The Thin Line Between Respect…

…and pity. It was, and I’m trying to remember, not my first wipeout of the day, and, I’m pretty sure, not my first tumble underwater. After three or four waves where I was pitched on the takeoff, one where I just couldn’t pull the nose up enough to make the drop, five or six times where I got knocked off my board; this was a wave I tried to back out of.

I should mention that I also got six or seven ‘corner shots,’ quick drops and out to the non-shoulder; one wave where, the lip about to blast me, I hung on, sideslipped quite a ways, sort of recovered; and I got a couple of air drops and a couple of waves I was pretty happy with; and I got two I was really stoked on. Screamers.

And it wasn’t like I was the only one getting worked. Everyone got a share. There were up to six surfers vying for position in a lineup that’s essentially ten feet left to right and five feet inside to outside. Every surfer had a certain success/wipeout ratio, with, I’m guessing, each one happy with this drop or that tube.

And, maybe there’s some connection with my hitting the bottom with this: After the last time I visited this spot, the tide still not high enough to make it, um, slightly less sketchy (didn’t go out- no room for a big board), Trish, viewing the photos on my phone, asked, “Do you have a helmet?”

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That’s exactly what I was thinking when I hit the rocks. That, Trish and her warning about the big rocks throughout the lineup, and hoping I didn’t hit hard enough to get knocked out or something.

So, I was actually ready to go in. After an earlier working, separated from my board, Chris, himself washed to the inside, asked if I was all right. “Yeah,” I said, yelling over the noise, “I’m just trying to stay out long enough to save (I probably meant keep) face.” “What?” I caught a couple more quick in-and-outs, missed an outside wave Aaron was yelling for me to go on, caught a decent wave and then…

Yes, I’m going on a bit too much for a common wipeout, but, really, I can’t remember the last time I tried to back out of a wave, then went over the falls. I’m sure it was the second tumble that put me in contact with the gravel, and the smaller rocks. When I came up, I still couldn’t stand up. Too much current pushing around the inside bar; flopping around like a twice-whacked fish on the deck.

Seeing Keith (PT Keith, not Cougar Keith) on the beach, I motioned to the top of my head. Seeing a guy holding a kid, who I mistakenly thought was Mike Squintz (as opposed to Mike-E, who prefers not to be nick-named ‘Smoker Mike’, though he still smokes), and, when I staggered closer to the steep beach, I (I’m blaming the head wound) yelled, “Fuck, yeah I hit my head!” Sorry kid.

So, I pulled back my hood. “Am I bleeding?” “Not bad,” Keith said. By this point there were only two surfers in the water; then just Short Board Aaron. This isn’t a spot you can surf on an outgoing tide. Then Derrick showed up, fresh, evidently, from some kite surfing. “Are we going to have to take Erwin to the hospital?” “No, I’m all right. Contributed a little skin.”

Okay, so this is where age comes in. I (don’t allow myself to admit that I) seek respect from my peers, but I definitely don’t seek pity.  “Hey, everyone got worked. Huh?” “Sure. How old are you, again?” “Yeah.”

No, wait, maybe I thought I’d get a bit of pity from Trish. No, not really. There’s no shame in getting wiped out in the tube. Getting sucked over the falls when you’re trying to back out of a wave. Thinking. Thinking what I’d think if it was someone else.

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Not Always According to Plan

It’s a bit of a, I don’t know, irritating thing, to me, that, despite planning out an illustration, thinking it through, actually picturing it in my mind; once I check out reference material, once I start drawing… it comes out…pause… different.

Here are two drawings (please, just because of the fragility of my ego, don’t call them sketches) I finished today. I’ll let you in on what I hoped for after this:

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Simpler. I was thinking of the way photos, back in the early 70s, mostly, late 60s, were broken into three shades (dark, mid-range, and light). Psychedelic? Maybe; depends on the colors selected.  Next time. I’m kind of at the ‘still wild’ phase (“Still Wild period- not sure); and, based on advice from some guys who purchased some of my work (thanks Dave and Joey), I am kind of making my name a bit larger. I’m thinking of going with “Original Erwin.” Branding.

Ego. And, yes, Doctor; maybe doing an Orca is some pathetic reaction to Stephen Davis selling his whale painting (check’s in the mail); AND having some (quite a few) commissions for more original Stephen paintings.

Maybe a little. I have wanted to do a drawing of an Orca for a while. I also wanted to write something about a recent suicide slab session I observed, rather than participated in. I did give kudos to those brave souls who risked it, each one paying dearly for a (precious) few quality rides.  Not really wanting to be the observer, on this occasion, not participating may have been the right decision.

Meanwhile, I’m still thinking…

OH, this is the day following the above post. My new stuff goes to twitter and Facebook, and, evidently, C.L. Flint is a follower (wait, maybe he’s a Friend; and, yeah, I do know him in real life) and commented that I should finish the killer whale, as in add the rest of the Orca (he called it a fish. No). So, I did. Now, I do think it’s sort of clever to have part of the drawing outside the frame (it’s my ‘outside the frame’ period). In this case, maybe C.L. is right. Here’s a side by side:

Coincidental/Possibly Fated Interactions With Alternative/Parallel Universes

FIRST: When you miss out on a great/epic/all time session; it isn’t that we don’t know what we missed; it’s that we do.

SECOND: Let’s say you plan out your future. A to B to C. Sorry, doesn’t really work; there are these little surprises that change the path, each one changing the future. Cause/effect; if, for example, Howard had fired me as Buddy told him he should, I wouldn’t have been a sign painter apprentice long enough to get a job as a painter, and… and on and on… to now.  So it is with these overlapping stories of Hydrosexual (because he loves all things water) Stephen Davis.

STORY ONE- THE WHALE PAINTING

Steve called me the day after he sold the painting for $3,000.00 USD. He said he kind of picked up that I had some sort of (“why him and not me”) resentment from our phone conversation from the day before. “Yeah, but I’m still 95% stoked and happy for you.”

IF… Stephen wasn’t a trained/schooled artist with an incredible eye, none of this would have happened. BUT, if he hadn’t moved from Colorado to Port Townsend to go the the Wooden Boat School, he might not have gotten SO into surfing. IF he hadn’t had the opportunity to go to Northern California to do (originally) carpentry on a farm, he might not have had the financing to go to Baja for an extended stay. If he hadn’t met Pepe’, he might not have seen Pepe’s amazing photos of whales in the Sea of Cortez.

Circumstances kept Stephen from returning to Baja, BUT, because Oceana’s father has a tourist-centric shop on the Big Island, and it needed help during the tourist season, Stephen went to Hawaii. Besides surf, one of the perks is the use of a condo, with, evidently, space to paint. AND, Steve picked up a side job as a crewmember on a catamaran, built by Woody Brown, owned by CAP (he’ll show up later). Part of Steve’s job, evidently, and I’m sure there are some less-fun aspects, involves swimming with tourists and dolphins and whales.

A woman who works on the boat suggested they could use t-shirts as advertising. “Maybe with a picture of a whale.” FAST FORWARD- Steve did the painting, t shirts were produced. Yes I have one. Yes, I’ll get it signed next time I actually see Steve. Meanwhile, Steve sells this first whale painting to Cosmo, a friend who escaped Chicago winter, hung out in Hawaii for a month or so.

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THEN, this guy from Georgia whose daughter is opening a gallery, just happens to get on Cap’s charter boat.  Maybe it’s the t shirt. Whale painting? CAP hooks Stephen up. Steve gets to work, quite frantically, on another, larger whale painting (also based on a Pepe’ photo). He has a meeting scheduled. RIGHT HERE let me explain a little about how Steve does business. Kind of casual; as in, “I don’t know; whatever you want to pay me.” Somehow, this seems to work. Plus, Stephen has wide ranging and mad skills. He’d say, if you ask him, “I can do that. I’m pretty, um, mediocre;” but he means ‘I have mad skills at whatever you need.’

NOT THIS TIME. Steve solicited advice; even from me. “Yeah, I’m going to have a price in mind. $3,300.00. I promised Pepe’ ten percent, so, it, uh, makes sense.” “Thirty-three. Yeah. Sure. That’s a lot of… hey, um, don’t forget; if they make prints… you’ll need to get a percentage.” “Yeah. He said they’ll make prints. And, get this, his daughter is talking about opening a gallery in New York City.”

STEVE may have been kind of excited. You know how you’re planning on going surfing the next day, and it might be really great; and want to wake up at five? No, you wake up at three-thirty, can’t get back to sleep. Stephen texted the potential buyer at 11:30 or so, said he had a bit more work to do on the painting, but… “Go to sleep. See you tomorrow.”

NO, he didn’t sleep. MEANWHILE, and probably con-currently, Stephen was in contact with Cosmo. “What would you sell the painting for? I mean, how much? Uh huh. No, not asking you to sell it. But…” So, if Cosmo’s painting was worth two thousand, and the new one is much larger…

THIS was the basis for Stephen’s sales strategy.  I was driving home, about to hit the second roundabout, when I got the text. “I sold it!” Yes, I illegally called him back (texting is probably more illegal- same fine). “Whaaaaaat?”

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THE STORY isn’t over. I can picture Stephen at a New York City gallery opening, man bun in place, orange pants, prescription shades, fancy people.  Painting many many images of waves, Steve claims, helped him with this, hopefully breakthrough painting.

SINCE he does occasionally, ask me for advice, and because he says he’s forgiven me for my jealousy, I will add that I told Steve, “Nothing leads to big success like some success.” “What? Hmmm. Yeah. Thanks.”

HEY, I was thinking of how my son, James, now a professional guitar player, first got some notice for his skill in high school; inspiring him to get better. MY ALTERNATE PHILOSOPHY is that some of us are stubborn enough that, though things in life, including surfing, are more failure than success; we continue. ONCE we’ve tasted some success, possibly a near-perfect ride on a great wave, we want more.

I’m out of time. Gotta go. I’ll save the other Stephen Davis (surfing) story, “Haole Won’t Go.” Here are a couple of photos of CAP Steve sent me.

 

Works In Progress

WAVE after wave of rain and wind continue to attack the ‘STILL WILD’ Olympic Peninsula.

MEANWHILE, somewhere on the Big Island, Stephen Davis, lover of all things (and sports) water, who has been doing some crew work on a catamaran built by the famous Woody Brown; part of his job being spotting whales, swimming with dolphins (and tourists); trying to keep a low profile while surfing with non-tourists; has been working on some new canvases.  AND, as seems kind of normal for Stephen, opportunities come his way, including, partially thanks to the captain of the cat (Cap of the Cat), someone is VERY INTERESTED in… oh, yeah, it’s all in progress. YES, part of this is that Steve always seems open to new adventures.  “Um, yeah; that sounds good. Sure.”

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MEANWHILE, I have some new drawings. The “Hobuck” and “Northwest Aloha (or equivalent local term) Shirt” design are probably (definitely) going to have more done to them. If you have any ideas, you can write at realsurfersdotnet@gmail.com

Image (33)Image (32)Image (31)SO, a suggestion from LIZ, at the Printery in Port Townsend, who makes the copies and reductions, said that a common northwest greeting is “What’s up,” or any variation of that.  “Whassup?” “Surf’s UP.”  OH, and she wants a percentage. So far, it’s “percentage of what?” STAY TUNED

Skunked, Semi-Skunked, Just Plain Missed It

Not that I’m making excuses. Probably nothing is more frustrating to a surfer than the ‘could have gone.’  This applies to the time you ‘haired-out’ (retro term) and didn’t drop into a wave that, viewed from the back, broke perfectly; and to the time you didn’t go because you didn’t believe it would be ‘all time;’ and to the time you didn’t pay attention to the conditions, finding out later that a small window opened up, some of your friends hit it, and, of course, it was all time. Or maybe just epic.

Then there are the times the conditions look great, you cancel a few things, put off a few more, and go. Not epic, not all time. If you’re lucky, you can get a session under the ‘practice’ heading. “Practice for what?”

You know; for the time you’re the one who hits it right.

Meanwhile, I am continuing to work on illustrations.

Image (30)I have a couple more I’m taking to The Printery in Port Townsend today. One is of “Hobuck,” the other is a sort of Northwest version of an Aloha print. I’ll explain later. Later.

Meanwhile, if you’re cruising to the wild Olympic Peninsula, stop off at Tyler Meek’s Disco Bay Outdoor Exchange on Surf Route 101, Thursdays through Mondays. He has gear for all your vices, and some of my illustrations.

Something Other than Surfing…

…maybe that should be a question. When there are waves, or even the possibility, even (more) the probability of surf, tensions rise. Every surfer wants a chance at dealing with quality waves.  Some do, and are elated; others, for various reasons, miss out on opportunities and are frustrated. Tempers can flare.

Shit happens. Work, family responsibilities, broken equipment or vehicles, power outages, not taking a chance on iffy conditions, other shit. Shit!

And it’s not just that you (or I) aren’t committed, or committed enough to the lifestyle/sport. We rearrange our schedules the best we can, but, sometimes, we just hear about classic conditions after the fact. Sometimes we witness classic conditions but can’t, for any combination of the above or other reasons, participate.

That happens. I haven’t really  gotten over, or, at least, I still remember, painting a house on the bluff above Stone Steps, late in the afternoon, with the waves glassing-off, lining-up, and only a few surfers out. Yeah, I kept painting; felt I had to finish the project.

Still, those waves… they may not have been as great if I’d surfed them, but, in my memory, they were sooooo good.

WAIT. I’m adding this, just in, photo of Hydrosexual Stephen Davis (I was going to drop the hydrosexual part because of spam from sex-related, um, spammers, but Steve kind of likes the description/title) doing something besides surfing, work as part of the crew on a catamaran off the Big Island. OH, and he did the artwork for the t-shirt.

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Anyway, I am trying to do a bit of a pivot in my career, and I’ve actually started drawing things not surf-related. Here are some examples:

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What unites us as surfers is not our performance level; it’s more that we have suffered the frustration of getting caught inside, of missing or wiping-out early on a great wave, of watching someone else wail on a wave we could have been on, of hearing about or seeing wonderful surf we can’t get into, of driving a long way to get skunked. It’s sad and just wrong to get frustrated enough to unload verbally or physically on another surfer; particularly when, if there were no waves, this would be someone you’d be chatting with; a friend.

Even the best, longest ride is short compared to real life. What we really save is the memories. I’m sure we’d all rather have pleasant ones.

And, no; all this peace talk isn’t because someone took offense with my wavehog ways. I mean, people have, not recently; it really relates to friends going off on other friends.  Friends. It’s sad. It’s fixable.

I am continuing to do a series of  landscape drawings, anxious to expand my scope. I currently have some illustrations at Helen Gunn’s gallery uptown Port Townsend, some at Tyler Meek’s  Disco Bay Outdoor Exchange in Discovery Bay, and, once Adam “Wipeout” James sees my HamaHama drawing… I mean, my friend Adam James… and, yeah, working on it. Committed. See you.

OKAY, here are the first of my Olympic Peninsula landscapes:

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From “Mistaken For Angels,” “One in the Chamber”

For “Mistaken For Angels” April 25, 2009- Edited and published on realsurfers.net January 18, 2018

A Bullet in the Chamber

Guards and cameramen surge forward with the sound; instinctively reaching for a weapon, looking for a shot.  People duck. Politicians throw themselves backward, into the crowd. No one knows where to look. Only one camera is pointed at the victim, his prepared victory smile frozen, eyes only slightly wide in realization, sudden but complete. Final.

General Sterling wouldn’t have been allowed to wear the revolver on his waist had he not been famous for wearing it. He wouldn’t be allowed if this was his country. It isn’t; it’s someone else’s country; about to change leaders. Sort of. Sort of is the standard thing in these types of countries.

During his three tours of Vietnam, he had the forty-five, safety off, a bullet in the chamber, with him at all times. It was the thing that saved him when, rounding a corner in barely-controlled Saigon, he met a North Vietnamese regular, a soldier of, it turned out, surprisingly high rank, and, as it turned out, also packing an American-issue forty-five; a trophy weapon, bounty.

That soldier was, as was Sterling, alone and out of uniform, blending-in in his own country, just checking on what he regarded as an arrogant enemy; so loud, so obvious, smelling of scented soap and milk. He’d looked quite shocked at suddenly being face-to-face with then-Captain Sterling, half-stoned and returning from another excursion to an out-of-bounds part of the city.

It took a moment. Recognition.

“Not a gunfight,” Sterling said at what became the official inquest. They’d both pulled their weapons. It wouldn’t have even happened if the Vietnamese had given ground, gone around him. No, “He refused to step around, to even move; refused to avert his gaze.”

“Avert?” the main inquisitor, perturbed by the looseness of the proceedings and the lack of air conditioning, asked.  Looking around at the others in the room, the question seemed obviously wrong, asked by the wrong person; someone who had only heard of tragedies and mistakes and friendly fire.

“All right then, Captain… avert.” The three pages were tucked into a manila file, that into a briefcase, that closed. Nods were shared. “Guess it’s a good thing you had the safety, um, off.”  More nods. Justified. Possibly heroic. Closed.

In the moments the gunfight had taken, and, too often, after, the eyes of the man who died so close to him; surprised, then desperate, then slowly going dead, were always on him. Always with him.

 

Too long after Vietnam, having already returned the repatriated forty-five to the World War II veteran father of the slain second Lieutenant, Sterling returned something else, a scrap of paper with foreign words, some in French, taken from the man he’d killed in the street. He did not wear his own gun, or his country’s uniform, as he stood in the merciless sun in the middle of the awkwardly rebuilt Vietnamese village.

The interpreter was a smart-ass student, son of people air-lifted out in the last days. Born in what had been a troop training area on Camp Pendleton, Las Pulgas (The Fleas, in Spanish), the kid was slapped by the mother of the slain man, slapped and dressed-down for disrespecting the recently-promoted-to Colonel Sterling.

The interpreter and the woman seemed equally embarrassed. Sterling showed no emotion.

“Tell her,” Sterling had said, “that it’s always the wrong people who die in war.”

The woman came up close to him, looked into his eyes. A long time. Maybe long enough. Sterling refused to blink. He wanted her to see.

She touched his shoulder, backed up three steps before turning away.

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Here’s the moment I relive, replay:

Sterling, up on the platform, drops his arm, his hand still holding the pistol. He looks away from the body of the local politician’s right-hand man. This is someone not widely, at this time, known. Who he was, and his crimes, would, of course, become well known.

The assassin’s movements will be studied and discussed widely, from multiple cameras, every angle but his; including that of several of those people who knelt to help the man on the rough-sawn platform. No help.

Sterling tosses the weapon onto the man’s chest. Three men, as if suddenly able to move, almost fight each other to grab him. Their movements will look awkward, really, frantic compared to Sterling’s, on the video, images aged by constant viewings.

The General looks above the rim of buildings. The crowd is silent, but pressing forward. There is a ridge of mountains in the distance. He follows a thin line of cirrus clouds, a bit of rainbow color caught in the ice crystals.

Sterling barely reacts when the blade, held tight by the politician’s consultant’s enforcer enters, just below the sternum. There will be no explanation from Sterling for his actions. His photo will soon, but only temporarily, be taken down from its place in the secondary hallway at the War College.

 

Through the scope, high in a distant steeple, finger on the trigger, having waited for the order, my target pulled to safety, I follow Sterling’s last glance. From the incoming storm front, caught on the jagged edge of the second highest peak, a single cloud seems to be ripping itself loose.

I should add that the man he killed was not my target. Probably should have been, but, you must know, usually the wrong people die in wars.

Here are some potential illustrations for “Mistaken for Angels.” I’ll explain later.

New Shadows and Deep and Steep Drop

I have some new illustrations, freshly reduced, ready to add color.

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I had already done the color on the larger version of the (above) drawing, but didn’t like the blend on the lower part. So, once it was reduced, I added some more lines (and a little more color).

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I’ll add some color to other drawings, but, for some reason, I get less excited about the color part than I do the original drawing. When I get going on a drawing, and I’m pretty happy with my progress, what I seem to think about is how I can screw it up. And color is another opportunity.  So… less might be better.

Meanwhile, waves seem to be missing the Strait. Now, the coast… it’s another story.

Re-Colored Surf Illustrations Scanned and Crooked… but Tight

It’s, I guess, either get a new scanner, stop trying to add square (or, more likely, rectangular) borders to my illustrations, or just keep apologizing for the crookedness. These are two drawings that, now that I’m showing my work in two locations (and thinking about where else I can sell a few), I’ve colored; re-colored in the case of the upper drawing (the first version was too yellow).

Geez, I use these things a lot [ (parentheses) ], probably should apologize for that as well.  Anyway, my emphasis (along with expanding my subject matter) has been on tightening the work (eliminating palm-of-the-hand smudges, coffee dribbles, fingerprints on glass), and making the illustrations ‘cleaner.’

No, I’ll still have way too many lines.

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As part of this push, I have some new drawings, but haven’t been able to get them to the printer to get reduced. Yeah, if I had a professional scanner/printer… I don’t.

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Anyway, if you’re headed out to the Strait or the West End, stop by Tyler Meek’s Disco Bay Outdoor Exchange, check out my professionally-mounted prints, each one square to the frame (or, more likely, rectangular).