I’m still polishing the manuscript for my novel, “Swamis.” A lot of what I am doing is trying to cut out pages, lines, even words that don’t progress the story. The story.
THE STORY has changed considerably since I started the project. THE TRUTH is that this project, realsurfers, was an attempt to tell the larger story of surfing in a particular time, the late 1960s, Southern California; the draft, Vietnam, various revolutions in music, surfboard design, human rights; there’s a lot to cover. NOW I have a story and I’m trying to make all the parts, all the characters and plot twists seem REAL.
I don’t want to post pages that I cut because I rewrote them, improved upon what I am offering you. Rather, I will only post outtakes because they no longer fit in the trimmed-down, story driven manuscript. ACTUALLY, there are still sidetrips I will not be able to cut.
In rereading this passage, I do have to admit that it’s Joseph DeFreines channeling me. The fiction part is that his father was a cop, killed in a mystery among mysteries. SO:
Sure. Surfing is sexy, coolness illustrated; pirate/rebels washed clean.
Coolness, hipness; we adapt our lives, change our speech patterns, make different choices in clothing and music and attitude as we discover new, and, if not better, more modern things, newer new things; trends, fashions.
The very word, fashion, describes its temporary nature. Subtext. That fashion goes in and out is given to the user of the word for free.
We steal, borrow, incorporate. The strands are pretty obvious; like blues to jazz, blues to rock and roll, blues coopted by popular AM music. If you were born in the 1950s, you heard Sinatra and Chuck Berry on the same AM station; experienced the Beatles, then Dylan. No, you probably got Dylan through Dylan covers, Peter Paul and Mary, the Byrds; then Dylan, then… whatever was fashionable. Temporary.
THE REAL DYLAN
We, my Fallbrook contemporaries, suburban teenage males, isolated from the big cities, behind the times; we were Doors fans. Of course. My friends bought the albums. Garage bands played extended versions of ‘Light My Fire’ at sock hops and VFW dances. When tape players came out, some of my friends had them installed in the cars their parents handed down to them. Or bought for them. Four trac, then 8; Three Dog Night and Jimi Hendrix.
Somehow, I held on to the songs from the 78s my parents owned, surprisingly varied, with jazz, husband and wife duos, black torch singers, Nat King Cole. I remembered tunes from musicals in my mom’s LP stash, “Oklahoma” and “South Pacific.” They had LPs, 33 1/3rd, Johnny Mathis and The Everly Brothers. I didn’t want doo wop or bubblegum pop, I wanted to hear the real Dylan. Dylan was in the magazines, angry young man, voice of a generation; why wasn’t he on the radio?
Dylan was certainly not on KCPQ, the station my friends in Junior High went on about. KCPQ advertised pimple cream and played Beatle songs for portable radios, songs sung in the hallways by hormone-strained voices, guys suddenly affecting English accents. There were sanitized versions of Dylan; but no Dylan. I didn’t want more Chad and Jeremy, more Herman’s Hermits.
Someone dropped a clue, something heard by overhearing an older brother. There was a station from San Diego, KPRI, FM (for god’s sake), that played whole albums; radical, underground music. I could barely get it, but I tried, over in the corner of my bedroom, while I studied, wrote; edited and typed-up other people’s term papers (for a fee); another detached, isolated, suburban (almost rural, really) teenager.
KPRI, as close to tuned in as I could get it, still had that grainy, scratchy, ringing-in-the-ear background. I tried. I persisted. I listened. That it was difficult to tune into made it better. Way better. FM, for god’s sake.
Channel 9, from Santa Barbara, was a similar, hard-to-tune-in mystery. With Ray on the roof moving the antenna, Phillip at the window, and me at the TV set, we tried to get “Surf’s Up.” It was listed in the Fallbrook-specific TV Guide; and, at best, we almost saw, or barely saw, some footage of Trestles, a legendary break, peeling. The only audio we could hear was, “peeling like a washing machine.”
That barely-there-ness only added to the appropriateness. “Peeling like a washing machine” became, briefly, our phrase for a perfect wave on an imperfect day. Rare, peeling…
“We’re going,” the slow-speaking voice (opposite of am radio) of a possibly-stoned KPRI disc jockey would say, “to go in the back room and get our heads together (background chuckles); so, here’s Dylan’s “John Wesley Harding.” Sound of inhalation, extended version.
Appropriate. Black-and-white, scratchy-grainy TV, whispered songs with tinnitus backgrounds.
When I got my first tape player, 4 plus 4, capable of playing four and eight trac tapes; and stolen, as previously mentioned, traded for fifteen bucks and some homemade sandwiches (and a promise for more) in the school parking lot, installed (rather, wired) by a guy (can’t remember his name) who told me I, my dad being an asshole and a cop and all, should have known it was stolen. I bought some on-sale tapes at the Buy-and-Save market: Laura Nyro, Leonard Cohen, “Aerial Ballet” by Harry Nilsson.
“What’s that shit?” One of my friends would ask.
“Good music,” I would say.
Yeah, I had some Doors, Hendrix; often wondered if I really liked them more than the Moody Blues. When Led Zeppelin came out, I just avoided it. Or tried. Orgasmic rock. All these years later, KPRI is probably sports or talk or playing new age country/western, and there is no classic or hardrock station that can go an hour without playing something from Led Zep.
Orgasmic rock I called it. Hated Led Zeppelin, but I still know most of their songs.
Somewhere in those years, I lost my California coastal accent. Or, maybe I just thought I had. It comes back sometimes. “Oh, I see; you don’t like a-vo-caaa-do.”
My novel, “Swamis,” keeps growing, keeps reaching past ‘novel’ to ‘epic novel’ length. I keep editing it, deleting stuff, then, tightening and polishing and making sure all the little moves are clear; it just keeps rolling past the 120k word zone, that fictional border that keeps a fictional story at a readable length.
Yeah, and as much as it hurts me to cut chapters, with where I am, so close to an ending that keeps evading me in the rewriting and editing, I definitely need to cut a couple of thousand words. SO, I keep moving them to the backup, shadow story, labeled “Sideslipping” on my laptop. I have published some of these on realsurfers, and, if I can swing the computer moves, I will stick some ‘edits,’ don’t want to call them ‘deleted scenes,’ here. MAYBE ‘deleted scenes’ is acceptable.
The following is actually two big outtakes. Remember, though there is a lot of actual people and real events included in “Swamis,” this is fiction. I transplanted my best surfing friends Phillip and Ray into situations that never happened, stuck myself in there, too, mostly so readers don’t think I am Jody. I am not. And, yeah, it’s a lot of words to delete; still not enough:
SIDESLIPPING- OUTTAKES FROM “SWAMIS”
Here we go:
Someone I met much later, a former member of the La Jolla/Windansea group, ten years or so older than me; old enough to have dived for abalone and lobster; old enough to have ridden a new balsa wood board, said, of surfing in his era, “We just sort of plowed.”
When I switched from surf mats to boards, in 1965, diving for and selling abalone and ‘bugs’ (lobster) for cash was already over; being a ‘true waterman’ was no longer a priority. This only added to the mystique. There was a certain reverence, respect, held by surfers of the “Everybody goes surfing, surfing U.S.A.” era for the members of that post-war generation; beatnik/hotrod/rock n’ roll/pre-Gidget/rebellious/outsider/loner surfers plowing empty waves.
That is, for those (of us) who actually gave a shit.
Tamarack was obvious; one peak in front of the bathrooms on the bluff, a bit of a channel; a parking lot at beach level. Good place to learn; sit on the shoulder; wait, watch, study; move toward the peak; a bit closer with each session. Get yelled at; get threatened; learn.
Eventually, if you wanted to improve, you would have to challenge yourself to ride bigger waves, beachbreaks with no channel, tough paddle outs. You would have to learn to hold tightly to the board’s rails, your arms loose enough to move with the violence of a breaking wave. If you wanted to surf the best waves, the set waves, even at Tamarack, you would eventually have to challenge a better-than-you surfer for a wave.
Chapter Eight- Thursday, March 20, 1969
Phillip and Ray lead the discussion about the murder and the excitement. There was a bigger than usual crowd at the big concrete planter boxes, designed with seating all around, trees and bark inside them. The break was called ‘nutrition,’ between second and third periods, and there were two trailers set up where nutritious snacks like orange-sickles and twinkies could be purchased.
Mostly Ray was talking, with Phillip adding key points, and Erwin looking out for any nearby teachers. Mark and Dipshit Dave and three of the Billys were there. I was in my usual spot, standing in the planter, observing, listening. Some of the local toughs and the cooler non-surfers were, unusually, part of this day’s group; listening; more friends of friends of Ray and Phil.
Two of the Rich Kids came over from the Senior Area. Mike, who had been my best friend up until third grade, jumped up next to me on the planter. “Missed the excitement, huh Joey?”
“Guess so, Mikey.”
I had already heard the story. My mind was somewhere else.
“Um, hey; Joey; you know…” I knew what Mike wanted to say. “We’re still; you know, friends.” He tapped me on the chest, tapped his own. “It’s just… your dad. Sorry.”
I tapped Mike on his chest, three times, held up a flat palm between us, went back to being somewhere else.
In our freshman year, the most crowd-centric of several big concrete planters became the pre-school, break, and lunchtime hangout for the entire crew of Freshmen surfers (as far as we knew); Erwin and Phillip and me. With the administrative building behind it, the gymnasium/cafeteria downhill, most of the classrooms to the west, and a bit of shade provided by the trees, it was a good place for observing while still laying low, avoiding… avoiding the other students; the older students in particular; but also any awkward interactions with girls and rich kids and new kids who had gone to other Junior high schools, Pauma Valley (East, toward Palomar Mountain) and Camp Pendleton (West) and Bonsall (Southwest) and Rainbow and Temecula (Northeast).
Temecula. In my senior year, 1969, there were four or five kids from there; three were siblings; two Hanks sisters, one brother. These days, if people don’t know where Fallbrook is, they have heard of Temecula. Big city. “Yeah, sure, Temecula; out on The 15.”
Putting “The” in front of the name of highways came later, along with traffic helicopters and rush hour destination forecasts. Later.
I-15 was Highway 395 then, and Temecula was, often, twisted into Tim-meh-cu’-la; not for any good reason except, perhaps, it was more inland, farther East than Fallbrook, Fallbrook, a town that self-identified (with signage) as “The Friendly Village;” but was nicknamed, in a self-deprecating way, Frog-butt.
Again, the planter was a good place to observe the daily run of mostly manufactured dramas, crushes and romances and slights and breakups, from. High ground. The planter offered a good view of the slatted, backless wooden benches where the sociable girls, this clique and that one, sat (one or two sitting, two or three standing), in groupings established through some mysterious sort of class/status jockeying, some girls able to move from one group to another; some not.
The planter was adjacent to the Senior Area, a sort of skewed rectangle of grass and concrete with covered picnic tables. This chunk of real estate was off limits and jealously guarded, mostly by guys in red Warriors letterman jackets, against intruders; though any senior who made any effort to appear cool (particularly when talking with underclass girls) would feel obligated to say the exclusivity of the senior area was no big deal to him.
Girls. Yeah, the planter was a good place to observe girls, some I’d known since kindergarten. Changing. So quickly. Heartbeat by heartbeat. Girls. So mysterious.
It’s not that I didn’t try to understand how a (comparatively) poor girl with a great personality could be in with three rich girls, at least one of whom was totally bitchy (I mean ‘slightly difficult, quite mean, and unreasonably demanding,’ but I would have meant and said bitchy back then). I figured it was because they knew each other before we figured out whose parents had more money than whose (ours).
Phillip was new when we were freshmen. He had come from Orange County; but he had done some surfing and his older sister was going out with a guy who was definitely one of Fallbrook High’s four or five real surfers. Phillip and I shared a couple of classes. I’d known Erwin since kindergarten. He was a Seventh Day Adventist, which was, he explained, “Kind of like Christians following Jewish traditions.” “Oh, so that’s why you’re not supposed to surf on Saturdays?” “It’s the Sabbath. Holy. Sundown Friday until sundown Saturday.” “Too bad.” “Well; we have gone to, um, Doheny; somewhere we wouldn’t run into anyone from, you know, here.” “Oh?” “Yeah; hypocrisy and guilt. If surfing isn’t, you know, actually sinful…” “Oh, but you know it is.” “Sure is.”
Erwin was one of the only Adventists at our school, and he started board surfing right after junior high; about the same time I did; when his sister, Suellen, beguiled by “Gidget” movies and an episode of “Dr. Kildare,” probably (no doubt, actually); got herself a used surfboard and let her brother borrow it.
Sinful, yes; addictive, undoubtedly. I once, early September, just after school started, saw Erwin sitting on his sister’s board, toward the channel of the lineup. Sunday. Tamarack. It wasn’t big, really, maybe a little bigger than had been average over the summer.
“You’re in the channel, Erwin.” “So?” Closer to the peak meant closer to the crowd. We challenged each other, had to go. We both paddled, over and out; and sat, anxiously, outside of where the waves were breaking, watching other surfers, from the back, take all the waves. When a set wave showed up, we were (accidently) in position. We both; heads down, paddled for it; Erwin prone, me on my knees. We both caught the wave. I pearled, straight down, my board popping back up dangerously close to other surfers scrambling out. Erwin rode the wave. Probably quite ungracefully, but, if only between him and I, he had bragging rights.
Bragging rights, but only between Erwin and me. Being ignored for a mediocre ride was far better than being noticed, called-out as a kook, told by three surfers, only one of them older than I was, to go surf somewhere else, go practice my knee-paddling in the nearby Carlsbad Slough.
I never did. I persisted. I got better. I had significant surf bumps by the time I started riding boards that took knee-paddling out of the equation.
Sometimes I, or Phillip and I, would go (on a Sunday) with Erwin’s mom and his many siblings; sometimes Phillip (on a Saturday) or both of them (on a Sunday, after school, or on a holiday) would go with Freddy and me and my mom. Always to Tamarack. Lower parking lot. Freddy never surfed a board. Surf mat; the real kind, hard, nipple-ripping canvas. Sometimes Freddy and I would get dropped-off, try to fit into the crowd, ease close to someone else’s fire when our mom’s shopping took longer than the time we could manage to stay in the water.
Ray and some of the other guys our age didn’t start surfing until the summer before our sophomore year, so Phillip and Erwin and I were ahead of them, better than them. Many of our contemporaries at least tried it. Anyone newer to surfing than you were was a kook and/or gremmie. Surfing had its own dress code and, more importantly, a fairly strict behavioral standard. A code I thought, at the time. It was fine to get all jazzed up among other surfers, going to or from the beach, but not cool to kook out among non-surfers.
Even in the proper surf gear, Phillip and Ray, both blondes, looked more like what TV and movies said surfers should look like (unless you were foolish enough to believe Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon were anything even close to real- real surfers knew the extras, the background guys, Miki Dora especially, and Mickey Munoz, were the real surfers). Erwin and I, dark haired; even when dressed in the requisite surf garb of the time, weren’t immediately recognized as surfers, weren’t immediately given whatever prestige we thought surfers received.
Or we were, and the prestige wasn’t what we thought it might be.
By the time we were seniors, most of the other Fallbrook surfers our age had dropped off; surfing was less important than whatever they were doing; though they still looked like surfers and always asked when I’d gone last; always said we’d have to go, together, some time.
Some time. We still rarely hung out in the Senior Area. The planters.
We all seemed to have cars; hand-me-downs from parents or older siblings off somewhere new. We could go surfing alone. Phillip and Ray had girlfriends, on and off. Even Erwin had a girlfriend, Trish; not an Adventist. Separate lives. Separate adventures. Romances. Drama. Sometimes we’d still surf together; usually not.
The stories of those adventures connected us. Loosely, probably.
I studied, I surfed. But, at nutrition and at lunch, pretending not to notice the swirl of so many stories around me, this concrete planter box was my social scene.
This is my latest attempt at the negative-to-positive technique:
I’m pretty satisfied with the illustration, at least partially because it pretty much turned out as I imagined it would, hopefully, pretty; and I don’t feel the need to go back on this drawing and make changes.
Not yet, anyway. I am considering going back to the original and adding something referencing my novel, “Swamis,” Ginny Cole being a main character in the in-progress (still) manuscript.
AND, this image may end up on an ORIGINAL ERWIN t-shirt. If not, or if so, I’ll get a signed, framed, limited edition (limited, as always, by me) copy over to Tyler Meeks’ DISCO BAY OUTDOOR EXCHANGE soon, like, maybe today.
MEANWHILE, look for, wait for, or enjoy surf when you can, make sure you’re ready to vote in November, and STAY SAFE.
This isn’t about the president, really, it’s about writers and artists, and, no, really, it’s about all of us. I’ve often said all of us are in sales; we’re all selling something, whether it’s a service or something we *created, designed, built; or something we’re promoting.
As sales people, we’re all being judged. I’ve been working on the manuscript for “Swamis” for quite a while now, and this morning, for the first time in that same quite a while, I woke up without wanting, feeling as if I had to work on it, whether I could or not.
I spent some time yesterday insuring that I have an actual Library of Congress copyright on the story that I *designed and built (rather than saying I created it- it’s a remembering and a remix and a projection and a compilation and a fitting of character to setting) trying to fit all that into some sort of structure; chiseling here, hammering there.
NOW I’m at the naked stage, sending out the product to be judged. I can’t put a value on it, can’t grade it, can’t say your reading “Swamis” will be a worthwhile experience for you.
I think it’s genius, of course.
If one doesn’t have to be crazy to consider him or herself to be a writer, sending your work (and don’t be fooled, writing is pure pleasure, editing is work) out, naked, to be judged; the necessary part of selling the thing, and waiting, waiting, waiting for judgement… that will make you crazy(ier).
I should also mention that preparing myself to ask someone to do me the honor of reading my work tends to make me a bit nauseated. It’s like that feeling you might get (I mean, probably have had), headed for your favorite surf spot because you just believe the waves will be soooo good, then knowing that way too many other surfers will have the same idea, and you, being a sociopathic wave hog, might just have to get all scrappy and…see?
The unexpurgated version, all 298 pages, all 23,345 words, is being put into a book version, one copy, a ‘galley proof’ by one of my clients in the real world (in which I paint houses), Mike Kenna, owner of The Printery in Port Townsend. Thanks, Mike. I have sent electronic versions to several other people, people I know will be honest in their assessment.
There’s no profit in not being honest.
MEANWHILE, while I’m waiting, I do have the opportunity, through my connection with the (currently closed) Port Townsend Library, soul rebel stealth surf ripper Keith Darrock, to do some sort of electronic reading of “Swamis.” We’ll see. I’ll let you know. I did a test video this morning, me in the living room.
No, I wasn’t naked, but I did put a shirt on; and that was with just me watching.
I continue to be baffled by computers, and get tangled and confused even with tasks I’ve previously performed successfully; like transferring something from the 35,000 plus words I’ve written so far on my novel, “Swamis.”
BUT, this particular chapter with actual surfing in it, which was set earlier in the narrative, had to be moved, just to lessen confusion for readers, from around page 42 to somewhere in the high 50s. I was able to highlight, copy, and transfer the words, intact, but three attempts to move it from the thumb drive too realsurfers, doing some refining each time, failed.
AND I lost the changes.
SO, here I am typing it onto the site. I do have some other actual surfing in the manuscript, and plan on writing more, and (spoiler alert) the novel will come to some sort of conclusion during the famous December 1969 swell, though probably not on Big Wednesday. Maybe on ‘Still Good’ Friday.
REMEMBER, although I surfed Swamis every day during the swell, with varying degrees of success, “Swamis” is still a work of fiction. That is, the story and characters are fictional, mostly; THE WAVES ARE REAL.
INSIDE THE LINEUP
Jumper was the farthest surfer out, sitting on the Boneyards side of the outside peak, looking at the horizon. There was a pack on the safer side of where most waves would start to break. As always. Swamis. There was that string of surfers, with another pack in the vicinity of the inside peak. At this tide, probably a third, or so, of the waves, the bigger waves, would connect all the way across.
Jumper seemed to feel someone approaching, or he heard the splash and glide of my paddling. He didn’t look around, but rotated his board enough to catch me in his peripheral vision.
“You didn’t call… could have called Tony; given me a head’s up.”
“Figured you’d know.”
I did. “I did. Of course. Cardiff’s… the parking lot is full, and…”
“So it must be good. Huh?”
A line on the horizon started to thicken, darken, take form; a wall, the peak of it fifty yards over from me, farther for Jumper. I could see the lineup come alive; surfers dropping to prone, paddling out and toward us.
“Number three,” Jumper said. “Block for me.”
“Fuck you, Jumper,” I said, stroking hard, out and toward the first wave. I looked-off three guys also trying to get in position, turned, sank the tail of my board, stroked hard, and took off. I dropped in, made the down-the-line bottom turn, knowing, if it didn’t look like I would make the first section, shoulder-hoppers would take off. If they didn’t kno0w wave etiquette, didn’t know who I was, or didn’t care, some fool might drop in anyway.
Some surfers, taking off from the outside (weirdly enough, called the ‘inside’ position- closest to the peak) will whistle at the attempted interlopers, or yell something like, “I’m on it!” Or something harsher. I tried to resist those urges; but I had been known to come as close to any surfer dropping in that… maybe it was an intimidation tactic. Maybe.
I was more likely to just yell, “Go!”
I leaned hard into another bottom turn, looking off two new scrappers. I aimed for a place high on the steepening wave; hit it, tucked into a short tube. Then, while I’m trying to deal with the board speed on a weakening shoulder, someone did drop in.
“Fuck!” I tried to cutback, couldn’t, fell sideways, awkwardly, trying to fall onto my board, or, at least, close enough to grab it.
Nope. The guy who dropped in, totally unaware (probably) that he was almost hit by my board, (probably) had one of the best rides of his surf life; while I hoped my board would pop up within a swimmable distance before the second wave of the set hit. Nope. Almost there, then… whoosh; more swimming.
Three kooks were sharing the second wave, which had, as I would have predicted, swung wider, more toward the inside peak. The guy in front stayed in front, the guy in middle tried to stay in position, the back guy (who should have had priority) got (and this is pretty standard, though, sometimes the front guy pulls out- etiquette) knocked off the wave. I ducked under rather than (and this would have been good etiquette) making a grab for his board.
The third wave, number three; that was the wave. Of course. I just stopped swimming, turned around, bouncing in the eel grass on the ledges, keeping my head above water. I watched Jumper backdoor the peak; tucked-in, covered; emerging, still high on the wave, most of his body above the lip, backlit for a mind-extended moment; then unweighting, redirecting, s-turning while dropping to the bottom. He leaned forward and into the wave, body stretched-out, front hand pointing down the line.
As the inside section formed, he kick-stalled (another freeze-frame-moment in the flow), crouched, and disappeared again.
Some gremmie retrieved my bo0ard, shoved it out to me, just as Jumper finished his ride with an in-the-closeout island pullout, the tailblock of his board coming quite close to me.
He brushed back the water, pulled the hair out of his eyes. “No, fuck you, Jody.”
“Nice ride, man. Number three. Outside peak. Why’d I doubt?”
“Because you, my friend, lack faith.”
“”We’re not friends.”
Another set caused us both to wait, reef-dancing on the finger ledges. “We are. I am the best fucking friend you’ve got.” He tapped me on the chest. A little too hard; looking for my reaction.
“Then, friend; why didn’t you tell me?”
“You’re the detective.”
“Fuck you… again, man. You heard Dickson. ‘There ain’t no eighteen-year-old detectives.’ Right? Stoolies, narcs, informants. Undercover, um, agents. Not interested. But you…”
“Yeah, me. Me; I am interested. Stoolie, narc, informant, undercover… yeah. And you, you need to stay away.” My expression, evidently, changed. Way too readable. “You aren’t going to… stay away.” Nope. “You should.”
We both saw the break in the waves, the chance to paddle back out. We both leapt onto our boards. Jumper almost instantly jumped off his, blocked me from paddling. “First of all, Joseph; you were interested. Second, it was me who said ‘eighteen-year-old detectives.’ Dickson thought you were still seventeen. Friends.”
Jumper got back onto his board, paddled through a wave and toward the channel. He paddled toward the pack at the inside peak, past the shoulder-hoppers and the scrappers, past the sitters, the channel markers, those folks afraid to go on set waves, afraid to get caught inside. Those who knew who Jumper was would, if in his direct path, move aside, their feet moving like ducks, rotating.
I tried to paddle out inside (closer to shore) the pack, and got caught by a four wave set. I had almost made it past and through to the outside when an older guy (probably pushing thirty), but an obvious beginner (stink but stance, big arm movements) from Escondido (at least that’s where his license plate frame said he bought his flashy black Monte Carlo), wearing out-of-date, out-of-fashion jams over his wetsuit (for modesty, perhaps, but totally impractical- they wouldn’t ride up, almost instantly rip out) had to fall on his flashy board to avoid hitting me. His anger only added to mine.
“Fucking paddle around, Kook,” he yelled. Hand signals were added; big arm movements. “Don-cha-fuckin’ know nothin?”
I chose not to be angry. “Sorry, sir. You were… (I made a smooth hand/forearm gesture) surfing so very well. Sir.” Nice guy/apologetic smile.
“Um. Oh. Well. Oh? Yeah?” I nodded. He smiled. Now he had a story. “Well; next time…”
I was already paddling, again, taking the inside route.
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.
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.
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.
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.
NOTE- 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.’
A Woman entered, looked at the handful of people 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. Being under eighteen (it 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.
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 at me with his stack of papers, and sat next to me. He scooted (noisily) his desk unit closer; like he wanted to cheat off me.
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 trying to seem a bit more professional, even stern, than she was able to. She was rather like a substitute teacher in a room of recent high school graduates, professional students, draft dodgers, returning veterans.
“Bagboy,” Jumper said; “I thought you were going to some big time University. Word is you’re a brain.”
“Okay. Maybe not.”
“I was, but… 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… like you.”
The woman, taking a handful of papers from an older man; probably forty; scratched Philosophy II and Photography 101 from the chalkboard.
“Oh, 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 was my dad’s joke.”
“Yeah; and Tony, at the market; he’s in on it.”
“They were both in the Corps. Not that they knew each other then, but…”
“As was I. As I was?” Jumper saluted; quickly, crisply; properly. He looked over at my papers. “You takin’ any English classes, um, neighbor?” When I looked back, he went back to nodding. “Wrong side of 101. You probably have to go five blocks to get across, but… well…”
When I determined nothing was following; I said, “Well… 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 any more. 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…” I restacked my papers, whispered, “Fuck you, Jumper;” scooted my desk away, a bit more noisily than I might have preferred. Jumper was still smiling.
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.”
“Easy A, Jody; and… (back to a whisper) it’s a family tradition. Isn’t it?”
I crumpled up my 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 that 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.”
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 Esposito (stretching out each syllable). I want to find out who killed Chulo Lopez; Joseph Discenzo… Junior, here…” Jumper handed Julianna my paper work. She looked at the name, looked at me. I looked at her. Confused smile. No, she probably hadn’t heard of my father. “…he wants to find out who killed his father.”
I’m not sure if this current flag, a sign keeping surfers out of a zone so non-boardies can float and bob and cavort, is the same one they used back when I was defying them.
I probably thought of this because I’ve been spending (somewhere between investing and wasting) some time watching the Supergirl Pro from Oceanside Pier. I did lose a portion of my interest when Stephanie Gilmore didn’t advance, a little more when the waves dropped off, but, hey, I did spend a lot of time at this pier.
It was the go-to spot for beach-going when I was a kid in Fallbrook, 20 miles away, wading out among the marines and their girlfriends (there was a lot of “From Here to Eternity” style romancing, I noticed), learning about the power and excitement of waves.
I did have to, sort of, get rescued, once, by neighbor mom, Arthella; when, around 8 years old or so, I pearled my styrofoam surfie, broke it in half with the collision between sand and stomach. Not that I really needed rescuing.
Fast forward to the party celebrating graduating from 6th grade. I was the almost-12 year old wearing the speedos, just like my Dad. None of the other boys were wearing them. I would say more, but modesty…
Fast forward to 1965, the prestigious Oceanside Invitational happening, and, while my sister, Suellen, was (embarrassingly, for me) getting autographs from surfers on the beach (and the only name I remember is Mike Doyle, his mother bringing him a sack lunch), and despite my only having started board surfing a month or so before, I paddled right out among the warming-up competitors (embarrassing, no doubt, for Suellen). No, I had progressed to jams by this time.
What I didn’t know until last night, when Trish and I were google-mapping to see what the building I worked in, Buddy’s Sign Service, 1st and Tremont, looks like now; is that Trish was also at that contest, not getting autographs from surfers, not doing anything embarrassing.
Oh, got to go. Part II coming soon. Oh, second semi-final is on, but I have to go.
The surf report and forecast for the Northwest portion of the contiguous U-nited States of A-merica (dashes added to more closely reflect prideful way we pro-nounce stuff) is pretty bleak. You’d have to believe the Pacific Ocean could churn up something more than a two foot swell.
Hey, it’s summertime. Painting season. Hydrosexual Stephen Davis and I, both of us drinking coffee, were each sitting in doorways of our vans, paint gear spread around. I asked him about water temperatures in Baja (last fall) and Hawaii (this last winter). “Oh,” he said, “Baja was right between trunking-it and wetsuit temperature; probably 66 degrees or so.”
“Oh,” I said. Pause, both of us nodding our heads. “You know, back when I was a teenager…” Now Steve was trying to avoid rolling his eyes. “…when the water temperature got up to 58 degrees, somewhere around Easter; if you were still wearing a wetsuit… and bear in mind we only had shortjohn wetsuits… you were a pussy.”
“Uh huh. Pussy.” “Really. And you couldn’t put one on until it got back down to 58, somewhere around December; before Christmas, anyway.” “Uh huh.”
What I didn’t bother to tell him, but probably drifted off into remembering, was an early summer morning when Phillip Harper, Ray Hicks, possibly Mark Metzger and Billy McLain, and I; no doubt in two cars from Fallbrook, all hit Swamis at about the same time. I was first down the stairs.
I surfed Swamis enough from 1965 to see the basic reef, sort of fanned, overlapping shelves, hold up while the shoreline would change more dramatically; erosion, refill. Seasonal. The wave conditions went from one high tide peak too close to the bigger rocks; to mid-tide and two distinct peaks; to ultra low tide, one running crazy and almost hollow wave; from the December ’69 swell; through dawn patrol, after school, between classes-at- Palomar and work-in-Oceanside sessions (pre-1971); to the times I lived in Encinitas (’74-’76) and could sneak in a few; to New Years day ventures while working in San Diego because I didn’t have work in the Northwest (1991,’92); everything from Santa Ana mornings to south wind chop, onshore, glassy; overhead to flat; overcrowded to almost empty; with so many memories… they’re all memories now; haven’t surfed there in twenty-five years.
On the particular morning I was remembering while talking with Steve, shadows of the bluff extending into the water, there was a chalk board on the still-empty lifeguard station. “Surf 2-3, water temp- 66.” Whoa! Warming up! We would probably end up surfing what we referred to as Swamis Beachbreak, the quarter mile or so between Swamis proper, and Pipes, pretending there was a better lineup off this rock than off that. “Hey, I WAS on the nose!” “Hey, did you see that rollercoaster?” “Hey!”
I hit the water straight out in front of the stairs, caught a left just as my friends hit the sand. “Hey!”
Not that Stephen would be all that impressed. “Uh huh. Do you have any more coffee?”
“Uh. Um. Yeah.” I’m certain many of us will look back on the times we went searching for waves on the Strait. Sometimes it can be… “Waves?” “Waves? No, I got skunked.” “Then why are you smiling?”