I always believed surfers are either apolitical or apathetic, too busy to check out much beyond weather and surf forecasts, maybe follow a few YouTube channels; AND, if a surfer/rebel/individualist were to be political, I assumed he or she would be liberal.
OF COURSE, until I had cash stolen from my vehicle (twice) while I surfed, I believed real surfers had a sort of honor code that meant surfers don’t steal from other surfers. OKAY, so it was, like, $66.00 or so, pretty much take home pay from my $1.65/hr wage back in 1969; and I did write off the first theft (shame on him) as having been done by, obviously, a non-surfer. HA! Shame on me.
ANYWAY, the elections are coming up and my postings might just get a touch political. I hope you’re not touchy.
SO, SCANNING the internet a bit past the surf forecasts, I discovered the CHUMPS4TRUMP site, with it’s motto: “Last time was for four years, this time it’s for life,” and it’s slogan, “If you voted for Trump, you’re already a member.” Anyway, there’s some advice for Trump-agators (apparently some illusion to draining some metaphorical swamp and filling it with those willing to pay more for a position- bids accepted) who might also claim to surf (sometimes, once in Hawaii, back in the day, once a year at private beaches in third world countries- or Malibu) or consider themselves actual surfers (as in, own a Wavestorm and a fake boogie board).
Here it is: Please stay out of the water between now and November 4th, election day; The Donald has decreed that “a lot of folks say salt water might be polluted; that’s what they say, so, be safe; don’t get a cold; don’t go in. Hang in the parking area; that’s almost like surfing; a lot of people say.”
BUT, gators (special shout out to agi-gators and protest infil-gators), when you do vote, Wednesday, November 4, you must remember to, one, do it in person, and two, don’t look like a snowflake in a designer mask. If the deep state or other local overlords force you to wear a mask, chumps4trump, incorporated. LLC, recommends BURLAP; available in a variety of shades of red; and, yes, made in America by the same folks who bring you the My Pillow. Oh, so wonderfully fluffy and white.
ALL RIGHT, since any true Trump-ladite would have given up reading by now, the truth is I made up a lot of this stuff. So, I lied. It used to be a bad thing.
So, here’s the truth: Trump doesn’t give a fuck if you get sick. The actual election day is Tuesday, November 3, and, because the Trump Person who donated enough to get the opportunity to weaken his competitor has done his damnedest to screw up and slow down the UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE, when you get your ballot, send it in immediately or bring it to a secure ballot dropoff spot. Hopefully, enough people will be monitoring these sites to make sure our votes don’t get, um, uh, lost.
It’s not like I’m apologizing. I have some real concerns about businesses failing, a lack of any kind of support for small businesses and want-to-be-working folks from the Republican-controlled Senate, the members of which can’t even discuss anything Don won’t sign- and can’t believe him when he says he supports anything Fox doesn’t pre-approve. No matter how the investment class keeps playing the stock market, this shit will eventually hit the fan. BUT, MOSTLY, it is very difficult for me to believe that anyone can believe in (as in he loves America more than himself) or vote for the (I’ll leave out the adjectives- you know what he is) current President. If you made the mistake once, shame on him…
IF YOU WANT TO KNOW PRETTY MUCH EVERYTHING THAT’S WRONG with something you have written, read it out loud. I figured I would start with that, only part of what happened at the “Art and Writings of Erwin Dence” Zoom event on the most recent Thursday night.
Keith Darrock, Port Townsend Librarian (he has a fancier title I can’t remember- just think librarian only more so, add in that he rips on any board in an ever-increasing quiver) and I got into the Zoom virtual space early, me on standby in my living room, he moving his laptop to an appropriate location in his home, books in the background.
Trish and our daughter, Dru, who had spent a lot of time making a slideshow from the illustrations (available for viewing on the previous post, non-slideshow) were joining-in from Dru’s place in Port Gamble.
I had spent part of the day preparing for what I hoped and imagined would happen at the Zoom event, having been way too distracted to get any significant work done the previous day because I was contacting and inviting (texting, mostly) folks I thought might be willing to participate.
WHEN I DID speak to someone, it turned into… well, I do like to talk. I should particularly mention that I spent some time on the cell phone with a local Port Townsend (professional- as in no other ‘real’ job) writer who was gracious/foolish enough to read the entire unexpergated version of “Swamis” and give me a lot of guidance. He said he’d probably be watching the last night of the Democratic National Convention, but, again, he was gracious/foolish enough to discuss what changes I had made to the manuscript since his review, and he did reveal why he had dedicated himself to writing. “I just couldn’t see myself doing anything else for a living.” “Road construction, retail sales?” “Good luck.”
BECAUSE I had never actually written a succinct description of “Swamis,” as in 25 words or less, and I wanted to sound more author-like if pressed, I endeavored to do so. Okay, it’s 376 words or so. AND, because, in my mind, the audience/Zoomers might include the folks who have attended library events in the past, I went through the manuscript and picked out three pages that I thought might appeal to that educated group of hip and literate PT word lovers. The subchapter is one of the more (I thought) semi-romantic parts of the story.
SO, 7pm Pacific Daylight Savings Time is 3pm on the Big Island of Hawaii where Stephen R. Davis, freshly freed from quarantine, is hanging out (and, yeah, I guess, working). He was one of the first to ZOOM in, from his phone, from a vehicle, riding with former PT resident, and, by all accounts, surf ripper, McKinna (probably didn’t get the name right- I’ve heard of him but may never have met him- son of a well-known surfer, actually learned to surf in Wa. state), heading out looking for surf.
“So crowded,” Steve said, “Lots of wahines in bikinis. Very little material. I can’t tell you how little material there is in these bikinis.”
Okay, pretty appropriate. By the time some other folks had joined, Steve and McKinna were going out at a surf spot with (we got to see this) some great looking waves. Other folks had joined in, a couple of library types, as in solid citizens, but mostly local surfers I could easily name; and, if I get them to sign some simple non-disclosure agreements, I might. Joke. Sort of. Permission.
If I had to summarize the evening, it was like what one would hear from a group of surfers in any beachside parking area, probably anywhere: Who snaked who, what happened after that one session at that one spot, where did all the hipsters and hodads come from, and what about that time when…
SOMEWHERE IN THERE, about the time when I had to cut my video because of limited bandwidth from my overstretched DSL line (not that I minded this, the slideshow was designed, mostly, so that folks didn’t have to look at me) I did read my description of “Swamis,” and, most-embarrassingly, I did read the three pages I had (erroneously) selected, trying to vary the voices for the four characters.
THERE ARE sections of the novel with actual surfing, brilliantly described, with less dialogue from fewer voices.
THIS WAS WHEN STEPHEN R. DAVIS returned, chased, he said, out of the water by a “pack of rippers. Kids. They’re everywhere over here. So many rippers.” SO, we (and we, by this time, included, among others, Dru’s friend, professional DJ, Trenton, and Trisha’s nephew, and, I guess, my nephew-in-law, or, maybe, just nephew, Dylan, La Jolla surfer and recent graduate from UCLA Law School) were treated to another virtual tour of the Big Island, commentary by Steve, with continuing banter from what constitutes most of the unofficial PT Surf crew, special dispensation for ADAM WIPEOUT and, sort of, me, both of us from the SURF ROUTE 101 division. Unofficial.
NEXT DAY REVIEW: Fun; some good stories shared. Trish told Dru I was nothing like Joey in my novel, told me I definitely need help in writing anything even close to romantic fiction. Steve added significantly to if he did not entirely save the event. Dylan, probably used to surfing in the crowded California city surf with it’s ghetto mentality, thought it was great that surfers actually could enjoy each other’s company, even virtually. Steve and McKinna scored some empty rights at sunset, Hawaii time.
Here’s my description of “Swamis:”
Joseph DeFreines, Jr. tells stories centered around the legendary Southern California surf spot, Swamis, focusing on 1969. It’s a world of hippies and burnouts and Jesus Freaks and protesters, a time when words like love and peace and war and revolution might all be used in a single sentence.
Joseph’s father, a detective with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Office, has just died in, of course, mysterious circumstances; Joe has just graduated from an inland high school and moved to the coast; he’s turning eighteen and facing the draft; and he’s falling in love with a surfer girl whose father definitely has a connection with the North County’s cash crop, the area’s open secret, marijuana.
The growing and processing and selling of marijuana is progressing, getting more sophisticated, more profitable, and more dangerous. The formerly cottage industry is evolving from the homegrown, with plants hidden in the avocado orchards and kids selling dime bags. There is money to be laundered, good citizens getting involved. There is, or could be, a wholesale market.
The unofficial line with the Sheriff’s Office, in a quote from Joseph, Senior, is “The world works on an acceptable level of corruption.”
When a man is burned to death just outside of the white walls of the religious compound that gives Swamis its name, that level has been breached.
While surfing has its too-obvious allure; too much freedom in too little clothing, its aura of rebellion and undeniable coolness, it also has, at least in Joseph’s mind, a certain set of high standards, a code of conduct. He’s wrong. He’s naïve. It’s a different world, existing con-currently with the world of commuters, the world of law enforcement, the world of pot… so many concurrent realities.
The characters in “Swamis” are complex: A detective’s son with possible epilepsy and a history of violent outbursts; a wounded returning Vietnam Vet; an ex-teen runaway-turned-evangelist; a Japanese war bride; a hired thug who becomes a respected detective; a black photojournalist; an East Indian who wanted to be a revolutionary and was banished from London; Mexican middlemen under immense pressure. If Swamis are seekers more than prophets, they are all Swamis. Still, none are perfect.
Maybe Virginia Cole. To Joey.
Maybe, among the chaos, there’s the occasional perfect moment, the perfect ride on a perfect wave.
Thursday, August 20, 7pm Pacific Daylight Savings Time. So, to Zoom in, and, frankly, I’m a bit worried about this, particularly since I can’t seem to figure out how to highlight stuff so it’s easy for you, but, okay, https://zoom.us/j/91279664230
Allright. No, not really, but, when the event starts, moderator/curator/librarian/ripper Keith Darrock is planning to show some of my illustrations. This is partially so Zoomers don’t have to see my face, and it was totally my idea. Yeah, Keith agreed. It seems like the easiest way to do this was to put a bunch on my site, let Keith scroll down. As such, I have attempted to move some from a thumb drive. We’ll see how that works. Stand by.
Things went wrong when I tried to post this yesterday. I had three or four paragraphs written, then did the cut-and-paste thing. OOPS! I had two copies of the text, taken from my manuscript for “Swamis,” and, when I tried several ways to speed up the deletion of the unwanted second version; errrrrrr, I eliminated the other stuff.
Anyway, this particular chapter is, in my work of fiction, written by 22 year old Jumper Hayes, freshly back from and severely wounded as a Marine in Vietnam. It’s 1969, and he asks the fictional Jody, just turning 18 and a fellow student in a Creative Writing class at Palomar Junior College, to type up what he had written.
What is very important to me is that anyone reading “Swamis” be certain that the writer was there; that it is accurate and has the feel of the place at the time. Since I wasn’t in Vietnam, I asked Trisha’s brother, my brother-in-law, James L. Scott, who was an officer in the Marines in Vietnam, to provide some feedback.
And he did. He said it read like it was written by someone who wasn’t there. He particularly pointed out the lack of swearing.
SO, here’s my solution. Jim said it was ‘better.’ I’m thinking he’s giving it a C+, maybe more like, hopefully, a B-. Check it out.
Wait, here’s what I was doing while Jim was in Vietnam. That’s a board, the “Sunshine Super Seed” with me, a board Scott Sutton made, sold to Trish. Her mother thought Scott ripped Trish off, so I bought it. Very thick. I could, at the time, knee paddle it.
CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE- WEDNESDAY SEPTEMBER 17, 1969
This is the piece Jumper submitted in Creative Writing class:
There weren’t enough claymores; or someone had set them off too soon; or there were just too many of them. VC. Local irregulars. Them.
It wasn’t a firefight. We were doing most of the shooting. Our position wouldn’t hold. We would be overrun. Too many of them, running, charging, pushing others forward; leaping over branches and bodies. Almost all of them were yelling, screaming; their screams mixed with ours, with the screams and moaning of pain, the constant-but-irregular beat of gunfire.
We couldn’t kill enough of them fast enough.
“Fall back!” the LT yelled, just before he fell back, dead; two soldiers over from me. A couple Marines ran. Others backed away, automatic weapons fanning the clearing.
I stood up, firing blindly; left to right, right to left. Screaming.
I felt the first bullet. Heat, then numbness, my left arm suddenly useless. I saw the expressions on the faces; fear and anger and determination, then surprise, as I dropped two of the three charlies coming at me. Closer. So close.
The second one fell forward. His momentum versus a bullet. My rifle was jammed against his chest. I kept firing. As I was falling backwards, the third soldier struck me in the side of my head; and kept running.
This is battle. Fear and anger and determination and confusion. Falling back and falling down.
I was never unconscious. Time had become nothing; time was blood in my eyes.
I was lying next to Sammy, PFC, smartass fucker from Houston; dead, wet, and cold; cold by Vietnam standards. Vietnam, that steaming, sweating, triple-canopy jungle, rice fields that smelled like shit, scared yet smiling villagers; Viet-fucking-by-god-Nam.
The two gooks; kids, really, more like conscripted villagers, rice farmers with guns; the two I had just shot, were on top of me, all of us in an awkward pile; their blood mixing with mine. Pressure on my other wound. The bad one. I was behind a tree blown down by one of the previous air strikes. I was squirming under the bodies and as close to the trunk as I could get. More than a dozen feet stepped on us; running, charging, now chasing rather than attacking.
There is a tradition, as old as man, as old as war: Once a position is secured, others make sure each one of the enemy fighters; the vanquished, the defeated, the overrun; is dead. Weapons and clothes and some measure of revenge are the spoils; souvenirs; guns, clothes, ears.
Almost instantly, flies and crawling insects attacked. They know death. They know the difference, they don’t fucking care. The flying and buzzing and crawling.
At the Little Bighorn, I thought, and I’m not sure why; I was trying so hard just to be quiet; women from the tribe smashed the heads of each one of the dead enemy soldiers; with the exception of, it’s said, General Custer. Out of respect. Respect?
That was more legend than history. The history of man is the history of war. You don’t have to know history to know the truth of this.
I was just trying not to move, to be still, quiet, alive; when I felt movement, heard moaning. Low, close. It was the kid, on top of me; not dead, getting louder. I couldn’t allow this.
Maybe his moaning had been a prayer. So sorry.
The noise, the gunfire and the yelling, which had been getting farther away, maybe an hour or so after the initial attack, was now coming back toward me. Marines, motherfuckers; don’t like losing. Reinforcements. And we had the firepower. An airstrike might be called in; cannons or mortars or planes or helicopter gunships, fifty caliber machine guns; followed by fresh troops.
At least, if I was in the targeted grid, it would be quick.
Some of the same shoes, jungle tennies, that ran over me before; ran over me again. Retreating. I clung to consciousness. Eventually I heard calmer voices, mopping up. “Here’s one,” a voice said. “You alive, pal?”
“I think so,” I said.
The next thing I remember was the sound of a helicopter. V-woop, woop, woop.
“We killed the fuck out of them slopes, Gunny,” the Marine at the landing site, said. “Good to hear,” I said. He said, “You’re walking. You’ll have to wait for the next one.”
I wasn’t walking. I was standing. The next evacuation would be mostly bodies. “Don’t think so, Corporal,” I said, lifting my empty rifle with the arm that still worked.
CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO- SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 1969
I’m dropping back a few days. Jumper Hayes and I were in the formal dining room at his parents house, his chair moved to one of the corners of the table, mine at what I guessed was his father’s spot, my typewriter case open in front of me.
“Overrun” was Jumper’s story. Surprisingly shocked by his original, hand-written version; I was equally surprised when he asked me to type it for him; and more surprised when he seemed so casual, even detached, as I read my third draft out loud, then handed it to him as if it was done. Complete. Ready to hand in.
“Sounds good. Mostly. Different than I’d of thought.”
“It’s your words. Mostly.”
“Semi-colons,” he asked, “they’re, um, useful?”
“They’re like, um; somewhere between comas and periods,” I said.
“It’s, it’s like, when someone reads it, out loud; it’s the rhythm.”
“Rhythm. Yeah; I heard that, like a, um, cadence. Semi-colons.”
“It’s like surfing; smooth flow…” There were hand gestures here. “Take off, drop, turn, set up, swoop… flow. Didn’t you ever think surfing is like…”
Jumper pointed to my free hand. “A little jerky on your set up there, Jody.”
I dropped both hands. “I’m not changing anything; maybe just, uh, rearranging.”
“I only asked you to type it up, man.”
“Yeah; well; editing; it’s a, uh, collaborative… process. Some stuff has to be… cut.”
“Oh? Collaborative… editing process? Well, Jody, seems like you cut out a lot of fucking, cocksucking, motherfucking, shit-stomping, goddamn swearing, there; makes it sound like it was written by some draft-dodging, tit-sucking, flag-burning, mom’s boy, queer-bait, pussy, shit-bird, asshole, cocksucker who wasn’t fuckin’ there.” When I seemed adequately shocked, he added, in a bit of a whisper, with a bit of a smile, “I was… there.”
“Okay, Jumper,” I said, pointing to the second page, “I did leave in the ‘motherfuckers’ in the, um, ‘Marines, motherfuckers, don’t like losing’ sentence.”
Jumper laughed. “So, uh, no; Jody; you have to own the words. If you read it right, like you’ve ever fuckin’ sworn before; maybe, in your life, it’d be, like…” He rose from his chair. “‘Marines, mo-ther-fuck’-ers…’ like… hey; here’s something, Jody: Our LT… his name was… it wasn’t his name; we called him Berkeley; it’s where he was from. Or, at least, he went there. Anyway… fucking Berkeley. He was a gung ho motherfucker.” Jumper looked at me when he said ‘motherfucker;’ we both nodded- good flow. “He was ‘God Bless America! Fuck everyone else!’ Yeah. Really. A couple of months in country, though; he changed. Hey; I was the second whitest guy in the platoon. Want to know how he died?”
“Who? Berkeley? Not really.”
“Okay.” Jumper sat back down, looked at my corrections and editing on his story, looked at the portable Smith-Corona typewriter, sitting in its open case, and taking up one-eighth of the available space on the oversized, family table, almost more like a picnic table with a shine and doilies. Most of the surface was covered in stacks, neat stacks of newspapers, invoices, order forms, bills and correspondence. Again, neatly stacked, properly dusted.
Jumper looked at the new piece of paper spooling around on my typewriter. “I should have taken a typing class, Jody. Valuable.”
“Yeah. A whole year. Eighth grade.” Jumper sat back down. “Glad I did.” I sat down in front of the typewriter. “Would you feel better if you told me?”
“Double space is appropriate,” I said, nodding at the page. “I mean, about Berkeley. Would talking about him, what happened, would it make you feel… better?”
“Okay.” I started typing, looking at the page on the table. “Maybe another time.” I pulled a piece of twice-used masking tape from the inside of the case, hung the previous typed draft onto the leading edge of the open case. Rather like a curtain. “Or never. I’m putting some fucking, ass-licking… um, just tell me where to put in the swearing. Where it’s… appropriate.”
I heard a door open and close. I heard voices. “Use your best fucking judgment,” Jumper whispered, his eyes going between the hanging pages and my face; “oh, and I wasn’t calling you a… an asshole. Didn’t mean you.”
“Sure.” I set my fingers on the proper keys, eyes on the last draft, and started typing, whispering, “draft-dodging, tit-sucking, flag-burning, mom’s boy, queer-bait, pussy, shit-bird, asshole, cocksucker.” By the time I got to “who wasn’t fuckin’ there” it was less than a whisper.
In time I converted the Jumper swear to “Draft-dodging, flag-burning cocksucker; tit-sucking, mom’s boy, queer-bait, pussy asshole.” Better flow, I thought. I cut out ‘shit-bird,’ I owned the words.
This is the version of Jumper’s piece I kept; “Overrun,” written by a twenty-two-year old, edited by an eighteen-year old. Just turned eighteen-year old. His submission included more swearing and was, again, shockingly well received by the students, highly praised by the professor. My own first submission to the Creative Writing class is long gone, long and purposefully forgotten. No, not completely. “Rivulets, streams in the sand, saline flows, returning to Mother…”
While simplifying my manuscript for “Swamis” has actually become more complicated, I have also spent some time complicating illustrations; adding more color than necessary, going full psychedelic. Maybe that’s all right and even acceptable; the story does take place in Southern California, 1969.
You’re most likely too young to have any memories, or, if you were there, it may be more flashback than memory. A former cliché that may, through disuse, may have reached the statute of limitations on repeating is this: “If you can remember anything about the 60s, you really weren’t there.”
Okay, I googled it. The quote has been attributed to: Paul Kantner, Robin Williams, Paul Krassner, Pete Townshend, Grace Slick, Timothy Leary, and others. If you know who all of those people are… whoa! Look at you!
So, here are my latest workings:
ANYWAY, I’m still getting my stuff together for the ZOOM event with the Port Townsend Library, Thursday, August 20, 7pm. There’s supposed to be a slide show of some of my stuff so people who tune in don’t have to look at me. Here’s a link: https://ptpubliclibrary.org/library/page/art-and-writing-erwin-dence OKAY, so how do I make that all blue so you don’t have to type it all out.
Oh, some of these and others are available at Tyler Meeks’ DISCO BAY OUTDOOR EXCHANGE. Stop in when you’re cruising out to the Peninsula, Thur-Sunday, 10am to 6pm.
I am discovering more about the art and science of printing, particularly about how yellow seems to overwhelm other colors. Here is a version of my latest “Swamis” illustration:
SO, I wanted to wait to see how the scanned drawing, now pixels on a screen, compares to the illustration I stuck in the scanner. Ummm, pretty close if I tilt the screen until it shows maximum color. This is taken from the color image, reduced to fit on eight and a half by eleven, which, because the yellow was too pervasive and some of the other colors were washed out, I attacked the drawing with colored pencils.
Okay, yeah; now if I could only get the drawings straight. They are, I swear, properly placed in the scanner. ANYWAY, I’m dropping a couple of framed pieces off at TYLER MEEKS’ DISCO BAY OUTDOOR EXCHANGE this afternoon, very limited edition prints with color added. Yeah, like on the actual drawings. I know there is no surf, but drop in on your way by. He’s open Thursday-Sunday, 10am to 6pm.
MEANWHILE, I am trying to get farther along on my latest edit (possibly not the last- but maybe the last full manuscript/big change version) of “Swamis” the novel. MORE INFORMATION is forthcoming on the upcoming ZOOM discussion/reading, with, if I can get it together, a slide show of my artsy works. Keith Darrock is setting it up with the PORT TOWNSEND PUBLIC LIBRARY. Thursday, August 20, and, yes, I will be putting more information out there. Here. Out here.
Stay safe, wear your fucking mask when appropriate; see if you can convince your friends and acquaintances who are obviously obstinate if not completely stupid refusers and deniers. to, at least, put on the fucking mask when they can’t fucking stay the fuck away. Yes, I am using profanity; not that that is unusual; but seeing people who think they’re making a statement by pushing into a store without a mask, expression saying, ‘yeah, say something,’ and I’m trying to buy a newspaper and a quart of chocolate milk; not risking getting whatever you’re spreading.
And wait, for all else I think I am; I make my living painting houses; and I do want to give a little praise to the other blue collar working folks who take a step back, grab their masks, and put them on when being able to socially distance isn’t possible. AND, YES, I know I do surf tiny waves on the Strait of Juan de Fuca, but, really, two feet isn’t six feet, not even here.
All real surfers have experienced those moments when we think we’re at the surface, suck in some air, only to find it’s foam; unbreathable. There are few things scarier than the inability to catch one’s breath. That’s what this virus brings; along with searing headaches, high fevers, delirium. It’s real, it’s around, and it’s more luck than any sort of inner strength or goodness that has kept us from getting it so far. So far. Through preaching.
It was almost coincidental that I found a photo from Ron Stoner of Swamis in about 1966, a year or so after I started surfing. Here it is:
So, here’s my version:
Usually I can’t keep well enough alone. I did several modifications to another possible illustration for “Swamis,” the novel I’m now over halfway through my latest rewrite/edit (definitely making the manuscript easier to follow if less, um, colorful- Still too wordy, too much dialogue). This drawing is based on another Stoner Swamis photo. Before and after, with another after in the neverland file.
SO, I have several copies of the newer drawing and will attempt to show some discipline and restraint in coloring them. Results forthcoming.
MEANWHILE, I am getting some drawings together in preparation for the zoom event with the PORT TOWNSEND PUBLIC LIBRARY. I was actually volunteered by PT ripper Keith Darrock; and, since I don’t really need folks being forced to watch me talking all about my writing methods and such stuff, the plan is to get a selection of my art works together and have a slide show. It’s all supposed to happen August 20, but I will certainly post reminders as the date approaches.
AS ALWAYS, stay safe, surf when you can. OH, oh, yeah; Stephen R. Davis is in Hawaii, flight delayed by a hurricane; not sure about his current status, quarantine-wise. Checking the Big Island forecast fourteen days out… hmmm.
This is a little soon between posts for me, and I’m only doing it, kind of stepping on one of my illustrations to put this out there; and, let me be clear, here, I really don’t want to be all political; but it pissed me off.
I waited until the fourteenth day of my allowed fifteen day response period, then sent off a check for $190 for my speeding ticket. I was guilty, didn’t want to stretch it out by asking for a court date (which I have done in the past), wasn’t hoping for some reduced sentence due to my advanced age or lack of regret or political connections. If $190.00 US currency was my debt to American society, I begrudgingly paid it.
That was last Friday, July 10, the very day Roger Stone had his prison sentence commuted. Oh, he’s still guilty on the seven felony counts, found guilty by a jury of, obviously, Americans, but no, not necessarily his peers.
Threatening a witness was one of the crimes, threatening the witness’s dog included in that one.
SO, he did the crime, doesn’t have to do the time. All he had to do is go on TV, allude to the true dirt he has on the president, convince Lindsey Graham that he’s a first time offender in his 70s (no, 67; I’m a many-times lifetime speeder, 68); and, voila, home free. No need for repentance or reformation, and the president’s twitter-blitz will insure that no Republican politician will stand up for the party’s much-pushed vision of rule of law, equal justice, all that mouth candy. Might seem a bit, uh, hypocritical.
Yeah, Mitt Romney; suddenly looking kind of cool.
ANYWAY, and with apologies for taking any kind of stand, sometime Friday night, after eating one too many chocolates too close to bed time, I woke up, did this little drawing. NOW, my friend, artist/surfer/kitesurfer/sailor/carpenter/chef, able to fix brakes and lay floors that are totally squared-up; Stephen R. Davis, soon off to Hawaii and whatever waves/confinement/big waves that might bring, said my first drawing was kind of (wait, it’s going to sound mean) “Cliche’.” Yeah, it probably is.
I haven’t shown this one to him, but I did describe it. “No, that might actually be clever.” I’ll take it. I do feel compelled to post it. SO:
FIRST, here’s a drawing I did, white and dark on medium-toned paper. I can’t seem to get a white that will work. I had a paint pen but it clogged up, didn’t work twice.
Won’t work twice, it’s all right. Ma. Unnecessary allusion.
HERE’S my explanation for the cut scene: Including the exchange between Joey DeFreines and the writer/editor is a pretty conscious effort/shoutout to the sardonic and wise (and I always associate the two) writer/editor who managed to work through “Swamis,” the unexpurgated version, and provide me with… I don’t want to say ‘guidance,’ no one seems to suggest a better storyline… constructive criticism of my manuscript.
I have changed the first hundred pages enough, cut out enough, that the story is… it’s different. I did, I thought, let the story kind of work itself out, with a certain goal in mind, a last line planned before the first line was written (and subsequently, re-re-re-written). Most of the storyline of Joey/Jody in his later years has been cut. SO…
The next day, after Rudolph had several quite distraught visitors (never introduced to me) whom he seemed to have to console, after lunch, after a nap (I slept longer), Rudolph, smiling, put down his own tablet, said, “Kafka. Supposedly he… serious stuff to most… readers… supposedly he was laughing his ass off while he was writing.”
I was writing, wasn’t laughing.
Rudolph made several disparaging comments on the current state of popular fiction, looked at me, pointed at my laptop with his tablet. “Your book’s on there, right?”
“Oh? That’s sarcasm. Fine. Don’t really know you, but… I do know writers; fucked-up crazy egotistical fucks… mostly; so… don’t take this personally, but… fuck you.”
Later (and not that much later), with Rudolph, evidently, having had enough of CNN (“Too redundant, too many commercials, too many panels of experts”), he switched the channel to Fox News, flipped off Sean Hannity. Both hands. “Double eagles,” I told him. Since I also had a remote, I switched to MSNBC; Rachel Maddow (“Love her; don’t think she loves me back”). Rudolph switched the TV off.
Rudolph- “Have any sex scenes in there?”
Rudolph- “No, not yet, or, no; never had sex?”
Me- “Not yet; but I hear it’s kind of fun. Ha. Ha. Really, it’s not that kind of book.”
Rudolph- “Oh. Well; every kind of book needs a little… sex.”
I hit ‘save,’ shut down the ‘Word’ program. “So, Rudolph… you do know publishers?”
“Sure. Not as many as I once did; worst kind of pricks. Not, um, needy, like writers, but used to feeling needed. It’s worse. Still, they spend some time on their knees. Publishers, now; scared shitless of not making their money back.” He held back for a second. He seemed to enjoy that I was enjoying his commentary. He had the inside information, dissected and delivered in a sarcastic/realistic way. “But, really, my temporary roommate; Amazon. Self-publish; it seems to be the way.”
I reopened the program, hit the ‘Pg Dn’ button until I got to the end, kept writing. Typing, backspacing paragraphs, rephrasing. I thought about laughing, just to mess with Rudolph.
“You know,” Rudolph said, during the setup for some BBC crime drama, one I had seen before; “I’ve never really watched a writer write before.” I looked over at him, did a ‘was I drooling’ wipe at my mouth. “Let me tell you… it’s an ugly process.”
“That’s why I don’t put on my writer clothes,” I said, “and go down to the café and fire up the laptop.”
“’Light up… light up the laptop,’ it’s better;” Rudolph said, editing, as if changing my words was amusing. “I assume you’ve google-searched for information on writing and publishing,”
I chuckled, gave him a ‘just a second’ gesture, went back to typing. Rudolph said, somewhere during another ‘begging for money’ break on the local PBS channel, “Of course you have. It’s sixty to ninety thousand words for a novel.”
Me- “Not a novel.”
Rudolph- “Yeah; it is. If you changed one name, forgot one thing, it’s… it’s your take on things. There’s what’s the true truth, and there’s… it’s a novel. Yes, all writing is, in some way, autobiography; but, Joseph; it’s a novel. Where are you at, right now?”
Rudolph- “No. Words. Jeez.”
I was at a little over twenty thousand at the time. I was at 25,931 when I started writing about Rudolph, but I keep going back. Every time I open up the (yeah, I guess) novel, I tend to start at the beginning, get bogged-down. In the time I have, with the energy I have; I’m not moving forward; at least not quickly. I’m editing. Editing. It sounds like cutting things out; but no; there’s always something I thought of overnight.
Something new. Something old, rather, but newly remembered.
“This is my new addiction,” I told Rudolph, “I look forward to writing the way I’ve always looked forward to surfing. I miss it when I can’t do it.”
“This surfing;” he said, “the water’s cold, huh?”
“Can be.” I had to add more. “Probably, around here, gets up to 75 degrees or so, for about a week… August; goes down to 55, for about a week, middle of January, probably; again, for about a week. In the old days, 60s, if you put on a wetsuit; and we only had short johns, before, say, December 10th or so… water down to 58 degrees… that was the cutoff; or if you put on a wetsuit before Easter; again, 58 degrees… you were a pussy. Nowadays…”
Rudolph was smiling. I stopped talking. “60,000 words; shouldn’t be a problem.” We both smiled. “Do you ever think about… drowning?”
“No; I mean, I have but, I’ve seen people who have drowned… I mean, any real surfer has had experiences where… I’ve just decided against it. Cold water. Bodies turn kind of… seaweed, um, green.”
“Yeah. So, not dying, then. Better to die in… Las Vegas, maybe. Toasty… I’m thinking about the colors… tourist tan-burn. Yes! Hot, but dry.” Realizing he was enjoying the moment, the conversation, a bit more than he might normally allow himself, Rudolph nodded toward my laptop. “You finish it, I’ll give it a read. When it’s done. First draft, at least.”
“Whoa!” I pointed at Rudolph, pointed back at the laptop. A few seconds passed. We both seemed to know I would ruin the mood. And I did. “Are you sure you’ll live long enough to read it? I mean, you’re saying you will… read it; and I… I appreciate that… I just want you to tell me about… style. I want to write it the way I want, but… I feel like, I believe I have a… style.”
“Fucking writers. Egotistical fucks.”
“You said that… before.”
“Well, thanks for fucking listening to something other than the voices in your head.”
I laughed. “Yeah; that’s what I’m in here for. Voices.” I tapped on my head.
I waved my hand to suggest I was kidding. I smiled, blinked several times. “They don’t want to, uh, remove them… the voices; some doctor thinks she can translate them… into, uh, German.”
“Okay. All right. Look; If you live long enough to finish it, Joseph; I’ll live long enough to tell you it needs work.”
“Deal,” I said.
Rudolph seemed to be, over the next hour or so, doing what I do, replaying the conversation in his mind. For most people there’s no replay, no rewind, no editing. Most people. My recall isn’t perfect, quite. I replay the ones that seem important. Over and over if I’ve fucked up somewhere in the back and forth. There are, I’ve discovered, few conversations, ever, that I’ve not fucked up somehow.
Sometime during the eleven o’clock news, after another nurse, Martha, had come in to introduce herself to Rudolph, check on him, with a cursory check on me; Rudolph took his phone from the side table, and said, “Let me give you my address. You’re fine. Do some of that surfing or something. Thrive. It’s, my address; it’s a condo. Solana Beach. On the bluff.”
“Solana Beach is wall-to-wall condos,” I said. “I remember when…”
“Yeah, of course you do. Remember. But, hey, Roomie, if I might get a word in here; remember, remember when that swimmer… last guy in a group… got killed by the shark?” Pause. He nodded toward our big, shared window (view of apartment buildings, mostly). “Happened right out my window.”
“You saw it?”
“No, but I felt as if I had. I’m not a fucking writer, but I can… (he twiddled his hands in the air) visualize.” He pointed to my cell phone, close to the edge of the bed.
I didn’t visit Rudolph in his condo. I tried to call. He never answered. I wouldn’t leave a message, but would call back, let it ring once. Missed call. Or I’d text, something like, ‘working on it,’ or ‘the narcissists are in bloom.’ He would text, occasionally, something like, “Any SEX yet?” or “Entertaining the HOSPICE people. Pre-hospice. Counselors. Like manic-depressive humorists.” Followed by, “Almost said BLACK HUMORISTS.” “Different group. DOUR lot.”
I texted, “Dour. Good word.”
I missed an actual call an hour or so later. The voice mail message was, “Oh, so now you’re not picking up? Probably quoting Shakespeare to seagulls or something. Anyways, dour. Yes, I prefer it to ebullient.” In a higher octave, “’Yes, you’re dying; but, hey, look on the bright side.’ Ebullient.”
When I did visit Rudolph, he was back in the hospital, one room over from the one we’d shared. Same view, slightly different angle.
“They, the bastards, didn’t kill the child,” he said. He wasn’t talking about the doctors, though he said he had given up hoping another test would have a different result, another consultant would have another opinion, a better prognosis. He was talking about Nazis. “But, in a way, see, they did. I never got to be a child. I, my life; I look for errors, for mistakes; and I envy the writers who have, like you; a sense of wonder. Wonder. What does that mean? Passion, longing, wanting to fucking know, wanting to feel, to touch the magic.”
“Uh huh. Yes.”
“So, that’s good is what I’m saying. Shit, man; I’m pouring it out here, and you, best you can do is ‘uh huh.’ Writers?”
“Sorry, Rudolph. It’s just that…”
“It’s just that, Joseph; I hope you don’t… sixty thousand words; that’ll take the wonder out of it; but not… not the magic. Nobody… nobody who matters gives a flying fuck about flowery passages and perfect sentence structure; even about the… overall… construction. Just tell the fucking stories.”
Rudolph and I did exchange some stories. He had felt passion, wonder, love; he was even capable of forgetting, briefly, that he had been robbed of a childhood.
Rudolph, who didn’t die in the concentration camps, who repeatedly told me the bastards would get him; eventually; never read a word.
I read some early chapters to him on one of his last days, in his condo on the bluff, looking out his windows, imagining the shark picking off the last swimmer. One of his sons (looked up his name- Jacob) and Jacob’s two children (didn’t get their names) were there at the time, along with, briefly, a quite dour Hospice nurse (didn’t bother with her name). My name, evidently, was on some sort of list.
Rudolph kept dozing off and waking up, possibly disappointed he was still alive. I kept reading. I could tell when something I’d written was awkward or wrong. Jacob would look over at his father.
“Needs work.” That was the last thing I said to Rudolph.
“Perfection,” Jacob said. “My father says, ‘perfection is difficult to attain, and impossible to maintain.’”
Rudolph woke up just before I was leaving the condo. He didn’t seem to notice his son or me, but did look, through the afternoon glare, at the sliding glass doors. Jacob’s two girls were playing, outside on the little deck, pressing themselves against the panels, salt stained, seventy-five feet above the ocean, their movements creating the on-glass equivalent of snow angels. Jacob and I both noticed, smiled. Not that we were ebullient.
I continue to struggle in completing a publishable version of “Swamis.” Mostly I’m struggling with myself. I respect the opinions of the people who have read part or all of my unexpurgated manuscript. I believe the feedback. Confusing, too many leaps in time; all true.
I AM, HOWEVER, stubborn. My most recent addition to the manuscript is included here, but first; and there may be a connection; here is a drawing I decided is too busy, too overdrawn; just not quite right. SO, I flipped the paper over, traced the outline on the other side.
YOU MAY NOTICE that, included in this passage, is something that came from here, from realsurfers.net. It’s the chaos/dreaming/writing thing; and backs up what is, evidently, my method of writing and speaking; say enough, write enough, something accidently profound might just happen.
PROFOUND. Yeah, it’s my ego. I’ve been humbled by the process; but my goal never was to write a novel, maybe one of a series. ANYWAY, stay safe, stay sane, try not to panic, stay tuned. OH, and, not sure if this passage will make the final cut, and do bear in mind this is (mostly) fiction; here it is:
CHAPTER SEVEN- TUESDAY, JANUARY 21, 2020
I’m sitting in my de facto office, folding table in my mother’s nearly-empty condo, part of what she called the “Great Condo Wall of Del Mar,” looking out at a scarred ocean, rip lines, squall lines, light pollution; gray on gray on gray. There might be waves, weakly pushing off the ever-refreshed rip rap protecting the ever-eroding bluffs. Can’t tell. A dark line halfway to my horizon can appear to be a wave. It would be a big one.
This is where I am, not where my mind is.
I have to decide right now, at this spot in my latest edit of “Swamis,” if this is a memoir or a mystery. If it is a mystery, I have so much material to cut, I’ve been advised, to keep from losing the reader. That’s you. That’s free will.
Painful. I wanted to include little bios of people I ran into, little details, things that would let you, the reader, know that it was real, that I was fucking there.
Does adding the ‘fucking’ make me seem angry? I am; even though I realize why it makes sense to cut out and condense and to make sure the narrative is, most importantly, clear.
Okay. Thank you for reading, but here’s the thing: I’m telling the story. To you. I know who I am; what I don’t know, what I have to constantly worry about and wonder about, who I have to adjust my storytelling for, is you.
I don’t know you.
Again, thank you for reading. If I’m trying not to lose you by burrowing into some peripheral background information on a background character, some wordy journey to another side story that I believe offers some possible explanation as to why I or someone else behaved in a certain way; I will also endeavor to not try to fool you or withhold information in order to create some artificially engineered intrigue.
Still, I will be saving (some of) the unnecessary scenes elsewhere, some other file, like those little plastic things for resealing loaves of bread, hundreds of them, in various colors, that my mother kept in a dedicated drawer and that I threw away; like the notes my father kept from his encounters as a deputy and then a detective; like miscellaneous nuts and bolts kept in jars for some day. Some day. Okay. Move the cursor. “Cut.”