The Only-Recently-Passed but Already-Old Normal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Swamis,” The Opening Pages

I am still working on editing (I could say polishing, a little more writer-ish) the last twenty or so pages.  I have published other pages here, broken up with, yeah, other stuff, BUT, if you scroll down, you can read the first so many pages in order.  I picked up a ten pack of flash drives yesterday, socially distancing my way through a “Staples.”  It’s actually cheaper than printing up copies.  I plan on mailing them to some folks.

One of those is my friend since sixth grade, Ray Hicks.  Now, for some reason, as I was illegally calling people while driving, and almost everyone is probably stuck at home binge-watching, no one seemed to be answering.  This seemed like some kind of scary foreshadowing from a cheap horror movie.  Minimum traffic on the roads on a Saturday, gray clouds and a south wind as I crossed the Hood Canal Bridge toward what used to be civilization.  OH, WAIT, it’s Western Washington, gray clouds and wind are normal.

NORMAL. Where did normal go? I would have cued the music, but “This American Life” seemed to be featuring crying and sadness, and KPTZ, from Port Townsend, was airing another Corona-update.

So I did the voice-text thing, speaking slowly, spelling words out I, evidently, can’t pronounce correctly (enough).  I said I hoped he (Ray) was safe, that I heard all the parking lots near the surf are closed down there, assumed he was working from home, and that he may want me to take his name (Ray) out of “Swamis,” partially because most of what the character (Ray) does, he (still Ray) didn’t actually do.

Without ever explaining why he didn’t pick up, Ray texted back, later (and I never seem to hear the prompts for texts) that the statute of limitations had probably run out for anything his character may have done in 1969, and, yeah, parking lots are closed to reduce the numbers of beach enthusiasts, and yes, he is working from home despite there only being, maybe, three other people in the large commercial building where he would, in normal times, work.

So, okay; I’ll look for his (Ray’s) address, send him a flash drive, after I get the final pages slicked-up.   I SHOULD ADD, “Swamis” is fiction, but I do include real surfers, name-dropped (Cheer Critchlow, Margo Godfrey, more) most of the characters are composites of several people.  Ray and my other best-friend-who-also-surfed, Phillip, are based on the real people insomuch as I imagined how they would react in the fictional situations.

“Swamis” is a fake-memoir as much as anything, and I do also include an Erwin, mostly because, and maybe this is me setting up possible scenarios, I imagine people from the era trying to figure out who this person or that one is based on.  Again, statute of limitations, but Erwin is not me.

Still, I steal experiences and memories from him.  It took this many years to get the materials together to write “Swamis,” I better get back to finishing it.

Meanwhile, PLEASE STAY SAFE.  Real prayers and virtual hugs (not that I’ve ever been a big time hugger), and I think I know a place where one can sneak in to get a few waves.

SWAMIS        A novel by Erwin A. Dence, Jr.

PART ONE- MONDAY, JUNE 9, 1969

-Free! A week ahead of San Dieguito, other high schools. 3-4 ft. Swamis. All day! Not too crowded. Yea! Jumper? Sid? Weirdness. Still unloading boxes. Not too many today. Talked w/Tony abt job at San Elijo Grocery. I’m a fucking Local. Officially-

SWAMIS, ENCINITAS, CALIFORNIA

The stairway there at the time, I swear, was steeper; steep; and, hurrying down it, almost-leaping from stair to stair; I was looking at the water, the lines, the horizon; counting, then recounting the surfers already in the water; trying to beat any other surfers who missed the true dawn patrol. Swamis was again, finally, it seemed, breaking; tide dropping; swell, hopefully, increasing. It would get crowded.

I know I leapt over the last two steps, to the sand. I always did. Ritual.

PERIPHERAL VISION

Two surfers were walking from halfway up the point, along the water’s edge. I wasn’t focused on them; they were shapes, so familiar; surfer and board, nose-up or nose-down, more-or-less crosses in the grainy light, the shadows of the bluff. One was walking faster, trying to catch up. “June,” I heard, or thought I heard; then, more like a question, “Junipero?” Then, closer to the guy in front of him, and louder; “Jumper.”

“Jumper,” I thought. Jumper. Now I almost focused.

Almost. It was a moment, just a moment between a surfer reaching for and touching the other surfer’s shoulder. I’ve always believed it was Sid, reaching; Sid, a locally-known surfer; Surfboards Hawaii team rider; known to thrash his boards; known to take on crazy waves, to burn valley cowboys and out-of-town surfers, even Orange County magazine surf stars down to trade crowded beach breaks for a chance at Swamis point break magic. Sid, who had appeared, hanging ten, in a small, grainy, black and white ad in “Surfer” magazine.

I must have blinked. Sid was flat-out, on his back, parallel to that line where the sand turned hard with the receding tide. His board was floating in the shallows, Jumper’s board pressed, nose-first, to his neck; Jumper’s foot on his chest.

Jumper. Fucking Jumper. Jumper Hayes. He was back in town, back at Swamis. Back.

BACKSPACE…

If we could just ‘backspace’ time, fifteen seconds, maybe, to fully see, to comprehend what happened in those fleeting-then-gone moments we witnessed but couldn’t immediately process. Maybe ‘replay’ is more accurate. Ten seconds even.

Fifty years gone, I’m trying to replay moments, bits and fragments and images and strings; strings of time; so many strings; some tangled, some free.

Oh, I broke free of the North County surf scene years ago; lost my contacts, forgot names, confused and overlapped stories from Grandview and Pipes and Cardiff Reef. I do still remember specific rides among thousands; remember, almost precisely, the times I was injured; held down, hit the bottom, was hit by someone else’s board; or my own; but, and I’ve tried, I can’t remember Sid’s last name

But I do remember Jumper. Jumper Hayes.

In another moment, with me even with them, trying to be cool, to not look, both surfers were sitting on Jumper’s board. Peripheral vision. No, probably did turn my head. Never was cool.

Jumper looked different than I remembered. He was thinner, his hair was shorter, but, even with the patchy start of a beard, he was still recognizable; the same guy from, probably, four years earlier; 1965, back when I was just switching from surf mats to boards; back when he caught any wave he wanted any time he showed up. The Army or prison; stories about his disappearance varied; rumors among high school friends who quoted various upper classmen, scattered pieces from other people’s beachfire conversations.

“I heard he moved to Hawaii, hitting the north shore,” or, “No, Buttwipe; Australia. Or New Zealand. One of them,” Or, “San Francisco; joined a cult,” or, “Chicago.” “No fucking way.” “San Francisco, then.” “Nooooo.”  “Maybe he just ran away. Different circus.” “Fuck you, Joe.”

Someone would then go into a Jumper surf impression, with play-by-play commentary, on any nearby surfboard; Right arm back, elbow cocked, hand like a conductor’s, flowing with the up-and-down movements on the imagined wave; subtle, the left arm lower, hand out flat; punctuated with, rather than the classic cross step to the nose, the quick shuffle, the jump; then a crouch and a shift to a more parallel stance, right hand in the wave, left hand grabbing the outside rail. Twist, weight forward; the fin would pop out of the sand.

“Island pullout.”

Someone else would repeat the performance, only, left foot on the tip in a solid five, upper torso shifting to face the wave, arms spreading wide; he would pull the skeg, make the rotation, yell, “Standing island pullout”, and shuffle back on the board, casually drop to his knees, ready to paddle out.

Yes, I participated in this. Yes, I tried to develop that “Jumper” conductor-dancer flow on my skateboard, pivoting, slaloming down my block, on inland hills, miles from the ocean. I had a long enough board, eventually, to go with the cross step; more like Phil Edwards, Micki Dora.

Style.

But those were longboard moves. Time had passed; what constituted style had changed. And Jumper had been gone a while. Somewhere.

Jumper was probably my second surf hero. Maybe third. Heroes dominated lineups. Kooks and kids gave way, gave waves, watched them, always trying to stay out of the way. Now this same Jumper was, quite possibly, crying, one hand on Sid’s shoulder, one of Sid’s on his. It was Sid who looked around at me with a ‘fuck off’ look.

Peripheral. No, I’d looked back.

I looked away, kept walking. Still only a short distance away, I did what every surfer does, and always has; studied the ocean for a moment before committing; disciple before the alter.

When I looked back, from out in the water, from my lineup, the inside lineup, Sid and Jumper were halfway up the stairs. Sid was one step ahead, one above. When two guys came down, Sid, probably because he didn’t know them, or because he did, made the down-stair surfers split up and go around. Jumper moved behind Sid’s block.

A set approached. Surfers, who had been straddling their boards in the lull, dropped to prone, started paddling. At this tide, some of the waves from the outside peak were still connecting all the way through. The first one didn’t; the surfer on it lost behind a section. Two surfers went for the shoulder as I stroked past. The second wave swung wide, peaked-up on the inside. I had it to myself; another takeoff, drop, turn, cutback, back and forth to the inside inside, fitting my board into and through that last little power pocket, peeling over the palm of the finger slabs that opened to the sea. A standing island pullout into the swampy grass. Swamis.

TUESDAY, JUNE 24, 1969

-dawn patrol. Grndvw. First one out. 1-3, tide too high. Checked all spots. W/Frd moved heavy furniture. Stocked shelves. Bagged. Tony told stories about Dad. Amusing-

PEACE AND FREEDOM AND REVOLUTION

If the Noah’s Ark trailer park wasn’t still there, there on the north end of Leucadia, yet another trailer park squatted up against yet another bluff along 101, protected from the south winds; if it wasn’t still there in 1969; it had been there on those trips with my family, down the coastal route to San Diego.

I understand there’s a jetty there now. Ponto.

I also can’t clearly remember if the fields north of Grandview, the original Grandview, the fields along those bluffs, were fields of tomatoes or strawberries. I know there were no houses. There were the Leucadia greenhouses, closer to the highway, in among the eucalyptus trees. Flowers. It was what Leucadia was known for. Poinsettias in particular.

Maybe not these particular greenhouses.

Turning off 101, I drove past several. One, and this had been pointed out to me by more than one of my high school surfing buddies, belonged to the family of Jumper Hayes. On this morning, still dark, what the forecasters called ‘early morning and evening overcast,’ or ‘June gloom’ hanging on, almost misty; I saw Jumper’s old pickup, almost-flat paint a weird shade of green in the light of the yard lamp, parked next to a van with brightly colored flowers painted on it, outside one of the greenhouses. Only the tail, fin over the tailgate, showed this farm rig was a surfer’s vehicle.

I gave myself a bit of a self-congratulatory nod, a quick smack on the shifter, three-on-the-tree; double-clutched down to second, gunned it.

It had become my workday predawn move, up and down Neptune, checking out Grandview, Beacons, Stone Steps; possibly surfing whichever one had a more consistent peak. Or a peak at all. If it was bigger, big enough, I would push the fourth-hand Falcon station wagon farther, along the bluff, passing the increasingly fancy houses blocking any view of the water, to another low point between the bluffs, Moonlight beach. Rarely surfed there. I’d then go up, zig-zagging other streets when Neptune ended, cruising past even fancier homes; finally skirting the thick white walls and the gold bulbs of the Self Realization compound, the reason Swamis is named Swamis. I would pull onto the shoulder of 101, slide into the public parking area, much smaller in 1969, and there I’d be. Swami’s Point

Someone recently sent me a photo of the place, way back, no buildings, no stairs, with “No Name Point” penciled in. The little park once had an official name, Seacliff Park, I think; long since replaced. Nickname to official designation; Swamis.

Or, depending on my hours; when I got off work, I would turn onto 101 at Cardiff reef, pass the state park, try to get a glimpse of Swamis over the guardrail. If it was breaking big enough, you could see it. I would hit the parking lot and get out. Even if it wasn’t breaking, even in the dark, I’d go to the edge of the bluff and check the view.

With Boneyards as far as you could see past the point, I would check, right to left, the outside, then the inside takeoff spots, then the channel, then south, past what my high school friends and I called Swamis Beachbreak, on, to and beyond Pipes and its namesake galvanized culverts, still shiny at that time, protruding fifteen feet or so out of the sandstone bluffs.

Maybe there’d be some last lighters, still hanging in the parking lot; their stories of new and past glories punctuated with a hoot or a laugh; headlights and streetlights in a descending darkness and a dim glow from the horizon.

Swamis was where I wanted to surf. First choice. June gloom or bright offshore glare; breaking or not. What I felt, and was totally aware of feeling, was that my choice of route and destination was mine, mine alone; that I was pretty fuckin’ close to being free.

Within reason, of course.

SO FUCK-ING COOL… MAN

For a short period of time, but right about this time; well past ‘groovy,’ way past anyone remotely cool (or young) calling anyone a ‘Hippie,’ I made the adjustment, from ‘fuckin’, dropping the ‘ing,’ to Fuck-ing, emphasis on the ‘ing.’ This was after running into a guy, Gordy, a year ahead of me in high school, at a liquor store in Vista. He was sporting a full beard and long hair (longer- Fallbrook had a dress code and I’d just graduated), parted in the middle (of course), and clothing, Hippie-garb I called it, that denied his quite-upper class upbringing.

“So fuck-ing’ cool, man. We just don’t fuck-ing’ see each other, man; like, like we used to.” And he was, obviously, stoned, with an even more-stoned girl, possibly still in high school; headband, boutique-chic top hanging precariously on her breasts, nodding, giggling, eyes unable to focus or even adjust to the light from the coolers; next to him.

I was looking at the girl. Maybe I knew an older brother or sister.   She looked at me, squinting, then nodding, a finger pointed way too close to my eyes. Big smile. “My brother Larry,” she said, “he says you’re a fuck-ing’ asshole; oh and…” She lost her thought. Emphasis on the ‘ing.’

“Larry. Yeah. Well.” Larry. Yeah. Larry’s little sister.

I walked toward the counter, looked at the guy behind it; older guy, sort of leering at the girl. “Larry’s little sister,” I said. The guy nodded. Appreciatively (by which I mean creepily). “She probably going to be, like…” I looked at her (questioningly, not, I hope, creepily). “…a Junior?” she nodded. “Like, uh, next year?”

“Uh huh.”

“Class of, uh, a second…”

“Seventy-one! Yea!” She made a bit of a cheerleader pompom gesture, one hand, a jump motion without actually getting off the ground. Junior Varsity.

I looked back at the Counter Guy. He looked at Gordy. A little judgey, not that Gordy noticed.

Gordy put a hand on my shoulder. I looked at his hand. He took it away. I put two one-dollar bills, my package of Hostess donettes and a quart of chocolate milk on the counter, pointed to a pack of Marlboros (hard pack) on the back wall, turned back to Gordy and Larry’s sister. Gordy sort of gave me a specific (disappointed) look.

“I know, man… Gordie; you probably don’t fuck-ing’ smoke… cigarettes.” He and the girl both giggled.

The Counter Guy set the cigarettes on the counter, rang up the carton of milk and the donettes.

“Pack of matches, too; please.”

Counter Guy put two packs of matches on top of the Marlboros. “You’re seventeen, huh?”

I didn’t think. “Yeah, I am.”

“Well,” he said, “Got to be eighteen.”

He slid the cigarettes back toward him, a fifty-cent piece and two dimes and two pennies back to me.

“Oh,” I said, “I’m eighteen, too. I meant…”

“And you, sir?” he asked of Gordy.

“I left my license in my other pants,” I said. Counter Guy ignored me, smiled (still creepily) at Larry’s sister. She probably took it as flirting.

Gordy put one hand on the cigarettes, the other on my change. “I’m eighteen,” he said, “and I can fucking prove it.”

“Didn’t mean to be so… fucking uncool, Gordy,” I said, as we stepped outside.

“Nah; it’s cool,” Gordy said. He flipped me the cigarettes, one pack of matches, kept one pack; pulled Larry’s sister closer to him, put his hand out as two (obviously) off-duty Marines approached (obviously Marines, obviously off duty), both looking more at her than at him. “Either of you two gentlemen twenty-one?” he asked, pulling out several ten-dollar bills.

Neither of them was, but the next guy approaching, not a Marine, definitely was. He looked at the two Marines, at Gordy, at Larry’s sister. He put his hand out, said, “it’ll cost you.”

“Peace, man,” I said, walking away, waving my free hand in a peace sign. Gordy flipped me the peace sign with the hand holding the money, but quickly, and not where the Marines could see the gesture.   Not that they or the Citizen taking money from Gordy and him were looking past Larry’s sister. She gave each of them a very quick, weak smile, and, in a moment of self-awareness, pulled her top up a little higher on her breasts.

Class of ’71. Yea!

Maybe I was trying to make up for my uncoolness in challenging Gordy. Probably. Yeah. Flipping the peace sign was pretty much over. On special occasions, perhaps; displayed and shared with what we would only later refer to as ‘ironically.’

My relative freedom isn’t, perhaps, relevant to the story. Maybe it is. These were times when ‘freedom’ and ‘peace’ and ‘revolution’ were frequently used in the same sentence. For someone just out of high school, freshly moved to a house two blocks off of surf route fucking 101, someone working various shifts at a supermarket with a view of the ocean; joy and loneliness and a sense of being part of some grand mystery could all be felt in a very short span of time; and repeated, randomly.

MYSTERIES

Why, I had been asking myself, had Sid call Jumper ‘June?’ June with a hard J; not an H sound. If his real name was, say, Jesus; well, anyone would instantly know better than to say Jesus, like Jesus Christ, but, rather, Hey-Seuss, like Hey, Doctor Seuss, dropping the ‘doctor.’

Mysteries ask to be solved. Beg, perhaps. Rumors. Surfing, waves, surfing waves well; that was a mystery. Board surfing was more than just drop in and hang on.

Someone I met much later, a former member of the La Jolla/Windansea group, ten years or so older than me; old enough to have dived for abalone and lobster; old enough to have ridden a new balsa wood board, called surfing in his era ‘plowing.’

“We just sort of plowed,” he said; but when I switched to boards, in 1965, diving for and selling abalone and ‘bugs’ (lobster) for cash was already over; being a ‘true waterman’ was no longer a priority. This only added to the mystique. There was a certain reverence, respect, held by surfers of the “Everybody goes surfing, surfing U.S.A.” era for the members of that post-war generation; beatnik/hotrod/rock n’ roll/pre-Gidget/rebellious/outsider/loner surfers plowing empty waves.

That is, for those (of us) who actually gave a shit.

Tamarack was obvious; one peak in front of the bathrooms on the bluff, a bit of a channel; a parking lot at beach level. Good place to learn; sit on the shoulder; wait, watch, study; move toward the peak; a bit closer with each session. Get yelled at; get threatened; learn.

Eventually, if you wanted to improve, you would have to challenge yourself to ride bigger waves, beachbreaks with no channel, tough paddle outs. You would have to learn to hold tightly to the board’s rails, your arms loose enough to move with the violence of a breaking wave. If you wanted to surf the best waves, even at Tamarack, you would have to challenge someone for a wave.

INLANDNESS

There were rumors, when I’d only surfed Tamarack and, oddly, Doheny; tantalizing rumors of better waves, great waves, magical waves. There were secret spots, places where uncool inland freshmen kooks weren’t supposed to know about, and where they definitely weren’t supposed to show up. If your mother was dropping you off; worse. Probably. Once in the water, one is on his (or, I should say, his or her) own.

Grandview was fairly easy to find. There is a Grandview Street off 101 in Leucadia. Obvious. Still, when I showed up there with my friends, now sophomores, we got looks. Punks, Kooks; not ready for Grandview. The hardest looks were from other San Marcos, Vista, Fallbrook, Escondido surfers; other inland cowboys.

Inlandness was, and still is, in direct proportion to distance from the coast. Where I lived, Fallbrook, we called Escondido Mexican-dido. That was, of course, insensitive. Maybe; but I understand Meth-condido has replaced it. Maybe some other pun has replaced that one.

As with, probably, anywhere, you had to persist. I did. My contemporaries (from school, from the Boy Scouts, from church) and I, as some of them started (tried out) surfing, searched out new locations; across Camp Pendleton to San Onofre; occasionally Oceanside Pier. Some dropped surfing, traded it for parties fueled with liquor purchased by willing Marines (bribed with “I’ll buy if you fly,” or “Hey, just be cool, man,”), or marijuana bought from friends of friends. I had become, and remained, another surf addict; and Grandview was on my route.

By the end of my senior year, I had become accustomed to going surfing alone.

And now, here I was, almost recognized (not necessarily accepted) as a part of the lineup; slipping and sliding down the gully, more-sand-than-sandstone in the still-empty lot between houses, original Grandview, the real Grandview; and ahead of the ultimate local, back after four years or so away, Jumper Hayes.

Just ahead.

Peace and freedom and revolution. Re-vol-u-tion.

THURSDAY, MARCH 13, 1969

-Kicked out of English (again) for disrupting class. In the hall. Back in when petition by famous authors (nicer students) requested it. Phil and Ray ditched. Again. Murdr at Swamis. Chulo. On TV. Fuck-

SHERWOOD FOREST AND THE EMERALD CITY

I have to drop back for a moment. The story hinges on this. Chulo Lopez had been killed the night before, murdered. His real name wasn’t Chulo; nickname; Julio was his real first name. Chulo means attractive, good looking. Chulio was a variation his closer friends used. I wasn’t one of those; I heard them, the variations on his name, out in the water, on the beach.

I would never even call him Chulo. That would be daring, presumptuous. And it would presume he had spoken to me, by name or nickname, first. Never happened.

The murder would have been big in the newspapers, Oceanside’s “Blade-Tribune,” and “The San Diego Union,” though it never made Fallbrook’s weekly paper, “The Village News.” Reports of the incident and follow-ups on the investigation were featured on the San Diego TV news, but not for more than a week or so. North County.

I must add that I didn’t typically, in fact, almost never stayed up late enough to watch the eleven O’clock news. I had gotten a phone call, at home, collect, from Phillip. “Who?” I asked the operator before I accepted the charges. Kind of a joke. The person requested could hear the person they were calling.

Phillip and Ray had ditched after fourth period and headed west, while I had a test to take sixth period, and had packing and moving chores to attend to. Besides, I rarely ditched. Four times, total; twice to go surfing, two times goaded into it by friends. No surfing; not worth it.

“Can’t park anywhere close to Swamis right now,” Phil said, “Cops and firemen and TV crews. A fucking murder at Swamis. Last night, but… shit, man, turn on the TV; it’ll have to be on there. Fucking murder. Dude was burned up. Burned! Up!”

The TV took a moment to warm up. “You get any waves?”

Now it was Ray. “No, man; south wind. We parked up, off of 101, past the Sunset shop, and hung out in the parking lot. Quite the scene, man.”

Me- “Okay. The news is…almost… couple of minutes. Maybe you can call me when you’re… when it’s not collect.”

Ray- “Jeez, man. Thought you’d want to know. You know? You.”

Me- “Thanks. Yeah. I, uh; sure. Thanks… man. Hey, wait; do they know who… who it was?”

Ray- “Thought you… okay; it’s your dime. Um… Phil; what’d that chick say the guy’s name was?”

Philip (in background)- “Chulo? Yeah. Chulo. I know Joe’s heard of him. Chulo.”

CHULO…

Phillip (taking the phone)- “Chulo. Uh; yeah. (to Ray) Ray, you’ve seen him. Older guy. Looks like Jesus. Has kind of a limp. (to me) Not when he’s surfing. Chulo. Right?”

Me- “Je-sus!”

Phillip- “No; but looks like him. Looked.”

Ray (in background, laughing)- “Looked.”

There was a report, but no footage. Film would have to be driven thirty miles to San Diego and developed before it could go on air. “Film at eleven.” Instead, there were some still photos of the Self Realization Fellowship compound, a photo that was actually Moonlight Beach, captioned as “Swamis Point.”

“Horrific” the studio commentator said. “The San Diego County Sheriff’s Office reports Mister Lopez, a well-known local surfer, was probably dead… probably… when his body was ‘posed’ against the thick white walls of the Self Realization Fellowship compound, here, in the North County, Encinitas, doused with gasoline, and set ablaze. Set ablaze.” Ablaze.

All I could imagine was those photos of a Buddhist monk purposefully burning himself up in Vietnam in 1963. “Self- immolation” it was called. Immolation.

Horrific.

FILM AT ELEVEN

I had tried to stay awake past ten; watch some of those shows my friends watch, shows I’d never seen. I didn’t make it. My mom… she must have set an alarm… she woke me up.

The late news commentator’s face remained on the screen just a moment too long, mouthing ‘set ablaze’ with just a bit of a smile. He made a sort of sweeping motion with his hand. The screen went blank for another moment before the image of a younger, hipper man appeared, outside, in the daylight. Shaking his head just a bit, he turned, dramatically, toward the camera, swung his microphone (again, in a dramatic, roundhouse kind of move) close to his face. “It’s a frightening scene here in the North County,” he said.

The reporter stepped aside. The camera panned the crowd of surfers, non-surfers, behind the rope. No one seemed particularly frightened. Some, caught by the camera, gave expressions of shock, others looked away. One little boy alerted an even younger girl of the camera. They both waved at the camera. Smiling.

The angle slowly moved in, past the firefighters and cops, just milling about or talking in groups of two or three. There was no body. I had, probably, thought there might be; maybe covered up. No. The blackened areas on the always white white stucco-over-brick compound walls formed a sort of outline, the darkness around a candle’s flame.

The TV camera followed the burn marks up to the over-large gold bulbs atop the wall. There was a sort of symmetry, a repetition. “Set ablaze.”

Chulo’s body, his remains, had, of course, been gone long before the TV crew arrived.

Channels 4, 8, and ten; those were our choices in the Fallbrook, several L.A. stations if someone climbed on the roof and moved the antenna, or, after my father installed it, if someone rotated it between fuzziness left and fuzziness right. Since it was the lead story on each of the channels, my mom chose channel 8; the anchorman was her favorite.

The camera again panned the crowd, moving back to the on-scene reporter. He didn’t quite have his serious face set. He looked annoyed for just a second.

I recognized a couple of the onlookers. Two or three were locals Surfers. The others watching: Some were Surfers from out of town; some were Tourists, with an itinerary, beaches and Missions- San Diego, San Luis Rey, Capistrano; some were grown-up, Working People, taking a lunch break. Others were Hodads and/or part-time Hippies, interchangeable characters in proper hippie garb.

Then Phillip, followed by Ray, both smoking cigarettes, walked through the crowd. Phil looked at the camera, then dropped the cigarette, moved between some other gawkers. Ray pretty-much smiled at the camera, exhaling a puff of smoke.

——————————————————————————————————————————-

NOTE- Phillip and Ray were (I’ll get to this) busted, partially because of this incident, for serial ditching at Fallbrook High. They had so many hours of detention to serve (the usual punishment, an hour served for each hour missed) that they couldn’t do the time before graduation. They were, instead, tasked with having to pick up trash around the campus at nutrition and lunch until the end of the year. While some students threw wrappers and apple cores and lunch sacks to the ground when they saw either (or both) of them approaching with their large canvas bags and sticks with a nail on the end; they were also folk heroes of sorts, rebels; an enviable status. Peace signs and nods, a few slugs to the shoulder (precursor to the high five and/or fist bump); maybe an already-dated ‘far out’ or ‘right on;’ probably not a ‘groovy,’ even from some otherwise-clueless classmate.

——————————————————————————————————————————-

The segment ended, the on-scene guy saying something about the next day’s weather, ‘throwing it back’ to the studio.

The camera angle zoomed to the far end of the lot. A bus, a converted ‘little bus’ from somewhere, painted in shades of blue, with white clouds and some waves painted on the side, moved between the reporter and the scene. “Jesus Saves” was lettered on the side.

“Retard bus,” Freddy said.

“No, Freddy,” my mom said, “We don’t say that. And, hey, what are you doing up?”

“You’re up.”

“The bus,” I said; “it’s like it’s always there, in the parking lot; trying, I guess, to save the souls of the wicked surfers.” I gave my mom a look that I hoped meant I was not included in the ‘wicked’ group. “Oh, and there’s this woman; Portia; seems to be in charge; tall, long hair; and it, the bus, it, it goes all over. I’ve seen it in Fallbrook, even, out on Alvarado. I think maybe, Chulo… maybe he… he could have been… maybe it’s part of some kind of… I mean, they… I’ve been around… at Swamis… no one tried to talk to me. Maybe…”

I wasn’t interrupted; I just stopped talking. When I looked around, my mother and Freddy were looking at me. “About ten seconds,” Freddy said. “Pretty good.”

“More like five,” my mom said. “Pretty good.” She moved to ruffle my hair. “You need a haircut, Junior. Graduation.”

“No, Mom; graduation’s why I’m not getting it cut. None of my friends are. Freedom!”

She looked into my eyes. I smiled; this to remind her I was still her little boy. “Now Freddy,” I said, “he could use a nice butch cut or a bootcamp cut, high and tight.”

“You’re not a detective, Junior,” my mom said, picking up the plates as the news switched to a short segment with the latest network coverage from Vietnam.

“Not yet,” I said.

FRIDAY, MARCH 14, 1969

Always

It looks like I may not be able to get stuff done at my local print shop for a while.  Surf zones are increasingly off limits.  Everybody is freaking freaking-out.  We’ll adapt.  We’ll survive.  Maybe we’ll be stronger.  Maybe we’ll be nicer, kinder, more connected; able to give up a set wave or two.  Easy to say; I’m still freaking out, but, another little thing; it’s actually to freak out to the max for an extended length of time.  We don’t get the time back we spent stressed, we can’t freaking control most of the things that are stressing us; it kind of makes the point that we should, perhaps, be calm.

Adam Wipeout, after I texted him that he shouldn’t spread rumors about, like, the governor shutting shit down, that we should try to spread calm, texted back, and it’s evidently a quote from the John Goodman character in “The Big Lebowski,” “I’m calmer than you are, Dude.”

Yeah.  No doubt.  Still, it’s probably better than the usual texts I get from Adam, when he scores and I could have been there; “You would have loved it, Dude.”

As a siding guy once told me, somewhere after the fifteenth time or so that I referred to him as “The Siding Dude,” “Hey, don’t call me dude, Man.”

For some reason, Stephen Davis thought this was extremely funny when I told him the story yesterday, probably for the fifth or sixth time.

Laughter in the time of Corona.  Stress laughter.  I don’t really care; I’m just trying to get through.  Meanwhile, with fifty or so pages of “Swamis” to edit for the many-ith time; I better take advantage of this down time to finish it.  And I will.

Scan_20200322 (2)

Scan_20200322

Here’s a side by side, original, reversed image and black for white, reverse reverse.

Remember, we’re all in this together; separately together.  Surf when you can. Be safe.

Almost the Beginning Almost the End

I’m seriously close to completing the full-body go-over of the manuscript for “Swamis,” trying to keep the whole thing under or close to 120,000 words, which is, yeah, a lot of words.  This, and surviving the omni-demic have been my main focus of late.  But, I have been discussing an overhaul of realsurfers.net with Keith Darrock; as in, adding at least one more page so readers (and I) can more easily access earlier content.

Yeah, it’d be great.  I would put “Swamis” (copyright  2020) on a page.  I have been posting portions occasionally, with the thought that one could, pushing through the other stuff, read it from the beginning toward the, probably, a point only about a sixth of the way through.  That is, after I post one more section.  This begins at about page 11.  So,  soon, but as with so many things, and I’m thinking about the end of this crisis and a return to a less fearful normal, not yet.  “Swamis”

“Not yet,” I said.

FRIDAY, MARCH 14, 1969-

-Wish I’d ditched. Tests. More tests. Phil & Ray discussed murder. Don’t know shit. Busted for ditching. Gingerbread Fred on TV-

SCENES IN THE FALLBROOK UNION HIGH SCHOOLYARD

Phillip and Ray lead the discussion about the murder and the excitement. There was a bigger than usual crowd at the big concrete planter boxes, designed with seating all around, trees and bark inside them, that had been the unofficial surfers’ break and lunch time hang out since we were freshmen. The break was called ‘nutrition,’ between second and third periods, and there were two trailers set up where nutritious snacks like orange-sickles and twinkies could be purchased.

Mostly Ray was talking, with Phillip adding key points, and Erwin looking out for any nearby teachers. Mark and three of the Billys were there. I was in my usual spot, standing in the planter, observing, listening. Some of the local toughs and the cooler non-surfers were, unusually, part of this day’s group; listening; more friends of friends of Ray and Phil.

Two of the rich kids came over from the Senior Area. Mike, who had been my best friend up until third grade, jumped up next to me on the planter. “Missed the excitement, huh?”

“Guess so.”

BRAGGING RIGHTS

In our freshman year, the big concrete planter was the pre-school, break, and lunchtime hangout for Erwin and Phillip and me. With the administrative building behind it, the gymnasium/cafeteria downhill, most of the classrooms to the west, and a bit of shade provided by the trees, it was a good place for observing while still laying low, avoiding… avoiding the other students; the older students in particular; but also any awkward interactions with girls and rich kids and new kids from Pauma Valley (East, toward Palomar Mountain) and Camp Pendleton (West) and Bonsall (Southwest) and Rainbow and Temecula.

Temecula. In my senior year, 1969, there were four or five kids from there; three were siblings; two Hanks sisters, one brother. These days, if people don’t know where Fallbrook is, they have heard of Temecula. Big city. “Yeah, sure, Temecula; out on The 15.”

Putting “The” in front of the name of highways came later, along with traffic helicopters and rush hour destination forecasts. Later.

I-15 was Highway 395 then, and Temecula was, often, twisted into Tim-me’-cu’-la; not for any good reason except, perhaps, it was more inland, farther East than Fallbrook, Fallbrook that self-identified (with signage) as “The Friendly Village;” but was nicknamed, in a self-deprecating way, Frog-butt.

Again, the planter was a good place to observe the daily run of mostly manufactured dramas, crushes and romances and slights and breakups, from. High ground. The planter offered a good view of the slatted, backless wooden benches where the sociable girls, this clique and that one, sat (one or two sitting, two or three standing), in groupings established through some mysterious sort of class/status jockeying, some girls able to move from one group to another; some not.

The planter was adjacent to the Senior Area, a sort of skewed rectangle of grass and concrete with covered picnic tables. This chunk of real estate was off limits and jealously guarded, mostly by guys in red Warriors letterman jackets, against intruders; though anyone who made any effort to appear cool (particularly when talking with underclass girls) would feel obligated to say the exclusivity of the senior area was no big deal.

Girls. Yeah, the planter was a good place to observe girls, some I’d known since kindergarten. Changing. So quickly. Heartbeat by heartbeat. Girls. So mysterious.

It’s not that I didn’t try to understand how a (comparatively) poor girl with a great personality could be in with three rich girls, at least one of whom was totally bitchy (I mean ‘slightly difficult, quite mean, and unreasonably demanding,’ but I would have meant and said bitchy back then). I figured it was because they knew each other before we figured out whose parents had more money than whose (ours).

Phillip was new, from Orange County, Tustin; but he had done some surfing, his older sister going out with a guy who was definitely in with the four or five older, real surfers. Phil and I shared a couple of classes. I’d known Erwin since kindergarten. He was a Seventh Day Adventist, which was, he explained, “Kind of like Christians following Jewish traditions.” “Oh, so that’s why you’re not supposed to surf on Saturdays?” “It’s the Sabbath. Holy. Sundown Friday until sundown Saturday.” “Too bad.” “Well; we have gone to, um, Doheny; somewhere we wouldn’t run into anyone from, you know, here.” “Oh?” “Yeah; hypocrisy and guilt. If surfing isn’t, you know, actually sinful…” “Oh, but you know it is.” “Sure is.”

Erwin was one of the only Adventists at our school, and he, separately, started board surfing right after junior high; about the same time I did; when his sister, Suellen, beguiled by “Gidget” movies and an episode of “Dr. Kildare,” probably (no doubt, actually); got herself a used surfboard and let her brother borrow it.

Sinful, yes; addictive, undoubtedly. I saw Erwin sitting on his sister’s board, toward the channel of the lineup, on a Sunday. Tamarack.

I challenged him to move closer. Closer to the peak, closer to the crowd. He challenged me. We did; and sat, anxiously, outside (farther from the shore) of where the waves were breaking, watching other surfers, from the back, take all the waves. When a set wave showed up, we were (accidently) in position. We both; head down, paddled for it; he prone, me on my knees. I pearled, straight down, my board popping back dangerously close to other surfers scrambling out. Erwin rode the wave. Probably quite ungracefully; but, if only between him and I, he had bragging rights.

More bragging rights, but only between Erwin and me. Being ignored for a mediocre ride was far better than being noticed, called-out as a kook, told by three surfers, only one of them older than I was, to go practice knee-paddling in the nearby Carlsbad Slough.

I never did. I persisted. I got better. I had significant surf bumps by the time I started riding boards that took knee-paddling out of the equation.

Sometimes I, or Phillip and I, would go (on a Sunday) with Erwin’s mom and his many siblings; sometimes Phillip (on a Saturday) or both of them (on a Sunday, after school, or on a holiday) would go with Freddy and me and my mom. Always to Tamarack. Lower parking lot. Freddy never surfed a board. Surf mat; the real kind, hard, nipple-ripping canvas. Sometimes Freddy and I would get dropped-off, try to fit into the crowd, ease close to someone else’s fire when our mom’s shopping took longer than the time we could manage to stay in the water.

GETTING BETTER

Every six months or so, for pretty much as long as I can remember, my mom would take me down 101, through the magical beach towns, eucalyptus trees bending over 101, occasional glimpses of waves, and down the long swoop into La Jolla. La Jolla, home of Windansea and, my father used to say, “of Doctor Salk (of the polio vaccine), and Dr. Seuss (not really a doctor).”

When I was younger, my mom would say, on the way down and in the waiting room; “Junior, don’t tell the doctor we have you in regular public school.” “I’m getting better,” I would say. Later it became, “Don’t tell the doctor we let you surf;” then, “Don’t let him know we let you drive.”

“You’re getting better,” she would say. “I know,” I would answer.

The last time my mother and I went together, just before my sixteenth birthday (driving on my learner’s permit), the doctor said, “You just might grow out of this. I’m optimistic.”

On the way home, my mom said we should stop at the Hansen shop. “How about Surfboards Hawaii? Cooler. Ray and Phillip both have them. It’s, they’re… cooler.” “Of course. Okay.” For the first time, I picked out my own board, used, from the back room. “You’d better try it out,” she said. She waited around, talking to someone else’s mother in the parking lot while I surfed perfect mid-day Swamis.

It was magical.

I was getting better.

CONTEMPORARIES

Ray and some of the other guys our age started surfing the summer after our freshman year, so Phillip and Erwin and I were better than they were, we were ahead of them. Many of our contemporaries at least tried it. Anyone newer to surfing than you were was a kook and/or gremmie. Surfing had its own dress code and, more importantly, a fairly strict behavioral standard. It was fine to get all jazzed up among other surfers, going to or from the beach, but not cool to kook out among non-surfers.

Even in the proper surf gear, Phillip and Ray, both blondes, looked more like what TV and movies said surfers should look like (unless you were foolish enough to believe Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon were anything even close to real-real surfers knew the extras, the background guys, Miki Dora especially, and Mickey Munoz, were the real surfers). Erwin and I, dark haired; even dressed in the requisite surf garb of the time, weren’t immediately recognized as surfers, weren’t immediately given whatever prestige we thought surfers received.

Or we were, and the prestige wasn’t what we thought it might be.

By the time we were seniors, most of the other Fallbrook surfers our age had dropped off; surfing was less important than whatever they were doing; though they still looked like surfers and always asked when I’d gone last; always said we’d have to go, together, some time.

Some time. We still rarely hung out in the Senior Area. The planters.

We all seemed to have cars; hand-me-downs from parents or older siblings off somewhere new. We could go surfing alone. Phillip and Ray had girlfriends, on and off. Even Erwin had a girlfriend, Trish; not an Adventist. Separate lives. Separate adventures. Romances. Drama. Sometimes we’d still surf together; usually not.

The stories of those adventures connected us. Loosely, probably.

I studied, I surfed. But, at nutrition and at lunch, pretending not to notice the swirl of so many stories around me, this concrete planter box was my social scene.

Because the topic of the murder was so unusual, a larger than usual crowd had gathered. All the surfers in the school, even lower-class (as in freshmen, sophomores) members, were listening. I pulled Ray up onto the planter. He kept talking, not loud, but for Ray, who I’ve only witnessed being uncool once (and not that uncool) since he came to Fallbrook in sixth grade, somewhat enthusiastically.

Possibly because of the large crowd, the Vice Principal, formerly a Biology teacher (I forget his name), who wanted, evidently, more money (because he obviously didn’t enjoy this job), wearing a tie but no coat, approached. Ray stopped talking. Mike jumped off the planter.

“Saw you on the news, Ray,” the Vice Principal said, as Ray crouched, then jumped down from the planter box.

“Busted,” someone in the crowd said.

“Where’s your running mate; Phillip?” The crowd kind of separated. Phillip stuck out both his hands, as if ready for handcuffs, then looked at Ray. Ray followed suit. Both had smiles that looked more like smirks.

“Busted,” one of the Billys, Bigger Billy, I think, said; though it was more like, ‘Busss-ted.’

“DeFreines,” the Vice Principal said, “kindly get out of the planter box.”

Ray and Phillip walked toward the office, followed by the Vice Principal. B-2 Bomber Billy yelled, “Free-dom!” Everyone pretty much turned away. The bell rang.

BEACH SCENES AND JESUS FREAKS

While many North County surf spots were accessed by parking in a neighborhood, or, single file, along 101, those with parking areas that featured an actual view of the surf; Tamarack, Beacons, Cardiff, even Moonlight Beach; had their own parking lot scenes. These are different than beach scenes, or what happens in the water. Mostly it was surfers standing on the bluff, or leaning on cars, or standing by fires, assessing the surf or chatting about who was out. Those who had surfed would always relive their best rides. San Onofre was much better known for its tradition of beach activities; bonfires and fish frys and luaus, straw hats and ukuleles.

Swamis had the best parking area scene. Amphitheater view, limited parking.

There always seemed to be, even when the surf wasn’t breaking, people hanging around. There were ‘the Hippie Movement is dead, man’ Hippies, The Hodads, and the ‘yeah, I used to surf; back in the old days’ Liars, and the Real Surfers. The Legitimate Old Timers were always ready to talk on and on about some past swell. Kooks bragged and boasted, way too excited about rides and waves from some yesterday, and even more excited about waves in some future.

Occasionally you could see someone from the Self Realization Fellowship, someone who willingly travelled to this retreat. Founded by Paramahansa Yogananda in 1920, the Encinitas facility at what was then called “No Name Point” was opened in the 1940s in the still very rural North County. By the sixties, the thick white walls were surrounded on three sides by driveways and 101 and this parking lot, and the pilgrims and followers didn’t look too much different than folks at a Billy Graham TV crusade; maybe a little more contemplative, quieter; following one of the robed, East Indian (usually) ‘Swamis’ on a tour around the outside perimeter, sideways-glances at the rest of us.

The unenlightened.  Not quite infidels, though everyone is an infidel to someone.

There was one guy who seemed to be in charge of tending the strip of plants immediately adjacent to the stucco walls. He had long, black, frizzy (not quite curly) hair, and a pretty impressive beard. He had, I noticed, on a humid afternoon, a San Diego Padres t-shirt under his (unbuttoned in the heat) work shirt.

And there were the Jesus Freaks. Chulo wasn’t really one of them. He was a serious disciple; or totally seemed to be. He wasn’t tall, probably five foot six or so. Though he fit in, fashion wise, with other surfers when I first saw him at the beach, 1966, Swamis, before he had the limp, by the end of 1968 he frequently wore robes, not always white, sandals, and had long black hair and a matching beard. He usually, even in the water, before even I gave up wearing ‘Hippy beads,’ had a heavy looking wooden cross around his neck, suspended by what looked like pretty common rope. Twine, maybe. Hemp.

There were three times, total, in my life that Chulo spoke to me. He didn’t ask me if I knew Jesus. He said, following my eyes to a set of waves on the horizon, and then to the clouds ascending from there (I was on Christmas break), “This is why we must praise Jesus… his many gifts.” I answered with a weak, “Uh huh,” followed with a stronger, “Yeah. Yes.”

He may have only said something to me the second time because I was in his path, between where the ‘Hayes Flowers’ van was parked (next to the ‘Jesus Saves’ bus) and the new bathroom building. He set his board down, fin up, near the bluff. I was just standing there, planning on saying something about the waves or the crowd or the weather. “Jesus loves you,” he said. I couldn’t bring myself to give some kind of smartass response.

“I hope so,” I said. I’m still not sure why. Chulo stepped close enough to make me uncomfortable, studied my eyes a second or two, long enough. Too long. He smiled.

“I think I know you.” I was more uncomfortable. “I know this: Jesus does know, and… He loves… you.”

Chulo seemed pleased with my discomfort. He touched my shoulder and walked on. His limp made him seem like someone who had carried some sort of cross, real or metaphoric. I stepped forward, toward the bluff, out of his path when he returned. He was wearing classic Birdwell trunks, formerly red, now almost pink. “Still looking?”

“Uh; yeah.”

“Get in the water, man.” He had dropped his soft, controlled disciple voice, reverting to surfer-speak, loud enough to be heard over breaking waves (that’s always been my excuse). “So crowded, who’d notice one more?”

UP WITH PEOPLE

No, the ones I called Jesus Freaks were scrubbed clean, “Up With People”* scrubbed, Hippie-backlash clean-cut, “Good News for Modern Man,” **New Testament Christians; most too young to have done the onerous deeds they seemed to be seeking salvation from; always asking, “Do you know Jesus?” “Yes,” I would always say. “Oh. Oh… (waiting for me to recant) great.” “Yeah. He is my personal redeemer and my salvation; my guide and my Lord.” At this point I would look up, extend and raise my hands, close my eyes.

*Founded 1968. **First published in 1966.

Sometimes they would leave. “Oh. Can we pray together?” One of them (they usually travelled in twos) would eventually ask this. I would act like I was thinking about it; then ask, “Isn’t religion a personal relationship between one and one’s God; or one’s non-god?” Then, “Is there a group rate to heaven?” Then, “Do we choose, or are we chosen? And, if we’re not chosen…?” Then, “If we are all sinners, are we not all also hypocrites? Jesus had harsh words for hypocrites, right? Has. Present tense. Risen savior.” Then, if necessary, “Wouldn’t you agree that evangelizing, trying to convert someone when you have no way of knowing if that person has a closer relationship to a greater power than your own; might your act diminish or discount the role of the Holy Ghost?”

DEEP CUTS AND POPOUTS

Most would-be evangelists were out freaked before I actually quoted scripture. This was good; I really only knew the easy verses, the hits; no deep cuts. I did know a few that suited me. “Peace, you say; but what about Luke twelve, forty-nine?” Oh, they might have known Matthew 10:34, but this was more obscure, meaning, to the right person, that I had studied.

Always a competition. “Yeah, in which Jesus says, ‘I have come to ignite a fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled.’ What about that?”

I never did use this verse, it was one of many never studied at Tuesday night Bible study, never quoted in church services by any of the various preachers; my dad, one of the Deacons, up on the stage, scanning the crowd, making sure his wife and two sons were properly attentive; but I was ready.

We no longer go to that church. We live in Leucadia now. Far enough away.

Still, the Jesus Freaks were somewhat cooler than the old folks I had gone to church with; nodding and nodding off, dropping an inappropriately placed ‘amen’; and cooler than the Jehovah’s Witnesses, always ready to act like they gave hand you a pamphlet selling something you were having too much fun to be interested in. I did once, back in Fallbrook, sell one of the three boards leaning against the porch, to one of two (or both, maybe) Mormons (or Jehovah’s Witnesses, maybe) who had made their way up our driveway. Their ties were quickly pulled off, shirts untucked; they were through evangelizing (and/or witnessing) for the day.

“Got any rope?”

“Yeah. Sure.”

They were so stoked to be tying-down a dinged-up and badly patched board (by me- huge de-lam on the deck) to the top of an old Pontiac; a cheap, factory-cranked-out popout board (as opposed to a custom, or even a stock model from a shop with a name- Dewey Weber, Southcoast, Greg Noll) my dad got cheap from the impound room at Camp Pendleton. Trestles; one would be a fool to take a good board there. If you lost it, three jarheads might wait for it, dancing in and out of the shoreline, hoping to not get their boots wet.

I will try to tighten up my writing. Sorry; memories overlap like the loose photos that didn’t make the album.

I have to admit I loved the parking lot scenes; and admit that it was hard for a seventeen-year-old to compete with some epic swell story from some era one wasn’t part of. I certainly couldn’t; not stories with outsized characters and adventures. I always listened; the tales were always like myth, like magic, as if the coast was backed-up by Sherwood Forest and the Emerald City. Legends.

WATER SCENES

Since I went into some amount of depth on the beach scene at Swamis, I should mention the scene in the water, the lineup. Maybe I have said enough. When I first switched to board surfing, paddling head down and blind to what an approaching wave was doing, I, no doubt, ruined rides for surfers already on those waves. Sorry. Lectures and threats followed. Peer pressure. There was a lineup, I learned, more shown than told, and a priority system.

The priority rule seemed to be that the best surfer got the waves of his choice. Surfers who knew each other, locals, usually, seemed to gather around the takeoff zone, and surfers who dared to challenge the lineup were not appreciated.

Interlopers.

“Who’s that guy?”

This, with recent enthusiasts touting some sort of more equitable process, hasn’t really changed. Three in the water; take turns. Fine. Thirty; doesn’t work.

Somewhere in my third year of surfing, fifteen years old or so; so, 1967, I saw three or four guys who had come down from Orange County, maybe even L.A., dominating the main peak at Swamis. They were good; spinners, skeg-first takeoffs, hooting each other on. I was, along with five or six other surfers out, scrapping for the few waves they missed, paddling for the waves that went wide. An older guy, maybe thirty, took exception with their wave-hogging, said he’d been surfing Swamis since the mid-fifties.

It wasn’t so much an angry statement as a ‘you should give me a break (or a wave)’ statement.

“Well,” one of the interlopers said, laughing, backed-up by his laughing buddies, “You should have learned to surf it better.”

Better; I always wanted to surf better. And I was; I was getting better.

GINGERBREAD FRED ON THE TELEVISION

My mother had not allowed me to go to the coast after school (though there was enough daylight to surf) on the day after Chulo’s murder. “Too soon,” she had said. “I need the Falcon.” She didn’t. “Groceries.” She had her own car; not one we were allowed to eat in, and definitely not one I could take to the beach. “We need to pack.”

By dark, packing boxes, taped and labeled, were stacked in groups around the living room. My mother and Freddy and I were on the sectional, in front of the TV. It was black and white. We’d get a color TV when they got it perfected, my father had said, not because my snotty friends have one. Ours was one of the kind where the TV screen was only one part of the TV/record player/radio console. Console. Is that right? Furniture, furniture nonetheless. Swedish modern. Our ‘midnight snack’ plates (apple slices and crackers) were on the coffee table, set on over-large coasters.

My father’s chair, overlarge, overstuffed, a rough sort of brocaded pattern in a purple-ish red, worn armrests, mostly covered with a couple of overlapping blankets, was (I feel I should add this) empty.

“Maybe they won’t show it,” my mother said; “they don’t seem to care much about North County.”

“We sent a crew back up to North County, following up after Wednesday night’s… murder.”

“Gingerbread Fred,” I said, louder than the news anchor, jumping up, moving closer to the screen. It was daytime in the footage and the camera seemed to select him from the small group over by the bluff. No shoes, no shirt under a well-worn reddish-tan v-necked sweater, almost-matching an equally worn, hand-crocheted watchcap on his head, almost-matching hair exploding from underneath it. The camera seemed to move in, then up to his face, a lot of gray in his once-red beard.

“Fred,” Freddy said, “like me.”

Our mom smiled, ruffled Freddy’s hair. “No, Freddy; you will get a haircut.”

“Nothing like you, Freddy,” I said. “Gingerbread Fred claims to have surfed Tijuana Sloughs and Killer Dana, and some mysto breaks outside of Windansea,” Not looking away from the TV, I added, “It was verified, I’m told, by one of the Holders.”

“Okay” my mother and brother both said, not aware that Holders were Encinitas surf pioneers, legends.

“I just saw the flame, man; it was so, um, uh, intense. You know?” Gingerbread Fred’s hands seemed outsized, moving around the same way they did when he talked surf. “Bright. You know? I thought I’d heard something, over by the (all his fingers, both hands, pointing) compound. I like to, you know, man, like, walk on the beach. There was just a sliver of moon. I was coming up, just at the top of the stairs when I seen it. The flames.”

Fred clapped his hands in front of him, way too close to the reporter. She jerked back. “Poof!”

It was a different reporter this time. Young, thin, with a sort of post-beehive but sprayed-stiff hairdo. When she didn’t move the microphone closer, Fred moved closer to it. He was looking at her. “A car was pulling away. No lights. It didn’t squeal out.” He moved his right hand to mimic a car taking off fast.

He turned toward the camera and mimicked the sound. A rumble. “Errrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrcuuuuuuuuhhhhhhhhhh! Just, um… that might have been… before… before the, the… fire. Yeah. No.  After. That’s why I looked over; it was the fire. And then, there was… Screaming. The… all at once. In the air. Ffffwwwwwwweeeeeewwwww! And… it seemed like someone else, like… I thought I saw… on fire. Fire. Fire in the air.” He paused. Rather, he just stopped speaking.

The camera panned back to the reporter. Fred put a hand on her microphone hand, stepped back into the view, visibly crying. “It was, it was a long ways away. I couldn’t…” He stopped again. His hands dropped down, out from his sides; then moved forward, palms out, then up, into a gesture, I thought, of surrender. “I ran, but… I don’t run. Used to. Thought maybe, you know, I might, could help.” The camera moved in too close to Fred’s creased face. “It was like, um, the second coming; maybe; But then… then I could smell the… the fire. Chulo. Good surfer. One time, down at Windansea…”

Gingerbread Fred was gone, gone into the memory. The camera switched, abruptly, to the reporter. She seemed more frightened than affected by Fred’s meltdown. “Well,” she said, “we will continue to follow…”

She continued. She looked, maybe, angry, that she’d lost her composure. TV. It shows every emotion. I stopped listening. Gingerbread Fred, looking even more confused, walked past, in the background. Wally. It looked like Wally, the person who allowed Fred to come close enough to embrace him, offer him support.

“Wally,” I said.

I moved closer to the screen. I was pretty sure I saw Ginny Cole in with a couple of the San Dieguito High School crowd, surfers, but the pan of the crowd passed too quickly. No rewind.

“Ginny,” I said. “Ginny Cole,” I whispered. Ginny.

No, I had my own rewind. Words. Images. Blink. Remember.

“And now, the weather…”

Thanks for reading.  We’re all in this together, we’re told.  At a distance.  One can reach out, call or text some friends; see how they’re doing.

Adaptation and Inspiration and Offshore Winds and Moonlight and Not Much More

Maybe you check the World Surf League site often, even knowing the big time contests are, like just about everything else, on hold, put off, or just plain off; maybe hoping there’s a little video or something  that might give you some inspiration.

If so, you could easily find the photo that I have adapted for this drawing.  I won’t say copied because it’s like, if ten people draw their interpretations of the original Mona Lisa or a statue of David, which one is a copy?  Which one, objectively, does the original justice?  Also, this isn’t the final version.  I’ve done some printshop magic, reversed the black and white, and added some highlights that will, hopefully, add to the same feel that the original photo has.  I’ve also reversed the image (going left rather than right), made some other changes.

Scan_20200318

Oh, yeah; after Keith Darrock, Olympic Peninsula soul rebel and librarian whose library is currently closed to the public, said “the nose of the board is a little too kicked-up and pointy” I fixed it.  So, sure, I can adapt.

I’m getting ever closer to finishing a full manuscript editing of “Swamis.”  Keith and I have discussed the possibility of doing some sort of online reading.  We’ll see.  I would, of course, let you know.

I hope you’re all hanging in here, adapting to whatever new reality this is; and getting a few sliders when you can.

“Hey, Dude; You Binging or What?”

FIRST, as a Public Service Announcement- The Makah Tribal Council has closed the Neah Bay Reservation to non-tribal members until April 27.  You know why.  Yeah, keeping the waves to themselves.                                                                                                                             NO, but it does impact surf traffic out to the various spots on the Olympic Peninsula.          BUT, the good news is there isn’t a particularly great looking swell in the immediate forecast.  I originally heard about the shut down from Stephen Davis, thought I could verify it and pass it on.  “WAIT, what about La Push?”  I don’t know. Maybe it’s open for surfing.  “How is La Push on a two foot swell?”  Hmmm.  Accounts vary.

I haven’t been stuck at home, actually, but I did actually spend about ten minutes yesterday watching a live feed from a beach in Oregon, with some guy trying to get in waves that were not that daunting.  After five minutes I was saying, “PADDLE HARDER you Kook/Hodad/Gremmie/Punk, it’s not like pushing through crowds at Costco, cutting through the line waiting for the next batch of toilet paper, a line of Costcoites and carts that stretched halfway back along the outside wall (‘excuse me, Comrade, I’m cutting through, not in’), getting the next to the last should-be-lifetime supply of paper towels, some old (older than me) guy elbowing me before I could go back for the last one (this was the Kirkland brand, they still had the Bounty, though not in bounty- ha, ha; and besides, I was too busy giving the stinkeye to piggy/hoarder shoppers filling their big ass carts with bottled water and baby wipes to actually pig out myself).  It’s a lull, Hipster Surf Enthusiast,  PADDLE!  It’s not like you’re squeezing in next to the woman who would otherwise be handing out free samples (and there are NO FREE SAMPLES), but is, instead, opening a stack of large cardboard boxes and placing Organic chicken into the cooler, me on the phone with Trish (there was no chicken, organic or manmade, a week ago), asking if she want the breasts AND the legs (she does), and there are other people squeezing against and leaning over me.  Ride some soup, Weekender, go in where you can stand up and WAIT FOR ANOTHER LULL.  It’s not like getting to Costco at ten am and the parking lot was full, the first person I saw coming out is an old guy (already set as someone older than me), and he has on a MAGA hat, with a bottle of Jim Beam and a package of sausages in his basket (perfect for drunk- watching FOX News reality shows); and I want to say something rude AND clever, but I notice he’s looking at me, a list in my hand, wearing my hand-knitted hippy cap and my layered shirts, the one on the outside featuring Christopher Walken (from a Saturday Night Live skit) dressed as Han Solo, with two balloons above him, one saying ‘fast’ the other ‘ships?’ and I just nod and say, ‘Another great day in America.’  OKAY, Buddy, maybe YOU CAN CATCH A FEW REFORMS.”

I gave up watching before the surfer gave up trying.  “GOOD ON YOU, MATE! (this with my attempt at an Australian accent).  I checked out MSN for some signs of hope, tried to catch up on the World Surf League.  No hope there.  Turned on the TV.  I checked out the various sports channels.  Reruns.  Oh.  Sure.  Incidentally, while similarly clicking through various channels on Friday night, I happened to stick for a moment on big time wrestling.  You know, when there’s no audience, it looks kind of, um, fake.  Add a few thousand screaming fans and it seems real.  Or real-er.  Not making a comparison here between that and a, say, Trump rally, but, evidently, with the virus-proof president unable to hold such events, he has decided to break into programming on a random-but-often basis, just to reassure the citizens of these Unites States of America that he’s still OKAY.  I think he said ‘perfect,’ I’ll stick with ‘okay.’

OH, WAIT, I’m not really political, and certainly, If I was political, I’d be so very middle of the road, but, when the president, trying bigly, allegedly, to unite our country against a world wide pandemic, refers to Washington State’s governor, former presidential candidate, climate activist (and, according to my son Sean, who worked on his original election campaign, ‘kind of bland’) Jay Inslee, as ‘a snake,’ I can’t help but think, that if I was hit with that invective, I’d add it to my title.  The Honorable Governor Jay the Snake Inslee.

BEFORE I GO BACK to working on “Swamis,” I do want to say I hope you’re all stocked-up and surviving this weirdness; self-isolating, hunkering-down, avoiding crowds (and nothing says all that like going to Costco and Walmart on a Saturday).  I suddenly almost regret that Trish and I have already binge-watched “Vera” and “Bosch,” and that we’ve just cancelled Showtime and HBO.  Maybe I could see if SURFLINE is offering a free trial.

I DO KIND OF WONDER what the novice surfer from yesterday said about his session. “It was double overhead on the sets.  Caught a few bombs.  Yes.”  YES, I have been accused, though not at a national level, of some mild form of occasional ‘snaking.’  It’s debatable and over-blown, but, if you want to add it to any nickname for or description of me; FEEL FREE.  It’s still America, even if you’re waiting in a line for toilet paper.  Comrade.costco 2ls

More “Swamis?” Yes, More “Swamis”

If you haven’t checked out realsurfers in a while, I’m posting pages from the manuscript in a reverse order.  There are some non-“Swamis” posts between this and the next parts, the plan being, that, when I get back to the beginning, one can read them in order, with, again, the interruptions.  Much like real life, spurts and moments and interruptions.  I have been continuing to re-re-re-edit the manuscript and have recently been moving chunks around in order to make it less confusing.                                                                         This doesn’t mean that the fictitious writer of the fake memoir, Joseph Itsushi (Jody) DeFreines, Junior, doesn’t take a probably-annoying number of narrative side trips, despite my attempts to control him.  OKAY, we just jump in about here and…

I moved closer to the screen. I was pretty sure I saw Ginny Cole in with a couple of the San Dieguito High School crowd, surfers, but the pan of the crowd passed too quickly. No rewind.

“Ginny,” I said. “Ginny Cole,” I whispered. Ginny.

No, I had my own rewind. Words. Images. Blink. Remember.

“And now, the weather…”

PART TWO

SATURDAY, MARCH 15, 1969- THE OPTIMUM VIEW

-Pre-dawn Swamis. South wind. Great parking spot. Checked out murder scene. All cleaned up. Carlsbad Liquor matches. Clue? Wally’s crew there. Ginny Cole. Rousted by Dickson and Wendall. Found pistol. Surfed 1-2 ft Swamis beachbreak w/Ray & Phil. Fallbrook house sold. Profit. Escrow.

The damaged section of the wall at the Self Realization Fellowship was back to white when I next went to Swamis, against my mother’s warnings, two days after Chulo’s murder. It was a Saturday. Weekend. Barely light. I got there early enough to park the dust bowl tan 1964 Falcon station wagon in the choicest spot; a little toward the stairs, but front row, and offering the optimum view of the lineup. It was the same car my Mom had used to drive us to swimming lessons and church and Doctor visits, and to the beach; surf mats and Styrofoam surfies and whining Freddy, maybe an annoying friend of his; the factory installed (optional upgrade) roof racks now pretty much rusted in place.

A predicted swell (this gleaned from other surfers and pressure charts in the Marine Weather section of the newspaper) hadn’t materialized and a south wind was blowing. Cars with surfboards were passing each other up and down 101.   Surfers were hanging out in parking lots and on bluffs and beaches, talking surf, watching the few surfers bobbing in the side chop. Maybe it would clean up, maybe it would actually get bigger.

So, I would wait. Waiting is as important a part of surfing as trying to be in the water before the best conditions hit. My shift, at my new, weekend-only (at that time) didn’t start until ten-thirty; about the time the onshores typically get going. Different with south wind. Perfect. Maybe. I could wait. I had my notebook, college-ruled; I had the probably stolen (not by me) four and eight track tape player under the passenger’s side of the seat; and I could do some studying.

Read, recite, memorize. Study.

I really wanted to sneak over to the crime scene, the thick, high, stucco-finished walls, gold flower bulbs perched above them. There was (and is) a wrought-iron gate in the higher, arched entrance, also topped with the flower (though it could as easily be a flame, not dissimilar to the top of the statue of liberty). This is not the actual entrance to the Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) compound, a place where people go seeking enlightenment, a realization of the true self.

THE OUTSIDE THE WALL GUY

I did walk over. Had to. I expected more. I expected some explanation. There was a man by the wall, wheel-barrowing soil from a pile near the highway to the wall. I had seen him before. I have already mentioned him. Dark skinned. East Indian I presumed. I also presumed him to be the outside-the-wall SRF gardener. He was dressed in a long-sleeved shirt, white, with faded blue workman’s pants, rubber boots, and heavy leather gloves. Most of his face (and I knew he had a beard) was covered in what appeared to be an overlarge (plain cloth) bandana, a standard bandana (they came in red and blue- still do) around his nose and mouth, and a tropical straw hat (quite different from the cowboy style Mexican farmers and landscape workers preferred). He dropped the new soil around newly transplanted, but full-sized plants.

There was no explanation, no evidence that something horrific had occurred. The new paint blended perfectly. The plants looked… it all looked the same as it always had; as it did even in the late 1950s. Exactly the same. Perfect.

If I blinked, I thought, it might be like taking a picture. I might remember details. I might remember better.

Blink.

NOW ANALYZE

“What do you see?” This is what my father would always ask me. I would know it was coming; any time he was around, anywhere. It’s the first thing I remember him saying to me. I always tried to be ready, tried to see everything, determine what it meant. I was never ready; never saw enough.

But, and maybe it’s a good thing, my father would point out the things I had missed; clues; someone’s expressions that were evasive, someone’s words that were lies, patterns and random things that weren’t random, things that meant something.

“Okay,” I would say, “I see it now.”

“Do you? Great; now analyze.”

“Analyze?”

“There’s what you see, and there’s what it means.”

“Analyze.”

CLUES

There were cigarette butts, quite a few of them, forming a half circle, a perimeter, cleaner areas where the structures that held the police tape had been set. No one had bothered to clean up outside the police line. I positioned myself dead center, optimum view, pulled the pack (box, not soft pack) from my windbreaker’s pocket, pack of matches inside, lit up a Marlboro.

“Power of suggestion,” I said to myself, throwing the now-empty pack of matches down with the line of butts. “Peer pressure.”

There was an opened pack of matches on the ground. Half the matches were gone, removed left to right. “Left-handed,” I thought. I picked the pack up, tried one of the matches. Nope, too soggy. Rather hip lettering on the cover, red on black, read, “Carlsbad Liquor.”

Clue?

Yes, I did think it might be a clue; one missed clue. Important. I knew the place. Carlsbad Liquor. Coming north to south, it was just before you would see the ocean. It was there before the 7-11, good place to get snacks. My friends said there were dirty magazines in a back room. One of the Billys (Bigger Billy), supposedly, snuck in; got run out, but not before he saw some, as he described, “sexy, almost disgusting stuff. Close ups.” Closeups? “Adults only,” he said with some sort of indiscernible accent. Hey, it was a liquor store. Adults only.

I put the pack inside the Marlboro box, that in the windbreaker’s inside chest pocket.

The groundskeeper dropped the wheelbarrow in the center of the already-cleaned, formerly roped-off area, threw a wood-handled, metal lawn rake onto the strip of lawn (maintained, I assumed, by the State of California), took out a stiff-bristled push broom, and started sweeping the asphalt along-but outside the crime scene.

He was close enough that I felt I had to say something. “How’s it going?”

He nodded before he spoke, looked at me, looked at the other cars in the lot, the surfers gathered at the edge of the bluff. He didn’t pull down his bandana. “Nasty business, this,” he said.

I probably made that sort of ‘smells bad’ expression, one that he, it seemed, returned. “I was informed that it would be permitted. Clean up. ‘Okey dokey,’ one of the detectives told me.” He pointed a gloved hand, vaguely, toward the compound. “Today.”

I probably stared. It was a bad habit I was, mostly, unaware of. His eyes were darkest brown, bloodshot, and there was something about his eyebrows. I was thinking; thinking about his accent; Indian, of course, but his English, not American-learned; British. Of course.

“I didn’t do the initial… work.” He pointed toward the wall. “Professionals. Contractors (emphasis on the ‘ors’ syllable).” He pulled the bandana down, awkwardly, because of the gloves, looked at me, said, “Sunburn. Even I… one must wear the hat.” He had a bit of trouble pulling the bandana back over his nose. “Sun.”

“You, um, work… (my hands mimicking the sweep of the walls) here? Swamis?”

“Voluntary, one would say; work, yes; compensated; not really; not in… dollars.” I nodded. He went back to sweeping. I stepped back, out of his way. He stopped, looked up. “You’re a surfer. Yes?”

I nodded. “Yeah. I mean, yes. Um, so, um… voluntary; like… like, um, like penance?”

He laughed. “Perhaps. No, they teach… we are taught that hard work is good. We strive to…” He leaned the broom against his body, made a gesture like an expanding circle. “Perfection. Realization.”

“Well; the grounds are… perfect. I’ve been inside. Every rock, the paths, the garden up on the very point… the, I guess, meditation garden. Good place to see… surf.”

“And, yes; meditation, surf vantage point; so many benefits of having a committed volunteer labor force.”

“So, um, are you, like, the only one who does this?” I made a gesture I thought indicated working on the outside of the compound. “I, um… (short, embarrassed laugh) thought you were… your hair and beard… I’ve seen you before. I thought you were, um, older.”

He laughed. “With all the people nowadays sporting longer hair, people doing what they want to…” He stopped. “Surfing. Swimming. People.” He paused again. “I do feel, sometimes… older.”

We both stood there a few moments longer. I had questions. He started sweeping. I nodded toward the bluff, he nodded in the same direction. I did a little bow, felt stupid instantly, but he returned it.

SINNERS LOVE COMPANY

When I approached the bluff, surfers I recognized as locals, all about my age, three guys and one girl, Ginny Cole (you always knew the names of the few girl surfers), were sitting on the guard rail, two other guys standing on the parking lot side of it, directly in front of my car, and, in fact, leaning against it.

Sure. Optimum view. This was their spot; the land equivalent of the apex of the peak in the water; they wouldn’t give it away to some tourist; they were less willing to give it to me.

Ginny and one of the guys, who had been watching me, evidently, turned back around after I gave a bit of a gesture that I meant to say, “Yeah, I looked at the crime scene; so what?”

Maybe I looked too long at Ginny Cole. Evidently. At least the guys on either side of her seemed to think I had. I had. Of course. I was forced, by the rules governing adolescent encounter, to give each of them (the guys) the “yes, I looked” look.

Then, as required, I looked away.

Ginny pulled her coat and an over-sized gray bag (I would say purse, but surfer girls were way too cool for that) off the hood of my car. Not in an apologetic way. Two of the guys continued to lean the just-past-comfortable distance between the railing and my car.

Fine. I probably would have been sitting on the hood if they weren’t there. Casually. Observing. Analyzing. If I were someone else, if I was observing someone else, I’d say posing. Posing. Posturing.

Each surfer had a small carton of orange juice or a quart of chocolate milk in his hand, maybe a cold piece of pizza. One might have had a large coffee from the 7-11 down toward Cardiff. One very well could have had a mason jar of juice, carrot always an ingredient, some color from sick green to sick orange; always willing to share. Not with me. Maybe once. Later. Months later. Only once because I turned the offer down. Green.

None of these surfers were smoking. These weren’t my high school friends, so anxious to learn how to smoke; starting out with, Parliaments, maybe, cigarettes for beginners, moving on to Marlboros or Winstons, arguing about which was better; urging me to be cool, to not be a pussy. Tobacco evangelists.

Sinners love company, I had thought, and I put off starting the very same habit my father had only participated in in secret, or at work, never around his children.

Still, we knew. Camel non-filters. My mother kept his last half pack in a dresser drawer with his badge and empty holster. Nothing else. Occasionally she would open the drawer. Leather and tobacco.

I squeezed the cherry out, tossed the butt through the opened driver’s side window and onto the floorboards, grabbed my fairly-full quart of chocolate milk and my half-gone package of donettes off the seat, went into a practiced lean, a slouch, against the backseat door, driver’s side.

Frosted, never chocolate.

Posturing.

DOWNRAIL SPEED MACHINES

It seems wrong to me, now; it’s obviously wrong; but, somehow, when I was a teenager, it seemed all surfers were somewhere around my age. Some younger kooks, some older surfers. Not many of those; or maybe I just didn’t focus on them; only the ones who were well known, who had been in “Surfer” magazine. If someone like that showed up, his name would spread quickly through a parking lot or lineup: L.J. Richards or Rusty Miller at Pipes, Mike Doyle at Stone Steps, Skip Frye at a contest at Tamarack; surfers you would, definitely, watch, keep track of, give way to in the lineup; just to see if they were all that good. Better. They were better.

How much better?

But these were days of evolution in surfing; shorter boards, more radical moves, backyard soul shapers, V bottoms and downrail speed machines; and the new heroes were younger; more like my age; s-turns and tube stalls and 180 cutbacks.

The first 180 cutback I ever saw, with an off-the-foam-to-bottom-turn, was at Swamis, from that landing two-thirds the way up the stairs; the one with the metal screen, ‘Old guys stop here’ carved into one of the rails. The stance, so solid, the moves, so controlled, so fluid, one to another, seamlessly, were performed by Billy Hamilton, on a longboard; smooth and stylish. He was older, maybe even ten years older. Still, older.

Chulo Lopez was, or, rather, had been in this group. Older. Aggressive, stylish, and dominating, back-foot heavy; always pivoting off his good (right) leg. Surfers who dominate a lineup, who get their choice of waves, are respected and hated, sometimes almost equally. If they take a wave you thought you should have been on… your opinion would swing more toward hate.

Chulo had once, on a glassy evening at Pipes, given me the signal to go on the first wave of a set. Two other surfers in position to go didn’t go. Wouldn’t. Chulo looked them off. No need to yell. Then he looked back at me, said the second of the two things he ever said to me. “Go!” I had to go. I did.

So, more respect than hate.

No Photos, Please- The Report from the Hodad at the Hodown

The event last night at the Port Townsend Library was billed as a ‘Hodown,’ and featured a local (but world-traveled) bluegrass band, which was really good, and please forgive me for forgetting the band’s name (something something String Band).  I was pretty nervous about reading my stuff, hoping people showed up despite the crowd that did show up (including me) pretty handily fit into the demographic most at risk of dying from any episode of the virus.

Or a person could die on stage.  Not that there was a stage.  I did get some photos sent to my phone from Stephen Davis (thanks for attending), and a video and photos from my daughter, Dru (who sent them live to Trish- great).  I could share them with you, but I won’t; and not just because I’d have to set up some deal on my phone that would probably send me endless bits of junk email; it’s just that…

…It’s all pretty embarrassing, really; publicly reading something I wrote and, probably, hold too dear; and yet I keep trying.  I keep thinking I’ll learn something.  Other than that I really need something to stand behind that’s wider than I am, and that I should wear glasses selected for reading the pages rather than hiding behind them, and that I should read slower, and only read things shorter than twelve hundred plus pages… oh, and that I shouldn’t wear any pants that might, in contrast to my upper body, look like skinny jeans; giving the effect of a bear keg with a glowing red bulb on top, balanced precariously on sticks… other than that… I still, after risking stroking-out from the first reading, really did want to read my excerpt from “Swamis.”

So, maybe I learned something, just not quite enough.

Now Keith Darrock, PT ripper and my contact at the library, did say he’s ‘always willing’ to subject me to this type of public, um, scrutiny.  I did notice that he said ‘always’ with the same gleam in his eye that he has (could have chosen ‘might have’ if that was true) when paddling around me to catch a wave (in, of course, a friendly, competitive way).  Keith and I have been talking about having a THIRD OCCASIONAL SURF CULTURE ON THE STRAIT OF JUAN DE FUCA AND THE SALISH SEA event.

“Then you can read something from ‘Swamis.'” “Oh. Yeah.” “You know, after it’s actually published.”  “Oh.  Yeah.   Sure.    Then.     Uh huh.”

I am working on the re-re-re-re-edit, a hundred or so pages left to work on; and then there’s the process of having other people look it over, possibly edit it, and then there’s the task of, yeah, selling the thing.

SO STAY TUNED.  Meanwhile, here’s what I read last night:  It is fiction. I never was a cowboy, never was a log truck driver.  I have driven I-5, straight through, many times.

Never Was A Cowboy

I never was a cowboy, never rode a fence line, alone. Still, I believe I can relate.

It’s the aloneness.

Whatcom, Skagit, Snohomish, King, Pierce, Lewis, Cowlitz, Clark; Multnomah, Clackamas, Marion, Linn, Lane, Douglas, Jackson; Siskiyou, Trinity, Shasta, Tehama, Glen, Colusa, Yolo, Solano, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced, Madera, Fresno, Kings, Kern, Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego.

I count the counties, North to South, border to border, rather than the miles. Rather, I count the counties I drive through, rarely all the way North, rarely all the way South. Seattle or Portland, L.A. or some indistinguishable suburb, if there is such a place- it’s all city down there. Urban: Warehouses and apartment houses, single family homes; squeezed and stacked and spread; criss-crossed with congested surface streets and ever-under-construction highways, never quite wide enough; overpasses and underpasses, on and off ramps, collector/distributer lanes with one-at-a-time lights; ever-competitive drivers in sub-compacts sliding in between house husbands in oversized pickups, women executives in luxury Sports Utility Vehicles, motorcyclists splitting the lanes; any patch of open road demanding kamikaze/video game speed; and there are road signs and arrows and overhead indicators flashing updates on how long it will take to get the next so-many miles; billboards, some lit up and flashing a succession of ever-brighter messages about Casinos and Recreational Vehicles and spa retreats and exclusive resorts; neighborhoods designed, obviously, from thousands of feet up; strip mall here, Starbucks there, McDonalds caddy-cornered from Burger King, various Crayola colors on houses, duller colors on warehouses, each building trimmed in white.

Like white lines, between lanes, fog lines and rumble strips to keep us out of the ditch, away from the guardrails.

Drop the load, get another trailer, reverse the order, South to North. Orange, Los Angeles, Kern. I count the rest stops. I count the gas stops, keep track of which ones had the cheaper diesel last time. I keep track of how many miles I have left between, say Redding and Grant’s Pass, then there and Medford. Portland. Tacoma. Closer, closer.

Miles are converted to minutes. Oregon, on I-5, is almost exactly three hundred miles, with markers, south to north. If I stop only once for gas, whiz, maybe get a quickie mart burrito, I can average fifty miles an hour. So, 300 divided by 50; six; yeah, six hours. If I want to make it in five hours: 300 divided by 5 equals, yeah; sixty. The speed limit for semi-trucks is… anyway, I’ve done it; even with half the state mountains and the other half one big valley, even with the seemingly permanent slowdown south of Portland.

That would have been in Summer, of course; none of the chaining and unchaining, avalanches and black ice and whiteout snowstorms; and without some fool sliding and jack-knifing and closing all the lanes. This rarely uneventful trip would be what high lead loggers, back in the northwest, in the country, in the woods, would call ‘spooling;’ the choker-setters hooking the freshly-felled, limbed logs onto the overhead lines; a variety of whistles, controlled by the Whistle Punk, signaling the movements, the Yarder Engineer at the tower, on signals from the Hook Tender (these are all semi-official titles), stopping and starting the lines; logs eased onto the landing, loaded onto a waiting log truck. Spooling.

Things almost never go that way.

If I hadn’t gotten hurt by an improperly choked log (my fault) I wouldn’t have become a log truck driver. If I hadn’t parked too close to the edge (my fault), if my dad’s truck hadn’t rolled, sideways, down two hundred foot of mountain when the constant rain weakened the old tires and rock and gravel landing until just enough of it gave way (not my fault); if I had, actually, been a cowboy, I wouldn’t be one of an army of long haul truckers; I wouldn’t be sitting in my ergonomic, multi-position, massage-available, heat on demand chair/throne/saddle; in my temperature controlled cab/office/cubicle/cell; with a corral full of horsepower in the front and a full bunk in the back; a great sound/video system, and a hands-free telephone with, nowadays, only a few blank spots, the deepest valleys between the highest peaks.

I could make more comparisons between me and a cowboy. I wanted to. It was the telephone thing that stopped me. No one, really, left to talk to. A hundred-seventy-five-thousand-dollar semi-truck with all the customized amenities wasn’t enough to keep my woman (woman does sound more cowboy than wife or girlfriend or fiancé) riding with me. Time on the road, even together, time away doesn’t help a relationship. Blank spots, increasing over time.

Over time, without real movement, real exercise, with real gravity and the inevitable weight gain, road food becomes something like skittles or pretzels, doled-out a few at a time. Time. Time, that’s what I keep track of. A cigarette takes about seven minutes to smoke, a cigar can last longer; road songs rarely go over ten minutes; even the Grateful Dead, live, in concert. Road songs might not keep you awake, but you can sing along. Maybe. You can listen to local radio. It used to be that the choice, out in the boondocks, came down to country-western or some preacher.

I frequently chose the preaching. “Amen.”

It’s about twelve hundred miles of road, Seattle to L.A., with regulations on how many hours you are permitted to spend behind the wheel. Averaging fifty miles an hour, that’s twenty-four hours. Eight, eight, eight.

There are places, landmarks by now, where a trucker can get a shower and a meal, with lockers and a lot big enough for however many trucks from the almost-unbroken caravan stop in. There are dealers who can amp you up or chill you out; women who don’t mind climbing into your bunk, who might comment on the luxuriousness without asking who you customized it for.

That might make you feel less alone.

For a certain amount of time. Are you then more alone? I can’t answer that. I try to avoid questions. I have a job, some sort of load to deliver. It doesn’t matter what it is. It matters that I get it there. And then, another load. Another schedule. Same road, same mountains you can’t quite see, low toward the coast, jagged to the East- same mountains, different side.

Then again, maybe loneliness is like… I’m trying to think of a proper metaphor. Loneliness is one blanket when you really need two.1

Best I can come up with.

My favorite spot on the route, I-5, north to south, is heading down Mount Shasta, slaloming, foot off the pedals, half an hour before sunrise, the sky some crazy shades you might never see; purple to green, orange to red to blue-white-purple on the rock pile peaks so close to me; reaching up as I’m threading, weaving, winding my way down.

It’s my name on the doors of my rig, hand lettered, with drop shading and highlights. I’ve been known, window down, to tap on it to some road song beat, so many minutes to somewhere, my left arm perpetually tanned, drafting off of the rig in front of me, a variety of people passing me in the fast lane. Sometimes, sometimes when everything’s just spooling, I feel like I am so incredibly, impossibly free.

I never was a cowboy, but, from my office, my cubicle, my cell; I can’t help wondering where your fog line is, your rumble strip, your guardrails, your landmarks.

Cowboy (or Cowgirl) on.

 

Dos Equis, Please, No Corona for Me

Tonight is the night for my reading at the Port Townsend Library.  6pm, Uptown Port Townsend.  In case you’re not currently hunkered down, self-quarantining, catching up on all the latest Netflix and Prime Videos, claiming to be working from home, maybe you can risk it.

I’m nervous as shit, don’t mind saying, and, whether the whole affair, me trying to read both a piece of fiction AND an excerpt from “Swamis,” (only a hundred or so pages out of 254 left to re-re-re-edit) turns out to be extra-cheesy or dignified; bearing in mind there’s a bluegrass band, chili for snacks, and a cowboy poet who once played Wild Bill Hickock in Tombstone (or some other reenactment center); and that I’m involved, my money would be on cheesy.

Either way I’ll update tomorrow, or, if I’m just too embarrassed… well, still tomorrow.

Meanwhile, don’t touch your face!

WAIT; here’s the joke I told Librarian/soul rebel Keith Darrock I’d open with: I raise my hands in the sort of universal gesture of peace (no, the other one, hands together), and say, “To quote our esteemed leader, ‘Obama-ste.'”

Probably not.  My time will be limited and I promised not to read at mach speed.

Even though I can.

 

Flipping Out

I’m a little irritated that I didn’t get up earlier, early enough to get something done on editing “Swamis.”  I’m only about half way through what Microsoft Word is telling me is 240 pages, 117,000 plus words, and I’m hoping to get it all done before reading a bit of it at the Port Townsend Public Library this coming Thursday, 6pm.

Pimping, always pimping; shameless self-promotion.

It’s my own fault, of course; I didn’t have to spend a day arranging, meeting up, loading up, searching for waves, participating in endless hiking, surfing, more hiking, more surfing, more (“It’s good for you”) hiking, repacking, getting back to civilization, stopping at Sunny Farms (Yogurt cone- “Good for you”), not napping; but, then again, maybe I did.

It’s kind of what we do the rest of it for.  ANYWAY, because Trish and I share this (her) computer, and I do my ‘alone time’ in the morning, I do sometimes do some drawing in the evenings/night time.  I did the lower version first, thought it a bit sketchy, did the ‘hold it up to a light’ trace the outline on the new side technique.  That would be the upper drawing.  Then I asked Trish which one she preferred.

Scan_20200223 (2)

Scan_20200223

Okay, I won’t hold you in suspense; she liked the lower one, even though there are scratchy ‘get the pen going’ lines on the right side.  See?  Here’s a side by side:

All right; now I see problems with both of them.  Maybe tonight I’ll…

Anyway, I had to write a proposal, send off business type emails (painting business), check bank accounts; and now… well, maybe I can do fifteen minutes or so on “Swamis.”

Oh, wait; another thing I enjoy about a multi-person surf strike, and thanks Keith and Steve, is the opportunity to… I don’t have time to get into it right now.  Okay, it’s like we each had a different surf experience, with different highlights; and we each have a slightly different story to tell about the same trip.

And we will.