Errant Angels

Errant was the word I thought I heard the woman say. Errant Angels. It was intriguing and amusing, equally. Clever. I had to know why she used the word. Errant.

I had misheard. I was painting a small house (it would qualify as a cottage) in Port Townsend that had previously belonged to Keith Darrock and his wife. Keith, a pivotal member of the local PT surf crew, had substantially remodeled the cottage a few years ago before selling it to the current owner, Michelle.

Michelle wanted her cottage painted. It needed it. A year or two older than me, Michelle told me about her days at Height-Asbury, in 1967 or so, before the San Francisco Hippie scene was discovered and publicized and sanitized and splattered on weekly magazines.

“Have you heard about the ‘Diggers?’” I had, but I got that wrong, also. No, Michelle said, they weren’t fools who worked so others could hang out, take existential trips, find themselves; in exchange for food and lodging, the Diggers found odd jobs; sweeping, cleaning, pulling weeds; work for a teenage runaway like Michelle from Modesto.   

What Michelle had said, what I had misheard, was that; having found herself, a few years later, in the mid- 1970s, in Port Townsend; before it was discovered by yet another wave of speculators, by pensioned retirees and trust babies and refugees from the supposed ‘casual California lifestyle;’ with a child and without a regular job, she started a little service company that did, yes, odd jobs. “Errand Angels.”

I like Errant Angels better.

It creates a different image, probably based on the only other time I recall hearing the word. Errant. Errant Knights, out looking for adventures. Don Quixote. Sure. I can imagine it: On their own Angels performing little miracles here and there, perhaps looking up, wondering if the Boss would approve.

This is a work by my late sister, Melissa. While she claimed I, her oldest brother, was part of the reason she chose to pursue the lofty goal of actually creating art, Melissa, my youngest sister became my inspiration the first time I watched her sit down, sketch Trisha’s Uncle Fred with a number 2 pencil, and capture him… perfectly. Melissa Joanna Maria Marlena Dence (nickname given Melissa Jo by our mother, who never met Melissa’s husband, Jerome Lynch) started out drawing horses, I started out drawing waves and surfers. Always striving for perfection, brutally and unnecessarily hard on herself (generous with my work, apologetically honest) I never really understood Melissa’s leaning toward images such as this one. Dark. Frightening. She was way braver than I am. I do think of her when I’m trying to be… better.


Angels, ghosts, images; I have pretty much completed a way-too-detailed ‘outline’ of “Swamis.” I cut the shit out of the second unexpurgated version, purposefully not even trying to write the flowery setting/descriptive stuff. I was striving to make every move clear. I did include all the dialogue that I feel is needed. Love the dialogue. So, it’s probably dry, definitely cut, possibly not cut quite cruelly enough.

Illustration copyright Melissa Lynch. Erwin Dence asserts all rights and protections under copyright laws for original content on realsurfers.net (I was informed I should add this).

Works Reworked

I am occasionally asked about my work. No, I am not on, nor have I ever dropped Acid. No, the drawings are not really as detailed as one might think. Yes, they take some time- not That much time. No, I am not totally thrilled with how some of the drawings turn out. Yes, I do occasionally try to save a drawing. Here are three examples:

Possible t-shirt?
I never scanned the reversal image. I softened the “Original Erwin.” I have some other plans… later.
I drew it to be reversed (black for white). It might work better this way.

Let me see if I can show why I wanted to rework the original Original Erwin’s.

Reversals and reverse images, can’t make up my mind.

Evidently, I never scanned the one that is now a positive (white background) drawing. The surfer (and it is always more dangerous/difficult to have a surfer on a wave, kind of looked DC Comic-ish. I will do a drawing with the reflection; just not the one immediately above.

MEANWHILE, Surf-wise- I did manage, after getting two new tires for my main and now only surf rig, to get a few waves recently. Yes, I waited for the snow to pretty much be gone, the ice not an issue. This is what kind of became the takeaway discussion issue: Surfers whose aggressiveness is a bit ahead of their actual skill level. IT DOESN’T take more than three or four good surfers to dominate any spot with a fairly narrow takeoff zone. I FOUND OUT years ago that it is easier to surf crowded conditions with a majority of the others in the water not going for waves they don’t catch, backing off at the last second, blowing the takeoff, or wiping out early enough that someone else could catch and ride that wave (a wasted wave is a sin, more so if it’s a good wasted wave).

HOWEVER, any surfer who actually gained some skill in surfing probably fit into the ratio of aggressiveness over skill. OR, maybe we all do. I do have kind of an example: It was pretty crowded. There were four or five surfers sitting outside. This GUY was catching quite a few waves. I was having success catching waves others blew or missed. The GUY had this kind of ‘look at me, I’m surfing’ kind of pose that wouldn’t quite qualify as style, no real skill at staying close to the power source of the wave. Somehow, must have been a lull, I’m out at the peak. With me in position for an outside wave, the Guy takes off in front of me. OKAY, so I just ride up under him, his board in pretty much guillotine position compared to my neck. Guy keeps riding for a bit then goes out the back. Okay, he won’t do that again. I actually had a phrase ready to tell anyone who actually saw the move. “That’s how you do that.” Didn’t really get a chance. Yeah, now, not that you saw it.

AND THEN, the guy does. Takes off right in front of me. This time I’m too deep. The peak pitches, I go under it, hoping to get back into the wave. Too late. I get to watch the guy posing, riding on. I COULD blame him. I have my reasons for not doing so. Yeah, hypocrisy might be one of the reasons.

STEPHEN R. DAVIS UPDATE: Steve was back in the hospital in Seattle over a week ago. He is still in the U.W. hospital. He had a bad reaction to drugs he was prescribed. If I said ‘bad’ I mean incredibly bad. He had a rash all over his body, including in his mouth. The rash was bad enough that he developed blisters. This is like having second degree burns on 100% of your body. It is a syndrome that can be fatal. So, yeah; bad. The permanent damage may be to his eyes. Steve said, last time I spoke with him, that it felt like his eyes and eyelids are both made of sandpaper.

Steve’s fiancé, Sierra, in a text, said the doctors think they may be able to release him soon, but, because he needs to see them several times a week, he may be staying in Seattle for the immediate future. This is all before he starts a real treatment.

JUST, maybe, because this is how these things work, I have run into several others who have gone through or are going through the horrors of Cancer. I was just working on a project with a floor guy who went through something similar to Steve’s experience a couple of years ago. He said that he was in pretty good shape going into the chemo, but when it was over, “I felt like I was 110.” He’s about 50, works a maximum of five hours a day. Hard hours.

If you scroll down, I do have a link to the GoFundMe site set up by Sierra. Steve needs to get past this; he’s a great person to share some waves with. Yeah, he’s sort of aggressive, but not over his skill set. Let’s say five over five.

Crashing and More… More

You may have noticed the recent bad weather up this way. I did. Enough rain to float your septic system, enough cold to freeze your pipes, and the ones to or in your house, enough wind and snow to… yeah, yeah, a lot for Northwesterners. As with everything wonderful or traumatic in my life, I write about it.

But first, a couple of illustrations I just got around to scanning.

Possible t-shirt, probably without the color.
From a photo of Nam Siu taken by Jenny Lee; and yes, I did give Nam grief for ‘blowing up the spot.’

Not actually my crashed Nissan, but quite similar injuries. Mine didn’t have the peeled back quarter panel.

                                                A Perfect Intersection and Black Ice

Every accident occurs at the perfect intersection of time and place. A second sooner or later, a distance closer or farther; no accident.

Black ice isn’t, of course, black. It is the roadway that is black. Roads. Asphalt trails, land rivers, naked to the elements. Centerlines and fog lines and the ditch. Whatever is beyond the ditch. The bank, the dropoff, perhaps a tree scarred by collisions, previous spinouts. Black ice.

One moment I am heading south on Highway 20, going up Eaglemount; complaining to myself that the guy in the truck in front of me is going slower… and slower. He’s down to thirty. Thirty.

We crest the hill, and it seems like he might be speeding it up a bit. Sure. The road was free of snow. Two hours earlier the temperature was nearly forty degrees. To, theoretically, save a few ounces of gasoline, I had it in two-wheel drive.

The truck does a slight slip, corrects.

I barely have time for this to register. No, I don’t have time.

I am slipping, sliding, sideways, trying to correct but out of control. I’m in the uphill lane, then back in mine. Half a twist and my rig is over the ditch and half slamming into, half climbing the bank, and the tree.

My vehicle, right headlight blown out, right tire smashed against the frame, radiator pushed into the fan; bounces back onto the roadway. The Pathfinder and I are now facing uphill and blocking most of the downhill lane, creating a new target for the next car or empty chip truck. I am trying to process what happened in the course of, guessing, four or five (or less) seconds from slip to slide to overcorrecting (probably), to impact. To full stop.  

Assessment. I am, of course, all right. Move the car. No, the car will not move. Hit the flashers. The one on the ditch side works, the one on the side most easily slid into? Gone.

The driver’s side door works. I open it. There is a woman there, telling me she has called 911. “Oh,” and, “Are you all right?”

All right? “Yeah,” I say, “I’m… fine.”

Fine? No. I might be imagining this, but, if time slowed down at all as I was sliding toward the inevitable collision, it was just enough to allow me to be angry, embarrassed, and sorry, and all at once. At what now felt like ninety-miles-per-hour, I was confirming what Trish had said about me crashing the vehicle I had not taken to the beach even once.

Yes, I did crash, I am all right, and I am so, so determined not to add more to the incident by getting hit by the next victim of unseen ice. I had two cellphones on the seat, and two flashlights nearby. Had had. They’re nowhere to be found. My thermos and some extra clothes are on the floorboards.

Shut the engine off. The battery? It’ll wear down the battery. Yeah. No. The car’s wrecked, fool. Where’s the inside light?

The passenger side door works. I find my cellphones and one of the flashlights (the big one) in the doorway. Now there are cars above and below me. I am less of a target. The uphill traffic is getting through. Various people ask me if I’m all right. “Yeah. Of course.” I call 911. Jefferson Dispatch. My call is transferred to the Washington State Patrol. “No, one car. Just me. Fine. Fine. Blocking? Yes. Blocking.” I am put on some sort of hold. The screen on my cracked (previously) smart phone goes some previously unseen color. “Hello. Hello?”

Somewhere in here I call Trish on the non-smart phone (way better speakers, doesn’t have 171 contacts). Very calm. I am lying. She doesn’t say, “I knew it,” but she does ask if I am all right. She does say there is no way she can come get me; she does ask what I was going to do. “I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know.”

I see headlights and a flashing lightbar approaching from uphill. It’s a tow truck. It has been less than five minutes since I hit the ice.

But now, a tow truck is parking in the empty space. importantly, it is a tow truck without a vehicle on the hook; and even more importantly, it is driven by Kirky Lakeness, from Quilcene (originally, though he now lives in Chimacum or Hadlock); and, additionally (as in adding to the miraculous nature of him being here) Kirky is headed for Quilcene to hang out with his cousin, Louie.

Louie went to school with our older son, James. We have some history. For that matter, Kirk and I have some history. Kirky looks to me, on this horror movie night, every breath showing in headlights and flashing emergency vehicle lights, like a right-tackle-for-the-Seattle-Seahawks-sized Angel.

We will, Kirky tells me, have to wait for the State Patrol to get here before he can move the Pathfinder. While he is discussing this and directing some of the traffic, three rigs from the Discovery Bay Volunteer Fire Department show up. A woman jumps out of the ambulance, toting a big bag. Already passing me, headed uphill, she asks, “You okay?” “Fine,” I say; “Kirky’s fine… also.”

A minute or so later, the EMT returns. “You were the only one in the vehicle?” “Yes.” “You said ‘Kirky’s fine.’” “I did. He is.” “You sure you’re all right?”

A State Patrol vehicle shows up. The Patrolman looks to be about 19. “Oh,” I say, “You may have given me my last ticket. Couple of years ago.” “No. I’ve only been on duty six months.” Different very young Patrolman.

I give the Patrolman my license, registration, proof of insurance. He hands me a form to fill out. “No, you’re not a suspect.” “Witness?” “Yeah, use that line.”

While I am looking for light adequate to fill out the form; considering what words might make me appear less… stupid, the Patrolman chats with the responders about the recent snow and wind that combined to close Highway 101 from where it intersects with 104 to south of Hoodsport. “They had me on the side of the road. The trees are all just shaking. No, I was getting out of there while I could.” 

The Patrolman gets another call. He has to get over to the road to Marrowstone Island. Vehicle in the ditch. “Ice,” several people say. Someone adds, “Why didn’t the State sand this road?” That was Kirky. “I don’t know.” That was me. “It gets icy quick.” That was one of the Disco Bay people, probably glad they didn’t have to use the jaws of life.

That’s a guess.  

“No, no ticket,” the Patrolman says. “It was an accident.”

A few minutes later, I’m in the front of the cab with the Angel, Kirky; the Nissan on the hook, headed home via Eaglemount and Center Roads. Kirky drops off the rig at Mountain Mechanic, downtown. I offer to buy him some gas at the Quilcene Village Store. I jump out of the tow truck to pay (cash saves ten cents per gallon). I fall flat on my face on the asphalt.

Black ice. Perfect timing.

Yeah, I’m all right. If you want to see where I hit, check out the second tree before the guardrails start. It has several signs on it and two new scars a few feet up from the bank. If you want to make an offer on a Nissan Pathfinder, slightly damaged, you can check it out; downtown Quilcene.

STEPHEN R. DAVIS UPDATE: The last I heard Steve was back at the University of Washington Hospital. He had (has) a bad reaction to some drugs he had been prescribed. He developed a rash pretty much all over his body, including his throat and eyes. Not comfortable. I am hoping for the best. I will update.

Sierra’s GoFundMe for Stephen R. Davis

People have been asking me for an update on Stephen’s… situation. Trish told me about a GoFundMe campaign Steve’s fiance’ Sierra has started. This was last night, with a big ass thunder-snow event closing down Surf Route 101 (still closed this morning) from where it connects with Highway 104, all the way past Hoodsport. I will cover some of that… next time.

I am posting part (hopefully enough) of what Sierra created as a GoFundMe page.

Help my partner, Stephen Davis, battle cancer

$9,450 raised of $50,000 goal

51 donationsShareDonate nowThis fundraiser is located near you.

Sierra-Marie Billesbach is organizing this fundraiser.

Hello,
My name is Sierra-Marie, and I am fundraising to help my partner get through his cancer treatment. Stephen found out on December 16th that he has cancer, and after a week+ long stay in the hospital, the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance doctors confirmed that he has stage 4 mantle cell lymphoma: a rare blood cancer that left him with an enlarged spleen, which is what prompted him to go to the doctors, after feeling a lump while he was out surfing. The doctors believe that this cancer has been growing since about the same time Stephen lost his beautiful son, 2 years and 10 months ago. It started growing slowly, but has picked up speed in it’s growth rate in the last few months. Current statistics on this particular cancer do not look good… However, he is going to be doing a clinical trial that has had a 93% success rate in the first stage. We are scared, but hopeful that he will beat this. He is looking at at LEAST 6 rounds of heavy and intense chemotherapy, and a bone marrow transplant.
Stephen is incredibly strong and kind. He has helped me heal in so many ways this past year. I really want to be able to help him through this battle; to hold him, as he held me. The stress of this diagnosis is already heavy on our hearts, but now the financial stress is definitely lingering over our heads. We know that no matter what, we will figure out a way to make it work. We have both survived so many obstacles, and this is just yet another… but we are asking our loved ones to help us in this trying time.
As we contemplate moving closer to the cancer center, what things we may need to sell to get through this, and many other questions we have about life and death, the only thing we know is that so much is unknown. No matter the outcome, we will brave this storm together. If you feel compelled to donate, we would be so grateful… and if you can’t afford to at this time, please consider sharing this fundraiser.
We love you all, and thank you for taking the time to read this. sending love and healing to all in this new year.

Steve… on the water

Slipping and Sliding into Whatever’s Next

The temperature outside our place had dipped down to fifteen degrees Fahrenheit (that’s minus nine point four four four four… for Celsius fans) at the stroke of midnight, Pacific Standard Time, before un-dipping to a slightly less deadly twenty-one (minus six point one one one one… at… checking… eight: forty-six a.m. (ante-meridiem for Latin lovers, or ‘before noon’ for those who… okay, I’m thinking the difference between lovers of breakfast and fans of brunch, and, now, because I am thinking, I’m considering dawn patrollers and surfers who prefer seeing what we’re paddling out and into; and, remembering my days in crowded California waves, I can’t help but mention that the onshores usually started about 10:30 am, brunch; but, yes, P.M. stands for ‘post meridiem,’ or, for those who like to time a siesta before the afternoon glass off, um, yeah, afternoon).

So, HAPPY NEW YEAR!

You might be thinking about how low the bar must be set for 2022 being better than 2021. Try not to.

I do have a new drawing. BUT FIRST, since I did mention my friend Stephen R. Davis’s recent diagnosis, he did spend some time at the University of Washington hospital, did see a specialist in lymphomas (pleural), and was told that what he has (and Trish did look up all the scary shit) is imminently curable.

He did give up coffee, switching to smoothies. Surprising to me, since every time I’ve worked with, or surfed with, or casually run into Steve, he asked (past tense now, I guess), “Hey, Erwin; you have any… coffee?” And this is him with a bit left in a fancy store-bought cup with the wraparound finger-protecting paper. “Yeah; of course, I brought enough for me… in a thermos. Folgers. On sale. Costco.” “Oh, okay.”

Still, Steve wasn’t a coffee snob. I did ask him to return the thermos I gave him. He says he will try to find it. Steve is going back in a couple of weeks to get started on a program.

I do know other who have life-changing if not life-threatening conditions. Here’s what we do: We keep going. That was kind of the point of my drawing, originally meant, maybe, as a holiday card; now, perhaps, I can say it’s a Happy New Year’s illustration. Forward, onward, sideslipping down the line.

Next post might be, “What’s Wrong With ‘Swamis’ and how I’m fixing it.”

Please Scroll Down

This isn’t the post I intended to write. I already wrote one and sent it out into the whatever-sphere. SO, if you would be so kind, scroll down. I mean, after you read this one. We should remind ourselves occasionally, that surfers are part of a culture, if not a tribe. While we have hassles in the water and resentments out of the water, we are all, theoretically, connected in a love of the ocean.

Theoretically. Don’t mistake me for a blind purist. I am talking about real surfers. I do, and we all do, make a distinction.

Often mentioned on this site, Stephen R. Davis is not only a real surfer, but a lover of all things related to water. He surfs, kite surfs, skis, snowboards, sails, actually owns and sometimes lives on a sailboat, and, bonus, Steve plays ice hockey. My friend Steve, one of the funnest guys to hang out with, work with, share a surf trip or a surf session with, even a wave with (and I am notoriously not fond of party waves), is spending this Christmas at the University of Washington Hospital.

A nagging pain he has had for a while finally convinced Steve to get it checked out. There’s worry, no doubt, with the not knowing and the delay. He had another visit with the doctor, with tests and another appointment the next day. That was at 9am. 9:35am, plans were set in motion to get Steve to U-Dub.

That was Wednesday. There have been tests, a biopsy. Steve said he spent most of Friday taking phone calls in which he had to console people worried about him. Odd dynamic we humans have. There are a lot of people, in Steve’s case, who need to be consoled. I’m really not trying to add to that list. Steve’s doctors are telling him the condition is curable. Chemo. It’s more like, “We’ll see.” He will be in the hospital until at least Monday, with, hopefully, other hospital visits in Port Townsend rather than Seattle.

Steve’s girlfriend Sierra is over there with him now. “How’s she handling it.” “Good. Good.”

Steve says he’s optimistic. I say I am optimistic. Optimism is on a sort of sliding scale. I can be optimistic, based on positive buoy readings and history, that I will find rideable waves. Hopeful. Even if I arrive at a spot and the waves are not as hoped, maybe, with a change in tide… maybe.

Most of us have had injuries or illnesses that kept us out of the water. We have all heard of others who have had it worse. I have a sprained ankle, someone else has a broken leg. In mentioning Steve’s illness with others, I have heard about others, close to them, who have this or had that, who live with this or died from that. With plague and famine and war, cancer is the most fearsome, the grimmest of reapers.

It has taken someone from each of us. Yet, some have battled it and won. Hope, again. Sliding scale.

Another good, longtime friend of Trisha’s and mine, is down in the Sacramento area. His just-turned-110 father is in hospice. Yeah, One-hundred-and-by-god-ten-years old.

If I think about it, and I do try hard not to, there are others who come to mind. Archie, real name Atsushi Endo, who had a stroke several years ago, is still in Thailand. He has gotten back in the water. I have been a poor friend to Archie. I haven’t reached out. I am keeping his ten-foot surfboard for his return, but I did steal the fin when I broke the last one I had. I did name the main character in my novel after him.

Do I feel guilty. Yeah. I have earned it.

I did call Steve last night, Christmas Eve. Maybe I wanted him to tell me not to worry, to console me. Maybe. I do know I talked long enough that Steve had to say, “Um, Erwin; uh, I kind of have to get off the phone now, take my meds.” “Yeah, yeah, but…”

I am not trying to guilt you out. If you can’t reach out to someone, maybe just… think about them.

Anyway, one of the two new drawings featured in the next/previous posting (also from today) features a wave, a left, breaking, the sun behind it. This is, and I told Steve this, kind of a response/challenge to, or a competition with a drawing Steve was doing when we were crossing Puget Sound. Quick pencil sketch. The wave… perfectly rendered. “Steve, maybe you should add some spray off the top. I do like the way you showed the wave spitting.” “Here, you want to add to it.” “No, no, I’d never do that.”

What I would do is… scroll down, you’ll see. I want to be surfing with Steve for… years.

I almost said, ‘as long as I can stand up.’ Joke, like it’s about me. It is only in this way: We really can’t do much, if anything, to help someone else. Prayers and wishes are sent somewhere out in the whatever-sphere. Doesn’t mean they’re wasted. It could be a case of, with a change in the tide… maybe.

Console, be consoled. Consolation. Peace.

You Say You Want a Resolution…

…well, well, you know… HEY arctic blasters and sliders and sideslippers on water, snow, or ice; those of you out in the frigid temps on whatever chunk of frozen tundra or slick highway you’re on; and those of us wondering which delicious holiday treat will send us over the line, while hoping our pipes don’t freeze and the power doesn’t go out… to all of you and all of us, the merriest of Christmas and/or whatever holiday or event you chose to celebrate, or ignore, or give lip service to, even if it’s only to binge watch TV or… whatever, just, hopefully you’re somewhere warm and with people you love, and… yeah, I am suddenly thinking maybe you braved the highways and stop lights and backed-up ferries and all, and you’re bobbing in ice-water, breezes fresh off the freshly fallen snow. Yeah, Happy Holidays to you, also.

I have been doing a bit more drawing lately. Here are my latest:

But first- Yeah, I do have some problems with technology, and I have had some issues with my scanner. No, besides that I can’t seem to find the exact placement that gives the illustration a fighting chance at coming out squared-up. Trying, as always, to get something out both brilliant and quick, my last attempt at scanning just wouldn’t blanking (Trish believes I should cut back on the fucking swearing) complete, finish, come across with something I can post. Shucks! Dang!

OKAY, I upped the resolution from 200 to 300. Dangerous, yes; but successful.

YEAH, you could have just skipped ahead to the illustrations. HERE:

300 resolution takes a bit longer to process
only 200, like I can tell the difference
Oh, now I see, now I can see all the little mistakes. No problem, I have copies of the white and black version and a complete selection of colored pencils. Yes, I am aware it is slightly crooked.

WAIT. I had a thought the other day that is possibly related to family gatherings. You can choose your friends; you can’t choose your family. Yeah, that; and we can’t always choose who we are in the lineup with; and most of them probably didn’t or wouldn’t choose sharing waves with you (probably fine with me- I always assume so); SO, uh, karma and all that… WAIT AGAIN- that kind of sounded like I was about to make a NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION or something. Yeah, I always promise to be nicer in the water; mostly I’m just so excited to be in the water, enjoying what even the most cynical ripper has to admit is a gift. See you out there!

I mean, you know, when it warms up. A little.

Searching for One Thing…

…finding another.

Not what I was looking for, what I found

We’re here, the Solstice, the official start of the bleak dark season, jump-started a bit more than usual, right after Halloween. I’m not nearly far enough into the third full-on rewrite of “Swamis,” cutting and chopping and polishing and tightening and (I would love to say) perfecting the plot, honing-in on what is just way too important to me, the dialogue.

There are so many scenes/encounters that I have already cut; some of which I have posted here. There is a certain interplay that I wanted to include, a meeting between RUTH DeFREINES, wife of the recently deceased detective, and the detective’s longtime partner, LARRY WENDELL.

The occasion for this encounter between these two is this: CHULO was murdered, set alight at Swamis. Chulo was a witness to the highway accident, a month earlier, in which JOSEPH DeFREINES died. Ruth and JOSEPH (aka Jody/Joey) DeFREINES, Junior, were involved in the accident. Joey was responsible for his father going off the road. Chulo, at Ruth’s request, lied about Joey being present at the accident scene. Larry, recently separated, has feelings for Ruth, believes she was in the vehicle his partner went off the highway to avoid, and is attempting to cover up what he believes to be the truth.

Not complicated at all. BUT, when Chulo is murdered, Ruth wants to find out what Wendall knows. My dilemma is this: Joey is the narrator, and I am trying to not include scenes he is not witness to. So, I have Larry telling Joey about Ruth attacking him about what he knows about Chulo’s death, or I write that actual scene.

Or I write both and drop one. No, probably both.

All of the characters in “Swamis,” are fictional composites of several real people. My mother would be the obvious model for Ruth. How my mother would react to situations helps, but the real fun is imagining the many ways Ruth, and each of the characters, is different; fictional, but realistic enough that, if you ask me the backstory of even incidental players, I have answers.

I am, clearly, not going to take the time to write the above scene right now. Later. BUT here’s what I was looking for when I did an image search: My real mother worked at the Base Photo Lab at Camp Pendleton in the late 1960s. She worked with Marines who had photographed war and all its aspects, in World War II and/or Korea, and some, no doubt, were taking photographs in Vietnam. My brothers and sisters and I (some portion of 7) went to my mom’s work for at least one Christmas party. Not a fun group, the photographers. Many, including a neighbor we had for a while, had seen too much. If I asked my mom why Scott’s father was so… solemn, she answered, “He was at Iwo Jimo, other places.” These men were damaged- some more than others.

Or so I still believe. Okay, so Ruth works at… yes, the photo lab. It works. Orphaned in World War II Japan, married to an Ex-Marine (if there is such a person), ex hired thug, ex patrol officer… yeah; damaged individuals with a damaged son who either has brain damage or is kind of… dangerous… sure; building blocks for a novel that a reader of the second unexpurgated version described as “Cutsie.”

I can’t leave that at that. He also said, “I see what you were going for here- a slice of life kind of thing.”

Oh? Like… real? I hope so. Without going into the overly-psychedelic or cliched way in which the late 1960s might be and have been portrayed, the setting is mostly bright if not sunny. Joey is, in some ways, like Alice in a different wonderland. Surfers in a time of board revolution, cops with aspirations, marijuana marketeers in a period of rapid and dangerous growth. Do we really remember as much about Alice as we do the characters she meets?

Still, no Mad Hatters or Cheshire Cats, but a logical chain of events in a crazy, real-as-I-can-get-it world.

I am obviously getting too far into whatever writing process I have been muddling/working through, but, if “Swamis” is the last novel I ever write… it is going to, eventually, be tight.

Not that this piece is. BUT while I was looking for some image connected to the Base Photo Lab, I came across the photograph, above. A Marine on a phone, another one behind him. That is what my father did in World War II and Korea. He ran phone lines. The enemy tore them down. They ran them again. He was at Guadalcanal, he interacted with the Navajo Code Talkers (as Trisha’s father, he from the supply side), and I’m not sure where else he served. He didn’t talk to me about it. Saying my father was at Guadalcanal is usually enough.

My actual father; some percentage of the fictional Joey’s fictional father.

That’s actually what the scene I haven’t written and might not write hinges on: Detective DeFreines did tell stories from work to Ruth; the guys she worked with did not. Saying someone was at Iwo Jimo is enough. Probably.

Happy Solstice! Peace.

I HAVE TO add that Joey is not me. I do steal some experiences from my life, but no. Not me. Characteristics from several other people are included; Joey’s reactions are imagined. Here’s a line I will eventually cut. It is between Joey and JUMPER, probably the most fictional character in “Swamis.” They are in a critical and dangerous situation. Joey- “We are not friends; but we are… close.”

New Original Erwin’s Originals*

Perhaps I should explain the process. I draw something (the actual original*) and then I dick with it. Perhaps I should explain dicking with it: Get a copy, possibly a reversal (black to white, white to black), then I do some coloring.

In the case of the Orca, and I have drawn Orcas before. Okay, once. So, Stephen Davis’s girlfriend (bethrothed [sp], couldn’t spell fiance’ [sp] correctly either), Sierra, evidently, wanted a birthday card featuring the beloved and feared local on the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Salish Sea, and, more local for me, occasionally patrolling the Hood Canal. “So, hey, Steve; why don’t you just draw her one?” “Maybe I will.” “Maybe I will.” “Okay.” So, I drew this one:

Yes, it is in color. I didn’t scan the black and white version

Okay, so, as usual, I show the drawing to Trish. “Orcas are, you know, black?” “Isn’t it?” “No.” Okay, so, with the illustration on my clear plastic drawing board, I trace the outline and do a drawing where the black will become white (printery- my scanner sucks). Then, hanging out at THE PRINTERY in Port Townsend while STEVEN does some machine/computer interface magic, and a constant stream of customers cruise through the doors, I color in the reversed image. Still, I was a bit hurried. The result is this:

The white and black version looked way too flat… flatish

Yeah, well; I felt compelled to put in something, partially based on Stephen Davis’s recent run-in with supposed locals, about how there are true locals. Despite getting good reviews from any of the PRINTERY customers who happened to check out my stuff (one guy commented on my use of crayons. “Um, uh, no; colored pencils.” “Still…”) I am not totally happy with the coloring job (kind of lose the orca outline), but then, I’m never truly done with any drawing.

I have the originals. I can go back. Some time. Later.

Meanwhile, here’s one my scanner wouldn’t let me scan last time I tried.

Not sure what to do with this one. Tried it as a Holiday card. Maybe I’ll try again.

I did post this card before, as in before I added the new stuff.

Plain and…
…fancy.

Because of the seasonal (paying) work slowdown, and while it’s cold and rainy or colder and sleeting, even colder and clear, I continue to work on the third full rewrite of “Swamis.” I know the story; I know each of the characters so very well; I’ve endeavored to edit and cut and chop. Stephen Davis, when I showed him the illustration immediately above, said, “Maybe your writing is kind of like… this.” “Yeah. It is.” My philosophy on the ‘psychedelic’ drawings is that ‘it isn’t done until it’s overdone.’

I love simple, but simple is really… difficult. I’ll keep trying, but I am stubborn enough to not give up on the purposefully kinetic and the clinically insanely overdrawn.

I do have something ready; an outline that was an attempt to simplify the trilogy I tried to cram into one book; an outline that became something, mostly because I just fucking love the dialogue, more a script than a treatment. More on that forthcoming. If you can help me sell it, let me know.

Merry, Happy, Peaceful, and; I just couldn’t keep it simple, a few lined-up waves to lean into.

Gifts for the Truly Deserving…

  …and the rest of us.

Waves, rideable waves, somewhere on the scale between junky/fun and perfect, are a product of strong winds at a distance, a favorable or lack of wind at a beach that has the right bottom contour, the right orientation to the swell; and at a tide level that suits the spot; high tide here, low tide there; incoming, outgoing. It takes so many factors to produce a perfect wave. Or a near-perfect wave. Or a fun wave.

A gift.

Sure. It isn’t difficult to acknowledge this.

It is too often said that surfers, surfing, should be the happiest folks around.

So, here’s a couple of stories kind of fitting for the season of dark and storm and rain and occasional offshore winds, occasional combinations of factors, occasional gifts:

another gift

ONE- Most of the breaks on the Strait are adjacent to streams and rivers. Heavy rains have moved rock and gravel and forced long walling swells into sculpted peaks, directed the incoming energy down a line.

What natural forces have created; the same forces can also destroy. So it was that what was once a rarely breaking spot became a sometimes wonderous break; and then was altered, gravel moved, bottom contour shifted. Another wave, gone.

With the wave went the crew that tried to localize the break with threats and aggression.

Well, next spot, same behavior.

Bear in mind that there are very few true locals. Realize that if you play the local card here, you are a visitor everywhere else. An interloper, a, let’s just say, guest.

We should also admit that localism works, to an extent. Ruin someone’s fun, that person might not come back. This from surfers who endure multiple skunkings in exchange for occasional waves, write that off, justify the expense of traveling and waiting and not working.

I am talking about a specific incident; but that one assault, and I will call pulling the leash of another surfer who has, by our long-established priority guidelines, the right to that particular wave; that one aggressive, self-centered, possibly dangerous and possibly criminal act, that assault is one among, if not many, too many.

TWO- It was (here’s one from the past- just to keep it out here) “Colder than a snow-capped brass witches’ tit.” I was aware that it was a day we probably would have been surfing, but it being December, this was the only day a painting job in Silverdale could be completed.

With help from Reggie and Steve, it was. At dark, another frontal system showing.

Exhausting, but Steve, for one of his jobs, had to go to Lowes. I had the van for transporting the twelve-foot baseboard stock. Okay. I wanted to treat Steve and me to some Arby’s. I wanted to get some gas at Costco.

Costco is the training ground for aggressiveness. Parking, checking out, moving through the aisles; split second decisions are needed.

I was headed pretty much straight for the gas pumps. I got to a stop. I was turning right. This guy in a truck was turning left. I had priority. He cut me off. Then, turning left into the non-full waiting area, he cut off someone coming straight. Another priority foul. Fucker.

But me, no, I was calm, putting in cards, punching in numbers, looking over at the fucker in the silver Silverado, topping off his tank. I didn’t call him out. I just spoke, with my outdoor voice, to the guy across from me. “Hope the asshole has some place really important to get to.” Shit like that. None of it really mattered. The Silverado shithead grabbed his receipt and peeled out.

“Mine, mine, mine!”

THREE- Enroute to Arby’s, I had to go down to the traffic light with the longest wait time in all of Silverdale; just past, on the right, The Lover’s Package and the Sherwin-Williams, both closed; and on the left, a church.

Ahead of me I see a thin man in a boony hat pushing a man in a wheelchair across the road, left to right. Whoa!. Dangerous. I pulled my big ass van into the center of the road so some other hurried Silverdalian wouldn’t hit them.

Best I could do.

Long light. I got to watch this: The guy in the boony hat gets the wheelchair to the curb. The guy in the wheelchair is too big to get him and the chair up to the sidewalk. The wheelchair guy pretty much falls out onto the sidewalk. He has one leg. One. He does a half crawl across the sidewalk to a post for, I don’t know, a light or something. Boony hat gets the wheelchair up to the sidewalk. The guy with one leg pulls some blankets and, maybe, a jacket off the wheelchair. He maneuvers himself until he has his back against the pole. The boony hat guy starts covering him with the blankets, parks the wheelchair. They both, possibly, prepared for the night; a cold fucking night.

The light changes. I turn left onto Silverdale Way, make an immediate right into Arby’s. I wait for Steve. We go inside. I order. They don’t have milkshakes. Damn. I get a large drink, only a few cents more than a small. I create a ‘graveyard,’ a mixture of most but not all of the available drink choices. It is something I learned from chaperoning, back when my kids where in school. Delicious. Two classic beef and chedders for six bucks. Great for the ride home.

No, I didn’t do anything to help anyone. I could have. Two for six bucks. I was tired. It would be forty-five minutes to get home, if the bridge was open and no one decided to crash and close the highway.

No moral here, no high ground. Writing this doesn’t do shit for the one-legged guy or the boony hat guy. Wait, maybe there’s this: Given the choices each of us has, multiple times every day, to be an asshole or not be an asshole; occasionally choose not to be an asshole.

I could add, whether or not you believe in angels, for that guy in the wheelchair, the thin man in the boony hat… angel.