Ironically Flipping the Peace Sign

It’s another outtake from my manuscript for “Swamis,” re-edited, because I just can’t help it, and posted here because I just can’t leave it in some bound-to-get-lost file. I like the story. It is based, mostly, on two incidents: My running into a classmate on the night of the homecoming game, five years or so out of high school, and my being declined for purchasing cigarettes when I was seventeen. Gordy was with another classmate, a girl who was my chemistry lab partner, and with whom I had gone on one date, just before I met Trish. Gordy had gone full-on hippie, did put the emphasis on the ‘ing’ part of the word ‘fuck-ing.’ All a bit anachronistic.

This was the first image in a search. I wasn’t lazy, it just works the best.


Gordy claimed to be a surfer, though I never saw him actually in the water. On the beach a few times, talking surfing as if he had just been in, somewhere else, somewhere better, or just about to get in. Later, if it got better. He was two years ahead of me in high school and regaled the other non-surfing jocks at school. Gordy was not one of the older students Gary and I bugged and begged for rides to the beach. Once, maybe.

I was in a liquor store in Vista. Gordy was sporting a full-if-sparse beard and long hair (Fallbrook High had a dress code), parted in the middle (of course), and clothing, Hippie-garb I called it, that denied his quite-upper class upbringing.

“Still fuck-ing’ surfing, Jody?”

I took the usual few seconds to replay his sentence. He had separated the syllables, put the emphasis on the second one. “Ing!’”

“Of course.”

“So fuck-ing’ cool, man.  We just don’t fuck-ing’ see each other, man; like, like we used to.” 

Gordy was, obviously, stoned. He had his left arm over the shoulder of an even more-stoned girl, younger, possibly still in high school. She was wearing a headband, her boutique-chic top hanging precariously on her breasts. She was nodding, giggling, her eyes unable to focus or even adjust to the light from the coolers we were standing next to.

The girl looked at me, squinting, then nodding, a finger pointed way too close to my eyes. Big smile. “My brother Larry,” she said, “he says you’re a fuck-ing’ stuck-up asshole; oh and…” She lost her thought. 

Emphasis on the ‘ing.’


“Larry,” the girl said. “Larry Walker.”

“Oh. Larry Walker? Yeah.”  

“Yeah. Larry. You did punch him out, Jordy.” Gordy didn’t wait for my response. “Freshman football. Practice. I was J.V., just before I went varsity.”

I replayed the incident in my mind. Larry was the ball carrier. I had tackled him. Open field. He and I were both on the ground. The play was over. He gave me an elbow shot to the groin. Someone pulled him up. He pulled his helmet up and back, smiling at me with his plastic mouth guard smile. “Gettin’ tackled by a beaner’s bad enough. Some fuckin’ half-Jap…”

Straight shot. No broken teeth. Mouth guard.   

“Yeah.” Gordy and Larry’s little sister had walked away. I walked toward the counter. The guy behind it looked at me for a second, continued leering at the girl as she and Gordy came up behind me. “Larry’s little sister,” I said. The Counter Guy nodded. Appreciatively (by which I mean creepily). 

“She’s probably going to be, like…” I turned, looked at her (questioningly, not, I hope, creepily).  “…a Junior?”

Larry’s sister nodded, her nod a bit uncontrolled. “Uh huh.”

“Class of, uh, a second…”

“Seventy-one!  Yea!”  She made a bit of a cheerleader pompom gesture, one hand, a jump motion without actually getting off the ground.  Junior Varsity.

I looked back at the Counter Guy. He looked at Gordy. A little judgey, not that Gordy noticed. 

Gordy took his left hand off Larry’s sister’s shoulder and put it on mine. I looked at his hand. He took it away. I put two one-dollar bills, my package of Hostess donettes and a quart of chocolate milk on the counter, pointed to a pack of Marlboros (hard pack) on the back wall, turned back to Gordy and Larry’s sister. Gordy sort gave me a specific look. Disappointment.

“I know, man… Gordie; you probably don’t fuck-ing’ smoke… cigarettes.” He and the girl both giggled.

The Counter Guy set the cigarettes on the counter, rang up the carton of milk and the donettes. 

“Pack of matches, too; please.”

Counter Guy put two packs of matches on top of the Marlboros. “You’re seventeen, huh?”

I didn’t think. “Yeah, I am.”

“Well,” he said, “You got to be eighteen.”

Gordy laughed. The girl laughed a moment later.

The Counter Guy slid the cigarettes away from me, slid a fifty-cent piece and two dimes and two pennies back to me.

“Oh,” I said. “I’m eighteen, too. I meant…”

Counter Guy looked past me, to Gordy. “And you, sir?”

“I left my license in my other pants,” I said. Counter Guy ignored me, smiled (still creepily) at Larry’s sister. I looked at her. She seemed to take the leering as flirting. Gordy handed his date a bag of potato chips and returned a six pack to the cooler. 

Gordy returned, surprisingly quickly. He put one hand on the cigarettes, the other on my change.  “I’m eighteen,” he said, “and I can fucking’ prove it.”

“Twenty-six cents more then, for the chips.”

“Didn’t mean to be so… fucking’ uncool, Gordy,” I said, as he and I stepped outside, Larry’s sister a few steps behind us.   

“Nah; it’s cool,” Gordy said. He flipped me the cigarettes, one pack of matches, making sure I realized he was keeping the other one. He pulled Larry’s sister closer to him, slung his left hand over her shoulder and perilously close to her breasts, extended his right hand as two (obviously) off-duty Marines approached (obviously Marines, obviously off duty), both looking more at her than at him. “Either of you two gentlemen twenty-one?” he asked, pulling out several ten-dollar bills.

Neither of them was, but the next guy approaching, not a Marine, definitely was. The citizen looked at the two Marines, at Gordy, at Larry’s sister.  He put his hand out, said, “it’ll cost you.”

“Peace, man,” I said, walking away, waving my free hand in a peace sign. Gordy, his hands off Larry’s sister, left hand holding his wallet, flipped me the peace sign with his right hand, but quickly, and not where the Marines could see the gesture. Not that they or the Citizen taking money from Gordy were looking past Larry’s sister. She gave each of them a very quick, weak smile, and, in a moment of self-awareness, pulled her top up a little higher on her breasts.

Flipping the peace sign was, for anyone under thirty or so, pretty much over by this time, the winter of 1969. On special occasions, perhaps; the act was shared with friends as a sort of code, an action we would only later” refer to or try to explain as having been done “ironically.”

IF YOU’RE STILL WITH ME, thanks. I should add that the football punch part is actually derived from an incident in which classmate Bill Birt, in practice, sophomore year, pulled off a teammate’s helmet and slugged him in the face. Kicked off the J.V. team, the coach, allegedly, said, “Now, Bill, if you only played that way in a game…” The result of blending in all the real stuff is fiction.

All original writing contained in and anything taken from manuscripts for “Swamis” is protected under copywrite and is the property of Erwin A. Dence, Jr.

GOOD LUCK SURFING. And I don’t mean that sarcastically or ironically.

Payday, the Falcon, and Usury

An early 60s Falcon, factory racks, custom tires (pretty sure)

This is another outtake from “Swamis.” If writing is trying to put the puzzle pieces together, this was written to support something later in the manuscript and taken out because I figured out another way to get the information on the page.

I will reveal where the idea that a small, independent grocery store would have tabs for customers. It is based on The Village Store in Quilcene, Washington, known at the time when Trish and I moved here, late fall, 1978, as “Mary’s” Village Store. Mary and her husband, nicknamed Pard, offered credit based on a quick conversation. “We’ll set you up with a tab.” Nearly everyone in town had a tab. Mary also offered a sort of ‘payday loan,’ with, like ten percent interest, as in, if you borrow a hundred bucks on Tuesday, you pay a hundred and ten on Friday. Good money.

Because you had a tab, you had some obligation to buy locally, as in not going to a supermarket in Port Townsend or elsewhere for groceries. And Mary kept tabs, so to speak, on those who had tabs. Her standard greeting was, “What do you know?” She was persistent and serious in this. She wanted to know.

We, of course, had a tab. Trish worked at the store for (I’d have to ask her) some amount of time. I painted the store to pay off the tab. I wasn’t happy with having one.

Still, it worked well for Mary and Pard. They had stacks of thin pieces of cardboard, tabs, in order, alphabetically. If Mary was at the counter, she would survey the card. Her expression would reveal whether or not you should put this purchase on the tab or give some explanation on when you might pay the amount owed down.

When Mary and Pard attempted to sell the Village Store, local gossip/legend has it, they had to eat a lot of the debt accumulated over the years. There have been several owners since. I have no idea whether the current owners take this kind of casual credit. My guess is… no. I haven’t asked.

Okay, here’s the outtake:

                                SIDESLIPPING- OUTTAKES FROM “SWAMIS”

I loved the Falcon. My first car.

No, it wasn’t a gift. I was making payments, money withheld from paychecks at the job my father set me up with. “Responsibility has to be learned,” my father said each time he picked up his half, straight from the middle register at the San Elijo Grocery. It was a sort of ritual, every other Saturday night, my father taking cash from the hands of his old Marine Corps buddy. “We all have to learn how to work hard. Huh, Tony?”

Tony, Mr. Tony to me, would look at the cash, look at me, and smile. “Right, Gunny.”

With my first payday, December 28, 1968, Tony gave me my half, which, at a dollar fifty an hour, for sixteen hours on weekends, plus a few more days during Christmas vacation, paid for the gas to get to Cardiff from Fallbrook, and not much more. He winked and said, “It’s Kind of like…” Mr. Tony nodded and smiled, the nod with a certain and meaningful rhythm, a bit of a jaw thrust included in the motion. There was a bit of a twist of the lips in Tony’s smile. Suggestive.

My father gave Tony a look I was very familiar with. Disapproving. Disappointed.

“Sorry, Gunny.”

“It’s all right.” Tony seemed relieved when my father laughed and pushed me away. “Real world, huh?” Tony nodded.  “The boy keeping his tab clear?”

“Chocolate milk and those little donuts are all he’d put on a tab, Gunny.” My father looked at Tony with another expression I was familiar with, the just-try-lying-to-me look. “No tab for Jody, Gunner, no little loan ‘til payday with exorbitant interest.”

                “Usury, it’s called, Tony.”

                “Yeah. Jesus doesn’t like it.”

                “But you do.”

                “Brings in customers. Kind of makes up for the folks who skip out.”             

“And you and Mrs. Tony love having people… owe you.”

“We do.”

I loved my job; bagging, stocking shelves, sweeping up; I described myself as a nub at a family grocery store with a view of Cardiff Reef.

I already said this, but I loved the Falcon. This was the family wagon in which my mother, and then I learned to drive. Three on the tree. Pop the clutch. Stall. Try again. My father, frustrated enough teaching my mother, gave her the task of teaching me when I was fifteen and a half. Exactly. She was so much calmer than he had been. I knew, even as my father turned the Falcon over to me, that I would be expected to teach my brother, Freddy. I didn’t plan on being calm. I didn’t plan on being around. I had other plans.

As always, thanks for reading. All “Swamis” outtakes are protected under copyright, as is all original writing and original illustrations contained in realsurfers. Almost all the photos are borrowed.

Good luck and good surfing.

Real Kooks and…

…the rest of us. Franticly, desperately seeking surf. Franticly, seems like it should be spelled differently. Anyway, us, real surfers.

I must be a bit more surf deprived than I allowed myself to believe. Because it’s Sunday, I Youtubed the latest chapter, number 7, I think, in the eleven-episode series on Kelly Slater; like I even care about any mental anguish a guy who (apparently) can go wherever he wants in the world to get the best waves available. Maybe I do care. On Monday, a new clip might be available from Nathan or even JOB, at some point there may be a new cut from Mason Ho. If I get the chance, I will check them out.

Already off topic. I was just vulnerable enough to google “San Diego Surf Cams,” ended up with constantly stalling videos provided by Hansens Surf shop. Cardiff Reef. Sunny, choppy, crowded, a cop car cruising the parking lot. These are cameras that a person can wait for some period of time, then move the angle. No, I didn’t wait. I ended up at a cam at Tarramar Point. I did surf there quite a few times back when I lived in the North County. Oh, no one out. Camera move. Many people out, most on long boards. Many, many surfers, bobbing and floating and waiting. I did see a guy on a shortboard on an insider. Cool.

Not a kook. Some percentage of the bobbers and floaters and back-offers and folks who will just blindly paddle and/or block your ride are kooks.

Right-hander, left-hander, straight-hander (term borrowed from ‘shortboard’ Aaron.

It depends on how you define kook.

If a kook is someone who is just thrilled to be in the water and among waves, trying to improve, trying to… yeah, there’s that. I qualify. Hodad? No. Being a surfer is an important part of my self-image, but it is only one item in a list of self-descriptions, categories in which I constantly try to improve. Father, husband, painter, writer, artist- surfer slides back and forth in importance.

Home improvement guy, mechanic, gardener… secondary list. Still, I do try to do better. Example: Just bailing-wired what remains of the burned-out tailpipe on my surf rig after it hit the ground, just bought a small freezer after ours developed a problem I couldn’t fix by watching Youtube videos on “What to do when your freezer doesn’t cool properly.” It must need a part. I’ll get to it. Soon.


Meanwhile, I’m writing this outside in an attempt to allow the proper birds to eat some of the seed and peanuts we put out. If I leave, the pigeons (non-locals, incidentally) will attack. A horde of them. Some, no doubt, are kooks. Tough to tell.

Okay, I better check the forecast. Yeah, kind of bleak. Hopefully there are waves where you are or where you’re going.

WAIT. Perhaps I should mention that part of my description of a real surfer is someone who has a high level of respect for waves, a certain, and I can’t really verbalize this adequately, reverence toward the ocean. There is some difference in that than having respect for every individual sharing a lineup. Okay, shouldn’t have said that; makes me sound kind of dick-ish.

As I always say, I am trying to do better at sharing. Always say it, usually mean it.

Overdrawn, Over-colored

As usual, I have limited time before I am supposed to be somewhere, checking out someone’s castle for potential painting opportunities. I did get up early, checked what limited info is available to make a guess on whether it is worth it to drive a distance, or a greater distance to possibly find surf. In the circumstance where there might be an opportunity for the closer trip, I would, of course, text the client and claim one or more of the various contractor excuses.

Didn’t happen, but I did do some coloring on a drawing I finished during a frantic, frustrating day… yesterday, and then had the original reduced so I could do the coloring and the scanning. Okay, so, as usual, the illustration, based on a photograph taken by Reggie Smart out on the actual northwest Pacific coast, is kind of over-drawn.

I scanned the colorized version a few minutes ago and… surprise, it is also over-colored. Some colors kick ass on other colors and take over. The most wrong of the colors. Wrongest? The ones I don’t want standing out. Luckily, I got five prints to color up.

Back to the lack of time. Gotta go. Next time, a hopefully, not overcolored version.

Thanks for the shot, Reggie.

Simple, simple, simple… damn, damn, damn

Competitive Burning for Fun and Profit

The World Surfing League has advanced the image and the business of competitive surfing.

It has. This is true. Most of the rest of this piece is opinion. Mine. There are other opinions.

A couch surfer in Vermont or Ohio can now go to YouTube or go online and see professionally managed contests featuring wave riders from about ten years old to somewhere around 50 (even older than Kelly in some specialty events) going for the win, entertaining the audience with a succession of score-enhancing cranks and punts and cutbacks and floaters, throwing a creative claim when appropriate, always looking for an advantage over the competition.

On a recent Saturday, between sort of doing chores, taking a too brief nap, and writing until I forgot the original plot, I switched the big screen from restful music with soothing images and optimistic aphorisms, to Roku, then to YouTube. Whoa, there was a contest going on at Lower Trestles. Trestles! I loved the spot. This scene was way different than the way it was set up when I worked across the tracks and the freeway, and up the hill, in 1975.

While I, not fully aware of how lucky I was, was able to drive out as far as Uppers, the scene on that Saturday was of hundreds of big-tired bikes, sani-cans, judging structures. This was some sort of contest for kids, ages 10 (guessing- really young) to 16. Some of the competitors were there with parents (some well- known former competitors), some with coaches. They were in heats, going wave for wave with other kids. They all seemed to rip.

Contest rip. It is different from free surf ripping. Show. It is for entertainment. Going down the line on a perfect wave will get one three points. Throw in a couple of cutbacks, five. Big air into the rocks, excellent.

And there are the priority rules. They are somewhat similar to the classic lineup etiquette. The biggest difference is the absolute right to ‘sit on’ your competitor and/or to burn him or her if you have priority.


Kelly, with priority, gets the double eagles from a 3rd degree-burned Joel Parkinson at pumping, dredging, draining, rip-torn Kirra. Totally legal.

What made me think about this is this: Unable to stay up late enough to watch more of the contest from Jeffrey’s Bay (I gave up after Italo was injured and spectators wouldn’t get up from sitting on the stairs to let him get helped up them- but Kanoa did get a buzzer-beater to win their heat), I got up early to see which one of my surfing heroes won the event. Fast-forwarding the post show, I saw replays of the interference call against Carissa Moore that gave Tatiana Weston-Webb an almost free pass into the finals. It just didn’t look right. It didn’t look fair.

Wait a minute. I suddenly flashed back to my second favorite scene from the docu-series “Make or Break.” My favorite scene was when Stefanie Gilmore was (I thought), goaded into saying, about winning, “Fuck them, I want it more.” The second favorite scene involved Tatiana and Sage Erikson in a contest in Mexico. An interference call had cost Sage the heat. Sage seemed to believe Tatiana had tricked her into going on a wave by claiming not to know which of them had priority. Then Tati dropped in. Sage wasn’t happy, and in stark contrast to the way the WSL portrays competitor interaction, all mutual respect and love, Sage called Tatiana out for the cutthroat move.

Tatiana looked… if she looked sorry, I didn’t see it. It was more of a “Fuck you, I wanted it more!” look.

Now, I should add that I am a huge Stephanie fan. I also should add that Trish is a Courtney Conlogue fan. Stephanie won the Mexico contest by surfing harder, making aggressive and high risk maneuvers with her classic smoothness. Sportsmanship (or sportspersonship) wise, after Steph beat Court in a heat at Jeffrey’s Bay, it was reassuring to see both of them in a warm-back-up hot tub. I am hoping both of their smiles were real.

I googled “Did Tatiana burn Carissa,” and got a story, with video, on Tatiana burning Moana Jones-Wong at Pipeline. Yes. The surfer Jamie O’Brian calls the undisputed “Queen of Pipeline,” a surfer who legitimately outsurfed every other woman competitor and beat Carissa Moore in the finals of the Billabong Pipeline contest, was locked into a tube and Tatiana dropped in on her, then straightened out.

Moana called Tatiana out on the beach. And on social media. A couple of points: Tatiana claimed she didn’t see Moana but didn’t drop in on male surfers; Tatiana had a coach or someone blocking for her in the lineup. Now, Tatiana said she was trying to earn a spot in the lineup, but Moana countered that, rather than “buying her way in” she had taken years to work her way from the shoulder to the peak, without dropping in on others. It is a matter of respect.

All this in a case against Tatiana is circumstantial, of course. But here’s more: Carissa has been surfing competitively since she was, guessing, ten years old. She knows the rules. It is difficult to believe she didn’t know who had priority. Tatiana waited until Carissa was fully committed on a dangerous and well-overhead wave before she dropped in, not on an angle, but straight down. There was no way Carissa could have avoided the interference. Tati made no real effort to complete the ride but fell in an overly dramatic way more reminiscent of the WWE than the WSL.

Did Tatiana Weston-Webb win the final heat fairly? As nearly as I can tell, she did. Is there a little tarnish on her trophy? Up for debate.

A last point: It seemed to me the commentators were risking injury in trying as hard as they could to not say there just might have been tactics at least underhanded if not all out dirty. Legal tactics.

Yes, the stakes are high. There is one more contest and few spots left in the Final Five. So much drama, so much hype. The waiting period for the one-day contest to decide this year’s top male and female surfers is September 8 through the 16th. Trestles.

Pump up the tires on your e-bike, check your Wi-fi connection. It might just be EPIC! It would be great if the winners win with pure surfing rather than tactics.

Again, I love that contests are so easily accessed, so expertly analyzed and brilliantly filmed. Live action. Replays. Members of the audience can pick our heroes AND our villains. We know something about the competitors, but we don’t really know them. Such drama!

Meanwhile, in the real world, priority disputes continue.

Weaving a Story into “Swamis”

I have written SO MANY versions of a story about a dickhead faking an epileptic seizure in the parking lot of Fallbrook high, 1969; and I have just worked on another, each one shorter and more concise (hopefully), each one changing the narrative of the manuscript that is getting (again, hopefully) more focused… better; each version split up and connected with other characters and other action; I figured I should reveal where the idea for the fictional encounter came from.

It was a story I only heard, didn’t witness. I didn’t go out on Friday nights. Seventh Day Adventist, one of very few in my school. More real or imagined surfers than Adventists. It was a tradition among my two closest surfing friends, Phillip and Ray, and some of their/our other friends, to avoid some away football games and go to a secluded hilltop among the avocado groves and scrub, one way in and out, and drink, smoke, hang out, and then go back to the high school to await the arrival of the rooter bus. More hanging out.

The drinking part of this involved getting some over-21-aged Marine to purchase beer in exchange for all or part of the Marine’s purchases paid for by kids hanging outside one of two liquor stores in town. Not at all suspicious. Cigarette purchases were easier. 18. Select the oldest looking juvenile. “Oh, I left my ID in my other pants.” Sure.

I did actually go on one of these adventures once; don’t remember how I got out of the house, but I do know it didn’t go well. Another guy and I got to sit in the back of Ray’s El Camino while Phillip and, probably, possibly, Bill Buel, got to ride ‘bitch’ (not my word) and Phillip got to ride shotgun. Like surfing, some priorities are set by status. So, fourth or fifth in this grouping, different in the water. The front seat guys were cracking open beers before we got to the secret spot. I was uncomfortable, particularly when some out-of-school folks, associates of my friends but not of mine, hard guys (at least harder than we were) showed up. Phillip, possibly because one should act differently if drinking, started dancing around me as if we were boxing; doing the “come on, man…” deal. I gave him a straight shot that bloodied his nose and lip. I had some amount of beer. Coors. Asked how it tasted by Ray, I said it tasted better after the first few sips. “Better and mo’ better,” he said.

We did go to the school, hang around in the sloped parking lot across from the gymnasium. Not all that exciting. Phillip did get an amount of sympathy from girls from the wounds, but they also looked at me with a certain, slightly more interested look. Or I imagined they did. “One punch, huh?” Yeah.

Bill Birt was another classmate of ours. Bill had the distinction of having hair on his chest that seemed to threaten his neck in the sixth grade. If I was uncool out of the water, and I was, Bill, with a seemingly permanent bit of spittle on one side or the other of his lip, was more so. He did get into surfing. Don’t get me wrong, I liked him. He is on permanent display in my house in the background of a photo of Trish and her father on our wedding day. Nice, since he died in a car accident only a few years later. Bill was allowed to participate in the Friday night adventures if he paid for the beer and if his parent’s huge car was used for transportation.

One Bill Birt rooter bus story involved Bill taking a massive piss on the uphill side of his mom’s car, the urine river flowing under it and down the asphalt. Uncool enough to tell at school, another addition to tales of Bill always getting it a little bit wrong.

The other relative-to-“Swamis” story involved a couple of my other surf-adjacent friends, guys who always seemed to get the rest of us into more trouble than we would have otherwise. They pull into the parking lot along with my friends and parents and others waiting for the return of the possibly victorious football team. Mark (we’ll call him Mark, though I can’t guarantee that) screeches the car to a stop, falls out of the driver’s seat, starts flopping around. His crew bails out, runs over to him, don’t help him, but start calling on others to do so.

In my manuscript, I have placed Joey into that setting. I included another character, teacher Mr. Dewey (yeah, you get it). Mr. Dewey is making out with another player’s mom in a car while awaiting the return of his wife and daughter on the rooter bus. Joey, who never goes to school events, and who suffered seizure activity as a result of an accident when he was five, is not amused by the antics. Prone to violent outbursts, Joey walks over, puts a foot on the faker’s throat. Mr. Dewey runs over, grabs Joey. He tells Joey that his father’s position on the school board won’t save him this time. The prankster jumps up, semi-apologizes to Joey, then throws up on Mr. Dewey just as the rooter bus unloads. Joey, noticing the lipstick on the collar of Mr. Dewey’s shirt, says, “You got lucky, Mr. Dewey.”

“Gee, I wonder if anyone’s waiting for us back at the school?”

That’s kind of where it is now, but now, Mr. Dewey shows up at Joey’s father’s wake. It provides me with someone to comment on how a very conservative Sheriff’s detective and Marine veteran of World War II and Korea can marry a Japanese woman. Joey comments that “It’s traditional, isn’t it? Kill the men, take the women.”

Right now, where I am in the ever-more-time-condensed manuscript, Mr. Dewey purchases the mini-Ponderosa in Fallbrook. This allows Joey to move to Leucadia, advancing the story. Meanwhile, here’s an earlier version that mentions the incident:


Several Big Jackets and Julia Cole and I were in the classroom outside the photo lab. We were looking at two sheets of contact prints; three rows of 35-millimeter positive images cut from a roll and pressed and fit and exposed on eight and a half by eleven photo stock. Most of the photos were of Portia posing on the landing and stairs at Swamis. 

“I wish I’d caught it,” Julie said, spreading the photos she’d chosen to enlarge around the table.  “Portia had the most wicked kind of smile. And then, when you saw Portia… well… You looked at me first. Regular smile. Then you saw Portia.”


“And I saw both of your faces.”


“And you were both… I don’t know how to describe it. Intense. I feel like you were both so focused, so…”

“Julie; you don’t… I mean, my father would say you don’t feel; you believe, based on facts, evidence. Cops always talk about ‘gut feelings,’ but my dad…”


Julie pinched my arm pretty much as hard as she could. “You feel that?” I pulled away. She got her face as close as she could to mine, looking into my eyes.  “Or do you believe that?” I must have looked angry; I couldn’t have hidden that. She didn’t look frightened. A moment later she pursed her lips, twisted her head to allow me to kiss her.  

I was moving closer but stopped when I looked at her hands. Fists. She was ready, in case. I looked at my own hands. I opened my fists, spread my fingers as far as possible. Julie did the same.  We both smiled; we embraced; we kissed.

She whispered, “I believe you.”

In Julia Cole’s photos Portia was mostly backlit, her semi-transparent shawl held out like bird’s wings. I hadn’t seen Portia up close before that afternoon. Some people are like that; you just can’t, even if you’re close enough, get a good look at them, a real look. If I said Portia had a sort of protective aura; that would sound… off. But it was true. I had seen her moves, her gestures, always flowing, as if she was a dancer. Or had been. Or could have been.

In other photos Portia, so obviously pregnant, looked almost vulnerable. Almost.

“Grant told me you’re known to be kind of… violent.” 

“Grant? Grant fucking Murdoch?”

“Yeah, him. He says you punched out Rusty McAndrews and stuck your foot on his, Grant’s, neck, both on the same night.” When I didn’t respond, she added, “And you slammed Rusty’s brother into a drinking fountain in the sixth grade, busted out his front teeth.”  I nodded.  “And you got kicked out of Little League and then off the football because…”

“There are…explanations.”

“I’m sure. Such as…?”

“Travis McAndrews shouldn’t have said the fountain was for white kids only, my dickhead friends shouldn’t have talked me into going drinking with them and their dickhead doper friends; Rusty fucking McAndrews shouldn’t have called Mohammad Ali by his slave name, Cassius Clay; Grant shouldn’t have acted like he was having an epileptic seizure in the parking lot at Fallbrook High while we were all waiting for the return of the rooter bus; and, and Rusty McAndrews… you know the fucker?”  

Julie smiled, her teeth gritted, was about to say or ask something, possibly a question on why I took such offense at Grant Murdoch’s fake seizure, when Broderick appeared inside the lightlock door and said, “If you two could join us; we have a lesson; how to get that perfect sepia tone.”

“Oh, sepia,” Julie said as the door spun around and back again, empty. I jumped in. She pushed in beside me. “Yeah, Joey, I know the fucker,” she said as we spun into the brief blackness.

SOOO, Grant takes the place of Mark (or whoever). Broderick, the (fictional) photography teacher, is probably out, Julia (Julie to her friends and eventually Joey/Jody) Cole and Joey might not actually make out, AND the ever-shrinking timeline for “Swamis,” my novel, might not even reach to the summer of 1969. I will definitely make it to where it begins, the return of Jumper Hayes.

OHHH, and Rusty McAndrews, based on one or more of the characters I have been adjacent to, will be a critical, if diminished character. Yes, Julie knows him.

Waves, summer, good luck.

And a reminder: Everything from Swamis (and writings in realsurfers) is covered by copyright protection.

Some Spells, Once Cast

Whoa, I didn’t realize the credit for the photo is embedded in the image. I just like having palm trees and fireworks. Wait, the fireworks might be digitally produced. Wow, is nothing real? Yes, of course. The Fourth of July celebration is, of course, real; what each of us celebrates, as with all holidays, varies. And yes, every person who considers him or her (or whatever pronoun they choose to define person-ness) a surfer, is… real. We can discuss realness another time, like, is a perfect wave real or a matter of interpretation? And humor… is a line, written or spoken, funny on its face, or is it the reaction that determines the relative funniness of said line? How would I know? Okay, I don’t. I do know truth is out there in the wind and calm, bobbing and bouncing and drifting, still there between the crests and the troughs, the love and the hate and the outright lies. It is probably all right to love America and realize that there was some treachery involved with us becoming US. It may be possible to be a real American without having to have a big ass flag flying over the bed of your big ass rig. Be real.

Soft Persuasion

She offered him such soft persuasion, on the night before the fourth of July,

Began as such a festive occasion, she held him close, he never asked her why.

He went off like a roman candle, so sure the light lit up half of the night,

But love was something they could never handle, no, love’s one thing they couldn’t get quite right.

                Misunderstanding, misunderstood, he thought that they could make it happen,

                Now he sees it ain’t no good.

                Misunderstanding, he got it wrong,

                She took the words that he had written, wrote herself another song.

She said it’s just a misunderstanding, said she’d never meant to lead him along,

She hoped he’d have a really soft landing, she wrote down all the words to his last song.

All in all she treated him quite kindly, she said there are some things she should explain,

He had gone off way way way too blindly, and love that’s blind can only bring one pain.

Some things, she said, are best left unspoken, some things he said he never should have said,

Some spells, once cast, should never be broken, some love’s not in your heart, it’s in your head.

But she’d already heard his confession, she is the only woman he thinks of,

Some times, love is really obsession, well, sometimes what we think is love is love.

He walked into the teeth of the morning, where firecrackers popped and fuses burned,

He had been knocked down without a warning, he couldn’t put in words what he had learned.

All he knew is he had never known her, and everything he thought he knew was wrong,

Didn’t know from there where he could go to, Couldn’t find the words for his new song.

                Misunderstanding, misunderstood, he thought that they could make it happen,

                Now he sees it ain’t no good.

                Misunderstanding, she got it wrong,

                She took the words that he had written,

                But now he has another song.

“Soft Persuasion” is from the collection, “Love Songs for Cynics,” copywrite Erwin A. Dence, Jr.

Happy Independence Day to one and all and all the individuals, all the ones and twos, families biological and otherwise. Note: my favorite line from this song, not just because I wrote it, is “Some spells, once cast, should never be broken.”


In searching for a photo to illustrate “Groovin’ to the surf” I couldn’t find one groovier than this one. Now, maybe Mr. O’Neill once rode this board, but, no, I think it’s all kind of posed. Still…

Two things:

  1. I do live on Surf Route 101. Vehicles do pass, north and south, depending on the swell direction. If my work takes me east, across the Hood Canal Bridge, I have frequently passed hopeful surfers headed for some dream of waves out on the Peninsula in the morning, then passed the same rigs in the evening or night. Did they score? Did I make enough money to not be jealous? Probably not. How do I feel when I’m headed home from surfing, knowing wind is on a dropping swell and I see other hopefuls headed out? Answer- Not as pleased as you might think. Maybe the waves got… better.
  2. It is not a secret that I will occasionally break into song while painting. My friend Stephen R. Davis just sent me a link to “Groovin'” by the Young Rascals, originally released in 1967. “Groovin’, on a Sunday afternoon, wheelin’, couldn’t get away too soon…” Perhaps Steve just wanted to refresh my memory on the actual lyrics… for next time. I was 16 when the song came out, and I started to tell a story about how, because whatever car my dad had supplied me with, some beater he got on a mechanic’s lien, was broken, and because my mom, for some reason, couldn’t or wouldn’t take her seven kids to the beach, I walked and/or rode my skateboard, four or five miles, in the inland mid-summer heat, teenage angst fully in control, to Fallbrook Union High School. Kids played on the fields, typically, and skateboarding hadn’t yet been banned on the perfectly groomed sidewalks. Still, it was too hot to play baseball, there were no cute girls hanging out, and… This is probably the point the story got interrupted by some work-related problem, but, the conclusion is, some of the cooler kids in my class pulled up and, there I was, shortly thereafter, sitting in the back seat, all the windows down, cruising the well-cruised route, A&W, Foster’s Freeze, loop around down by the Little League field, all the while nodding along to the music. “This was,” I tried to tell Steve, a time in my life when, for an hour or so, I actually felt… somewhat… cool. Somewhere in there, the radio playlist got to “Groovin’.”
Quite possibly another Sunday afternoon with Trish. Yes, I do put this photo up occasionally.

Facing West on a Maximum North

“Grizzley” Adam “Wipeout’s” older son, Calvin “Boomer” James, with “The Burn,” aka “the Burner” model custom board.

As always, I would like to cover a couple of topics. I will get back to the board.

We’re a few days past the summer solstice. The sun is rising and setting on horizons almost shockingly north of where the sun was six months ago. I have observed this time lapse movement for so long it seems as if I have always oriented my life according to where the sun sets. West. That is where the ocean is; that is where the waves are. West.

West is the direction the teenage me looked, out on the lawn, imagining magical waves beyond the rounded, north to south rows of drought and fire burned hills, past the smog drifting down from the Orange County/L.A. vortex. At maximum north, the sun set over San Onofre, maximum south, Oceanside. Perhaps I more imagined than saw the bounce-back effect a brilliant sunset on the water had on the high clouds. No, it was real, reflection on a horizonal plane. Horizontal.

For the last forty-plus years, living somewhere around fifty/sixty feet above sea level on gravel and rounded rocks and clay left behind in an ancient fjord by one of any number of ice ages, my view to the west is of an almost mountain-high ridge. If I said it looks like an almost perfect thousand-foot-high peak, probably a better right than a left, well… forgive me. It is yet another wave in the north/south coastal range. Ranges, the Olympics being the highest and broadest.

In the winter, the sun sets to my left, almost to the gap that reveals two other higher, craggier ridges. Today it will hit just to my right of the highest point.

OOOPS. TECHNICAL SCREWUP! I just lost a whole lot of good writing. I tried to save it. Didn’t work. LATER.

Meanwhile, since I lost this part, let me explain the board. JOEL, almost app-millionaire, now a real estate mogul in the making, wanted a surfboard to burn as a sacrifice to any surf gods (not arguing for or against the existence of said small g gods here), with a request for something better than the flatter-than-the-usual-flatness around these parts. Adam has a lot of boards. BUT, partially considering how environmentally unfriendly burning something as toxically chemical as a foam-and-glass board, Adam,, on INTERNATIONAL SURFING DAY (all in, he claims, four hours), crafted the board (below) out of a cedar slab, glued on the fins and… AND, YEAH, it’s way too cool a board to be burning up to appease some minor leaguers (when I appeal/pray/beg/hope for rideable waves and uncrowded glassy conditions and a good parking place, in that order, I’m appealing to the big G crew- yeah, a bit bold), SOOOO, now Joel wants to ride the BURNER. So, now Adam, after discussing what to coat/cover the raw wood with, wants to change the name of the board to the simpler “BURN,” as in ‘Joel might just burn people on the board.’

Emmett (no nickname yet, at least not one I’m aware of) James

SECOND MNEANWHILE- Adam has yet to get Emmett and Calvin addicted to surfing. They’re all out on the coast this weekend, so, of course, Adam is working on it.

On the Bubble

Out of the lagoon and crawling ashore. “Yeah, I’m okay, thanks for asking.”

I’ve told the story enough times now that I kind of know where the laugh lines are. And there’s been almost enough time since my incident that I can see the humor in it myself. Almost.

No, there is something rather amusing about a surfer with an ego as large as mine is, with years of experience in the ocean getting himself in trouble in the water. There is, also, perhaps, some sort of karmic re-balancing in the story if I was able to tell it in full.

What prevents this ‘whole truth and nothing but’ is protecting the not-really-secret but kind-of-secret, and definitely fickle-by-nature, definitely rarely breaking spot where the not-quite-drowning event took place. This not-blowing-up-the-spots is sort of my attempt to get along with surfers who put in the miles and the disappointments and the skunkings to occasionally find a decent wave.

Actually, it doesn’t matter where the story happened so much as what happened. I was caught inside numerous times by relentless waves and a raging tidal current. Both legs of my wetsuit filled with water to the knees, my leash got tangled up and weighted down with kelp, I, somehow, got pushed out of the impact zone. Unable to make any real progress paddling, I thought I could just drop down and walk up to the beach. Nope, too deep. It was probably after the third drop down that some camper on the beach called 911.

Yeah, amusing. I wasn’t drowning. I wasn’t panicked. I was kind of pissed off.

More like embarrassed. More so when a surfer, Kim, in street clothes but contemplating going out, ran over just as I pushed my board up onto the beach, then crawled my big ass self up behind it. I had to struggle to get my leash detached and the water out of my wetsuit, the last of the legs clamped securely around my ankles. Kim carried my big ass board up to my car while I lumbered my way behind her. Thanks, Kim, helping out the old guy.

Old guys. Shit. There were several examples of the karmic reset in this morality tale. When I was suiting up, with several surfers in the water, a car pulled up next to mine. I didn’t see a board inside but thought the driver was a sometime surfer I had recently seen at another fickle, not-breaking-at-the-time spot. “Hey,” I said, “there’s kind of an age limit on surfing… huh?”

It wasn’t that guy. It was, in fact, a woman. Similar hair, that’s my excuse. “I just came here to watch,” she said. “Oh. Well. Um, if there’s a… bubble, age-wise, I’m probably just over it… myself.” “Uh huh.”

Still, I did wonder why she thought there might be waves and riders at this spot at this time. And then I had someone help me zip up my wetsuit, and I went out.

My fairly new wetsuit: Back zip. Last one was front zip; didn’t need help. I have added some length to the pull string on the zipper. My age: 71 in August. So, I’m not only old, I’m… well, my friend, Stephe n Davis, describes me as a Clydesdale, work horse… large. Big shoulders, short legs. My triple-x suit is tight in the top, with legs meant for someone, like, 6’4″. I’m not.

This isn’t a problem if I don’t spend much time under water. It actually has been a problem before. A few months back, different secret(ish) spot, got some great rides and some wipeouts, had the water in the legs issue, not as bad, but my new, glow-in-the-dark leash, somehow, got all tangled up around my legs. Again, there was an extreme rip along the inshore that wasn’t at all helpful. That time, pushing my board up onto the beach, Adam Wipeout was walking back from a long ride.

A minor irony here; the board I’ve been riding for a few years was purchased from Adam. On payments. On another occasion, a different spot, I had a little trouble, after surfing pretty well, getting out of the shorebreak and up the steep beach. Old guys are not always nimble. My/Adam’s board was loose, hitting rocks, while I was getting pummeled. Lesson: Don’t take the first wave of the set if you plan on getting out of the water. Adam, also out at that spot on that day, of course, did a seven-point (out of ten) dismount, ran up the beach, came over, pulled his/my board up to safety. Yes, it is paid for… now.

I have surfed again, in that wetsuit. This time I rolled the legs up about five inches. A sort of cuff. Fits tight against the booties. Uneventful. I would really rather concentrate on the surfing.

Oh, the 911 call? Yes. I was on the phone with Trish, explaining the situation, when Steve got out of the water to see if I was all right. Police turned up. Two cops. “Heard there was someone in trouble in the water.” I raised my hand. “So, you’re all right?” “Evidently.” “Oh, hey, Steve; how’s it going?”

They were through with me. It isn’t like they were going to jump in and save me.

I will get into some other karmic/positioning/priority/burning issues another time. Meanwhile, another tip: If you’re surfing over rough rocks, booties help.

Younger old guy with Stephen Davis after he rescued my paddle from the pilings- different story, different wetsuit. Can’t say I’m thinner now. Definitely older.