Another Spirit Animal- Barred Owl

No time to (over) explain this.  Here it is:

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Currently working on a cougar illustration.  I’m checking into the cost/reward numbers for doing some placemats.  I figure I need twelve drawings for a set of six.  So far, it seems a bit too expensive for each one, but, again, and still, working on it.

There are some surf stories to not report.  Okay, the coast is/was/always is experiencing wave action.  I hope you’re having some adventures.  Stay tuned; pretty close on the cougar illustration.

Rumors of a Perfect Wave Poster…

…and more!

Here’s a shot of Little Reggie Smart (he adds the ‘little’, I wouldn’t- it would be rude) when he was actually little. before he became a tattoo (and otherwise) artist, a surfer, a painter (house and otherwise), well before I met Reginald Little, a person I sometimes refer to as, “kind of a pretty boy with neck tattoos.”

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YEAH, he was a towhead, couldn’t help that.  I actually thought posting this might be a bit of revenge for his posting a video of me on his Instagram.

OF COURSE you will have to check this out, as Trish did.  Her first reaction as I broke into song was, “What a dick!”  Not that she didn’t know this already, but, when I explained that it wasn’t staged (not by me, anyway), and was secretly taped by Reggie, and that several folks in the Peninsula surfing community commented on it; she was almost all right with the whole thing.

I think he’s under “Reggie Smart” on Instagram; not too hard to find.

MEANWHILE, here’s my latest effort in the Positive-to-negative genre:

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OH, AND ONE MORE THING:  My latest t-shirt design is at the screen shop, DL Logos in Port Townsend, and will soon be available.  I am selling these shirts as limited editions (because they are), and tried to add a bit of information to the actual image.

For these shirts it would be something like: Original Erwin- Series 4- Edition 1- “Lightfoot’n it” (title refined by comment on the illustration by Drew Kampion, the need for a title for the various projects of mine at the screen shop, and the way they wrote ‘lightfoot’n it’)- Copywrite Erwin Dence, 2019-  Run of 30.  Printed at DL Logos, Port Townsend, Washington, U.S.A.

Maybe it was a good idea, but the image was already on screen when I got to the shop.  SO, new idea. I’m making tags to go with each t-shirt, with the image of the shirt, the above information (not the stuff in parenthesis), a number (ie; 2/30) and a signature.

SURE, that’ll make your shirt more valuable.

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I AM LEARNING a lot from this process; who like what, what works, what sells; and, other than the sales part, I totally enjoy the drawing, hanging out at print shops desperate to see what the negative image of what I’ve drawn looks like, going over shirt and ink colors and stuff with the guys at the screen shop.

Our daughter, DRUCILLA DENCE, has moved back to our area from an extended time in Chicago, where she most recently worked for, and is freelancing for, “The Onion.”  Since my stuff is massively disorganized, Dru can, hopefully help in the sales and distribution (and, of course, organization) of my, um, stuff; years of stuff.

SOME OF THE SHIRTS are already spoken for, but the rest, white on a dark blue, will be available soon at Tyler Meek’s DISCO BAY OUTDOOR EXCHANGE.

MEANWHILE, as always, I’m checking the buoys and working on other stuff.  “Swamis” the novel, is up to somewhere over 48,000 words (and I still haven’t figured out whodunnit), I’m trying to get some stuff ready for the HamaHamaOysterRama down Surf Route 101 on April 20th (“Four-twenty, man,” Adam ‘Wipeout’ James told me, with the same insider-ness as when I tell someone my age that I graduated in 1969, as in, “class of ’69, man!”)

And, as always, I have to go to work.  Rumors of a perfect wave. Memories of a perfect wave. Anticipation for more of each. Here are the first three t-shirt designs.

 

Original Erwin Illustrations

A few samples:

Look at this, read the previous post. Thanks

When I have the time to write, I probably write too much. Since I didn’t work on Sunday, aided by my typing skills, I went on and on; probably should have broken it into two (or three) pieces. Now, I know you don’t have a lot of time to read, BUT, if you do get a bit, check out my previous posting. Again; thanks.

I’m trying to ‘square up’ some of the copies I made from contact prints of drawings from the 1980s. Having a scanner that refuses to help doesn’t, um, help. I added the lettering on the drawings of the two women, only added a border on the “Over the Rainbow” illustration.

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Surf Session Highlights, Full Mooned, Updated Illustrations from the Last Century

In no particular order, I thought I’d give some highlights from some recent surf sessions. Bear in mind I have a certain obligation, not merely imagined, to never ever mention anything that comes close to confirming there are ever good waves on the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

This isn’t difficult. The predominant swell condition is flat. This is undeniable. When waves do show up, the winds that blow into or out of the rather narrow passageway can, east or west, seriously scallop the faces. Rapid tidal shifts and the very angle of wave-to-coast can add to rip/drag conditions; and, since we all check out the same forecasts, and because semi-optimal conditions are sort of rare (rare-ish), and each of us has our own formula of size/angle/tide/period/wind, even the slight chance of waves over a foot high brings, yes, crowds; frustrated, desperate surfers of all ages and abilities ready to head out into…

…waves surfers on most coasts would pass on, or wait out, hoping for something a bit cleaner, bigger, better.  There have been major skunkings; lines of Westfalias, camper-laden trucks, SUVs with tiny boards stuffed inside, RVs, work rigs, Mad Max vehicles with stacks of various-sized equipment; families, church groups, surfers on dates, power couples, buddy-groups of four or five; beginners and rippers, lone wolf dudes in guaranteed cool surf wear; all cooking up breakfast on little burners, or chatting with someone they know from the Udub, or looking for a (better) place to park; all asking about other spots, all looking out at the water; too many people bobbing around and too few waves. Or none. Or sub-epic.

There is no guaranteed formula. Really. If there was… shit, it’d be worse.

STILL, stories persist of persistent surfers waiting, waiting, and scoring; OR, better, getting somewhere just before it goes off. WHAT? Where? When?

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HEART ATTACK: If I suffer one, it’ll be when I do see what passes for great surf in these parts. I have, in the fairly recent past, in my haste to partake, left my shirts (we layer ’round here) on the hood of my car (and/or a window or door open) in a downpour (forcing me to shop on the way home wearing a pervy barn coat), yelled out exclamations that would make an Australian blush (sorry kids, sorry Mrs. Nolan, sorry church groups) and, partially because I am notoriously slow getting into my wetsuit (doubles as stretching/warmup), urinated way before I reached the water.

And, even when I tell myself (and others in the water) that I’m going to “be casual,” I rarely am.

BAD ASSES AND SURF ASSESSMENT: We all have stories of past glories. I quit telling some of mine because, yeah, if I surfed (un or less crowded) Swamis in the 60s, Trestles (parking at Lowers) in the 70s, big days at Windansea and Sunset Cliffs, shouldn’t I surf, um, uh, better?

Doesn’t seem to matter. It might just be, in each of our minds, with one or more asterisks next to our mental wikipedia page,  we rip. This is fine. That is, I won’t call you out if you don’t call me out.

Recently, trying to time my arrival after the overnight-and-hanging west wind died down, I got to a not-secret spot with the tide way too low, waves at the indicators, the wind still howling, and twelve surfers in the lineup. Picture a line of black marker buoys, like those for crab pots, left to right. Because I know some of the folks hanging out or waiting around, I took my time, chatted it up. By the time I paddled out there were nine surfers, then seven. When I moved over from the rights, I was the only one out.  I found a few good ones in the mix, did a lot of paddling, got out of the water. So, no one was surfing.

There was a group of about five surfers hanging out kind of close to my car as I limped up the beach. “Everyone’s a badass on the beach,” I said. “How come you badasses aren’t out there?” “Good on you,” one of them said, “you got some waves.” “Uh huh.” “We were waiting for one more badass.”

NOTE: This didn’t actually translate into them wanting to hang with me, artifact from a century these dudes barely remember.

I took a break, talked to some other surfers I know, met Jeff’s son. And, though there were many coolly-decked-out surfers on the beach, no one was out. Because, partially, I had to pee and didn’t want to take off my wetsuit (okay, mostly because I couldn’t get my wetsuit off without peeing) and I wanted a few more waves, I went back out. I surfed alone for about twenty minutes. The wind had calmed down. It was better.

Then Jeff came out, and his son. Then, suddenly, it seemed, there were, again, twelve (different) surfers in the lineup. Then the wind came back up. One more ride to the fence. And another last ride. Limp up the beach. I had a little discussion with Darrin and Melissa on how good it got the last time I saw him at this spot, AFTER I left; about the time Adam Wipeout and Chimacum Cam (as opposed to Timacum Chimacum) showed up.   I hit the road for Costco and home. I passed at least four surf rigs on the way; more surfers hoping to be there when it got good. The wind, as far as I know, kept blowing as the swell dropped.

STILL, I don’t know what happened the next day. Might’ve been epic. Someone will have a story. UPDATE- Yeah, better, allegedly.

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TUGBOAT BILL: I’ve run into him often through the years. He introduces me to others as someone who is “Absolutely ruthless in the water.” “No, no,” I insist, checking out the stranger. Most recently he had Mr. Smythe (sp?) with him, and asked if I knew what surfer would be pulling onto 104 from Center Road in a gray pickup. I didn’t know. It turns out the very pickup was in the parking area. “Let’s go see who the hell he is,” I said. It turns out he’s a fisherman, formerly from Maine (as I remember) wondered how he could keep from getting skunked coming to the Strait. “Can’t help you, kid,” Bill said. “Do you check the buoys?” “Buoys?” “Hmm. Can’t help you, kid.” All I said is, “Buoys.”

CONCRETE PETE: Another old guy, though not as old as me. On the day from the previous story, after the three surfers who dawn-patrolled got out of the water in, pretty-much, defeat (including Bruce, the ‘Mayor of Hobuck’, according to Adam Wipeout, some guy White Reggie identified as the owner of several pot shops in P.A., and some guy Reggie said was known to be confrontational in the water) I ended up (because I hate getting skunked) surfing alone on some one footers.

Thinking this was it, and because it didn’t seem to be raining, I got out, got dressed, was ready to go to work. Then the waves got a bit bigger. I put on my other wetsuit (Yes, I do own two- so worth it), went back out. Again, people who were waiting (including Tugboat Bill and Mr. Smythe and the fisherman) also went into the water. Double session.

When I was getting out, I saw a truck backed up to the berm, some guy, struggling to get into his wetsuit, yelling at me. By name. Unable to determine who it was in the glare, I decided I should approach. It was Concrete Pete, and, perhaps thinking it was 1964 and he was Miki Dora, he shot me a B.A. All in good fun. “And that’s my best side,” he said as I turned away. NOTE: Bare ass; variously described as mooning. Full mooning.

“Did you see anything you didn’t want to see?” Trish asked when I told her the story. “I didn’t want to see any of it.”

TOM BURNS: Tom is very close to my age, a lifelong surfer, and he’s on my short list of people to call to discuss the latest session and/or skunking. The last time I called he was on I-5, en route to Dana Point, hoping to score some pre-dawn sessions down that way. If you think I’m a name dropper, you should talk to Tom.  if you think I have stories… again, Tom. If you do, he’ll probably remember your name.

THIS is way too long. I want to write about how someone accused me of being a ‘surf whore.’ No, I’m not sure what it means, either. I do admit to being a ‘paint-whore,’ and, if this means I’ve somehow sold out, no, sorry; haven’t had any real offers. If it means I’m selling out local spots; no; not really. Oh, except Westport. Go there. Go there now.

I ALSO want to write about surf thieves. Someone broke into Stephen Davis’s storage unit, stole his tools, his kite surfing equipment. AND, evidently, someone had a board stolen while (from what I’ve heard) parked on one of those side roads leading to a remote surf spot. LATER on that subject, but, if there is any Surfer’s Code, it definitely doesn’t include stealing. The occasional mooning? Up for debate.

I’m adding to some of the drawings from the 1980s I recently found in my attic. More coming. Yeah, kind of like waves.

 

 

Contacts From the Past

I had to crawl around in the attic, trying to find some obvious sign of a short circuit. Didn’t find it (which means it’s somewhere in a wall, or, I’m suspecting, the light fixture I installed- had to quit looking to go surfing), but did find some old artwork.

During my tenure at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard (a transfer there got me here from San Diego), I got into the sign shop (I had, after all, started out as a sign painter apprentice, 1969, Oceanside). While there, I took advantage of having a drawing board to, well, draw.

Most of the drawings started out on 17 by 22 inch paper, too big for most printers, but, because I was also doing posters (and I grabbed any artsy projects that came in- keggers, picnics, that kind of civil service boondoggle), I took advantage of the shipyard photo lab to get illustrations photographed.

I do have some surviving silk screened posters (if they are artsy, I’d prefer to say serigraphs) as well as some (and, sadly, not very many) originals. These are SOME of the contact prints I had in a padded envelope inside a now-moldy box. They are all pre-1990 (when I left the shipyard), and, if there is a difference in my style, and I would say there’s been some (maybe) development, if not (necessarily) improvement.  The bigger difference is that I took a lot of time on each illustration, lunchtimes, breaks, and, I think I mentioned, I had a Civil Service job.

Many of the contact prints are too small, the detail too dark. I’m going to get them blown, hoping to open up some light between the lines.  We’ll see.

When I took some of the prints to show my friends, Trish became very possessive of some of the drawings of Victorian houses in Port Townsend I did, claiming I’d ruin them somehow.  I didn’t, but, in the excitement of seeing waves, I did leave my shirt on the hood of my car. And then it rained. You know how soft racks leak onto car seats in heavy rain? No, the drawings came through it, but I got to go to Safeway with no shirt and a heavy, pervert-esq coat. Yes, fully zipped.

So, here are a couple of examples. I want to say “Portraits from the Artist as a Young(er) Man.” So, each one, and there will be more, is over 28 years old.

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Works In Progress

WAVE after wave of rain and wind continue to attack the ‘STILL WILD’ Olympic Peninsula.

MEANWHILE, somewhere on the Big Island, Stephen Davis, lover of all things (and sports) water, who has been doing some crew work on a catamaran built by the famous Woody Brown; part of his job being spotting whales, swimming with dolphins (and tourists); trying to keep a low profile while surfing with non-tourists; has been working on some new canvases.  AND, as seems kind of normal for Stephen, opportunities come his way, including, partially thanks to the captain of the cat (Cap of the Cat), someone is VERY INTERESTED in… oh, yeah, it’s all in progress. YES, part of this is that Steve always seems open to new adventures.  “Um, yeah; that sounds good. Sure.”

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MEANWHILE, I have some new drawings. The “Hobuck” and “Northwest Aloha (or equivalent local term) Shirt” design are probably (definitely) going to have more done to them. If you have any ideas, you can write at realsurfersdotnet@gmail.com

Image (33)Image (32)Image (31)SO, a suggestion from LIZ, at the Printery in Port Townsend, who makes the copies and reductions, said that a common northwest greeting is “What’s up,” or any variation of that.  “Whassup?” “Surf’s UP.”  OH, and she wants a percentage. So far, it’s “percentage of what?” STAY TUNED

Skunked, Semi-Skunked, Just Plain Missed It

Not that I’m making excuses. Probably nothing is more frustrating to a surfer than the ‘could have gone.’  This applies to the time you ‘haired-out’ (retro term) and didn’t drop into a wave that, viewed from the back, broke perfectly; and to the time you didn’t go because you didn’t believe it would be ‘all time;’ and to the time you didn’t pay attention to the conditions, finding out later that a small window opened up, some of your friends hit it, and, of course, it was all time. Or maybe just epic.

Then there are the times the conditions look great, you cancel a few things, put off a few more, and go. Not epic, not all time. If you’re lucky, you can get a session under the ‘practice’ heading. “Practice for what?”

You know; for the time you’re the one who hits it right.

Meanwhile, I am continuing to work on illustrations.

Image (30)I have a couple more I’m taking to The Printery in Port Townsend today. One is of “Hobuck,” the other is a sort of Northwest version of an Aloha print. I’ll explain later. Later.

Meanwhile, if you’re cruising to the wild Olympic Peninsula, stop off at Tyler Meek’s Disco Bay Outdoor Exchange on Surf Route 101, Thursdays through Mondays. He has gear for all your vices, and some of my illustrations.

From “Mistaken For Angels,” “One in the Chamber”

For “Mistaken For Angels” April 25, 2009- Edited and published on realsurfers.net January 18, 2018

A Bullet in the Chamber

Guards and cameramen surge forward with the sound; instinctively reaching for a weapon, looking for a shot.  People duck. Politicians throw themselves backward, into the crowd. No one knows where to look. Only one camera is pointed at the victim, his prepared victory smile frozen, eyes only slightly wide in realization, sudden but complete. Final.

General Sterling wouldn’t have been allowed to wear the revolver on his waist had he not been famous for wearing it. He wouldn’t be allowed if this was his country. It isn’t; it’s someone else’s country; about to change leaders. Sort of. Sort of is the standard thing in these types of countries.

During his three tours of Vietnam, he had the forty-five, safety off, a bullet in the chamber, with him at all times. It was the thing that saved him when, rounding a corner in barely-controlled Saigon, he met a North Vietnamese regular, a soldier of, it turned out, surprisingly high rank, and, as it turned out, also packing an American-issue forty-five; a trophy weapon, bounty.

That soldier was, as was Sterling, alone and out of uniform, blending-in in his own country, just checking on what he regarded as an arrogant enemy; so loud, so obvious, smelling of scented soap and milk. He’d looked quite shocked at suddenly being face-to-face with then-Captain Sterling, half-stoned and returning from another excursion to an out-of-bounds part of the city.

It took a moment. Recognition.

“Not a gunfight,” Sterling said at what became the official inquest. They’d both pulled their weapons. It wouldn’t have even happened if the Vietnamese had given ground, gone around him. No, “He refused to step around, to even move; refused to avert his gaze.”

“Avert?” the main inquisitor, perturbed by the looseness of the proceedings and the lack of air conditioning, asked.  Looking around at the others in the room, the question seemed obviously wrong, asked by the wrong person; someone who had only heard of tragedies and mistakes and friendly fire.

“All right then, Captain… avert.” The three pages were tucked into a manila file, that into a briefcase, that closed. Nods were shared. “Guess it’s a good thing you had the safety, um, off.”  More nods. Justified. Possibly heroic. Closed.

In the moments the gunfight had taken, and, too often, after, the eyes of the man who died so close to him; surprised, then desperate, then slowly going dead, were always on him. Always with him.

 

Too long after Vietnam, having already returned the repatriated forty-five to the World War II veteran father of the slain second Lieutenant, Sterling returned something else, a scrap of paper with foreign words, some in French, taken from the man he’d killed in the street. He did not wear his own gun, or his country’s uniform, as he stood in the merciless sun in the middle of the awkwardly rebuilt Vietnamese village.

The interpreter was a smart-ass student, son of people air-lifted out in the last days. Born in what had been a troop training area on Camp Pendleton, Las Pulgas (The Fleas, in Spanish), the kid was slapped by the mother of the slain man, slapped and dressed-down for disrespecting the recently-promoted-to Colonel Sterling.

The interpreter and the woman seemed equally embarrassed. Sterling showed no emotion.

“Tell her,” Sterling had said, “that it’s always the wrong people who die in war.”

The woman came up close to him, looked into his eyes. A long time. Maybe long enough. Sterling refused to blink. He wanted her to see.

She touched his shoulder, backed up three steps before turning away.

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Here’s the moment I relive, replay:

Sterling, up on the platform, drops his arm, his hand still holding the pistol. He looks away from the body of the local politician’s right-hand man. This is someone not widely, at this time, known. Who he was, and his crimes, would, of course, become well known.

The assassin’s movements will be studied and discussed widely, from multiple cameras, every angle but his; including that of several of those people who knelt to help the man on the rough-sawn platform. No help.

Sterling tosses the weapon onto the man’s chest. Three men, as if suddenly able to move, almost fight each other to grab him. Their movements will look awkward, really, frantic compared to Sterling’s, on the video, images aged by constant viewings.

The General looks above the rim of buildings. The crowd is silent, but pressing forward. There is a ridge of mountains in the distance. He follows a thin line of cirrus clouds, a bit of rainbow color caught in the ice crystals.

Sterling barely reacts when the blade, held tight by the politician’s consultant’s enforcer enters, just below the sternum. There will be no explanation from Sterling for his actions. His photo will soon, but only temporarily, be taken down from its place in the secondary hallway at the War College.

 

Through the scope, high in a distant steeple, finger on the trigger, having waited for the order, my target pulled to safety, I follow Sterling’s last glance. From the incoming storm front, caught on the jagged edge of the second highest peak, a single cloud seems to be ripping itself loose.

I should add that the man he killed was not my target. Probably should have been, but, you must know, usually the wrong people die in wars.

Here are some potential illustrations for “Mistaken for Angels.” I’ll explain later.