This is one of the paintings realsurfer and real artist Stephen R. Davis has been producing during, and particularly since his epic battle with Lymphoma. Not that it’s over. Steve is offering limited edition prints and posters and cards of this and other paintings. I asked him to send me the image and the contact info so others can get in on purchasing some of his work. I don’t really communicate with him on ‘social,’ BUT I will get the connections sorted out.
MEANWHILE, I am perilously, dangerously close to finishing the manuscript for “SWAMIS.” I mean, like, today if I don’t get distracted by rumors of waves. THE ISSUE is, how to sell these things, also including ORIGINAL ERWIN t shirts and, yeah, I have some art works of my own (less so with my dark-of-winter obsession with finishing the novel.
BUT, and this is related, my daughter, Drucilla, also engaged in her own battle with cancer (Fuck Cancer), is getting back into the work mode, AND she has skills in setting up some platform on which Steve (and our mutual artist friend, Reggie) can market our work.
AS FAR AS the selling “SWAMIS,” I have some ideas. First among them, as I try to find an agent, is offering a limited edition version, printed on regular paper, and contained in a Pee-Chee folder, a critical item in a 1960s students’ life, and something that is a part of the “Swamis” narrative. With pockets on both sides of the folder, a reader could easily slide pages read from one to the other. AND I would include artwork I have done in connection with the manuscript. ALL NUMBERED AND SIGNED, of course.
AS WITH Stephen’s contact info: I will have to get back to you on that.
… like it or not, there is a worldwide community of people who understand that beyond the ‘that was fun’ level of casual wave riding, there is something more, something deeper. There are deeper levels, not merely in performance, but of connection to the energy of the ocean. It is not necessarily spiritual, but it is a respectful of the ocean, and appreciative of the gifts received. That surf community- in particular the northwest surfers who roam the coast and the Strait, and occasionally, the larger world- we, us… we have just lost another real surfer in a tragic, cowardly, criminal way.
Update- December 15- A suspect has been arrested. He has, according to the “Seattle Times,” admitted to driving a Ford pickup that, allegedly crashed into a fence and struck Omar.
This won’t bring closure. Nothing really does. It may not bring justice. It has been easy to believe that no one would be held to account. Though the circumstances under which the suspect was identified are still unknown, the news is somewhat gratifying. Still, the loss to family, loved ones, the surfing and greater community is incalculable.
Every rideable wave is a gift. We remember the best ones long after they are gone.
Omar will be remembered.
Information is still hard to come by, but what began as a missing persons report turned into a hit and run. Fatal. Hitting a pedestrian may or may not be an accident. Leaving the scene is not. Omar was near his home in some part of what to me is all, whether it’s Burien or Bellevue, one big and confusing city. Seattle/Tacomapolis. He was out for an afternoon walk. Bear in mind that four pm is pretty much twilight. Omar didn’t come home. Missing person.
Evidently Ian, formerly of Urban Surf, posted the missing person report on ‘media.’ According to the call I had with Adam, after I missed a call around six-thirty pm the next evening/night, Reggie saw the post and responded with, “Is this a joke?” Not a joke.
The posting was deleted. I was, not at all ironically, in traffic headed home from completing a small project in Tacoma (last exit before I-5, go straight until it dead ends, turn right, third building to the right), trying to hear Adam over the (still) rush hour traffic, all the other drivers hellbent to get somewhere and me just trying to not get into an exit only lane. And Adam was subdued. “So, man, it’s just like…” He was saying ‘man’ a lot. “So, Omar… yeah I know Omar. Just, just… what happened? Is he… it’s something bad, isn’t it?” “Well, man… Yeah.”
The call dropped with me on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. I pulled off at Port Orchard exit to get some gas. The light at the end of the offramp was green. I could have just gone. I was turning right. There was a woman walking across the road in front of me, two backpacks on, headphones, a cell phone in her hand. It isn’t like this was a town; it was another freeway exit with two gas stations, two fast food places. Again, that a car/pedestrian accident could have happened is in no way ironic; it is coincidental. I was thinking about Omar.
I heard about Omar, probably, before I met him, most certainly from Reggie. And I have seen Omar many times over the last several years. If surfers have varying levels of competitiveness in the water, if surfers break into tribes seemingly without provocation; whether forced by fickle waves or by choice, when hanging out in parking areas with other surfers, it is actually kind of hard to not be a little more than just polite or civil. Given enough time, we might just become, perhaps, decent to people who are looking for the same thrills and sensations you or I are. And, if that person is genuinely nice and obviously decent, it should be impossible to rationalize being a dickhead. Should be.
The last time I saw Omar was such a situation. He was parked next to me. I had surfed, but was not ready to leave. It could get better. It might. I pointed at Omar’s car. “No racks,” I said.
Omar pointed, then got out. There were several boards on the rocks in front of his car. “They fit inside,” he said, reaching back into his dedicated surf rig for a wetsuit. The waves might get better. They will go away.
I’m considering if I should include what Omar and I talked about for ten minutes or so. Since I am often accused of not having a filter, of not being able to not talk about what is on my mind at any given moment, I will. A little. White people. Yeah. Maybe it is because I had just received the DNA results back from the 23 and Me thing and I am not what I claim to be. None of us are. If you say something negative about Black People or Jewish people or Native Americans, I might just say that I’m part Black or Jewish or Native American; just to see how you respond.
Omar responded calmly and politely to my rant. If it seems to you that I brought up a subject obviously race-related out of white guilt or bring it up now as some sort of virtue signaling, no; it is what Omar and I discussed, and even if I choose to delete two paragraphs here, our discussion will remain in my memory. Again, I was ranting, Omar as someone wise enough to be calm.
Still, at this moment, half a day after the missing person was found, with questions unavoidably filling in the places where there are no facts, no reports, no answers; it all goes very scarily negative.
So I will remember that when I said that blue eyes are a mutation, and that people who trusted those with blue eyes did so at their peril, Omar looked at me. We both laughed. Omar asked, “You going back out?” “No. Maybe I’ll… watch. Rip it up!”
The loss of Omar is, after the recent loss of Gabe by drowning, another tough blow for the de facto northwest surf community. Prayers and best wishes, never even nearly enough, to Jasmine and the rest of Omar’s family. As far as justice… justice… now I’m thinking about justice.
It has become an unwanted tradition that work is scarce in the short cold days on both sides of the winter solstice. If Christmas came in July… different story. “Swamis” the novel, has been almost done for far too long. In ‘The Time of Covid’ I completed two versions and an outline/treatment, all with the same issue: A lack of focus, what one person who tried his best to read the second unexpurgated version, he claims, called “A slice of life… too much so.” So… slices. He was, of course, correct. I blamed the narrator, Joseph Atsushi DeFreines. Focus, focus… uh, what?
I have been devoting as much time as I could to turning a manuscript into a novel.
I believe I am closer, but not… quite… there. Yet. And, kind of a surprise to me, the relationship between Joey (aka Jody) and Julia Truelove Cole (nickname Julie) has taken up a higher percentage of the manuscript. I credit Julie. It is the beginning stages of a complicated (I hesitate to say) love story.
The timeline has been shortened. I plan to end the story where it begins; Jumper Hayes, severely wounded in Vietnam, returning to the surf at Swamis- after the death of his best friend, Chulo and Swamis parking lot character, Gingerbread Fred. Sequel? Impossible to say. I need to complete this one. Bonus – Overwriting the shit out of my manuscript has given me so much other material, so many side stories. Over-thinking and over-explaining the characters has made them real enough in my mind that I can almost predict what each would do in a different situation. Other than Joey and Julie. No, none of the characters behave as planned.
Which is great. I started the latest re-write, slashing at the dialogue and action that didn’t move the plot, probably a third of the way into the manuscript. I devised new ways to insert details into the manuscript, a line rather than a page. It has helped. With a fairly clear vision of how to end the novel, with the newer chapters having a more consistent flow and style, I still have to go back and work on the beginning.
Without going off on how fiction eliminates too many of the side characters to focus on developing relationships between the main ones, edits out too many slice of life moments to focus on moving the narrative quickly enough, I admit to doing the same thing. Joey’s detective father, and Jumper, though still key players, move into the background. Action wise, the story still has three incidents in which characters die. No car chase, however, no violent revenge. Not yet.
With all the side stories I have to eliminate, one that I could never quite fit into the narrative timeline is one I include in a rewritten Introduction. The two versions are not all that much different, but I took the opportunity to include an actual surfing story. Q Oh, the joy of just making stuff up!
BUT WAIT! Before we get to that, here is this posting’s… WORD ON THE STRAIT with AARON LENNOX- “Salivating with a chance for froth!” Some explanation might be needed here. While the official position is that there are never any good waves on the Strait, and that the best we can hope for is “Almost,” as in almost good or even almost rideable, occasionally, in the midst of real and actual doldrums, there is some hope for an ‘almost’ session. This becomes a serious topic on various text threads between surfers. Secondary Word- “Some people are polythreaderous. They have multiple thread partners.” What?
Anyway, if you’re in a pre-froth state, just starting to salivate… good luck.
San Diego County Sheriff’s Office Detective Sergeant Joseph J. Defreines was asked to speak at a meeting of the Chambers of Commerce from several cities and other unincorporated towns in the North County. He was there to answer concerns about marijuana. In particular, he was asked to address how to control the growth of growing and selling the illegal crop. It was August of 1968. Tall, well built, blonde, my father was quite impressive in his full uniform. Daunting, even. “You ask me about arrests,” he said. “You tell me who to start with; you don’t say where to stop.” The room was, after my dad allowed the coughs and whispered comments to subside, quiet.
“The world works at an acceptable level of corruption,” he said. “As business… people, you understand this.” The chairman of the Oceanside Chamber stood up. “You’re not the first person to say this, Joe.” “Probably not,” my father said, lifting a heretofore full glass of red wine, “Then let me add…” He toasted the room in three slow moves, making eye contact with selected people in the room, then took one drink that emptied most of the glass. “It’s not a particularly low level.”
Joseph Jeremiah DeFreines- March 15, 1926- February 27, 1969.
I choose to start the story at exactly this time and place, Monday, June 7, 1969, because, though my father was dead; though I was responsible for his death; though I was facing the draft, college, or Vietnam; though everything in my life was uncertain, muddled, frightening; I was exactly where I had long wanted to be; Swamis Point with a four-foot swell.
The stories we are told, the stories we tell, are taken and reshaped from some bigger story, one without some definite beginning or contrived and convenient ending, one that continues after the players move on. Or die.
All good surf stories start or end in the dark. Some barely awake surfer powered by anticipation, fumbling with wet towels and trunks, trying to beat others with the same incentive, to get a few seconds-long rides on liquid energy, possibly making a wave that shouldn’t have been made.
I have selected scenes, and cut scenes, and edited passages, manipulating if not controlling the narrative. This story will begin and end in the dark. As such, “Swamis” is a surf story.
“Swamis” is a coming-of-age story as well. It has to be. I was almost eighteen, an inlander, dreaming of being a local in the North County beach towns, dreaming of some sort of relationship with my idea of the perfect surfer girl. Not one who sat on the beach, one who complimented her man’s ‘good rides, made excuses for awkward rides, my vision of a perfect surfer girl was of one who surfed. I had one in mind.
This is, then, a love story. The best love stories end sometime after a shared sunset, perhaps, in the dark. This story will, also. Not that that story, with romantic visions hit hard by real life, was over.
Mystery? My father constantly added to his collection of easily dropped aphorism, little witty sayings. “There are no mysteries,” he would say, pausing in this one, as he did with most, before finishing with, “Someone knows.” Another pause. “You just have to ask the right person.” Pause. “Or persons.”
That Joseph DeFreines had an assortment of phrases at his disposal is not a mystery, really. My grandfather was a preacher. A preacher needs a certain ready-to-go phrases. Here is an example, passed down from my grandfather: “I search for a glimpse of the reflected glory of our Lord and Savior in the countenances of my brothers and sisters.” I never met the man. He didn’t go to my father’s funeral. I didn’t go to his.
There are mysteries in my novel. Some are solved. Only a few are resolved. Though I am trying to write the story fifty-plus years on, I have always taken note of details, almost forcing myself to know and to file away moments, images, dialog, back stories of people only tangentially connected to a straighter storyline; these are important to me. I have deleted and edited and manipulated so many side stories and characters to present a reasonable version of a flawed-character-as-detective novel. Please make note of and accept my apology for straying from a simpler narrative.
I have the stories retrievable from my memory, and I have notes. Years and years of notes.
I am setting a deadline: Completion, with something worthy of getting copies made, before Christmas. Before. It might make a great gift. Let’s see- Original manuscript, with illustrations, locally printed, packaged in a customized PeeChee folder (a reference to habits of the fictional author); Oh, and limited edition, maximum of one hundred copies, hand signed by the author/illustrator… WHOA! I better get to work.
NOTES: Information on the recent drowning is still going back and forth on the various social threads. When I have more info, I will let you know. ALSO, all the rights for everything in this and all postings on realsurfers.net is copyright protected. Rights belong to Erwin A. Dence, Jr. ALL QUOTES by Aaron Lennox, including “Word on the Strait,” belong to him.
There’s no way this version of an essay, a replacement for one lost to the misunderstood mechanics of Mac and Microsoft, could be the same. Retelling, rewriting; stories change, only imagined word magic is dulled, made somehow transparent. They are only words.
If you are kind enough to read this, please scroll down to the previous posting. Something related to this piece was written and meant to go there. Thanks.
Drowning. Someone drowned surfing on the Strait of Juan de Fuca on Sunday. I didn’t know him, but I do know he was someone’s sibling, someone’s child, someone’s love. Perhaps I surfed with this young man, passed him on the highway or the trail, saw him in the parking area. I couldn’t put a face to the name that was being spread on the fir cone wireless, the various and overlapping circles of surfers and their surfer and non-surfer friends.
I do know something about him.
While there is little information on the actual cause of the drowning, the conditions in the water at the time are known; a rising swell in a narrow bay, mostly closeout waves, rip currents running parallel to the beach, other surfers in the area. He was pulled from the water by another surfer, a friend of a friend of mine. Attempts to resuscitate failed.
The scene was, by all accounts so far, chaotic and tragic.
More is already being discovered about the victim. As always, this adds to the tragedy.
For all our competitiveness, for all the ‘my crew’, ‘your crew’, ‘local’, ‘regular’, ‘outsider’ divisions, surfers, out of the water, are united. I realize it’s a ridiculous conceit of mine to draw some distinction between real surfers and… everyone else. It is my belief that you do the same. Slightly different criteria, no doubt.
While surfers understand something about drowning, it is also known by anyone who has ever choked on water that went anywhere even close to the lungs.
Just one jolt of that; mistiming the top of a wave you’re paddling over, breathing in too quickly after a wipeout; you will remember other times when you sucked in water or heavy foam instead of air, times you’ve choked and sputtered, times you were afraid you might not make it back to shore. If you or I haven’t been knocked unconscious by a rock or a surfboard, haven’t been held down longer than we can hold our breath… we’re lucky.
We forget that. Too easily.
Writers have, for the history of writing, almost romanticized drowning. Perhaps it is the notion that, in the end, it is, according to survivors, a sort of peaceful thing, a surrender to what is inevitable for all of us. Death. Not a violent, painful death, but a… No, that’s fiction. There is a reason for the phrase, “fighting to the last breath.”
I decided long ago that I do not want to drown. I don’t want to think about drowning.
WORD ON THE STRAIT- I want to give credit to Aaron Lennox for this phrase. Despite other claimants, Aaron is the only surfer who, in my years of surfing, ever successfully pushed me off my board on a wave. Yes, leash grabbing- different thing, Ian. The words for this posting are (hope I get this right- don’t want to call Aaron again to ask him… again): COMPETITIVE AGGRESSION. No, I don’t really understand it. My first reaction was to say how aggressively competitive I am. “Yeah, I am aware.” The page, evidently relates to people needlessly going dickwad in comments on some new (and immediately quite successful) Facebook page concerning Toyota-based campers. Look it up, I’m taking Aaron’s word it’s out there. Since Trish and our daughter Dru moderate a Facebook site, I did tell Aaron that the advantage he has is that he can cut off commentary and/or kick folks off. “They troll, but you… control.” “Yeah.”
The word on the Strait discussion was a few days ago. On Sunday, a surfer drowned on the Strait of Juan de Fuca. This became the story. The fir cone wireless and the cell phone connections began almost instantly after the tragedy. News is still sketchy. I will update when I know more. DROWNING is something any surfer has some familiarity with.
In trying to copy a piece I wrote on drowning from Word, the goal being to paste it here, I eliminated about four hours of work.
I wrote it WORD rather than on this site because I have lost stuff in the past. And still, it is gone. I blame Dru’s Apple computer.
This is a photo of a parking lot far, far away. I couldn’t quite figure out how to… no, really; like Australia or somewhere… get the photo from the computer I am borrowing from my daughter, Dru, to, like, here. And now I have. So, yeah, check out that guy. WAIT! What about the guy eating shit behind the guy in the slot? Was there a burn? A vicious shoulder hop? What about the guys paddling out? Are they going to ruin the barrel for the obvious wave hog? Four chances. Oh, and now I see a head in the soup. If the guy who was dropped-in on loses his board, even with a leash… dangerous. It is no wonder the arms of two of the six silhouettes on the beach are up. Yeah, the sun. That, too. OH, the drama that is surfing. Love it!
So, picture this: It is 2:30 am on a Monday night/Tuesday morning, and a surfer is waking up from another dream in which the closer he gets to the water, to the perfect waves, the farther they are from him. “Oh,” he is thinking, “I should wash out my wetsuit.” This is followed by (most of this is not out loud) “Where is my wetsuit? I remember…”
“Shittttttttttttttt!” That is out loud.
Now the unnamed surfer goes to visualization, along with the self-narration. He pictures his surfboard, set, on its side, along the driveway behind his work van. “So, okay, on Monday, I moved the surfboard over against the fence. Upright.” Okay, visual of this. “Now, on Sunday…” The visual is of the surfer and another surfer we will call Adam Wipeout (though he is known by other names depending on which tide flat he is working, or surfing beach he is accepted at, or restaurant he is selling shellfish to, or seminar he is speaking at) is unloading boards from his vehicle. The surfer in question sets his board down, side of the driveway as previously mentioned, then takes his bag of dry stuff and his thermos, opens the back of the work van and sets them inside. Safely. He then takes the dark trash bag he used for his wetsuit, his rash guard with hood, and his lime green leash, just to contain any dampness in Adam’s vehicle and…
Now, the reason the surfer with his wetsuit in the bag was riding with Adam Wipeout is that the surfer’s surf rig is elsewhere, with a broken water pump. The 1987 Toyota will either be fixed or not. It has survived a lot. Begging was involved. Adam was supposed to be hunting elk, but was kind enough to pick up the surfer, in the dark. There is more to this story, but I am trying to keep it short.
Now, early on a Tuesday morning, the surfer replays in his mind what he did on Monday. He loaded the bags of trash from the eight or so trash cans in the enclosure (because Quilcene charges by the bag and Port Townsend by weight- cheaper, and he is working in Port Townsend) and then starts tossing in the bags of masking and such things from previous paint jobs and…
No, he wasn’t going to go outside and check.
Like the beautiful wave he didn’t catch (and, perhaps, some other surfer did), the wetsuit and the rash guard with hood and the glow in the dark lime green leash are… yes, he did do the visualization of him, so efficiently, tossing out the bags at the transfer station, even commenting to the guy next to him how it isn’t a competition, it just seems like one. A good motto to lessen stress is, “That wave’s gone, man.”
Hey, I gotta go. If I finish this job I can, maybe… meanwhile, I’ll do some more patching on my old wetsuit, see if those booties I bought a couple of sizes too big a couple of years ago are… see if I haven’t thrown them away.
I just need a taste of something sweet to get me by.
Honey, you should know by now, that I might never be…
Someone who’s as good for you as you have been for me…
You’d have to ask Trish; the PHOTO is either from my Senior Prom or hers. I’m guessing mine. Class of 1969. Now, I realize she appears to be looking at me with, I don’t know. I’ll look at the photo again. Okay, like, “Maybe this guy is going some place.” I certainly claimed I was… going places.
THE LYRICS: I have written other songs. They have mostly been written while I’m driving. Blues (partially because our son James is a musician), surf ditties, a couple of ballads. I have a tune or a theme. I get the first part down, repeat it until I can remember it long enough to come up with the next verse or the next line. Then repeat and add lines, and eventually, a song. I have stopped driving to write lyrics. It comes down, as any writing does, to some sort of inspiration. In this case, Trish said something loving and surprisingly complimentary, and I most likely responded with something like, “Really?”
I got this far. I’ve tried to go farther. “Great expectations…” It has to be something that relates to the fifty-four years (tomorrow, our first official date) we’ve been ‘together’ (‘together’ being totally inadequate to describe or explain any relationship), and promises, and where we thought we would be and where we are. “I promised you the moon and stars, and…”
… still working on it. The promises and the lyrics.
I could tie this as an intro for a song I wrote a while ago. “Years have passed, endless rains, broken glass, and empty trains; Yet it’s our love that sustains, through Honey Days…”
ALL RIGHT. While I have great respect for any relationship that can last, over time, I am usually dismissive or highly critical of people who announce private feelings publicly. I am a bit uncomfortable doing so, but… doing it anyway. I am not bragging. It’s not like people haven’t asked Trish, often, “Really? Him?”
“Sit together, by the shore, Diamond waves, a subtle roar; And your eyes, I still explore… On honey days, just remember.” I love you Trish. Happy Birthday!
If it was a text, I’d add heart and kiss emojis.
All original material in realsurfers.net is covered under copyright. I did have to add that.
I should say, first, that no one under the legal drinking age wants to hear a surf story from anyone old enough to collect social security. No, they’re just being polite. A surfer in his or her forties, different story on the stories. Two old farts; they’re just going to keep rambling on.
Let us say you are on Dawn Patrol, hanging in the parking lot or trailhead or pullout, lining up your board and leash and wax, slamming down the dregs of coffee that was too hot a moment ago, dressing out in whatever surf garb is appropriate for your surf location. Someone else is nearby, doing the same thing, his or her version of pre-surf ritual, and he or she just can’t help sharing his or her resume. “I surfed here” or, “This one time, I hiked into Trestles and…”
You, of course, are tempted if not expected to reciprocate. To compete, perhaps. First liar scenario. “Yeah, I surfed there, also,” or, “Ten months I worked there, just up the hill from Lower Trestles, surfed there just about every day… drove out on the beach. An hour and a half on a half hour lunch break. And, sometimes, after work, I’d go to…”
And then you go out in the water. There are expectations you may or may not live up to in real life, in current time. So, dangerous, if not, like, foolish. No, you didn’t mention your ten months at Trestles was 1975, forty-seven years ago. Next time, perhaps, depending on your performance, you might.
Most of us, I can’t help believing, are heroes in our own narrative. Even if we dip into a little self-deprecation, we probably hope we come across as, if not a flawed protagonist, at least a character or person someone can sympathize with. If we’re talking story with another surfer with similar stories of beat downs and barrels… empathize.
But wait; maybe I’m misusing the sympathy/empathy thing. Or expanding it. I don’t want to research this, but do we only sympathize with bad things? Shit. Google. Shit; guess I am wrong, we… no, there are different interpretations: sympathy and pity, empathy and understanding without sharing the actual experience. No, that can’t be right.
WOW! I am dangerously close to getting into the sociopath/narcissist thing. I have worked for an amazingly disproportionate number of people (because everyone in my area seems to need a therapist/life coach/psychiatric specialist, or a yoga instructor/hair dresser/bartender, or, for those of us who can’t afford any of those folks, a friend) whose job it is to determine just how fucked up the client is, then make sure the client never quite gets cured (assuming, cynically, that any of us can be cured of being who we are/have become). Each one of these professionals, when pressed on the question, face to face, has told me I am completely normal.
OR maybe that’s just the story he or she believes I want to hear. Not true, actually; one professional-but-retired marriage counselor (at least once divorced) told Stephen R. Davis and I that we might not be sociopaths, but we are both, definitely, narcissists. I thought he meant Steve more than me, but “Hey man, can’t we be both?” “Um, sure; I guess so.”
YES, I have told this story before, maybe here before. Redundancies tighten a tale, the obvious embellishments dropping away. Or not.
STORIES. I heard from two sources about a ‘barrel of a lifetime’ a mutual friend got. I would tell it to you, but then it would be third hand. I called up the barrel rider, got it first hand. In the course of our conversation, which, incidentally, was consistent with the two other versions, the barrel rider told me a very funny story. It wasn’t surf related, but it was a surfer’s anecdote.
While talking to another surfer this morning, and I was so tempted to tell the story. I might have if he didn’t give me the “I’ll let you go” thing. Usually, out here in the wilderness-adjacent (I stole the ‘adjacent’ thing, now it’s part of my patter), cell calls frequently get dropped. Oddly, it seems as if it’s more frequently after the other party has completed his or her anecdote and I’m about to… I should mention that all my friends are adept at competitive talking and none are afraid to tell me it’s their turn. Etiquette, it’s important everywhere.
THE MESSAGE- Don’t tell other people’s stories as your own.
Here are two gentlemen talking story:
It is “SWAMIS,” my manuscript and where I am in it that got me thinking about stories and fiction and fictional characters. Each of the main characters is damaged, psychologically if not physically. Or both. None are created. I’m not quite delusional enough to believe they are. Each is a composite, some mixture of real people I have met in my real life. As I write and rewrite and edit, I get to know each one better. I can plug any of them into a fabricated setting and know, almost, how they will react. If empathy is not sharing the same experiences but understanding how someone in that situation feels, I want the reader to be empathetic. If sympathy can be expanded to include feeling joy for someone feeling joy, I want the reader to be sympathetic.
Did I tell you how I got pounded and held down at the Groins? I felt sorry for myself. Someone on the rocks, a witness, said, “We all have to get thrashed occasionally.” We do. I recovered. Just another story, increasingly removed by time, replaced with other thrashings, other recoveries. But shit, guy could’ve been a little nicer about it.
STORIES. Try telling some surf experience over the phone to some non-surfer. It is only a matter of time when the reaction to even the frothiest, most barrel-filled tale is, “I have to let you go.”
My friend STEPHEN R. DAVIS has been fighting cancer, mantal lymphoma if you’re knowledgeable on these things (and Fuck Cancer). Steve had undergone six rounds of Chemotherapy and a bad reaction to one drug that threatened to melt his corneas. It took the first of two recent big-ass Chemo treatments to cause enough hair loss that the rest of it was… well, it’s gone. It’ll be back.
Meanwhile, doing too much hanging out at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, waiting to recover from the second super Chemo dosage, with blood that had been taken from him returned (not a doctor, forgive the kook medical talk) after being (hopefully) enhanced, Steve has been doing some sketching. There’s a list of topics he’s going by, and he’s working down it.
Here are some of the sketches. One of the topics is ‘Ego.’ Not sure which one.
UNFORTUNATELY, I seem to have not properly transferred the sketch of ‘ego.’ Next time, and maybe Steve will do a few more.
MEANWHILE #2- Trish will be taking our daughter DRUCILLA into Silverdale tomorrow, Halloween Day, for her first of 30 rounds of radiation. THE Good News (and, again, fuck a bunch of cancer) is that she will not need Chemo. This is what the doctors say now. We’ll see.
TRIPLE MEANWHILE- Surf report? Don’t ask me. It’s all rumors and speculation and… What? Where? Is it crowded? Oh. Who squealed? Fuckers!
QUADRUPLE MEANWHILE- After a few embarrassing situations in which my ever more casual use of profanity did or almost got me in trouble, and because, really, I do have a more, um, creative vocabulary, I am trying to cut back on my swearing (other than, yeah, fuck fucking cancer). So… okay, it hasn’t made me all zen… yet.
I am not sure about the title. It’s sort of a reference to my most recent surf adventures, in which I frothed way too much, and suffered some embarrassment. Not what I am trying to write about at the moment, but I can’t help imagining how many surfers are asking, “Hey, did you see that asshole in the water?” And then… No, another time for that story. BUT, I must mention some old dude on the beach, while I was complaining about all the rigs pulling up, just had to tell me he used to get all over amped like I was, but then, when he got older… “Hey man, I’m 71, how old are you?” 73. “Okay.”
Dude did not go out.
Anyway, this might be the last thing I write for the Quilcene Community Center newsletter. The guy who runs it is leaving and… Here it is.
Check it out:
Theories on Time and Money and Doing Absolutely Nothing
We’re sliding headlong into October with August weather (pleasant, if you like warmth and dislike rain, drizzle, fog, or moisture of any kind). Unusual, when it seems like last year we had October weather in September, with a repeat in October, maybe a few October-ish days in November. It’s hard for me to remember exactly what the first full month of Autumn brought last year, but it somehow doesn’t seem like a very long time since the leaves started changing color and falling, the dawn coming later and the dusk earlier, and there was a sort of worry or wonder when our latest round of Daylight Savings Time would end.
I have a theory for why, as we age, time seems to move more quickly. It’s not like I spend a lot of time contemplating time and space and your or my place in the universe, and it is definitely not that I can prove this or any of several other theories.
And yet, sometimes when I’m driving a half hour here or there, and sometimes while I am painting, I get to thinking…
TIME may or may not be infinite. Humans couldn’t have invented time; we do try to monitor and measure it. Some submultiple of a wink, perhaps, some length of time it takes to take a footstep. Time and distance. We have lifespans that are finite, definite beginning and end (as in our physical, corporeal beings, not arguing before or afterlife here). Even if we make it to one hundred years of age, we are, sorry, a mere bleep or blip on, say, a thousand-year chunk of the presumably infinite line. If we go to a larger length of time, ten thousand years, for example, our existence is an even smaller blip. I don’t want to do the math. It doesn’t really matter. Smaller.
IT MAKES SENSE that, if summer vacation when you were twelve was 3/144th of your life (or 1/48th), and seemed long and glorious, but you’re now, let’s say, fifty, we’re talking, um, uh, calculating… 3/600th (or 1/200th) of your life to this point. No wonder this summer seemed so, let’s say, fleeting.
Neither our longevity nor our size in comparison to the incomprehensible vastness of the universe means we’re insignificant or unimportant. What our relative nothingness does mean is each of us has a certain (and mostly unknown) chunk of time to be cruising or snoozing or working or binge watching or shopping or worrying or being angry… whatever we chose to do with our time.
HERE’S WHAT got me thinking about some of this time allocation stuff: I surf. Surf on the Strait of Juan de Fuca is fickle. When there is a chance of waves, a surfer desires to go. I work. Work is important. I do not, I must insist, live to work. However (see above) work is important and necessary. So, did I go recently when the surf, in a sea of flatness, was forecast to be rideable? Yes. Was the surf great? No. Worth the time and expense and the lack of the money that could have been earned? Hmmm. So, the question I have asked others enjoying (to a lesser or greater level than where I was on the guilt-to-bliss scale) this session: “How much money would it take for you not to go?”
A more accurate question is, “How much money have you taken not to go?” Probably not enough, though this varies, related to the quality of the surf. Fill in with your own leisure time activity.
MONEY, it’s what we trade our skills and our hours for, theoretically.
Another factor in my overthinking time is that we are in another election season, with ads for opposing candidates jammed together like an unmoderated debate Voting is often referred to as a ZERO SUM GAME, a vote for one candidate taken from the other. Time may be the ultimate of these games.
I don’t mean to suggest that having an “I’ll sleep when I die” attitude is appropriate, but it would seem being bored is not a good use of our time. Rest, sleep, recreation, gardening, sorting out our tools, doing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING; these non-activities are sometimes the very best use of our time. I spent part of a day recently binge-watching the latest “Game of Thrones.” I was exhausted. Many speak highly of the rejuvenating effects of meditation.
I have thought about it.
If our earth, rotating and revolving, it seems like half of us are in the darkness and half in light. It also seems something like a third of humanity must or should be sleeping.
This should explain why I don’t, purposefully, meditate. Accidentally, yes.
THE GOOD NEWS for those of us who are farther along on our blip or bleep is that our stashes of memories and stories grows ever larger. My last theory is that remembering a story once helps to bring out the deeper cuts (album talk here), little, “Oh, yeah” moments. Then, in remembering or retelling the story, we have the advantage of remembering the original event and the edited, possibly enhanced, and/or embellished version. Helpful.
Thank you for spending some submultiple of your life reading this. Happy October.