“Swamis” is Out There… somewhere

In the end, I just hit “send.” So, yeah, my first submission to a publisher is in the cosmic cloud, the ether; en route or already in England, sitting in the electronic in-box, just waiting to be hit upon. It’s a package, put together by their guidelines. Here is part of the package, my verbose answer to… you can just read it.

Erwin A. Dence, Jr.    Writers write, right?

“Swamis” is the novel it has taken me sixty-nine years to write, writing being the attempt to organize, or transfer, or translate random experiences and chaotic thought into some sort of comprehensible narrative; and then to edit the dogshit out of first and second and third drafts, cut out characters and side stories because they don’t move the plot, sacrifice lyrically flowing passages for something clearer; trade real or imagined cleverness for clarity.

The manuscript has become my main obsession; “Swamis” has become its own creature. I cannot write anything new without going back to ensure it is supported by everything written before it, and, when I’m not writing, whether awake or, increasingly, asleep, I cannot help thinking of subtle plot points, or little changes in dialogue that just might make the novel better.

The first time I made it to ‘the end,’ I celebrated my genius, briefly, then sent copies of the unexpurgated version to people I trust, readers and writers. Flaws in structure and logic and style were pointed out. I have taken (most of) the feedback to heart. The current version is so(oo-oo) ‘mainstream’ in comparison to the manuscript copyrighted in 2020.  

The creature has to stand on its own. I have staked a lot of what I have hoped my future in writing might be on this novel; however, I’ve never made a living writing, and I do want to hold onto some part of what I believe to be (or consider to be, or hope is) my voice.

I have a website (blog, if you insist), realsurfers.net. I started it as a memoir, stories of surfing in Southern California in the sixties and seventies. Because I have had a second life as a surfer in the Pacific Northwest, because it provides a platform on which to display my art and writing, because I just can’t help but write some commentary on shit going on in the real world, realsurfers (the material, not the web site- one page, scroll down) has evolved. 

Some outtakes from “Swamis” have appeared on realsurfers.net.

I currently write a column for the monthly, online “Quilcene Community Center Newsletter,” mostly optimistic pieces in the town I’ve lived in for the last forty-plus years; and I did have a (paid- $30 each) column in a weekly paper, “The Port Townsend Leader,” for about ten years. “So, Anyway…” was a take on life from the perspective of a blue collar family man. While most of the posts were semi-humorous and self-deprecating, having that platform gave me the opportunity to cover serious events including 9/11 and several financial downturns, again, from the working man’s perspective. I also felt compelled to write a few memorials on local people who passed on, and who otherwise might not have had their story told or their significance pointed out.      

Having a backstory for even peripheral characters in “Swamis” is important to me. I would like to present each of them as real, flawed, damaged. There are, possibly, probably too many side stories, too much exposition; these can be cut out, cut back, or simplified. 

I have written some poetry (“Reflections” was edited by “Surfer” magazine creator John Severson and published in 1968- I was seventeen, republished in 40th anniversary anthology); many short stories, some of which I put together and copyrighted as “Mistaken for Angels;” a collection of lyrics for thirty-seven songs, copyrighted as “Love Songs for Cynics.” I have written several screenplays, including “Inside Break,” “Definitely Not Dylan,” and “Near Life.” 

In one of my dream scenarios, aided by my tendency to imagine and remember words and scenes visually, I can visualize “Swamis” as a limited series. I have had several limited brushes with Hollywood.

“At That Moment” (originally titled, “Moment of Death”) was my second (attempt at a) novel.  The first hundred pages were double-spaced on a word processor, the next so many on a typewriter, the last pages in longhand, carrots and line-throughs and scribbles and all. 

Through my work as a painting contractor, I ran into a legitimate Hollywood producer. He sent “At That Moment” to an agent, who said the author is “A diamond in the rough.” Rough. This almost-connection meant, according to the producer, that if I had an idea for a screenplay, someone would read it. Hollywood-speak.

“Near Life” was my idea; a takeoff on the ‘near death experience.’ I worked on the treatment and screenplay in coordination with the Hollywood producer, and, after a short time, did not recognize what I had envisioned as a fairly simple story. 

Nevertheless, the screenplay was almost sold. The producer was waiting for an imminent call from John Travolta’s people, while I tried to concentrate on painting trim while… waiting. The difference between ‘almost’ and ‘sold’ is I am still painting houses. 

Not a bad career; you can see the results; and, if there’s a problem, it is usually solved with another coat of paint. There is a phase in the process, going around and around the house or office, touching up.  I refer this to the ‘tightening-up phase.’

I have self-published two books, “Washington State Ain’t No Fit Place to Live,” subtitled “If It Ain’t Raining the Bugs Are Eating You Alive,” complete with a cover featuring a couple posing, before and, on the back, after the eruption of Mount Saint Helens. The other book was a collection of columns entitled, “So, Anyway, So Far.” In both cases, I was successful as a publisher, not so much as the writer/illustrator. 

I came up with a cartoon strip, “Boomers.” I drew forty or more strips, wrote out the ideas and punchlines for many more. This led, after multiple phone calls, to a meeting with the cartoon editor of the “Seattle Times,” my wife and a child or two waiting in the car. I was told no one was really interested in baby boomers; that, yes it was funny, cartoon strip funny, and… good luck. A few months later, the (Pulitzer Prize winning) editorial cartoonist for the then-rival “Seattle Post Intelligencer” came out with a strip entitled, “Boomer’s Song.” It didn’t last very long.

“Swamis” is well along in the ‘tightening-up’ phase.  Thank you for your time and consideration.    

OBVIOUSLY I insist on taking my own course in things. SHIT, why do I do that? I have listened to feedback from folks who have read parts of earlier versions of “Swamis,” prompting me to make the book more linear, more mainstream. STILL, I remain stubbornly committed to keeping as many of the little snapshots of side characters in the manuscript. MY relentless review and edit process has brought out some subtleties in plot and character I just had to pursue; and, so far, for everything I cut, I add a bit of color or clarity to the part I’m polishing; and I keep thinking I can trim a few words later; and yet, the length, which I would love to have at exactly 120,000 words, just keeps holding steady at an additional three thousand.

AND NOW I get to wait for some answer from the great out there. Time. Waiting. Craziness plus… no, I have stuff to do. The buoys are still down around in the northwest surf zone, so I don’t have those to check out numerous times a day. Okay, it’s been an hour or so since I hit “send,” I should check my e-mails.

The Mythical Combination Swell

I was not alone in getting skunked on a recent Saturday. In fact, it was like a skunk fest. I hung out in a parking area while some surfers left, others came, others continued to hang out. Hanging out. More hanging out. Even more hanging out. Was I the victim of bad judgment, poor reading of the tea leaves, mismanagement of my relatively few opportunities to devote way too much of a day to something like hanging out, did I believe in the possibility that a ‘combo swell’ might bring waves to my chosen destination despite a history of being let down by the more-theory-than-evidence-based fact of a combo swell? YES.

This possibly secret spot is actually in New Zealand. Note the lack of booties, gloves, hoods. Wow, must be warm water.

And it’s not like I don’t know how to hang out, northwest style; acting all cool and all; it’s just that I tend to run out of coolness after a few minutes of hanging out.

Yes, I greeted some of the surfers I know from past skunkings, figured out Ian might just be the longboarder who actually goes for outside waves, asked his girlfriend, Veronica, if I ever burned her in the water. No (according to her). I asked Cole if he owns property up the hill, (info I got, via cell phone call, from another surfer who may have scored earlier in the week). No, but a friend of his does; the house I had heard of evidently really more like a carport or one of those mountain shelters for hikers. I listened to a story by a non-surfer, Mo, about a couple of incidents in Port Angeles in which cops were called. Mo couldn’t believe I had only been in one fistfight in my life. “Wanna try, Mo?” No. Before Reggie, who had been there four hours already, left, I met Reggie’s friend, Brickie, who I had, evidently, met before (but in the water, so it doesn’t count). I accepted a raw oyster from Nam. I told Sara she never needed to apologize to me for any incidents in the water (which seemed to lead others to believe they also might not have to apologize for burnings, drop-ins, in-the-ways. No, I didn’t mean them. It was one incident). I strolled through the parking area. Lots of city escapees, three red four-wheel-drive VWs with various numbers of bikes on racks. Still no waves. Then I took a nap, sitting up, in my car. Twenty minutes or so. I woke up, still no waves. I had to get on with real life.

I texted one of my surfing friends on my way back home. “Fuck a bunch of combo swell” Smile emoji.

“I’ll make up for this next time,” I told myself at the third to last stoplight in Port Angeles. Next time. And I will; or I did; can’t talk about it.

Durn. I wanted to talk about secret spots, and now I have to get going. Next time.

Desperate for a Little Getaway?

I write a monthly piece for the Quilcene Community Center Newsletter. Occasionally I post it here. Here’s the latest, with a lot of help from Trish:

                                DESPERATE FOR A GETAWAY? THE OLYMPIC PENINSULA AWAITS

Trish is helping me on this. Since I was desperately late, as usual, in getting my submission ready (and I have a reason, more an excuse, that I will spare you from), I asked my long, long-suffering wife for a topic.

“Spring?” “Yeah, yeah; what about it?”

“Well, how about that there have been three police chases in Jefferson County in the last three weeks, each with speeds over one hundred miles an hour, and your wife and daughter almost got killed during one of them?”

“Yeah, well; maybe.” “I’ll look up everything for you.” “Okay… honey.”

So, I wake up this morning, the last day of February, and there are three newspapers on my chair and a big, long text message on my phone. Now, I had offered to set up a word document on the computer to save Trisha’s fingers, but she declined.

But first, I feel I must explain a Pursuit Intervention technique (PIT) maneuver. First I had to google it, then, to fully understand, Youtube it. Wow! For those without Youtube… wait, you’re reading this on a computer, so… Anyway, the pursuing police vehicle kind of gently nudges one of the sides at the back of the fleeing vehicle, usually causing that vehicle to lose control, but, evidently, this doesn’t mean the desperado actually stops.

I figure you already know about spike strips across the road in front of the getaway car, and, since Trish isn’t really big on my mansplaining stuff, and I just looked up myself… again, sparing you.

So, here’s what I have on my phone:

“3 chases through Jefferson County in 2 weeks.

“FEB 11: afternoon, 2 men were being chased after trying to get forged prescriptions filled in Port Hadlock. Down 19 to 104. ACROSS THE BRIGDE AND FLYING OFF, WITH YOUR DAUGHTER AND WIFE COMING FROM PORT GAMBLE HEADING TO HWY 3. WIFE YELLING AT DRU TO STOP WHEN THE getaway CAR IS HEADING ONTO 3, IN FRONT OF THEM. THEN A WSP CROSSED STRAIGHT AND ALMOST INTO THEM (FROM WHERE HE WAS WAITING FOR THE CROOKS ON THE EDGE OF THE BRIDGE), ANOTHER SCREAM FROM TRISH TO STOP. SPIKE STRIPS FROM KITSAP LAW ENFORCEMENT CAUSED THEM TO GO OFF THE ROAD AND HIT A TREE.

“FEB. 21 AT 2 IN THE MORNING, DRIVER GOING AT SPEEDS OF UP TO 100 MPH BEING CHASED BY JEFF CO. S. O. CAME INTO QUIL FROM DISCOVERY BAY WHERE SPIKE STRIPS HAD BEEN PLACED AT LORDS LAKE ROAD, DRIVER KEPT GOING UNTIL HITTING MORE STRIPS AROUND MP 295. 3 DIFFERENT PIT MANEUVERS. HE CRASHED INTO A YARD, TRIED RUNNING, BUT THE DEPUTIES ARRESTED HIM.

“FEB. 25TH, MORNING. DRIVER WAS BEING CHASED BY WSP STARTING OUTSIDE OF SEQUIM, GOING EAST ON HWY 101, WHEN HIGH SPEEDS UP TO 100 & RECKLESS DRIVING CAUSED WSP TO TERMINATE THE CHASE. JEFFERSON COUNTY SHERIFF’S DEPUTIES PICKED UP THE CHASE UP TO HWY 104 WHERE, A QUARTER MILE UP, STRIPS WERE PLACED. DRIVER’S VEHICLE HAD FLAT TIRES BUT CONTINUED ON WHEN QUILCENE’S HOMEGROWN DEPUTY ADAM NEWMAN AND DEPUTY CORONADO SUCCESSFULLY PERFORMED A PIT MANEUVER AT MILEPOST 7. DRIVER REFUSED TO LEAVE VEHICLE AND DEPUTIES HAD TO BREAK HIS WINDOW TO GET HIM OUT. HE WAS arrested on numerous charges.”

Wow! I mean, whoa! The all caps just added to the excitement; kind of glad Trish switched back at the end; gives the reader a chance to catch his or her (or my) breath. It was, I thought, a nice touch to include Adam Newman. He went all through Quilcene schools with our kids (he was in Sean’s class), and, in the several discussions I’ve had with him (no tickets, yet, from him), I have come to believe he doesn’t seem to mind ticketing or arresting people he knows, “if they do something stupid or illegal,” he loves driving fast, and is familiar and comfortable enough with me to ask a question like, “So, do you just throw paint on the side of your vehicles?” “Sort of.” “Okay then, Big Er.”

Trish and I did chaperone many activities when our kids were in school. There I go again with the mansplaining.

Here’s some more. Skipping it is forgivable:

Trish had to explain the near-death incident at the east end of the Hood Canal Bridge to me several times. Dru was driving from her house in Port Gamble, heading toward Poulsbo. They got to the traffic light. Dru thought she was being pulled over by a WSP vehicle, but it pulled into the merging lane, leaving her first in line at the light. She started to go when her mother yelled for her to stop (like, “STOP!”) because Trish observed the vehicles on the bridge were pulling over as the suspect rig came speeding toward them at high speed. Dru slammed on the breaks. Zoom! The desperado turned right onto Highway 3. So, since the light turned green again, and wanting to be ahead of the bridge traffic, Dru starts going again. “NO!” Breaks slammed again. This time the WSP guy jams in front of them and joins the pursuit. The suspect went off the road somewhere on our side of the Big Valley Road. Trish got to see part of that while Dru, I’m guessing, kept her eyes on the road.

Yeah, Trish told it better- way more exciting.

So, yeah; Spring is coming, I’m scheduled (thanks to Trish and Dru) to get my first inoculation some time this week at a drive-thru dealie in Port Townsend. I’m not really clear on the details; Trish will have to explain it to me when it gets closer. Probably several times.

Stay safe out there.

At one hundred miles per hour, you may prefer one of these rigs. Note the empty surfboard racks. “Wait there, yellow car; you’re kinda crowding me here.”

SO, I did get my first inoculation, yesterday afternoon. Since I didn’t cry, I guess I’m ready for a tattoo. Maybe later.

ON “SWAMIS” NEWS, and I know you care; I’m just trying to get some illustrations together to include with my submission package, and then, off to a publisher and wait… and wait. INCIDENTALLY, I submitted my (our) newsletter piece early Sunday. Trish called me up a bit later in the day, said there was no news from the Community Center folks. “Oh,” I asked, “does that make you a bit… anxious?” “A little.” “Crazy.” “No.” “Well, that’s what it’s like being a writer. You send stuff off, you have no control, you don’t know what’s happening; you have second thoughts, you thinking, ‘oh, maybe I just suck at this,’ and…” “I have to go.”

We got word back the next morning. “Yea, Trish; nice to have a writer in your family.”

MEANWHILE, here’s what we’re working on now (that is I’m working on this, with input from conversations with my surf friends- you might be one of them): ONE, the difference between ‘dismissive’ and ‘deferential;’ TWO, the question of whether or not an awesome ride you got without any witnesses actually counts, or actually even happened; THREE, is it better to burn a surfer you know or one you don’t know? FOUR, should I fucking worry about books centering around or containing a certain amount of surf-related… stuff, probably, even most-likely doggerel, pedestrian, cliche’-ridden crap with stilted dialogue and unrealistic and exaggerated surf sequences and characters that are just… I mean, should I?

No, and yet I do. Crazy. Okay, now I’m thinking about ONE, from above. Do you know a group, the members of which are EVEN MORE dismissive of others than surfers? Yeah, musicians. Yeah, chefs. Yeah… wait, pretty much anyone who is real at what they do, or believe they are real. Yes, there was an incident; and maybe I shouldn’t have said, “Oh, you’re a musician but you can’t perform right now. So, why don’t people just start with what they really do for a living? Example; I’m a house painter, but, in my mind…” That’s when I found out the person I was speaking with was actually a musician and a trustafarian.

None of that craziness, or my reacting to someone saying, “Oh, you’re writing a book. I seems like everyone in Port Townsend is writing a book. Steve (the building maintenance man and another possible trust baby) is writing a book;” with, “Fuck him.” Not nice. AND I did ask Steve about his book. No surfing, but definitely crazy stuff. “Good luck, Steve. Want to hear about my book?”

Dismissive. OH, and since I’ve gone this far, no I didn’t look to see if new guy to a familiar lineup JAMES was already on the wave. Guess I assumed he wasn’t. Sorry, man. OOPS, got into number THREE, from above; but here’s a quote I got from TOM BURNS: “If I don’t know you, I don’t owe you.” Yeah, Tom; that’s the problem; I just know too many real surfers.

REALNESS. Realsurfers keep it real, and no, if no one saw your awesome ride; it doesn’t really count. Except to you. Then, yeah.

Easter Vacation, 1969, and there’s a story

Now, of course, it’s Spring Break, dropping Jesus out of it. I’m not arguing that, in a secular society, it is appropriate. Probably not at Church Schools. Some church schools. Anyway, it seems I had a lot of things happening on Spring/Easter vacations. Including this one; my family, plus my girlfriend, Trish, out at Borrego Springs, dirt-biking it.

me, Trish, my Dad with his usual look, two of my three brothers Jon and Philip, with theirs. Note the surfbump on my knee.

More later, maybe, on this; but, briefly, my parents had to go back to Fallbrook because one of my three sisters had some kind of (and this frequently happened on family outings- Mary Jane stepping on a stingray, for example) medical issue, chickenpox or something, and my youngest brother had some sort of issue with the rest of us, held us at bay with a 26 ounce coke bottle until Trish took it away from him. Then he sulked. Anyway, this is where I decided I was fine with dirt-biking, but after hitting a side wind at 70 miles an hour, I would take my chances with rocks and shorebreaks.

I just received this photo from my older sister, Suellen; so, I haven’t seen it for fifty-some years.

As a thank you (and hopefully she considers it as such), I sent Suellen my many-times-edited synopsis for “Swamis,” part of a submission package that is now, so very close to being ready to send off; this with me thinking of new chapters for the book. No, no. Spring break, good time to go surfing, perhaps. I have a couple of stories of surf trips to Baja. Soon.

Happy Spring!

Waves: Enough is Never Enough

I checked with Chimacum Timacum to see if the quote and the story behind it were correct. CONFIRMED. Yes, he had witnessed Keith’s ride from the perfect vantage point, on the shoulder, looking into the oncoming wave. Keith did, indeed, backdoor the peak, did get tube time, did come flying out with the mental wherewithal to add a few swoops into the mix.

SO, then Tim got a ride (no doubt pretty good to amazing). Because of the pervasive rip, they are both walking back up to the point. Tim catches up, possibly taps Keith on the shoulder and… here’s the QUOTE: “Wasn’t that enough for you?”

This is actually another Big Island shot from Stephen R. Davis

I won’t keep you in suspense. No; not enough. It’s not just Keith who can’t get enough waves, but, yeah, it is Keith. I get it. I understand how, while getting a few mediocre rides will cause any real surfer to keep going until he or she gets a pretty good ride on a really good wave, or a really good ride on a pretty good wave, or even a really good ride on a shitty-ish wave; getting a really good ride on a really good wave will not necessarily cause him or her to say, “Yes, Tim, that was as good as I can hope for during this particular session, and I believe I will now go home.”

NO. Especially not Keith. Even without factoring in that Tim might get an even better wave, possibly from deeper, or that Tim might… NO, enough is rarely enough.

I have noticed that supposedly surfed-out surfers can suddenly spring back to life and compete fiercely for waves when… No it isn’t just when I go out, late in the latest swell window, but, yeah then. And I have been on the other side of that; back out for just a couple more because Chris Erdley missed my best rides, and, hey, I can still make it to Costco before it closes.

ALSO in my cell phone conversation with Tim, we discussed, as surfers do, past sessions. As you, as an avid reader of realsurfers, are aware, I have been ready to break my resolution to not surf until I have my submission package for “Swamis” ready to go. NO, I actually said I would have to have the novel’s third or twentieth polish/edit done. Backtracking. WELL, now I’m almost there on the submission, and totally desperate to get in the water. I’d be stoked,, rocks and boils and chop and all, to surf something like the wave in the photo, and, after twenty or thirty rides, I would be ready to… no, I pretty much stay until the waves go away for any one of several known reasons, I break a fin, or I just have to get somewhere else (not always Costco) and I’ve run out of time.

AND, HEY, what do you do when your first ride in a session is quite possibly going to be your best?

Keep surfing!

But, if you do happen to see me paddling out, please bear in mind I’m kind of… hungry. Next time, something on ADAM WIPEOUT that isn’t actually about that one wipeout I keep promising to write about.

Proning It Out

FIRST; this post is not about politics. Yes, I do almost regret writing anything that could be construed as complimentary of Mitch McConnell. Or misconstrued. However, I did get my comment in early, while he was still speaking, before MSNBC’s Brian Williams could say that the most successfully shifty politician of this generation, “Just threw the first fistfuls of dirt on the political grave of Donald Trump.” AND, totally out of character for me, I got excited enough to fire off an e-mail to that effect to Rachel Maddow (Haven’t heard back… yet), AND posted something similar to what I wrote her, available for your reading pleasure (scroll down). SO, with an allusion the the former president, “two scoops for me.”

“AND WITH THAT,” (an attempted allusion to the way Williams speaks), I’m through with politics, political theater, political intrigue, political… Wait, what? Antifa what? Lindsey’s… what? Really? Never mind.

SO…OOOO…OH, while bashing my head against the TV table yesterday, attempting, again, to complete a clear and effective (as in effective enough to convince a publisher to fork out their money) synopsis for my novel, “SWAMIS,” in under 1,500 words, I had, on my tablet, on a second TV table, a running live feed of the Bonzai Pipeline, courtesy of SURFLINE, by way of YouTube.

Very nice of them. SOMEHOW, watching a raggedy line of 80 or so surfers bobbing in scary -big swells, with larger swells visible on the horizon; twenty of them paddling for a wave that jacks up, will probably close out, one surfer throwing himself (not being sexist, him or herself then) into a freefall drop, catching enough fin and rail at the bottom, with the entire roof of a two story building coming down and on and over (and not just coming down, coming down with a vengeance and force beyond simple gravity), making a turn, weaving past or over several other surfers, sponge-bobbers, photographers), and getting just high enough on the face, with just enough forward momentum, to get, for a maximum of under five seconds, time in the most famous tube in the world; and, when and if you’re spit-shot out to the shoulder, you (notice I’ve switched it from third to second person) you get to claim it; two hands shaking or thrown to the heavens; and, if you’re really lucky, one of the helmeted photographers can put your image on INSTAGRAM, or SURFLINE can put your ride on its ‘CAM REWIND’ feature… and, if someone at Surfline actually knows who you are, your name might appear with the video; SOMEHOW, for someone trying not to concentrate on all that; having it going is both distracting and sort of SOOTHING.

NOT that it can be for those in the water. All realsurfers know how daunting even going out in conditions way more friendly than overcrowded Pipeline can be. I could feel that. Surfers paddling out choosing to bail their boards rather than duckdiving, even on the inshore waves; surfers hairing-out, choosing to not drop in; surfers so far out they couldn’t possibly get caught inside, though there’s little chance they would go on some mutant wave that did peak up just for them; surfers on second reef waves sort of casually cruising while the wave gets hyper critical; all this is great fun in the safety of one’s living room.

BUT, what I kind of couldn’t get past, what I want to concentrate on (concentrate, concentrate… huh?) are rides I saw in which surfers who had BARREL-DODGED (I got the term from Adam Wipeout- referencing me) a section, and dropped down under it, seemed to believe they could stay standing against ten feet of furious soup. None did. Sure, we’ve all seen videos of Waimea Bay- big drop, no shoulder, surfer caught under the soup- some make it.

Because I couldn’t concentrate, PRONING IT OUT came to mind. Actually, a specific wave. 1968, Mazatlan, Mexico; Lupe’s Left Loopers. Maxwell Harper and I had paddled over to the island across the way, surfed some tiny and beautiful righthanders with offshore wind, crystal water, crabs everywhere on the beach; and were paddling back. Max was not an experienced surfer, his brother Phillip, and the other adventurer on this trip, Ray, were back at the motel, recovering from the previous night or resting for the coming one. Or, perhaps, they just didn’t want to do our side trip.

SOMEWHERE on our return crossing, no closer than half way, big ass swells started forcing their way between the island and the hotel-lined beach. “Erwin,” Max asked, “What are these things?” “Waves.” Yeah, big ass waves. Here’s a thing (not concentrating): It is often scarier to be caught outside than to be caught inside.

ANYWAY, I take off on one, the biggest wave I would ride on this trip, or possibly ever, and, out of habit, muscle memory, I stand up. Oh. Partway down the face, I realize there is nowhere to go. Certainly not right. It’s a left. I look left. The wave is one giant closeout, pitching all the way past the last (many many more these days) hotel. Oh. Prone it out.

HERE’S how that goes: You (change of person again) drop down onto your board, back where kooks paddle from; you are in front of the oncoming break, but just for a moment; and your board slows down; still, the wave breaks right the fuck on your back; you hold on; somehow, the wave swallows you up, pulls you and your board back and up and (don’t ask me to explain the hydrodynamics of this, I can’t) suddenly, you’re being pitched forward, with and over the soup at somewhere approaching warp speed; and you’re back in front of it all again, pushed and thrashed and hanging on the rails; not just until you reach shallower water; no, you’re riding this thing until you hit the sand.

Thinking about proning it out?

To finish the story; I was pretty concerned about Maxwell; more so when his board came washing up on the next wave. We had already seen a guy caught in the rip on our first day in Mazatlan; rescued, temporarily, on another guy’s board, then back in the rip. I was running back and forth on the beach, looking for a head in the successive waves. I honestly can’t remember if I paddled out to retrieve Max or if he swam all the way to the beach. “I thought I was safer without the board,” he said.

I disagree with the premise; but I didn’t disagree with Max. Not then.

So, OKAY, I have used up my writing time for this morning. I have to go. I’m telling myself that, if I give the thinking about the synopsis a day, I can get back to it, fresh, and then… wait; what? Yeah, now I’m thinking about barrel-dodging, wondering if Rachel has gotten back to me.

Grim Reaper and the Devil, Dancing…

…and, yes, I’m sorry this post isn’t about surfing. I’m snowed in and have just plain watched too much of the whole trial in the U.S. Senate. I have been trying to work on “Swamis,” more specifically, on preparing a submission to a publisher. This requires having 25 perfect pages, a letter on my history and aspirations as a writer, and (this is the one I am having trouble with) a synopsis in under 1,500 words.

AND, and this just happened: Mitch McConnell, after Trump was not convicted (and this is the way it was expected to end), after Speaker of the House Chuck Schumer (and, wow, such friendly names- Mitch, Chuck, Ted, Josh, Patty, Dick, other Dicks) repeated how vile and crooked and disgusting our former president is, how criminally he behaved; AND THEN the self-professed Grim Reaper slithered up to the Senate microphone, announced how guilty the rabble-arousing former huckster-in-chief is, and then…

THEN Mitchell burned our disgraced ex-pres the rest of the way to hell. Well, maybe not Hell, Hell-a-Lago.

“Hey, there; going down? No, I mean, like, all the way down?”

I am not a fan of McDonnell, and I realize the cynical truth is that he is really trying to PURGE the former president from and regain the control of his party. Not a fan, but, for some short amount of time, I have respect (R E S P E C T) for his remarkable ability to not only dance with the Devil, but to lead.

“And dip, and twirl, and… spin. I said, ‘Spin!'”

NOW, because I believe the Devil, if there is a creature that matches our created image of evil incarnate, plays all sides of every issue, hedges his bets; I also believe that, occasionally, briefly, for a moment, the Devil takes the part of an Angel and does something righteous.

Again, again, again, I realize that Mitch’s real goal is power, that tearing the former president’s throat (if not his tongue) out is not benevolent or altruistic, I understand Mitch is giving the weak politicians someone other than the former president to follow, and, and, and… AND YET, if someone kicks the shit out of someone I am happy to see shitless; I will give them props.

TEMPORARILY. And now, back to editing, editing, editing. Is there still snow? Are there wavesT?

TEMPORARILY. I have overdosed, binge-watched, and I fully expect to have regrets. For the moment, dance on, Mitch.

Put Me on the Witness List

There have been only two times in my life that I have watched the television all day long. This shouldn’t be a tough guess: 9/11/2001 and 01/06/21. So, with the impeachment of the titular head of the Trump Insurrection continuing today in the U.S. Senate; the result has been pre-determined by minds pre-set or programed to set aside the duties assigned any and all elected representatives of us, of we the people.

Again, not a tough guess; you know the numbers necessary to convict.

So far, after blocks and votes and dodges and procedural delays, the actual event has been a trial with evidence aplenty and courage a scarcity. It is obvious courage is a scarce commodity. While donor/sponsor/tribe loyalties are commodities, bought and saved, sold or traded to a higher bidder; and while ethics and integrity are regularly exchanged for power; courage is rare; but, we know it when we see it.

We recognize courage. We value courage. We, we the people, are witnesses. Put me on that sad fucking list.

ALL RIGHT, I apologize for, again, posting something that is not about surfing.

perhaps he imagines himself a surfer. Sorry no, not a surfer, real or imagined.

I woke up one morning, October of 1962. I was eleven. My mother had, evidently, not gone to bed. Or she got up really early. TV stations, in those days, generally shut down in the middle of the night. “We might be on the brink of nuclear war, Junior,” she said, or something similar… same message. It was the Cuban Missile Crisis. Trish remembers it because her father, a materiel officer with the US Marine Corps, was whisked away in the middle of the night, and was gone for the thirteen days before Russia and Cuba backed down.

I was ten years old on February 20, 1962, when an AV (audio/visual for those who have never seen one) cart was wheeled into the classroom so we fifth graders could all watch John Glen orbit the earth three times in a space capsule. First American! Momentous! Yea, Us!

I cannot honestly say I saw Kennedy assassinated or Oswald killed, though they were both televised. My neighbor, Gary Schuyler, a kid about my age (12 in 1963) did watch the funeral train, came outside, crying, with an update. I was pulling weeds in the rose garden, required to earn a chance to go to the beach. I questioned why Gary was so concerned. “Because… it’s important.”

Television has made us all witnesses to history.

On 9/11, Dan Nieman, a local contractor in Quilcene, called me up… not all that unusual for him, at somewhere around 5:30, something about a job. He passed on the message, and I just recently found this out, an ex-military client of his, calm by Dan’s description, had already called him, frantically blurting out, “Do you see what’s happening?” I turned on the TV in time to see the plane hit the second tower. And everything that followed.

On 01/06, I returned home early from a job, though I had been listening on the radio to the events surrounding the certification of the election. Trish had just turned on the TV, asked what was going on with the people just starting to push at the barricades in front of the capitol. “Oh,” I said, “The coup is on.”

Something I noticed is that many of the folks marching down the street from the demonstration in which the (still, at that point) President promised to “be there with you” (but, of course, wasn’t), citizens who looked like your neighbors, regular folks; once they saw the thing was getting out of hand, most of those people turned away, did not participate in the murder and mayhem, were not part of that mob.

Good for them.

We have had, thanks to the strategic delays, time; not enough to put it behind us and move on as defenders and deniers would like; but enough time to get little bios on the perpetrators, more information on the tactics and the damage; enough time for evidence enough to convince anyone still unbiased of the proximity to a tipping point that our country was at on that day.

So. Courage. At first look, the Capitol cop who was chased up the stairs by the mob did not appear to be a hero. Now we know he was. I will still give points to Mike Pence for getting the Constitutionally mandated task completed. Points have to be given for Representatives and Senators who crossed lines to certify votes, or to cast votes to get beyond all the procedural blocks and dodges.

Oh; it’s 9:26, the Trump Insurrection trial is back on, live; should you chose to watch. I have to go, but I do have a radio.

Peace and… make your own list.

From BOB DAVIS: Subj.- Surf Colonization

I got a comment from Bob DAVIS; it showed up in my e-mail, with a request to moderate, as in Approve, Disapprove, send to junkmail, or hell, or to just send it to trash.

I hit ‘approve.’ BOB’S comment is somewhere on realsurfers.net. It may show up under comments on my “About” dealie, originally written in 2013 when I started realsurfers, MOSTLY to tell parts of the same story that I was trying to tell in a screenplay, “Afternoon Glass-Off” (probably could have dropped the ‘off’ part), aka “Inside Break.” The story is from pretty much the same time and place in which “Swamis” is set; late sixties, Southern California.

I highlighted ‘mostly,’ above, because, after 24 years in the Great Pacific Northwest, I was, at that time part way through another chapter in my surfing life, here. NOW, in the beginning, I didn’t realize the danger in romanticizing the Northwest surfing scene, and, in particular the surf on the Strait of Juan de Fuca. I did name some surf locations, early on, did SUGGEST there might be waves… rarely. If surfing has blown up in Washington State, and folks continue to search out and be disappointed at known surf spots, it really can’t be blamed on my esoteric, no where near viral little blog.

BUT, if realsurfers is important enough for BOB DAVIS to write a comment, here, BOB, is your moment:

Hi, Please take down your posts about the surfing in the pacific northwest, purely out of respect for people who live here. We only get to surf good waves a few times a year, so if we have to deal with people coming up from California or elsewhere to get our waves that we only get a few times a year. first off, it makes no sense that they would want to come on a surf trip to a colder place, but also it is a fickle place and risk that chance of wasting their plane ticket doesn’t make sense to me. Why go to surf someone’s home that only breaks a few times a year when you could go to other more consistent surf breaks and not ruin someone’s life? This is just not okay from a moral standpoint. Please consider peoples’ lives and stop colonizing places.

This is not the Pacific Northwest. It is, apparently, already colonized.

HERE, BOB DAVIS is your answer: NO.

OH, and BOB, thanks for checking out realsurfers.net. If you happen to see me on one of the few times a year you get a few decent (and, wait, you did kind of admit there are rideable waves hereabouts) waves (and I am kind of recognizable- old guy, fucked up knees), say “Hi.”

Already Feeling (sorta) Guilty…

…for posting anything that might be construed as negative toward any group of surfers, and in particular in outing surfers I have surfed with and might actually surf with again as East Coasters (and it isn’t like I have that many friends to begin with), I have decided, less than 14 hours after my last posting, to say something kind of negative about West Coast surfers (including those who surf the Strait of Juan de Fuca, but probably not ferry wake specialists).

Here goes: Too fucking many.

This doesn’t mean I don’t want you to scroll down and check out what I did write; mostly to make a little comment on attitude. Now I am constantly reminded of how my own attitude and self-diagnosed ‘ghetto mentality’ in the water, honed in the crowded beach breaks of San Diego (albeit 42 years ago) is not always, um, appreciated.

1960s era Birdwell Surf Team and Men’s Beach Choir ready to rumble and break into “California Girls”
Rumblers from “Westside Story.” Matching deck shoes evidently part of team apparel.
Chimacum Tim not wearing deck shoes, and flashing gang signs, possibly code for ‘screw you’se guy-o’s, I’m all West Coast now.’

This image is also available in the previous posting. Please scroll down. But first…

Adam “Wipeout” James, total West Coaster, other than the time he was cowboying up in Montana or somewhere, wondering, no doubt, when the hell I’m going to get around to writing about his big over-the-falls wipeout, witnessed by Big Dave, and, evidently, others.

SOON. Again, all in fun; BUT, I should add, I never saw more than a few minutes of “Westside Story,” but, just like seeing Adam go over the falls backwards did for Big Dave, it made an impression. SCROLL DOWN. Please.