How Stephen Davis Saved the Zoom…

…LONG DISTANCE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s my description of “Swamis:”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe Virginia Cole.  To Joey.

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

385 words.

 

 

 

 

The Big Zoom Show… it’s, like… tomorrow? What?

Thursday, August 20, 7pm Pacific Daylight Savings Time. So, to Zoom in, and, frankly, I’m a bit worried about this, particularly since I can’t seem to figure out how to highlight stuff so it’s easy for you, but, okay, https://zoom.us/j/91279664230

Allright. No, not really, but, when the event starts, moderator/curator/librarian/ripper Keith Darrock is planning to show some of my illustrations. This is partially so Zoomers don’t have to see my face, and it was totally my idea. Yeah, Keith agreed. It seems like the easiest way to do this was to put a bunch on my site, let Keith scroll down. As such, I have attempted to move some from a thumb drive. We’ll see how that works. Stand by.

image-3

Fixating on “Swamis”

While simplifying my manuscript for “Swamis” has actually become more complicated, I have also spent some time complicating illustrations; adding more color than necessary, going full psychedelic. Maybe that’s all right and even acceptable; the story does take place in Southern California, 1969.

You’re most likely too young to have any memories, or, if you were there, it may be more flashback than memory. A former cliché that may, through disuse, may have reached the statute of limitations on repeating is this: “If you can remember anything about the 60s, you really weren’t there.”

Okay, I googled it. The quote has been attributed to: Paul Kantner, Robin Williams, Paul Krassner, Pete Townshend, Grace Slick, Timothy Leary, and others. If you know who all of those people are… whoa! Look at you!

So, here are my latest workings:

overdone positive, line bending negative.

ANYWAY, I’m still getting my stuff together for the ZOOM event with the Port Townsend Library, Thursday, August 20, 7pm. There’s supposed to be a slide show of some of my stuff so people who tune in don’t have to look at me. Here’s a link: https://ptpubliclibrary.org/library/page/art-and-writing-erwin-dence OKAY, so how do I make that all blue so you don’t have to type it all out.

Oh, some of these and others are available at Tyler Meeks’ DISCO BAY OUTDOOR EXCHANGE. Stop in when you’re cruising out to the Peninsula, Thur-Sunday, 10am to 6pm.

Stoner Photo made Fictional

It was almost coincidental that I found a photo from Ron Stoner of Swamis in about 1966, a year or so after I started surfing. Here it is:

Okay, the one on the right. The left photo is of the Malibu Invitational, in, I believe, 1965. My dad took my sister, Suellen; I declined to go. Too far away. Note the pre-drone angle.

So, here’s my version:

I believe I showed more than my usual amount of discipline.

Usually I can’t keep well enough alone. I did several modifications to another possible illustration for “Swamis,” the novel I’m now over halfway through my latest rewrite/edit (definitely making the manuscript easier to follow if less, um, colorful- Still too wordy, too much dialogue). This drawing is based on another Stoner Swamis photo. Before and after, with another after in the neverland file.

SO, I have several copies of the newer drawing and will attempt to show some discipline and restraint in coloring them. Results forthcoming.

MEANWHILE, I am getting some drawings together in preparation for the zoom event with the PORT TOWNSEND PUBLIC LIBRARY. I was actually volunteered by PT ripper Keith Darrock; and, since I don’t really need folks being forced to watch me talking all about my writing methods and such stuff, the plan is to get a selection of my art works together and have a slide show. It’s all supposed to happen August 20, but I will certainly post reminders as the date approaches.

AS ALWAYS, stay safe, surf when you can. OH, oh, yeah; Stephen R. Davis is in Hawaii, flight delayed by a hurricane; not sure about his current status, quarantine-wise. Checking the Big Island forecast fourteen days out… hmmm.

Cleaning up Swamies… oops

All right, here’s the illustration, so far:

And here’s what went wrong. I was working on the lettering, and had it pretty much done while sort of watching another British murder series on Netflix. Just as they revealed who really done it, and just as I was about to show Trish, I realized I had spelled Swamis incorrectly. Swamies.

Great. So, white out. I’ve taken to using the tape; sort of wroks (I mean works). SO, then I make a copy with my prin ter (also sort of works- images come out a bit crooked), and go back in and fix it. WELL, not yet; I’m thinking of getting a negative image, adding a bit more white.

If the image looks familiar, it’s from a Ron Stoner photo of Billy Hamilton, 1966. Mr. Hamilton is actually in my novel, “Swamis,” and probably from the same era. After one of my most memorable Swamis sessions to that point, from the ‘old men stop here’ platform on the stairs that were there at that time, I saw him cranking the most beautiful and flowing roundhouse to off the foam to in the pocket move (move as in it was seamless) I have still ever witnessed.

OKAY, so I took out a couple of other surfers who were in the Stoner photo, didn’t do justice to Mr. Hamilton. He’s stockier in my illustration, wrong here, not leaning into the turn as much as in the original… yeah, yeah… Hey, I am giving credit to Ron Stoner. His photos were, after John Severson’s in the first issues, the very heart of “Surfer” magazine; they captured the magic and mystery of the era.

I DID do a bit of a search for the photo, not wanting to risk scanning the photo ripped from an issue of “Surfer’s Journal”; ripped out only because there was some sort of misprint ting in that issue that ended up with most of the middle of the magazine duplicated. I didn’t find the actual photo, but I did find another Stoner photo.

When I was a sophomore at Fallbrook High School, 1966/67, Donn Fransich (sp?) brought in some “Surfer” magazines for show and tell in, I think, History class. He would stick them on the tray of one of those heavy, clunky overhead projectors. The photo on the right is one that I remembered from that his presentation. Not perfect, but perfect.

I’ve always remembered the photo, always wanted to see that vantage point in person. Coming back on the bus after a wrestling match with San Dieguito High School in which I actually didn’t lose, I still swear I saw surfers above and beyond the Self Realization Fellowship compound. When I lived in Encinitas in the seventies, I would often drive down the hill; again, looking for that magical image.

That Ron Stoner disappeared mysteriously; no, that doesn’t diminish the magic, not a bit. It’s there, the magic we chase; moments and images. I have caught some moments, surfing, that I will not forget; I am still trying to scratch and erase and capture, to flow into a perfect image. Not there; might never get there.

Ginny Cole in Color

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

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

Fictional Ginny Cole on a mystical ride

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

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

Stay safe, surf when you can.

Ginny Cole at “Swamis” 1969

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

Virginia (Ginny) Cole late afternoon Swamis, 1969

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

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

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

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

Speeding Surf Route 101

It wasn’t an accident that got me a ticket the other day, one hundred and ninety dollar fine for going seventeen miles an hour over the posted speed limit. I got a fucking speeding ticket because I was fucking speeding.

I do have an explanation, but not one that would get my fine reduced in a courtroom. Ya see, Judge; I was just pissed off; corona virus, people out of work, all kinda kooks coming over to the Peninsula, leisure time MFs (if you know what I mean), big trucks hauling bigger trailers and/or boats, cabover campers, and… anyway… oh, and earlier in the day, cruising up surf route 101, three vehicles passed me… me; one on a curve- had to pull over so I didn’t get hit by any shrapnel; I mean; good citizen, huh? Oh. Okay. So, I’m busy thinking about all that, and the stock market, and how black lives matter, and about Russia, China, Hawaii; whether the beaches will open in Mexico; lots on my mind; oh, and it looked like there might be waves the next day and whether I should go to bed as soon as I got home; and, yeah; I get down to 101 at Discovery Bay, over by Fat Smitty’s with his big Trump sign and folks waiting outside; not wearing masks, and I see all this traffic coming at me; so I pull out and I gun it. Now, I know it’s a 1987 Toyota Camry, but, maybe because of a hole in the muffler or something, it sounds like a sports car… and I’m moving along, thinking about the humane society and such, and… yeah, I’m slowing down because I’m catching up with other cars; you know, highway speed; and this car in front of me pulls over, over by West Uncas, in case you’re hep to this chunk of highway; and then, whoa, he pulls back out, lights flashing.

And he’s not really buying my story. “I had you clocked at 72.” “Well; I was slowing down; I wasn’t going to, you know, hit you.” Oh, I’m trying to be nice; figuring it’s all on body cam; and hoping… long story short, shorter; I get the ticket, three options, fifteen days to respond; and I instantly start thinking about how mad Trish is going to be, one, and that the surf will undoubtedly be good the next day because there’s no f’ing way I’m going to get to go.

And, of course, Trish is, mad, and, of course, there is surf, like, maybe knee high, but… but, of course, every person who owns or can borrow a surfboard is on it, and their cousins, and their cousin’s kids, and… anyway; maybe you don’t care about surfing; but, then we’re supposed to go over to our daughter, Dru’s, place in Port Gamble for dinner and a movie… George Takamoto drove the Camry; Trish went on ahead; and, and all I see out Dru’s window, heading east, are rigs with surfboards on ’em… oh, and, yeah; the movie was “Ford vs. Ferrari;” so, of course, there are jokes. “There goes Erwin.” That kinda thing.

No, I’ll probably pay the one hundred and ninety dollars.

HERE’S SOMETHING THAT I will take credit for; though it was an accident. I did a drawing, added a bit too much shading; figured I would redraw it. Because the original was on card stock, I couldn’t just tape it to a clear drawing board and use that as a template for another, hopefully better, version. So, I stuck it in the printer, but the printer ran out of black ink. So, I printed it in color. Everything that had been black came out white. So, I added some more lines and… here it is:

I may use it for my someday-to-be-finished novel, “Swamis.” Incidentally, I did use some of the time in which I would have been driving (too fast, no doubt) to and from the Strait, ripping up waves… whatever, to work on the manuscript. It is coming along. Really.

Slipping in something from”Sideslipping”

FIRST, here’s a drawing I did, white and dark on medium-toned paper. I can’t seem to get a white that will work. I had a paint pen but it clogged up, didn’t work twice.

Won’t work twice, it’s all right. Ma. Unnecessary allusion.

HERE’S my explanation for the cut scene: Including the exchange between Joey DeFreines and the writer/editor is a pretty conscious effort/shoutout to the sardonic and wise (and I always associate the two) writer/editor who managed to work through “Swamis,” the unexpurgated version, and provide me with… I don’t want to say ‘guidance,’ no one seems to suggest a better storyline… constructive criticism of my manuscript.

I have changed the first hundred pages enough, cut out enough, that the story is… it’s different. I did, I thought, let the story kind of work itself out, with a certain goal in mind, a last line planned before the first line was written (and subsequently, re-re-re-written). Most of the storyline of Joey/Jody in his later years has been cut. SO…

KAFKA LAUGHING

The next day, after Rudolph had several quite distraught visitors (never introduced to me) whom he seemed to have to console, after lunch, after a nap (I slept longer), Rudolph, smiling, put down his own tablet, said, “Kafka.  Supposedly he… serious stuff to most… readers… supposedly he was laughing his ass off while he was writing.”

I was writing, wasn’t laughing.

Rudolph made several disparaging comments on the current state of popular fiction, looked at me, pointed at my laptop with his tablet.  “Your book’s on there, right?”

“Very observant.”

“Oh?  That’s sarcasm.  Fine.  Don’t really know you, but… I do know writers; fucked-up crazy egotistical fucks… mostly; so… don’t take this personally, but… fuck you.”

Later (and not that much later), with Rudolph, evidently, having had enough of CNN (“Too redundant, too many commercials, too many panels of experts”), he switched the channel to Fox News, flipped off Sean Hannity.  Both hands.  “Double eagles,” I told him.  Since I also had a remote, I switched to MSNBC; Rachel Maddow (“Love her; don’t think she loves me back”).  Rudolph switched the TV off.

Rudolph- “Have any sex scenes in there?”

Me- “No.”

Rudolph- “No, not yet, or, no; never had sex?”

Me- “Not yet; but I hear it’s kind of fun.  Ha.  Ha.  Really, it’s not that kind of book.”

Rudolph- “Oh. Well; every kind of book needs a little… sex.”

I hit ‘save,’ shut down the ‘Word’ program.  “So, Rudolph… you do know publishers?”

“Sure.  Not as many as I once did; worst kind of pricks.  Not, um, needy, like writers, but used to feeling needed.  It’s worse.  Still, they spend some time on their knees.  Publishers, now; scared shitless of not making their money back.”  He held back for a second.  He seemed to enjoy that I was enjoying his commentary.  He had the inside information, dissected and delivered in a sarcastic/realistic way.  “But, really, my temporary roommate; Amazon.  Self-publish; it seems to be the way.”

I reopened the program, hit the ‘Pg Dn’ button until I got to the end, kept writing.  Typing, backspacing paragraphs, rephrasing.  I thought about laughing, just to mess with Rudolph.

“You know,” Rudolph said, during the setup for some BBC crime drama, one I had seen before; “I’ve never really watched a writer write before.”  I looked over at him, did a ‘was I drooling’ wipe at my mouth.  “Let me tell you… it’s an ugly process.”

“That’s why I don’t put on my writer clothes,” I said, “and go down to the café and fire up the laptop.”

“’Light up… light up the laptop,’ it’s better;” Rudolph said, editing, as if changing my words was amusing. “I assume you’ve google-searched for information on writing and publishing,”

I chuckled, gave him a ‘just a second’ gesture, went back to typing.  Rudolph said, somewhere during another ‘begging for money’ break on the local PBS channel, “Of course you have.  It’s sixty to ninety thousand words for a novel.”

Me- “Not a novel.” 

Rudolph- “Yeah; it is.  If you changed one name, forgot one thing, it’s… it’s your take on things.  There’s what’s the true truth, and there’s… it’s a novel.  Yes, all writing is, in some way, autobiography; but, Joseph; it’s a novel.  Where are you at, right now?”

Me- “Pages?”

Rudolph- “No.  Words.  Jeez.”

I was at a little over twenty thousand at the time.  I was at 25,931 when I started writing about Rudolph, but I keep going back.  Every time I open up the (yeah, I guess) novel, I tend to start at the beginning, get bogged-down.  In the time I have, with the energy I have; I’m not moving forward; at least not quickly. I’m editing.  Editing.  It sounds like cutting things out; but no; there’s always something I thought of overnight.

Something new.  Something old, rather, but newly remembered.

NOT DROWNING

“This is my new addiction,” I told Rudolph, “I look forward to writing the way I’ve always looked forward to surfing.  I miss it when I can’t do it.”

“This surfing;” he said, “the water’s cold, huh?”

“Can be.”  I had to add more.  “Probably, around here, gets up to 75 degrees or so, for about a week… August; goes down to 55, for about a week, middle of January, probably; again, for about a week.  In the old days, 60s, if you put on a wetsuit; and we only had short johns, before, say, December 10th or so… water down to 58 degrees… that was the cutoff; or if you put on a wetsuit before Easter; again, 58 degrees… you were a pussy.  Nowadays…”

Rudolph was smiling.  I stopped talking. “60,000 words; shouldn’t be a problem.”  We both smiled.  “Do you ever think about… drowning?”

“No; I mean, I have but, I’ve seen people who have drowned… I mean, any real surfer has had experiences where… I’ve just decided against it.  Cold water.  Bodies turn kind of… seaweed, um, green.”

“Yeah.  So, not dying, then.  Better to die in… Las Vegas, maybe.  Toasty… I’m thinking about the colors… tourist tan-burn.  Yes!  Hot, but dry.”  Realizing he was enjoying the moment, the conversation, a bit more than he might normally allow himself, Rudolph nodded toward my laptop.  “You finish it, I’ll give it a read.  When it’s done.  First draft, at least.”

“Whoa!”  I pointed at Rudolph, pointed back at the laptop.  A few seconds passed.  We both seemed to know I would ruin the mood.  And I did.  “Are you sure you’ll live long enough to read it?  I mean, you’re saying you will… read it; and I… I appreciate that… I just want you to tell me about… style.  I want to write it the way I want, but… I feel like, I believe I have a… style.”

“Fucking writers.  Egotistical fucks.”

“You said that… before.”

“Well, thanks for fucking listening to something other than the voices in your head.”

I laughed.  “Yeah; that’s what I’m in here for.  Voices.”  I tapped on my head.

“Oh.”

I waved my hand to suggest I was kidding.  I smiled, blinked several times.  “They don’t want to, uh, remove them… the voices; some doctor thinks she can translate them… into, uh, German.”

“Okay.  All right.  Look; If you live long enough to finish it, Joseph; I’ll live long enough to tell you it needs work.”

“Deal,” I said.

“Deal.”

Rudolph seemed to be, over the next hour or so, doing what I do, replaying the conversation in his mind. For most people there’s no replay, no rewind, no editing.  Most people.  My recall isn’t perfect, quite.  I replay the ones that seem important.  Over and over if I’ve fucked up somewhere in the back and forth. There are, I’ve discovered, few conversations, ever, that I’ve not fucked up somehow.

Sometime during the eleven o’clock news, after another nurse, Martha, had come in to introduce herself to Rudolph, check on him, with a cursory check on me; Rudolph took his phone from the side table, and said, “Let me give you my address.  You’re fine.  Do some of that surfing or something.  Thrive.  It’s, my address; it’s a condo.  Solana Beach.  On the bluff.”

“Solana Beach is wall-to-wall condos,” I said.  “I remember when…”

“Yeah, of course you do.  Remember.  But, hey, Roomie, if I might get a word in here; remember, remember when that swimmer… last guy in a group… got killed by the shark?”  Pause.  He nodded toward our big, shared window (view of apartment buildings, mostly). “Happened right out my window.”

“You saw it?”

“No, but I felt as if I had.  I’m not a fucking writer, but I can… (he twiddled his hands in the air) visualize.” He pointed to my cell phone, close to the edge of the bed.

I didn’t visit Rudolph in his condo.  I tried to call.  He never answered.  I wouldn’t leave a message, but would call back, let it ring once.  Missed call.  Or I’d text, something like, ‘working on it,’ or ‘the narcissists are in bloom.’  He would text, occasionally, something like, “Any SEX yet?” or “Entertaining the HOSPICE people.  Pre-hospice.  Counselors.  Like manic-depressive humorists.” Followed by, “Almost said BLACK HUMORISTS.”  “Different group.  DOUR lot.”

I texted, “Dour.  Good word.”

I missed an actual call an hour or so later.  The voice mail message was, “Oh, so now you’re not picking up?  Probably quoting Shakespeare to seagulls or something.  Anyways, dour.  Yes, I prefer it to ebullient.”  In a higher octave, “’Yes, you’re dying; but, hey, look on the bright side.’ Ebullient.”

When I did visit Rudolph, he was back in the hospital, one room over from the one we’d shared.  Same view, slightly different angle.

“They, the bastards, didn’t kill the child,” he said.  He wasn’t talking about the doctors, though he said he had given up hoping another test would have a different result, another consultant would have another opinion, a better prognosis.  He was talking about Nazis.  “But, in a way, see, they did.  I never got to be a child.  I, my life; I look for errors, for mistakes; and I envy the writers who have, like you; a sense of wonder.  Wonder.  What does that mean?  Passion, longing, wanting to fucking know, wanting to feel, to touch the magic.”

“Uh huh.  Yes.”

“So, that’s good is what I’m saying.  Shit, man; I’m pouring it out here, and you, best you can do is ‘uh huh.’  Writers?”

“Sorry, Rudolph.  It’s just that…”

“It’s just that, Joseph; I hope you don’t… sixty thousand words; that’ll take the wonder out of it; but not… not the magic.  Nobody… nobody who matters gives a flying fuck about flowery passages and perfect sentence structure; even about the… overall… construction.  Just tell the fucking stories.”

“Okay.”

Rudolph and I did exchange some stories.  He had felt passion, wonder, love; he was even capable of forgetting, briefly, that he had been robbed of a childhood.

Rudolph, who didn’t die in the concentration camps, who repeatedly told me the bastards would get him; eventually; never read a word.

I read some early chapters to him on one of his last days, in his condo on the bluff, looking out his windows, imagining the shark picking off the last swimmer.  One of his sons (looked up his name- Jacob) and Jacob’s two children (didn’t get their names) were there at the time, along with, briefly, a quite dour Hospice nurse (didn’t bother with her name).  My name, evidently, was on some sort of list. 

Rudolph kept dozing off and waking up, possibly disappointed he was still alive.  I kept reading.  I could tell when something I’d written was awkward or wrong.  Jacob would look over at his father.

“Needs work.” That was the last thing I said to Rudolph.

“Perfection,” Jacob said.  “My father says, ‘perfection is difficult to attain, and impossible to maintain.’” 

Rudolph woke up just before I was leaving the condo.  He didn’t seem to notice his son or me, but did look, through the afternoon glare, at the sliding glass doors.  Jacob’s two girls were playing, outside on the little deck, pressing themselves against the panels, salt stained, seventy-five feet above the ocean, their movements creating the on-glass equivalent of snow angels.  Jacob and I both noticed, smiled.  Not that we were ebullient.

Perfection.

See you out there. Somewhere. Soon.

Strait Solstice Report

It’s drizzling outside. Heavy drizzle. I’ve been working for about two and a half hours on the latest rewrite/edit of “Swamis.” That would be about as long as my last surf session, if one doesn’t count getting into and out of a wetsuit; so, sure, writing session.

The Summer Solstice might mean something different out here on the Olympic Peninsula than it does elsewhere. This area, more specifically the Strait of Juan de Fuca, has become, with my lack of surf travelling, my locale. It’s a strange world where surfers wait for ocean swells to find their way forty, even eighty miles into a narrow (compared to the open seas) opening; and then we hope they, diminished in size by the journey, hit the right beach at the right angle on the best tide, and then become a really good (I am tempted to say ‘righteous’) wave.

Oh, and we’d prefer glassy and uncrowded conditions, and, if it isn’t too much to ask for, a little more size. Huh?

ANYWAY, without going through what I went through to get in my last session (hint- daylight is, like, seventeen hours) within a very narrow window, and without mentioning the number of times I was skunked or near-skunked, I will now pivot to a story from elsewhere and elsewhile:

Shuichi Conces

This is a photo Trish found on Facebook while doing some sort of research after she got a friend request from Don McLean, a guy in my class (1969) at Fallbrook High. Don tried surfing, didn’t stick with it, but his younger brother, Billy, did surf, and did manage to get my other friends and I in trouble on more than one occasion.

In fact, of the two times I spent time in custody of the Police, the second time, for curfew, along with Phillip Harper, Ray Hicks, and Mark Metzger, was almost totally the fault of Billy McLean. I have written about it. I’m not sure if Trish accepted Don’s request.

The first time I was held, for truancy, Shuichi and some other older guy (might have been the other guy in this photo) were with me. I was held, they lied, said they were going to Palomar Junior College, I got to follow the cop in my hand-painted psychedelic 1958 Buick, hang around the Oceanside Police station until my mother, who knew I was headed for a car show in San Diego, and, well, might as well go surfing, came from work to pick me up; me, still dressed in trunks, holding my driver’s license they finally returned to me; oh, and by the way, the only reason they put me in the holding cell was because I was just too nosy, checking out the station, reading stuff coming off the teletype. Criminal. No charges.

That’s pretty much the story, other than my mom did not allow me to continue on to the car show, and she did feel obligated to turn me in, in person, to the school. Detention.

Notoriety. Another story. “Oh, no; they did lock the cell. What? No, an hour, hour and a half. At least.”

The narrator of “Swamis,” Jody DeFreines, is the son of a white father and a Japanese mother. I wrote him as such because, with surfers from the sixties self-identifying as loners and outsiders, I wanted him to be more of both. I was influenced, also, because two of my longtime friends, George Takamoto and Archie Endo, are of Japanese descent.

Oh, but Shuichi is closer to Jody. We (Phil and Ray and I) once rode with him, after school, to El Toro Marine Airfield in Orange County, where his father was stationed. The plan was for him to visit his dad for a while, then we’d surf San Onofre. It seemed to me his relationship with his father was a bit, um, fraught. We waited. He came back. It was too late to surf.

Shuichi was at least one grade ahead of me. Because I made sandwiches for my six siblings and parents, and his mother, evidently, did not, he started buying lunch from me, the proceeds I then used to buy ice cream bars and such. Or gas money. I could make more sandwiches.

He was in my art class. We had a pretty redneck-ish teacher (I took four years of art, not that it shows) who once, because he feared break-ins, actually considered rigging a shotgun over one of the doors. He did, at least, discuss it. Oh, and, this tidbit might transfer somehow to “Swamis,” (changed to mostly male Big Jacket photography students) the regular teacher seemed kind of pervy toward the girls; and most of the students were girls. Artists? Yeah.

At one point we had a substitute teacher, a woman artist from La Jolla, very hip and chic, who said Shuichi should seriously consider, as a career, being a gigolo. I’m not positive she ever gave him this advice. She did tell me, and I was under the impression that she may have had some actual clients in mind. I, of course, did tell him what she suggested. Again, evidently Shuichi was eighteen as a senior, so, almost-sorta-kinda-not so shocking.

It was to me, of course. I don’t know that he didn’t follow that line of work. His latest Facebook posting showed him, fairly recently, getting married; so, I would guess, not for the first time. He still looked good. His work history seems to reflect sales, and representing this company or that, so… good on him.

OKAY, so, like somewhat over an hour on this, this session. Happy solstice to all, no matter how far waves have to travel to get to you; and remember, it’s all downhill now for the next six months.