While simplifying my manuscript for “Swamis” has actually become more complicated, I have also spent some time complicating illustrations; adding more color than necessary, going full psychedelic. Maybe that’s all right and even acceptable; the story does take place in Southern California, 1969.
You’re most likely too young to have any memories, or, if you were there, it may be more flashback than memory. A former cliché that may, through disuse, may have reached the statute of limitations on repeating is this: “If you can remember anything about the 60s, you really weren’t there.”
Okay, I googled it. The quote has been attributed to: Paul Kantner, Robin Williams, Paul Krassner, Pete Townshend, Grace Slick, Timothy Leary, and others. If you know who all of those people are… whoa! Look at you!
So, here are my latest workings:
ANYWAY, I’m still getting my stuff together for the ZOOM event with the Port Townsend Library, Thursday, August 20, 7pm. There’s supposed to be a slide show of some of my stuff so people who tune in don’t have to look at me. Here’s a link: https://ptpubliclibrary.org/library/page/art-and-writing-erwin-dence OKAY, so how do I make that all blue so you don’t have to type it all out.
Oh, some of these and others are available at Tyler Meeks’ DISCO BAY OUTDOOR EXCHANGE. Stop in when you’re cruising out to the Peninsula, Thur-Sunday, 10am to 6pm.
I am discovering more about the art and science of printing, particularly about how yellow seems to overwhelm other colors. Here is a version of my latest “Swamis” illustration:
SO, I wanted to wait to see how the scanned drawing, now pixels on a screen, compares to the illustration I stuck in the scanner. Ummm, pretty close if I tilt the screen until it shows maximum color. This is taken from the color image, reduced to fit on eight and a half by eleven, which, because the yellow was too pervasive and some of the other colors were washed out, I attacked the drawing with colored pencils.
Okay, yeah; now if I could only get the drawings straight. They are, I swear, properly placed in the scanner. ANYWAY, I’m dropping a couple of framed pieces off at TYLER MEEKS’ DISCO BAY OUTDOOR EXCHANGE this afternoon, very limited edition prints with color added. Yeah, like on the actual drawings. I know there is no surf, but drop in on your way by. He’s open Thursday-Sunday, 10am to 6pm.
MEANWHILE, I am trying to get farther along on my latest edit (possibly not the last- but maybe the last full manuscript/big change version) of “Swamis” the novel. MORE INFORMATION is forthcoming on the upcoming ZOOM discussion/reading, with, if I can get it together, a slide show of my artsy works. Keith Darrock is setting it up with the PORT TOWNSEND PUBLIC LIBRARY. Thursday, August 20, and, yes, I will be putting more information out there. Here. Out here.
Stay safe, wear your fucking mask when appropriate; see if you can convince your friends and acquaintances who are obviously obstinate if not completely stupid refusers and deniers. to, at least, put on the fucking mask when they can’t fucking stay the fuck away. Yes, I am using profanity; not that that is unusual; but seeing people who think they’re making a statement by pushing into a store without a mask, expression saying, ‘yeah, say something,’ and I’m trying to buy a newspaper and a quart of chocolate milk; not risking getting whatever you’re spreading.
And wait, for all else I think I am; I make my living painting houses; and I do want to give a little praise to the other blue collar working folks who take a step back, grab their masks, and put them on when being able to socially distance isn’t possible. AND, YES, I know I do surf tiny waves on the Strait of Juan de Fuca, but, really, two feet isn’t six feet, not even here.
All real surfers have experienced those moments when we think we’re at the surface, suck in some air, only to find it’s foam; unbreathable. There are few things scarier than the inability to catch one’s breath. That’s what this virus brings; along with searing headaches, high fevers, delirium. It’s real, it’s around, and it’s more luck than any sort of inner strength or goodness that has kept us from getting it so far. So far. Through preaching.
It was almost coincidental that I found a photo from Ron Stoner of Swamis in about 1966, a year or so after I started surfing. Here it is:
So, here’s my version:
Usually I can’t keep well enough alone. I did several modifications to another possible illustration for “Swamis,” the novel I’m now over halfway through my latest rewrite/edit (definitely making the manuscript easier to follow if less, um, colorful- Still too wordy, too much dialogue). This drawing is based on another Stoner Swamis photo. Before and after, with another after in the neverland file.
SO, I have several copies of the newer drawing and will attempt to show some discipline and restraint in coloring them. Results forthcoming.
MEANWHILE, I am getting some drawings together in preparation for the zoom event with the PORT TOWNSEND PUBLIC LIBRARY. I was actually volunteered by PT ripper Keith Darrock; and, since I don’t really need folks being forced to watch me talking all about my writing methods and such stuff, the plan is to get a selection of my art works together and have a slide show. It’s all supposed to happen August 20, but I will certainly post reminders as the date approaches.
AS ALWAYS, stay safe, surf when you can. OH, oh, yeah; Stephen R. Davis is in Hawaii, flight delayed by a hurricane; not sure about his current status, quarantine-wise. Checking the Big Island forecast fourteen days out… hmmm.
I probably should start with the color version of the Ginny Cole illustration for “Swamis” before I get into anything remotely political. I am making progress on the novel; with at least one new character and so much concentration on how Jody’s father, Joseph DeFreines, Sr. died that I may have to severely cut back on the drama and adventure involved in the killings of Chulo and Gingerbread Fred.
Sequel? Not yet. Trish asked me if I wanted the drawing to be sort of mystical. Yeah, definitely; reflecting the time, 1969, and, more specifically, how a young person felt about the time, the place, life, love, surf, everything.
I’m not actually through doing satirical political drawings. There is just too much material out there. For example, Ivanka Trump leading a public relations effort to encourage desperate and out of work folks to just ‘find something new.’ Yeah, like, um, with jobs at a premium and Republicans claiming the unemployed are just living it up on all the extra money; maybe what folks need is a new daddy. Works for her. Cake, yeah; let them eat cake; oh, and, because the owner of this outfit said nice things about her daddy; eat lots of Goya beans.
AND, I would like to do a drawing of Tucker Carlson, whose lawyers went to court recently to defend his right to tell lies; or, put in Fox-speak, Tuck-man is under no obligation to tell the truth. It’s not like he’s a real journalist. I would add, perhaps, a little sign that says, “Truth don’t matter; Ratings matter.” Yeah, it should be Truth ‘doesn’t’ matter; thanks for catching that.
I continue to struggle in completing a publishable version of “Swamis.” Mostly I’m struggling with myself. I respect the opinions of the people who have read part or all of my unexpurgated manuscript. I believe the feedback. Confusing, too many leaps in time; all true.
I AM, HOWEVER, stubborn. My most recent addition to the manuscript is included here, but first; and there may be a connection; here is a drawing I decided is too busy, too overdrawn; just not quite right. SO, I flipped the paper over, traced the outline on the other side.
YOU MAY NOTICE that, included in this passage, is something that came from here, from realsurfers.net. It’s the chaos/dreaming/writing thing; and backs up what is, evidently, my method of writing and speaking; say enough, write enough, something accidently profound might just happen.
PROFOUND. Yeah, it’s my ego. I’ve been humbled by the process; but my goal never was to write a novel, maybe one of a series. ANYWAY, stay safe, stay sane, try not to panic, stay tuned. OH, and, not sure if this passage will make the final cut, and do bear in mind this is (mostly) fiction; here it is:
CHAPTER SEVEN- TUESDAY, JANUARY 21, 2020
I’m sitting in my de facto office, folding table in my mother’s nearly-empty condo, part of what she called the “Great Condo Wall of Del Mar,” looking out at a scarred ocean, rip lines, squall lines, light pollution; gray on gray on gray. There might be waves, weakly pushing off the ever-refreshed rip rap protecting the ever-eroding bluffs. Can’t tell. A dark line halfway to my horizon can appear to be a wave. It would be a big one.
This is where I am, not where my mind is.
I have to decide right now, at this spot in my latest edit of “Swamis,” if this is a memoir or a mystery. If it is a mystery, I have so much material to cut, I’ve been advised, to keep from losing the reader. That’s you. That’s free will.
Painful. I wanted to include little bios of people I ran into, little details, things that would let you, the reader, know that it was real, that I was fucking there.
Does adding the ‘fucking’ make me seem angry? I am; even though I realize why it makes sense to cut out and condense and to make sure the narrative is, most importantly, clear.
Okay. Thank you for reading, but here’s the thing: I’m telling the story. To you. I know who I am; what I don’t know, what I have to constantly worry about and wonder about, who I have to adjust my storytelling for, is you.
I don’t know you.
Again, thank you for reading. If I’m trying not to lose you by burrowing into some peripheral background information on a background character, some wordy journey to another side story that I believe offers some possible explanation as to why I or someone else behaved in a certain way; I will also endeavor to not try to fool you or withhold information in order to create some artificially engineered intrigue.
Still, I will be saving (some of) the unnecessary scenes elsewhere, some other file, like those little plastic things for resealing loaves of bread, hundreds of them, in various colors, that my mother kept in a dedicated drawer and that I threw away; like the notes my father kept from his encounters as a deputy and then a detective; like miscellaneous nuts and bolts kept in jars for some day. Some day. Okay. Move the cursor. “Cut.”
FEAR OF MISSING OUT is heightened when what you’re missing out on, if you surf somewhere with VERY SMALL WAVE WINDOWS, is good surf. That’s probably all I should say, but, of course, I’ll keep ranting on. If you live and die by the forecasts, you’ll probably miss out occasionally. “I could have gone” is a surfer’s lament I’ve sung many times.
Surfing is a gift; having decent or better waves to ride is an extra, a bonus.
Easy to forget.
“SWAMIS” UPDATE: I just got the feedback on my manuscript from a professional writer and editor. I had texted him a while back, after I got some other feedback, to please stop reading. The novel needs a lot more work, and I have been making progress on a massive rewrite. The book doctor claims he didn’t get the text, and completed the editing, with commentary and a full-page overview.
I should, first, say that when I asked the unnamed writer/editor to read something from “Swamis,” quite a while back, he said he’d read it when it was completed. Meaning, not before; not the feedback on my writing style I wanted. Okay. SLOW-FORWARD to when I thought “Swamis” was complete enough to get a copyright.
“This might take a while,” he said. And it did.
Because I had given him a thumb drive, I had to wait a couple of days before I could retrieve it. Anxious days. When I stopped off to pick it up, he declined to tell me much. Like a written work, the review/edit would speak for itself. “I can’t believe you actually read the whole thing,” I said. “The reason I did is because I said I would. The reason I agreed to read and review it is because I never thought you’d finish it.”
Obviously I haven’t.
“Take a week,” he said, “cry, get mad, hate me, whatever, then go back to writing.”
I’m pretty sure it’s been a week and I’ve devoted a lot of my thinking time to figuring out how to make “Swamis” work. The good news is I have already deleted a lot of the parts he thought, rightfully, were deletion-worthy, off-topic, not contributing to the story.
AND, his comments were all accurate.
HOWEVER, he seemed to, from the beginning, keep asking why Jody wasn’t more focused on finding out who killed his father than on who killed Chulo. I have an explanation for that.
ALL THANKS for the help and feedback from the (so far) unnamed professional and the others who have read part or all of the UNEXPURGATED VERSION. Believe me, I’m expurgating the shit out of it.
TYLER MEEKS’ DISCO BAY OUTDOOR EXCHANGE is back OPEN. I’m not sure what the hours are, but if you’re passing by and it’s open, stop in.
I’ve been trying to do a few more illustrations for “Swamis,” particularly of characters. This drawing came from a small photo in the back of an old “Surfers’ Journal.” I drew it once; pencil and pen, used that version to do this simpler, cleaner one; then did a third. Too dark. The original photo was from the 1970s, and was of… I probably shouldn’t say.
MEANWHILE, if you just found out some surfer who went looking for waves just because it fit into his schedule, and scored; try to get over it. Cry, hate him… just take a week and… try to get over it. BETTER YET, get even.
I just cut another mini-chapter in what I’m calling the ‘massive edit’ of “Swamis.” I’ve passed page 200 of what was 300, and I am, for better or more better, adding words in some places while I cut in others.
As such, I added a couple hundred words to a part on the real life swell of December, 1969. There should be surfing in a surf novel, and, although it’s not a ‘Big Wednesday’ climax, it’s not just background, either.
First, here’s a pencil and pen drawing:
Before I get to the outtake, I could explain where it came from. I never attended a surf movie alone (or any movie at any theater or high school gym, or went to any sit-down restaurant), but I also never went with my surfing friends. I first saw “Endless Summer” with my mom and sister. I went to a movie at Hoover High with Emily, my chemistry lab partner. I was supposed to drive down in my Morris Minor, but it was, as it frequently was, broken down, so Emily and I got to get dropped off by my parents, on a date of their own. Dropped off. Embarrassing.
I went with Trish, but, for some reason (probably the broken car, again) we got to ride with my sister and her boyfriend, Alan, who might have passed for a surfer if he hadn’t, the very day, shaved off his mustache. Trish looked good, might have acted as if she enjoyed the movie. The embarrassment increased when we, as was the custom, stopped at the Carnation ice cream place. It was some time in 1969, I was a senior at Fallbrook High, and had competed for a second time in the KGB/Windansea high school surf contest. Thor Svenson, president of the Windansea Surf Club, and some members, came into the restaurant and, maybe it was my startled expression rather than Mr. Svenson actually recognizing me, but he nodded, and I nodded, me sitting in a booth with more-chic-than-necessary Trish, my sister, Suellen, and her farmboy-looking date.
I survived, and did push Trish into a couple more outings, one at Mira-Costa Junior College, closer to home; and at least one at the local Junior High in Pacific Beach, after we got married and moved there.
But, to explain where this outtake came from, a girl whose Navy doctor father had just been transferred from Virginia came to Fallbrook, mid-term, 1968, and took a seat across from me in English class. We talked surfing, I said I’d show her around, and we went, that very day, after school. I discovered, after we went to the Surfboards by Heck (it’s still mentioned in “Swamis”), that she wasn’t really interested in actually surfing. Because I was her first date in Fallbrook, probably, and because I… because I was me; Phil or Ray, or Phil and Ray called me up to see how it went. “Hey,” my father said, walking past; “A man doesn’t talk about what happens on a date.” “Nothing happened,” my mom said; “I’m sure nothing, nothing happened.” She was right, of course; other than, as mentioned, the girl figuring out I might be a real surfer, but I wasn’t even or even close enough to her on the social status scale. Fine. Different scales.
Here’s the piece:
SURF MOVIE- HOOVER HIGH- SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 21, 1968
This was all kind of normal at surf movies, sixteen-millimeter productions shown at high schools and rented theaters, even after “Endless Summer” had made the leap to the big screen. I had attended a few, Hoover High in San Diego; fifty miles from Fallbrook and at least fifteen miles from the ocean.
This time I was with, rather than one or two of my friends, a date; a girl from my History class, who’d just moved to Fallbrook from Hawaii, said she surfed and would love to go to a surf movie. I discovered she wasn’t really a surfer by the time I showed her the third or fourth surf spot (Grandview or Beacons, both looking pretty good) on the way down. She discerned I probably wasn’t in with the rich or popular kids before we got to Windansea. I drove back on 395. Closer. “Fun,” she said. “Yeah,” I said. “See you.” It wasn’t long before she started dating a rich popular kid and I became her “I was new in town” story.
Still, I had enjoyed the movie. I always enjoyed the scene; surfers hooting, laughing, making that sort of whooshing sound for a slow-motion ride; or being reverently silent; all in unison, all at the appropriate times. And, even if she wasn’t an actual girlfriend, it was a date; she was pretty cute. She did look like a surfer.
“Swamis” remains incomplete. I’m working on it. I’m still cutting as much as I can, trying to logically decide or guess or divine which parts are just too, too… wrong. Too this or too that. The goal is to make it all logical and an easier read and, you know, a great American Novel. Not that easy as it turns out. I’m breaking the manuscript into more manageable chapters (meaning more of them) moving some plot items so there’s less skipping around in the timeline.
I am putting the larger outtakes into the sidework file, “Sideslipping.” I’m including two of these in this post.MEANWHILE, I’m continuing to work on illustrations. I’ve included two new ones here, and, because I just can’t help myself, I’ve done some rework on another.
THE FIRST OUTTAKE is a bit of a redundant note that corresponds to Phil and Ray getting busted after appearing on TV the day after Chulo is murdered at Swamis. That is fiction. The note is pretty much the truth about the real life Phil and Ray.
THE SECOND OUTTAKE is some explanation, obviously not for real surfers. I was asked if I did research for “Swamis.” I did. Stephen R. Davis told me about the ‘donkey’ thing, I did look up ‘punk.’ Didn’t look up ‘kook.’ Real surfers know some shit.
NOTE- Phillip and Ray were (I’ll get to this) busted, partially because of this incident, for serial ditching at Fallbrook High. They had so many hours of detention to serve (the usual punishment, an hour served for each hour missed) that they couldn’t do the time before graduation. They were, instead, tasked with having to pick up trash around the campus at nutrition and lunch until the end of the year. While some students threw wrappers and apple cores and lunch sacks to the ground when they saw either (or both) of them approaching with their large canvas bags and sticks with a nail on the end; they were also folk heroes of sorts, rebels; an enviable status. Peace signs and nods, a few slugs to the shoulder (precursor to the high five and/or fist bump); maybe an already-dated ‘far out’ or ‘right on;’ probably not a ‘groovy,’ even from some otherwise-clueless classmate.
*The word ‘punk,’ evidently, comes from Elizabethan/Shakespearean times, referring to prostitutes; updated to include petty criminals in the early nineteen-hundreds, with a secondary meaning added in American prisons in which punks were prisoners available, willingly or not, for sexual favors. ‘Kook’ supposedly a synonym for shit in Hawaiian, has come to mean someone who isn’t proficient. Shitty. A friend of mine, one who has spent enough time in Hawaii to risk using some pidgin if in the right company, informs me ‘donkey’ has become a synonym for kook, even cooler when a bit of a bray is included, as in, ‘donnnnnk,’ the final ‘ey’ optional.
ILLUSTRATIONS with EXPLANATIONS: I wanted an illustration for GINNY that showed a just-turning 18 year old. My drawings tend to get too dark too quickly. Partway through this one, I told Trish I just didn’t want to screw it up. “Oh, you’ll keep going until you do.” Hope not.
The illustration that I may or may not use for JUMPER HAYES started out to be one of JOSEPH ‘JODY’ DEFREINES. Jody is half Japanese, the drawing, part way through, according to Trish, looked more like someone who is Hispanic and a bit older. “Okay, I’m adding a mustache.”
I had already completed a drawing that, admission here, started out to be PORTIA. “Looks like Jesus,” Trish said. “Okay, it’ll be CHULO then.” I added some whiskers. I was drawing in black and white from a fairly dark background and couldn’t get a white enough white; BUT I got a white paint pen and… now Chulo looks way too pretty. OKAY, I’ll use the same technique when I get an illustration properly mysteriously beautiful enough to actually be Portia.
RUMORS of swells and beach openings and such things continue. Stay safe. Six feet. That’s called ‘overhead’ in the Northwest, ‘four feet in Southern California, ‘flat’ in Hawaii. Oh, you knew that. Of course.
OH, I just remembered, I added a cross to an earlier illustration of Chulo, might just add one to this drawing.
It’s Easter Sunday, somewhere in the season of Passover; and it’s Spring in the Season of Corona; the era of probably-won’t-actually-die, but most-likely-can’t-surf; whatever it is History ends up calling the period of time we’re all hoping will end soon with a rush of people coming out of our houses and condos and shelters, raising our hands to the heavens and…
I have had the thought that videogamers might just come through this all, if not unscathed, pretty much the same as when it all started; soft, pale, with definite signs of carpal tunnel and eye strain; claiming dominance over a vast number of levels and worlds and whatever folks who didn’t give it all up with Ms. Pacman.
Anyway, faith. I put it in pragmatic terms (above). This isn’t because I’m cynical; but I am careful where I place my faith. People. Very few. No, no list. Faith is tested; constantly, but somehow, with an apparently endless line of challenges ready to kick the living shit out of us; most of us have managed to, if not thrive, if not find ourselves without struggles and possibly with low-bank waterfront at an uncrowded surf break with minimal crowds, warm water, no sharks, no urchin-covered rocks, no jellyfish, no… no, but we’re still going.
It seems reasonable to have that much faith, enough to say, ‘it’s going to be fine,’ fine meaning life is mostly a total shit-show, broken this and lost that. Again, so far. But, there are those moments of joy and laughter, rare instances of total bliss, hopefully enough to keep us slogging forward. Forward.
I have been accused of being, uh, religious. Okay, I kind of am, but not religiously. It’s not like yoga, where, I’ve heard, if you skip a day, your joints all seize up and your yoga pants just don’t fit right. I’m religious in that whatever incomprehensible force or being or spirit or algorithm created or caused or allowed the reality we are slogging forward in, whatever it is that pushes the planets and stars and tides and the clouds… well, I think about it; I respect it. Celebrate when and what you can.
I am working on some illustrations for “Swamis.” I have invited Stephen R. David to help out. Going for a look. Looking for a look. Working on it. Stay safe.
Maybe you check the World Surf League site often, even knowing the big time contests are, like just about everything else, on hold, put off, or just plain off; maybe hoping there’s a little video or something that might give you some inspiration.
If so, you could easily find the photo that I have adapted for this drawing. I won’t say copied because it’s like, if ten people draw their interpretations of the original Mona Lisa or a statue of David, which one is a copy? Which one, objectively, does the original justice? Also, this isn’t the final version. I’ve done some printshop magic, reversed the black and white, and added some highlights that will, hopefully, add to the same feel that the original photo has. I’ve also reversed the image (going left rather than right), made some other changes.
Oh, yeah; after Keith Darrock, Olympic Peninsula soul rebel and librarian whose library is currently closed to the public, said “the nose of the board is a little too kicked-up and pointy” I fixed it. So, sure, I can adapt.
I’m getting ever closer to finishing a full manuscript editing of “Swamis.” Keith and I have discussed the possibility of doing some sort of online reading. We’ll see. I would, of course, let you know.
I hope you’re all hanging in here, adapting to whatever new reality this is; and getting a few sliders when you can.