In the dream, of course, I was awake, and yet dreaming I was sleeping,
If not sleeping, waiting,
Some unmeasured length of time; weightless, waiting,
Sidestroke glide, close to shore,
Flutter kick, one arm still, one back then pointing, forward,
Beach, bluff, streetlights,
Outline to the Sky,
That further ocean.
Gliding silent inside a globe,
A lens of sorts, crystal, foggy on the edges,
Like condensation on a windshield,
And I’m not waiting for the clearing.
Gliding forward, silent, thinking,
“Nothing, nothing, nothing.”
And there is nothing; all the thoughts kept out,
The chaos and the chatter and confusion,
Outside the lens, outside the globe,
Still there are lights too bright to block,
These I see too clearly.
“Nothing, nothing, nothing.”
And then, suddenly it seemed, I awoke.
But, perhaps, I was awakened.
I was waiting for Trish to get home from shopping/visiting with our daughter, Dru; and, because my body tells me to sleep at around ten pm, Pacific Standard Time, and because Trish, when I called her, said it would be later, I went to sleep. Then I woke up. Then, knowing there would be a phone call to tell me Trish would be home in somewhere around thirty minutes, I had a bit of trouble going back to sleep. I know I had to have been asleep, but it seemed interesting, even amusing, to me that I was dreaming I was trying to get to sleep.
Please forgive me for going anywhere near poetryland; but, on the other hand, take that, Daniel.
SURFWISE: It seems like the northeast Pacific is generating surf for everywhere else. Hopefully you can pick up a little corner somewhere. Good luck.
Former Olympic Peninsula ripper Stephen R. Davis is Big Island-ing it; not sure if he’ll come back to the 4-3 mil-demanding waters of the Strait and the Northeast Pacific; or why he would. With all the political drama and with the omni-depressing omnipresent Covid continuing, hey, how about a few snaps from warm water?
Steve did send me another shot of him, but, for some reason I couldn’t upload it, so, imagine the next move after this one, climbing back into the hook, sliding on down the line. Thanks, Steve; I’ll be thinking of you when I crank up the generator the next time the power goes out.
Okay, they aren’t, but there are some bright spots if you look hard enough. I am trying really hard to be optimistic, difficult as that is. Balance. So, let’s say you’re a standup paddleboarder; you have already learned that staying upright and balanced sometimes requires not looking at your flailing arms and legs, but maintaining a focus on the horizon. Similarly, driving a car smoothly requires… no, this isn’t really helping. I have checked the Microsoft News dealie on my computer; Trump’s still hunkered in his bunker unless he’s golfing (I’m sure there’s a ‘where’s the Prez now’ phone app available) or strategizing on how to achieve world peace as just a bit more glitter on his legacy; and I’m actually dying to turn on the TV to get the latest fake news (having eliminated the fair and balanced type from my options, though we kept the ‘yule log’ channel); and I definitely am not tempted to check out the NFL channel or any other wildcard games, this to avoid any excuses for or explanations of the Seahawks loss yesterday; and I’m even avoiding checking the buoy readings from Tofino to Westport (again, or my usual 10-20 times per day- I do have buoys on my phone- not looking good Strait-wise); all of this in a pursuit of avoiding personal panic.
So, I was buoyed (no, I don’t consider this, like, really clever) when Stephen R. Davis, over on Fantasy Island, sent me a photo with the heading, “Storming the Capitol.” Since I have promised to try, to really try not to get all political and to concentrate of real surfers surfing (oh, and I am thankful that a very high percentage of surfers consider ourselves liberal), I let Steve know that I would put the photo on realsurfers.net
I have also made a self-commitment to complete my endless tweaking and polishing of my novel, “SWAMIS” sooner rather than later. I have invested a considerable amount of time and energy in this work. While I originally thought of “Swamis” as a one book thing, even the side stories I have cut, the verbal images I have cropped, the characters I have not fully rendered have convinced me there is more I want to say. Oh, there always is.
Horizons. We don’t need blinders, we need focus.
To blatantly steal something from Drew Kampion, “Life is a wave…” As Steve is doing, above, “Lean into it.”
UPDATE: I couldn’t do it. After a text from Keith and a call from Adam Wipeout, I had to check the buoys, and then, yeah got updated on football and politics. Sad. Politics, sadder. AND, then I got two new photos from my Hawaiian connection, Stephen R. Davis. SO, check back when you can, OH, and I do have to say something about Adam’s recent world class overthefalls wipeout, a non ride that has already taken up more conversation time than any ride ever… ever. And I’m evidently not done.
I am guessing the Junior Senator on the left, below, who gave the mob a weak power sign might not be so sure what gesture he should give to the Police Officer killed with blows to the head from a fire extinguisher. Um, uh, something that suggests sympathy? Some sort of signal of remorse? Nah; in the cynical and self-serving world where lies are perpetuated and citizens with benign intentions are pushed forward and used as cover by the criminal leaders of a insurrection and… I swear, I would love to just say ‘fuck it, saner heads will prevail.’ I would love to believe that. But, a couple of things: Is that Ivy Leaguer who despite, supposedly, giving his educational background, knew full well the grounds for overturning the will of the voters was unconstitutional and yet insisted on holding up the certification for an additional five hours, this after our elected representatives showed an incredible amount of courage by coming back into session after the military style assault on Congress; is this dude giving himself a shaka? And the other dude; the guy who said he’d be with the marchers (who are, to him, special, and loved) then went to his gilded bunker and, allegedly, enjoyed the show on TV; does that make him a coward as well as a liar?
Somehow, with, evidently (evidently as in there is evidence to back this up) some of the loved and special people who stormed the Capitol had a plan to hang (or otherwise execute, as in kill) the Vice President of the United States of America for not going outside his role as specified (as in clearly spelled out, not open to vague interpretation) by not certifying the will of the American People, more than seven million more of whom did not vote for the incumbent; somehow, in all of this, Mike Pence did show courage, did behave in a heroic way.
AGAIN, I want to get beyond this. BECAUSE I listen as well as talk, I pick up on things. We’ve had some pretty shitty weather lately. I mentioned how depressing this can be to a floor guy on a job. “For some people,” he said, “depression is a step up.” I was a bit shocked. Maybe desperation is a floor down, with only surrender below that. I understand desperation, and I know, right now, it is widespread. I am thankful that I have been lucky enough to keep working, to keep going, and I try to have faith that I can continue to do so. I told the guy that I have a tough time holding on to depression; I tend to talk my way out of it, to an extent, dropping back to my belief that there’s a story going on that we aren’t writing; that we’re not even minor characters in; the example I gave him is this: Who could have scripted that the political control of the US Senate could come down to two recount votes in Georgia?
THERE IS a painter in the town I have lived in for over forty years, another town in rural America with limited opportunities; and, over the years, good times and bad, whenever he and I have run into each other, he always ends the conversation with “Hang in there.” It is a verbal shaka, a term of encouragement.
I kind of think, when Trump said he’d be marching with you, his beloved fans, his base, and people so enthralled you are probably contributors to his continued campaign; you believed him. Then you and he would walk, hand-in-hand, Trump flags flying, down Pennsylvania Avenue to stop the steal of… whatever it is he’s convinced you was ruthlessly ripped away from him and his gang/clan. Instead, the Prez slipped out the back, stumbled (because of the bone spurs, as you remember, poor guy) got in his armored car, picked up his McDonalds order, and cruised on down to his gold-plated bunker deep under the White House. Meanwhile all ya’ll, busily taking selfies with cops and listening to the mob leaders on their megaphones, recognizable because of their really cool outfits, decided it would be something else to tell the folks back home if you accepted their invitation to go up the stairs of the Capitol Building, then inside, and, wait… after they cart out the woman who got shot, you’re suddenly inside the Senate chambers; and, whoa, all the Senators and folks are gone. What? Are they scared of fellow Americans?
Now, somewhere in the next few hours, kinda not knowing what to do but take more selfies, you no doubt, expected Don to drop in, using only one hand, on a line from Marine One, his massive chest muscles flexed, a Bible in the other hand, and a look of confidence bordering on righteousness on his face.
Meanwhile, and I am not trying to say that I, in any way understand the thinking of anyone who actually believes any fucking thing our outgoing Huckster-in-chief says (not like outgoing in a friendly sense- outgoing as in out the door), but it has been noted, and noticed, that the police response to the rioters was not particularly ‘strident.’ I have, in fact, been subjected to a harsher push back after a Jethro Tull concert, not to mention getting kicked off the beach twice- way rougher. Now the Jethro Tull thing was particularly troubling and irritating because I had paid good money for the tickets. OH, you do understand that. One explanation/excuse for the softball initial response was that a big military style putdown, the kind that’s saved for Black Lives Matter marches and people who are in the way when Donny wants a photo op, is that getting harsh with overweight white people might create a martyr or two… so politely escorting folks to safety was the tactic de jour. After all, a majority of the mob members looked like people one might see at the local grocery store.
Then again, things could have gotten way more deadly than they did.
Yeah, well; since I’ve been unable to move too far from the TV, switching channels occasionally, binge-watching a sad but historic day, and reminding anyone reading that I would much rather write about real surfers actually surfing, let me say this: I feel sorry for people who are, forever, insurrectionists, part of a failed coup attempt by a loser. That, in itself, doesn’t mean you’re a loser. Go ahead, think you’re real Americans. Trump loves you. I heard him say so before he got deleted on Facebook and Twitter, not that I’d follow him there… or anywhere.
Incidentally, do you know how to tell when Trumpo (Aussie style nickname) is lying?
No, didn’t think so.
Unfortunately, what some might think is backlash is the status quo ’round these parts. Good luck.
There’s always that one last wave, the one you’ll ride as close to the shore as you can get. It’s only fitting that my last one was on the last day of what, if you’ll forgive the foul language, was a fucked up year, a real (please fill in your own adjectives, I just got a bit more depressed and pissed-off considering my options) doozy of a year. PLAGUE YEAR- During which we discovered each of us is a potential threat to anyone we come into contact with, or are even in the same room with. CULTURE WARS- During which the divisions in our population became increasingly clear, with or without bumper stickers and big-ass flags and FoxNews Addicts identifying anyone more intelligent that they are as Elitists. POLITICAL YEAR in which the cruelty of the power elite has only been matched by its cynicism and cowardice. FISCAL YEAR (yes, I know it’s not a complete match)- During which the stock market went up and the jobs dried up.
Wave image taken from Google or Bing; not an exact match to any local waves
NOW, on the political side, here’s an image I can’t quite shake. Imagine Mitch McConnell. Okay, now imagine him supposedly throwing desperate and drowning AMERICANS a lifeline that is just not quite long enough. Yes, he’s got that gleeful smirk/smile any politician representing one of the poorest, per capita, states in the Union might have when he’s claiming a two thousand dollar stimulus check might just accidently go to someone who doesn’t really need it. Possible caption: “Come on now, just jump for it.”
To be clear; I don’t believe McConnell to be cowardly; a cruel and cynical power broker who, I hope, makes no claim to being a Christian (anywhere on the radical spectrum of claimants), hell yeah.
I DO APOLOGIZE, to those who believe you aren’t, for getting political. I will try not to get too religious EXCEPT to say that I have come to interpret that commandment about not using God’s name in vain as meaning we mortals (sure, you could also put an asterisk on this) don’t have a right to give commands to whatever God is (and, since none of us really know, I would be considered liberal or blasphemous on this, considering how cock sure you are). I do believe it’s acceptable to make requests. As such, and realizing we are all hypocrites in some way, we are all infidels to someone, we are all sinners (if sinning means breaking some part of your own code), and many of us have been taught that there is some sort of overriding and final judgment and that vengeance is not ours; I do have a few requests in the disabling-if-not-damning category.
SO, GOOD FUCKING BYE to 2020; I do have some optimism for 2021; but heading into it is like, if I can compare it to my last surf session, yesterday, in which I took off before dawn, knowing the recent rains and tides and other factors have altered (and not for the better) my favorite reef; and then, heading up Surf Route 101, checking the buoy readings, discovering the swell has moved too south for anything to work on the Strait; then discovering a long chunk of 112 is closed due to the usual landslides; and, with the surf always fickle, rarely matching the forecast (unless it’s for flatness and unfavorable winds), and… and I kept going.
It worked out. Kind of. We adapt. We hope. Maybe the tides and the rivers and the waves will push the gravel and the rocks, reshaped and reformed into a different reef, one that turns chaos into a peak and a running shoulder. Change is constant. Keep going.
TWO LAST THINGS: One, two thousand dollars is ‘walking around money’ for some, desperately needed for many. If you don’t understand true desperation, ‘lucky you.’ Two, since, all of us being masked and dangerous has allowed the true dickheads to be much more open about it. As such, I have made it my first NEW YEAR’S resolution ever, to be as nice as I can bring myself to being in public (properly distanced) situations. EXAMPLE- Getting gas at Costco, I told the guy gassing up his big-ass SUV with those big-ass rims that those kind of rigs always remind me of covered wagons. Negative response. I turned to see some other dickhead had just said something rude to the attendant. I said something nice. No, actually I said that some people are just dickheads. Then I said something nice, like, Happy New Year. “Thanks, man” was his response. Then, just to prove that I (well known for being a wave hog) am a hypocrite, I had a chance to share the three bucks in my wallet with a couple at the stoplight (sign, dog, both smoking). I didn’t. Might have been the smoking part. Still, dickhead inaction.
I’m still polishing the manuscript for my novel, “Swamis.” A lot of what I am doing is trying to cut out pages, lines, even words that don’t progress the story. The story.
THE STORY has changed considerably since I started the project. THE TRUTH is that this project, realsurfers, was an attempt to tell the larger story of surfing in a particular time, the late 1960s, Southern California; the draft, Vietnam, various revolutions in music, surfboard design, human rights; there’s a lot to cover. NOW I have a story and I’m trying to make all the parts, all the characters and plot twists seem REAL.
I don’t want to post pages that I cut because I rewrote them, improved upon what I am offering you. Rather, I will only post outtakes because they no longer fit in the trimmed-down, story driven manuscript. ACTUALLY, there are still sidetrips I will not be able to cut.
In rereading this passage, I do have to admit that it’s Joseph DeFreines channeling me. The fiction part is that his father was a cop, killed in a mystery among mysteries. SO:
Sure. Surfing is sexy, coolness illustrated; pirate/rebels washed clean.
Coolness, hipness; we adapt our lives, change our speech patterns, make different choices in clothing and music and attitude as we discover new, and, if not better, more modern things, newer new things; trends, fashions.
The very word, fashion, describes its temporary nature. Subtext. That fashion goes in and out is given to the user of the word for free.
We steal, borrow, incorporate. The strands are pretty obvious; like blues to jazz, blues to rock and roll, blues coopted by popular AM music. If you were born in the 1950s, you heard Sinatra and Chuck Berry on the same AM station; experienced the Beatles, then Dylan. No, you probably got Dylan through Dylan covers, Peter Paul and Mary, the Byrds; then Dylan, then… whatever was fashionable. Temporary.
THE REAL DYLAN
We, my Fallbrook contemporaries, suburban teenage males, isolated from the big cities, behind the times; we were Doors fans. Of course. My friends bought the albums. Garage bands played extended versions of ‘Light My Fire’ at sock hops and VFW dances. When tape players came out, some of my friends had them installed in the cars their parents handed down to them. Or bought for them. Four trac, then 8; Three Dog Night and Jimi Hendrix.
Somehow, I held on to the songs from the 78s my parents owned, surprisingly varied, with jazz, husband and wife duos, black torch singers, Nat King Cole. I remembered tunes from musicals in my mom’s LP stash, “Oklahoma” and “South Pacific.” They had LPs, 33 1/3rd, Johnny Mathis and The Everly Brothers. I didn’t want doo wop or bubblegum pop, I wanted to hear the real Dylan. Dylan was in the magazines, angry young man, voice of a generation; why wasn’t he on the radio?
Dylan was certainly not on KCPQ, the station my friends in Junior High went on about. KCPQ advertised pimple cream and played Beatle songs for portable radios, songs sung in the hallways by hormone-strained voices, guys suddenly affecting English accents. There were sanitized versions of Dylan; but no Dylan. I didn’t want more Chad and Jeremy, more Herman’s Hermits.
Someone dropped a clue, something heard by overhearing an older brother. There was a station from San Diego, KPRI, FM (for god’s sake), that played whole albums; radical, underground music. I could barely get it, but I tried, over in the corner of my bedroom, while I studied, wrote; edited and typed-up other people’s term papers (for a fee); another detached, isolated, suburban (almost rural, really) teenager.
KPRI, as close to tuned in as I could get it, still had that grainy, scratchy, ringing-in-the-ear background. I tried. I persisted. I listened. That it was difficult to tune into made it better. Way better. FM, for god’s sake.
Channel 9, from Santa Barbara, was a similar, hard-to-tune-in mystery. With Ray on the roof moving the antenna, Phillip at the window, and me at the TV set, we tried to get “Surf’s Up.” It was listed in the Fallbrook-specific TV Guide; and, at best, we almost saw, or barely saw, some footage of Trestles, a legendary break, peeling. The only audio we could hear was, “peeling like a washing machine.”
That barely-there-ness only added to the appropriateness. “Peeling like a washing machine” became, briefly, our phrase for a perfect wave on an imperfect day. Rare, peeling…
“We’re going,” the slow-speaking voice (opposite of am radio) of a possibly-stoned KPRI disc jockey would say, “to go in the back room and get our heads together (background chuckles); so, here’s Dylan’s “John Wesley Harding.” Sound of inhalation, extended version.
Appropriate. Black-and-white, scratchy-grainy TV, whispered songs with tinnitus backgrounds.
When I got my first tape player, 4 plus 4, capable of playing four and eight trac tapes; and stolen, as previously mentioned, traded for fifteen bucks and some homemade sandwiches (and a promise for more) in the school parking lot, installed (rather, wired) by a guy (can’t remember his name) who told me I, my dad being an asshole and a cop and all, should have known it was stolen. I bought some on-sale tapes at the Buy-and-Save market: Laura Nyro, Leonard Cohen, “Aerial Ballet” by Harry Nilsson.
“What’s that shit?” One of my friends would ask.
“Good music,” I would say.
Yeah, I had some Doors, Hendrix; often wondered if I really liked them more than the Moody Blues. When Led Zeppelin came out, I just avoided it. Or tried. Orgasmic rock. All these years later, KPRI is probably sports or talk or playing new age country/western, and there is no classic or hardrock station that can go an hour without playing something from Led Zep.
Orgasmic rock I called it. Hated Led Zeppelin, but I still know most of their songs.
Somewhere in those years, I lost my California coastal accent. Or, maybe I just thought I had. It comes back sometimes. “Oh, I see; you don’t like a-vo-caaa-do.”
This is, actually, the first drawing I’ve done in quite a while. I have been pretty much consumed with trying to, one, survive, two, keep chopping and cutting and shaping and sanding and polishing my manuscript for “Swamis” into what I will call, eventually, and with a sincere humility, a ‘classic surf-centric novel.’ Three, try to not get skunked totally when I go searching for waves.
It’s been almost a year since I got to ‘the end,’ the end of the unexpurgated version of “Swamis,” got all excited, handed out a few thumbdrives, e-mailed word documents to some other folks, waited for the praise.
There is no profit in giving or receiving unwarranted or undeserved praise. I believe honesty is… no, I’m okay with undeserved praise; and yet, because I knew “Swamis” wasn’t done, I started re-editing, reorganizing, and, most painfully, cutting out words, my words; dialogue, description well before I got the feedback, most of which centered around reorganizing, shaping the manuscript into something… readable, with less jumping around in time… with actual chapters and stuff; something more… MAINSTREAM.
I have taken all the feedback to heart, and have thanked those who read part or all (deserved praise to those who managed that feat), and I have worked my fool ass off on building (almost said creating) a book worth the time one would spend reading.
OKAY, let’s relate it to my connection to MIKE NORMAN. He’s a part of the ever-enlarging, ever-frustrated Port Townsend surf crew; he works at the boatyard on, I don’t really know, boats. Mike has been repairing boards for himself and others for awhile, the combination of big rocks and small waves on the Strait of Juan de Fuca causing more damage per board, more lost or broken fins, than bigger waves and friendlier shorelines would. Personal testimony here. AND Mike has been shaping and glassing complete boards; AND, because he has a background in foam and fiberglass, his boards are professional grade; HANDCRAFTED SURF VESSELS.
Without scrolling back, I believe I did write about how I ripped the glass off my first SUP, sawed off about a foot and a half of what I thought was a twelve foot board, discovering it was, nope, eleven feet; so my new scarred and partially waterlogged blank was now seven foot six and not as floaty as I had hoped. After trying to get some evenness in the rail-lines, put some lift in the nose, give the board some rocker, some down rails, somewhere in there I decided, with some input from surfers who hadn’t actually seen my progress but have seen how I thrash and don’t repair my equipment, I turned the project over to MIKE.
Part of the deal on my end is I give Mike a 5’9″ Bic fish I thought I might ride but haven’t, and providing a logo to put on my and other people’s boards. This is my second, or third, perhaps, attempt. No, not perfect; but if I go back, move this, change that, cut this, add that… then it would be… classic.
NOW, trying not to use my lack of board building skills as a metaphor, I do realize that, at some point, since I would prefer to have an actual publisher, “Swamis” will require an outside editor with an objective eye. I want the manuscript to be as tight as I can get it before that happens. YEAH, it’s scary. The book has to stand on its own merits. ALMOST THERE.
GOOD LUCK to all at this darkest time of the year; sometimes there are, I’ve heard, waves, breaking, just off shore. Waves are a gift (not necessarily worth sharing). I will be trying to sell “Swamis” soon. If you can help, I did check out my gmail account recently, one I rarely use. It works. firstname.lastname@example.org
Happy Merry Solstice Christmas Whatever; and I mean it.
Now that Stephen R. Davis is kind of settling into Big Island life, and has made progress toward, possibly, becoming what he referred to another surfer over there, a “Haole Local,” I speak with him less regularly than when he was over here on the crookedy corner of the contiguous states. I mean, like, really, what do I have to say, surfwise? King tides and southwest swells and skunkings and underwater gravel migration that cuts a wave-killing channel through my favorite reef? Mean-muggers and packs of high-fiving white guys on SUPs who, obviously, got their training chasing ferry boats? How the number of new surfers add to the Olympic Peninsula demographic of most frustrated surfers per hundred thousand?
Yeah, the usual stuff, plus, since it’s this time of year where every surf trip starts AND ends in the dark, and the political shenanigans continue, unabated, as does the virus, and the unavoidably (except by Congress) obvious toll the pandemic has taken on regular folks (for example- several Port Angeles restaurants in business the 42 years I’ve been here have for sale signs in front of them) continues to rise; and, oh yeah; it’s Christmas time, which, if I had my choice, would take place in August when I actually have some money for presents (my kids don’t call me the Christmas Dick because I seem particularly jolly)… so, again, just the usual stuff is going on in my life, making it extra pleasant to get a call from Stephen R. Davis.
Steve called me to say he’d gotten redemption at a sketchy break that features a dry-reef-takeoff, a couple of cruisy sections, and an opportunity to get barreled or pummeled. We did talk after an earlier session in which one of the non-Haole locals said something that Steve understood, but, with him using the pidgin pronunciation, left me with no clue as to what he was talking about, even when I made him repeat it. But, placing it in context, because, when he looked around, all the other surfers were heading for shore, I’m guessing the phrase probably meant something like, “The tide’s too low, Haole.”
Now I imagine Steve nodding, as if he understood the implications, but staying out for an uncontested wave of two.
As I said, this time, with some water on the reef, Steve, who says, with the opportunity to surf consistently, he is surfing better than he ever has, and he was already a very good surfer; this time… redemption.
WAIT! I was just watching some pipeline footage and suddenly reef that Steve said he was doing the outfit with the two hands in the wave face, meaning one hand behind him. “Wait,” I exclaimed ( or asked, perhaps- less dramatic), “you mean like Clay Matzo at Honolua Bay?” “Yes. ” “So, you Marzoed?” ” Guess so. ” “Okay.”
Steve sent me a few photos. This one is a little beefcake-ish and buttcrack-ey, and he says it isn’t him, though he claims he can’t remember the name of the guy and, although I just don’t know of that many people who have that much fucking hair (and I have seen some Stephen Davis wannabes).
It’s a bit interesting to me that I’m working on this while considering how much weight a 4/3 full wetsuit adds to a surfer, that with a one mil vest (with hood) and booties, all of which take in and hold a certain amount of saltwater and/or urine (no, not the hood, urine-wise); and that I have two baggies of assorted chocolates on a side table, and a selection of seasonal cookies easily available; and that working on finishing my novel “Swamis,” (self promotion here) and whatever else I’m doing from a chair that can recline if I’m too tired to sit upright is not exactly like burning calories.
I did mention the Christmas Dick thing.
Anyway, and not just because I have some free (as in no one is paying me for it) time, I will, soon, post some photos my friend and contemporary Tom Burns sent me illustrating a trip some of his friends took to the channel at Mavericks on that recent day, best in years, you are probably already familiar with. But, just because my sister Suellen sent me this, I may as well include a shot of our dad, Suellen, me, and my next sister down, Mary Jane, en route from Surf City, North Carolina to San Diego, December 1953.
Merry Christmas; try not to be a (not a sexist comment- I’m talking behaviorally) dick; in or out of the water; and, for godsake, Steve or non-Steve, tighten up those boardshorts!
My novel, “Swamis,” keeps growing, keeps reaching past ‘novel’ to ‘epic novel’ length. I keep editing it, deleting stuff, then, tightening and polishing and making sure all the little moves are clear; it just keeps rolling past the 120k word zone, that fictional border that keeps a fictional story at a readable length.
Yeah, and as much as it hurts me to cut chapters, with where I am, so close to an ending that keeps evading me in the rewriting and editing, I definitely need to cut a couple of thousand words. SO, I keep moving them to the backup, shadow story, labeled “Sideslipping” on my laptop. I have published some of these on realsurfers, and, if I can swing the computer moves, I will stick some ‘edits,’ don’t want to call them ‘deleted scenes,’ here. MAYBE ‘deleted scenes’ is acceptable.
The following is actually two big outtakes. Remember, though there is a lot of actual people and real events included in “Swamis,” this is fiction. I transplanted my best surfing friends Phillip and Ray into situations that never happened, stuck myself in there, too, mostly so readers don’t think I am Jody. I am not. And, yeah, it’s a lot of words to delete; still not enough:
SIDESLIPPING- OUTTAKES FROM “SWAMIS”
Here we go:
Someone I met much later, a former member of the La Jolla/Windansea group, ten years or so older than me; old enough to have dived for abalone and lobster; old enough to have ridden a new balsa wood board, said, of surfing in his era, “We just sort of plowed.”
When I switched from surf mats to boards, in 1965, diving for and selling abalone and ‘bugs’ (lobster) for cash was already over; being a ‘true waterman’ was no longer a priority. This only added to the mystique. There was a certain reverence, respect, held by surfers of the “Everybody goes surfing, surfing U.S.A.” era for the members of that post-war generation; beatnik/hotrod/rock n’ roll/pre-Gidget/rebellious/outsider/loner surfers plowing empty waves.
That is, for those (of us) who actually gave a shit.
Tamarack was obvious; one peak in front of the bathrooms on the bluff, a bit of a channel; a parking lot at beach level. Good place to learn; sit on the shoulder; wait, watch, study; move toward the peak; a bit closer with each session. Get yelled at; get threatened; learn.
Eventually, if you wanted to improve, you would have to challenge yourself to ride bigger waves, beachbreaks with no channel, tough paddle outs. You would have to learn to hold tightly to the board’s rails, your arms loose enough to move with the violence of a breaking wave. If you wanted to surf the best waves, the set waves, even at Tamarack, you would eventually have to challenge a better-than-you surfer for a wave.
Chapter Eight- Thursday, March 20, 1969
Phillip and Ray lead the discussion about the murder and the excitement. There was a bigger than usual crowd at the big concrete planter boxes, designed with seating all around, trees and bark inside them. The break was called ‘nutrition,’ between second and third periods, and there were two trailers set up where nutritious snacks like orange-sickles and twinkies could be purchased.
Mostly Ray was talking, with Phillip adding key points, and Erwin looking out for any nearby teachers. Mark and Dipshit Dave and three of the Billys were there. I was in my usual spot, standing in the planter, observing, listening. Some of the local toughs and the cooler non-surfers were, unusually, part of this day’s group; listening; more friends of friends of Ray and Phil.
Two of the Rich Kids came over from the Senior Area. Mike, who had been my best friend up until third grade, jumped up next to me on the planter. “Missed the excitement, huh Joey?”
“Guess so, Mikey.”
I had already heard the story. My mind was somewhere else.
“Um, hey; Joey; you know…” I knew what Mike wanted to say. “We’re still; you know, friends.” He tapped me on the chest, tapped his own. “It’s just… your dad. Sorry.”
I tapped Mike on his chest, three times, held up a flat palm between us, went back to being somewhere else.
In our freshman year, the most crowd-centric of several big concrete planters became the pre-school, break, and lunchtime hangout for the entire crew of Freshmen surfers (as far as we knew); Erwin and Phillip and me. With the administrative building behind it, the gymnasium/cafeteria downhill, most of the classrooms to the west, and a bit of shade provided by the trees, it was a good place for observing while still laying low, avoiding… avoiding the other students; the older students in particular; but also any awkward interactions with girls and rich kids and new kids who had gone to other Junior high schools, Pauma Valley (East, toward Palomar Mountain) and Camp Pendleton (West) and Bonsall (Southwest) and Rainbow and Temecula (Northeast).
Temecula. In my senior year, 1969, there were four or five kids from there; three were siblings; two Hanks sisters, one brother. These days, if people don’t know where Fallbrook is, they have heard of Temecula. Big city. “Yeah, sure, Temecula; out on The 15.”
Putting “The” in front of the name of highways came later, along with traffic helicopters and rush hour destination forecasts. Later.
I-15 was Highway 395 then, and Temecula was, often, twisted into Tim-meh-cu’-la; not for any good reason except, perhaps, it was more inland, farther East than Fallbrook, Fallbrook, a town that self-identified (with signage) as “The Friendly Village;” but was nicknamed, in a self-deprecating way, Frog-butt.
Again, the planter was a good place to observe the daily run of mostly manufactured dramas, crushes and romances and slights and breakups, from. High ground. The planter offered a good view of the slatted, backless wooden benches where the sociable girls, this clique and that one, sat (one or two sitting, two or three standing), in groupings established through some mysterious sort of class/status jockeying, some girls able to move from one group to another; some not.
The planter was adjacent to the Senior Area, a sort of skewed rectangle of grass and concrete with covered picnic tables. This chunk of real estate was off limits and jealously guarded, mostly by guys in red Warriors letterman jackets, against intruders; though any senior who made any effort to appear cool (particularly when talking with underclass girls) would feel obligated to say the exclusivity of the senior area was no big deal to him.
Girls. Yeah, the planter was a good place to observe girls, some I’d known since kindergarten. Changing. So quickly. Heartbeat by heartbeat. Girls. So mysterious.
It’s not that I didn’t try to understand how a (comparatively) poor girl with a great personality could be in with three rich girls, at least one of whom was totally bitchy (I mean ‘slightly difficult, quite mean, and unreasonably demanding,’ but I would have meant and said bitchy back then). I figured it was because they knew each other before we figured out whose parents had more money than whose (ours).
Phillip was new when we were freshmen. He had come from Orange County; but he had done some surfing and his older sister was going out with a guy who was definitely one of Fallbrook High’s four or five real surfers. Phillip and I shared a couple of classes. I’d known Erwin since kindergarten. He was a Seventh Day Adventist, which was, he explained, “Kind of like Christians following Jewish traditions.” “Oh, so that’s why you’re not supposed to surf on Saturdays?” “It’s the Sabbath. Holy. Sundown Friday until sundown Saturday.” “Too bad.” “Well; we have gone to, um, Doheny; somewhere we wouldn’t run into anyone from, you know, here.” “Oh?” “Yeah; hypocrisy and guilt. If surfing isn’t, you know, actually sinful…” “Oh, but you know it is.” “Sure is.”
Erwin was one of the only Adventists at our school, and he started board surfing right after junior high; about the same time I did; when his sister, Suellen, beguiled by “Gidget” movies and an episode of “Dr. Kildare,” probably (no doubt, actually); got herself a used surfboard and let her brother borrow it.
Sinful, yes; addictive, undoubtedly. I once, early September, just after school started, saw Erwin sitting on his sister’s board, toward the channel of the lineup. Sunday. Tamarack. It wasn’t big, really, maybe a little bigger than had been average over the summer.
“You’re in the channel, Erwin.” “So?” Closer to the peak meant closer to the crowd. We challenged each other, had to go. We both paddled, over and out; and sat, anxiously, outside of where the waves were breaking, watching other surfers, from the back, take all the waves. When a set wave showed up, we were (accidently) in position. We both; heads down, paddled for it; Erwin prone, me on my knees. We both caught the wave. I pearled, straight down, my board popping back up dangerously close to other surfers scrambling out. Erwin rode the wave. Probably quite ungracefully, but, if only between him and I, he had bragging rights.
Bragging rights, but only between Erwin and me. Being ignored for a mediocre ride was far better than being noticed, called-out as a kook, told by three surfers, only one of them older than I was, to go surf somewhere else, go practice my knee-paddling in the nearby Carlsbad Slough.
I never did. I persisted. I got better. I had significant surf bumps by the time I started riding boards that took knee-paddling out of the equation.
Sometimes I, or Phillip and I, would go (on a Sunday) with Erwin’s mom and his many siblings; sometimes Phillip (on a Saturday) or both of them (on a Sunday, after school, or on a holiday) would go with Freddy and me and my mom. Always to Tamarack. Lower parking lot. Freddy never surfed a board. Surf mat; the real kind, hard, nipple-ripping canvas. Sometimes Freddy and I would get dropped-off, try to fit into the crowd, ease close to someone else’s fire when our mom’s shopping took longer than the time we could manage to stay in the water.
Ray and some of the other guys our age didn’t start surfing until the summer before our sophomore year, so Phillip and Erwin and I were ahead of them, better than them. Many of our contemporaries at least tried it. Anyone newer to surfing than you were was a kook and/or gremmie. Surfing had its own dress code and, more importantly, a fairly strict behavioral standard. A code I thought, at the time. It was fine to get all jazzed up among other surfers, going to or from the beach, but not cool to kook out among non-surfers.
Even in the proper surf gear, Phillip and Ray, both blondes, looked more like what TV and movies said surfers should look like (unless you were foolish enough to believe Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon were anything even close to real- real surfers knew the extras, the background guys, Miki Dora especially, and Mickey Munoz, were the real surfers). Erwin and I, dark haired; even when dressed in the requisite surf garb of the time, weren’t immediately recognized as surfers, weren’t immediately given whatever prestige we thought surfers received.
Or we were, and the prestige wasn’t what we thought it might be.
By the time we were seniors, most of the other Fallbrook surfers our age had dropped off; surfing was less important than whatever they were doing; though they still looked like surfers and always asked when I’d gone last; always said we’d have to go, together, some time.
Some time. We still rarely hung out in the Senior Area. The planters.
We all seemed to have cars; hand-me-downs from parents or older siblings off somewhere new. We could go surfing alone. Phillip and Ray had girlfriends, on and off. Even Erwin had a girlfriend, Trish; not an Adventist. Separate lives. Separate adventures. Romances. Drama. Sometimes we’d still surf together; usually not.
The stories of those adventures connected us. Loosely, probably.
I studied, I surfed. But, at nutrition and at lunch, pretending not to notice the swirl of so many stories around me, this concrete planter box was my social scene.