If You Can’t Hibernate Peacefully…

…HOLIDAY JOYFULLY!

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It might be considered ironic, to some, that I’m up early, working on a post that includes a drawing of a bear in a barn; an illustration that will, most probably, be our holiday card for this year; completed (as in color added) only last night; only to wake up this morning, and, in searching for the cell phone (and it’s still dark) I would swear I brought inside last night (but hadn’t), discovering an actual bear had decided to rip off and/or break boards on one wall (more like a fence) of the trash can enclosure I had built to keep him out; and had helped himself to whatever goodies (cat food containers that hadn’t been licked clean, for example) he found in the trash cans kept within the obviously-not bear proof yard.

And it’s not like bears clean up after themselves.

Bears don’t pack out what they… wait a second.  Rethink.  I’m kind of stuck on how much I will hate picking up scattered trash that had been neatly bagged, reinforcing the enclosure, hoping it’s enough.    Bears are… well, they are the true locals out here in the wilds of the Olympic Peninsula, out on Surf Route 101; sure, but this local (and he is well known, showing up on the “I’ve heard of Quilcene” Facebook page as he cruises up and down the various streams in a fairly wide area he, no doubt, considers his domain), but, really, he doesn’t have to get so, so surly.

I mean; really; can’t we just get along?

And besides; shouldn’t any self-respecting, non trash-can-raiding bear, at this time of year, be hibernating?

Shouldn’t we?  That or looking for winter surf.  If I don’t get this card printed and sent to you, do HOLIDAY JOYFULLY!

 

Stuck in the Suck… One Rib Too Far

It’s not, really, that the waves were all that dangerous or scary; it’s just that they were breaking too close to the beach.

Beach break.  Shore break.

I can’t say I’m not spoiled by reef and point breaks, waves that seem a bit more, um, polite, reasonable, more consistent.  On the Olympic Peninsula, the prevailing condition being flat or flat with winds blowing so frequently (and often briskly, gales from south to east to north to west, sometimes in one day) against any swell direction that might bring some sign of swell to the Strait, and even with buoy readings that suggest, almost guarantee rideable waves, the prevailing condition can win.

SKUNKED.

What is worse, figuring I’d figured it correctly, that I just might score, seeing even the super weak wavelets coming out of the dark and (despite the forecast) wind-torn deeper water, die among (as opposed to lined-up bombs sliding over) the rocks of a reef; a dark squall bringing a downpour; I discovered I might have been almost the only one dumb enough to believe the odds and the gods favored surf.

WAITING. Maybe it’s the tide; maybe it’s just…. a 47 (or so) minute nap, the downpour now the heaviest sort of drizzle, the windows now as fogged inside as they are wet outside; wet; that kind of wetness where they’re just covered in vertical rows of tiny drops, hanging there; one drop in each row gaining enough weight to fall down onto the next; but, and I would have awakened, no one else has even pulled in to see if there are waves.

So then one, meaning me, feels dumb for even trying.

BRIEF INTERMISSION- Here’s the negative, black light ready, version of the Soul Rebel illustration:

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OKAY.  There might be some options.  This is how I ended up hiking to a spot that offered three foot plus waves, still not clean, not friendly, ribs in the swell caused by sidewinds; breaking along (more like on) a steep beach where, eight feet from shore, the water’s eight feet deep.  Overhead.

SO, yeah; look for a corner, take off, drive hard, pull out before it all crashes.  There’s no channel to ease into.  There are sections, sort of separated by those sideways ribs.  A bigger wave should break farther off the shelf that is the shore.  Two successful-if-short rides are followed by one on which I went a rib too far.  Oops.

Stuck in the Suck, I was down in the trench, my board skittering up the beach with each wave, each wave rag-dolling me as I attempted to crawl up and onto the shelf.

OKAY, now I’m determined.  Drop, turn, burn, pullout. Repeat.  Not super thrilling.  BUT THEN, again, going for another section, an extra little chunk of water… Suck, stuck, rag-doll, crawl, try again.  After somewhere around fifteen waves, having ridden one three ribs and a ways down the beach, I got out without suffering a third knockdown. Enough.

FUN.  So, here’s my takeaway, based, largely on something I learned in Psychology 101, Palomar Junior College, 1969:  All passion (read froth or stoke or lust or hunger) seeks to eliminate itself; to diminish that desire that so often overrides logic and morals and common sense.  This lust/froth/stoke/hunger, extended by the ‘one more wave’ syndrome, can be more quickly diminished in sketchy, ‘one section too far’ conditions.

THEN, as passion does, passion returns.  NEXT TIME…

 

 

 

T Shirt Ready… Or Not?

That is the question I ask every time I finish an illustration.  And, here’s my technique, mostly based on what I’ve learned, and what I’ve yet to learn about attempting to draw something as a negative image so it will transfer onto a dark shirt: Now, even if I’m drawing the black lines meant to be black, I get a negative print of that, go in and refine the image.  It’s kind of like erasing.  Then, back to black being black.

Oh, and I’m also not using really fine pens, just in case I get lucky and the result is worth spending the money to get some shirts printed.  I should say ‘investing’ the money; but, as much as I love the whole thing of going to D & L Logos (slight pimping here), the investment is all in one chunk, the return is spread out.

And, again, it’s a learning process; and I have learned a few things.  A few.

Mostly I’m trying to improve at the artsy part while, definitely, getting a bit pickier, a bit more selective as to what’s good, what’s not quite good enough.  As a painter for over fifty years, I have learned that the client has every right to be picky, and, if you’re going to be the one asking to be paid, you have to make sure you’re not apologizing for something that isn’t quite right.

And, again, again, I love the whole process from seeing an image I can get excited about, trying to represent what I was excited about, and then the print shop, screen shop part, and then, the sales part.  Parts of the sales part.

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So, let’s discuss. The problem with fully wetsuited surfers is everything is so dark.  Trish thinks the surfer looks scary.  “Yeah, well…” I did add some white lines in the negative-to-positive process, but, maybe, he may be a tad scary.  Probably not a t-shirt; and, if it was, it would be dark on light.  Or, wait, maybe… not black on not white.  Hmmmm.

And again again again, I never really think anything is done.  A little touchup on the face and…

Okay, there’s the story on this one, taken from (with every attempt to do justice to) a photo of Keith Darrock at a far-too-easily recognized spot on the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  Keith told me once, while we were bobbing around waiting for any sign of a rideable wave, that often, when he’s surfing, the Bob Marley song, “Soul Rebel” is playing in his head.  Now, Keith is known for charging, with style, close to the pocket, and he may have been more inspired on the occasion of the original photo, he the only one out, ‘gorging’ (his word), his wife and daughter looking on.

When I compare the representation to the original, Keith’s board was, perhaps, flatter, his arch, um, archier.

Scan_20191202 (2)What happened here is, when I got back home with the prints, Trish said she ‘really’ liked the negative version.  “Yeah, I do, too.”  Unfortunately, I only got it in full size (11″ by 17″), and can’t show you.  Later.  I may or may not add color to the drawing, but, at the counter, ready to pay, I asked if they could, ‘real quick’, turn the image the other way, put it on one side of the page, thus making a version of a holiday card Keith might use to… “No, not today. That would require scanning, and centering and…”

“Yeah, okay; another time.”  I might be less thrilled with print places than I once was.

Incidentally, there are a couple of dots on this image that are not on the actual drawing.  They’re on the glass on my quite inadequate scanner.  Jeez, if I worked at a print shop, I’d…

Learning.  Process.

MEANWHILE, I do have some prints and some t-shirts available at Tyler Meeks’ DISCO BAY OUTDOOR EXCHANGE.  I was just in there the other day, hanging out.  It should be a required stop on the way home from one’s latest Strait surf adventure.  “Keith and (Cougar) Keith stopped in here the other evening.  They were… (gestures to indicate exhaustion)”  Hmmm. “Wonder where they surfed.”  “They didn’t say.”

“Perfect.”

Cold Days and Dark Waves

Here’s a photo of a spot you or I will, most likely, never surf, and a painting (in progress) of a spot that exists, possibly only, in the artist’s mind:

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What they have in common is the atmosphere.  It can be bright and sunny on the Strait of Juan de Fuca, but the darkness, the variations in gray; shining silver to near-black; this is more common.  With the orientation, north shore, low sun over high mountains, it can seem like dawn in the daylight hours; 7:30 or so to 4:30, right about now; and almost a month until the solstice.

The painting is by Stephen Davis.  My critique, shared with him: Love the sky, love the waves; not sure about the green foreground.  Steve’s response: “I’ll be going back in; I’m trying different techniques; want to get the cobbles just right.”  Stay tuned.

Oh, and about the photograph. It’s not where I thought it was, and I had many more clues than I’m willing to share with you*.

Oh, oh; I am taking some advantage of the short days, working on my novel, “Swamis;” and, editing the shit out of what I’ve already written first, second, third drafts of, without getting to the exciting climax, the famous December ’69 swell, I have gotten to the point where I’m a bit afraid to share too much.  I am (possibly delusion-ally) envisioning it as a limited series.  Netflix, Prime; yeah, they could use a surf-centric/murder mystery/coming of age story/fake memoir with way too much dialogue (and not enough surfing for a real surfer) set in a world of hyper change: Home grown marijuana, revolution, war, love, and magic; North County, San Diego, 1969.

See? In 90,000 (or so) words less than the novel, I may have just said too much.  Happy Thanksgiving.

*If we talk in person, I do have some session stories I could tell.  (crowds, skunking’s, scores, entanglements, wind, rain… all the usual northwest stuff).   See you out on Surf Route 101.

WAIT, WAIT; I’m adding another painting; entirely because I made some reference to ‘the ninth wave’ in an email to Drew Kampion, and, well, I felt compelled to look up slash Google the term, one that I’ve heard, casually, as in “So, you’re probably going for the ninth wave, huh?”  No, I probably tend to go for the first or second wave; and I have tried to explain to people that waves rarely show up in nine wave sets.  Doesn’t matter.

So, evidently there is a book, “The Ninth Wave,” with some references to surfing in the nineteen thirties and forties, written by Eugene Burdick.  I haven’t read it.  Burdick died of a heart attack at age 46, in 1965 (the year I started board surfing, not that that is in any way ironic).

AND there’s a famous painting, “The ninth wave,” or, possibly, “After the ninth wave,” which I have seen, not in person, but on TV; described as probably the best marine painting of all time by, if I remember correctly, Rick Steves.  The work is by Russian painter, Ivan Aivazovsky, and, possibly coincidentally, it goes with the theme of this piece.  Since I already downloaded it, I figured I might as well display it here.

HERE:The-Ninth-Wave

Soul Rebel Underground Art

I’m working on this drawing based on a photo of Keith Darrock at a way-too-identifiable spot on the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  I am thinking of making it a label for some fictitious rub on, locally sourced, marijuana-based, artisan snake oil.  Maybe.

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The other drawing is one that I did to make up for doing the lettering for my friend Stephen Davis’s new restaurant, named “Cellar Door,” not “Underground,” though it, mostly, is.

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Meanwhile, because one of my clients, heading for Hawaii, texted me something that included, “hang loose,” I got to thinking.  Yeah, yeah.  In the cold waters of the northwest, we don’t tend to hang loose, we hand tight.  More thinking.  If there is a wetsuit company that needs a new tagline, how about some variation on “Polar Bare Wetsuits- maximum stretch, minimum shrink.”

Meanwhile, Clint Thompson, pretty much a surf fixture on the Olympic Peninsula for a while, has sold his house in PA, most of his 50 or so board collection, and is headed back to Florida.  His going away party was last night, possibly still going.

 

It’s Quid pro Joe, Chris

I would like to do what I can to help Chris Bauer, Port Angeles surfboard shaper, sander, glasser, ace repair specialist, and old school surf shop owner (which I will explain); and, in return, I would appreciate any help he might be able to provide to aid my career goals (ie; sell some shirts, art).  It’s a classic quid pro quo.

Chris has a stripped-down (other than a great mural by northwest surf artist Tod Fischer in the showroom) surf shop in a commercial building on 101 west of Port Angeles (just before- if you’re headed out searching surf- the gas station run by the Lower Elwha folks). There’s a big roll up garage door, usually closed, and a surfboard hanging over the mandoor, the possibly-sharpie-written sign reading, “Last Stop Surf Shop.”  Hope I got that right.

If, upon entering, you notice it smells like resin; yeah; it’s because there’s a glassing room in the back, and, on my second visit, I discovered there’s a separate shaping room behind a wall hidden by surfboards, new, used, and under repair.

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Chris Bauer, left, dressed in a first edition of the first Original Erwin t-shirt, holding a classic, early 60s style board he shaped, glassed… everything necessary to create a beautiful board- perfectly-wrapped rails, extra layer of glass on the nose, tail, with, on the other side, a deck patch.  The glassed-on fin, incidentally, is the old school, squarish, pre-Greenough skeg, which, I told Chris, surfers of the era were very stoked to be moving on from, on to the more rakish, turn-allowing fins.

Nevertheless, a beautiful board.

Oh, part of the thing about being old-school is that his shop isn’t about fashion over performance.  Yes, but if he had some Original Erwins…

Okay, shameless self promotion aside (other than mentioning that there are Original Erwins available at Tyler Meeks’ DISCO BAY OUTDOOR EXCHANGE), here’s what Chris and I have in common: Joe Roper.

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The top photo shows Joe at his very modern shop somewhere east of Pacific Beach where, in 1971, age 20; and Joe was a 14 or so year old ‘pier rat,’ surfing Crystal Pier like it was Pipeline.  Yeah, I have written about this previously.

The lower photo shows Joe’s first repair shop, kind of stuck to the side of the old Gordon and Smith shop in Mission Beach (note the twinfin with glassed-on fins on the trashcan- olllld school).

Chris started his career as a ‘hand sander’ for Joe Roper, the only kid whose name I knew in my time in P.B. (I’ve since discovered another Crystal pier rat, Roper contemporary, Olympic Peninsula surfer ‘Big’ Dave Ring).  “Well,” Chris said, “I had to start somewhere.”

And how was Joe, who I once observed kicking his board at and into (full body hit) another surfer because (and I asked him) the guy was from Clairmont, which, incidentally, is less than five miles from the ocean, and probably five miles closer than Joe’s current shop in Kearney Mesa; how was Joe to work for?

“He was gnarly.”  “Gnarly?” “In a good way.”  “Oh, yeah; of course.”

Joe knows his shit.  Chris learned, moved up, and, eventually, up here.  If you’re heading out, starry eyed, looking for surf; or, heading back, disappointed; you could stop in; maybe hang out.  I think there’s a couch in the main room.

For more on Joe Roper, search Joe roped surfed crystal pier like it was pipeline

INCIDENTALLY; I did catch some very small waves on this trip; me and Helmet Girl- just to explain the lack of shoes.

Trisha’s Birthday and Light; bending slightly

FIRST tomorrow is my wife’s birthday, the 51st since I attended the party for her 16th (I had been 17 for 2 1/2 months).  It didn’t go all that well, the party and my attempts to woo her.  No, nobody under 50 actually said things like ‘woo’ in 1968, but, before I gave up in the jockeying for Trisha’s attention against one very pushy asshole (not really subjective; there’s proof), before I went home; I did ask her if she wanted to go to the beach the next morning.

I was pretty sure she’d said yes as I, alone in kitchen in the house where I was raised,   contemplated love and life and feint hearts and such while eating a peanut butter and butter sandwich; slicing a hunk of cheese off a giant round (like 10 pounds or more) in the refrigerator (from Story’s Dairy, a knife kept on the top- one would re-wrap after slicing);  washing down my teenage angst with milk from a ‘cow-tainer’ (probably two gallons, plastic in a box, plastic spigot moved to new box when emptied).

On Sundays I would, frequently drive my father to his part-time job (he had several of these, and a full time job- 7 children will do that to a person) as a mechanic in Oceanside, drop him off and go surfing.  Frequently because whichever car my father had allowed me to drive, usually purchased on a mechanic’s lien, would frequently break down.

“Do you like her?” my father asked before we showed up at Trisha’s parent’s rented house (her father was in Vietnam) at 7:30 or so.  Her mom came to the door. Trish wasn’t ready, but, from somewhere behind her mother, Trish said, “Just a minute.”

“I do,” I said.  “Well, then…”

Yeah; pretty romantic.  Trish got to watch me surf at one spot, then got to hang out on the bluff at Grandview while I surfed some more.  She now says a couple of surfers tried to hit on her, asked what she was doing there.  She made some possibly vague reference to being there with (pointing) that guy.

We do count November 10 as the day we started ‘going together’ (probably an antiquated term itself), the deal cemented when, back at her parents’ place, lingering in the driveway, I asked if we should, maybe, kiss or something.

Logistics.  These things had to be worked out.  Bobbing and weaving, who goes in, which way do I turn my head (hey, I wasn’t a total novice to this)?  It finally came down to “One, two, three…”  Kiss.

A while later, Trisha’s mom broke it up.

This year, Trish will be hanging out at a ghost conference in Kingston, Washington, with our daughter Dru, ex-daughter-in-law, Karrie, grandson Nate; the folks who chase (they would say investigate) hauntings and such, and, of course, the ghosts.

If I think about the most frequent thing Trish and I say to each other; on my end, live and on the cell phone (while working, going to or from surfing, moving from the fruit to the meat section while shopping), it would probably be (yeah, even in the bread aisle, even with others listening) “Love you, bye.”  For Trish it would have to be, in an endless variety of situations, “Just a minute.”

“One, two, three… love you.”

Trish, 1969

Trish, circa 1968. Note, one, she’s wearing a wetsuit; two, those tires on my Morris Minor look pretty darn bald; three, check out the fin on that, probably homemade board.

Sorry; I got waylaid here a bit.  I have some tags put together for my t-shirts, available now at Tyler Meeks’ DISCOVERY BAY OUTDOOR EXCHANGE.

AND, here’s my latest drawing:

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“Light, bending slightly.”  As always, I asked Trish what she thinks about it.  “You just can’t get away from that psychedelic stuff.”

Probably not.

Dominating vs. Ripping & Tags vs. Price

THE DISCUSSION went back and forth for a while. Probably too long.  Stephen Davis had seen a YouTube video in which Wardo, Somebody-or-other Ward (I will remember, just not this minute) boosted a big air, landed it, and was then burned by someone (Steve made it sound like it might have been a woman) blindly taking off in front of him; and so, of course, Wardo flipped the clueless kook off.

HEY, if you go by a nickname, people are supposed to know your name.  Miki? Dewey? Alex? Kelly?  Anyway, Steve read through the many comments on the incident.  Some folks defended Wardo, others thought, maybe, he could have been a bit nicer about the whole thing.

STEVE’S comment, to me, was, “DO YOU REALLY THINK Wardo got world class good without ever burning someone?” He answered himself with, “OF COURSE NOT.”

And I agreed.  This took up most of the first hour of the back and forth.  Maybe if I had a radio in my car that worked; maybe if it wasn’t so far to the coast.  Maybe…

SIDETRACK- I would be severely criticized if I publish anything (else) even mentioning surfing (or the existence of waves) on the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  I have been criticized for not writing more often about surfing and the many joys associated with surfing.  I check the buoys and forecasts the way football commentators study even seemingly-obscure stats, and I have finally allowed the truth to work its way to this:  The ocean doesn’t give a shit about sending waves forty, fifty miles and more so surfers can ride them.  There are, however, waves pretty much every day on the coast.  CONCLUSION- If it’s about the same time investment for you, coast or Strait… nevermind that; how about this: Waves are a gift.

CHRIS WARD. I looked it up.

THERE WERE SEVERAL OVERRIDING ISSUES in Steve’s longform rant (if you will- he thinks it qualified):

ONE- When waves to sneak down the throat of the Strait, it gets rather competitive.  RATHER.  The surf spots are, of course, fickle, and either difficult to access (cliffs, fences, cops being called), or instantly crowded with even the rumor of breaking waves.

TWO- The points or reefs can feature a very pleasant surfing experience for three or four, but, adding in that most of the consistent (or diehard, if you prefer) locals (or semi-locals) know or sort-of know each other (and are very competitive), when it gets crowded, feelings can get hurt (and can stay hurt a while).  RESULT- A less pleasant surfing experience, people who could be your friends holding grudges, you holding grudges against people who could be your friends.

Steve and I agree on this; though I probably enjoy (tolerate, I’d call it) the jockeying in the lineup, the back-and-forth, a bit more than he does.  “If someone wants to really be good,” Steve said, somewhere on the drive back, “You have to be somewhere where there are always waves, where you can surf every day.”  Well, um, yeah; but there’s no way I’m going back to California.

WAVE COUNT.  That’s how you get to be good, like Wardo, his joy at landing his 999th air interrupted by some kook.  MEANWHILE, the kook, perhaps, unaware, blissfully unaware even, may have had the best wave of his (or her) life.

CONCLUSION- No conclusion.

ORIGINAL ERWIN AND DISCO BAY T-SHIRTS- There are some available (in a range of sizes, Disco logo on the front, one of the other two illustrations on the back) at the Disco Bay Outdoor Exchange.  Tyler Meeks has been at this a while now, and, when I delivered my latest batch of shirts, he said he could only get $15 each ($20 for long sleeves) without tags.  TAGS?  WHAT? One, I’m not really sure what my cost per shirt is- I’ll find out today when I pick up more; and, two- I will make some tags if it means I might actually make a dollar or two on the whole thing.  WOW, it’s so hard becoming a t-shirt mogul.

“It’s just that, if someone is buying a shirt for a grandkid or something; they want to see… tags.”  “Oh, okay.”

SO, if you get in there, like, tomorrow (Thursday)… before the tags are organized… and remember, these are, by design, limited editions.

LIKE waves, they make great gifts.

Happy Halloween

Greetings from Doctor Pervertius Speculus and his dear woman… well, actually I forgot Oceanna’s stage name, and I’m not actually sure of Stephen’s stage name.  Oh, and I’m also not sure if Oceanna is spelled with one n or two.

However, I do have a photograph of the couple from last weekend.

EvpervertSteve

According to Steve, a woman came up to him at one of the (at least) two events the couple participated in, first saying his teeth were disgusting (rude), and then asking him what he was supposed to be.  Rather than giving a sarcastic answer such as, “I was supposed to be a rude and judgmental elitist snob,” Stephen claims he said, “I’m a per-vert!”

I’m a little disappointed that you can’t get the full effect of this with my mere extending of the word.  Steve would have, no doubt, delivered it with a bit of salacious eye-rolling, perhaps an in-character ogling of the woman who made the comment.

Hey, I wasn’t there.

ANYWAY, Stephen and Ocean(n)a are now partners and owners of THE CELLAR DOOR, an already-established nightspot in (under, actually) Port Townsend.  Steve, with years of experience as a restaurant owner and chef, has been sorting through ideas for the menu. Oceanna has experience in the bar/restaurant trade (evidently selling liquor is kind of important, revenue-wise), and has many contacts among local entertainers.

THE CELLAR DOOR has been a top venue for live performances in the city for quite some time, and will be reopened as soon as all the liquor license paperwork gets done.  Again, important).

The effect on Steve’s surfing might not be too detrimental.  Most of the surfing in these parts is done in daylight.  WE’LL SEE.  I’ll keep you posted.

MEANWHILE, I did have a bit of an issue with my latest ORIGINAL ERWIN T-SHIRTS.  I had twenty shirts, various sizes, ready for screening.  After screening the graphics on the back, it was discovered, while doing the logo on the front, that the image was, OOPS, upside down.  ERRRRRRR!

SO, I’m holding on to a couple, handed out some more, and took the four rightside-up shirts  to TYLER MEEKS’ DISCO BAY OUTDOOR EXCHANGE.  I (we) have a bunch of shirts at the screen shop, and, hopefully, today or tomorrow, I can pick them up, ready for sale for the weekend.

I will get some more of this batch of ORIGINAL ERWIN shirts, and, since they are, by design, all limited editions… I don’t know; I’m hoping that means something.

The DISCO BAY shirts will have the shop logo I designed on the front, with one of two images on the back.  There are a range of sizes and colors.

 

If I get the shirts I will immediately post this on this site, right on top of Steve and Ocean(n)a.  No offense.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN

The Stupid Car Fire Incident

I wrote the following piece for the Quilcene Community Center Newsletter, e-mailed (not by me) to selected people; so, to increase any possible audience, I’m publishing it here.  Thanks for reading.

BUT FIRST:  OOPS! My silkscreeners had a bit of a problem with my latest Original Erwin t-shirts. It seems 16 of the twenty shirts were printed with the logo on the front upside down.  SO, there are four available at Tyler Meeks’ Disco Bay Outdoor Exchange, and, I’m figuring the rest will be more valuable… eventually.

 

Next week there will be quite a few Disco Bay t-shirts ready, logo (hopefully right side up) on the front, two different versions on the back.

 

     I’ll let you know when they’re available.  Pretty excited.

What Could (Possibly) Go Wrong?

It was dark; so dark, and stormy; and my car was parked just off the fog line, on the shoulder of highway 101.  The hood was up and there was a fire in the engine compartment.

Fire!

Yeah, fire; and I had no extinguisher, no water; and, again, my car was on fire!

Okay. “Sure,” you say, “How did… I mean, fire… how could this happen?”

STUPIDITY.

WELL.  My 1985 Toyota Camry wagon, my surf rig, did have a bit of an oil leak.  Slight, and somewhat mitigated/slowed, if not stopped by the addition of some sort of treatment.  BUT I had made a couple of surf trips (140 miles, round trip, to my favorite spot), and wasn’t at all sure when I’d last checked the oil level.

Not at all sure.  This is the thing.  It wasn’t just the oil.  I had purchased two items at Tootsies Drive Through in Sequim; a swiss cheese mushroom burger (on sour dough- this will come up later) for me; and a Wild West burger, with a sweet barbecue sauce and lots of onions (on a regular-type bun), for Trish.  Her burger comes with onion rings (weird), but Trish prefers those on the side (and Tootsies agreed), and no mayonnaise (“No problem,” the Tootsies ‘order here’ voice said). 

One sandwich/burger was to bring home, one was for me; and I was hungry.  I had already made the rounds in Sequim: Home Depot for, among other things, various dimensions of eight foot lumber, pushed over the passenger seat, and onto the dashboard, Costco for multiple packs and/or mega-sized this and that, Office Depot for artsy stuff, Michaels for some t-shirts for my Original Erwin line of, obviously, Original Erwin t-shirts, WalMart for cheaper prices (not arguing cheaper than where) on some grocery items.

Tootsies was my last stop. 

I must back-track here.  Tootsies is kind of the expensive version of Frugal Burger, a drive-through in Port Angeles.  Both offer various burgers including one with mushrooms, my favorite (not, along with avocado, Trisha’s).  So, a while back, up in PA, Trish was driving and I was hungry.  She ordered her condiment-specific burger, and I got the mushroom burger.  When we got home, it was discovered that I had, possibly due to some inherited lack of tastebuds and discretion, eaten her burger.  She was pretty upset; and, understandably, refused to eat the mushroom burger.  So, of course, I did.

This act was, Trish maintains, another one of my ‘GREEDY FAT BOY TRICKS,’ learned, practiced and perfected (possibly) because I was the second oldest of seven children, and, from an early age, made brown bag lunches for my parents and siblings.  Four cookies each… chomp, chomp… three cookies each… you get the idea.  Greedy fat boy tricks.

So, the FRUGAL INCIDENT was kind of on my mind when, not quite out of Sequim, I chomped into one of the two plain-paper-wrapped Tootsies burgers.  I actually called Trish.  Again, it was dark, the weak little overhead light in the Toyota not nearly enough to discern between a sourdough bun (mushroom burger) and a regular one (Trisha’s).  “Does it taste sweet?” “Um, uh… sweet?”

I STOPPED EATING.

BUT, on the Quilcene side of the short passing zone, a couple miles south of the 7 Cedars Casino, I thought I heard something over the noisy muffler, something different than the noisy fan motor.  Maybe it was rods knocking.  Maybe.  I could just pull over, add a little oil.

No problem; right?

Well, I turned the engine off, left the lights on, popped the hood release, grabbed a quart of oil from the back of the wagon, raised the hood, and used my cell phone to help find the place where one puts the oil (let’s call it the oil receptacle). 

EVIDENTLY, while leaning over to remove the oil receptacle cap, the bottom of the quart container melted on something hot (radiator? Manifold?), and, unaware of this, I moved the leaking quart toward the back of the engine, and enough spilled onto the still-hot manifold to, um, uh, ignite. 

FIRE! WHOA! 

NOW, by way of further over-explanation, I have had two other engine fires in my long career as a car killer; didn’t drive away from either of them. So, “NOOOO!”

I sprang into action. I knew I had a towel in the backseat, but, in the dark, in my haste, I mistakenly grabbed my sixty-dollar Hobie’s Surf Shop hooded sweatshirt, and stuffed it into the sort of valley, engine-wise (if you need an image, imagine the bottom of a hibachi), not quite fully smothering the fire. 

“LIQUID!”  What?  I grabbed the Costco three pack of one percent milk (half gallon each), ripped open the box, pulled the little plastic stopper out of the spout on the middle one, and poured about a third of it onto the sweatshirt and fire.

SIZZLE.  STEAM.  White steam. Yeah, but the fire was extinguished.

NOW WHAT?  Things had to cool down.  Would the car start?  Light; I needed light.  Oh, I had no flashlight in this vehicle, but, wait; yeah; I had just purchased a three pack of flashlights at Costco.  They were, of course, packaged in that sort of plastic and cardboard encasement that guarantees no one without scissors, pliers, and a hammer can open it. 

Unless one is desperate, in the dark, cars and trucks whizzing by.  I ripped open the package, several AAA batteries (handily included) falling out to the pavement.  To make it work, two batteries would have to go one way, two the other.  50 percent chance, and my cell phone’s battery was (all the using it as a light) down to 42 percent.

YES, the flashlight worked.  Now I could, at least, survey the damage.  The engine’s still sizzling; too hot to check the oil level.

So, I waited.  I’m not good at waiting.  Probably six minutes after the fire went out, I dropped the hood, said a little prayer (with appropriate hand gestures), and turned the key. 

Bbbbbbbrrrrrrrrrrroooooo-ooowm.  Ignition.  YES!

The car and I made it home.  I guess Trish was happy about that. I had, however, again, eaten half (I thought it was more like a third) of Trisha’s burger. She, not surprisingly, refused to eat the remaining portion; repeatedly pointing out the obvious difference between a hamburger bun and whatever one calls a round piece of sourdough bread, cut in the middle to accommodate things like meat, cheese, my ‘beloved’ (her word, but accurate) mushrooms.

Oh. Uh huh.  So, greedy fat boy trick, I got both.

I checked the oil the morning after the STUPID CAR FIRE INCIDENT.  Not actually low.  Hmm.  OH, YEAH. Evidently what I misheard as engine knocking was from the vibration of the various-sized pieces of wood.  OH, and I do now have a flashlight AND a fire extinguisher, and, oh, my Hobie’s Surf Shop hoodie might not be, um, toast… does smell a little… milky.  I’m optimistic.