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.
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.
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…
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?”
“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?”
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?”
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.
“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.
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.
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.”
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.
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:
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.
I continue to struggle in completing a publishable version of “Swamis.” Mostly I’m struggling with myself. I respect the opinions of the people who have read part or all of my unexpurgated manuscript. I believe the feedback. Confusing, too many leaps in time; all true.
I AM, HOWEVER, stubborn. My most recent addition to the manuscript is included here, but first; and there may be a connection; here is a drawing I decided is too busy, too overdrawn; just not quite right. SO, I flipped the paper over, traced the outline on the other side.
YOU MAY NOTICE that, included in this passage, is something that came from here, from realsurfers.net. It’s the chaos/dreaming/writing thing; and backs up what is, evidently, my method of writing and speaking; say enough, write enough, something accidently profound might just happen.
PROFOUND. Yeah, it’s my ego. I’ve been humbled by the process; but my goal never was to write a novel, maybe one of a series. ANYWAY, stay safe, stay sane, try not to panic, stay tuned. OH, and, not sure if this passage will make the final cut, and do bear in mind this is (mostly) fiction; here it is:
CHAPTER SEVEN- TUESDAY, JANUARY 21, 2020
I’m sitting in my de facto office, folding table in my mother’s nearly-empty condo, part of what she called the “Great Condo Wall of Del Mar,” looking out at a scarred ocean, rip lines, squall lines, light pollution; gray on gray on gray. There might be waves, weakly pushing off the ever-refreshed rip rap protecting the ever-eroding bluffs. Can’t tell. A dark line halfway to my horizon can appear to be a wave. It would be a big one.
This is where I am, not where my mind is.
I have to decide right now, at this spot in my latest edit of “Swamis,” if this is a memoir or a mystery. If it is a mystery, I have so much material to cut, I’ve been advised, to keep from losing the reader. That’s you. That’s free will.
Painful. I wanted to include little bios of people I ran into, little details, things that would let you, the reader, know that it was real, that I was fucking there.
Does adding the ‘fucking’ make me seem angry? I am; even though I realize why it makes sense to cut out and condense and to make sure the narrative is, most importantly, clear.
Okay. Thank you for reading, but here’s the thing: I’m telling the story. To you. I know who I am; what I don’t know, what I have to constantly worry about and wonder about, who I have to adjust my storytelling for, is you.
I don’t know you.
Again, thank you for reading. If I’m trying not to lose you by burrowing into some peripheral background information on a background character, some wordy journey to another side story that I believe offers some possible explanation as to why I or someone else behaved in a certain way; I will also endeavor to not try to fool you or withhold information in order to create some artificially engineered intrigue.
Still, I will be saving (some of) the unnecessary scenes elsewhere, some other file, like those little plastic things for resealing loaves of bread, hundreds of them, in various colors, that my mother kept in a dedicated drawer and that I threw away; like the notes my father kept from his encounters as a deputy and then a detective; like miscellaneous nuts and bolts kept in jars for some day. Some day. Okay. Move the cursor. “Cut.”
FEAR OF MISSING OUT is heightened when what you’re missing out on, if you surf somewhere with VERY SMALL WAVE WINDOWS, is good surf. That’s probably all I should say, but, of course, I’ll keep ranting on. If you live and die by the forecasts, you’ll probably miss out occasionally. “I could have gone” is a surfer’s lament I’ve sung many times.
Surfing is a gift; having decent or better waves to ride is an extra, a bonus.
Easy to forget.
“SWAMIS” UPDATE: I just got the feedback on my manuscript from a professional writer and editor. I had texted him a while back, after I got some other feedback, to please stop reading. The novel needs a lot more work, and I have been making progress on a massive rewrite. The book doctor claims he didn’t get the text, and completed the editing, with commentary and a full-page overview.
I should, first, say that when I asked the unnamed writer/editor to read something from “Swamis,” quite a while back, he said he’d read it when it was completed. Meaning, not before; not the feedback on my writing style I wanted. Okay. SLOW-FORWARD to when I thought “Swamis” was complete enough to get a copyright.
“This might take a while,” he said. And it did.
Because I had given him a thumb drive, I had to wait a couple of days before I could retrieve it. Anxious days. When I stopped off to pick it up, he declined to tell me much. Like a written work, the review/edit would speak for itself. “I can’t believe you actually read the whole thing,” I said. “The reason I did is because I said I would. The reason I agreed to read and review it is because I never thought you’d finish it.”
Obviously I haven’t.
“Take a week,” he said, “cry, get mad, hate me, whatever, then go back to writing.”
I’m pretty sure it’s been a week and I’ve devoted a lot of my thinking time to figuring out how to make “Swamis” work. The good news is I have already deleted a lot of the parts he thought, rightfully, were deletion-worthy, off-topic, not contributing to the story.
AND, his comments were all accurate.
HOWEVER, he seemed to, from the beginning, keep asking why Jody wasn’t more focused on finding out who killed his father than on who killed Chulo. I have an explanation for that.
ALL THANKS for the help and feedback from the (so far) unnamed professional and the others who have read part or all of the UNEXPURGATED VERSION. Believe me, I’m expurgating the shit out of it.
TYLER MEEKS’ DISCO BAY OUTDOOR EXCHANGE is back OPEN. I’m not sure what the hours are, but if you’re passing by and it’s open, stop in.
I’ve been trying to do a few more illustrations for “Swamis,” particularly of characters. This drawing came from a small photo in the back of an old “Surfers’ Journal.” I drew it once; pencil and pen, used that version to do this simpler, cleaner one; then did a third. Too dark. The original photo was from the 1970s, and was of… I probably shouldn’t say.
MEANWHILE, if you just found out some surfer who went looking for waves just because it fit into his schedule, and scored; try to get over it. Cry, hate him… just take a week and… try to get over it. BETTER YET, get even.
I just cut another mini-chapter in what I’m calling the ‘massive edit’ of “Swamis.” I’ve passed page 200 of what was 300, and I am, for better or more better, adding words in some places while I cut in others.
As such, I added a couple hundred words to a part on the real life swell of December, 1969. There should be surfing in a surf novel, and, although it’s not a ‘Big Wednesday’ climax, it’s not just background, either.
First, here’s a pencil and pen drawing:
Before I get to the outtake, I could explain where it came from. I never attended a surf movie alone (or any movie at any theater or high school gym, or went to any sit-down restaurant), but I also never went with my surfing friends. I first saw “Endless Summer” with my mom and sister. I went to a movie at Hoover High with Emily, my chemistry lab partner. I was supposed to drive down in my Morris Minor, but it was, as it frequently was, broken down, so Emily and I got to get dropped off by my parents, on a date of their own. Dropped off. Embarrassing.
I went with Trish, but, for some reason (probably the broken car, again) we got to ride with my sister and her boyfriend, Alan, who might have passed for a surfer if he hadn’t, the very day, shaved off his mustache. Trish looked good, might have acted as if she enjoyed the movie. The embarrassment increased when we, as was the custom, stopped at the Carnation ice cream place. It was some time in 1969, I was a senior at Fallbrook High, and had competed for a second time in the KGB/Windansea high school surf contest. Thor Svenson, president of the Windansea Surf Club, and some members, came into the restaurant and, maybe it was my startled expression rather than Mr. Svenson actually recognizing me, but he nodded, and I nodded, me sitting in a booth with more-chic-than-necessary Trish, my sister, Suellen, and her farmboy-looking date.
I survived, and did push Trish into a couple more outings, one at Mira-Costa Junior College, closer to home; and at least one at the local Junior High in Pacific Beach, after we got married and moved there.
But, to explain where this outtake came from, a girl whose Navy doctor father had just been transferred from Virginia came to Fallbrook, mid-term, 1968, and took a seat across from me in English class. We talked surfing, I said I’d show her around, and we went, that very day, after school. I discovered, after we went to the Surfboards by Heck (it’s still mentioned in “Swamis”), that she wasn’t really interested in actually surfing. Because I was her first date in Fallbrook, probably, and because I… because I was me; Phil or Ray, or Phil and Ray called me up to see how it went. “Hey,” my father said, walking past; “A man doesn’t talk about what happens on a date.” “Nothing happened,” my mom said; “I’m sure nothing, nothing happened.” She was right, of course; other than, as mentioned, the girl figuring out I might be a real surfer, but I wasn’t even or even close enough to her on the social status scale. Fine. Different scales.
Here’s the piece:
SURF MOVIE- HOOVER HIGH- SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 21, 1968
This was all kind of normal at surf movies, sixteen-millimeter productions shown at high schools and rented theaters, even after “Endless Summer” had made the leap to the big screen. I had attended a few, Hoover High in San Diego; fifty miles from Fallbrook and at least fifteen miles from the ocean.
This time I was with, rather than one or two of my friends, a date; a girl from my History class, who’d just moved to Fallbrook from Hawaii, said she surfed and would love to go to a surf movie. I discovered she wasn’t really a surfer by the time I showed her the third or fourth surf spot (Grandview or Beacons, both looking pretty good) on the way down. She discerned I probably wasn’t in with the rich or popular kids before we got to Windansea. I drove back on 395. Closer. “Fun,” she said. “Yeah,” I said. “See you.” It wasn’t long before she started dating a rich popular kid and I became her “I was new in town” story.
Still, I had enjoyed the movie. I always enjoyed the scene; surfers hooting, laughing, making that sort of whooshing sound for a slow-motion ride; or being reverently silent; all in unison, all at the appropriate times. And, even if she wasn’t an actual girlfriend, it was a date; she was pretty cute. She did look like a surfer.
Maybe this piece is self-explanatory. Anxiety has hit us like a, um, wave; enough so that I was just thinking, yesterday, trying, as always, not to panic (in this case I was about twenty-five feet up on a ladder stuck, improperly at a bit of a left-of-straight angle that allowed me to, hopefully, paint trim up on a roof- it worked), that maybe being manic-depressive is normal.
NORMAL. Moments of bliss are, yeah, moments; and, while most of life is just kind of a glide, maybe a bit of an uphill grind, there are moments where things would cause just about anyone to… to be rightfully depressed.
MOMENTS, only, hopefully. It’s not that I’ve been more depressed than anxious, but I have been waiting to use some of my manic-ness on some waves. SOON.
I did do a video reading of this piece, tried to send it to Keith Darrock, PT ripper and librarian. I’m scheduled to do a ZOOM thing in August, connected with my novel, “SWAMIS” and I thought this might be a sort of prelude. BUT, e-mailing videos, I’ve discovered, is actually kind of tricky.
I am considering UPGRADING MY WORDPRESS ACCOUNT. This would get rid of pesky ads (for which I receive no compensation), and might allow me to post occasional videos. WE’LL SEE.
Not Out, Just Put Away
In these anxious times, I have heard and read that many are afraid to dream while others have wild, vivid, Corona fever dreams, even without the fever. Last night’s dream was, then, one of those, and I am writing about it before it fades into the early morning drizzle.
Write, because that’s what I do; that’s how I cope. Whatever trauma or drama is going on, I can and mostly do think of it as part of some bigger narrative. If dreams are meant to make some sense out of chaos… writing is dreaming; and I write.
It is, quite obviously, some sort of party. People in nice clothes; some women in dresses, some men in sports coats. It is one of those large rooms with a high ceiling on one side and a loft on the other, view of the water through the two-story bank of windows, sliding doors open to a deck. Weekend cabin, second home along the Canal. I’ve painted many through the years. There is a large countertop toward one end of the great room, food spread out. Party food. Trays- cheeses and crackers, various. Casserole dishes- various. Three bottles of wine with interesting labels- open, glasses adjacent. Sparkling sodas and colas in a cooler to the side; plastic cups on a corner of the counter. Real plates, real silverware.
So, not a potluck, but guests, as is proper, have brought side dishes, bottles of wine with interesting labels.
This dream is all taking place from my point of view (POV), my perspective. Of course. Dreams. I’m on one side of the room, scraping the last of some sort of dip onto my last cracker. Not guacamole. It might be red, though Trish claims men don’t dream in color, and, though I’d prefer her to be wrong; she is almost surely correct. Still, I’m saying red; and there’s enough dip left that I consider either getting more crackers or scooping it up with one side of a finger.
Manners. Leave it.
Trish isn’t here. No, it must be one of those events where I will almost surely do something, say something embarrassing; me with my loud voice and big gestures. She has obviously sent our daughter, Dru, in her place. For some reason, our friend George, who avoids potentially awkward social situations more often (and less apologetically) than Trish, is here, more leaning than sitting on the edge of an overstuffed chair.
I start to say something to Dru about how soon we can leave when two men approach me.
This is the setup part: “I hear you’re a writer,” one of them says. He is quite a distinguished looking fellow, and the statement is made without the condescension my reaction to it might suggest.
“Who would have told you that?”
This is when Dru moves away and I’m faced with two faces, my POV moving between them. There is some sort of writing competition they are both aware of, submission deadline this very evening, and maybe I should consider entering. At the least, they would be interested in hearing about what I write.
Here is the analysis part: I’m writing a novel. Yeah. And? And when I’d written enough to get to an actual ending, I edited it, completely, first line to ‘The End.’ Then, so excited, so sure it was the genius work of a genius; I sent it out to several people to read.
This is when someone crazy enough to consider him or herself a writer gets truly crazy. Out of his or her control, the manuscript must face the world on its own. Waiting. Waiting.
Waiting for someone else’s assessment.
You only get one chance at a first impression. I had overshot, overthought, overdone; and, as I feared, as I probably knew, early feedback made it obvious that I need to seriously edit the work; ruthlessly cut out so many of the peripherals, clarify the changes in time and place, simplify… it became obvious my manuscript might not actually be the genius work of a genius writer.
So, okay; I’m working on it; two-thirds of the way to the end; again. But, doctors, counselors, friends, readers; now that I have eighteen point headings for chapters, fourteen point subheadings; now that I have moved whole blocks of words to where they should be, chronologically; now that I have deleted thirteen thousand or so words out of one hundred and twenty-three thousand; the tension now, the anxiety, in addition to all the other anxieties of real life, is this: Publishing, selling, getting the novel sold, published, out there.
I must have said something abrasive and offensive and off-putting; the distinguished gentlemen are now at the far end of the room, leaning on the wall near the stairway to the loft. George asks a question of the woman who, evidently, owns the house. “I invited you over many times,” she says.
“Okay,” I say, full room voice, “I have songs, and a few poems, and short stories, and a couple of screenplays, and… don’t know where the other one is… two almost complete novels; so, now what?”
They don’t seem to have heard me. Dru walks between me and them. She gives me a look I know to mean I didn’t handle this well, and, additionally, I have just provided another story to share with her mother. Proof.
Time break. I’m looking at the food on the counter. The casserole dishes have lids or are covered in saran wrap, contents of the two-thirds-full dishes visible. “I never got a chance at the real food,” I say.
“They’re not out of food,” Dru says, “It’s just put away.”
The woman who spoke to George appears. She peels back one corner on a dish. Noodles and cheese, the cheese on the top seared perfectly, only a few holes dug into the glaze. There also might be green beans. I’d guess green. The homeowner looks over at the distinguished gentlemen. “Good thing I didn’t say anything,” she says, “my daughter’s a writer and…”
“Oh,” I ask, “What kind of thing does she write?”
Dream’s gone. I spent time I could have used on my manuscript. Still, I have to get ready; get to Costco before the best selection of meat is gone.
Stay safe, stay sane, avoid panicking when you can, stay tuned.
Trisha’s nephew, and, I guess, mine, by marriage, DYLAN SCOTT, just graduated from UCLA law school, remotely. Congratulations, Dylan. He surfs. I only surfed with him once, years ago, La Jolla Shores. It was summer, small; the waves, in my memory, were kind of a brownish color. The Diva surf school had just left the water, meaning the water was left with still way too many surfers, some of whom (one middle-aged guy in particular) looked like they would cut your throat for a chance at a knee-high closeout.
I felt perfectly justified in blocking a few bobbers out so Dylan could get a few more rides. Then again, I’ve always been a little on the sociopathic side; might have made a good attorney.
I should add that Dylan’s brother, Carson, is in Law School, Harvard; and that their mother, Greer is a judge in the state of California; SO their being part of the mix only elevates the profession.
It might become apparent that I have some negative feelings about attorneys; I insist that this has nothing to do with Greer, Carson, or Dylan; but has been developed, over time, by the lawyers I have worked for and the one time, work related, I had to hire one. I sued; they sued, I got no compensation, they offered to drop their case if I dropped mine; my only solace was that their lawyers cost way way more than mine.
My line on the subject, “Once it gets bad enough that lawyers are involved, no one wins… except the Lawyers.”
One of my clients, not a lawyer, told me writers sometimes try to get even with past wrongs through their writing. “Not an accusation,” he insisted. ANYWAY, the “Sideslipping” outtake from “Swamis” was meant to mean a bit more when Jody (spoiler) becomes one.
“Meant to mean.” Can’t believe I just wrote that.
BUT FIRST, here’s an illustration, meant to be the graphic from the side of Portia’s ‘Jesus Saves’ bus:
LAWYERS AND LIARS
Since I now have had to back-peddle to get to the meeting Jumper and I had with Dickson and Wendell, I probably should update a few other things. Writing a book isn’t, I’m discovering, like building a case; it’s not collecting all the little incidents and data, all the witness accounts, getting all the dates right. It’s the attorneys I was told, over and over again, by the attorneys, the attorneys who create the narrative.
I argued this, of course. This was my line: “Oh, so who figures out the who in the whodunnit?”
Lawyers. My mother never could pronounce the word correctly. At her best, it sounded like ‘Wah-yers’ or ‘Liars.’ “Close enough,” my father would say. He was from West Virginia, originally; coal country; and ‘lawyers’ always sounded like ‘liars’ when he said it.
That sounded about right to me.
There have been few attorneys I’ve ever actually liked. I might have liked more Public Defenders than Prosecutors. All attorneys, of course, sold their souls to even get into law school; but, while some (the ones I liked better) of the defense attorneys were loose and hip; sarcastic, with an ‘Oh, yeah; so prove it’ attitude; many of the prosecutors (the ones I hated most) were consistently sullen and sardonic (sarcasm with the underlying pain a bit obvious); and seemed to feel trapped in civil service jobs where kissing ass was (I have testimony to back this up) much more important than actual success.
The most ruthless prosecutors, I have witnessed, had, at one time, been the most idealistic defense attorneys. The most moral-less, shameless, anything-to-win defense attorneys had been… well; they were the ones who realized they hadn’t merely whored-out their souls; they had lost them.
However, I hold my highest disdain (I should say all out hatred and disgust) for those smug and arrogant defenders of rich clients. Sit across from one of those ‘late for a golf date’ motherfuckers a few times, their ‘mom’s boy would never do such a thing’ client so upset at how he is the one being victimized; and try to maintain some level of professional restraint.
And, I have seen how effective even the idea (or threat) of a real-money-backed defense can be; seen the glee in the (private practice, big office and salary) attorney’s eyes when he saw the anger in mine. Bear in mind I have also seen the victims, the fear and sorrow, the damage done; permanent damage; and that damage would only be increased with the eventual realization that justice will probably not be served- sorry; so sorry; and, and, and, and…
Some level of professional restraint.
It’s funny, to me, how every time I want to cry; I’m far more likely to laugh.
Mostly because I don’t want to ask people to be my friend, don’t want to be turned down, I don’t follow Facebook. I do have a page; would have to look up my password. Stuff from realsurfers does go there, but if you sent me a friend request, it’s not rudeness or anything personal; I just haven’t checked.
Trish, however, does have a big Facebook life. Wait, does that sound, um, like something that might be (mis)construed as a putdown? I don’t mean it that way, partially Trish monitors and assists in administering the site our daughter, Dru, set up, “I’ve heard of Quilcene.”
Shit gets out of hand on a pretty regular basis on a site meant to do things like report bear and/or cougar sightings (no, they aren’t usually cruising surf route 101 and the Olympic foothills together), lost and found dogs, such things; but, with a population of somewhere around 500, the site has many many more members, and some of them can’t help but get personal. Or political. Or both.
Trish will, if I’m around while she’s checking out Facebook, give me the ‘you have to see this,’ or, more frequently, she’ll just start laughing and I’ll have to switch out my glasses and check it out.
This is the first time I’ve saved something, and, don’t misconstrue the reason I think it’s so hilarious. It’s mean. I figure it’s just the way folks down south go to the beach.
Sorry. Couldn’t help it. Here’s another outtake from “Swamis.” I’ve become increasingly ruthless as I’ve gone through the massive edit. I do have a plan for what I’m collecting/saving under the title “Sideslipping.” Later.
This is fiction. Here’s where some of it came from: I worked in Oceanside, Buddy’s Sign Service, immediately after graduating from high school, 1969. The shop was one block from the in-city segment of 101, two blocks from the Greyhound Bus Depot (two blocks and railroad tracks from the water, two blocks to the pier). Rough neighborhood.
When I went to work painting for the Navy, Civil Service, I ran into Cliff Bridge, nicknamed “The Preacher.” When other WWII vets tried to give him a hard time after his admission that his battle station was a locker, he said, “I was on a landing craft on D-Day.” Shut them up.
As far as the Imperial Beach story; I did get a chance (which I enjoyed) to paint a sixty-five foot angle iron construction tower when one of the two guys sent out dropped two pails of paint on the first day, called in sick the second. No one died, but I did see the Tijuana Sloughs going off with perfect offshore wind conditions. No, didn’t go out. Working. Scared? Maybe. The guy who later killed himself is taken from what I heard about a guy who bullied me when I was in high school.
Fiction; me taking something, rolling it in batter and deep-frying it. Kind of like a corndog.
OCEANSIDE AND IMPERIAL BEACH
Oceanside was labeled a ‘Marine Corps town,’ a pretty rough place in the 1960s; all the rougher as the Vietnam War ramped up. A succession of Camp Pendleton Commanders had threatened to not allow Marines to go to Oceanside on leave, particularly downtown. Downtown was pretty much the section where 101 (with differing names up and down the coast) intersected with Mission Boulevard, the route east. Follow it for twenty miles, you’d be in Fallbrook.
The Downtown section featured record stores and tattoo parlors and the cheap-credit-for-cheap- jewelry jewelry stores (‘a little sparkle for your girl back home,’), the pier, the beach, the stations for the railway and Greyhound Bus. It also featured the hawkers and the greasy spoon restaurants and the places lonely guys with very short hair, their faces and heads and necks (Leathernecks was a nickname from World War II) sunburned below where their hats (‘lids’ in Marine Corps-speak) had covered them during boot camp; teenagers who weren’t old enough to vote or go to bars, could hang out, try to act like civilians, and fail, before being shipped out.
And, evidently, Oceanside had reasonably priced hookers.
Oceanside. Along with Imperial Beach, on the border with Tijuana, those two areas had the lowest-priced beach front real estate on the Southern California coast. Both places had piers, both had consistent waves. The Tijuana Sloughs were exotic, dangerous, legendary, with stories of lost boards ending up in Mexico, for rips and fog and for big waves. A four-foot day at I.B. Pier turns into eight foot a mile to the south, on the border; with sneaker sets appearing on the horizon. The only thing, I was told by a guy who surfed the Sloughs, scarier than getting caught inside by a set, was being outside, drifting south and out to sea.
I never surfed Imperial Beach; did see it while on a case that took me to the Navy’s Ream Field, a helicopter base that was constantly threatened with being phased out and shut down. Ream Field was near the water, on very flat land. Known as much for wind and fog as waves, in February of 1976 a Santana was working, and, from the hanger where some Civil Service worker had fallen, or was murdered, while painting a lighting tower; I could see the tops of waves, backblown spray, even from the ground.
After climbing the sixty-five-foot tower, however, I could see from the pier to, maybe, Ensenada. The cleanness of the scene hid the riptides and put a sparkle on the polluted water.
“Yeah, I hated the fucker,” the surviving painter said, “he just didn’t get his safety belt hooked-in… missed it. Nothing I could do.”
Since I’ve already gone too far here, I might as well add that the accused painter had been involved in the D-Day invasion. An eighteen-year-old Seaman Apprentice, originally from Oklahoma, “but on the Kansas border,” he was issued a forty-five and assigned to a landing craft. “And, if anyone refused to get out; I was to shoot them. Those were my orders.”
An embittered, divorced, alcoholic chain-smoker, he wasn’t a particularly sympathetic character. The D-Day story was quite helpful. “I never had to kill nobody,” he said; “They all just… went.”
“He never killed anyone,” I said. The dead painter’s family decided not to pursue him but continued their suit against the Navy Public Works Center. They may have received some sort of compensation. That was no longer my case. The surviving painter, a few years later, in some trailer out in East County, Descanso, I think, shot himself.
SLAUGHTER ALLEY was the nickname for Highway 101 between San Clemente and Oceanside, the eighteen- mile portion that went across Camp Pendleton. There were only guardrails between the north and southbound lanes, but bloody accidents were quite common. My mother kept track, said, if I was going to San Onofre, even if riding with someone else, I’d better go across the base. I usually did. I-5 was connected by 1969, and the name faded.