Fixating on “Swamis”

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:

overdone positive, line bending negative.

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.

Vivid Covid Dreams

Maybe this piece is self-explanatory. Anxiety has hit us like a, um, wave; enough so that I was just thinking, yesterday, trying, as always, not to panic (in this case I was about twenty-five feet up on a ladder stuck, improperly at a bit of a left-of-straight angle that allowed me to, hopefully, paint trim up on a roof- it worked), that maybe being manic-depressive is normal.

NORMAL. Moments of bliss are, yeah, moments; and, while most of life is just kind of a glide, maybe a bit of an uphill grind, there are moments where things would cause just about anyone to… to be rightfully depressed.

MOMENTS, only, hopefully. It’s not that I’ve been more depressed than anxious, but I have been waiting to use some of my manic-ness on some waves. SOON.

I did do a video reading of this piece, tried to send it to Keith Darrock, PT ripper and librarian. I’m scheduled to do a ZOOM thing in August, connected with my novel, “SWAMIS” and I thought this might be a sort of prelude. BUT, e-mailing videos, I’ve discovered, is actually kind of tricky.

I am considering UPGRADING MY WORDPRESS ACCOUNT. This would get rid of pesky ads (for which I receive no compensation), and might allow me to post occasional videos. WE’LL SEE.

                Not Out, Just Put Away

In these anxious times, I have heard and read that many are afraid to dream while others have wild, vivid, Corona fever dreams, even without the fever.  Last night’s dream was, then, one of those, and I am writing about it before it fades into the early morning drizzle.

Write, because that’s what I do; that’s how I cope.  Whatever trauma or drama is going on, I can and mostly do think of it as part of some bigger narrative.  If dreams are meant to make some sense out of chaos… writing is dreaming; and I write.

It is, quite obviously, some sort of party.  People in nice clothes; some women in dresses, some men in sports coats.  It is one of those large rooms with a high ceiling on one side and a loft on the other, view of the water through the two-story bank of windows, sliding doors open to a deck.  Weekend cabin, second home along the Canal.  I’ve painted many through the years.  There is a large countertop toward one end of the great room, food spread out.  Party food.  Trays- cheeses and crackers, various.  Casserole dishes- various.  Three bottles of wine with interesting labels- open, glasses adjacent.  Sparkling sodas and colas in a cooler to the side; plastic cups on a corner of the counter.  Real plates, real silverware.

So, not a potluck, but guests, as is proper, have brought side dishes, bottles of wine with interesting labels.

This dream is all taking place from my point of view (POV), my perspective.  Of course.  Dreams.  I’m on one side of the room, scraping the last of some sort of dip onto my last cracker.  Not guacamole.  It might be red, though Trish claims men don’t dream in color, and, though I’d prefer her to be wrong; she is almost surely correct.  Still, I’m saying red; and there’s enough dip left that I consider either getting more crackers or scooping it up with one side of a finger.

Manners.  Leave it.

Trish isn’t here.  No, it must be one of those events where I will almost surely do something, say something embarrassing; me with my loud voice and big gestures.  She has obviously sent our daughter, Dru, in her place.  For some reason, our friend George, who avoids potentially awkward social situations more often (and less apologetically) than Trish, is here, more leaning than sitting on the edge of an overstuffed chair.

I start to say something to Dru about how soon we can leave when two men approach me.

This is the setup part: “I hear you’re a writer,” one of them says.  He is quite a distinguished looking fellow, and the statement is made without the condescension my reaction to it might suggest.

“Who would have told you that?”

This is when Dru moves away and I’m faced with two faces, my POV moving between them.  There is some sort of writing competition they are both aware of, submission deadline this very evening, and maybe I should consider entering.  At the least, they would be interested in hearing about what I write.

Here is the analysis part: I’m writing a novel.  Yeah.  And?  And when I’d written enough to get to an actual ending, I edited it, completely, first line to ‘The End.’  Then, so excited, so sure it was the genius work of a genius; I sent it out to several people to read.

This is when someone crazy enough to consider him or herself a writer gets truly crazy.  Out of his or her control, the manuscript must face the world on its own.  Waiting.  Waiting. 

Waiting for someone else’s assessment.

You only get one chance at a first impression.  I had overshot, overthought, overdone; and, as I feared, as I probably knew, early feedback made it obvious that I need to seriously edit the work; ruthlessly cut out so many of the peripherals, clarify the changes in time and place, simplify… it became obvious my manuscript might not actually be the genius work of a genius writer.

So, okay; I’m working on it; two-thirds of the way to the end; again.  But, doctors, counselors, friends, readers; now that I have eighteen point headings for chapters, fourteen point subheadings; now that I have moved whole blocks of words to where they should be, chronologically; now that I have deleted thirteen thousand or so words out of one hundred and twenty-three thousand; the tension now, the anxiety, in addition to all the other anxieties of real life, is this: Publishing, selling, getting the novel sold, published, out there.

Out there.

I must have said something abrasive and offensive and off-putting; the distinguished gentlemen are now at the far end of the room, leaning on the wall near the stairway to the loft.  George asks a question of the woman who, evidently, owns the house.  “I invited you over many times,” she says.

“Okay,” I say, full room voice, “I have songs, and a few poems, and short stories, and a couple of screenplays, and… don’t know where the other one is… two almost complete novels; so, now what?”

They don’t seem to have heard me.   Dru walks between me and them.  She gives me a look I know to mean I didn’t handle this well, and, additionally, I have just provided another story to share with her mother.  Proof. 

Time break.  I’m looking at the food on the counter.  The casserole dishes have lids or are covered in saran wrap, contents of the two-thirds-full dishes visible.  “I never got a chance at the real food,” I say.

“They’re not out of food,” Dru says, “It’s just put away.”

The woman who spoke to George appears.  She peels back one corner on a dish.  Noodles and cheese, the cheese on the top seared perfectly, only a few holes dug into the glaze.  There also might be green beans.  I’d guess green.  The homeowner looks over at the distinguished gentlemen.  “Good thing I didn’t say anything,” she says, “my daughter’s a writer and…”

“Oh,” I ask, “What kind of thing does she write?”

Dream’s gone.  I spent time I could have used on my manuscript.  Still, I have to get ready; get to Costco before the best selection of meat is gone.

Stay safe, stay sane, avoid panicking when you can, stay tuned.

More Work is, Evidently, Necessary

I’ve sent out copies of the unexpurgated version of “Swamis” to several people. This waiting for a response, as noted in an earlier post, tends to push one further into the area of neurosis previously only visited for, say, a long weekend. That was before the omni-demic pushed the boundaries of crazzzzzinesssss to the place where we are now.

So, if I’m a bit more crazed, maybe, statistically, I’m pretty much where I was. If some of us could just go surfing, then, maybe, perhaps, then… we…

Anyway, I have gotten some feedback; and it’s mostly that I need to make “Swamis” less confusing, less prone to jumping forward and backward in time and place, fewer peripheral scenes; more reader friendly. I already knew I would have to drop some of the side stories. The thing is, I have enough of those to write another book. Maybe I will.

“Side-slipping.”

Meanwhile, I am trying to get some more drawings together, hopefully enough to put in with each chapter. Since I need to break the manuscript into more chapters, I evidently need more illustrations. I do have Stephen R. Davis working on a few; and we have discussed the look I’m going for. Black and white, kind of moody… I’m hoping he can do some real portraits of fictional people.

I’ve also discussed formatting and such things with my daughter, Dru, pressing her into service to help put together a slide show of my illustrations (not just surf stuff) that can be shown to folks who are willing to listen to a reading from “Swamis” without having to also look at me reading it. This is for a presentation with the Port Townsend Library, set up by surf rebel librarian Keith Darrock. Not set up yet; we’re working on it.

I’ll let you know, but, meanwhile, out here in crazy land, I am putting a lot of thought into the screenplay version. Too much for a movie. Prime Netflix stuff. It just takes more work. Evidently.

In Order to have Faith…

…one must believe faith works. Sometimes. Ever.

It’s Easter Sunday, somewhere in the season of Passover; and it’s Spring in the Season of Corona; the era of probably-won’t-actually-die, but most-likely-can’t-surf; whatever it is History ends up calling the period of time we’re all hoping will end soon with a rush of people coming out of our houses and condos and shelters, raising our hands to the heavens and…

I have had the thought that videogamers might just come through this all, if not unscathed, pretty much the same as when it all started; soft, pale, with definite signs of carpal tunnel and eye strain; claiming dominance over a vast number of levels and worlds and whatever folks who didn’t give it all up with Ms. Pacman.

Anyway, faith. I put it in pragmatic terms (above). This isn’t because I’m cynical; but I am careful where I place my faith. People. Very few. No, no list. Faith is tested; constantly, but somehow, with an apparently endless line of challenges ready to kick the living shit out of us; most of us have managed to, if not thrive, if not find ourselves without struggles and possibly with low-bank waterfront at an uncrowded surf break with minimal crowds, warm water, no sharks, no urchin-covered rocks, no jellyfish, no… no, but we’re still going.

It seems reasonable to have that much faith, enough to say, ‘it’s going to be fine,’ fine meaning life is mostly a total shit-show, broken this and lost that. Again, so far. But, there are those moments of joy and laughter, rare instances of total bliss, hopefully enough to keep us slogging forward. Forward.

I have been accused of being, uh, religious. Okay, I kind of am, but not religiously. It’s not like yoga, where, I’ve heard, if you skip a day, your joints all seize up and your yoga pants just don’t fit right. I’m religious in that whatever incomprehensible force or being or spirit or algorithm created or caused or allowed the reality we are slogging forward in, whatever it is that pushes the planets and stars and tides and the clouds… well, I think about it; I respect it. Celebrate when and what you can.

I am working on some illustrations for “Swamis.” I have invited Stephen R. David to help out. Going for a look. Looking for a look. Working on it. Stay safe.

working on some illustrations for “Swamis”

“Even the President of the United States…

…sometimes must have to stand naked.” Bob Dylan

This isn’t about the president, really, it’s about writers and artists, and, no, really, it’s about all of us. I’ve often said all of us are in sales; we’re all selling something, whether it’s a service or something we *created, designed, built; or something we’re promoting.

As sales people, we’re all being judged. I’ve been working on the manuscript for “Swamis” for quite a while now, and this morning, for the first time in that same quite a while, I woke up without wanting, feeling as if I had to work on it, whether I could or not.

I spent some time yesterday insuring that I have an actual Library of Congress copyright on the story that I *designed and built (rather than saying I created it- it’s a remembering and a remix and a projection and a compilation and a fitting of character to setting) trying to fit all that into some sort of structure; chiseling here, hammering there.

NOW I’m at the naked stage, sending out the product to be judged. I can’t put a value on it, can’t grade it, can’t say your reading “Swamis” will be a worthwhile experience for you.

I think it’s genius, of course.

If one doesn’t have to be crazy to consider him or herself to be a writer, sending your work (and don’t be fooled, writing is pure pleasure, editing is work) out, naked, to be judged; the necessary part of selling the thing, and waiting, waiting, waiting for judgement… that will make you crazy(ier).

I should also mention that preparing myself to ask someone to do me the honor of reading my work tends to make me a bit nauseated. It’s like that feeling you might get (I mean, probably have had), headed for your favorite surf spot because you just believe the waves will be soooo good, then knowing that way too many other surfers will have the same idea, and you, being a sociopathic wave hog, might just have to get all scrappy and…see?

Crazy.

The unexpurgated version, all 298 pages, all 23,345 words, is being put into a book version, one copy, a ‘galley proof’ by one of my clients in the real world (in which I paint houses), Mike Kenna, owner of The Printery in Port Townsend. Thanks, Mike. I have sent electronic versions to several other people, people I know will be honest in their assessment.

There’s no profit in not being honest.

MEANWHILE, while I’m waiting, I do have the opportunity, through my connection with the (currently closed) Port Townsend Library, soul rebel stealth surf ripper Keith Darrock, to do some sort of electronic reading of “Swamis.” We’ll see. I’ll let you know. I did a test video this morning, me in the living room.

No, I wasn’t naked, but I did put a shirt on; and that was with just me watching.

The Only-Recently-Passed but Already-Old Normal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Never Was A Cowboy

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

It’s the aloneness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things almost never go that way.

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

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

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

I frequently chose the preaching. “Amen.”

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

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

That might make you feel less alone.

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

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

Best I can come up with.

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

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

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

Cowboy (or Cowgirl) on.

 

Burning Scott Sullivan (Parts Two and One)

                                                A Second- 2nd Scott Sullivan Encounter/Incident

-PART TWO-

IT WAS JUST A SECOND, really; two Costco shoppers passing in the dairy/coffee aisle in the Sequim warehouse/store.

You don’t recognize people you don’t really know instantly; it takes a second.  We were both in a hurry; he with one of the big orange carts, me with the regular one (slightly larger, you might have noticed, than one at a regular supermarket- or, even, WalMart).

I think it was his mustache.  Yeah, one of those with the ends twisted and skinny, and pretty much brown.

SCOTT SULLIVAN.

I thought, or, possibly, imagined, that we made eye contact. Split the above second. Maybe he thought he recognized me. Maybe.

Not that he might instantly remember where and when we met previously; the first Scott Sullivan Encounter

NOW, I was wearing an ORIGINAL ERWIN t shirt, the baby poop yellow one with the lacy white wave. YEAH, that one (the baby poop thing is from Trish, I call the color ‘golden haze’); and, hey, I do have a possibly-recognizable mustache/soul patch combo of my own, white, with, quite often, coffee-stain brown at the scraggly bottom edges.

I didn’t just do an over-the-shoulder lookback, I DID A PIVOT/HALF TURN, right between the doors for the sour cream/cottage cheese and the one percent milk.

YES, Scott Sullivan; had to be, pushing toward the final goal, checkout, with a cart full of dairy products, flour, other fixins for making PIZZA.

HAD TO BE.

MY FIRST THOUGHT, with both of us, obviously, having gone, as the place is designed, clockwise from the entrance, past the clothing and lighting and pressure washers and furniture and fruit and meat, was how, suddenly, what I wanted most to do, was to CUT SCOTT SULLIVAN OFF! Exclamation point; BURN HIM at the checkout counter, last second, that split second when one must decide which open register would provide the fastest avenue to the next-but-last Costco line, the one at the exit.

“You think it’s yours, Scott Sullivan? NO! DENIED! Hahaha… ha!

costcoshoppers

IT ISN’T like I have any animosity toward Scott Sullivan, but it is that…

…COSTCO BREEDS COMPETITION.  That’s been my opinion for quite some time.  It’s a constant jockeying for position.  Picture the gas lines.  If only you could fill from the right side.  Durn.  Oh, you have a regular membership card?  I have a Corporate card.  You go for the optimum parking spot; close enough to either the entrance or one of the cart returns in the lot (in Australia, it’s probably the car park). NO, FIRST, you time your visit to when you believe it’ll be the most efficient.

IF YOU GET THERE at opening; sure, you can power through, fill your cart, cross out the items on your list; only to get to the front with fifty or so other dawn patrollers (if dawn is at 10 am), and one register open.  SIMILARLY, if you go late you will miss the free food samples (hummus or guacamole on various crispy items, soup, trail mix, skanky cheese, whatever; always worth a taste) that advanced Costco shoppers (many way more adept than you could be at the gather, half-stepping as another tray is put forth, swoop necessary to hit every sample offered; aka lunch) will elbow-smack you for. THEN AGAIN, lights dimming, everyone else is at the front, two cashiers (and, really, though it seems like a better idea than having the folks at the food court throw out the leftover item, as required, at closing, a slice of 8:29 Costco pizza is not good pizza), and the people at the register you chose need extra assistance in ringing-up that really big TV, the one you can actually watch from your position three back in the line (elsewhere called the queue, which we, in A-merica, don’t really use because we don’t know how to spell it).

STRAIT SLICE PIZZA, 121 1ST STEEET (that’s 101, really, the one-way going in-to-town), PORT ANGELES, WASHINGTON; SCOTT SULLIVAN, OWNER.

Unsolicited advertising, Scott Sullivan.

scotSlvanStraitSlice

-PART ONE-

I DID WRITE about my first encounter with the well-known Port Angeles restauranteur, surfer, and, evidently, photographer/skier (or snowboarder, or both- don’t really know) on this very site. AND, WHEN I FOUND OUT HIS NAME, I DID NAME NAMES.  Scott Sullivan.

BUT, at the request of a friend I should probably not name, but will (ADAM WIPEOUT JAMES), I deleted the name; Adam’s main argument being that Scott Sullivan is popular with the P.A. surf crowd; and Erwin Dence is, perhaps, not.  FINE. I also did not, and won’t here, reveal the not-really-secret surf spot where I, allegedly, BURNED SCOTT SULLIVAN.  Feel free to guess.

BRIEF RECAP: I was there with MIKEL (SQUINTZ, still the best nickname I didn’t give someone) COMISKEY; and was, actually, one of the first people out.  It got, over the next two hours, crowded. I was, allegedly, catching more than my fair share of waves.  ALLEGEDLY. Squintz had been surfing a different peak, and had been in and out of the water (some of this due to his refusal to wear booties).  I got out of the water about the time Scott Sullivan came powering down to this peak, took off on a wave, and, moving up to a forward trim position, caught an outside edge on the inside; his leashless board nearly hitting a young woman.

That’s not really relevant. BUT, surfers do seem to kind of brag about how they’re leash-free, as if it equates to confidence or ability (and it may), while giving little to no beach cred to folks (me, for example) who surfed, pre-leash, ankle-naked, for seven or eight years before giving in to the swim- (and, often, swimmer) saving kook cord.

SO, now Squintz is trying to convince me, with the wind coming up, that, now that he’s at this peak, more waves will be coming.  OKAY, I paddle back out. AND, A FEW MINUTES LATER, there is, indeed, an outside set. I paddle over the first one, then the second, paddle toward the peak. I turn, start paddling for it.  I AM COMMITTED. That commitment is the key to my defense, your honor(s). 

BUT, SUDDENLY, Scott Sullivan maneuvers closer to the peak, turns, and takes off.

SO, by the rules handed down, unofficial but not unknown (passed through constant lectures and occasional ass-whippings), Scott Sullivan had priority.  PRIORITY. It was Scott Sullivan’s wave.

AGAIN, I was committed, couldn’t really bail at that moment.  WELL, if I did just dismount, the way one would (and I have) if there’s a danger of imminent contact with some kook who decided to paddle out rather than around, this might not be the story of how I BURNED SCOTT SULLIVAN.  I didn’t.  I was COMMITTED.

WHOA!   Okay, I did do what I believe to be the right thing; the thing I would want someone to do if they inadvertently took off in front of me.  I powered down the line, pulled over the top.  NOW, I still believe I heard something behind me, something like grumbling (or yelling- I do wear protective earplugs). 

FORTUNATELY, there was a fourth wave.  I took it.  I rode as far as I could.  PADDLING back (around the break), I observed big, angry arm movements from Scott Sullivan, directed, in my absence, at Mikel Squintz.  When I got back to the lineup, Scott Sullivan was gone, having moved to a position farther up the point.  “Um, uh; guess he’s kind of mad,” I said.  “Yeah.” “I was committed.” “Sure.” “Who is that guy?” “That’s what he asked about you.” “Oh?” “Yeah, he said that you’re not even from around here, and I said, ‘wait a minute, you’re from _________ (my memory isn’t clear on which upper east coast state Scott Sullivan came here from),’ and he just left.  You could apologize.”  “Apologize?” “Maybe.” “Sure.”

Mikel did mention that, even with the increased crowd, Scott Sullivan and I did seem to be getting most of the waves ridden. “And?” “Just saying.”

I did, incidentally, move to the OLYMPIC PENINSULA in 1978, first surfed this very (unnamed here) spot in January of 1979.  With useless California wax, an insufficient wetsuit, and, yes, a leash. 

SO, since I was well past ready to get out of the water, I paddled up toward Scott Sullivan.  “If I, um… if you thought I…” “I go surfing to get away from that kind of shit,” Scott Sullivan said.  “We all do,” I said, and paddled on. 

I’m sure I stopped at Costco on the way home.  I usually do.  Here’s a shot of me, in the ORIGINAL ERWIN shirt I was wearing, just in case,. So non-threatening. 

20181025_143412_resized

WAIT. ABOUT THE  BURNING from Part Two.  Didn’t happen. I had to stop to get peanuts for our yardbirds.  Scott Sullivan was long gone.  He, obviously, picked the right line.  ABOUT THE PIZZA.  I haven’t tried a Strait Slice slice; assume they’re great; I do know where some of the makins come from.  

Another Negative Image

FIRST, it’s not surf season along the Strait of Juan de Fuca. One must go coastal. Some friends of mine recently did; sharing an adventure that anyone who doesn’t live in the Pacific Northwest would consider the classic Pacific Northwest surf trip: Hiking with backpacks and surfboards, dropping down ropes (and climbing back up again) to possibly-never-surfed spots… exhausting.

OR, one could go to Westport, look for a parking spot, look for an empty wave.

OR, one could work. It is painting season, yes; but my wetsuit is dr-yyyy-yyy; and, yes, I’m thinking coastal.  Coastal.

MEANWHILE, I did complete a new drawing; meant to be reversed, black-for-white.  I don’t really know how this is going to work until I get to a print shop.  SO, last night, sort of hoping to run into the guy (Jay) at the Sequim Office Depot, who has a handle on such things, I, instead, ran into a person who asked another employee how to do the reversal. She wasn’t sure, either; and the first two attempts saw the image reversed but the black staying black.

“No, I kind of meant…”

ON the next attempt, what had been black was now red.  “Whoa! Didn’t know you could do that.”  “I guess we can.”

On the next attempt, we (with my input and the other Depot person’s advice) got it right.

“OH, but, um, can you do other colors?”  They looked it up.  “Red, yellow, magenta, blue, some other color.”  “One of each, please; full-sized; then a couple of eight and a half by elevens.  Please.”

NOW, suddenly, I’m a little irritated with myself that I didn’t get some smaller, as in scannable on my printer, versions of the ones in color.  Here’s the black-for-white version:

Scan_20190711 (2)

I did lose some detail here; I’m blaming my scanner.  Now, imagine everything that is black as red, or blue, or…  and now imagine you are, quite exhausted from the hiking, out of a beach with silvery-shiny-glassy-empty-near-perfect waves.  And now imagine… whatever you want.

No, not being stuck in traffic.

A Couple Chapters from “Swamis”

 

“It’s just… um… you were rude.” Jerk looked like he might apologize; or, worse, cry.

I’m trying to move forward with the novel, but my time for working on it is limited, and every time I start, I seem to start at the beginning; and when I’m working on my other projects, like making actual money at my actual work (house painting), I seem to get caught up in how the plot is going to go.

I run so many scenarios through my mind; so many choices; and when I go with one, I have to go back to earlier pages; clues, building blocks. The result of changing and editing is, if I publish what I have written, I can’t really ask readers to go back and reread.

SO, I’m hoping this portion is pretty much complete; AND I’m starting it with something from the immediately-previous chapter. So….

 

“Hey,” I said, taking Dave’s towel off his board, handing it to Jerk. “My dad made me go. It’s really… it’s Devil Pups. Marines. Didn’t want to go.” I stood aside, opening the ramp. “We’re going to go surfing now.” I took the towel back, handed it to Dave. He took it with a shrug. “Just, um; you’re okay, huh?”

Jerk nodded. We walked on.

“Hope he doesn’t cry,” Dave said. “Your dad would’ve… I mean; if you ever even started to… to tear up; he’d of…” As we reached the sand, the sun way too close to the horizon, Dave ran next to me, looked closely at my face.

I wasn’t crying, quite, but I was not thrilled. I wasn’t sorry. I’m pretty sure I smiled, maybe even laughed. “Devil Dogs!” I ran for the water, didn’t look back at the bluff until I was knee-deep. The sun bounced back at me off windows, car windows, house windows. Silhouettes. Maybe one of them was Ginny, I thought. Maybe I was wrong.

Dave caught a wave before I did.

MONDAY, JULY 21- MAN ON THE MOON

This was the day after man first walked on the moon. I had surfed. Somewhere; maybe Stone Steps; trying to find a little peak in the peak of Summer; summer and all that meant in a Southern California beach town recently isolated by the completion of I-5.

There was talk, at that time, of the North County beach towns (Leucadia, Encinitas, Cardiff-by-the-Sea, Del Mar) suffering when 101 was no longer the main coastal north-south route. Whether they did or didn’t depends on your interpretation of ‘suffering.’

In the still images and video (and, actually, film) clips that are stored in my memory, there was (though I may have imagined it there) a TV in the front of the classroom, black and white only, set on an AV cart, tuned to the non-stop coverage of the moon landing.

A Woman entered, looked at the fifteen or so grownups and almost-grownups scattered around the classroom, each with a stack of papers on individual desks that were exactly like the ones at Fallbrook High, and probably Vista, San Marcos, Escondido, Orange Glen, San Dieguito (those same beach towns); the districts that fed into the Palomar Junior College District. She looked at one of the papers in her left hand, erased “Biology 101” from the chalk board.

“Now,” she said, “now;” speaking louder when no one looked up after the first ‘now.’ “You people are right at the line; the cut off. Your choices… (louder) are limited. You may not get all the classes you wanted.”

Creative Writing; yes. And I wanted English 101. Yes, I had tested high enough to skip the remedial, non-credit English; I wanted… Art; yes, definitely. Basic Drawing. Two classes still open. 8am. Of course; too early for real artists. Monday, Wednesday. Okay. Being under eighteen (the cutoff might have been twenty-one at that time), I was required to take a Physical Education class. Fall Sports was closed. Badmitton. Really? Closed. Shit. Weight Training. Still open. No. Fuck. Okay.

Okay. A-okay.

I was pretty pleased, partly because I was there; here; signing up for ‘high school with ashtrays,’ junior college; college nonetheless. I was still writing, erasing, writing when Jumper Hayes entered the room, gave the Admissions Woman a big smile, which she seemed to appreciate. He surveyed the room, pointed toward the empty seat next to me (at the back of the room) with his rolled-up papers, and sat next to me. He scooted (noisily) his desk unit closer; like he wanted to cheat off me.

“Bagboy,” he whispered.

I scooted my desk away. Jumper followed.

The Admissions Woman looked around at the noise, but, again, only returned what I had to believe was another reassuring smile from Jumper. I feel compelled to mention that the Admissions Woman was probably about twenty-something, something under 25, and was, despite her pulled-back hair and Summery-patterned dress (no sleeves, no hose, tanned legs- I noticed, and no shoes) trying to seem a bit more professional, even stern, than she was able to quite pull off. She was rather like a substitute teacher trying to maintain in a room of recent high school graduates, professional students, draft dodgers, returning veterans.

“No shoes,” I thought, looking down at my huarache sandals. With socks. Socks. That wouldn’t happen again. No dress code here.

“Bagboy,” Jumper said; “I thought you were going to some big time University. Word is, what I heard is… you’re a brain.”

“No.”

“No? Okay. Maybe not. It’s not like it, brains, show. I mean… (looking at me a bit closer) I don’t see it.”

“I was… upstate… inland; not my idea; but…” I’m sure I smiled, despite myself. “Brain? Who would…?”

“One of those Avocado-lovin’, guacamole dip…dipshits; Bucky Davis, maybe; John Amsterdam; why would I remember? I’m not a brain…I’m not like you.”

Admissions Woman, taking a handful of papers from an older man; probably forty, at the door; looked at them, scratched Philosophy II and Beginning Photography from the chalkboard.

“Shit.”

“Philosophy II?”

“No, beginning photography.”

“Oh. Sure. And, incidentally, Amsterdam still hates you. Brand new Dewey Weber performer.” He shook his head, moved his hands to illustrate a board crashing on another board. “Got to hang on to your board, Bagger.” He paused. “You prefer Bagboy… or Bagger? Bagger sounds a little more…” He nodded, nearly winked. “Or Jody?”

“That… Amsterdam’s board; wasn’t me. Different Fallbrook punk, man. Jody, that was my dad’s joke.”

“Yeah. Sure. And Tony, at the market; he’s in on it.” He was nodding; I nodded.

“They were both in the Corps. Not that they knew each other then; Tony was only in Korea; but…”

“As was I. In the Corps. Not Korea. Or is it ‘As I was?’” Jumper saluted; quickly, crisply; properly. He looked over at my papers. “Different wars, man. You takin’ any English classes, um, neighbor?” When I looked back, he went back to nodding. “Wrong side of 101. Too bad. You probably have to go five blocks to get across, but… guess you’re a Leucadian now.  As far as I know, you and I; maybe… (he moved his hands back and forth in a balancing motion) Carson Holder; we’re probably the closest things to Grandview locals.” I blinked “So, well…”

When I determined nothing was following ‘well,’ I said, “beats living in Frog-butt; huh?”

Jumper laughed, looked at the woman from admissions, gave her another, bigger smile, kept it when he looked back at me. “So, guess you don’t have the horse anymore.” He let that hang for the moment it took for me to look around. “Any longer? No longer have the horse?”

He didn’t drop the smile. I’d love to think I didn’t seem surprised. Or rattled. Or angry. “No, we… the horse…” I restacked my papers, whispered, “Fuck you, Jumper;” scooted my desk away, again, a bit more noisily than I might have preferred. Jumper was still smiling.

“Oh. Sure; and the horse I rode in on.”

……………………………………………………EASY A
Jumper stood up, his desk unit like a skirt, walked closer to me. He slid his preliminary class schedule in front of me, pointed to Criminal Justice; pointed to the same title on my schedule. “I am going on Uncle Sam, though; G.I. Bill. Semper Fi, (whispered) motherfucker. Full ride, man.”

“It’s California… Man; free education. And, besides; I’m not interested in…”

“Easy A, Jody; and… (back to a whisper) Marine Corps; cops; it’s a family tradition. Isn’t it?”

I crumpled up the first and second versions of my schedule in my right hand, stuck my middle finger out and a little too close to Jumper’s face. Surprised at how instant my anger had been, how it was staying at that level, and how Jumper’s reaction continued to be a smile (“Insolence,” my father would have said); I pulled my hand back almost immediately, flattened-out what had been a fist, and slapped my hand on the papers to the desktop.

“If my father… I’m… everyone knows who my father was. If I…” I looked at my form. “I’m done, June, Juni, Junipero… Mr. Hayes. Fifteen units. Full load. Done.” I stood up, picked up and straightened the other pages. “I’m not fucking interested in being a…” I lowered my voice, looked around the room. No one was looking up from their papers. “…a fucking cop.”

“Marine Corps, then. Huh?”

“You know…” he just refused to drop that smile. “…You know, there’s really nowhere else to go after the ‘fuck you’ exchange.”

“I never said it.” “Okay. Bye.” “Did you hear about Gingerbread Fred?”

“What?”

“Dead. Gingerbread Fred is dead.” “No. I hadn’t…” “I’d have thought you would’ve… broken neck… Swamis… fell down the top part of the stairs. Supposedly. When we’re taking Criminal Science…” Now we were both standing. Jumper pointed his papers toward the front of the room. “Funny how it’s all, like, science, huh?”

The Woman erased Psychology 101 from the board just before I got to her. I looked at my form, I looked at Jumper Hayes. He still had the same smile, mouthing, “Easy A;” stepped in front of me, very close to the Admissions Woman. “We’re both taking Criminal Justice, Miss… (looking at her name tag) Julianna Goldsworthy (stretching out each syllable).” He stepped back, went into a sort of superhero pose. “Do I look like a cop, Julianna?”

Julianna seemed too, maybe, bedazzled to respond with more than a nod. And a smile; a smile she dropped when she turned toward me. “Family tradition,” I said, “Easy A.”

Jumper looked at me, looked at Julianna, at the TV, back at Julianna; “Big deal, huh; man on the moon and all?”

Julianna looked back at Jumper. Her smile, half as big as it had been, returned; but the nod seemed twice as enthusiastic.  She almost giggled. “Soooo cool. The moon! Historically (lowering her voice) fucking cool.”

“Uh huh,” Jumper said, sharing her little ‘oops’ expression. He stuck a fist out, shook it, said, “To the moon, Alice.” We three, and a couple of others listening-in, of course, got the allusion.

Jumper looked at me, me maintain a serious expression, turned back to Julianna Goldsworthy, motioned her a bit closer. “I want to find out who killed Chulo Lopez and Gingerbread Fred. Mr. Joseph DeFreine, Junior, here… DeFreine is a fancy to say ‘French’; you can call him Jody… probably; he wants to find out who really killed his father.”

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 16- NIGHT CLASSES

It wasn’t actually dark, just that empty, colorless sky, sunset shades fading. I was walking quickly, then running, on the sidewalks, past the blocks of classrooms, most unlit; a camera strap around one wrist, piece of paper in the other hand. “Should have scoped this out,” I said, probably out loud.

There were mostly older men in the first classroom with lights on and a door open. White-haired and conservatively dressed. “Photography Two?” “No, kid; real estate.” Laughs, two guys pointing to the next building over.

Everyone in the correct classroom seemed to know each other; standing around in small groups, some in those multi-pocketed news photographer coats; versions, I thought, of great white hunter jackets.  I looked down at my favorite vinyl windbreaker, now-faded red with a thick white stripe, selected because it had big pockets, pockets being an important part, evidently, of being or looking like a photographer.

Most of the Photography II folks were men; not as old as the potential realtors; but, I couldn’t help thinking, probably mostly interested in artistic nude photography. Artistic. Nude.

Then there was Ginny Cole; hair pulled back, a pretty-neutral-colored and oversized sweater and Levis, that large, gray-and-stained, possibly-canvas bag on the desk in front of her, waiting for some one to start the class; that Ginny Cold look on her face.

Not that I knew her.

I did know the look; the don’t-even-think-about-it expression probably necessary for a girl’s survival in the surfing community. Or any community.

Still, I sat in the desk next to her. She didn’t look around.

“It’s like a pervert convention,” I said. No response.

“The trenchcoats.” Pause. No response. I chuckled, scanning the room again. Virginia didn’t. “I surfed Pipes this morning… pretty good; came here from work (all the while I’m probably nodding like a fool). At the market. Cardiff. Got a great deal on grapes.” Nothing. “Seedless.” I thought I saw a bit of a smile, quickly dropped. “You get any waves?” No response. “They’re seedless; on sale.”

Virginia Cole turned, possibly just to make me stop talking. This time she had the ‘drop-dead-and-die’ look ready to go; possibly even moving to the ‘may-your-dick-fall-off-before-you-drop-dead-and-then-die’ look; but, just as she turned, as can happen in the hours after a person surfs, a stream of water, trapped in the sinuses, poured out of Ginny’s nostrils. She quickly brought a hand up to stop it.

She looked at her hand, looked at the puddle on the desk, looked at me. I don’t know if I was smiling. Sure, had to have been.

Her expression was almost a smile. “Seedless, huh?” It was a smile.

“Okay, class;” a voice from the front of the room announced, “time to pick a partner for the dark room.”

I took the neckerchief I had around my neck (part of my junior college-cool outfit), handed it to Ginny. She looked at it for a second, unraveled it, wiped her nose, her eyes on me. Green, yes; translucent. Then she reset her polite-but-serious face, dropped the neckerchief onto the puddle.

I raised the Yashica 35-millimeter camera, briefly considered pointing it toward Ginny.

“My mom, she bought from a Vietnam veteran at her work; he’s dying, maybe he’s died by now, of some, some unspecified disease. I think it might be syphilis. ‘So young,’ my mom said. ‘Fifty bucks,’ my dad said; more like a question. ‘Fifty bucks?’ ‘It’s for Junior,’ she said. ‘Guess it’s better than that Brownie,’ he said. So, it’s mine.”

I knew I was blathering; ridiculous. I almost wanted to see, again, her ‘drop dead’ expression. Though I never took the shot, that’s still my top Ginny Cole image.

………………………………………………….IN A DIFFERENT LIGHT

Something about a woman in a dark room; the lighting so different; highlights and profiles, a certain intimacy. Maybe I was a little too thrilled. This wasn’t a date.

I was worthless. When it was obvious I didn’t know my way around a darkroom, she took my camera, made sure it was rewound, opened the back, took out the roll of film, unfurled it, placed it into the tray of developer. “How did you even get into this class?”

“Beginning photography was full.” I just stood by. Soon, the first roll of film I would ever (watch/assist) develop was in the fixer. I had to piss. Desperately. I couldn’t leave. “You?”

“Me? What?” She didn’t understand what I tried to pass on to her with a shaking of the hands. “Me. Took it while I was in high school. It’s… possible. It’s allowed. Quit dancing.”

She looked at my feet. “No shoes?” I looked at her feet. Tan, brushed leather almost-hiking boots. Hush Puppies. “Shoes. Shoes. Good. I had some Hush Puppies; got them because Phillip, he had some. I kind of…” I put my hands on my knees. “Bowlegged. Sort of. I ran them over at the heels. They were… I liked them. You?”

She just shook her head. She nodded toward my roll of film. I gave her a look that requested her permission. She gave me a look that said, ‘yeah, dumbass, you can pick it up.’

I grabbed my roll from the tray, by the edges, held it up to the reddish lights; negatives, 35 millimeter white and black images of waves, of people, strangers, in the parking lot at Swamis; of Erwin and Phillip and Ray, my closest high school surfing friends, from the last time we all surfed together; Swamis beachbreak.

Ginny took the roll from me, hung it on the line with her five rolls of negatives; flowers, and that dark and heavy kind of iceplant, and palm trees and sunsets and clouds, and various groupings of the San Dieguito surf crowd in the Swamis parking lot.

The professor approached. “He’s had to figure out… he will… you don’t belong,” she said. “You can leave for a minute. Just… just stop dancing. Please.” I couldn’t. “Go; Junior; we’ll make some contact prints.”

“Uh huh,” like I knew what that meant. I avoided eye contact with the professor, side-stepped him and one of the big jacket guys.

“Virginia,” the professor said; “how many rolls this time?”

I looked back. Ginny was resetting her polite face as the professor approached her, but, for a second, maybe…maybe she seemed to be looking past him, actually seeing me, almost smiling; but then, there’s something about darkroom lighting… a different light.

…………………………………………………………….ARTSY

When I returned, slipping through the ante-room and the blinds of heavy plastic, into the chemical smell and red-tinged darkness, past the professor and other students, Ginny Cole was examining the drying negatives; her five rolls, my one.

“Are you taking this class just to save money on developing?”

“No. Uh, maybe; partially. It’s more like… yes.” She had four rolls hanging and one fully-developed roll on the counter, on a towel, dobbing the top side with the other half of the same towel. That’s the one I tried to look at. She pulled it up and away. Thirty-five-millimeter negative images.

I backed-off, threw my hands up in a ‘no contest’ gesture. “Secret stuff?”

“It’s just… it’s not that… it’s not secret. They’re nice enough to let me… should have developed these last semester. Not… not secret.”

“Okay. Not secret. Private. Sure. Private.”

The ‘private’ thing was too much to put between two people in a darkroom who really didn’t know each other. I looked around the room. Two Big Jackets and the professor were looking at what I caught as nudes. Sure. Private. One of the Jackets pulled out a magnifying glass. Another Jacket slapped him on the back.

I looked back at Ginny. “Artistic,” I said. She looked at the men, back at me, shook her head. “Pervert convention.”

“Yeah. Artsy.” Ginny picked up and held the roll, by the edges, backlit. There was a shot of someone blocking the path at Beacons with a board. It was me. Oh.

“Oh,” I said.

“Telephoto lens,” she said. “You should get one.”

“Uh huh,” I said, checking the other shots, one a closeup of the Jerk looking up, blood (white on the acetate) on his nose and mouth.

“It’s not like you’re my hero or anything.”

“No,” I said. “Telephoto. Have to get one.” She handed my neckerchief back to me. I looked at it, looked at her. “Perfect,” I thought. “I’m not a narc,” I said.