchy start of a beard; he was still recognizable, the same guy from, probably, four years earlier, back when I was just switching from surf mats to boards; back when he caught any wave he wanted any time he showed up.  The Army or prison; stories about his disappearance varied; rumors among high school friends who quoted various upper classmen, scattered pieces from other people’s beachfire conversations.

“I heard he moved to Hawaii,” or, “No, Buttwipe; Australia. Or New Zealand.” Or, “Chicago.” “No fucking way.”  “San Francisco, then.” “Nooooo.”

Then someone would go into a Jumper surf impression, with play-by-play commentary, on any nearby surfboard; Right arm back, elbow cocked, hand like a conductor’s, flowing with the up-and-down movements on the imagined wave; subtle, the left arm lower, hand out flat; punctuated with, rather than the classic cross step to the nose, the quick shuffle, the jump; then a crouch and a shift to a more parallel stance, right hand in the wave, left hand grabbing the outside rail. Twist, weight forward; the fin would pop out of the sand.

“Island pullout.”

Someone else would repeat the performance, only, left foot on the tip in a solid five, upper torso shifting to face the wave, arms spreading wide; he would pull the skeg, make the rotation, yell, “Standing island pullout”, and shuffle back on the board, casually drop to his knees, ready to paddle out.

Yes, I participated in this. Yes, I tried to develop that “Jumper” conductor-dancer flow on my skateboard, pivoting, slaloming down my block, on inland hills, miles from the ocean. I had a long enough board, eventually, to go with the cross step; more like Phil Edwards, Micki Dora.

Style.

Jumper was probably my second surf hero. Maybe third. Heroes dominated lineups. Kooks and kids gave way, gave waves, watched them, always trying to stay out of the way.  Now this same Jumper was, quite possibly, crying, one hand on Sid’s shoulder, one of Sid’s on his. It was Sid who looked around at me with a ‘fuck off’ look.

Peripheral. No, I’d looked back.

I looked away, kept walking.  Still only a short distance away, I did what every surfer does, and always has; studied the ocean for a moment before committing; disciple before the alter.

When I looked back, from out in the water, from my lineup, the inside lineup, Sid and Jumper were half way up the stairs. Sid was one step ahead, one above. When two guys came down, Sid, probably because he didn’t know them, or because he did, made the down-stair surfers split up and go around.  Jumper moved behind Sid’s block.

A set approached. Surfers, who had been straddling their boards in the lull, dropped to prone, started paddling. At this tide, some of the waves from the outside peak were still connecting all the way through. The first one didn’t; the surfer on it lost behind a section. Two surfers went for the shoulder as I stroked past. The second wave swung wide, peaked-up on the inside. I had it to myself; another takeoff, drop, turn, cutback, back and forth to the inside inside, fitting my board into and through that last little power pocket, peeling over the palm of the finger slabs that opened to the sea. A little standing island pullout into the swampy grass. Swamis.

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THIRD WEEK OF JUNE- PEACE AND FREEDOM AND REVOLUTION

If the Noah’s Ark trailer park wasn’t still there, there on the north end of Leucadia, yet another trailer park squatted up against yet another bluff along 101, protected from the south winds; if it wasn’t still there in 1969; it had been there on those trips with my family, down the coastal route to San Diego.

I understand there’s a jetty there now; Ponto.

I also can’t clearly remember if the fields north of Grandview, the original Grandview, the fields along those bluffs were fields of tomatoes or strawberries. I know there were no houses. There were the Leucadia greenhouses. Flowers. It was what Leucadia was known for. Poinsettias.

Maybe not these particular greenhouses.

Turning off 101, I drove past several. One, and this had been pointed out to me by more than one of my high school surfing buddies, belonged to the family of Jumper Hayes. On this morning, still dark, what the forecasters called ‘early morning and evening overcast,’ or ‘June gloom’ hanging on, almost misty; I saw Jumper’s old pickup, almost-flat paint a weird shade of green in the light of the yard lamp, parked outside one of the greenhouses. Only the tail, fin over the tailgate, showed this farm rig was a surfer’s vehicle.

I gave myself a bit of a self-congratulatory nod, a quick smack on the shifter, three-on-the-tree; double-clutched down to second, gunned it.

It had become my workday predawn move, up and down Neptune, checking out Grandview, Beacons, Stone Steps; possibly surfing whichever one had a more consistent peak. Or a peak at all.  If it was bigger, big enough, I would push the fourth-hand Falcon station wagon farther, along the bluff, passing the increasingly-fancy houses blocking any view of the water, to another low point between the bluffs, Moonlight beach. Rarely surfed there.  I’d then go up, cruising past even fancier homes, then around the thick white walls and the gold bulbs of the Self Realization compound, the reason Swamis is named Swamis, to Swami’s Point.

The little park had an official name, Seacliff Park, I think; long since replaced. Swamis.

Or, depending on my hours; when I got off work, I would turn onto 101 at Cardiff reef, pass the state park, try to get a glimpse of Swamis over the guardrail. If it was breaking big enough, you could see it. I would hit the parking lot and get out. Even if it wasn’t breaking, even in the dark, I’d check the view from Boneyards, past what my high school friends and I called Swamis Beachbreak, onto and beyond Pipes, the galvanized culverts, at that time, still shiny, protruding fifteen feet or so out of the sandstone bluffs.

Maybe there’d be some last-lighters, still hanging in the parking lot; their stories of new and past glories punctuated with a hoot or a laugh; headlights and streetlights in a descending darkness and a dim glow from the horizon.

Swamis was where I wanted to surf. June gloom or bright offshore glare; breaking or not. What I felt, and was totally aware of feeling, was that my choice of route and destination was mine, mine alone; that I was pretty fuckin’ close to being free.

Within reason, of course.

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………………………………..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, Gordie, from my high school at a liquor store in Vista. He now, suddenly, sporting long hair (longer- Fallbrook had a dress code and we’d just graduated), parted in the middle (of course), and clothing 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, an even more-stoned girl, possibly still in high school, headband, boutique-chic top, nodding, eyes unable to focus, next to him. Gordie put a hand on my shoulder. I looked at his hand, put my package of Hostess donettes and quart of milk on the counter, pointed to a pack of Marlboros, turned back to Gordie. He sort of gave me a look when I scooped up the cigarettes. “I know, man… Gordie; you probably don’t fuck-ing smoke… cigarettes.” He and the girl both giggled. So uncool. “Peace, man.”

Yeah, flipping the peace sign was, also, probably pretty much over.

On special occasions, perhaps; what we would only later refer to as ‘ironically.’

My relative freedom isn’t, perhaps, relevant to the story. Maybe it is; these were times when ‘freedom’ and ‘peace’ and ‘revolution’ were frequently used in the same sentence. For someone just out of high school, working various shifts at a supermarket with a view of the ocean; joy and loneliness and a sense of being part of some grand mystery could all be felt in a very short span of time; and repeated, randomly. Mysteries.

Why, I had been asking myself, did Sid call Jumper ‘June?’ June with a hard J; not a H sound. If his real name was, say, Jesus; well, anyone would instantly know it’s not Jesus, like Jesus Christ, but Hey-Seuss, like Hey, Doctor Seuss, dropping the ‘doctor.’

Mysteries ask to be solved. Beg, perhaps. Rumors. Surfing, waves, surfing waves well; that was a mystery. Board surfing was more than just drop and hang on. 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, you would have to challenge someone for a wave.

………………………………………………..INLANDNESS

But there were always rumors of better waves, great waves, magical and secret spots, places uncool  freshmen kooks weren’t supposed to know about, weren’t supposed to show up at.

Grandview was fairly easy to find. There was a Grandview Street off 101 in Leucadia. Still, when I showed up there with my friends, now sophomores, we got looks. Punks, Kooks; not ready for Grandview.  The hardest looks were from other San Marcos, Vista, Fallbrook, Escondido surfers; other inland cowboys.

Inlandness was, and still is, in direct proportion to distance from the coast. Where I lived, Fallbrook, we called Escondido Mexican-dido. That was, of course, insensitive. Maybe; but I understand Meth-condido has replaced it.

As with, probably, anywhere, you had to persist. I did. As my contemporaries and I searched out new locations; San Onofre, occasionally Oceanside; as some dropped surfing, traded it for parties fueled with liquor purchased by willing Marines (bribed with “I’ll buy if you fly”), marijuana bought from friends of friends, I had become another surf addict; and Grandview was still on my route.

By the end of my senior year, I had become accustomed to going surfing alone.

And now, here I was, almost recognized as a local, slipping and sliding down the more-sand-than-sandstone between houses, original Grandview, the real Grandview; and ahead of the ultimate local, back after four years or so, Jumper Hayes.

Just ahead.

Peace and freedom and revolution.

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MARCH OF 1969- SHERWOOD FOREST AND THE EMERALD CITY

I have to drop back for a moment. The story hinges on this. Chulo Lopez had been killed, murdered. His real name wasn’t Chulo; nickname; I can’t remember his real first name. It was in the paper, even on the San Diego TV news.  “Horrific” the studio commentator said.  “The San Diego County Sheriff’s Office reports Mister Lopez, a well-known surfer, was probably dead… probably… when his body was ‘posed’ against the thick white walls of the Self Realization Fellowship compound, doused with gasoline, and set ablaze. Set ablaze.”

The commentator’s face remained on the screen just a moment too long, mouthing ‘set ablaze’ with just a bit of a smile before a younger, hipper man appeared, turned toward the camera, swung his microphone close to his face. “It’s a frightening scene here in the North County,” he said.

The reporter stepped aside. The camera panned the crowd of surfers, non-surfers, behind the rope; some giving expressions of shock, others looking away. The angle slowly moved in, past the firefighters and cops, just milling about or talking in groups of two or three. The blackened areas on the white white stucco-over-brick walls formed a sort of outline, the darkness around a candle’s flame.

The TV camera followed the burn marks up to the gold bulbs atop the wall. There was a sort of symmetry, a repetition.  “Set ablaze.”

Chulo’s body, remains, had, of course, been gone long before the TV crew arrived.

My brother, at my mother’s insistence, had awakened me to watch the report on the late news. Channels 4, 8, and ten; those were our choices in the Fallbrook, several L.A. stations if someone climbed on the roof and moved the antenna. Since it was the lead story on each of the channels, my mom chose channel 8; the commentator was her favorite.

I recognized a couple of the onlookers. Some were Surfers; some Tourists, with an itinerary; some grown-up, Working People taking a lunch break. Others were Hodads and/or part-time Hippies, interchangeable characters. There always seemed to be a few of these folks hanging around, along with the ‘the Hippie Movement is dead, man’ Hippies. The Hodads and the ‘yeah, I used to surf; back in the old days’ Liars and legitimate Old Timers, were always ready to talk on and on about some past swell.

It’s hard to compete with some epic swell story from some era one wasn’t part of. I certainly couldn’t; not stories with outsized characters and adventures. I always listened; the tales were always like myth, like magic; as if the coast was backed-up by Sherwood Forest and the Emerald City. Legends.

One of those older characters, Gingerbread Fred to his friends, no shirt under a well-worn v neck sweater, who claimed to have surfed Tijuana Sloughs and Killer Dana and Mysto Breaks outside Windansea (verified, I was told, by ‘one of the Holders’), was selected for the on-air interview.

“I just saw the flame, man; it was so, um, uh, intense. You know?” His hands seemed outsized, moving around the same way they did when he talked surf. “Bright. You know? I thought I’d heard something, over by the…(both hands, all his fingers pointing) compound. I like to, you know, walk on the beach. There was just a sliver of moon. I was coming up the stairs when I seen it. The flames. A car was pulling away. No lights. It didn’t squeal out. Just…”

His hands were out now out at his sides, palms out, a gesture, I thought, of surrender. “I ran, but… I don’t run. Used to. Thought maybe, you know, I could help.” The camera and the light moved in too close to Fred’s creased face. “It was like, um, the second coming; maybe; But then… then I could smell the gasoline. Chulo. Good surfer. One time…”

The camera switched, abruptly, to the reporter. “Well,” he said, “we will continue to…”

He continued. Two guys and a woman from the white “Jesus Is Lord (converted school) bus” that seemed to always be parked around Encinitas walked past him.

I was pretty sure I saw Ginny Cole in with a couple of the San Dieguito High School crowd, but the pan of the crowd passed too quickly. No rewind.

TWO DAYS LATER- THE OPTIMUM VIEW

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The walls were back to white when I next went to Swamis, against my mother’s warnings, two days later. It was a Saturday. Weekend. Barely light. I got there early enough to park the dust bowl tan Falcon station wagon in the choicest spot; a little toward the stairs, but front row, and offering the optimum view of the lineup. It was the same car my Mom had used to drive us to swimming lessons and church and Doctor visits, and to the beach; surf mats and Styrofoam surfies and whining siblings; the Aloha racks now pretty much rusted in place.

A predicted swell hadn’t materialized, a south wind was blowing. Maybe it would clean up, even get bigger.

So, I would wait. Waiting is as important a part of surfing as trying to be in the water before the best conditions hit. My shift didn’t start until ten-thirty; about the time the onshores get going. Perfect. I could wait. I had my notebook, college-ruled; I had the probably-stolen (not by me) four track tape player under the passenger’s side of the seat; and I could do some writing.

Still, I really wanted to sneak over to the crime scene, the thick, high, stucco-finished walls, gold flower bulbs perched above them. There was (and is) a wrought-iron gate in the higher, arched entrance, also topped with the flower (though it could as easily be a flame, not dissimilar to the top of the statue of liberty). This is not the actual entrance to the Self-Realization compound, a place where people go seeking enlightenment, a realization of the true self.

So, I did walk over. I expected more. I expected some explanation. Other than some obviously-new asphalt, some new soil around newly-transplanted, but full-sized plants, it looked… it looked the same as it always had; as it did even in the late 1950s. Exactly the same.

There were cigarette butts, quite a few of them, forming a half circle, a perimeter. No one had bothered to clean up outside the police line. I positioned myself dead center, optimum view, pulled the pack (box, not soft pack) from my windbreaker’s pocket, pack of matches inside, lit up a Marlboro.

“Power of suggestion,” I said to myself, throwing the now-empty pack of matches down with the line of butts. “Peer pressure.”

There was an opened pack of matches on the ground. Half the matches were gone, removed left to right. “Left-handed,” I thought. I picked the pack up, tried one of the matches. Nope, too soggy. Rather hip lettering on the cover read, “Carlsbad Tavern.”

Yes, I did think it might be a clue; one missed clue. Important. I knew the place. That is, I knew of it. I put the pack inside the Marlboro box, that in the windbreaker’s inside chest pocket. Maybe they’d dry out.

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……………………………..SINNERS LOVE COMPANY

When I approached the bluff, surfers I knew well enough to give or return a half-nod, four of five guys, and one girl, Ginny Cole (you always knew the names of the few girl surfers), were sitting on the guard rail, or standing in front of it on the bluff, directly in front of my car. Close. Optimum view.  Ginny and one of the guys, who had been watching me, evidently, turned back around after I gave a bit of a gesture that I meant to say, “Yeah, I looked; so what?”

Ginny pulled her coat and an over-sized gray bag (I would say purse, but surfer girls were way too cool  for that) off the hood of my car. Not in an apologetic way.  Two of the guys continued to lean the just-past-comfortable distance between the railing and my car.

Fine. I probably would have been sitting on the hood if they weren’t there. Casually. Observing.

Each surfer had a small carton of orange juice or a quart of chocolate milk in their hands; maybe a cold piece of pizza. One might have had a large coffee from the 7-11 down toward Cardiff. One very well could have had a mason jar of juice, carrot always an ingredient, some color from sick green to sick orange; always willing to share. Not with me. Maybe once.

None of them were smoking. These weren’t my high school friends, so anxious to learn how to smoke; starting out with, Parliaments, maybe, moving on to Marlboros or Winstons, arguing about which was better; urging me to be cool, to not be a pussy. Tobacco evangelists.

Sinners love company, I had thought, and I put off starting the very same habit my father had only participated in in secret; or at work, away from his children.

Carlsbad Tavern.

Still, we knew. Camel non-filters. My mother kept his last half pack in a dresser drawer with his badge. Occasionally she would open the drawer.

I squeezed the cherry out, tossed the butt through the opened driver’s side window and onto the floorboards, grabbed my fairly-full quart of chocolate milk and my half-gone package of donettes off the seat, went into a practiced lean, a slouch, against the backseat door.

Frosted, never chocolate.

……………………………DOWNRAIL SPEED MACHINES

It seems wrong to me, now; it’s obviously wrong; but, somehow, when I was a teenager, it seemed all surfers were somewhere around my age. Some younger kooks, some older surfers. Not many of those; or maybe I just didn’t focus on them; only the ones who were well known, who had been in “Surfer” magazine. If they showed up, their names spread quickly through a parking lot or lineup: L.J. Richards, Mike Doyle, Rusty Miller; surfers you would, definitely, keep track of; just to see if they were all that good. Better. Were they better?

How much better?

But these were days of evolution in surfing; shorter boards, more radical moves, backyard soul shapers, V bottoms and downrail speed machines; and the new heroes were younger; more like my age; s-turns and tube stalls and 180 cutbacks.

The first 180 cutback, with an off-the-foam to bottom-turn I ever saw was at Swamis, from halfway up the stairs, performed by Billy Hamilton, on a longboard; smooth and stylish. He is older, maybe even ten years older. Still, older.

Chulo Lopez was in this group. Aggressive, stylish, and dominating. He had once, on a glassy evening at Pipes, given me the signal to go on the first wave of a set. Two other surfers in position to go didn’t go. I had to.

……………………………………SECOND TIER

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“Chulo,” someone said, his waxed-cardboard milk carton in the air. There was a sort of muffled chorus, “Chulo,” from the surfers on the guardrail.

“They’re saying it’s some sort of… cult thing.”  “Maybe it’s kinda like… you know, those monks burning themselves up over in Vietnam.” “No; dork; that was… political.” “Did you see it? I mean, the… the burn marks. It was, shit, there were…” “The smell.” “barbeque.” “Ohhh; ick.” “All the cops. Highway Patrol, Sheriff’s deputies… detectives.” “Yeah.” “One of them asked me about Jesus Freaks.” “What? No.”

One of the guys had looked at me when someone said “deputies,” elbowing the guy next to him. “Oh,” I thought, “so someone knows who I am.”

“Drugs.” That was a statement. Though it was made in the direction of the water, it was meant for the surfers on the rail, and loud enough, grownup enough for the adjacent surfers, the second tier; me; a couple of other surfers who knew better than to get too close to the local crew. Not that any of us formed a second-tier crew. Maybe two guys came together, but, no, random loners- not in a cool-loner way.

“Drugs,” the older man, Wally, repeated; “One way or the other. Drugs.”

Wally was a kneeboarder. Even his kneeboard, yellowed, beat up, patched-up, was old. One of the teenagers on the rail, part of the crew he drove around at dawn, was, I found out much later, his son. Wally had walked from the direction of the green, wood outhouse (still there at that time) and the stairs (at two other stair systems since then), and had positioned himself, a bit offset, but between the bluff and the guardrail surfers. Having gotten everyone’s attention, he looked out at the water. Optimum view. as I said.

The guardrail crew reacted. “Maybe… I don’t think Chulo was even a stoner. Maybe…” “Chulo? No.” “Maybe he was a narc.” “Fuck you, man. Narc? Chulo?” “Hey, A-hole; either he was a stoner and the cops… I mean…” “Oh; so, like, if Chulo was a narc…””Chuck you, Farley; go back off in your own jackyard.” “Geez, man…”

“Narcs,” I said. Each person in the loose crowd, including Wally, looked at me before he (or she- the one girl, Ginny- remember?) looked in the direction I had nodded.

“Detectives,” I said, a little louder, hands at my mouth to (try to) focus my voice.

A big, American-made, unmarked police car; the ‘varmint lights,’ the plain hubcaps, and a “Del Mar Fair” decal on the back bumper were the clues; had driven past, on the other side of the mostly-empty double-row spots. The tail lights stayed on for a while after it was parked in the dead end of the lot. Both front doors opened. Detectives.

We had one of these Del Mar Fair stickers on the Falcon. Mark, one of my friends from school, and, more so, from the Boy Scouts; a sometime-surfer, pointed out this real-or-imagined detail of unmarked police cars. “Yeah,” I’d said, “My Dad put it on the wagon; it’s sort of a, um, like, ‘don’t pull me over’ kind of, uh, code.” This prompted several other friends to acquire and display similar decals.

The decal, faded, was still there. The one on the unmarked car was newer. Southern California Exposition. Yeah. It was always the Del Mar Fair to locals.

………………………………………………JUST SAY, “THANK YOU”

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Two detectives, so obviously cops, approached. One was taller; tall, California Highway Patrol tall (they had height restrictions); the other huskier. Both had cop mustaches, no farther than the edges of their mouths; both had cop brushcuts; one had sideburns that probably hit the limit of the San Diego County Sherriff’s Office hair code; each one sported a colorful and wide tie to, I thought, offset their drab suits, to look hip. Hipper.

One of them stopped at the passenger side of my car, the other one came around the back and stopped at the driver’s door. Each was sort of smiling; though it was more a ‘don’t you move’ smile.

Oh. I was the only surfer left.

The shorter detective opened the passenger side door, then looked at me, didn’t look inside, but, instead, checked out the looked up and around and out. The sun shone only on the horizon; the south wind had calmed. “Nice view,” he said. “Optimum,” I said.

Two surfers, of the too many crowded into Wally’s old car, boards and a kneeboard piled on top, flashed the peace sign as they passed me. One of them pointed forward. I knew all the locals were laughing. I returned the peace sign, turned toward the taller detective, and threw my hands onto the roof of the car.

The tall detective smiled, waved off my over-reaction. He opened my driver’s side door, looked at the 4 Track tapes scattered on the seat, looked for the player. Not installed under the dashboard. The shorter detective pulled it from beneath the seat on the passenger side, looked at the tangle of after-market wiring. Oh. Stolen. He set the player and my notebook on the roof, on top of my latest backyard stripped-down-and-reshaped surfboard. Rude, crude, badly-glassed.

“We’re just asking a few questions,” he said. “Got a license?” I pulled my billfold out of my back pocket, stuck the license toward him.

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The two detectives and I looked around at the same time, moments after the one syllable ‘whoop’ of a police siren.

Three Sheriff’s vehicles and a Highway Patrol car, lights on, blocked the entrance to the lot, the exit to 101.  Wally’s car hadn’t quite escaped.

“Oh,” the taller detective said, holding my license close to my face, then leaning down and closer; “hadn’t seen you in a while.  The, um, funeral; maybe.”

No. I hadn’t looked at any faces there. There had been other occasions, softball games and picnics. He would have been half-drunk, at least; and never able to beat my dad at… anything; and my father was not a gracious winner.

“Wendall,” I said. I took the pack of Marlboros from my windbreaker, pulled a cigarette out, took the ‘Carlsbad Tavern’ pack of matches out, looked at the logo, at the two detectives; opened the pack, red stains against the back of the cover.  “Too wet,” I said. Detective Wendall stuck a cigarette in his mouth, lit mine with a San Diego County Sherriff’s Department-logoed zippo. “Swindling Wendall,” I said, with a smile.

“Swindling Wendall” the other detective, with a laugh and a hit to his partner’s shoulder, said.

“Dickety-Dick Dickson,” I said, putting the wet matches back into the windbreaker, checking the group standing almost casually outside Wally’s car. There was the back of the very-tall (of course) Highway Patrolman, Wally, four teenage boys, with Ginny Cole in the middle. They were all looking at me and Wendall and Dickson, and I was thinking only about how much I looked like a fucking narc.

It was too close and too fast to focus. I doubled-over, Wendall’s fist still in my stomach.  The cigarette popped out of my mouth, onto his shoulder. Dickson brushed it off, Wendall’s fist now a hand on my shoulder. I stood up straight. This was necessary, this was mandatory.

“Just say ‘thank you,’ Jody.”

Dickson stuck the cigarette back in my mouth. “Thank you.”

JUNE 20th– BEANERS

It was mid-afternoon, early in my shift; and I was bagging groceries for a particularly talkative woman; somewhat older than my mother, dressed in a house dress, some sort of white scarf thing on her head, curlers bulging in some sort of random alignment under it. So, since women my mom’s age tried to look younger, hipper; this woman was, yes, older.

“Durn Texans,” she said, “worst kind of tourists.” She was talking more to the similarly-aged checker, Doris; Doris nodding politely. It was more than halfway through Doris’s shift and some of her willingness to chit-chat enthusiastically had worn off. “Surfers,” the patron said, kind of looking at me. “Surfers from… Texas? Texas. What do you think… (looking at the name tag on my apron) Jody? Jody?”

“Jody?” I mouthed, looking at the nametag on my bright green apron; acting as if it wasn’t my name. It wasn’t. I’d been looking for another, better nickname for years. Jody was my father’s joke. Jody.

“Jody’s got your girlfriend,” my father would say, drill instructor voice pop-pop-popping the cadence. “One-two, one-two, one-two-three-four… one-two…three-four.” Jody.

I shrugged. I did notice the woman had some sort of east coast accent; northeast, not that I could discern Philadelphia from New Jersey from anywhere else; but she hadn’t lost the European edge, that inflection; rhythm, maybe.

She pulled several items out of the bag I had, probably, overloaded. “I would rather make more trips, Jody.  If I had big muscles, like you…” She smiled. I opened another bag.  She put her heavy purse on the counter. “And they all have money. They want to rent by the week. They get sand in the shower; make a mess. Drink.” She looked from me to Doris, now looking for the price on a dented can of string beans. “One threw up on the sidewalk. Awful.” Back to me. “And… and they chase around our young girls. Believe me…”

I was distracted, not sufficiently interested.  I did nod, but the woman checked me out for another moment; Jody, in the apron, my hair not long enough to pull back (but parted in the middle), my mustache more like peach fuzz; and she turned back toward Doris. “Believe me, Doris, if I didn’t charge them extra, I’d never…” She kept talking; I continued bagging, but I wasn’t listening.

Jumper Hayes, over by the big front windows, was talking to Tony, the shift manager. They, obviously, knew each other. I guessed this might be the first time they’d seen each other since Jumper’s return; each with a hand on the other man’s shoulder; laughing at… laughing at things that weren’t really funny.

Jumper pulled up the left sleeve of his t shirt, poked at a scar on his bicep with his right hand, laughed. Tony started to roll up his right pant leg, stopped, sort of grabbed at it, kicked it out to show it still worked.  They both looked over at two young men, in clothing appropriate for working in hothouses (though more than I would have worn in that wet heat), standing, obviously nervous, closer to the big bags of dog food, fertilizer, and charcoal, each with a check in his hand.

“Wetbacks,” the woman said. “Beaners,” she added, in case I hadn’t gotten it. I put her ice cream in a white, insulated paper bag, placed it in with her TV dinners. “Guess they can’t just go to the bank like regular folks, and…”

Tony, an older man with a bow tie and one side of his shirt untucked, did his sort of half-limp walk over to another register, opened it with the key on his belt.  The two workers, on a signal from him, backed up by one from Jumper, approached. Jumper handed one a pen, pointed to the back of the check.

“Y’all need some help out with that, Ma’am?” It was the closest I could come to a Texas accent.

A woman with two children, one in the cart, her free arm holding the older child’s right arm pretty much straight up; approached the other register. She looked at the two men taking their cash. Each turned toward Jumper for a moment, folding and pocketing the bills, on his signal, before stepping away. She looked at the manager. She looked concerned. She looked at Jumper.

Jumper stuck his hand out. Tony took it, put his other hand on Jumper’s shoulder.

Jumper smiled at the child in the cart, smiled at the kid not yet released from his mother’s grasp. He nodded at the manager and smiled at the woman. She smiled back, let go of the bratty child, who, immediately, grabbed a candy bar from a nearby rack, stuck it, wrapper and all, in his mouth.

The woman pushed her cart toward the other exit, clutching the strap of her purse, her receipt, and her green stamps in one hand.

JUNE 22- CHUBASCO

I was taking one last look from the bluff at Grandview, trunks and towel over my board; just in case the waves were not what they sounded like in the dark. It had to be surf from some distant storm, some chubasco in Baja, or… I didn’t really know; I had heard some waves come from as far away as New Zealand. Travelling. Hitting islands, wrapping around headlands; peeling; like the images from the magazines; perfect, a slideshow in my mind.

This wasn’t perfect; storm waves overwhelming a beachbreak. Maybe I would try Swamis; or Cardiff Reef.

“Bagboy.” He may have said it more than once. “Bagboy; it’s closed-out.” I didn’t respond. “Fallbrook.”

“What?” I turned to my right.

Jumper stepped around, from my left, and was almost in front of me, “Fallbrook. Bagboy. You.”

“Don’t live in Fallbrook anymore. After graduation, we…” He cut me off with a swipe of a hand.

“So, not a valley cowboy; huh?” He bowed his legs in a sort of stage cowboy movement.

“Never was.”

“But you did live in Fallbrook. Right?” I nodded. “So, your daddy knew enough to not live where he worked.” I probably looked suspicious. I was, of anyone who mentioned my father. Apprehensive would be more accurate. “Wanted to keep his family safe; away from… from his work. Don’t blame him.” I didn’t have time to respond. ”You going out?”

“I, um… it’s pretty, uh, big. Maybe it…” I stopped myself, looked over at the waves; broken lines, ugly green-gray, no discernible peak, closing out.  “You?”

“Hey, Fallbrook; I will if you do.”

“Really?” I may have been a little too thrilled by this statement.

“Fuck no, bagboy; it’s fuckin’ closed out. There’s no glory in surfing this shit.”

“I guess not.”

“Swamis, now…” He waited a second. I tried to nod slowly, like I hadn’t already thought of it, tried not jump up and down or break into a run.  ”Swamis… should be fun.”

Jumper turned, walked away. I followed. He turned around, walking backward, about halfway to the street, at the place where I could go down the washout or back to my car. “Should be,” I said, breaking into a run as I passed him.

FEBRUARY 1969- DEVIL DOGS

I probably could explain why I started writing about Virginia Cole before I wrote about this incident. Easily. I noticed it the third or fourth time I went over this chapter, editing, re-re-re-editing. Rather than rewriting, I’ll leave it the way I originally wrote it. Our memory is a sort of self-editor; saving important or meaningful things, allowing the peripherals and tangents to drop away.

Ginny Cole was, to my seventeen-year old self, perfect. Maybe some of the girls I’d gone all through school with were great, but, yes, I’d gone all through school with most of them. Yes, there were, because Fallbrook was on the east side of the triangle that is Camp Pendleton, new girls, daughters of Marines, who would come into the school, three years here and gone; there were daughters of Civil Servants, daughters of pharmacists and ranchers and irrigation contractors and builders, but Ginny Cole was… she was miles away from dusty Fallbrook. Mysterious, exotic, distant; and she surfed. She would understand that, what that means; surfing. Perfect.

………………………………..Images

Ginny Cole was like the best photos from surfing magazines; 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 a parking area 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.

Except that, she was a girl. She would be noticed.

Ginny wasn’t the only girl surfer in the North County; there were others; but she was serious, she was good. A couple of girls were better surfers. 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 was on one side, last of the longboards of my youth was on one side of the rack on (sometimes called Dipshit Dave) Dave’s VW Super Bug, his pre-graduation gift. I think his newer-but-stock Hansen was on the other side. Dave had picked me up as I raced from my last class. He floored-it across the Bonsall bridge, despite an overlarge truck coming the other way, chose going through Vista rather than toward Oceanside. “Faster,” he said.

“Faster, then,” I said.

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We were just coming down the ramp at Beacons when Ginny and another girl (no, I didn’t know or don’t remember her name) were coming up, boards under their arms, colorful towels over the boards; side by side; laughing. Ginny’s canvas purse/bag was hanging on one shoulder.  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 scrub and iceplant on the hillside.

“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 me single file, Ginny in front.

There were three guys, in street/school clothes, clunky polished shoes; high school age, at the bottom of the ramp; kind of congratulating each other. They weren’t surfers. Jerks.  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. Jerk Two, half a six pack of Coors held/balanced on his chest, handed Jerk One another.

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, the acne on his cheeks a little redder than usual, probably, from the exertion of trying to walk in soft sand in leather wingtips, from the climb.

“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. Jerk and I had to keep looking at each other.

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

……………………………………………ALMOST-NUCLEAR

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 term.

Somewhere in the previous school year, rained-out, my P.E. class had to go into the gym. The girls were playing volleyball in their unflattering red outfits, rather like overalls with the arms and legs shortened; and the boys, in our white t shirts and unflattering red shorts (though cool guys always tried to get away with wearing boxers underneath, hanging out just enough), were hanging by the front doors. We knew enough not to make rude (and loud) comments, but some new guy from the East Coast made some disparaging remark using the term, ‘Broad.’ How dare he call our ‘chicks’ ‘broads.’ Several (other) guys had wanted to give him a swift punch to the kidneys. No one (including the east coast kid himself) would say who did.

I dropped my board. Jerk and his friends, and Dave looked at it, fin up.

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 instantly 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 would’ve… I mean; if you ever even started to…” 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.

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JULY 20TH–  MAN ON THE MOON

This was the day a man first walked on the moon. I had surfed. Somewhere; maybe Stone Steps; trying to find a little peak in the peak of Summer; summer and all that meant in a Southern California beach town recently isolated by the completion of I-5.

There was talk, at that time, of the North County beach towns (Leucadia, Encinitas, Cardiff-by-the-Sea, Del Mar) suffering when 101 was no longer the main coastal north-south route. Whether they did or didn’t depends on your interpretation of ‘suffering.’

In the still images and video (and, actually, film) clips that are stored in my memory, there was (though I may have imagined it there) a TV in the front of the classroom, black and white only, set on an AV cart, tuned to the non-stop coverage of the moon landing.

A Woman entered, looked at the fifteen or so grownups and almost-grownups scattered around the classroom, each with a stack of papers on individual desks that were exactly like the ones at Fallbrook High, and probably Vista, San Marcos, Escondido, Orange Glen, San Dieguito (those same beach towns); the districts that fed into the Palomar Junior College District. She looked at one of the papers in her left hand, erased “Biology 101” from the chalk board.

“Now,” she said, “now;” speaking louder when no one looked up after the first ‘now.’ “You people are right at the line; the cut off. Your choices… (louder) are limited. You may not get all the classes you want.”

Creative Writing; yes. And I wanted English 101. Yes, I had tested high enough to skip the remedial, non-credit English; I wanted… Art; yes, definitely. Basic Drawing. Two classes still open. 8am. Of course; too early for real artists. Monday, Wednesday. Okay. Being under eighteen (the cutoff might have been twenty-one at that time), I was required to take a Physical Education class. Fall Sports was closed. Badmitton. Really? Closed. Shit. Weight Training. Still open. No. Fuck. Okay.

Okay. A-okay.

I was pretty pleased, partly because I was there; here; signing up for ‘high school with ashtrays,’ junior college; college nonetheless. I was still writing, erasing, writing when Jumper Hayes entered the room, gave the Admissions Woman a big smile, which she seemed to appreciate, pointed toward the empty seat next to me with his rolled-up papers, and sat next to me. He scooted (noisily) his desk unit closer; like he wanted to cheat off me.

“Bagboy,” he whispered.

I scooted my desk away. Jumper followed.

The Admissions Woman looked around at the noise, but, again, only returned what I had to believe was another reassuring smile from Jumper. I feel compelled to mention that the Admissions Woman was probably about twenty-something, something under 25, and was, despite her pulled-back hair and Summery-patterned dress (no sleeves, no hose, tanned legs- I noticed, and no shoes) trying to seem a bit more professional, even stern, than she was able to quite pull off. She was rather like a substitute teacher in a room of recent high school graduates, professional students, draft dodgers, returning veterans.

“No shoes,” I thought, looking down at my huarache sandals. With socks. That wouldn’t happen again. No dress code here.

“Bagboy,” Jumper said; “I thought you were going to some big time University. Word is, what I heard is… you’re a brain.”

“No.”

“No? Okay. Maybe not.”

“I was… upstate… inland; not my idea; but…” I’m sure I smiled, despite myself. “Brain? Who would…?”

“One of those Avocado-lovin’, guacamole dip…dipshits; Bucky Davis, maybe; John Amsterdam; why would I remember? I’m not a brain…I’m not like you.”

Admissions Woman, taking a handful of papers from an older man; probably forty, at the door; scratched Philosophy II and Beginning Photography from the chalkboard.

“Shit.”

“Philosophy II?”

“No, beginning photography.”

“Oh. Sure. And, incidentally, Amsterdam still hates you. Brand new Dewey Weber performer.” He shook his head, moved his hands to illustrate a board crashing on another board. “Got to hang on to your board, Bagger.” He paused. “You prefer Bagboy… or Bagger? Bagger sounds a little more…” He nodded, nearly winked. “Or Jody?”

“That… Amsterdam’s board; wasn’t me. Different Fallbrook punk, man. Jody, that was my dad’s joke.”

“Yeah. Sure. And Tony, at the market; he’s in on it.” He was nodding; I nodded.

“They were both in the Corps. Not that they knew each other then; Tony was only in Korea; but…”

“As was I. In the Corps. Not Korea. Or is it ‘As I was?’” Jumper saluted; quickly, crisply; properly. He looked over at my papers. “Different wars, man. You takin’ any English classes, um, neighbor?” When I looked back, he went back to nodding. “Wrong side of 101. Too bad. You probably have to go five blocks to get across, but… guess you’re a Leucadian.  As far as I know, you and I; maybe… (he moved his hands back and forth in a balancing motion) Carson Holder; we’re probably the closest things to Grandview locals.” I blinked “So, well…”

When I determined nothing was following ‘well,’ I said, “beats living in Frog-butt; huh?”

Jumper laughed, looked at the woman from admissions, gave her another, bigger smile, kept it when he looked back at me. “So, guess you don’t have the horse anymore.” He let that hang for the moment it took for me to look around. “Any longer? No longer have the horse?”

He didn’t drop the smile. I’d love to think I didn’t seem surprised. Or rattled. “No, we… the horse…” I restacked my papers, whispered, “Fuck you, Jumper;” scooted my desk away, again, a bit more noisily than I might have preferred. Jumper was still smiling.

“Oh. Sure; and the horse I rode in on.”

……………………………………………………EASY A
Jumper stood up, his desk unit like a skirt, walked closer to me. He slid his preliminary class schedule in front of me, pointed to Criminal Justice; pointed to the same title on my schedule. “I am going on Uncle Sam, though; G.I. Bill. Semper Fi, (whispered) motherfucker. Full ride, man.”

“It’s California… Man; free education. And, besides; I’m not interested in…”

“Easy A, Jody; and… (back to a whisper) Military; cops; it’s a family tradition. Isn’t it?”

I crumpled up the first and second versions of my schedule in my right hand, stuck my middle finger out and a little too close to Jumper’s face. Surprised at how instant my anger had been, how it was staying at that level, and how Jumper’s reaction continued to be a smile (“Insolence,” my father would have said); I pulled my hand back almost immediately, flattened-out what had been a fist, and slapped my hand on the papers to the desktop.

“If my father… I’m… everyone knows who my father was. If I…” I looked at my form. “I’m done, June, Juni, Junipero… Mr. Hayes. Fifteen units. Full load. Done.” I stood up, picked up and straightened the other pages. “I’m not interested in being a…” I lowered my voice, looked around the room. No one was looking up from their papers. “…Fucking cop.”

“Marine Corps, then. Huh?”

The Woman erased Psychology 101 from the board just before I got to her. I looked at my form, I looked at Jumper Hayes. He still had the same smile, mouthing, “Easy A;” stepped in front of me, very close to the Admissions Woman. “We’re both taking Criminal Justice, Miss… (looking at her name tag) Julianna Goldsworthy (stretching out each syllable).” He stepped back, went into a sort of superhero pose. “Do I look like a cop, Julianna?”

She seemed too, maybe, bedazzled to respond with more than a nod. And a smile; a smile she dropped  when she turned toward me. “Family tradition,” I said, “Easy A.”

Jumper looked at me, looked at Julianna, at the TV, back at Julianna; “Big deal, huh; man on the moon and all?”

Julianna looked back at Jumper. Her smile, half as big as it had been, returned; but the nod seemed twice as enthusiastic.  She almost giggled. “Soooo cool. The moon! Historically (lowering her voice) fucking cool.”

“Uh huh,” Jumper said, sharing her little ‘oops’ expression. He stuck a fist out, shook it, said, “To the moon, Alice.” We three, and a couple of others listening-in, of course, got the illusion.

Jumper looked at me, me maintain a serious expression, turned back to Julianna Goldsworthy, motioned her a bit closer. “I want to find out who killed Chulo Lopez. Mr. Joseph DeFreines, Junior, here… DeFreines is a fancy to say ‘French,’ you can call him Jody… probably; he wants to find out who really killed his father.”

SEPTEMBER 10- IN A DIFFERENT LIGHT

It wasn’t actually dark, just that empty, colorless sky, sunset shades fading. I was walking fast, then running on the sidewalks, past the blocks of classrooms, most unlit; a camera strap around one wrist, piece of paper in the other hand. “Should have scoped this out,” I said, probably out loud.

There were mostly older men in the first classroom with lights on and a door open. White-haired and conservatively dressed. “Photography Two?” “No, kid; real estate.” Laughs, two guys pointing to the next building over.

Everyone in the correct classroom seemed to know each other; standing around in small groups, some in those multi-pocketed news photographer coats; versions, I thought, of great white hunter jackets.  I looked down at my favorite vinyl windbreaker, selected because it had big pockets, pockets being an important part, evidently, of being or looking like a photographer.

Most of the Photography II folks were men; not as old as the potential realtors; but, I couldn’t help thinking, probably mostly interested in artistic nude photography. Artistic. Nude.

Then there was Ginny Cole; hair pulled back, a pretty-neutral-colored and oversized sweater and Levis, that large, gray-and-stained, possibly-canvas bag on the desk in front of her, waiting for some one to start the class; that Ginny Cold look on her face.

Not that I knew her.

I did know the look; the don’t-even-think-about-it expression probably necessary for a girl’s survival in the surfing community. Or any community.

Still, I sat in the desk next to her. She didn’t look around.

“It’s like a pervert convention,” I said. No response.

“The trenchcoats.” Pause. No response. I chuckled, scanning the room again. Virginia didn’t. “I surfed Pipes this morning… pretty good; came here from work (all the while I’m probably nodding like a fool). Got a great deal on grapes.” Nothing. “Seedless.” I thought I saw a bit of a smile, quickly dropped. “You get any waves?” No response. “They’re seedless; on sale.”

Virginia Cole turned, possibly just to make me stop talking. This time she had the ‘drop-dead-and-die’ look ready to go; possibly even moving to the ‘may-your-dick-fall-off-before-you-drop-dead-and-then-die’ look; but, just as she turned, as can happen in the hours after a person surfs, a stream of water poured out of Ginny’s nostrils. She quickly brought a hand up to stop it.

She looked at her hand, looked at the puddle on the desk, looked at me. I don’t know if I was smiling. Sure, had to have been.

Her expression was almost a smile. “Seedless, huh?” It was a smile.

“Okay, class;” a voice from the front of the room announced, “time to pick a partner for the dark room.”

I took the neckerchief I had around my neck (part of my junior college-cool outfit), handed it to Ginny. She looked at it for a second, unraveled it, wiped her nose, eyes on me. Then she reset her polite-but-serious face.

Yeah; but, raising the Yashica camera my mom had bought from a Vietnam veteran at her work, a man dying of some unspecified disease (“So young,” she’d said; “Fifty bucks” my dad responded, to her, “Better than that Brownie” he said, handing it to me). I considered pointing the camera toward Ginny, almost wanting to see her ‘drop dead’ expression. Though I never took the shot, that’s still my top Ginny Cole image.

Something about a woman in a dark room; the lighting so different; highlights and profiles, a certain intimacy. Maybe I was a little too thrilled. This wasn’t a date.

I was worthless. When it was obvious I didn’t know how to do anything, she took my roll of film, got it into the tray of developer. “How did you get in this class?”

“Beginning photography was full.” I just stood by. Soon, the first roll of film I would ever (watch/assist) develop was in the fixer. I had to piss. Desperately. I couldn’t leave. “You?”

“Me? What?” I tried to pass on what I meant with a shaking of the hands. “Me. Took it while I was in high school. It’s… possible. It’s allowed. Quit dancing.”

She looked at my feet. “No shoes?” I looked at her feet. Tan, brushed leather almost-hiking boots. “Shoes. Shoes. Good.”

I grabbed my roll from the tray, by the edges, held it up to the reddish lights; negatives, 35 millimeter white and black images of waves, of people, strangers, in the parking lot at Swamis; of Erwin and Phillip and Ray, my closest high school surfing friends, from the last time we all surfed together; Swamis beachbreak.

Ginny took the roll from me, hung it on the line with her five rolls of negatives; flowers and iceplant and palm trees and sunsets and clouds and various members of the San Dieguito surf crowd in the Swamis parking lot.

The professor approached. “He’s had to figure out… he will… you don’t belong,” she said. “You can leave for a minute. Just… just stop dancing. Please.” I couldn’t. “Go. We’ll make some contact prints.”

“Uh huh,” like I knew what that meant. I avoided eye contact with the professor, side-stepped him and one of the big jacket guys.

“Oh,” Ginny said, “and don’t think you’re, like, my hero… anything like that.”

I looked back. She was resetting her serious face as the professor approached her, but, for a second, maybe…maybe she seemed to be actually seeing me, almost smiling; but then, there’s something about darkroom lighting… a different light.

…………………………………………………………….NOT A HERO, NOT A NARC

When I returned, slipping through the ante-room and the blinds of heavy plastic, into the chemical smell and red-tinged darkness, past the professor and other students, Ginny Cole was examining the drying negatives; her five rolls, my one.

“Are you taking this class just to save money on developing?”

“No. Uh, maybe; partially. It’s more like…” She had one roll on the counter, on a towel, dobbing the top side. That’s the one I tried to look at. She pulled it up and away. Thirty-five millimeter negative images. I backed-off, threw my hands up in a ‘no contest’ gesture. “It’s just… it’s not that… it’s not secret.”

“Okay. Not secret. Private. Sure. Private.”

The ‘private’ thing was too much to put between two people in a darkroom who really didn’t know each other.

Ginny picked up and held the roll, by the edges, backlit. There was a shot of someone blocking the path at Beacons with a board. It was me. Oh.

“Oh,” I said.

“Telephoto lens,” she said. “You should get one.”

“Uh huh,” I said, checking the other shots, one a closeup of the Jerk looking up, blood (white on the acetate) on his nose and mouth.

“It’s not like you’re my hero or anything.”

“No,” I said. “Telephoto. Have to get one.” She handed my neckerchief back to me. I looked at it, looked at her. “Perfect,” I thought. “I’m not a narc,” I said.

 

Real Surfers “Real-ly” For Surf Literature

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You’re a Writer too; Right?

 

“Not professionally, not really. Not like you.”
“No,” he said, “what I am is under-fucking-employed.”
It was the wrong day; the swell at the wrong angle, size, and period; the wind and tide not optimal, the forecast slightly north of dismal; and it was rain just-warmer than snow. And it was dark. But, we both were available. We could go. We were going. He threw off the straps, loaded his (probably too short) short board on top of my (probably too big) board, threw the wet straps back at me. That I flinched amused him. I smiled as if I was also amused. And we were off.
“What I need,” he said, along the stretch that seems the most like freeway, more vehicles coming down the onramps, headed for work, “is a sponsor. All the great artists had…” His words faded off as he had to help me pour some coffee from my work thermos into my cup. “I envy those assholes who can just… write. Like it’s easy. Oh, they… I’ve seen these types; going to workshops, hanging out; so, so…But…” He removed the plastic lid and poured some coffee into his cup from some espresso stand he hit last night, “Maybe all real artists were, are, just as desperate as… how’s your work going?”
Maybe I mumbled. Maybe it mattered. Probably not. My work isn’t creative; at least he doesn’t think so. He interrupted whatever it was I tried to say.
“My work;” he said, tipping his coffee toward me like a toast, “it’s like… I mean I don’t have children… you do; it’s like my babies. I send something off and I worry, ‘is it allright? Did I say too much? Too descriptive? Not enough… enough…’ You get it, right?”
“Sure.” Sure.
“And it all… whether it goes somewhere, dies, all depends on some intern who probably doesn’t know shit, or give a shit, or even know something decent from some sort of, um, pedestrian, trite, tripe. Crap.” I just nodded. “You send any of your stuff off?”
“Not in a while. I send some to you.”
“Well. You know…” he exhaled as if he was already exasperated.”If you don’t… geez; is it all so precious?”
No. Not precious. “I’d say ‘high end mediocre.’ High end.”
“Well; dumb it down, dork. Readers want simple.”
“Yeah; but simple’s so, so hard.”
“Tell me about it. No, don’t; might be too complex and, you know, internal and shit.”

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We disagreed on which route would get us through the traffic lights and school zones. I was driving. We went by my route, got stuck behind a bus for a block before I made a cut to a back road.
“It was breaking yesterday,” I said as we turned onto the coast road.
“Who said so?”
“I heard.”
“It’s just, some people exaggerate. If I trust their word… different story.”

Image (28)Image (29)

Though we couldn’t see the break from the muddy-rutted logging road, we had already seen there were signs of swell. “Might as well make the hike with the board,” he said as I threw the straps toward him. “Of course, easier to walk with my appropriately-sized board than…” He just pointed. I just smiled, tried to make my board seem lighter than it is, grabbed my backpack, locked the doors. We could hear the rhythm of distant waves while still walking on fairly level ground, a narrow path between trees, ferns and bushes, everything wet, and no fresh tracks.
“You know that story you emailed me?” It had been a while since I’d sent him anything. He was way too slow to reply; and never with anything close to praise. He paused as we negotiated a downed tree in the path, “The one about the, you know… all surfing stories are pretty much alike… huh?” He followed me down the bank, my board sliding as much as being carried. “I don’t want to get hit when you lose your big-ass board. In the water, either.”
I looked around, up. “Which story?”
“I’ll tell you later. Hey, is that a… whooo… wave?”
I won’t bore you with the session report. You might not trust my word. We didn’t talk about writing on the way home; nothing about precious words, nothing about other people deciding whether your words have value, nothing about how all surfing stories are, pretty much, alike.

Susceptible

“‘The music,’ he said, he always said, always said, ‘is in the words. Pause. The words, one, the words, one, two, the words. Pause. The music, one, is in, one two, the, one, two, three, words.’ He was right.”
“No. No. I’ll, uh, admit… he had the genius thing you and I didn’t… poor us; had to earn shit; but he was always… I’ll pause here, not to sound, um, musical or anything, always… susceptible. It’s why he got screwed up originally, why he became a Jesus Freak, it’s why he got back into drugs again. Enlightened. Geez. Like, because he could drop too much acid and still seem, uh, lucid, lucid to his drugged-out and, on drugs or not, dumb-ass friends. Geez. Assholes. White trash… He thought; on the drugs thing… God, man; I don’t know what he fuckin’ thought. He thought it was easy. He thought it was all good fun. He thought wrong.”
“You’re right. Susceptible. I always thought; always believed, maybe, he… he was… was he, maybe, ni-eve? Or maybe we were because we believed in the whole ‘work hard and you’ll succeed’ bullshit.”
“Oh. Oh; yeah; yes. Definitely. Us not him. Sure. Sure, but, man; we’re still alive, still struggling. Moreover… is ‘moreover’ the right word here?
“Probably. Moreover?”
“Moreover, what he was was, mostly, he was…susceptible.”
“Susceptible? (there’s a long pause here, during which my youngest brother and I look at each other, look at several surfboards leaned up against a wall in my garage) Yeah, sure. Susceptible.”
SUSCEPTIBLE
My brother, our brother; no, he wasn’t a musician, wasn’t a poet’, maybe; probably wasn’t more than a guy who wanted to form some kind of life that included surfing whenever it was good. I don’t have to argue with our other brother about this; he’s right. Sidney took the easy way out. Well, what he thought was easy. It worked for him; for a while. I still have the board Sid gave me; classic Surfboards Hawaii pintail; no longer the clean white with the fine pin stripe at the overlap, the dings from a couple of sessions at that reef break that really wasn’t a surf spot (but was never crowded) still not patched. Still, since I have this outlet, such as it is, before I go over the story (and it’s a story I’ve told, I’ve written, I’ve re-written); let me publish something my brother did write. Maybe it is poetry. Maybe it’s just words and pauses, that, if read out loud, as poetry should be read; and, say, try this- slur over the words, because, and my brother also believed this, even the actual words aren’t as important as the music- maybe it is music.
CAR CHASE
A car door will not stop a bullet;
A door and a femur will,
There is pain; the numbness, alleged, promised, that is a lie;
Another lie.
With every car that passes I feel, or hear;
No longer able to discern a difference;
The sound of a wave;
That first sound.
Oh, that’s it, that’s right;
The same bullet that only pierced the front windshield,
My car charging the roadblock, my head down,
Hoping the motor might stop a bullet or two;
That bullet (or those bullets) took out the back window;
Collapsed: diamond chunks not blown out crumbled.
And now, headed for the sea; whoosh;
I hear the sea, whoosh; I hear the sea.
Closer.
*Syd

That was fiction. He’d left the back hatch open on his van, imagined the rest. He knew he was running. Or, more correctly, he felt like he’d been running, though he was really just hiding a darker reality behind his visible life with whatever screen** and story*** and as much sheen he could afford. For a while, it was all pretty damn shiny; surf trips, friends with names we might read in a magazine or hear on TV, vehicles that were so impractical, surfboards one should hang on a wall ridden and given as gifts. Secret gifts too good to give back. Or up.
*Changed, by Sid, from Sid, short for Sidney. Yeah; of course. **I’m thinking the facade of a house just west of 101. ***Fictions about background, actual income sources, actual investments, actual relatives; just about everything.
Oh, and I must now say this is fiction. Just a story. Don’t go looking for real life equivalents, for ‘based-on’s, though, yes, the ‘whoosh’ from Sidney’s piece (he only thought he was being chased, only imagined being shot); I did use that in a piece already posted, on the sounds of a rainy Seattle. I stole it; sure; but really, I remembered it, and I believed it to be true. Truth.

SUSCEPTIBLE-     Part One- The Devil and the Fear of Darkness
I couldn’t save Sidney. Roger couldn’t save him. By the time Roger called me about the desert airplane drop and the intercept of the small plane, and the attempted bust and the shootout and the escape, Sidney not among the bodies at the… he called it a ‘showdown,’ two guys in a four wheel drive at the junction on miles of dirt roads and the only highway back, two bodies and bags of recovered drugs when the showdown was over; when he realized the escaped member of the party, the guy the other guys tried to kill when they thought he had ratted them out; when he just knew that guy had to be Sidney, possibly wounded, but not at the scene…
“Hi, Laurie; Roger. How’s everything? You barbequing?”
“No. I know you think that’s what we suburbanites…”
“Is my brother around?”
“What’s wrong?”
“Nothing. Nothing.”
But it was something.
“Don’t fuck with me, Roger. What is it?” The pause here is probably twenty seconds. That’s a long telephone pause. Still pausing, waiting. “It’s Sidney. Sidney, isn’t it?”
“Yeah. So… yeah. Is Mikey around or not? I don’t have time to…”
“MIKEY!”

Years earlier, Sidney turned to Jesus when he decided his life had sunk low enough; about the time, he later told me, when he gave up sniffing glue, not so much because he could hear (or feel) his own brain cells popping, but because his partner-in-sniffing, both sharing the tube and the paper bags, had popped enough that Sidney could no longer understand him. “He was gone.” I should say ‘turned back to Jesus,’ since we all had enough of a religious upbringing to share the beJesus out of us, to convince us that we were probably, most likely, doomed. Because I like to wrap things up in some terse phrase, I began to claim that “we learned guilt and hypocrisy at an early age.” Because I was the oldest, I had to hide or deny (hypocrisy) my intense fear of the dark; because Sidney possibly learned more of the verses of the Bible, or paid more attention, he developed a fear of the actual Devil. Because Roger was much younger, and because our father died while he was younger, and because our mother met up with several (two, really) future step-fathers who couldn’t care less about religion (I was old enough they had little influence on me or my fears), Roger developed only a fear of failure. Intense, actually.
It was cool, in those days, to announce your love of the risen savior, the redeemer, the Lord; but the religion was mixed in with so many other notions that…I shouldn’t discuss religion, really; I had become free (by circumstance more than will) of the trappings and the niceties and the hypocrisy. The Jesus Freaks offered a simple message; as Jesus had; it just became more complicated when groups were formed, organization was needed.
Somewhere in this complexity, Sidney moved up, and, when other simple believers lost their enthusiasm and fell off, he moved on to other groups; cynics, paranoids, studious zealots who could find scripture to back up their own fears. And Sidney could study deeper, explain the subtleties in a seemingly-clear way. Groups became smaller; Sidney moved higher. And funds were needed. Money. The Devil Incarnate; in various incarnations; but real.
Now, it might be easy for you to compare what I just wrote about my brother did in impressing other druggies by merely being able to somewhat communicate. Fine, but, I, the brother with the fear of the dark, still think him a genius; and still feel the loose-but-real restraints of the morals I was taught, the things I believed; goodness and evil and redemption; I held to my fear of the dark; almost savored it. And, after all, my father told both of us how, back in the war, he had seen The Devil. In the Dark.

A Teaser on The Continuing Saga, Formerly a Mystery, and soon to be a majorly independent motion picture event, of the Paddle in the Dolphin

NOW that I’ve written it, gotten it out, I’m over it. I hold no ill will toward Raja, and hope we can hang out in the future. He does seem to have the same appreciation for the thrills, absurdities, posturing, and generally high-schoolish behavior involved in surfing anywhere. I’m calling us even. Hopefully Raja will also. PEACE, and I don’t mean that sarcastically.

This is Raja, his given name. I asked. He was born and raised and still lives in Edmonds, a city on the Seattle side of Puget Sound. I’ve seen Raja numerous times over the past several years while surfing on the Strait of Juan de Fuca. His beard keeps growing; hipsterrific.  A few months ago, in an act Raja still claims was not malicious, he found my paddle, which had been ripped from my hands while negotiating the last sixty yards of an inside tube. Now, as I have previously written, I would have bailed on the wave had it not been for the just-mentioned tube. And, hey, the paddle floats, right?

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Raja in left profile. The other two angles are on file.

Oh, those are my fingers. Just can’t seem to get them out of the shots.  Now, you can make your own decisions on whether Raja is a hero for causing an (allegedly) intimidating and (by definition) notorious wave hog to have a few moments of, well, humiliation; or a punk-ass bitch who has never actually said he was in any way sorry for the non-malicious act.  The ‘punk-ass bitch’ is not malicious, Raja (and friends of Raja), and was recommended as the appropriate description by someone who had heard [my version] of the story, and preferred punk-ass bitch over [my choice] hipster dick. Yes, I know you, Raja, and all hipsters, deny your hipster-ness, and, if ‘hipster’ is in any way a pejorative term, this is also not malicious in intent.

There’s intent and there’s actual consequences. Um, yeah; sure.

I’ll get back to this. I’m working on the complete story. I am over it. I think Raja is counting on the wave of prestige for showing up, kind of, a 64 (no, I was only 63 at the time) guy without having to do it on actual waves.

Check back another time.

 

Two title illustrations for “Inside Break,” the Novelization

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Using the photograph used as an illustration in Chapter 3 of “Inside Break,” the novelization, I did a larger drawing, had it reduced and several copies made at the local (Port Townsend Printery) print shop. I then added color to two of the drawings. The top one is the one Trish preferred. I’d like to say I preferred the lower one, but, never totally satisfied, I went back to the original and colored it in. Now I have to wait until I can get back to PT to get it reduced to a size I can use. You have to know I’d love to add some color to the graphics.

I would really appreciate it if you could read some or all of the novel. I’m really trying (honest) to keep the writing tight and on point, but, there are just so many angles, so many other surf stories. Oh, yeah; that’s why I started this site; because real surfers have real stories in common, and each of us has a few that are just ours.

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The Same Wind

Does this drawing make me look gay? I only ask because, going back to do some work on it, adding the black lines (and I should add that the color, in person, is more intense and the lines that form the border are actually even on all four sides), I asked my wife, Trish, as I usually do, what she thought. “Pretty,” she said. Then she chuckled. “Is it meant to be… um… a gay wave?” “What? No. I just wanted to add some rainbows on a wave and… oh; now I see it.” This started a conversation that made me ask her if the rainbow lei, the faded one that’s been hanging, along with a Saint Christopher medal and a long-worn-out scenty thing, for about a hundred thousand miles, on the mirror in the old work/surf van, which had originally been her mini-van (way cleaner, didn’t smell like paint OR wetsuits)… um, is that a… I mean I always just thought it was, you know, Hawaiian… it’s not… I mean, would someone think that…I mean, it’s not, like, a rainbow coalition-y thing?”

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Yesterday, in my new surf/not-work wagon, I was looking for surf on the Straits of Juan de Fuca. There’s been a serious lack of properly-aligned swell for most of February, and, though I’d almost decided to trek the extra hour or so to the coast, it looked like the waves might just cooperate at the second secret spot I checked. So I hung around, thinking how the coast has been the place to go all this winter; offshore winds, reasonably sized waves… no, I’d go out here and catch a few, maybe my timing would seem, once the long peelers started hitting the reef, brilliant.

Didn’t happen. The same east wind that was blowing against the open palms of the broken lines approaching the shores beyond the farthest headland I could see, out where the sun had already broken through the squalls; that same wind was reeling around the little point, ripping scars into the weak energy pockets I was trying to harness. I don’t give up easily.  ‘Exercise,’ ‘practice,’ ‘just had to get wet,’ take your choice. ‘Desperate’ is another motivational catch phrase.

And the wind got stronger, soon howling across the swells as they moved past me, sideways, tops blowing off. Once I got my fill of practice and exercise, once I had gotten wet and was no longer as desperate, using my car as a buffer, and just as I was about to lean over to grab my hoodie from the front seat… woosh! Whoa! Head dip! My big ass board flew over me, landed eight feet away.

The duck and tuck was the best surf move I’d made all day. And I did get home in time to check the buoys and the camera at La Push (not a secret spot). Swell up, direction better, and that same east wind that would bring better weather today was grooming the outside peaks. Brilliant.

“Maybe my mistake,” I told Trish about the time I realized the contest at Snapper Rocks had been on line for hours, and Kelly Slater had already lost in round one, “was I went too early.” “Oh,” she said, in sort of a mock-caring tone, “and now it’s almost dark.” By the time we had the discussion about the gayness, real or imagined, of my drawing, the women’s surfing had started. Full screen. Full color.

Trish looked at a replay of a woman in a bright orange bikini bottom bottom-turning into a decent walled-up section. She looked at me. “It’s Hawaiian,” she said. “What? Oh. Uh huh; I thought so.”

Hey, take a few minutes, when you get a chance, and check out ‘Inside Break,’ the novelization, a couple of place down from here. Thanks.

The Keeper- Perspectives on Waves of Consequence by Stephen and Stig

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I did the line drawing, then added color; wasn't totally stoked on that, did the color version, then, because it seemed too bright, added lines. Different perspectives.

I did the line drawing, then added color; wasn’t totally stoked on that, did the color version, then, because it seemed too bright, added lines. Different perspectives.

STEPHEN DAVIS-
“Where the fuck is he?”, I thought, redlining on adrenaline and standing on a footprint free, remote Olympic Peninsula beach.
” Did he FUCKING drown?” Now I was really concerned. I had just navigated my Gordon & Smith, “funboard”/ turned Big wave gun through one of the most historically treacherous coastlines, on one of the biggest surf days of the Winter. Stig and I had been the only ones out, surfing together only fifteen minutes previous.
Now I was alone and he was… I didn’t know.
The waves were larger in the water than they looked from the beach, like always here. It’s odd when first paddling out and realizing the true size of the sets by being caught inside and out of position due to the long interval between sets. That interval is always the signature of a good swell and the reason we’d chosen this day.
Still, It had taken a curtain of water exploding right in front of me for my adrenaline system to bring my body into balance with the situation. Stig, like he always does, had just taken off deep and late on a monster I was trying to avoid and had disappeared.
I kept looking for him to paddle back out but he never did. I was alone. You are always alone here but I needed to know my friend was ok. I had just dropped in on a smaller set wave to come in over the reef and through the lavender, mussel clad rocks and eelgrass that protect the pools and ponds of this pristine tidal ecosystem.
Getting from the surf lineup to the beach has always been one of the most challenging aspects of this surf spot and, it seems like, most big wave spots. On the inside section, the wave hits the reef in a way that makes it hollow and powerful. Usually, I am cold and physically exhausted by the time I’m ready to head in to the beach. This makes trying to catch a massive moving cloud of white foam and then riding blindly into dry reef and protruding rocks a roll of the dice, especially on larger days when there is a lot of moving water. I have lost a camera and water housing here as well as had the reef shove fins through the deck of my favorite big wave board (with appropriate ‘Psycho’ traction pad), after using it sacrificially as body armor (which is why I was now riding the G&S) trying to get in.
On this day my effort paid off, except for being trapped on the Pacific side of two rock/reef clusters that were creating a four foot wide sluice that was unswimable every time a surge was draining from the pool beyond and nearer to the shore. I guess one could call it a “rip,” though not in the traditional sense. This was an ON/OFF-switching gusher of a different intensity, more like a rhythmic rapid or waterfall. I thought about paddling around it, but that would have presented me with the hazard of being slammed into numerous rocks, caves and reef formations, while eelgrass was petting me with the current.
Trying to time my exit move, I was able to clutch a rock with my left hand while holding my board with my right as the surge peak filled the pool. I beat the timing of the drain, like some old nintendo game, only in reality. From there I was able to find a route safely to the deep, barren, grey sand of the beach. It took a while to normalize my breathing.
Now, I was scanning the immense beach looking for signs of human life. There were none.
There was our stuff off in the distance, but no sign of Stig other than the deep divots we left when we arrived at the beach and where we had entered the surf. That’s all. My eyes turned back toward the sea in hopes of glimpsing Stig’s red board, perhaps tombstoning, and, at least, giving me an indication of his location. Still nothing.
“Maybe I could see better with my glasses…”.
I started the walk down the beach to where we had left our stuff, thinking to myself, “Should I try to carry Stig’s body back up the trail to the car or, should I leave him lying on the beach and go for help if I’m unable to resuscitate him?”. It was then that I saw him bobbing on his red board all the way on the other side of the channel, eyeing the massive lefts.
What I realized he had done was paddle over to the channel and beyond, which is the right thing to do, and offers a less terrifying route to the beach at this surf spot. Finally, I relaxed a bit and sank into a deep reverence for the amazing wave Stig had shown me and mentored me at so many years ago…
Stig was the first person to share this reef with me. He has been surfing it longer than anyone I know, and over the years, he has been the most committed to it of all my surfer friends. I’ve grown to appreciate the lessons and challenges this wave has dished out to my ego. It is definitely, without question, Stig’s favorite spot on the Washington coast. I KNOW I can always get him to surf there with me when no one else is down, especially if the conditions look like they are going to come together. By example, he has taught me a reverence and solemnity for this beach that I profoundly appreciate.
Earlier in our session, we were sitting together when a bomb lined up. I laid down and started to paddle towards it, angling for the shoulder from the inside ledgey part I was trying to race under. Once I realized I was ahead of the wall I stroked hard to catch it, only to catch a glimpse of Stig deep and underneath an overhanging, pitching, cartoon-like lip, taking off behind the peak, super committed, trying to backdoor it. This is what I completely expect from him. I pulled back and watched Stig drop into oblivion. It sounds cliche but Stig always does that here, that “don’t know ’till you go” style. I’ve seen it so many times it fucks my mind up. When I get serious and surgical he goes deep and late on BIG waves.
After seeing him charge from the safety of the shoulder I was able to get in position for the one behind it and see my friend paddling back out as I was focused on my take off and the long drop, trying to ignore what was happening behind me for the moment.
As a youth, Stig was fed a ration of North Shore, Oahu’s Sunset Beach. It’s another, even bigger right, with a hollow inside section. Some of the surfers that were inspiring to Stig growing up on Oahu were Duke Kahanamoku, Eddie Aikau, and Ken Bradshaw. In fact, Stig actually met the Duke at the Honolulu Yacht Club as a boy before his passing in 1968. Ken Bradshaw bailed Stig out on a big day at Sunset when he had lost his board and was battling a rip current.
Perhaps these and other events were the seeds of Stig’s hoale humility that he carries with him into the surf. He is very humble, reverent and soft spoken, letting his takeoff position speak for him.
Stig’s father’s paipo surfing molded him as well. Paipo is an extension of body surfing in which a plywood, delta shaped board is used as an aid, the parent of the contemporary boogie board. This may explain Stig’s enthusiasm for surfing warm water spots in a speedo, which is more a bodysurfing thing. One of the only men I’ve seen get away with it is North Shore lifeguard, Mark Cunningham. He is a master body surfer, which is a skill he uses as an accessory to help keep folks safe on the North Shore in heavy, Winter surf. I had the pleasure of a compliment from him down in Mexico on a fast left point wave after making a section backside. Stig says he sometimes enjoys the feel of speedo surfing because of the lack of resistance.
In Justin Hawking’s novel, “The Great Floodgates of the Wonderworld”, there is a chapter late in the book about being alone. The morning before our session I read some lines to Stig. Hawkings refers to the Herman Melville novel, “Moby Dick” throughout the book. In the chapter I read to Stig, Hawkings writes of an art show in San Francisco in which an artist cut out the last period of the last sentence of “Moby Dick” and pasted it in the middle of a large, blank white canvas.
So, at the end of that chapter in “Floodgates”, Justin did basically the same thing, a period on a blank page to give the reader that profound effect, the effect of being alone and floating on a coffin in the middle of a vast Ocean…
…Now, contrast that with a solid friend who charges hard and is there for you when the surf gets big and cold and empty. It’s impossible not to have humble gratitude.
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STIG WAIDELICH-
Dear Steve,
It’s an interesting experience to read of oneself from the perspective of another. Those details that we tend
to take for granted, the minutia that tend to take precedence over the more grand scheme of our lives itself.
While I was concerned with women at a gas station, and how I had failed to get the best waves for us, you, on the
other hand, were experiencing profound and beautiful moments. No less than life and death itself.
If so much can be received from a sloppy day of stormy conditions, what would have been had, from those glittering waves in the calm that preceded it?
But I remind myself that we were chasing a dream. You and I have always been chasing that dream, and it matters not
how many times we fail or strike out or get skunked. Because the true story is in the perseverance. The true story, YOUR
story, is in the friendship we share, and how it has brought us to this spot over and over again over the years. Absolutely
regardless of the relative success of “scoring it”.
We scored it my friend. Of that I am certain. No footprints. No trace did we leave behind. The point remained undisturbed
for another day. The seagulls and seals had their way, as they have had for aeons before. This is the wave we rode. The eternal wave that carries us through our lives and into our death as it has with all those who came before and all who will follow.
It is no co-incidence that your story and my reply found it’s way into the previous forward email documentary about “Why no
Waves in Titan’s Ocean’s”. What could possibly be the relevance between our session, and the possibility of waves on
a moon of Saturn?
Because both embody a promise of hope.
In 2008 I was studying photographs of Titan from my office in Dolce La Belle. I was blown away by what appeared to be the presence of lines of breaking surf taken from the Huygens probe during it’s two hour decent to the surface. I wrote a song inspired by it. Never mind life on another planet! Here was SURF!! And where there is surf, there is hope.
The video I forwarded to you denies the surf’s existence. And yet, a denial is a form of acknowledgement. To deny something is to recognize it’s possibility. It’s as if to say; “Why ISN’T there surf? -A question just as important.
The search for surf beyond our blue planet has already begun.
And it is colder. It is lonelier. It’s beauty, inconceivable.
And it is waiting to be ridden.
Thank you Steve.
Love,
Stig