Story Somewhat Related to Bruce Brown…

Phillip Harper, Trish Harper, Ray Hicks, Bucky Davis, My Sister Suellen, My Mom, Bob Dylan, and The Endless Summer

Posted on February 16, 2014 by Erwin A. Dence Jr. under Uncategorized

“First of all,” I said, standing in the kitchen of Phillip Harper’s parents’ house, two bars of paraffin wax melting in a soup can on the stove, Phillip’s (second-ever, and not sun-browned like the first one) surf board, stripped and ready for a ‘pre-coat’, floating between two chairs and across the dining room table, “the theater was in no way ‘underground.’ Disappointing.”

Phillip and Ray Hicks seemed to be properly impressed that I, more country kid than either of them, had gone into the city for some other reason than to ride the escalators at Sears with my many brothers and sisters while my parents shopped.

It was at about this moment that Phillip’s sister, Trish (not my Trish- hadn’t met her yet), came in from the pantry (no one ever seemed to use the formal front door). She appeared noticeably disappointed that her brother and at least one of his geeky friends were there. Trish was followed in by her boyfriend, Bucky Davis. He was, perhaps, a bit less disappointed; a nod for Phillip, smaller one for Ray, even smaller one for me (standard cool reaction to over-amped groms). Bucky took a moment to check out the board (approvingly), then the wax melting on the stove.

“You have to be careful,” he said, both hands simulating an explosion. “A candle might be a better idea.” A single hand tipping an imaginary candle illustrated the point.

“Erwin went to see ‘The Endless Summer’ in San Diego,” Phillip said. “At an underground theater,” Ray added.

“The thing is,” I said, trying to be informative, and trying to be as cool as Phil and Ray “kind of disappointing; it wasn’t at all underground. Just a regular, um, theater. And…”

Phillip and Ray appeared less impressed than the first time they heard this. Of course; though they did seem to be checking Bucky’s reactions.

“On University Avenue?” Trish asked. I shrugged. I hadn’t driven. We’d gone down 395. It was somewhere near the Zoo.  “Well,” she said, “I saw it at State.” She paused, possibly to see if she had to add ‘San Diego State.’

No, I knew she had been spending some time down there, preparing to attend ‘State’ in the fall of 1967. Bucky would not be attending.  He was planning on going to Palomar Junior College; he’d have to go somewhere to stay out of the draft.

“When I saw it,” she continued, “Bruce Brown narrated it… himself. He was behind this curtain and…” She stopped because Bucky seemed a bit surprised at the news. At least that is what I thought, at the time, as if she had seen it without him. That would be sad, her and her new, big-city life and Bucky…

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[Let me add here, fifty years after this incident, three years after originally writing this piece, that, among my first surfing friends, Trish and Bucky were the perfect surfing couple.  That they didn’t remain a couple was, bits and pieces of the disconnection playing out over, and just beyond, my high school years, tragic; tragic in that teenager’s romanticized, love-lost way.

Part of the reason I started this blog was to record how I changed from total kook, over-stoked beginner, with Bucky one of my early surf heroes, to… I don’t know… over-stoked surfer out past high school, past the inside break; my friends scattered.

My opinion of surf heroes, with Bucky the best illustration, went, along with my connection to surfing, from a sort of ‘this is magic’ awe, to a more realistic view.  Bucky had some serious life challenges. He was a real person.

Still, what I loved about Phillip’s sister, that seeming-self confidence, that willingness to stand up as an equal, is part of what attracted me to my Trish.

Still… still an over-stoked surfer, awed by the magic… still I, somewhere in the part of me that never got past adolescent romantic, I’ve held out a notion that Bucky and Trish could… yeah, maybe I just hope they, and all my scattered surf heroes and friends, including Phillip and Ray… have been, mostly, happy.

And, I am grateful, while I’m anxiously awaiting my next surf adventure, that I have such great memories of interesting, and real, people. And someone to share current adventures with.]

I’m sure I was mostly trying to hide being impressed. And out-cooled. Again. Always by her.

“Bruce Brown? In person? That’s… cool.”

After all, it had been impossible for me to be really, even passably, cool, at the above-ground theater, hanging with my older sister, Suellen, AND my mother.

Still, hoping to in some way to compete with Trish Harper, I said, “Yeah, well; they had these previews for a movie with Bob Dylan, and…”

“’Don’t Look Back’,” Trish said.

“Huh?” Phillip and Bucky and Ray asked, pretty much at the same time.

“Uh huh,” I said; “and Bob Dylan’s, like… he’s holding up these…”

“Cue cards,” Trish said.

“I guess. Yeah. And my mom starts laughing.”

“Laughing?” Phillip and Trish and Bucky and Ray all asked.

“Yeah, laughing; and… I mean, not even Suellen is laughing. No one’s laughing.”

“Because it’s Dylan,” Trish said, serious and almost indignant.

“Yeah, Dylan; Bob Dylan. But, pretty soon, someone else starts laughing. And then more people are laughing; and then everyone’s laughing. And Bob Dyl… Dylan, he just keeps dropping the cards. And…”

By this time, in the kitchen, I was also laughing. Phillip started to laugh. Ray, studying Bucky’s face,  allowed himself to join in the laughter. Then Bucky looked over at his girlfriend (not laughing), maybe thought for a moment about how he didn’t see “The Endless Summer” at ‘State’ with her, with Bruce Brown personally narrating; and he laughed.

And then the wax exploded.

Bruce Brown, revealing the stoke and the magic and the awe to a larger world, stepping behind another curtain. Rest In Peace. And thank you.

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Surfing for Fun (and some new illustrations)

It’s not ready yet, but I’m working on a piece about forgetting Stephanie Gilmore. Actually, it’s about a few moments of surfing in which Stephanie forgot herself, her image, her contest persona, her heat strategy; forgot everything except the joy of the moment.

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It’s something we all forget when dealing with the crowds, the conditions, and our own expectations for ourselves.

Meanwhile, here are a couple of other recent drawings:

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Sasquatch on the Tide Flats

NOTES: The word Patagonia refers to a land of giants.

-Sasquatch sightings in the wild Olympic Peninsula in Western Washington are a bit higher in the HamaHama region along Hood Canal.                                                                -The extended family of Adam “Wipeout” James has been logging, farming, and maintaining shellfish beds for generations.                                                                      -Whether surfing, working the tide flats, or representing HamaHama Seafoods all around the country, Adam’s life is more aligned with the cycle and pattern of tides than that of night and day.

THIS is fiction, as in, ‘could be true;’ and, really, it should be titled:

WHY I’LL NEVER GET THAT PROMISED PATAGONIA FLEECE PULLOVER

MORE NOTES/EXPOSITION: Adam is, quite possibly, the most gregarious person I’ve ever met. Eternally outgoing, willing to talk to just about anyone; I sort of wrote his behavior off as trying to fit in with the surf crowd, something in keeping with my impression that he believes there is some sort of unofficial Surf Community.                                             -Yeah, maybe; or maybe it’s the same more salt-water-connected than blood-related tribe I’ve been around for the last 52 years (or so).                                                                        -Adam remembers other surfer’s names, gets some background on others in the water and on the beach; and, I don’t know, it’s kind of catchy. Or I’m kind of competitive. Knowing Adam has made me, maybe, a bit friendlier. More on the beach than in the water.                                                                                                                                             -Adam has established some sort of relationship with Patagonia. They wanted, possibly, to make some inroads into the work clothing market, take some market share from Carhartt.                                                                                                                                             -SO, Adam scored some clothing, got some photos taken, set up mutual surf friend (and contractor in the boat building/repair world), Clint, with a modeling opportunity.      -AND, maybe because I wear my HamaHama hoodie out in the world, representing, Adam scored a xxxl Patagonia pullover for me. “Double xl is big enough,” I told him on the phone, both of us trying to figure out when and where to go surfing based on the latest forecasts, buoy readings, tide reports, and anecdotal/historic bullshit.

“I was just trying it on,” Adam told me, after the INCIDENT; “It fit over the rest of my gear.” “Because it’s a triple xl, Adam.” “Yeah; right.” So, finally, here’s my piece on Adam’s story:

Since it was a warmer night than expected, Adam left his (my) Patagonia pullover, a jug of water, and a burrito left over from dinner in a pile, just where the narrow path leading down from his house hit the beach. This was his own small section of tideflats. A moon, a few days past full, was rising above the trees and scattered lights on the Kitsap Peninsula, a mile or so across the ancient (ice age old) fjord. English explorers named this the Hood Canal, another finger (and not a canal) reaching from the various bodies that make up Puget Sound.

His characteristic miner’s style headset light on his wool cap, flannel shirt, rubber boots and protective gloves, and a five gallon bucket in each hand, Adam set out across the rocks and gravel.

He had missed the ebb tide, and, forty-five minutes into the flow, was thinking about surfing, about waves; swell size and angles and periods, and winds. With just a hint of an east wind spreading texture on the always-moving water; the decision was, as always, whether, in the morning, he should go down Surf Route 101 and out to the coast or up the same highway to the Strait. Deciding which oysters to pick was, after years of low tides, second nature.

The moon was only slightly higher when, his buckets full; he looked south, well beyond his headlamp’s ability to see clearly. It was…no.

What Adam thought could be (not unheard of) a bear, smashing shells with a rock; stood up, pouring an oyster into its mouth. Standing, it was… it was very tall. And it looked at him.

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“It?” I asked, just the other day, on the Strait.   After four hours or so in the water, I was out and fully dressed. Adam, who arrived later than I had, having checked out several other possible locations, was sliding on a now-slightly-used canvas Patagonia jacket (probably a size large). “Have you seen, like, elk, deer, bears… out on the tideflats?” His gesture said, “Yes, all of those.” “Poachers?”

He laughed. “Yeah. That’s what I was thinking… a couple of years ago…” Adam cut himself off to say something to a group that had just pulled into the parking area; two softtops and two other boards on the roof, three guys and a woman climbing out.

“You have any more coffee?” he asked me. We had each had some after we both got out of the water the first time, before we noticed the rights seemed to be working (sporadically- I drifted back to the lefts where Big Dave was still surfing).

“Yeah; just don’t drink the last of it. Why don’t you bring a thermos?”

Half a cup in his (I’m guessing) hip canning jar mug, Adam walked over to his next (potential) friends as I tied-down my board, then put on the fleece-lined, flannel, old man coat I’d purchased for eight bucks at the Port Angeles Goodwill, shortly before I discovered I could get a new version at Costco for under twenty.

“Surgical strike, then. Great.” This is what Adam was saying to one of the four-person-group readying to attack the mostly-mediocre (I’m legally bound to never say ‘great,’ though, on this day, they weren’t) as he backed away from them and toward me, turning to say, “Surgical strike.”

I, no doubt, shrugged. “Poacher?”

“Oh, yeah; that’s where I might have screwed up. I couldn’t tell… he was kind of out of range. He was, um, thick enough, that I couldn’t really tell how tall he was. I think I said something like, ‘Hey, Buddy… Dude; you know that these tideflats are…’ I almost said, ‘mine.’ Or, maybe I did.”

I poured out the last of the coffee into my Seahawks mug. A third of a cup and almost luke-warm. “Now, Adam, I told you I wasn’t going to tell you, again, that the best wave I saw all day is the one you were too far over to make… so pretty.”

“No, the best wave was the one I took off in front of you on.”

“Yeah, maybe it was.” With Big Dave and I kind of, possibly, maybe, catching a lot of the available waves, Adam and others had moved up the reef. Not really working. Adam moved back over. On one of the larger waves, Adam took off in front of me. I surfed up next to and under him, and actually said (not yelled, but in the heat of the moment), “I hope you don’t think I care more about this board than this wave.” We both made the wave, and Adam said, “You should have gone past me.” “You should have dropped down.” “Yeah, next time. Fun, huh?”

“Yeah. Fun.”

At some point, and it was probably when he heard the growling, deep, low, but intensifying; Adam realized this wasn’t a poacher out on his tide flats. And it wasn’t a ‘Buddy’ or a ‘Dude.’

Turning toward the beach, walking slowly, at first; his lamp turned off, looking up at the yard light at his house; Adam didn’t break into an all-out run until he approached the high tide line. Still, he never thought of dropping the buckets, even when audible (and getting closer, quickly) heavy breathing, huge feet sliding and splashing across the shallows, got closer.

Closer. Adam swears, now, he could feel the creature’s breath, smell something that, when he considered it, smelled somewhere between burnt driftwood and seaweed. Not that he was considering subtleties of smell as he ran. Near the high tide mark, Adam dropped both buckets; one spilling over, the other staying upright.

It wasn’t a growl, almost a laugh as the Creature passed him. Passed him. Adam may have shrieked. May have; but then he froze. A bucket swinging from one hand, the creature (let’s call it a Patagon’, a giant) stopped at the path, turned, sniffed, looked at Adam. Maybe he studied him for a moment: Brown hair, big mustache, beard halfway-to-full. He looked at the brown hair on his own arm for another moment as he raised Adam’s leftover burrito, ate it in one bite, drank half of Adam’s remaining water (the rest pouring down his hairy chest), and, when Adam turned his headlamp back on, the Patagon’ blinked.

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“Then, his head kind of turning this way and that, he sort of smiled. Big canines. Big. I did kind of a (demonstrates) fist bump kind of thing, then, maybe, like a peace sign. I, um, (demonstrates again) kind of hit my chest, said, “I’m Adam.”

“Of course you did.”

The Sasquatch licked his huge fingers, grunted something; four syllables. Adam answered with a, “You’re welcome.” The Patagon’ looked at Adam’s (could have been mine) fleecy pullover, then back at Adam. “It won’t fit you,” Adam said. “But, maybe… special order… I know people.”

Too late. The coat tucked/stuffed under one arm, the bucket of oysters hitting a few branches, Adam’s new friend glided (Sasquatch(es) supposedly glide) along the shore-hugging scrub brush, bounded up an unseen path farther south as a cloud covered the moon.

“Low tide’s about forty-five minutes later tomorrow night,” Adam said into the darkness, walking back to retrieve the other bucket of oysters, thinking (he claims) about how much I would have loved that sweatshirt.

“Hey, nice session,” I said, reaching out to exchange a fistbump. ”And… nice story.”

“Yeah. Um… so, you, uh, didn’t wear the HamaHama sweatshirt today?”

“No, but…I could explain that, but…” No, I couldn’t beat Adam’s story. It would take aliens, space aliens. “Next time. And, um, next time, you drop down and I’ll go past you.”

BONUS STEPHEN DAVIS, with explainer. Stephen, recovering from his recent Tuck-and-rollover accident on the Big Island, sent a photo of his most recent painting. Thanks, Stephen, paint some more. NOW! PAINT!

 

 

Waiting…and Waiting…and…

..image-125…checking the forecast. Stubbornly believing, if I check the buoys (not just those near-shore, but those in the open ocean, west and north- the ones that matter) often enough; winds and angles and period; if I check out multiple forecasts; if I overlay an optimal tide and wind situation at several different locations; maybe I’ll be able to predict the exact moment when the swirl becomes the proper energy, properly focused.

And, of course, I hope the next window is slightly before the forecasts we all look at call for it to open.  Ready to readjust my schedule to fit my idea of when and where and how far away, imagining peeling glass, properly chilled and waiting…

No, it’s me who is waiting. I’m guessing you are, too.

Meanwhile, there’s work, and, incidentally, I have quite a few drawings waiting to go to The Printery to be reduced in size so I can post them.  Something else I’m anticipating.

Explaining the Current Header

I freely (mostly because it’s so obvious) that my computer skills are lacking; particularly in the graphics area. It least that’s where I’m particularly frustrated. I think of my sister, Melissa, often; most often when I’m trying to draw.

I can no longer call her up for feedback or opinion, I can’t ask her to draw something for my site; a plan I had for teaming-up on some children’s books is not going to happen.  My work, compared to hers, is scribbling, sketching.  It should be mentioned, also, that my writing gets over-detailed, over-complicated, possibly over-thought; not something that lends itself to children’s stories.

Yet, I do think of Melissa; I do call on her spirit, wherever that is, to assist me. A high percentage of the art, or whatever it is I produce (somewhere down the spectrum), is the image I’ve worked out in my mind; then it’s all scribbling; and (if the image in my mind is perfect) the work never quite is.

When I mentioned this all to my late sister’s husband, Jerome, he said; “Oh, so, like Melissa; you think every drawing has to be… has to be perfect?”

MELISSA horses w drawing

This is the uncropped version of Melissa’s montage. I tried, unsuccessfully, several times, to include as much of the pencil drawing as possible in the header. If I knew… yeah, if I knew how, I could have used the whole thing.

When I started surfing, my drawings were about surfing. When Melissa started drawing, her drawings were of horses. Somewhere she developed the ability to capture people; not just the image expertly rendered, but the emotion, some sense of story; perfectly.

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I’ll keep the header up for a while.  Here’s one of my drawings

Selected (Eeeeeeeek!) Rat Tales

 

 

FIRST, I’m only saying ‘Rat Tales’ because it has a certain sound to it. ‘Mouse Tales’ doesn’t have the same impact. Varmints, rodents; It is interesting that many of us consider Squirrels cute, despite the damage they can do, but recoil at even the mention of mice; the cringe-factor going up as the varmints increase in size.

Before I wrote this piece, adapted from and originally written for a monthly newsletter put out by Quilcene’s Community Center, I did mention that I intended to attack (yes, attack) the subject with Bob Rosen, the Director. “Nobody wants to hear about, er, that.”

Then I told him how mice got into the dashboard of my surf rig, and, short-story-slightly-shorter, they chewed through just the right wire that (luckily enough, because I’d been out where the cellphones don’t work) allowed my car to crank but not start; parked in front of the NXNW Surf Shop in Port Angeles.

Frank Crippen, the shop owner, not fully pleased to have me hanging out for several hours, agreed to allow me to put my board in his shed.  The car was towed up the hill to a local garage. After a cursory check (smell, mostly) of the dashboard, they were not stoked.  Trish, shopping in Silverdale, had to come pick me up. It cost me seven hundred dollars to get it running, three hundred more like an out-and-out bribe. Worth it.

“Oh,” Bob said, “Let me tell you how to keep mice out of your car.”

“Yes,” I said; “See, everyone has a story.”

Last winter was long and cold and a particularly bad one for rodents (only, to be fair, looking for some warmth) moving into places we don’t want them, cars, garages, houses. I do hope this winter, for many reasons, isn’t as cold.

Another failed “New Yorker” submission, this one dealing with Church Mice waiting for the “Hallelujah-ing” to start.

Still, here are a couple of anecdotes:

Evidently, I got exactly the wrong counter person at the Port Townsend auto parts store when I asked if they have any special thing (I was thinking electronics) to keep rodents out of vehicles. “Do you live near farms? In the city? The country? Have neighbors? Feed birds?” Before I could answer any of these questions, he threw out his hands in surrender. “There’s nothing we sell, nothing we can do. Nothing. Anything else?” “No, nothing.”

“My dog,” the woman said (and I can’t remember where this was or how the subject came up), “and we didn’t train him to do this, but he smells rats.” In her story, a friend came over for a barbeque, the dog took a great interest in the guy’s car. “You have a rat,” she told her guest. Her husband pulled out a compressor, blew air into the engine, the rodent jumped out, the dog killed it; or, as she put it, “took care of it.” And then, she added, “We all had some barbeque.”

I arrived at a house in an upscale neighborhood to give a painting bid. The homeowner had installed rat-sized, snapping-style, old fashioned traps, about ten feet off the ground, on the corner boards. A bit surprised, I asked, wondering if exposed rat traps (or rats, for that matter) were allowed within the area’s covenants.  “Does it work?” I was imagining long-dead rodents hanging as, perhaps, a warning to others. “So far,” he said, “and it’s kind of, um, decorative.”

It did seem to be humorously ironic, more to me than the woman at checkout, that there was one of those packets (and there are several brands available) with a smell meant to deter rodents (rumored to be a combination of mint and coyote urine), on a shelf between the bags of bird food.

Rather than throw out my hands absolute surrender, I have taken advice and steps. “Drier sheets,” I’ve been told. “New ones.” Oh. “Mint.” Yeah-okay. “Supersonic.” Maybe. “Poison.” Scary. “Flashing lights.” Got ‘em, think it’s like disco for mice. “Younger cats.” Not right now. “Electronic zapper.” Oh, yeah.

Meanwhile, as I work on my mint-moat, a rat-smelling dog and a compressor seem like good ideas. Oh, and, for some reason, barbeque.

 

 

Thanks to Reggie

I met Reggie Smart through Adam “Wipeout” James.  He’s a tattoo artist, among other things, and (and this is a definite beach cred bonus around the Strait) once worked for LibTech.  I kind of assumed Adam had given Reggie some sort of background information on me, other than that I’m a painting contractor, but several days into working together on a non-artistic project, he asked, “So, you do…painting?”

“Yeah,” I said, twirling my brush. “You mean, art-wise? Mostly I do pen and ink. Lots of examples at realsurfers.net.”  Blank look. “You’ve never checked it out? You’re fired.”

Reggie looked a moment to make sure I was kidding. “Oh,” he said. He pulled out his phone, showed me some of his work. Several very intricate drawings featured the classic Northwest Native style, the stylized swoops and inserts.

“Oh,” I thought, somewhat later in the day, “I live in the Northwest; I wonder how that style could be used to…”

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Here’s my first attempt. Thanks, Reggie.