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.

Simplify, Clarify… Continue

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.

simplifying is not easy

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.”

June Submission- Greenness

My submission was late for the Quilcene Community Center Newsletter. It’s now June 12 and I never got one over the electronic network. Because I post these pieces here, usually, I probably should apologize for it taking this long. There is some surf news to report; I did just recently surf with Nick, nicknamed, probably only by me (and because I got it from him) God.

He took off in front of me; twice; but said I deserved it. I will explain next time. Meanwhile, and partially to help the financially struggling United States Post Office, which, out here in the boonies, I particularly appreciate; I am considering preparing and sending a number of postcards to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC, 20500. No manifestos, just brief notes, like, um, maybe, “Which voices are you listening to right now?”

First Amendment, folks. Still, because of the omni-demic and all, I am considering wearing gloves in the process. That I am also considering sending them anonymously and from a different zip code; well, the farther-out folks on both ends of the conservative/liberal spectrum do agree that, as Americans, we always have to worry about our rights, alienable and otherwise.

Again, only positive messages. Like, uh, “Considering building a bunker: any ideas?” “Juneteenth? Really?”

Surf Route 101; somewhere in Washington State

                        OBVIOUSLY READY TO FROLIC

It’s Saturday, May 30, 2020, and, here in Quilcene, Washington, Spring’s last push toward the eminent arrival of Summer, is, other than the bright yellow blooms on the non-indigenous Scotch Broom, the changing of the landscape from grays and browns and more grays, to green. 

Maybe it just seems like it was a massive invasion, a sudden and overwhelming onslaught of green.

Everything is green.  The north side of the car you parked because you really had nowhere to go.  Green.  That patch of dirt where you had the car parked.  Green.  And all the trees, shrubs, hayfields; green and growing, unchecked, undeterred by the intermittent dry days, pushed forward by the rainy days, greens in shades from almost yellow to almost blue. 

Greenness, everywhere, and so crazily active you can see grass grow, leaves spread, plants crawling out of their pots before you can get them in the ground.  Blackberry vines are winding their way through your flowerbeds, dandelions outgrowing your lawn, thistles and nettles competing for the chance to sting you, you out in your Summer clothes… Ow!

Okay, I could have gotten all lyrical here, but the truth is, I’m a day past the deadline and I’m racked with guilt.  Racked?  Is that a word derived from THE Rack, medieval torture devise?  Maybe.  I won’t Google it.  YES, if you are receiving this a day later than you anticipated, it is my fault.

I won’t make excuses.  I hate excuses.  The guiltiest people have the best excuses.

So, here’s mine: I went surfing.  Friday.  Dawn.  Yeah.  Could have been writing.  The first two vehicles I passed while heading north on Surf Route 101 very close to Lake Leland, were towing boats.  No, not those big boats that loom over the truck hauling them.  Those boats are headed to or from ocean waters.  The next car had one of those very plastic kayaks on top of it.  Again, it was a Friday, and I don’t know what these folks, were supposed to be doing, but they were obviously ready to frolic.

Obviously.  Not me.  I was going stealth.  I had my board hidden inside my work van, with six ladders on the roof.  Incognito.  BUT first, in order to go surfing on Friday, one day ahead of what might just be a weekend rush from people cooped up anywhere east of the Olympic Peninsula, I had to try to use the best scientific data available to divine that there might be waves on the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  BUT, first, I had to finish a job in Bremerton on Thursday. 

Quite late on Thursday, and it’s an hour home; so tough to get up early enough to drive an hour and twenty-two minutes (on average) and be in the water before the sun comes up at… checking… 5:21 am.  Didn’t make that.  Got there at 7:10, surfed two hours, took a nap in my wetsuit, on a towel, in the reclining passenger seat, went back out in the very small waves for another hour or so, then went shopping at Costco, then Walmart, then QFC.

I do have an explanation for why it is necessary to shop at each of these stores.  I did skip Home Depot and Office Depot, and might have gone into Michael’s if they let people in.  Not yet.

With groceries to put away, and quite tired (not, you say, that it takes maximum energy to tap on a keyboard), and having passed so many recreational vehicles, other surfers, cars and trucks towing boats and trailers with motorcycles, and, of course, motorcycles, and all the folks who come over on a Friday in an attempt to beat those who foolishly wait until Saturday, I got home around 4:20. 

“…foolishly wait until Saturday…”

Okay, you’re right; I could have taken a nap and written a piece on… wait a minute; I did actually write a piece on how people are afraid to dream due to anxiety connected with the whole Covid omni-demic.  I do dream; and I did write about it. 

Although the piece didn’t seem totally appropriate for the Quilcene Community Center Newsletter; here’s a bit of it.  “If dreams are meant to make some sense out of chaos, writing is dreaming; and I write.”

Not necessarily ahead of a deadline.  Be safe, be well, dream fearlessly, and definitely frolic when you get the chance.

Oh, maybe that’s a good message for the White House; “Are we having fun yet?”

F.O.M.V.S.W.W., Disco Bay Back, + Surf-related Stuff

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.

Surf Movies, Hoover High

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:

I am trying to capture a certain feel- working on it

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.

Surf when you can, stay safe, see you around.

Vivid Covid Dreams

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.

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.

Jesus from “Swamis” and Outtake on Lawyers and Liars

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.

No, really. 

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.

..lll

In Order to have Faith…

…one must believe faith works. Sometimes. Ever.

It’s Easter Sunday, somewhere in the season of Passover; and it’s Spring in the Season of Corona; the era of probably-won’t-actually-die, but most-likely-can’t-surf; whatever it is History ends up calling the period of time we’re all hoping will end soon with a rush of people coming out of our houses and condos and shelters, raising our hands to the heavens and…

I have had the thought that videogamers might just come through this all, if not unscathed, pretty much the same as when it all started; soft, pale, with definite signs of carpal tunnel and eye strain; claiming dominance over a vast number of levels and worlds and whatever folks who didn’t give it all up with Ms. Pacman.

Anyway, faith. I put it in pragmatic terms (above). This isn’t because I’m cynical; but I am careful where I place my faith. People. Very few. No, no list. Faith is tested; constantly, but somehow, with an apparently endless line of challenges ready to kick the living shit out of us; most of us have managed to, if not thrive, if not find ourselves without struggles and possibly with low-bank waterfront at an uncrowded surf break with minimal crowds, warm water, no sharks, no urchin-covered rocks, no jellyfish, no… no, but we’re still going.

It seems reasonable to have that much faith, enough to say, ‘it’s going to be fine,’ fine meaning life is mostly a total shit-show, broken this and lost that. Again, so far. But, there are those moments of joy and laughter, rare instances of total bliss, hopefully enough to keep us slogging forward. Forward.

I have been accused of being, uh, religious. Okay, I kind of am, but not religiously. It’s not like yoga, where, I’ve heard, if you skip a day, your joints all seize up and your yoga pants just don’t fit right. I’m religious in that whatever incomprehensible force or being or spirit or algorithm created or caused or allowed the reality we are slogging forward in, whatever it is that pushes the planets and stars and tides and the clouds… well, I think about it; I respect it. Celebrate when and what you can.

I am working on some illustrations for “Swamis.” I have invited Stephen R. David to help out. Going for a look. Looking for a look. Working on it. Stay safe.

working on some illustrations for “Swamis”

“Even the President of the United States…

…sometimes must have to stand naked.” Bob Dylan

This isn’t about the president, really, it’s about writers and artists, and, no, really, it’s about all of us. I’ve often said all of us are in sales; we’re all selling something, whether it’s a service or something we *created, designed, built; or something we’re promoting.

As sales people, we’re all being judged. I’ve been working on the manuscript for “Swamis” for quite a while now, and this morning, for the first time in that same quite a while, I woke up without wanting, feeling as if I had to work on it, whether I could or not.

I spent some time yesterday insuring that I have an actual Library of Congress copyright on the story that I *designed and built (rather than saying I created it- it’s a remembering and a remix and a projection and a compilation and a fitting of character to setting) trying to fit all that into some sort of structure; chiseling here, hammering there.

NOW I’m at the naked stage, sending out the product to be judged. I can’t put a value on it, can’t grade it, can’t say your reading “Swamis” will be a worthwhile experience for you.

I think it’s genius, of course.

If one doesn’t have to be crazy to consider him or herself to be a writer, sending your work (and don’t be fooled, writing is pure pleasure, editing is work) out, naked, to be judged; the necessary part of selling the thing, and waiting, waiting, waiting for judgement… that will make you crazy(ier).

I should also mention that preparing myself to ask someone to do me the honor of reading my work tends to make me a bit nauseated. It’s like that feeling you might get (I mean, probably have had), headed for your favorite surf spot because you just believe the waves will be soooo good, then knowing that way too many other surfers will have the same idea, and you, being a sociopathic wave hog, might just have to get all scrappy and…see?

Crazy.

The unexpurgated version, all 298 pages, all 23,345 words, is being put into a book version, one copy, a ‘galley proof’ by one of my clients in the real world (in which I paint houses), Mike Kenna, owner of The Printery in Port Townsend. Thanks, Mike. I have sent electronic versions to several other people, people I know will be honest in their assessment.

There’s no profit in not being honest.

MEANWHILE, while I’m waiting, I do have the opportunity, through my connection with the (currently closed) Port Townsend Library, soul rebel stealth surf ripper Keith Darrock, to do some sort of electronic reading of “Swamis.” We’ll see. I’ll let you know. I did a test video this morning, me in the living room.

No, I wasn’t naked, but I did put a shirt on; and that was with just me watching.

The Only-Recently-Passed but Already-Old Normal

FIRST, I have completed, pretty much, my complete re-re-re-edit of “Swamis,” the fake memoir, coming of age, mystery, romance novel. Yes, I do want to do a bit more polishing, and, yes, it’s probably way too long at somewhere around 123,000 words, 295 pages at 12 point. NOW WHAT?

ANYWAY, we’re all stuck in the omni-demic; surf spots on the coast of the Olympic Peninsula or on the Strait of Juan de Fuca are shut down or have access that is even more restricted than usual, and some are counting it as better-if-not-good news that the surf might not be optimum.

Here are a couple of fairly recent shots of my friend, Stephen R. Davis, setting up a wave and hitting the inside section. Now that the writing part is almost under control, I have asked Steve to do some illustrations for “Swamis.” Since the book alleges to be a memoir by Joseph Atsushi ‘Jody’ DeFreines, Junior; real person Erwin Dence, a minor character in the manuscript (mostly so readers won’t think Erwin is anything like Jody) will also be doing some of the drawings.

True to the secondary title of realsurfers, ‘Name Droppers and Shoulder Hoppers,’ “Swamis” does include some other real people (Margo Godfrey, Cheer Critchlow, Corky Carroll, Billy Hamilton, to drop a few), along with fictional characters based on individuals or composites of people I’ve come across.

I recently called up Ray Hicks. I offered to change his name, and that of my other best original surfer friend, Phillip Harper (though I only use their first names- could become Ron and Paul, perhaps), most specifically because they didn’t do most (but not all) of the things they do in the manuscript. Ray said he’s sure the statute of limitations has run out on anything he might have done fifty-some years ago.

I did have to tell Ray that, actually, some of the things we did do are in the manuscript, put onto other characters. Like, remember the time five of us got to ride in the back of a CHP vehicle because we got busted for…

Hey, it’s in the novel. Meanwhile, stay safe. Hopefully, we’re all sliding toward some better version of a new normal.