Wow. Hurtful. I want to be clear. I thought it was amusing.
SURFERS surf, of course, but we also hang out on beaches and in parking lots, chatting. In another setting, or if chairs, and fires, and favors, or darkness, or lack of actual waves are involved this might be described as ‘partying.’ Since I don’t often ‘party,’ this has become my description of partying. Chatting, schmoozing, talking story, or playing my favorite game, “Who do you know?”
I had, indeed, on this day, before and then after surfing (‘Practicing’ I call it when the waves are minimal but uncrowded), participated in several enjoyable rounds of ‘WDYK.’ Let’s see: Reggie (took a nap, took off for elsewhere), Omar (able to fit three big boards and himself into a stealth rig/car- didn’t surf), Kendall (who surfed) and Natalie (who didn’t). Kendall knows Darren, others I know, though not Reggie, a ‘maybe’ on Adam Wipeout, and some guy who thought he was surfing, and walked over as I was ready to leave in a wetsuit and a hat, ready to chat. “Hey,” I said, as I pulled out, “is that wetsuit really that… short?” “He rolled up the legs,” Omar said. “I did,” the guy in the hat said. “Oh,” I said, and drove away.
THE MYSTERY- As I almost do, partially to mitigate the expense, mostly as an excuse, conveniently timed to coincide with some hope o a swell, I stopped in Sequim. Armed with a cell phone rather than a list (though I usually have, and need, both), I got the stuff and headed back out. That’s when I discovered the note under the windshield wiper of my surf rig.
Now, in every mystery, there is a RED HERRING. It was weird that, the moment I turned around with the just-discovered note, a woman was approaching me. It was Jen (might be Gin, depending or her real name). She may have recognized me, as she said, from little videos Reggie Smart (look him up if you care) posts of me on Instagram. OR, as she also said, I had spoken to her in a parking lot. I THOUGHT it might have been the time, and she may have been the women who, when some dude, several rigs down the line, was complaining (to others, not to me) about my wave-hogging (topic for another day), and after she noted that the lineup is sometimes a “Sausage-fest” (Funny), she told me that she told him, “That’s just what he does.” Not a really good defense. But true.
That might have been a different woman. Jen, when I asked what I had said to her, said, “You said you thought I was a boy.” Oh. So, maybe I’m not necessarily that perceptive. Rude. As it turned out, Jen knows, like, everyone. Ev-er-re-one in the surfing community (such as it is- if it is). Part of this is that Jen worked or works at HOBUCK (not bad-mouthing Hobuck here). I mentioned ADAM WIPEOUT. Whoa! Jen had worked the just-over weekend at one of the constant events they have down at the Hama-Hama. I called Adam to verify. I gave Jen the phone. I loaded up my Costco loot. Jen invited me to her wedding, upcoming, at, surprise, Hobuck, to someone I may or may not know.
Forgot his name. Adam knows him. Of course.
So Jen, who seemed to think some of what I was saying was humorous, particularly that Hobuck is where the hipsters who deny being hipsters hang out, took the photos. She sent them to Reggie, he sent them to me.
Dru showed me how to get them on this computer.
Jen is, at that point, still a suspect.
BUT THEN, because they had both been surfing on this day, Aaron and Randall and Reggie became suspects. I actually texted Aaron. Denial, but he said the note was genius. So, still suspect. Reggie? “No; not me, dude.” I called Keith. “Hmm. I think Randall does the Costco thing… sometimes.
Now, the note could have been written by someone I don’t know, maybe not even a real surfer. Possible
The emergency part is that, because of various reasons, I’m stuck in Seattle overnight. The most recent of the various reasons is that, while going to retrieve Trisha’s car from an underground garage (and I was pretty darn unsure as to which underground garage it was- Trish, who wasn’t in the car when I parked it, did remember- The Lindeman), I discovered, after trying to go down a road/ramp at something like a 35% angle, with signs that read, “No pedestrians on ramp,” I got to huge steel doors, the kind they have, no doubt, for the garages at Fort Knox. “No attendant after hours.” The hours are 6am to 8pm. It was, like, 9-something pm, and I not only got to trudge back up the ramp, but, in order to get back to the room Trish is staying in at the Inn at Virginia Mason, I got to trudge a block over and a block up a similarly steep (or steeper) one block incline, a trek I had made no more than an hour before.
I’ll get back to that in a minute. First, allow me to complain about the heat. When I was checking Trish and our daughter in, yesterday, a woman was in the lobby complaining about it being over one hundred degrees in her room in the over one hundred-year-old, un-air-conditioned building. Yes, Seattle was going for a record number of days over ninety degrees, but, like, how bad can it be?
That was yesterday. Dru was scheduled for surgery some time the next day (today). Trish and I took off at butt-dark-thirty, picked up Dru in Port Gamble, made it to the Bainbridge ferry. Short wait, good position on the boat, no one’s car alarm went off. Dru used an app to find the hospital from the ferry, to find the place where she could get her mandatory Covid test, and the Inn. Dru called to see if she and her mom could get in early. Yes. We packed the gear in the already-quite-warm room, and I took off, ready to do the “Drive around” rather than use the ferries. Forty-five minutes or so of getting lost in parts of Seattle cut off by constantly expanding freeways, I ended up perilously close to the ferries, but still chose to hit I-5. Trisha’s car has great air conditioning.
Today, I again got up early, made it to the (I think) same ferry. I was supposed to find a place to park the car for the day. A close, outside lot was full except for several spots for charging up Teslas, and one spot for handicapped. Trish calls these ‘paralyzed parking’ spots and is probably qualified to have one. But she doesn’t, and I moved on. Down. Underground.
Now, the surgery. I am quite uncomfortable discussing the cancer surgery our forty-two-year-old daughter has (now) undergone, but I will say it was radical, I will also add that Dru’s Oncologist told her that, because of her early concern and investigation, and the early detection of cancer cells, “You just saved your own life.”
This doesn’t mean that the recovery phase is going to be pleasant or easy. While I put off thinking too much about any of this in order to avoid just totally freaking out, I am also putting off considering what is involved in the next phases. Fortunately, Dru’s two main employers have been very supportive, as have many of her many friends. And, as Dru says, “I am so grateful I live in a blue state.” I’m not sure how much the help from the state is, but it is nice there is some support for people who have situations that keep them from working.
I do know several others who have also been stricken with cancer. The fear of how to survive financially is right up there with the fear of the fucking disease (yeah, you thought I might keep it clean- I didn’t try too hard).
Anyway, the heat. While Trish and I were hanging out at the Inn, Dru in the hands and the schedule of the teams (the oncology surgeon’s and the plastic surgeon’s), I was taking advantage of the (slower than ours at home) WiFi. Checking out the YouTube, I saw surfers from Hawaii down in Mexico, and complaining about the heat. I had to wonder how hot it has to be for it to be too hot for them. Meanwhile, Seattle is too hot for me. I went out on the mean city streets to get Trish and I some food. I might not have been the only guy sweating through his shirt but… no, I might have been.
And it was the only shirt I brought.
Because the procedure and the recovery room stuff took a while, visiting hours were over by the time I made a valiant (I think) attempt to see Dru. I went to the place adjacent to the Inn. No way. I called Trish. I went down the really steep hill. I came back up. I went here, there, rode the elevator to limited floors with locked doors. I asked several people (anyone wearing scrubs, really) “Oh, you have to go to the emergency room.” Where’s that? “Just uphill from the Inn.” Oh. So, sweated through my shirt for the second time in a day. I got in, saw Dru, left, got my stuff from the sauna/room, went outside, down the super steep hill, around the corner, found the garage. Then, see above.
THIS IS WHERE everything I had written disappeared. Gone. Forever. YES, I did throw a massive fit. Yes, I wrote about it. THIS POST is now, because I am afraid not to post it, going to be on top of the semi-replacement column. PLEASE, if only to check on continuity, check out the next post down. Never mind, it’s, like, three down. Whoa, so prolific.
ANYWAY, Dru is hooking me up with a laptop. It’s a Mac, so… hoping for the best after a short tutorial. We’ll see. Pretty happy to be able to publish this. Now, just…
Here’s a photo from March of 2004. My son, Sean, daughter Drucilla, and I were down south for a sort of family reunion/celebration of my father’s 80th birthday, arranged and staged by my sister, Suellen, and centered in Oceanside. I used the occasion to go on a sort of show-and-tell trip that included staying as close to the coast as possible, with, no doubt, stories of every spot. The south jetty, where I most often surfed before work at Buddy’s Sign Service, the building in which I worked, the pier, the auto repair shop where my dad worked two nights a week and Sundays for years, Tamarack, Grandview, Beacons, Swamis.
My plan was to write about two things here: Dru’s cancer and my novel, “Swamis.” Plans change. ALWAYS.
ME FIRST. Dru is recovering from surgery, like, a week ago. Trish has been taking care of her, staying at her place, twenty-two minutes away (if no one crashes on or near the Hood Canal Bridge, or some sailboat or nuclear submarine has to go through it) from our house. In order for Trish to do some other stuff, and to give her a break, I got to take over for a day, like, yesterday. Trish left a list of chores that I almost totally ignored. NOW, I have been telling/warning our daughter that I would not help her if she didn’t read the latest chapter I wrote, my third complete rewrite (counting the outline that turned into a sort of treatment) of my novel, “Swamis.” Dru, of course, though I had sent it to her, had not yet read it.
AND YET I came over, watched a horror movie, tried to sleep on her futon, did not make her a delicious breakfast as her mother had been doing, but did, while Dru was scrambling some eggs for simple breakfast burritos, start reading the chapter to her. There were interruptions, including a rare call from George Takamoto. I had to take the call, and somehow, managed to sit on my plate of burritos. Wouldn’t have been bad if it hadn’t been for the toothpicks. SO DRU started reading the chapter to me.
IT WAS GREAT. A couple of awkward parts. Fixable. Here’s the sort of unexpected thing: “Dad, it’s a short story.” No. “Yes. I can stand on its own. Short story.” Yeah, that’s what I was afraid of.
Over a hundred pages into the manuscript, sixty thousand plus words, CHAPTER FOURTEEN has enough of the story to ALMOST stand alone. Not completely, but, as each version of “Swamis” focuses more on the main story line, the plot, if I now go back, if Chapter Fourteen becomes Chapter Five, say, with three more after that, all leading to a non-conclusion… well, that would be a novel I wouldn’t have to beg or threaten someone to read. OR THAT IS THE HOPE.
THE OTHER THING that was on the agenda for yesterday was a zoom call with Dru’s surgeon. Bearing in mind that I am quite uncomfortable talking about this, Dru had decided to go with radical surgery with some hope if not expectation that Chemo and/or Radiation might not be necessary. THIS, almost of course, is not how it is going. Though other testing and discussion and shit has to happen, the Doctor said the two (rightfully) scary options might be in her future. THE ANTICIPATION of surgery- frightening; but she’s past that and recovering. WHAT WE KNOW about others who have undergone these procedures caused me to ambush the doctor when she asked Dru if she had any other questions. “Yeah, I do. I thought we got rid of the cancer. It’s not in her lymph nodes, so?” The doctor referred to the size of the tumor and how much it had grown since first discovered. “But the tumor’s gone. Past tense.” Not so easy. There are ‘maybes’ and ‘we don’t know yets.’ The doctor explained those and tried to lessen any anxiety. “Thank you.”
SO, Yeah. So, “fuck!” So, sure; it can’t just be over. No. Few things are easy. Nothing is EVER simple.
WE ALL GO THROUGH our lives among and between waves of hopeful anticipation and troughs of fearful anticipation. Few events are as blissfully, floatingly good or as full-stop, unbearably bad as the renderings, mosaics, perhaps, our imaginations create from the collected bits of shattered dreams, and the pieces of scattered moments of magic and peace and joy and BLISS.
What we really do, all we really can do is KEEP GOING.
I have to say that Dru seems to be more optimistic about enduring further treatment than I am. Trish, as always, will be supportive. Disappointment. Regroup. Keep going.
MEANWHILE, my good friend Stephen Davis, having made it through six rounds of Chemo, with his cancer knocked-back, is currently getting ready to take another step; a massive dose of chemicals that will do so much damage that, once through it, he will have to retake all his childhood inoculations. And that might not be the end of it. He will be unable to work or, probably, surf, for six months or so. SCARY!
OKAY, I’ll get a photo of the completed version on here. Soon.
Trisha’s and my daughter, Drucilla, arrived in Seattle on TUESDAY, the record tying 15th day of above-90-degree days in one season. So, fun. Dru was going to Virginia Mason for a surgery I have been actively avoiding thinking about and I am uncomfortable writing about. I will say the cancer surgery is radical. It is also somewhat unusual for a 42-year-old.
ON WEDNESDAY, Dru had the surgery- hours of it, with two teams, one working on the radical part of it, the second on the reconstructive aspects. THE GOOD NEWS IS it went well. What we have to look forward to in the recovery process is, yes, something I’m trying, again, not to think about. Trish has tried to tell me the details, I have tried not to really comprehend them; I just know it’s messy and embarrassing and totally necessary.
NOT thinking too hard is… okay, say the long-range surf forecast calls for significant swell five days out. Excited? Probably, but three days out the picture will be clearer, and the awesome most likely will become… less so.
I have tried really hard to not imagine the negative scenarios possible with any type of surgical procedure. MY ZEAL to not freak the fuck out, to not know more than I need to know, has not helped me in the past several days.
I will need several posts to cover all the stupid, mostly avoidable missteps I have made in trips to and from the Big, Hot, Steep-hilled, Dangerous, Emerald City. It isn’t over. It’s THURSDAY and I’m currently in Quilcene, Trish, with a hamstring injury, is in an un-air-conditioned room adjacent to the hospital, and we are awaiting news as to when Dru is going to be released. Then I get to zip back over. Most likely this will be tomorrow, FRIDAY, never a good day in the summer to try to get a ferry ride west.
I do have some mostly misadventures to write about and, in fact, did write a really lengthy piece late last night, here, like I am doing now, on the actual WordPress setup. That was, and this might be, a mistake. A message suddenly popped onto the screen informing me that there had been an error and… gone. I should have and should now, first write on the Microsoft Word, then transfer. Should.
Dru, according to her Oncologist, by not ignoring signs and symptoms, by not hoping for the best, by detecting a problem early and getting an early diagnosis… well, here’s the quote: “You just saved your own life.”
That’s the GOOD PART. I will be back with the fun/stupid/avoidably dumb parts. Later.
This is another outtake from “Swamis.” If writing is trying to put the puzzle pieces together, this was written to support something later in the manuscript and taken out because I figured out another way to get the information on the page.
I will reveal where the idea that a small, independent grocery store would have tabs for customers. It is based on The Village Store in Quilcene, Washington, known at the time when Trish and I moved here, late fall, 1978, as “Mary’s” Village Store. Mary and her husband, nicknamed Pard, offered credit based on a quick conversation. “We’ll set you up with a tab.” Nearly everyone in town had a tab. Mary also offered a sort of ‘payday loan,’ with, like ten percent interest, as in, if you borrow a hundred bucks on Tuesday, you pay a hundred and ten on Friday. Good money.
Because you had a tab, you had some obligation to buy locally, as in not going to a supermarket in Port Townsend or elsewhere for groceries. And Mary kept tabs, so to speak, on those who had tabs. Her standard greeting was, “What do you know?” She was persistent and serious in this. She wanted to know.
We, of course, had a tab. Trish worked at the store for (I’d have to ask her) some amount of time. I painted the store to pay off the tab. I wasn’t happy with having one.
Still, it worked well for Mary and Pard. They had stacks of thin pieces of cardboard, tabs, in order, alphabetically. If Mary was at the counter, she would survey the card. Her expression would reveal whether or not you should put this purchase on the tab or give some explanation on when you might pay the amount owed down.
When Mary and Pard attempted to sell the Village Store, local gossip/legend has it, they had to eat a lot of the debt accumulated over the years. There have been several owners since. I have no idea whether the current owners take this kind of casual credit. My guess is… no. I haven’t asked.
Okay, here’s the outtake:
SIDESLIPPING- OUTTAKES FROM “SWAMIS”
I loved the Falcon. My first car.
No, it wasn’t a gift. I was making payments, money withheld from paychecks at the job my father set me up with. “Responsibility has to be learned,” my father said each time he picked up his half, straight from the middle register at the San Elijo Grocery. It was a sort of ritual, every other Saturday night, my father taking cash from the hands of his old Marine Corps buddy. “We all have to learn how to work hard. Huh, Tony?”
Tony, Mr. Tony to me, would look at the cash, look at me, and smile. “Right, Gunny.”
With my first payday, December 28, 1968, Tony gave me my half, which, at a dollar fifty an hour, for sixteen hours on weekends, plus a few more days during Christmas vacation, paid for the gas to get to Cardiff from Fallbrook, and not much more. He winked and said, “It’s Kind of like…” Mr. Tony nodded and smiled, the nod with a certain and meaningful rhythm, a bit of a jaw thrust included in the motion. There was a bit of a twist of the lips in Tony’s smile. Suggestive.
My father gave Tony a look I was very familiar with. Disapproving. Disappointed.
“It’s all right.” Tony seemed relieved when my father laughed and pushed me away. “Real world, huh?” Tony nodded. “The boy keeping his tab clear?”
“Chocolate milk and those little donuts are all he’d put on a tab, Gunny.” My father looked at Tony with another expression I was familiar with, the just-try-lying-to-me look. “No tab for Jody, Gunner, no little loan ‘til payday with exorbitant interest.”
“Usury, it’s called, Tony.”
“Yeah. Jesus doesn’t like it.”
“But you do.”
“Brings in customers. Kind of makes up for the folks who skip out.”
“And you and Mrs. Tony love having people… owe you.”
I loved my job; bagging, stocking shelves, sweeping up; I described myself as a nub at a family grocery store with a view of Cardiff Reef.
I already said this, but I loved the Falcon. This was the family wagon in which my mother, and then I learned to drive. Three on the tree. Pop the clutch. Stall. Try again. My father, frustrated enough teaching my mother, gave her the task of teaching me when I was fifteen and a half. Exactly. She was so much calmer than he had been. I knew, even as my father turned the Falcon over to me, that I would be expected to teach my brother, Freddy. I didn’t plan on being calm. I didn’t plan on being around. I had other plans.
As always, thanks for reading. All “Swamis” outtakes are protected under copyright, as is all original writing and original illustrations contained in realsurfers. Almost all the photos are borrowed.
As usual, I have limited time before I am supposed to be somewhere, checking out someone’s castle for potential painting opportunities. I did get up early, checked what limited info is available to make a guess on whether it is worth it to drive a distance, or a greater distance to possibly find surf. In the circumstance where there might be an opportunity for the closer trip, I would, of course, text the client and claim one or more of the various contractor excuses.
Didn’t happen, but I did do some coloring on a drawing I finished during a frantic, frustrating day… yesterday, and then had the original reduced so I could do the coloring and the scanning. Okay, so, as usual, the illustration, based on a photograph taken by Reggie Smart out on the actual northwest Pacific coast, is kind of over-drawn.
I scanned the colorized version a few minutes ago and… surprise, it is also over-colored. Some colors kick ass on other colors and take over. The most wrong of the colors. Wrongest? The ones I don’t want standing out. Luckily, I got five prints to color up.
Back to the lack of time. Gotta go. Next time, a hopefully, not overcolored version.
The World Surfing League has advanced the image and the business of competitive surfing.
It has. This is true. Most of the rest of this piece is opinion. Mine. There are other opinions.
A couch surfer in Vermont or Ohio can now go to YouTube or go online and see professionally managed contests featuring wave riders from about ten years old to somewhere around 50 (even older than Kelly in some specialty events) going for the win, entertaining the audience with a succession of score-enhancing cranks and punts and cutbacks and floaters, throwing a creative claim when appropriate, always looking for an advantage over the competition.
On a recent Saturday, between sort of doing chores, taking a too brief nap, and writing until I forgot the original plot, I switched the big screen from restful music with soothing images and optimistic aphorisms, to Roku, then to YouTube. Whoa, there was a contest going on at Lower Trestles. Trestles! I loved the spot. This scene was way different than the way it was set up when I worked across the tracks and the freeway, and up the hill, in 1975.
While I, not fully aware of how lucky I was, was able to drive out as far as Uppers, the scene on that Saturday was of hundreds of big-tired bikes, sani-cans, judging structures. This was some sort of contest for kids, ages 10 (guessing- really young) to 16. Some of the competitors were there with parents (some well- known former competitors), some with coaches. They were in heats, going wave for wave with other kids. They all seemed to rip.
Contest rip. It is different from free surf ripping. Show. It is for entertainment. Going down the line on a perfect wave will get one three points. Throw in a couple of cutbacks, five. Big air into the rocks, excellent.
And there are the priority rules. They are somewhat similar to the classic lineup etiquette. The biggest difference is the absolute right to ‘sit on’ your competitor and/or to burn him or her if you have priority.
What made me think about this is this: Unable to stay up late enough to watch more of the contest from Jeffrey’s Bay (I gave up after Italo was injured and spectators wouldn’t get up from sitting on the stairs to let him get helped up them- but Kanoa did get a buzzer-beater to win their heat), I got up early to see which one of my surfing heroes won the event. Fast-forwarding the post show, I saw replays of the interference call against Carissa Moore that gave Tatiana Weston-Webb an almost free pass into the finals. It just didn’t look right. It didn’t look fair.
Wait a minute. I suddenly flashed back to my second favorite scene from the docu-series “Make or Break.” My favorite scene was when Stefanie Gilmore was (I thought), goaded into saying, about winning, “Fuck them, I want it more.” The second favorite scene involved Tatiana and Sage Erikson in a contest in Mexico. An interference call had cost Sage the heat. Sage seemed to believe Tatiana had tricked her into going on a wave by claiming not to know which of them had priority. Then Tati dropped in. Sage wasn’t happy, and in stark contrast to the way the WSL portrays competitor interaction, all mutual respect and love, Sage called Tatiana out for the cutthroat move.
Tatiana looked… if she looked sorry, I didn’t see it. It was more of a “Fuck you, I wanted it more!” look.
Now, I should add that I am a huge Stephanie fan. I also should add that Trish is a Courtney Conlogue fan. Stephanie won the Mexico contest by surfing harder, making aggressive and high risk maneuvers with her classic smoothness. Sportsmanship (or sportspersonship) wise, after Steph beat Court in a heat at Jeffrey’s Bay, it was reassuring to see both of them in a warm-back-up hot tub. I am hoping both of their smiles were real.
I googled “Did Tatiana burn Carissa,” and got a story, with video, on Tatiana burning Moana Jones-Wong at Pipeline. Yes. The surfer Jamie O’Brian calls the undisputed “Queen of Pipeline,” a surfer who legitimately outsurfed every other woman competitor and beat Carissa Moore in the finals of the Billabong Pipeline contest, was locked into a tube and Tatiana dropped in on her, then straightened out.
Moana called Tatiana out on the beach. And on social media. A couple of points: Tatiana claimed she didn’t see Moana but didn’t drop in on male surfers; Tatiana had a coach or someone blocking for her in the lineup. Now, Tatiana said she was trying to earn a spot in the lineup, but Moana countered that, rather than “buying her way in” she had taken years to work her way from the shoulder to the peak, without dropping in on others. It is a matter of respect.
All this in a case against Tatiana is circumstantial, of course. But here’s more: Carissa has been surfing competitively since she was, guessing, ten years old. She knows the rules. It is difficult to believe she didn’t know who had priority. Tatiana waited until Carissa was fully committed on a dangerous and well-overhead wave before she dropped in, not on an angle, but straight down. There was no way Carissa could have avoided the interference. Tati made no real effort to complete the ride but fell in an overly dramatic way more reminiscent of the WWE than the WSL.
Did Tatiana Weston-Webb win the final heat fairly? As nearly as I can tell, she did. Is there a little tarnish on her trophy? Up for debate.
A last point: It seemed to me the commentators were risking injury in trying as hard as they could to not say there just might have been tactics at least underhanded if not all out dirty. Legal tactics.
Yes, the stakes are high. There is one more contest and few spots left in the Final Five. So much drama, so much hype. The waiting period for the one-day contest to decide this year’s top male and female surfers is September 8 through the 16th. Trestles.
Pump up the tires on your e-bike, check your Wi-fi connection. It might just be EPIC! It would be great if the winners win with pure surfing rather than tactics.
Again, I love that contests are so easily accessed, so expertly analyzed and brilliantly filmed. Live action. Replays. Members of the audience can pick our heroes AND our villains. We know something about the competitors, but we don’t really know them. Such drama!
Meanwhile, in the real world, priority disputes continue.
I have written SO MANY versions of a story about a dickhead faking an epileptic seizure in the parking lot of Fallbrook high, 1969; and I have just worked on another, each one shorter and more concise (hopefully), each one changing the narrative of the manuscript that is getting (again, hopefully) more focused… better; each version split up and connected with other characters and other action; I figured I should reveal where the idea for the fictional encounter came from.
It was a story I only heard, didn’t witness. I didn’t go out on Friday nights. Seventh Day Adventist, one of very few in my school. More real or imagined surfers than Adventists. It was a tradition among my two closest surfing friends, Phillip and Ray, and some of their/our other friends, to avoid some away football games and go to a secluded hilltop among the avocado groves and scrub, one way in and out, and drink, smoke, hang out, and then go back to the high school to await the arrival of the rooter bus. More hanging out.
The drinking part of this involved getting some over-21-aged Marine to purchase beer in exchange for all or part of the Marine’s purchases paid for by kids hanging outside one of two liquor stores in town. Not at all suspicious. Cigarette purchases were easier. 18. Select the oldest looking juvenile. “Oh, I left my ID in my other pants.” Sure.
I did actually go on one of these adventures once; don’t remember how I got out of the house, but I do know it didn’t go well. Another guy and I got to sit in the back of Ray’s El Camino while Phillip and, probably, possibly, Bill Buel, got to ride ‘bitch’ (not my word) and Phillip got to ride shotgun. Like surfing, some priorities are set by status. So, fourth or fifth in this grouping, different in the water. The front seat guys were cracking open beers before we got to the secret spot. I was uncomfortable, particularly when some out-of-school folks, associates of my friends but not of mine, hard guys (at least harder than we were) showed up. Phillip, possibly because one should act differently if drinking, started dancing around me as if we were boxing; doing the “come on, man…” deal. I gave him a straight shot that bloodied his nose and lip. I had some amount of beer. Coors. Asked how it tasted by Ray, I said it tasted better after the first few sips. “Better and mo’ better,” he said.
We did go to the school, hang around in the sloped parking lot across from the gymnasium. Not all that exciting. Phillip did get an amount of sympathy from girls from the wounds, but they also looked at me with a certain, slightly more interested look. Or I imagined they did. “One punch, huh?” Yeah.
Bill Birt was another classmate of ours. Bill had the distinction of having hair on his chest that seemed to threaten his neck in the sixth grade. If I was uncool out of the water, and I was, Bill, with a seemingly permanent bit of spittle on one side or the other of his lip, was more so. He did get into surfing. Don’t get me wrong, I liked him. He is on permanent display in my house in the background of a photo of Trish and her father on our wedding day. Nice, since he died in a car accident only a few years later. Bill was allowed to participate in the Friday night adventures if he paid for the beer and if his parent’s huge car was used for transportation.
One Bill Birt rooter bus story involved Bill taking a massive piss on the uphill side of his mom’s car, the urine river flowing under it and down the asphalt. Uncool enough to tell at school, another addition to tales of Bill always getting it a little bit wrong.
The other relative-to-“Swamis” story involved a couple of my other surf-adjacent friends, guys who always seemed to get the rest of us into more trouble than we would have otherwise. They pull into the parking lot along with my friends and parents and others waiting for the return of the possibly victorious football team. Mark (we’ll call him Mark, though I can’t guarantee that) screeches the car to a stop, falls out of the driver’s seat, starts flopping around. His crew bails out, runs over to him, don’t help him, but start calling on others to do so.
In my manuscript, I have placed Joey into that setting. I included another character, teacher Mr. Dewey (yeah, you get it). Mr. Dewey is making out with another player’s mom in a car while awaiting the return of his wife and daughter on the rooter bus. Joey, who never goes to school events, and who suffered seizure activity as a result of an accident when he was five, is not amused by the antics. Prone to violent outbursts, Joey walks over, puts a foot on the faker’s throat. Mr. Dewey runs over, grabs Joey. He tells Joey that his father’s position on the school board won’t save him this time. The prankster jumps up, semi-apologizes to Joey, then throws up on Mr. Dewey just as the rooter bus unloads. Joey, noticing the lipstick on the collar of Mr. Dewey’s shirt, says, “You got lucky, Mr. Dewey.”
That’s kind of where it is now, but now, Mr. Dewey shows up at Joey’s father’s wake. It provides me with someone to comment on how a very conservative Sheriff’s detective and Marine veteran of World War II and Korea can marry a Japanese woman. Joey comments that “It’s traditional, isn’t it? Kill the men, take the women.”
Right now, where I am in the ever-more-time-condensed manuscript, Mr. Dewey purchases the mini-Ponderosa in Fallbrook. This allows Joey to move to Leucadia, advancing the story. Meanwhile, here’s an earlier version that mentions the incident:
CHAPTER 33- TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 23, 1969
Several Big Jackets and Julia Cole and I were in the classroom outside the photo lab. We were looking at two sheets of contact prints; three rows of 35-millimeter positive images cut from a roll and pressed and fit and exposed on eight and a half by eleven photo stock. Most of the photos were of Portia posing on the landing and stairs at Swamis.
“I wish I’d caught it,” Julie said, spreading the photos she’d chosen to enlarge around the table. “Portia had the most wicked kind of smile. And then, when you saw Portia… well… You looked at me first. Regular smile. Then you saw Portia.”
“And I saw both of your faces.”
“And you were both… I don’t know how to describe it. Intense. I feel like you were both so focused, so…”
“Julie; you don’t… I mean, my father would say you don’t feel; you believe, based on facts, evidence. Cops always talk about ‘gut feelings,’ but my dad…”
Julie pinched my arm pretty much as hard as she could. “You feel that?” I pulled away. She got her face as close as she could to mine, looking into my eyes. “Or do you believe that?” I must have looked angry; I couldn’t have hidden that. She didn’t look frightened. A moment later she pursed her lips, twisted her head to allow me to kiss her.
I was moving closer but stopped when I looked at her hands. Fists. She was ready, in case. I looked at my own hands. I opened my fists, spread my fingers as far as possible. Julie did the same. We both smiled; we embraced; we kissed.
She whispered, “I believe you.”
In Julia Cole’s photos Portia was mostly backlit, her semi-transparent shawl held out like bird’s wings. I hadn’t seen Portia up close before that afternoon. Some people are like that; you just can’t, even if you’re close enough, get a good look at them, a real look. If I said Portia had a sort of protective aura; that would sound… off. But it was true. I had seen her moves, her gestures, always flowing, as if she was a dancer. Or had been. Or could have been.
In other photos Portia, so obviously pregnant, looked almost vulnerable. Almost.
“Grant told me you’re known to be kind of… violent.”
“Grant? Grant fucking Murdoch?”
“Yeah, him. He says you punched out Rusty McAndrews and stuck your foot on his, Grant’s, neck, both on the same night.” When I didn’t respond, she added, “And you slammed Rusty’s brother into a drinking fountain in the sixth grade, busted out his front teeth.” I nodded. “And you got kicked out of Little League and then off the football because…”
“I’m sure. Such as…?”
“Travis McAndrews shouldn’t have said the fountain was for white kids only, my dickhead friends shouldn’t have talked me into going drinking with them and their dickhead doper friends; Rusty fucking McAndrews shouldn’t have called Mohammad Ali by his slave name, Cassius Clay; Grant shouldn’t have acted like he was having an epileptic seizure in the parking lot at Fallbrook High while we were all waiting for the return of the rooter bus; and, and Rusty McAndrews… you know the fucker?”
Julie smiled, her teeth gritted, was about to say or ask something, possibly a question on why I took such offense at Grant Murdoch’s fake seizure, when Broderick appeared inside the lightlock door and said, “If you two could join us; we have a lesson; how to get that perfect sepia tone.”
“Oh, sepia,” Julie said as the door spun around and back again, empty. I jumped in. She pushed in beside me. “Yeah, Joey, I know the fucker,” she said as we spun into the brief blackness.
SOOO, Grant takes the place of Mark (or whoever). Broderick, the (fictional) photography teacher, is probably out, Julia (Julie to her friends and eventually Joey/Jody) Cole and Joey might not actually make out, AND the ever-shrinking timeline for “Swamis,” my novel, might not even reach to the summer of 1969. I will definitely make it to where it begins, the return of Jumper Hayes.
OHHH, and Rusty McAndrews, based on one or more of the characters I have been adjacent to, will be a critical, if diminished character. Yes, Julie knows him.
Waves, summer, good luck.
And a reminder: Everything from Swamis (and writings in realsurfers) is covered by copyright protection.
She offered him such soft persuasion, on the night before the fourth of July,
Began as such a festive occasion, she held him close, he never asked her why.
He went off like a roman candle, so sure the light lit up half of the night,
But love was something they could never handle, no, love’s one thing they couldn’t get quite right.
Misunderstanding, misunderstood, he thought that they could make it happen,
Now he sees it ain’t no good.
Misunderstanding, he got it wrong,
She took the words that he had written, wrote herself another song.
She said it’s just a misunderstanding, said she’d never meant to lead him along,
She hoped he’d have a really soft landing, she wrote down all the words to his last song.
All in all she treated him quite kindly, she said there are some things she should explain,
He had gone off way way way too blindly, and love that’s blind can only bring one pain.
Some things, she said, are best left unspoken, some things he said he never should have said,
Some spells, once cast, should never be broken, some love’s not in your heart, it’s in your head.
But she’d already heard his confession, she is the only woman he thinks of,
Some times, love is really obsession, well, sometimes what we think is love is love.
He walked into the teeth of the morning, where firecrackers popped and fuses burned,
He had been knocked down without a warning, he couldn’t put in words what he had learned.
All he knew is he had never known her, and everything he thought he knew was wrong,
Didn’t know from there where he could go to, Couldn’t find the words for his new song.
Misunderstanding, misunderstood, he thought that they could make it happen,
Now he sees it ain’t no good.
Misunderstanding, she got it wrong,
She took the words that he had written,
But now he has another song.
“Soft Persuasion” is from the collection, “Love Songs for Cynics,” copywrite Erwin A. Dence, Jr.
Happy Independence Day to one and all and all the individuals, all the ones and twos, families biological and otherwise. Note: my favorite line from this song, not just because I wrote it, is “Some spells, once cast, should never be broken.”
I do live on Surf Route 101. Vehicles do pass, north and south, depending on the swell direction. If my work takes me east, across the Hood Canal Bridge, I have frequently passed hopeful surfers headed for some dream of waves out on the Peninsula in the morning, then passed the same rigs in the evening or night. Did they score? Did I make enough money to not be jealous? Probably not. How do I feel when I’m headed home from surfing, knowing wind is on a dropping swell and I see other hopefuls headed out? Answer- Not as pleased as you might think. Maybe the waves got… better.
It is not a secret that I will occasionally break into song while painting. My friend Stephen R. Davis just sent me a link to “Groovin'” by the Young Rascals, originally released in 1967. “Groovin’, on a Sunday afternoon, wheelin’, couldn’t get away too soon…” Perhaps Steve just wanted to refresh my memory on the actual lyrics… for next time. I was 16 when the song came out, and I started to tell a story about how, because whatever car my dad had supplied me with, some beater he got on a mechanic’s lien, was broken, and because my mom, for some reason, couldn’t or wouldn’t take her seven kids to the beach, I walked and/or rode my skateboard, four or five miles, in the inland mid-summer heat, teenage angst fully in control, to Fallbrook Union High School. Kids played on the fields, typically, and skateboarding hadn’t yet been banned on the perfectly groomed sidewalks. Still, it was too hot to play baseball, there were no cute girls hanging out, and… This is probably the point the story got interrupted by some work-related problem, but, the conclusion is, some of the cooler kids in my class pulled up and, there I was, shortly thereafter, sitting in the back seat, all the windows down, cruising the well-cruised route, A&W, Foster’s Freeze, loop around down by the Little League field, all the while nodding along to the music. “This was,” I tried to tell Steve, a time in my life when, for an hour or so, I actually felt… somewhat… cool. Somewhere in there, the radio playlist got to “Groovin’.”