Flipping Out

I’m a little irritated that I didn’t get up earlier, early enough to get something done on editing “Swamis.”  I’m only about half way through what Microsoft Word is telling me is 240 pages, 117,000 plus words, and I’m hoping to get it all done before reading a bit of it at the Port Townsend Public Library this coming Thursday, 6pm.

Pimping, always pimping; shameless self-promotion.

It’s my own fault, of course; I didn’t have to spend a day arranging, meeting up, loading up, searching for waves, participating in endless hiking, surfing, more hiking, more surfing, more (“It’s good for you”) hiking, repacking, getting back to civilization, stopping at Sunny Farms (Yogurt cone- “Good for you”), not napping; but, then again, maybe I did.

It’s kind of what we do the rest of it for.  ANYWAY, because Trish and I share this (her) computer, and I do my ‘alone time’ in the morning, I do sometimes do some drawing in the evenings/night time.  I did the lower version first, thought it a bit sketchy, did the ‘hold it up to a light’ trace the outline on the new side technique.  That would be the upper drawing.  Then I asked Trish which one she preferred.

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Okay, I won’t hold you in suspense; she liked the lower one, even though there are scratchy ‘get the pen going’ lines on the right side.  See?  Here’s a side by side:

All right; now I see problems with both of them.  Maybe tonight I’ll…

Anyway, I had to write a proposal, send off business type emails (painting business), check bank accounts; and now… well, maybe I can do fifteen minutes or so on “Swamis.”

Oh, wait; another thing I enjoy about a multi-person surf strike, and thanks Keith and Steve, is the opportunity to… I don’t have time to get into it right now.  Okay, it’s like we each had a different surf experience, with different highlights; and we each have a slightly different story to tell about the same trip.

And we will.

 

1966 Surf Program, 1968 Article, 2020 Explanations of Each, and More

My sister, Suellen, sent me the program from the 1966 Oceanside Invitational Surfing Contest and an article about her and me in the Fallbrook “Enterprise” from 1968.

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Here’s the story:  I’d been board surfing for about a year, and I was totally embarrassed that my sister was cruising around the beach at Oceanside Pier collecting autographs.  She may have been, or should have been, equally embarrassed that her kook brother was out surfing, warming-up with the likes of… well, check out the list.

You may notice that she circled the surfers she got autographs from.  Now, I did witness her trying for a signature from Mike Doyle, who was just receiving a bag lunch from his mother.  Embarrassing.

In retrospect, of course, I’m stoked to have a copy of a copy.

Here’s the article:

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So, here’s a brief correction/explanation: Suellen was holding my 9’6″ Surfboards Hawaii pintail, my last longboard for twenty years or so; and I’m holding Phillip Harper’s brand new Surfboards Hawaii ‘V’ Bottom, the latest thing at the time.  It does sound like the reporter listened to me more than Suellen.  There are a few mistakes, of course; like “Balsa surfboards,” though my first surfboard was a balsa Velzy-Jacobs.

Oh, maybe the reporter couldn’t keep up.  Also, when our local trash collector next spoke with my father, he said something like, “Oh, you can afford a nice little vacation at the beach, but, when it comes to paying for trash service…”

Also, as regards the little trip, seven kids and our parents in a pretty small room in Leucadia, really close to 101: Several of my friends, Phillip Harper, Ray Hicks, Mark Metzger, and Billy McLain, all showed up, having, possibly, told their parents they were staying with us (the article providing backup), while actually planning on sleeping on the beach, close to the bluff (to fool lifeguards- also did this once at Swamis), and, while hanging out, hey, why not walk on down the beach to the state park, look for some chicks.

Yeah, I said ‘chicks.’  I will, no doubt, tell the entire story, but, short version, it was all Billy McLean’s fault that we all got to ride to the Vista substation of the San Diego Sheriff’s Department, all in the back (it’s procedure, we were told) of a California Highway Patrol cruiser, stuck in two adjoining cells while someone’s parents were called. So, of course, we sang “Doors” songs, cell-to-cell, talked about how badass we were, until my parents came to pick us up.  Luckily, they had a station wagon, room for all.  “So,” my dad asked, “You say you were looking for food.  Snack bar?  Vending machines? Huh?” “Yes, Mister Dence, we were.  Hungry.”  “Shut up, Billy.”  “So you weren’t looking for, um, girls?”  “Oh, no; Mister Dence… honest.”  My mom wanted to believe the food story/lie.  “If Junior says they were looking for food…”  “Food.  That’s right.”

Many years later, I admitted to my dad we were looking for girls, and the only ones we saw, and cute ones, too, were hanging out at the place where campers check in.  Billy’s idea to head over there.  “What’s your campsite number?”  “Huh?”  “Do you have driver’s licenses?”  “I don’t need one.  I’m only fourteen.”  That was Billy.  He would have passed for sixteen AND this wasn’t the only time he got us in trouble.

But, it’s the only one I’m telling here.

But, as a reminder, I will be adding some pages from “Swamis,” soon, but I was pretty excited to get the stuff from Suellen.  AND, it’s only a week or so until I’m reading from “Swamis” at the Port Townsend Public library, Uptown, 6pm; with music, food, and a string band.

There has been some surf action I could report.  Hey, if I see you at the reading…

 

More from “Swamis”

The latest on my the event at the PORT TOWNSEND PUBLIC LIBRARY, 6pm, Thursday, March 5: Surfer/Librarian Keith Darrock and I discussed this, and, of course, surfing, th other day. He offered me a certain dollar amount, a stipend (meaning not much) for reading something at what has always been slated as COWBOY POETRY.  He asked if I wrote my piece, “Never Was a Cowboy” specifically for the event.  Yes.  Oh.  Well, maybe they could increase the stipend (not, like, double).  Oh, but I want to read something from “Swamis,” and I’ve been working as much as possible to get through a total manuscript edit/rewrite, and I’m, right now (but not the other day) up to 100 pages of what Microsoft tells me is 248.                                                                                                                                   Oh. Yeah. So, the deal is, if I can read from both, I’ll take the lesser amount.  Agreed.   Meanwhile, I’m posting more from “Swamis” here.  Now.  The pages here immediately  precede the previous posting.  What? Yeah, if I do this a bit at a time, I could get to the beginning of the novel by… oh, let’s say, March 5, 6pm.                                                          And then, when someone comes across “Swamis,” it’ll make sense to them.              Although the library event is not Erwin-centric, I will have some art pieces, maybe some Original Erwin t-shirts available there, plus, still, the chance to invest in a limited edition unexpurgated (except by me) complete manuscript for one hundred dollars.

SO…

So, more respect than hate.

RESPECT AND THE SECOND TIER

“Chulo,” someone said, his waxed-cardboard milk carton in the air. There was a sort of muffled chorus, “Chulo,” from the surfers on the guardrail. “Limpin’ Jesus,” someone else said. “Fuck you,” several surfers said. “A little respect, please,” Virginia Cole said; then added, “Dickwad.”

I wanted to say it; “Dickwad,” and would have if I had been part of this group.

I would have said that, maybe, his being burned up was some sort of reaction or reference to the burning at the stake, by people who considered themselves Christians, of numerous heretics and witches and political rivals and… yeah; there was a lot I was almost ready to say out loud.

“They’re saying it’s some sort of… cult thing.” “Maybe it’s kinda like… you know, those monks burning themselves up over in Vietnam.” “No; dork; that was… political.” “Did you see it? I mean, the… the burn marks. It was, shit, there were…” “The smell.” “barbeque.” “Ohhh; ick.” “All the cops. Highway Patrol, Sheriff’s deputies… detectives.” “Yeah.” “One of them asked me about Gingerbread Fred.” “Really?” “They can’t find him.” “No shit?” “One asked me about the Jesus Freaks.” “What?” “Yeah, about, you know, Portia.” “Really?” “No.” “Yes.”

One of the guys had looked at me when someone said, “deputies,” a single word in a sentence stopped when he elbowed the guy next to him. “Oh,” I thought, “so someone knows who I am.”

No, they all knew.

“Drugs.” That was a statement. Though it was made in the direction of the water, it was meant for the surfers on the rail, and loud enough, grownup enough for the adjacent surfers, the second tier; me; me and a couple of other surfers who knew better than to get too close to the local crew. Not that any of us formed a second-tier crew. Maybe two guys had come to Swamis together, but, no, random loners- and not in a cool-loner James Dean kind of way.

“Wally,” someone behind me (third tier if I was second tier) said, sort of in a whisper, to the guy with him. “Kneeboarder.”

“Drugs,” the older man, Wally, repeated; “One way or the other. Drugs. I’ve told you; you do illegal drugs, you have to hang out with criminals.”

Wally was a kneeboarder. Even his kneeboard, yellowed, beat up, patched-up, homemade, was old, on top of the pile on his car, parked three over from mine. One of the teenagers on the rail, part of the crew he drove around at dawn, was, I found out much later, his son. My age. Wally had walked from the direction of the new, brick bathrooms and the green, wood outhouse (still there at that time for some reason) and the stairs (at least two other stair systems since then), and had positioned himself, a bit offset, but between the bluff and the guardrail surfers. Having gotten everyone’s attention, he looked out at the water. Optimum view. As I said.

The guardrail crew reacted. “Maybe… I don’t think Chulo was even a stoner. Maybe…” “Really, man?” “Chulo? No.” “Maybe he was a narc.” “Fuck you, man. Narc? Chulo? He did time.” “Hey, A-hole; either he was a stoner and the cops… I mean…” “Oh; so, like, if Chulo was a narc…”

Wally walked past the teenagers, and stopped at the front door of my car, put his hand on my latest backyard board, seven-two, reshaped from a glass-stripped nine-six. He nodded. I nodded.

“DeFreines,” he said. “Knew your dad. Didn’t like him so much, to be honest.”

“Well.” I shrugged.

“Hassled me a few times.” We both shrugged. “Say… this board…” He was running his hand down the rail line. “…looks like you made it with an ax.”

“Pretty much. To be honest.”

Wally chuckled. “You ride it well, though.”

“I, um… thanks.”

A couple of the surfers might have looked our way. Can’t say. I was afraid to look in case they were watching.

”Chuck you, Farley; go back off in your own jackyard,” one of them said. “Geez, man; so uncool.”

“You kids,” Wally said, turning toward his crew.

He took several steps, pretty much to the front of the Falcon.

“Narcs,” I said. Not loud enough. “Narcs” I said again, louder.

Each person in the loose crowd, including Wally, looked at me before he (or she- the one girl, Ginny- remember?) looked in the direction I had nodded.   They weren’t narcotics officers. I knew that. “Detectives,” I said, a little louder, hands at my mouth to (try to) focus my voice.

A big, American-made, unmarked police car; tan in color, the ‘varmint lights,’ the plain hubcaps, and a “Del Mar Fair” decal on the back bumper being the clues; had driven past, on the other side of the mostly empty, double-row spots. The taillights stayed on for a while after it was parked in the dead end of the lot. Both front doors opened. Detectives.

DEL MAR FAIR

We had one of these Del Mar Fair stickers on the Falcon. Mark, one of my friends from school, and, more so, from the Boy Scouts; a sometime-surfer, pointed out this real-or-imagined detail of unmarked police cars. “Yeah,” I’d said, “My Dad put it on the wagon; it’s sort of a, um, like, ‘don’t pull me over’ kind of, uh, code.” This prompted several other friends to acquire and display similar decals.

The decal, faded, was still there on the Falcon. The one on the unmarked car was newer. Southern California Exposition. Yeah. It was always the Del Mar Fair to locals.

DOUBLE EAGLES

Two detectives, so obviously cops, approached. Both were in their mid-forties. One was taller; tall, California Highway Patrolman-tall (they had height restrictions); the other huskier. Both had cop mustaches, no farther than the edges of their mouths; both had the apparently-standard cop brushcuts (basically combed back, but not long enough to actually go back- so, kind of straight up); one had sideburns that probably hit the limit of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Office hair code; each detective sported a colorful and wide tie to, I thought, offset their drab suits, to look hip. Hipper.

One of the detectives stopped at the passenger side of my car, the other one came around the back and stopped at the driver’s door. Each was sort of smiling; though it was more a ‘don’t you move’ smile.

Oh. I was the only surfer left.

The shorter detective opened the passenger side door, then looked at me, didn’t look inside, but, instead, looked up and around and out. The sun shone through the overcast, but only on the horizon. The south wind had calmed. “Nice view,” he said, pointing at the water. Then he looked inside the car.

“Optimum,” I said.

Wally’s car made a completely unnecessary loop around the parking lot and past me and the detectives. The two surfers on the passenger side, front and back, of the too many crammed into Wally’s old car (three in the front, four in the back, Ginny and the two smallest guys in the middle positions, Ginny in the front seat, both on the driveline hump), boards and a kneeboard piled on top; flashed the peace sign as they passed me. One of them pointed forward. I knew all the locals were laughing.

I returned the peace sign, spun my hand, dropped the pointer finger, added the left hand in a double flip-off. The double eagle. I only dropped my hands, and slowly, as I turned toward the taller detective, just walking past the opened tailgate, and threw my hands onto the roof of the car.

The tall detective smiled, waved off my over-reaction. He opened my driver’s side door, looked at three schoolbooks, identified with psychedelic lettering, decorated with surfing drawings on the grocery bag brown book covers (Buy and Save Market, Fallbrook); several notebooks; various 4 and 8 Trac tapes scattered on the seat. He looked for the player. Not installed under the dashboard.

The shorter detective pulled it from beneath the seat on the passenger side, looked at the tangle of after-market wiring. “Oh. So. Stolen. Obviously.” He ripped the wires loose from the back of the tape deck, set it and one of my notebooks on the roof, between the racks, next to my ax-shaped surfboard.

I took the notebook back, said, “Not stolen. Mine.” I tucked it under my left arm.

The taller detective opened the back door. The seats were down. There were two other boards, damp towels, trunks, paper bags, empty cigarette and donette packages, empty chocolate milk containers; mildew and sweat and that burn-barrel beach smell. He swung the door back and forth a few times, with a “whe-eew;” then left it open.

“We’re just asking a few questions,” he said. He had a very deep, smoker-and-whiskey voice. “Got a license, son?” I pulled my billfold out of my back pocket, stuck the license toward him.

They, of course, knew who I was. Even if they hadn’t recognized me (which they did), they had to recognize the Falcon. Of course. This was for show. Cop shit.

The two detectives and I looked around at the same time, moments after the one syllable ‘whoop’ of a police siren.

Three Sheriff’s vehicles and a Highway Patrol car, lights on, blocked the only entrance to the lot, the only exit to 101. Except, yes, by foot. Some of the parking lot folks had just wandered off, past the SRF gate, and up the highway. Wally’s car hadn’t quite escaped. He would be hassled.

“Oh,” the taller detective said, holding my license close to my face, then leaning down and closer; “hadn’t seen you in a while, kid. The, um, funeral; maybe.”

No. I hadn’t looked at any faces there. There had been other occasions; the bowling alley, softball games, picnics. He would have been half-drunk, at least; and never able to beat my dad at… anything.

“Wendall,” I said. “Or, as my father always said, ‘Never win Wendall.’ How’s it going?”

The other detective laughed from the other side of the car, walked around the back side. “Never winned-at-all,” he said.

I didn’t look at either of them. Couldn’t. Not if I wanted to maintain my attitude, my cool, tough attitude. More cool than tough.

Placing the notebook onto the dashboard, I pulled the pack of Marlboros from my windbreaker, pinched a cigarette out, took the ‘Carlsbad Liquor’ pack of matches out, looked at the logo, at the two detectives; opened the pack, red stains against the back of the cover. “Too wet,” I said. Detective Wendall stuck a cigarette in his mouth, lit mine with a San Diego County Sheriff’s Department-logoed zippo. “Or ‘Swindling Wendall’,” I said, with a (confident, I hoped) smile; “that was the nickname my dad preferred.”

“Swindling Wendall” the other detective said, with a laugh and a hit to his partner’s shoulder.

I pulled a Zippo, identical to Wendall’s, from the right front pocket of my pants. “We knew,” I said. “Acted like we didn’t. He acted like he didn’t know we knew.” Wendall nodded. “Quicky-Dick Dickson,” I said, putting the wet matches back into the windbreaker, checking the group standing almost casually outside Wally’s car. Casual under pressure; that was the ultimate in surfer style.

Style was and is the ultimate goal in surfing.

JUST SAY THANK YOU

I could see the back of the very-tall (of course) Highway Patrolman. Wally, five teenage boys, with Ginny Cole in the middle, were all looking at me and Wendall and Dickson; and I was thinking only about how much I looked like a fucking narc.

It was too close and too fast to focus. I doubled over, Dickson’s fist still in my stomach. The cigarette popped out of my mouth, onto his shoulder. Wendall brushed it off, Dickson’s fist now a hand on my shoulder. It wasn’t until then that I felt the pain. I stood up straight. This was necessary, this was mandatory.

My father would have demanded it.

“Just say ‘thank you,’ Jody.”

Dickson picked up the cigarette and stuck it back in my mouth.

“Thank you.”

YOU SURFING OR WHAT

An hour or so later; If the swell hadn’t arrived, the crowd had. The cop cars were gone. Vehicles belonging to weekend surfers and families filled the lot. There was a Chevy van, jacked-up in the back, on one side of my car, a VW station wagon (Variant), two boards still on top, one door open, the three surfers who had been in it at the edge of the bluff, dancing around, pointing; all hooting; occasionally, in unison.

I guessed they’d trade off on the boards. Maybe one was a body surfer. It’s not that I cared all that much; I just wondered which one would not share his board.

The San Dieguito crew hadn’t returned. Somewhere else must be better. 15th Street, maybe, in Del Mar, Seaside Reef in Solana Beach. I was digging in the backseat area of the car, pulling out trash, putting it in an old canvas-like feed bag; already two-thirds full. My damp gear was spread out on the hood, all three of my boards now tied on the rack. The very back storage area was, I thought, pretty organized. I raised the tailgate. It snapped closed. I started to crank the window closed, then took a sniff, left it open, pulled the release, let the tailgate fall open.

From an open side door, I set the seat backs into the upright position, pulled up the seat itself, removing more trash from where the back seat was supposed to rest, raking the papers and wrappers toward me using a paper bag from the fairly-recently-opened Carlsbad Jack-in-the-Box. *Fast food.

There were some things stuck between the springs of the seat, farther in than three or four papers, folded in the middle, crumpled, pushed into the spaces to help hold the heavier objects. I pulled out a small towel, the type bowlers use. “Back Gate Lanes” was printed on it, red-on-yellow (Marine Corps colors, if I have to say it).

Stretching into the car, I unwrapped the towel. Rather, I started to unwrap it. I felt it; a pistol; a revolver, and four bullets, contained in a separate rag; all wrapped in an oily rag, that in a canvas (thin, but not plastic) bag, cinched up at one end. I put my hand inside the bag, onto the grip.

Something fell out of the bag. A key. Not a house key. Locker key. I picked it up with my left hand. There was, rather than a key ring, a wire through the top of the key and attached to a piece of metal, probably one-and-a-half inches by two-and-a-half, and probably taken from (I figured this out later) a fire extinguisher holder. “For Emergency use only” was stamped into it.

I chuckled. Probably.

Someone hit my butt. I tensed, my hand going into position; hand on the grip, finger near, but not on, the trigger; thumb ready to cock the hammer. The towel fell away.

“We surfing or what?”

It was Ray’s voice, from behind me; but Phillip’s face was in the passenger side window. Phillip was looking at the pistol. He was looking shocked. He looked away too suddenly.

I let go of the pistol; closed up the bag, wrapped it back in the towel, shoved it all back between the same springs in the seat; pulled myself backward, dropped the seat into position.

Phillip was now on the driver’s side, trying to act as if he hadn’t seen the pistol. We both did. Try. “Ray; Phil; great to… yeah; we… where are you parked?”

Phillip pointed around the corner. “101, this side of the Sunset shop.”

“Is this where you’re moving to?” Ray asked. “A car in the parking lot.”

“Good location,” Phillip said.

“Optimum view,” I said.

“So,” Ray asked, “again, are we surfing or what?”

*I discovered, as soon as I had a car to go through the drive-through, that fast food is not a great pre-surf choice. Prone paddling puts a certain stress on one’s stomach, chest; belching can be unpleasant.

So, more respect than hate.

“Swamis,” copywrite 2020, Erwin A. Dence, Jr.

“Swamis” Update, Two Chapters, and a Special Offer

Okay, here’s the UPDATE: Although I edited the shit out of the manuscript as I went along, once I (finally) got to THE END, I began re-editing.  Now, I did think this process would be easy and quick.  Not really; it’s kind of like work.  And, it’s not really getting shorter.  I was at about 110 thousand words and somewhere around 240 pages.  Now, having re-edited, “Swamis” is up to 114,000 or so words and I’m up to about page 60, so, somewhere around a fourth of the way through.                                                                    And, the thing is, every time I open it up I want to make some sort of change, including when I moved two chapters over here, somehow managing to get four copies of what I copied, this forcing me to either backspace or highlight and delete.  I couldn’t help reading a bit, couldn’t help thinking this could be just a bit… better.

I’ve included TWO CHAPTERS from fairly early on in the manuscript.  I did, previously, put the first so many chapters on this site, but, one, finding them might require scrolling down quite a ways, and two, they’ve been changed.                                                                  By way of explanation, the notes at the beginning of each chapter are those, supposedly taken at the time, of the fictional author of the fake memoir.

Since I am sure that “Swamis,” once published, will have significant changes from whatever the manuscript, once I take my hands off the keyboard and get, once again, to THE END, and because I’m always looking for some way to support my writing/drawing/surfing/surviving addictions, other than painting my ass off; I am seriously considering printing up TEN COPIES of “SWAMIS,” including some of the illustrations, all on cheap white paper, probably using both sides, putting them in a cardboard, three-hole binder (as one would a screenplay), maybe printing up the color version of the “Swamis” title page, glue-sticking it on the cover of the binder, signing and numbering each one, and offering them for a cool $100.00 each, American currency.     Again, this will be the original manuscript; unexpurgated, uncensored.                                 I say this is an investment, and like all investments, it’s a gamble.                                         When others are binge watching episodes on Netflix or Amazon, the proud owner of the manuscript will have the opportunity to say; “Oh, here’s another place where they Hollywoodized the shit out of “Swamis.”

Anyway, I’ve been betting on this for a while. MEANWHILE, I do plan on reading something from it at the PORT TOWNSEND PUBLIC LIBRARY on THURSDAY, MARCH 5, 6:00 PM.  Whoa, that’s coming up; I better get to editing.

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WEDNESDAY, JUNE 25, 1969- BEANERS

-Grndvw, 2-4, bigger sets. 2 swim-ins. Jumper at Grocery. He knows Tony. Check cashing f/workers. Hung posters in my new room-

It was mid-afternoon, early in my shift at the San Elijo Grocery in Cardiff; and I was bagging groceries for a particularly talkative woman; somewhat older than my mother, dressed in a house dress, some sort of white scarf thing on her head, curlers bulging in some sort of random alignment under it. So, since women my mom’s age tried to look younger, hipper; this woman was, yes, older.

“Durn Texans,” she said, “worst kind of tourists.” She was talking more to the similarly aged checker, Tony’s sister-in-law, Doris. Doris was nodding politely, looking at price tags on some items (most she knew), hitting keys. It was more than halfway through Doris’s shift and some of her willingness to chit-chat enthusiastically had worn off. “Surfers,” the customer said, kind of looking at me. “Surfers from… Texas. Texas? What do you think… (looking at the name tag on my apron) Jody? Jody?”

“Jody?” I mouthed, looking at the nametag on my bright green apron; acting as if it wasn’t my name. It wasn’t. I’d been looking for another, better nickname for years. Jody was my father’s joke. Jody.

“Jody’s got your girlfriend,” my father would say, drill instructor voice pop-pop-popping the cadence. “One-two, one-two, one-two-three-four… one-two…three-four.” Jody.

I shrugged, said “Texas,” pretty much under my breath. I had noticed the woman had some sort of east coast accent; northeast, not that I could discern Philadelphia from New Jersey from anywhere else; but she hadn’t lost the European edge, that inflection; rhythm, maybe.

She pulled several items out of the bag I had, probably, overloaded. “I would rather make more trips… Jody. If I had big muscles, like you…” She smiled. I opened another bag. She put her heavy purse on the counter. “They all seem to have money. They want to rent by the week. They get sand in the shower; make a mess. Drink; leave cigarette butts on the patio.”

Paw’-tee-oh.

She looked from me to Doris, Doris now looking for the original price on a dented can of string beans. “One threw up on the sidewalk. Awful.” Back to me. “And… and they chase around our young girls. Believe me, if I didn’t need to keep my rooms rented, I’d…”

I was distracted, not sufficiently interested. I did nod, but the woman could tell I wasn’t even pretending to listen. Still I could tell she was looking me over; me; Jody, in the apron, my hair not long enough to pull back (but parted in the middle), my attempt at a mustache more like peach fuzz. She turned back toward Doris. “Believe me, Doris, if I didn’t charge them Texicans extra, I’d never…” She kept talking; I continued bagging, but I wasn’t listening.

No, I was listening enough to hear when the East Coast Woman whispered something to Doris.

I heard Doris say, “He’s Hawaiian.”

The woman said something about Hawaiian statehood and 1958 and passports.

Jumper Hayes, over by the big front windows, was talking to Tony, the owner of San Elijo Grocery. They, obviously, knew each other. I guessed this might be the first time they’d seen each other since Jumper’s return; each with a hand on the other man’s shoulder; laughing at… laughing at things that weren’t actually funny: Weather, traffic, the effects of the I-5 freeway. Laughing.

Jumper pulled up the left sleeve of his t shirt, poked at a scar on his bicep with his right hand, laughed. Tony started to roll up his right pant leg, stopped, sort of grabbed at it, kicked it out to show it still worked. They both looked over as two young men entered the south doors, each in lightweight white pants and shirts, clothing appropriate for working in hothouses (though more than I would have worn in that wet heat), moving, then standing, obviously nervous, closer to the big bags of dog food, fertilizer, and charcoal; each with a piece of paper, possibly a check, in his hand, each with his straw version of the cowboy hat in the other.

“Wetbacks,” the woman, Motel Owner, said. “Beaners,” she added, louder, in case Doris or I hadn’t gotten it. I put her ice cream in a white, insulated paper bag, placed it in with her TV dinners. “Guess they can’t just go to the bank like regular folks, and…”

Tony, an older man (in his mid-40s, I now calculate, well within my category of ‘older’ then) with a bow tie, a vest, and one side of his dress shirt untucked, did his sort of half-limp walk over to the other register, opened it with one of the keys on his belt. Jumper followed him, stood beside him. The two workers, on a signal from him, backed up by a nod from Jumper, approached. Jumper handed one a pen, pointed to the back of the check.

“Y’all need some help out with that, Ma’am?” It was the closest I could come to a Texas accent.

A woman with two children, one in the cart, her free arm holding the older child’s right arm pretty much straight up; approached the other register. She looked at the two men taking their cash. Each one folded and pocketed the bills, nodded toward Tony, then Jumper, put on his hat, nodded, slightly, to the woman before backing up and stepping away. The woman looked at Tony, rearranging bills in his cash drawer. She looked concerned. She looked at Jumper.

Jumper gave her a sort of matador ‘you’re next’ sweep, stepped back. Tony stuck his hand out, grasped Jumper’s, looked at the woman, put his other hand on Jumper’s shoulder.

“You’re next, ma’am,” Tony said, brushing his hand across the counter in a lesser version of the matador sweep.

Jumper smiled at the child in the cart, smiled at the kid not yet released from his mother’s grasp. He nodded at Tony and smiled (no more than a friendly smile) at the woman.

I may have neglected to mention that Jumper Hayes was quite handsome. The woman smiled back, let go of the bratty child, who, immediately, grabbed a candy bar from a nearby rack, stuck it, wrapper and all, in his mouth.

“Walter Maxwell McKay,” she said, a bit louder than she’d probably expected it to be. She gave Jumper an apologetic smile. He gave her an understanding smile. Tony gave me and Doris and the Motel Owner a different kind of understanding smile. He then gave me a nod that meant I would be helping the Motel Owner out to her car.

Jumper, Tony, Walter Maxwell’s mother, and her two children; with Walter Maxwell now back in the cart; seemed to be enjoying the moment. I didn’t look over as the Motel Owner and I passed Tony’s register. “I went to Hawaii once,” she said, “On the ‘Matsonia.’ Me and my… my husband.” Just past the only other checkout station at San Elijo Grocery, she stopped, pointed toward the north exit. We got to pass Tony, Jumper, Mrs. McKay, her two kids again, Motel Owner clutching the strap of her purse, her receipt, and her green stamps in one hand, close to her body, her other hand on the cart. As if I needed her help.

FRIDAY, JUNE 27, 1969- CHUBASCO

Pre-dawn chk Grndvw; Closed out. Chubasco. Jumper. Talked. Clld me bagboy. Swamis. 6-8. 3 tubes. Mostly inside peak, some connected f/outside. Jmpr told some locals I’m his neighbor, might be allright-

I was taking one last look from the bluff at Grandview, trunks and towel over my board; just in case the waves were not what they sounded like in the dark; the loud crack of an outside wave over the almost constant roar of those already broken.   It had to be surf from some distant storm, some hurricane, some chubasco off Baja, or… I didn’t really know; I had heard some swells come from as far away as New Zealand. The fetch. Energy. Traveling. Hitting islands, wrapping around headlands; peeling; like the images from the magazines; perfect, a slideshow in my mind.

No, this wasn’t that; this was disorganized energy spread out, waves overtaking other waves, closing out in deep water on a couple of miles of fairly even shoreline.

I was listening to the heavy ocean rhythm, peering into the darkness, watching the slideshow.

“One thousand seven, one thousand eight.” Fingers snapped close to my right ear. Someone’s face was very close to mine. Too close. “Oh. Okay.”

“What?” I blinked. The face was gone.

“Bagboy.” He may have said it more than once. “Bagboy; it’s closed-out.” I didn’t respond. “Fallbrook.”

“What?” I turned to my right.

Jumper Hayes stepped around, from my left, and was almost in front of me. “Fallbrook. Bagboy. You.”

“Don’t live in Fallbrook anymore. After graduation, we…” He cut me off with a swipe of a hand.

“Man,” he said, “you were just so… focused. I circled you three times.” He held three fingers pretty close to my face. “Focused.”

“Guess so.”

“But you’re back now?”

“Yeah.” I blinked a few times.

“Pretty scary. The staring. I’ve seen that kind of thing before.”

“I was, um, thinking. Focused, I guess; like you said.”

“Focused then. Sure. Thought maybe you were stoned out.”

I shook my head, chuckled at the very idea. Stoned out. “Three times, huh?” He nodded, put the three fingers back up. “Not stoned out.”

“All right.” There were conversational delays, pretty typical. Coolness etiquette requires one not to be too rushed, too enthusiastic. Surfers were expected to be cooler than most. Jumper was skilled in coolness etiquette. Though we had never been introduced, and neither of us introduced ourselves at that time, we both acted as if we had. “So, not a valley cowboy; huh?” He bowed his legs in a sort of stage cowboy movement.

“Never was.”

“But you did live in Fallbrook. Right?” I nodded. “Maybe your daddy knew enough to not live where he worked.” I probably looked suspicious, guarded. I was suspicious of anyone who mentioned my father. Apprehensive would be more accurate. “Don’t blame him.” I didn’t have time to respond. “You going out here, Bagboy?”

“I, um… it’s pretty, uh, big. Got to be tough to get out. Not too many lulls. Maybe it’ll…” I stopped myself. With there now just enough light, though pretty much only in shades of gray, I could see long, almost unbroken lines, ugly green gray, no discernible peak, closing out farther out than I’d ever surfed. “You?”

“Hey, Fallbrook; I will if you will.”

“Really?” I may have been a little too thrilled (or petrified) by this statement.

“Fuck no, bagboy; it’s fuckin’ closed out. There’s no glory in surfing this shit.”

“I guess not,” I said. ‘Glory?’ I thought. I would rerun this brief conversation, as I do with almost every conversation, back through my mind. Later. Always. Glory?

“Now, Swamis…” He waited a second. I tried to nod slowly, like I hadn’t already thought of Swamis. “Tide’s dropping. Swamis should be… fun.”

Jumper turned, walked away. I followed. He turned around, walking backward, about halfway to the street, at the place where I could go down the washout or back to my car. “Should be,” I said, breaking into a run as I passed him.

“Swamis,” copywrite 2020. Erwin A. Dence, Jr.                                                                              If you are interested in a copy of the original, you can email me at rainshadowranch@hotmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joyously

I write a monthly column for Quilcene’s Community Center. You probably don’t get it in your inbox.  Luckily, here’s the latest, only slightly past it’s ‘new’ date.  For an update, political reality keeps getting more intense; if you pay attention.  SO:

Hibernating, Hunkering, Hallmark Channel Binging

I’ll try to keep this simple. Not that anything in life is simple. Not that we really like simple. While I’m writing this, it’s still January, and we have had, this month, some snow; but mostly we have had, and are still having, record rain; constant, November-like rain. There are deep ruts in the gravelly-ist driveways, puddles large enough to have names and an attendant flock of waterfowl; birds stuck, mid-migration, and indecisive, as likely to fly east or west as north or south.

Not really. They might be thinking of just staying here in Quilcene. The snow levels in the mountains, Olympics and Cascades, seem to go up and down with some sort of rhythm. Mostly it’s rain, rain, rain, rain. Yeah, I know, next line is, “Oh my pillow’s soaking wet.” I don’t want to look it up.

Not that I could decipher the beat as I, to name-check a song title, “listen to the rhythm of the pouring rain” (okay, I did look this up. It was originally done by the Cascades, they being- didn’t look this up, from San Diego- no Cascades nearby). Still, we all dance to that rhythm.

Not necessarily gracefully.

So, if we had cold-to-freeeezing but clear weather in November, and if I can’t really remember what the weather was like in December (I’m guessing rain, but could have had some sun- no more than six hours maximum- pretty sure on that), and we had the rain in January, what about February?

Well, let’s hope for the best.

Hope.

I feel compelled to mention that Valentine’s Day and Groundhog Day are both in February. I think. Again, don’t want to look it up, but we are talking about romance and, again, some sort of hope in how long we have to wait for, you know, spring, and with it, yes, spring rains.

Meanwhile, many of us have done some amount of hibernating, some hunkering-down. Referencing, again, the romance angle, there is the opportunity to binge watch romance (as a genre) movies on, for example, the Hallmark Channel. One would, of course, as in the case with an overlarge box of chocolates, have to offset this sweetness with, perhaps, as an example, seasons one and two of ‘Jack Ryan’ on Amazon Prime. Action (another genre).

Or, for even more confrontational action, riveting conversation, dramatic intrigue, with passionate speeches and soliloquys (a soliloquy being a speech no one is, theoretically, actually listening to) one could tune into the Impeachment Show; the hours of testimony and rebuttal tied together and relentlessly covered in whatever remains of each day by the commentators on and explainers of (because this is America, durn it) your choice.

Now, I have heard that some people read, like, poetry, short story collections, novels, or listen to them, or listen to podcasts. I’ve worked in a lot of weekend houses, and, evidently, based on every one of them being stocked with shelves of puzzles and board games, I have to believe some folks put together or play with whatever is in those boxes.

I don’t wish to judge what anyone else does in the privacy of his or her home; but whatever one does in hibernation season, I can only hope one does it joyously.

I have included the illustration I modified for use as a Christmas/Holiday (and I will defend the slash mark if pushed) card. Since we didn’t send too many of those out, it was modified again to be used as New Year’s cards.

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It fits, however, so neatly as a Hibernation Season card, the tagline being: “If you can’t hibernate peacefully, celebrate joyously.”

If we were celebrating rain, joyously; whoa; we’d be so overjoyed.

It’s simple. Really.

ONE MORE THING: I wrote a fake “Cowboy Poetry” piece, actually mine being “Cowboy Fiction,” which I may be reading, along with a bit from my fake memoir, “Swamis,” at 6pm, Thursday, March 5th, Uptown Port Townsend.  We’ll see.  I’m currently about 40 some pages through a front to back edit of the currently 240 pages of “Swamis.” Working on it.

 

And Now in Color…

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If I wanted the original drawing to be black and white psychedelic, I wanted the colored (over colored) version to chase after if not capture stained glass.

Actually, I didn’t think of that until I saw the image on the computer screen.

I’m in the tightening-up phase of my manuscript, “Swamis,” and right now, instead of chasing the latest possible surf/wind event hitting the northwest corner, I’ll be waiting, again, for the satellite guy.  Very nice; makes big bucks; replaced our failed ten year old HD box on Wednesday (after two pm on the 12-4 wait time) with one that didn’t fail for a day and a half.  He freaked our cat out.  She, Angelina, hid out for a day and a half.  Yeah, the same day and a half.

Spent another hour plus convincing various prompts that, indeed, I had tried to reset, unplug-plug, prayer, “the fucking thing won’t fucking work, fucker” (that was me to the evasive prompts; way nicer to Laura, who, eventually, spoke to me).  “Yes, if that’s what happening, you may be correct, sir, Erwin; the unit may be, as you say, toast.”

So, sometime today, between noon and forever.

Waiting.

No, I’ve got shit to do.  I did a stint at THE CELLAR DOOR last night, stand-in doorman tasked with collecting a five dollar cover.  I was standing in for my daughter, Dru, who is sick, being cared for by Trish.  Mixed reviews.  On the band and the doorman.  Person.

I would blather on, but I’ve already reduced the time I can spend on “Swamis,” and, with Trish still at our daughter’s place, I’m most concerned about our cat, Angelina, obviously more Trisha’s cat than mine, and where I’m going to put her when the big bad highly-paid (great benefits, too; 20 free phones, all gone, with unlimited everything) installer comes to call.

Oh, text update: Sometime between 1:45 and forever.

If I hadn’t gotten home so late, maybe…

Wait; something else about “Swamis,” other than I will be reading from it on Thursday, March 5, sometime after 6pm, Port Townsend Public Library.  Thanks to Keith Darrock.

I was discussing how the 110,000 word manuscript is now, about a fourth of the way through my editing process, over a hundred and twelve thousand words.  “Maybe,” my friend Stephen Davis (co owner of the Cellar Door) said, it’s become your ‘War and Peace.'”  “It’s at least my ‘Moby Dick,'” I replied.

You might not believe this, but the manuscript veers off the course a detective novel might adhere to.  Genre-bending.  Frequently.  I have to tell myself it’s okay because “Swamis” is more like a memoir.  Fake memoir.

My bigger fear is, since I can’t help thinking of how cool “Swamis” would be as an Amazon or Netflix mini-series (possibly provoked and furthered by watching Roku rather than DVRd “Jeopardy” and Colbert), is that each chapter is just too fucking (remember, I’m just typing, keystrokes on a computer, sending them out to whoever happens upon them- kind of like responding to a prompt) cute, too neatly packaged and wrapped.

And all the tightening might be making each chapter, and the entire manuscript more so.  Cuter.  I’m kind of thinking the more off-course chapters could be printed on pages of another color with a disclaimer/warning like, “If you want just the mystery story, skip this.”  That might be clever; might be, again, too cute.

If I was talking to you in person I’d probably say the same fucking thing: Beware, “Swamis” just might be too fucking cute.

Yeah, Steve and I, cruising between Port Townsend’s Goodwill (so I could get some proper doorman clothes and not have to go home between painting and manning) and the ultra-hip Co-Op (haven’t been there since right after it opened and I was no where near hip enough), did, at the “Moby Dick” comment, possibly giggle.  So immature.

Okay, thinking about locking Isabella in the bathroom when the guy shows up, thinking about why no wind is showing on a buoy (there’s always wind), thinking about when I’ll surf again (not today), thinking about “Swamis,” real and imagined.

 

The End of “Swamis” and Two Psychedelic-in-B&Ws in Color

It’s not finished, but earlier today I got to the last line (unless it changes) of  “Swamis,” the mystery/romance/coming-of-age/fake memoir/novel I’ve been working on for, if I’m counting the experiences that have gone into it, all my life.  It’s at 110,100 words on 02/02/20, subject to editing for inconsistencies, redundancies, contradictions, and just plain bad (inadequately great) writing.  Hopefully not too much of that.

I’m not sure how long this process will take, though I have been obsessively attacking the work lately, taking advantage of time afforded me (not that I can afford it) by the slowdown of work in winter.  And then I have several people I want to read it.  And then…

Hopeful.  Always.

But, maybe before I get to that point, I am planning on having at least one public reading.  One is already scheduled.  Thursday, March 5, 6pm (I think), Port Townsend Public Library.  This is part of a program set up by PT ripper and librarian Keith Darrock.

I’ll update this, and will, no doubt, mention it with every new posting.

MEANWHILE, continuing my “Psychedelic Period,” I have colored two recent drawings.  They and others, along with some Original Erwin t-shirts are available at Tyler Meeks’ DISCO BAY OUTDOOR EXCHANGE.  All are limited editions, numbers limited by, um, me.

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I should mention that the Disco Bay is open, winter hours, ten am to six pm, Thursday through Sunday, with gear for all your action activities on the Olympic Peninsula.

Also, in the should mention category, I have some prints available, including some from earlier periods, at THE CELLAR DOOR in Port Townsend, open nights, so, pretty much there after six pm for sure.

The Truth Sideslips in the Balance

A handful of surfers may determine the final tally. It’s critical. There’s a lot of pressure. So far, though I keep telling everyone that I want to hear the truth, all the truth, from all of the pertinent witnesses; insisting I haven’t made a final decision, that I’m not closed off, I’m not stonewalling, not denying the facts; though I’ve tried to sidestep (and sideslip- love a good sideslip), and, in the opinion of some, tried, desperately, to evade answering the main and constantly-asked question with a straightforward admission that there may, indeed, on some rare occasions, with some perfect alignment of the moon and stars; some elusive but correct formula, some fortuitous recipe of the primary ingredients, wind and swell and tide and period and direction; one might, with repeated trips, most resulting in severe skunkings (a lesser skunking meaning surfing weak and sloppy closeouts), and, one might, after trekking down slippery trails, enduring the death stares (aka stink eye) of fellow surfriding enthusiasts who consider themselves more prepared or more deserving (the metrics of this ranking system vary and sometimes include who has the more expensive surf rig, who lives marginally closer to any waterfront considered coastline, who once almost went out at Rocky Point) might find a few minute’s worth (all windows close, most quickly) of barely-rideable waves on the Strait of Juan de Fuca; despite all that, I may be forced, by socio-political pressures I cannot fully explain without revealing myself to be a total sellout, little more than a spineless piece of shit, comparable, perhaps, to landmines left behind by some dogs-must-be-free proponent who let his or her Papered-and-Pedigreed Purebred Showdog (great, glad to hear it) or Mixed-breed-Rescue-Animal (revealing the owner to be the animal’s savior- super great) leave several piles of (let’s say ‘scat’) shit (it was too late- I’d already said ‘shit’ for ‘scat’) for some future beachcomber, inexplicably excited and almost into his or her wetsuit, to step in (“Fuck!”- might as well say it, already said shit), because, possibly, as you profess, you have an allergy to putting plastic on your hand, and, anyway, you were planning on throwing any poop you were forced to collect (only because someone was observing), plastic bag (oh, plastic) and all, into the ocean, the bone-chillingly cold water that just might, might, might possibly have…

Oh, I can’t say it. Could you just quit asking?  Waves.  Talking about waves.

“Evidence,” you say. “What evidence?”  I ask.  OH. Evidence of wave activity in the Strait is frowned upon, photographic images in particular; and particularly when displayed, breathlessly (as in “I scored! Me! ME! MEEEEEEE!”) on social media; and, even more so when accompanied by such revelations as when and where you lucked into a few side-chopped and… Oh I forgot to mention the rocks… waves. Lots of small rocks between the big fin-snappers. Ride a one-foot wave with a one-foot fin in one foot of rock-riddled waters, and, yeah; you’ll lose the occasional skeg. Oh, and while you’re revealing not-necessarily-secret surf locations to others too busy deciding the exact last moment he or she should pull out of the stock market to actually do any real research, you may as well let anyone onto your feed (are you on theirs, are they on yours- confusing) whose fashion you were wearing, in and out of the water, which artisan brew and/or bud you were enjoying, and which custom board from your extensive quiver (has to be more than three to qualify as a quiver) you were riding.

Oh, wait; I seem to be sounding a little cynical here. Sorry. That’s not like me. I love dogs. Do I have a fear someone, some turncoat, some former proponent of the ‘let’s keep it our secret’ philosophy, possibly with some hidden agenda or some soon-to-be released book will blow the whistle; go on Rachel Maddow and reveal endless days of endless swell wrapping endlessly around an almost endless succession of perfect points and reefs?

Yes. Definitely. But I know the truth. If you want to know; here it is: I could head to the Strait today.  I would love to go surfing, and I would if I thought there was any real chance of real waves. Or maybe I’m not telling the truth.

I really wanted to write some hopefully-clever piece actually about the frustrating impeachment situation.  Bring in the witnesses; get the truth out there.  That truth.

 

Illustrations for “Swamis,” the Novel

The manuscript for “Swamis” is up to somewhere over one hundred thousand words.  It’s a lot of words considering that, when I was told a novel should be over sixty thousand, I didn’t think I could get there.

Not that I did anything that I would call padding, I am now at the exciting conclusion, and need another five thousand or so to wrap it all up.

I had been considering the last line possibilities for quite some time.  Originally it was going to be, “They say I might be getting out of here sometime soon.”  Then it was… well, I think it will still be a different line, but, now, I’m thinking about adding one more line.  Here it is: “I didn’t ask if he was killed with a twenty-two or a forty-five.”

Yeah.  There must be lots of exciting stuff going on before this.

Since “Swamis” is, supposedly, a memoir written by Joseph DeFreines, Junior, and, just to make sure no one confuses him with me, I have put Erwin, someone of about the same age; another surfing inland cowboy from Fallbrook, North San Diego County, in the book as a character.

That Erwin is doing some illustrations for the eventual book.  Here are three drawings toward that goal:  One references a character very early on, Sid, whose last name neither I or my character can remember.  Sid was a team rider for Surfboards Hawaii at the time the story takes place, 1969, was featured hanging ten in an earlier black and white ad in “Surfer” magazine, and, as revealed by in the used board room at the Surfboards Hawaii shop in Encinitas, he was known to thrash his boards.

The second illustration is meant to represent the portion of the old stairs at Swamis, about two thirds of the way up, where a bigger deck offered a perfect view of the waves. This is where I was, on one of those days that starts out mediocre and becomes great, and from where I witnessed, in 1968 or so, a flawless cutback-to off-the-foam to bottom-turn to top-turn by Billy Hamilton.  This is where “Old men stop here” was dug into the railing, and it is where Gingerbread Fred’s body ends up.  In the novel.

The third illustration became, because of the way it turned out (compared to how it was intended) as a representation of one of the main characters, Chulo; whose death by immolation (love that word) next to the Self Realization Fellowship wall is critical to the story.  Chulo is described as looking like a limping (he has an actual limp) Jesus.  I scanned the drawing before adding a beard.  Just in case.

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I have put some of the early “Swamis” chapters on this site, but, one, you’d have to scroll a long ways down to find them, and, two, my propensity for changing and editing makes them different.  At least.  I’m not saying it all might be different in the future.  It might.

I’m just hoping Joseph DeFreines, Junior doesn’t fire me as illustrator.

On Edge

I’m not sure if I should credit the reference photos for my drawings.  They aren’t tracings or blowups from the originals, but attempts to catch the feel and the flow.  If I did try, and, oh, I do, to render… wait, let me look that up.  Does one render?  There’s ‘Render unto Caesar,’ often misinterpreted, according to the various references on my search engine, as some justification for following ridiculous leaders.  Then there’s…

Oh.  Yes, there’s render as extracting by a melting-down process, as in rendering metals or, um, fat; and, in the surprisingly varied definitions of the word, there is also ‘rendition,’ as in ‘extraordinary rendition,’ a phrase created and designed to, if not outright justify it, make sending some prisoner to some harsh place to be ‘interrogated’ seem kind of all right and/or legal.

There’s also a noun, render being the first coat of plaster applied to a brick or stone surface.  I hadn’t heard this, and, so, looked it up.  Scratch coat,  brown coat, white (or finish) coat, according (giving references) to Bob Vila.com.

So, apologizing for taking this side road; but, all right; referencing a photograph of Jock Sutherland cranking one off the bottom switch-foot at Sunset Beach (or is he switch-foot at Pipeline), here is my, hmm, hmm, rendering; scratched on a piece of paper.  Card stock to be more precise.

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I have done a color version, way too much color, but have to get it reduced to fit on my scanner.  Rendered scanner-ready, perhaps.  I won’t get into it.

Meanwhile, hope you’re getting some mountain snow activity in.  Evidently there are few if any secret established ski spots in the Cascades, and one must purchase a lift ticket well before arriving.  Too many skiers and snowboarders.  Evidently.

Meanwhile, before I get back to trying to finish (as in get to ‘the end’) of “Swamis,” the novel, I should mention some of my illustrations that Oceanna and Stephen have been so kind to allow me to display (hopefully sell) at THE CELLAR DOOR, downtown Port Townsend: