NO SURF… No, there’s always surf…

…somewhere. Usually somewhere else. I’m, luckily, pretty busy painting, today being the only day lately where rain isn’t threatening or falling. Since there are no swell forecasts that predict anything close, and I don’t have time to go to the coast, I googled/yahooed ‘no surf,’ got this image.

Luscombs

The cove is, evidently, now called ‘No Surf Beach,’ along Sunset Cliffs. I actually have a couple of stories about the spot. The first involves Stephen Penn and I, both twenty years old, freshly married and living in San Diego. Steve, formerly of Marin County, and his wife, formerly Dru Urner, formerly of Fallbrook, were living in Ocean Beach; Trish and I in Pacific Beach. Our daughter, Drucilla (born on earth day, April 22, 1980, before it was Earth Day- and, oddly enough, as I edit this, it’s again Earth Day- Happy Birthday), is actually named after Dru, a promise Trish made to Drucilla Urner, evidently in typing class back in high school.

It was 1972, and Steve and I went looking for waves. I had surfed Sunset Cliffs before, but at Luscombs, the point in the distance, and once at New Break (with Bucky Davis and Phillip Harper, walking in back in 1967- we had no problems with locals). When Steve and I arrived at the little parking area in the foreground, there were four or five surfers at the little peak. The tide was lower and the peak was closer to the foreground point. I thought these other surfers were less a problem than Steve did. “They’ll leave,” I said. “Just start catching waves.”

Now, I don’t want to sound all aggro about this, though I may have been a little more exuberant while trying to convince Stephen to go out. It was either here or Ocean Beach jetty. Surfing mostly Crystal Pier, mostly after work and on weekends, with strangers, since Trish and I got married in November 1971 had pushed me toward a sort of ghetto mentality. It wasn’t surfing Swamis beachbreak with friends. This was city surfing. No eye contact.

Yeah, still dealing with my wave lust, bad manners. I wasn’t, I insist, pushy, merely persistent, going for position when possible, always ready for waves someone missed or fell on.

Three hours or so later, with three or four different surfers sharing the lineup, with the tide filling in and the waves ending on the mossy ledge beyond the pinnacle rock, Steve and I were climbing back up the cliff. With almost all of my surfing done between/before/after school/work/other-seemingly-or-actually important-stuff, forty-five minutes to an hour an a half, with me mentally breaking it into fifteen minute ‘heats,’ this was one of the longest sessions I had surfed. I was exhausted.

Maybe it was the competition. I couldn’t get out of the water before Steve; and the waves kept coming. I have more to say on the whole waves vs. life subject, but … Oh, gotta get to some actually important stuff. If I get some work done, and the waves… you know… I’ll be ready.

Later. WAIT! Since there’s no waves in the local forecast, and not mentioning how Adam Wipeout scored, Mike could have but didn’t, and that I ran into Darrin, who scored on the coast, at Wal-Mart, and because I’m planning on going down to my Dad’s house (now my brother’s house) in Chinook, Washington, here’s a shot I stole from a forecast site.

 

“No One That Mattered” Short Fiction From Surf Route 101

Mostly Fictional Short Stories From Surf Route 101- No One That Mattered

“‘Vietnam,’ he said; like he was impressed. ‘You, uh, um, kill anyone?'”
This was, just to clarify, my brother, Sidney, talking.
“‘No one that mattered,’ I said. I was hoping he might figure out I didn’t really mean that. Bluster. ‘Posturing,’ you’d say. ‘But, hey, man,’ I told him, ‘you’re the one with the gun.’ He looked at the old pistol, looked at me; almost smiled. Didn’t lower it, though.”
I’m still not sure why Sidney felt he had to tell me the story, but I was already picturing him, grinning; always with that grin.
Not really confessional by nature, he… we all try to have an excuse or explanation, or, something more, some justification for our actions, even those we know are wrong. This is me, then, me now; judgmental, always trying to determine what things mean.
That, introspection, that wasn’t Sidney. We, and this would be my brothers, even our dad, we tried to justify for him.
Sid continued.”Maybe I shouldn’t have let it out that I recognized Humberto; maybe… I was really just trying to save the two surfers from West Covina.”
I’m sure I nodded; support; no, just to show I had heard what Sid was saying; definitely something short of approval. My approval, I thought, at the time, is what my older brother was looking for.

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At the time. Sidney was standing in the driveway when we, that’d be Julie and I, were still at the condo; before our first kid. Maybe picture me, a younger me, cleaning out my side of the shared garage; Sid pulling the Surfboards Hawaii out of the back of his jacked-up, four wheel drive truck. Twin fin; six-four, red; one of their last boards before they closed the shop; at least the one in Encinitas. The board would be worth a fortune if I still had it.
“Just tell her you bought it from me,” he said.
“With what money, Sid?”
“Future money, man.” At this he did a sort of succession of non-surfer’s surf moves, grinning, watching me the whole time.
Maybe, now that I’ve (finally) started (resumed, really) writing this… maybe what he was looking for in my expressions, and he considered himself a master of reading people; if not approval; was admiration. Maybe even respect; or, at least, some hint of jealousy.
No; I’d never let him see that. I was working on being a master (not so much any more) of not being read, of not being close. Distant. Never cool; never Sidney cool. But, whether I hid it or not, I was intrigued.
Let me simplify this particular part of the Sidney Grace saga (saga, makes me chuckle); or try to: This was the early 70s, before the old section of 101 that went through San Diego’s North County ‘beach towns’ flourished rather than died from the effects of being bypassed by I-5. There were still cheap motels, marijuana was still homegrown in avocado orchards and hidden greenhouses.  Scoring weed was, it seemed, less corporate. Maybe more dangerous. Maybe less dangerous; but more exciting. LSD was… I really didn’t, and don’t, know. I just had to work and I just wanted to surf: Swamis, Pipes, Grandview, Stone Steps; wherever it was best.
And I was busy. So busy. I didn’t take drugs, did smoke (for too long), but not weed (opposite of the old line, “I don’t smoke… cigarettes.” Smile cleverly); not until later, and not enough to impress even an average college freshman (or high school junior).  Though friends, even good surfing friends, did get involved, none invited me into this part of their lives. I hadn’t even been good at drinking beer, wasn’t comfortable hanging out unless it was after a surf session, and then, not for long.
Decadent. Yeah, I thought that; mostly I considered it a waste of time.
So, it was fine. I was busy.
Anything I knew of a drug subculture was mostly hearsay, other people’s stories, fiction; real life embellished; stories I chose to ignore, avoid, not hear. Still, I occasionally stopped for a moment to try to make sense; always trying to have things make sense, to fit into my version.
People assumed, because of my brothers, four of them, two sisters; and who my brothers ran around with, that I knew things. I just had to know, for example, the dreadlocked white guy who was the “Luther Burbank of Dope;” who came back to Fallbrook from some secret mountain grow area; occasionally, handing out free samples.
“Bombers, righteous shit. Virgin buds,” my brother, Grace number 4, who, along with brothers one, three, and five, did know him, would tell me. “Big parties; everyone would come,” he said. “Not you, of course.” “No.” “Busy.” “Yeah.”
Even when I left home, moved to a crappy rental in Cardiff, someone would assume I knew something about inland weed. North County was that rural.
“Which Grace am I? Two,” I often had to say to random people, each with an a sort of eager, hopeful, and expectant expression, wanting to get some kind of inside information. “You’ll have to ask one of them.” No, I wasn’t being sly; wasn’t judging the person not trusted or cool enough. No, I wasn’t. This was never believed. The person was always angry, I was always a dick or an asshole. “Sorry.”
Sid was the oldest Grace. He didn’t want to be in charge, to be responsible for the rest of us when our mother died. He didn’t want to be like our father, bluecollar, to whom work is ‘so’ important. He wanted… something easier. He took two years in the Army, cannon fodder, because even junior college at Palomar was, he said, “high school with ashtrays (common putdown at the time), full of phonies, anyway, and, anyway, too much like work.”
“Fun and games,” he said, when he got back. “Easy.”
He didn’t look like it had all been easy. Most of his friends had scattered, as did most of mine. As soon as our dad remarried, I escaped, headed for the coast. The underground ‘agriculture’ economy had moved north. Grace brother number three had moved with it. He wouldn’t reveal who he worked for. Still hasn’t. “You know them,” was his explanation; “Can’t say.”
Sid was not interested in being ‘any kind of farmer.’ There were other opportunities, and there were still parties on hills, property parents had bought in the fifties sub-divided by our peers into ranchettes. There were homes, estates to build, orchards to tear out or replace, irrigation to set up. Opportunities. People from money who had more money. Easy.

thHwy_Historic_Sign

That’s only part of how Sid got into a cheap motel room in Leucadia, a block back from the non-beach side of 101; with the two surfers from West Covina gagged and tied together on a bed; with Humberto Lopez and the guy with the gun to my brother’s head; with two surfboards cut open, leaning, rather politely, against a wall; several duct tape-wrapped packages on the other bed.
“You once told me that you can’t really remember pain,” Sid told Humberto, trying not to look at the gun trembling in the hand of the other Mexican. “It’s not really true, I found out…(he laughed at this point, hoping Humberto would at least smile- he didn’t)… but I held on to the notion. It helped.”
Humberto had to soften. This was Sid, confident, grinning, cool. “Yeah; I was talking about… you couldn’t believe my father wanted me to quit high school to work in the fields.”
“I couldn’t believe he had you working in the fields at fifteen.”
The young man switching the gun from hand to hand was unimpressed by that story. White guys don’t know. Sidney and Humberto remembered the story neither would tell; how the usually-slacker PE coaches would, at some random time, have some sort of ‘Hell day,’ and run and exercise the shit out of everyone. They still did it when I went through. Humberto had been suffering more than most, not keeping up. It was my brother who came to his defense.
“Okay then Hotdog; fifty burpees (four count squat thrusts), Grace. No, all you Jockstraps. Everyone. Not you, Lopez; you just relax.” The coach went to his version of a feminine voice. “Just catch your breath.”
In the garage at the condo, Sidney said of that earlier incident; “The problem with helping someone, in a moment of weakness, is, or can be, resentment. I’m just; I know you like to figure shit out. So, now I was the one who knew about Humberto’s weakness. It lingers. When he’s attempting to steal drugs, armed robbery, and that person, me; when I come barging into the room, and he doesn’t know how that’s going to turn out, and I recognize him, and remember his weakness, and…”
“Yeah, Sidney; I think I sort of get it.”
“Yeah. Sure. So, maybe we read this on each other’s faces. Hey, he recognized me first. I could tell.”

th

Look: I’ve thought about this story, about Sid’s version; thought about how much of it I believe.
“What’cha going to do with the bricks, Humberto? Got a plan? (pause, Humberto and his accomplice looking at each other) You and this guy, someone you work with in the… (checking their pants, dirt on the knees, maybe something caught in the folded-up cuffs) flower greenhouses? You see two white guys with… (nodding outside) four boards, but they only take two inside the motel… two newer boards? So, knowing these a-holes probably aren’t grinding out a living doing stoop labor…”
“Sidney?”
“Humberto?”
“Why are you here?”
“Your guess? Even though I yelled ‘surf’s up’ at the door, you know I don’t surf. No. My brother. One of them; he surfs. Number four, he kneeboards, some. You don’t know, Humberto; you don’t know how to get rid of a couple of bricks of… you even know what that is you’re stealing?”
“We were waiting for, I guess, you. Sid-ney.” That was the other guy speaking, waving the gun around; checking for Humberto’s reaction. It was negative, as if his co-conspirator had been disrespectful. He didn’t know Sidney.
“Yeah; so, fine.” Sidney backed up a step or two, looked at the West Covina boys, put a hand out toward the guy with the gun to calm him down, pulled a wad of bills out of his pocket, held that out [in a later telling this became two hundred dollar bills from a wallet].
“I’m sure they’ll be fine heading back to LA. I’ll give them some money for gas. Okay? I wasn’t holding on to the money anyway. It’s not like it’s mine.”
The three guys standing looked at the two surfers on the bed, stripped to their trunks, the larger one tied behind the other one, both trying to nod.
“Could’a gone butt to butt,” Sidney said to the other guy. The other guy smirked, shrugged. Sidney shrugged. “Okay. I get it.”
The other guy handed Humberto the gun, took the cash; smiling, a smile that went away when my brother reached down for the drugs [later the look was disappointment, and Humberto asked, “This it?”] Sidney threw his hands out as if this was the deal; looked back at Humberto, who released the hammer  on the revolver.
My brother, in recreating this, talked really fast: “Where’d you get that pistolo, ‘Berto? And, hey, man; these drugs don’t belong to me. Either. You get that, right? They’re carriers, they work for me. I’m a carrier. Just. Only. They didn’t know what… (he looked at the boards. They were waxed- he turned toward the West Covina boys, back toward Humberto). They; guess they tried to ride the boards. Shit. See? You take these drugs and you’ve got so many new problems. I have some real weapons in my truck. What do you think we trade for drugs? Huh? Too much knowledge, man; not so good. You have no plan, man. We have to… If you… you think about how hard it is to get rid of bodies? I mean; the Sheriff’ll come lookin’ hard for two wetbacks… don’t mean that… kill a couple of innocent, white, spoiled-ass suburban surfers. Right?”
“We’ll just take the money, and…” Humberto set the old pistol on the small television set, took the money, looked to my brother.  Sidney took two twenties out of his wallet, threw them on the bed, reset his grin. Humberto just wanted out.”Okay, Sid?”

“It should have been okay,” Sidney told me. “I just started thinking about all the connections.”
“Connections?”
“I thought about how this would affect me.”
“If no one found out,” I said. “The West Covina boys wouldn’t talk; Humberto and his friend…”
“Yeah, yeah; it was all rattling in my brain. I thought about… I thought about what my people would… no one wanted any attention to any kind of trafficking in those days. I kind of imagined Humberto taking the gun and…”
“And what? Kill the other guy? What, Sid?”
“‘You’ll have to work for me, Humberto,’ I said. ‘Your friend, too. You wanted it easy. Easier. Right?'”
“‘Maybe not,’ Humberto said. ‘Maybe we’ll just… (too long a pause; Humberto picked up the gun, cocked it) I don’t care about the drugs. I don’t want your kind of life, Sidney; but, really; dead drug dealers… like you said, ‘No one that mattered.’ No need to dispose of the bodies. I’m willing to leave the drugs. Or some of them.’ He took one brick.”
“‘It’s not that much money, Humberto, I said; ‘Not enough.'”
Sidney took a breath, set the Surfboards Hawaii twin fin, with removeable, adjustable rainbow fins, onto the rack of my car.
“I don’t know if I seemed weak. No, I did; it was all just so… heavy, so exhausting. Humberto…anyone could have seen this.”
“So… what did happen?”
“Humberto and his buddy backed toward the door.”
“‘We’ll just call it even, then; Sidney,’ he said.”
“‘No, Humberto; not even.’ We looked at each other. If I hadn’t smiled…’Forty burpees, Humberto; and then we’ll call it even. Forever.'”
At telling this, my brother released his serious expression and laughed. So did I.
“I did twenty. Humberto did the full forty. No problem. This time he was in shape.”
Sid said Humberto got the money, a new gun, and one for his friend, Julio; the West Covina boys never came back to the North County, as far as Sid knows, and they all went out for tacos.
“Fine. Sure. The West Covina boys, too?”
“Yeah, them too.” Both of us were laughing when Julie came into the garage, looked at the Surfboards Hawaii twinfin, looked at Sidney, looked at me.
“How much,” she asked Sidney. “No presents.”
Sidney knew not to offer any more presents.
“Easy payments,” he said. “Future money.” Sidney and I both waited through Julie’s look of disapproval.
“How long, Sidney?”
“The payments. Easy…”
“No; how long are you going to…”
Sidney seemed to think through all his previous arguments about his life, mine, our father’s; all in a moment. He nodded, and said… nothing. He shrugged. Then Julie shrugged, looked at me. I shrugged.
“Fun and games,” she said, to both of us. “I have some cash in the…” She looked at the board I was now holding, moving it through the air as if it was on a wave. Sidney watched with something short of understanding; not jealousy, really, except, maybe, he might have been just a bit envious that this simple act could make me so happy. “Nice board,” Julie said.

You can’t know how I’d love to leave the story here. I heard a slightly different version of the Leucadia motel incident, years later, from Humberto.
“Sidney Grace always told me he didn’t expect to live well AND long,” Humberto said, at the makeshift memorial at my dad’s house. Everything else was hushed, to one side; secrets.
“It was very tense. Sid asked me…it was a test… I didn’t know that… what I was willing to do if I, if I went to work with him. I had said I was willing to kill him and the two surfers. Bluff. I wanted, so bad, to be out of there. A mistake. He asked me if, instead, I’d be willing to kill Julio. He acted like he meant it. I pointed the gun at him. Julio. ‘Sidney,’ I said, ‘I would, but he’s married to my sister. I’d have a hard time explaining it.’ ‘So, no?’ ‘No.’ Your brother acted like he was putting the wallet back in his… That’s when Sid knocked the gun out of my hand, pulled one out from… it was behind his back. ‘You owe me, ‘berto;’ he said. I practically shit myself. Umm; I still think Julio did.”
We pause for a moment; our laughter only a bit out of place. Still, I stopped, looked around the room. Half the people there were… altered. The former Luther Burbank of Weed, bald and overweight, was talking with Grace number four, chuckling occasionally. Julie had just put a hand on my father’s shoulder. He stopped crying, smiled.
“So your brother says, ‘Forty burpees, Hotdog. Now!’ He did, maybe, five. Julio, he…”
We were laughing again; but we both stopped when Grace Number 5 and another law enforcement type came over. “Nice to see you again,” my last brother said, reaching out a hand; “Deputy Lopez.”
The last Grace looked at me, tipped his just-emptied wine glass toward me, said, “Not your fault.”
If my brother and Humberto tried to read my expression at this moment… they did; I just… it didn’t matter.

Since I wasn’t planning on working, I dropped Julie and the kids off, checked out Pipes from the parking lot. A little crowded. A little choppy. Went out anyway.

PB Point Never Breaks

HEAD SONGS- It may have been an early Fleetwood Mac instrumental playing in my head. Whatever it was it was perfect for the afternoon, some mix of northwest swell and just the right tide creating fast lines from near Pacific Beach Point to the south end of the parking lot at Tourmaline Canyon. It was turn-and-tuck on each thin, fast, backlit wave, tuck until you are finally engulfed by the tube.

PBpointTourmlne

SUMMER SOLSTICE: The longest days in San Diego seem to end by 8:15 or so. In the three years or so, starting in November of 1971, I lived in PB, just up the long steep drop to the parking lot, I always checked PB Point. It seemed like there should be great, Swamis-like waves there; there just weren’t. No, not ever. On one summer day, unlike the first story (and probably with a different tune moving as a different wave in my head), the waves were peaky, with the best peak halfway to the actual point. I went out after work and stayed long enough to walk back up the hill in the dark, across the street to the La Jolla Bella, long since, I’m sure, condo-ed out and priced out of reach for a newly-married couple, even if both work.

ANOTHER SUMMER DAY, not working on workday, I was out on a little peak just off the actual point. Starting out shoulder-hopping, I was soon mid-peak, then back-dooring the wave, most likely on my Surfboards Hawaii twinfin, the going-right fin moved as far forward in the box as it would go, the going-left fin back because, if I must explain, I surfed differently going backside; more forward-trim going right. I also had my first leash/kookstrap on the board, already shortened by breakage because they were then made out of something like surgical tubing, effected negatively by saltwater corrosion. So, mid-peak, I took a hit, the board slid out from under me, the leash dragged me, kicking and clawing, across the reef. I came up with green stuff under my fingernails. Perfect. Go again.

tourmaline-Rocky-Bluffs--Courtesy-Lisa-Field--SanDiegoorg_54_990x660_201404241143

WINTER SOLSTICE: On the shortest days of the year, it seems, as I remember, to get dark in San Diego somewhere between 4:30 and 5pm. I mention this because, in the Northwest, way farther north, but also farther west, the longest days go close to 10pm, but the shortest days turn dark before 4:35. Interesting. Not really, but, on one of those winter afternoons, PB Point was working. It was, and I don’t exaggerate on wave size, six feet. I must admit I’m daunted by larger waves (less daunting, more excitement on a point break compared to a beachbreak), but I found myself comfortable. And the waves just got bigger, until, just before dark, it was, by my standard, eight feet and I was still more excited than concerned. The darkness closed in so quickly, exhausted, looking way down the beach toward the lights, that I decided to go up the cliff. I climbed a fence or two, went through some rich person’s yard, and walked back down the road toward home.

PBPoint

ONE MORE STORY: My friend from Fallbrook, my first surfing accomplice, Phillip (long since Doctor) Harper, and his first wife, Pam, because they had to work weekends, would often come down to San Diego, or we’d meet at Swamis or somewhere, on a Wednesday or Thursday. On one of these visits, Phillip and I were surfing quite small and pretty crappy beachbreak at Tourmaline. I wiped-out on a wave, my even-shorter leash wrapped around the back of my board, and, when I came up, the board hit me right in the eye. What was interesting was, because I thrashed (and still thrash) boards, and rarely patched them (or patch them), a week or so later the glass on the nose of the board was broken away. It would have been a different result, Jack.

OKAY, TWO STORIES: That board was getting so thrashed that I would frequently go home with several new cuts on my legs from the board. On one winter afternoon, the tide very high, most of the surfers not catching any waves, I was taking off, kicking-out close to the shore riprap, close to the parking lot. When I got out, a tourist, an older woman probably escaping snow or something, said, “You look like you were having the most fun out there.” “Probably was,” I said, some new line of blood running down my leg.

THESE DAYS, because I need new gloves, I seem to get a new wound on my hands from each session, though, donning my old (properly thrashed) suit for a second session, recently, I noticed, later, that I had new scratches on my knee where the wetsuit was ripped. Should repair that.

Chasing the Diamonds; Quilted, Kenetic, Allusive

My sister, Melissa Lynch, the real artist in the family, scolded me for being in any way apologetic for my drawings. Yeah, well; I would like to be honest. If I could capture the building blocks of always-moving water, figure out how to weave a seamless shadowed/reflective/glimmering/black/white/multi-hued image I would.

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If I could.

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Since I can’t; yet; I’ll keep trying.

Meanwhile, I’m still in the thinking-it-through phase of a piece I must write under the working title of: “Are All Surfers Sociopaths; or Just the Good Ones?”

Three Acts: ACT ONE- several highschool surfing buddies and I surf Swamis after school. The only other surfers out are three (also high school age) members of the Surfboards Hawaii Surf Team. On the drive home, my friends complain they couldn’t catch any (or enough) waves. I hadn’t noticed, being busy catching waves and watching incredible longboard surfing. ONE, PART 2- One of my friends (Ray Hicks, most likely) points out (I think this was the day I ripped out my pants and had to borrow a pair of Levis from Billy McLean) that, when encountering other surfers of about our age, I seem to puff out my chest. “Maybe you’re intimidated.” “Yeah; probably.” “It’s, uh, like a gorilla.” “You mean, like, primal?” “Yeah, probably.”

ACT TWO- During the last week of my job up the hill from Trestles, taking an hour and a half break during my half hour official lunchtime, some surfer (I’ve always believed he was a Marine Officer) burned me and everyone else (I still got some, but not as many as usual waves). When I checked back at my half hour afternoon (supposed to be ten minutes) break, the guy was still out, still burning surfers mercilessly. I didn’t hate him; maybe he was going somewhere sucky, where a rifle was mandatory, for a while.

ACT THREE- My friend Stephen Davis, last time I spoke with him on the phone, mostly about his upcoming trip to the Oregon Coast and the chance I might meet him somewhere (probably won’t happen); had to, (had to) mention how I fell out of favor with many members of the Port Townsend surfing crew (very unofficial) because, over-amped, I (accidentally, I swear)wave-hogged on a day almost two years ago. Two years ago. Jeez. When I mentioned this on the phone this morning with Keith Darrock, and that I’m no more a sociopath than he is, and I do have empathy, whatever that is, he had to (had to) mention his observation that I’m kind of loud and possibly abrasive (see how he was tactful about this?) in the water, and, also, incidentally, I do seem to “kind of strut in the parking lot.” “WHAT? ME? No, it’s just being friendly.” (I am laughing at this point, but, also, thinking. Is he right?) “Like a rooster. And, oh,” he adds, has to add, “You kind of stick out your chest. And…and it seems like you want to dominate (I’m adding ‘even in’) the parking lot.”

There is no ACT FOUR where I try to change my ways, get all friendly and nice; empathize with those who won’t (before hand) or didn’t get enough waves. Empathize. I did tell Keith I’d rather attempt to empathize than be one of those who didn’t get enough waves. Maybe they’ll get points toward sainthood. No true contrition. Sorry. At least not so far. But, I am thinking; and since I can’t afford professional help, I’ll have to self-diagnose.

STEP ONE-“Yes, it’s all true.” See you in the parking lot.

Email To Ray Hicks, 1,100 miles down Surf Route 101

Hi Erwin,

Thanks for writing, I’ve been dragging my feet with no news. I’ve been ready for several weeks to get back in the water but when there was surf it was way bigger that I wanted to get into out of shape. Then there was none but I’m ready when there is some. So you should be getting a surf story soon.

Hey, Ray,
I know you’re all busy with your new house and all, but, man, you must have done some kind of surf activity by now. It’s been a pretty bad winter, supposedly the season, for surf on the Straits. The coast has been, overall, the place to go, but it’s farther away. I took off at 6:25 am on Saturday, with the buoy readings having just gone from iffy to a pretty good signal there might be waves. There weren’t. I hung at T— R—– a while, did some sewing and gluing on my gloves and wetsuit, took a nap, loaded up some rocks, chatted with a couple of other searchers, and with a father/son team checking crabpots, the father on shore and the son out in a dinghy. Mark, the dad, invited me to surf at the spot near his house some time. I know the spot, D— C—-, have checked it, but it’s farther out and is usually smaller than T— R—–.  I was offered some fresh, live, Dungeness crab, but declined. Though we both love crab, it’s the live part that might freak Trish out, and keeping them alive would be a chore for me.
After two and a half hours, I left, drove back towards home and checked out  C——-. Also flat, but, en route, I had passed Big Dave, once of PB, on his way out. Having talked on the cell phone to Keith, in PT, who was supposed to go with me, and hearing the buoy readings were even better and the tide was coming in, and thinking maybe Big Dave knew something I didn’t, would hit it big, and I wouldn’t hear about it until the next time I ran into him; I did something I rarely do; I headed back to T—-. Up the hill from the spot, I spotted Dave’s truck. Having already decided T—- wasn’t working, Dave, recently laid off from the mill in PA, was picking up cans on the side of the road (not so much because he was desperate- a little extra money when the surf might happen). He was planning on hitting C——- on the high tide, still hours away. While chatting with Dave, a three vehicle caravan with surfboards headed down the hill.
“Maybe it’s turning on.” “Doubt it.” “I’m going.” “See you.”
It was the cool hip Seattle crowd, “Oh, and we also surf;” checking out the scene, preparing a seaside brunch, letting their dogs go leashless. “What’s your name again,” Brad asked. “We’ve spoken before.” “Uh huh.”
There were a few waves catchable with the SUP, sort of protected from the rising west (sideshore) wind. I thought I’d go out. Then Dave showed up. “Pretty sad,” he said. Dave left, I went out, caught a few waves that required paddling to stay in them. I may have been the only one to go out on the Straits, mostly because I was desperate.

sorry to interrupt my own story, but in this version I added color to the original larger drawing.

sorry to interrupt my own story, but in this version I added color to the original larger drawing.

Archie, back temporarily from Thailand and a business trip to Boston, and his friend Sandro had been planning on hitting C——- on the high tide. I called Archie and found they were at the state park having a sandwich. I was hungry; met up with them at a picnic table that overlooked the break. Not breaking. At least we couldn’t see waves from there.
Then I went to Costco, Petco… so much fun, then stopped at Archie’s house. Then I got a call from Keith saying N—- B—- was breaking and he was going home to get his stuff. I called Trish, she said, “Have fun, lock the car; and, by the way, I’m not making dinner.” Good enough. I hauled ass.
About five minutes away, Keith called back. “Oh, it’s gone?” “No, it’s better.”
Three waves in I forgot about the rest of the day. Great fun, with just Keith and Brett (who showed up already suited-up while I was suiting-up) and I trading waves. Brett had a girlfriend or wife on the beach, and got out before Keith and I did. We got out sometime after sundown, the waves having peaked, the window having closed.
My next posting will include my new motto: “You can’t get skunked if you don’t go.” Everyone I’ve tried it on goes, “ew.” And then there’s the glass half full version, “You can’t score if you don’t go.”
So, I got back in my driveway at 8:25. Fourteen hours, dark to dark. I drove about 180 miles, round trip. Keith did about 18 blocks.

Anyway, get some surfing in. And let me know.
See you, Erwin20140330_181718

INSIDE BREAK- Loves and Wars and Surf and Magic- Chapter Three

INSIDE BREAK- The Novelization- CHAPTER THREE-

So far: In 2004, Alvin Hubbard and his twenty-three year old daughter Elizabeth are in San Diego, taking off at dawn to check a few surf spots, part of a very busy agenda.

In Fallbrook, California, 1967, sixteen year old Alvin and friends, Sam and Ben, take off at dawn, riding with (and this is unusual) older surfer Riley Cooper, boyfriend of Ben’s sister, Catherine. They are planning to surf at San Onofre. Barely under way, Riley’s VW bus gets pulled over.

Pretty exciting, huh?

Remember, [ brackets ] mean optional reading, [[ doubles ]] mean extra credit.

 

PACIFIC COAST HIGHWAY, NORTH COUNTY

“Surf Route 101,” Elizabeth said, repeating what I’d just said, lowering her window to take in some of the sea air. “Magic-al.” She looked over at me until I looked around. “So, when you were a kid you thought these beach towns were magic…al.”

“Still do. Thanks for the correction. Fancy Jesuit education. No, it’s fine. And every time my family’d go through Del Mar, my Dad would say, ‘Del Mar by sea.’ And I’d never correct him because…”

“Respect? Fear?”

“We’ll say respect.” I gave my daughter a look to tell her I wasn’t really serious. She gave me a look that said she knows that actually, I kind of meant it. “And he’d always say ‘You know, Desi Arnaz lives here,’ and we’d look around.” Elizabeth and I looked around, maybe out of respect.

I pulled off 101, long called, ‘the 101.’ The 101. I wanted to show my daughter a house on the bluff her uncle once owned. Couldn’t fine it. “A lot more eucalyptus then,” I said. “Less…” I looked at the seemingly unending line of condos.

The surf was small, maybe smaller, but the clouds were beginning to thin as we dropped out of Solana Beach. On the 101, bluffs, the tail ends of the coastal hills, the populated areas, are split by low sections, remnants of wetter times.

 

[I wanted to, but didn’t mention how there were once trailer parks on each of these places, hugging the north ends of bluff sections, protected from the south winds; closer to sea level. [[ This is probably where the First People would have lived, closer to migrating fish and birds and abundant supplies of abalone and lobster, close to fresh water. ]] I thought there was one trailer park left, Seaside Reef. I surfed there. Once. I didn’t notice it in passing.]

insidebreakpipes

We moved, a few miles under the speed limit, along these flats, toward Cardiff. There were cars in the parking lot, surfers out, spread along the multiple sections created by the in and outflow of the slough.

“No stories?”

“No new ones. Last time I surfed here, your mother didn’t want to fight the crowds. She may have been pregnant.”

“May have been?”

“Yeah. She was. It was big and… on the news… ‘Big Swell!’ Everywhere else was closed out. Not Swami’s; crowded, couldn’t get close. But your… pregnant… mother didn’t want to do the stairs anyway; so, we went here, but north of the real break.”

We were past it, the real Cardiff Reef, now, waiting at the light. “I think I did make it out, caught one wave, then, trying to get out again, I saw…”

I waited for my daughter to finish the story.

“Two surfers on one wave, one on top of the other. Double overhead! Cowabunga!” Cowabunga. She said it to herself. Slower. “What does cowabunga actually mean, Daddy?”

“Oh. Um. As nearly as I can, um, translate… Yippee!”

“Yippee!” she said as I gunned it at the green light.

“Yippee!”

In the time it took to drive the distance of the state park and the couple of hundred yards between Pipes and the Hansen shop, make a left turn/uuey, then circle the Swamis parking lot, unexpectedly full, and drive the same distance back, now closer to the bluff and the view, I had pointed out that, at one time, back around 1970, surfers had to sort of shimmy around the northern-most post on a chain-link fence to access the spot.

 

[I didn’t have time to get into my whole history there before we found a convenient parking spot. Indeed, it was the first one in the line of spots, mere feet outside the very fence post I’d spoken of. If my daughter hadn’t jumped out of the wagon so quickly I could have told her, again, how we started surfing here before it was officially opened as a State Park; how the waves seemed transparent, the water clear, the… and there was the time her grandmother, as always, had built a fire on the beach, and along came this Park Ranger, and… moments later, he was kicking sand toward the fire, and my mother, probably holding one of my younger siblings, was kicking back; and Ben and I were in the water, afraid to come back in, and…]

insidebreakpipesbthrm

I paused my mental Pipes mixed tape, got out of the car, looked for Sam.

The access was now, and had been for years, open, allowing those with California State Park passes to park inside, close to the bluff, north of the campsites. These were mostly families, I’d guess, on weekends. On this day it seemed like it was mostly guys a few years older than me, possibly retired (assholes). They could lean on the hoods or sit in the open backs of their surf rigs, or hang on the bluffside fence, talk story with their buddies, look down at the surf, each peak now named or, at least, recognized. North Stairs, Traditional (real) Pipes, Access Peak, Swamis Shorebreak.

I recognized Sam right away; an older version with the same stance, to the left, against the mesh of the fence. He had said he might be surfing, but there he was, reddish blonde hair now mostly gray, a little… let’s say, thin spot in the back (he had said, on the phone, that he wasn’t bald). Balding; maybe.

Sam seemed to be watching Elizabeth as she ran to the cinderblock bathrooms. Yeah, that was Sam.

 

[Sam was wearing a Hawaiian shirt, kind of the street uniform of surfers over fifty. Sam’s was tucked in; mine, untucked, unbuttoned, worn, northwest-style, over a longer, and long-sleeved, Carhartt t shirt. My Hawaiian shirt was a gift from my older son, and nobody had to know it came from Walmart. Sam was wearing Levis, properly faded, and sandals, expensive versions of classic go-aheads. Without socks, of course. Tan feet. I was wearing Dockers; standard for non-surfers, men my, our age, professional men with multiple stops to make; less cool men. Me.

Yeah, but the slacks were teamed up with well- worn Birkenstocks, sandals that had been to Italy. Still, mine was an outfit that whispered, “I used to be cooler.” And, yeah, I was wearing socks, dark, to go with the Dockers. Again, a northwest thing.]

 

Sam wasn’t fat, wasn’t bald; didn’t seem five or six months older than me. There was no way I would have thought he would be fat; fat, not that muscle-recently-turned-south kind, the kind of fat that seems to grow on other fat, like whipped cream over cool whip.

That description; it’s… I did use it in a poem, but, really, it wasn’t quite me. Still, it had been too many years of sitting, of luncheons with clients, of conferences and conventions, not nearly enough surfing.

Below us and straight out, one of the longboarders, wearing a full wetsuit, booties, no gloves, and a boonie hat, took off from the point of the small pack at the peak (Traditional Pipes), dropped in fully, did a casual bottom turn, readjusted to trim at the top of the wave, cross-stepped to a close-footed five, slid his back foot back and dropped lower, his head dip maneuver not quite reaching the lip. When the shoulder went fat, he backpedaled, all in semi-slow motion, cutback. It wasn’t so much casual as slow. He tried to retrim, gather some speed as the wave reformed.

“I’d be going for the standing island,” I said.

“Doesn’t want to lose his hat,” Sam said as the surfer just sort of bogged to a stop, dropped perfectly to his knees, started paddling back to the lineup.

My old surfing buddy turned, extended a right hand. “Owl.” He looked at my glasses through his, properly darkened to the morning glare. “Prescription,” he said. “Built in bi-focals.” He lifted them for a moment to look at my eyes.

“Lasik,” I said, “still wear glasses for… close work.” I laughed. Not really nervously; self-deprecatingly. “Or far away stuff.” I squinted more than I had to.

“Yeah, well,” he said, a lot about time and age unsaid. Implied. Known.

“I think a hug would be… appropriate.” I hadn’t wanted it to sound like a question.

The hug, probably the only one we’d shared between sixth grade and then, was over as Elizabeth approached. She lowered her phone. I introduced her to Sam. “Morning,” she said, switching the phone to her left hand, taking Sam’s extended right hand. She whispered, “Call you back/love you,” into the phone, hit the red button. “Jakes,” she said.

Sam nodded, looked at me, whispered, “Jakes.” I nodded. Sam turned back to Elizabeth. “I saw your dad on TV.”

“Fucking Tony,” I said.

“Fucking Tony,” Elizabeth said.

“Fucking Tony?” Sam asked.

Elizabeth and I both just smiled and nodded.

 

NAVAL AMMUNITION DEPOT (NAD) GATE

Cooper was out of the bus, standing next to a Marine Guard who was bent at the waist, looking at the VW’s oversized back tires and the jagged cut in the side panels. Sam and Ben were looking out from between barely-pulled-back curtains, I was half out of the driver’s side window.

 

[Riley Cooper and some buddies had attempted this customizing. Begun with a hack saw, the job was finished by another guy, with a torch. I had already imagined these guys, Greasers (this still referred, as far as I knew, to those who worked on hot rods), probably an older Cooper brother in the group, all still holding onto flattops and ducksbacks and Brylcreem; gathered around the bus, cutting away on the krout-wagon, the thought being, if Riley was insisting on being a surfer, his vehicle should, at least, be a little more… American.]

insidebreakVW

The Marine guard was shaking his head. I’ll spare you the conversation inside the bus, Sam and Ben pulling out their dependent ID cards, their almost brand new Driver’s licenses. Sam said he could tell the guard that they could call his dad, Light Colonel (actually Lieutenant Colonel) Samuel Bostock II, over at ‘Mainside,’ even though we all knew he was in Vietnam.

“They won’t call,” Sam said, and got out through the side door. He looked at the Marine guard, not tall, but thin; and, because he was a Marine, and we all knew what it took to be a Marine, we knew he was tough. Toughened. And he was black.

 

[It was always more difficult to get through the NAD gate than Camp Pendleton’s other three access points. If we couldn’t do the twelve minute drive (or so, and there was a rumor that cars were often timed, and speeders ticketed, and, by God, don’t break down or try to turn off the road), the next choice was heading back, passing Ben’s house, to the ‘back gate’ east of Oceanside. If that was our option, we might as well go on to highway 101 and head up to the San Clemente gate.]

 

That a black Marine was controlling the most direct access to Camp Pendleton for four quite white surfers, and without going into how unusual this might have been in 1967, I should mention what we were wearing, variations on the surfer uniform of the time.

 

[Like the rules of surfing, the surfer uniform was established by peer pressure. Because I started before my peers, I had to go by what real surfers at the beach, mostly Tamarack, were wearing. Actually, being 13, with too many younger siblings, I had to point out to my mother that other surfers weren’t wearing less radical (I’d say ‘more modest’ if we were discussing the semi-opposing implications ‘modest-ness.’) versions of Australian bunhuggers, something like tight boxers rather than briefs, and that Sears, the catalog or the store in San Diego, might not carry the latest in surfing trunks.

My mom tried. When jams, double layered, with a flower print over white material, without the built in underwear (or with the built-ins ripped out), caught on the knees and ripped in the crotch… well, I had to use my own money, dearly earned, to buy my first pair of nylon Jantzens, as featured on the back cover of “Surfer,” the bi-monthly sometimes (but not always) found with the other magazines at the Fallbrook Buy and Save. I’m not sure if it was lying on my part or that Jantzen thought trunks should be worn tight, but the next brother down got those trunks. 32 waist, supposedly, in kind of a burgundy wine color. Only one color.

I probably had some Hang Ten knockoffs by this time (always wanted, never had Kanvas by Katin trunks), with a wax pocket, Velcro, laces, maybe three colors. It was Sam’s joke to say his trunks were ripped, then rip the Velcro. Maybe not just Sam’s.

When I started surfing with Ben, and he (because of his sister, Cathy, I mean Catherine) had access to older surfers, he told me I had to, had to switch to genuine Levis. Sam had started surfing with us before I could actually get some, and he told me to buy them two inches bigger in the length, one in the waist, beat them on the bed when first purchased. If it was hard to get them buttoned after the first wash, perfect. Levis were way cheaper at the PX, and, when I somehow got the $6.50 or so together, Sam got them. Three inches bigger.]

 

Still, there has to be some room for individuality in a sport that’s supposed to be for individuals, rebels.  So, on this day, and now you can try to picture the four white teenagers outside the bus, it outside the gate, parked on the Fallbrook side of Ammunition Road as a steady stream of Civil Service workers and Marines who lived in Fallbrook were checked and waved through, some saluted through. We four surfers were in a sort of curved line, facing the black Marine, he guarding the Navy facility against invasion by communists and dangerous surfers in dangerously customized vehicles.

insidebreakmaingate

[Each of us was sporting beads. Cooper’s two strands were mixed with puka shells; the rest of us had some made by my sister from some sort of beans that the chemistry teacher later identified as a great laxative if properly taken (the biology teacher must have known, didn’t say). Cooper was wearing a longsleeve, with collar, blue workman’s shirt over his white Penny’s t shirt, Levis, red deck shoes, no socks.

Sam and Ben had non-matching, but both mostly-red windbreakers. Ben’s was lined with white fleece-like material. Penny’s t shirts, Levis. Sam was wearing his tennis shoes from PE. Ben was wearing hushpuppies. Always stylish, and thinner than Sam and Riley, who were thin, Ben could wear a t shirt, a regular shirt, a sweater, tucked-in, and a heavy Pendleton flannel, AND the windbreaker.

If I wore a sweater to school, it usually was removed by third period. Still, I did have on some hushpuppy knockoffs, the soles sort of worn down on the outside (I attributed this to a slight bowleggedness caused by straddling surfboards), and dark Church socks to go with the Levis- white is for tennis shoes.]

[[Since I spent this much time on dress, I should mention hair. The dress code at Fallbrook High did not allow hair to be over the ears. This changed a couple of years later after a kid in the Agriculture Program got sheared by other Ag students. Sam and I actually witnessed this while at PE, the kid running out of the oversized Quonset hut at the farthest reaches of the campus, some farm boys from Rainbow or Bonsall or Temecula tackling him, hacking away. So, lawsuit, no dress code.  Girls could wear pants after the lawsuit. Not while I was at Fallbrook; dresses, and, if they seemed too short, the rebellious student might be required to drop to her knees, a measurement taken.]]

 

And here we were, a matter of inches the difference between a street-legal wheel well and some sort of radical ‘fuck you America’ kind of mutation.

 

[Peace, man. Anyway, Riley, Sam, and Ben each had some well-maintained version of the ‘boys’ haircut,’ short on the sides, parted on one side or the other on top. No ‘buzz cut’ or ‘butch’ like the Ag guys, no ‘flattop’ like (some, even many of) the jocks, no ‘slicked-back’ dos like many of the Mexicans and some of the Pauma Indians. Each had of my friends (boldly counting Cooper in this group) some version of blond hair. Ben’s was the blondest; Sam’s on the reddish side (not ‘red on the head like a pecker on a poodle,’ that was our sometime surfing friend, the same guy who stole the Surfboards Hawaii stickers), Riley with something like my sister’s hair color, dirty blond.

I was the one with the almost-black hair, and, on this day, mine was the closest to a dress code violation. This was only because it had grown out from the ‘high and tight’ cut many sons of Marines sported, just like their daddy’s, that my father insisted on when he marched (not like, really marching) his four sons into the barber shop, also insisting on a group discount.]

 

Riley nodded at the Marine guard, turned toward us, shrugged, said, “Another time.” He looked at his watch. There was plenty of time to get to school.

Sam stepped close to the guard. The guard looked around. “Hey, man; can’t you cut us some huss?”

It should be said that all this gate activity went very quickly. The guard had other things to do; the traffic had to move.

While Sam and Ben looked at the guard, Riley looked at me for a second with an ‘Oh, shit’ expression. Then we all looked at the guard. The guard looked at Sam, smiled, mouthed ‘some huss,’ seemed to want to shake his head, but didn’t, then smiled at Ben, looked toward Riley. Our driver was already headed for the driver’s door. He looked at me as Ben followed Riley’s lead, Sam crossed in front of a truck, stepped into the tiny office on the far side of the road.

The Marine lifted his properly starched and blocked ‘lid,’ revealing hair that was the next thing to shaved, a little more on the top. He put his lid back on, looked at the line of traffic, most with headlights on, looked back at me.

In an accent nothing like I’d expected, the Marine adjusted his military issue horn-rimmed glasses, looked at my thick lenses, asked, “Are you also requesting that I cut you ‘some’ huss?”

“It’s ‘a’ huss; right? Cut me a huss?”

FUCKING TONY (a bit of a preview of the next chapter, in progress)

This is the way I told the story to my old surfing buddy Sam, both of us hanging close to the fence at Pipes as my daughter donned what she thought might be a proper beach hat and proceeded down the gravel roadway to the sand, Once she got to the sand, she took some photos with her camera, mostly longboarders floating and waiting. She would occasionally waving back up into the glare, once waving her phone, once her hat; all the while trying to find the harder-packed sand.

“No. I was home. It was early.”

“Morning show. Channel, um; I don’t know. I wasn’t supposed to go on. Jakes wasn’t able to make it, held over in LA, and…”

“Yeah. Cindy had the TV on. You should have told me you were…”

“I wasn’t supposed to… wait? You watch that channel?”

“No. I had the remote; looking for, you know, weather. And there you were. I yelled, ‘Hey, Cindy; Alvin Hubbard’s on TV.” Pause. A surfer down below blew the bottom turn. “Eww. No, you looked… I recognized you right away.”

“Oh. So, now you see the camera didn’t add that many… pounds.”

“No, no; you look good. Owl, you should’ve seen me before I got back into surfing.”

“Well. Glad you did. Supposed to get a little bigger?”

 

OKAY, SO, THE STORY: “There is no way,” Tony Facciolo said, “that the station is going to do a telephone-only, or even a remote… interview with Jakes.” I was still backing away. “Even if it’s their affiliate in LA… no way.”

“You can do it, Dad.” I was shaking my head. Elizabeth was, of course, on the phone.

“INSIDE BREAK” The Novel- INTRODUCTION

NOTE: I started realsurfers.net to have some ownership on the two words, real surfers, and to tell the story alluded to in the introduction (below). Maybe I didn’t realize I had so many other stories to tell; maybe I didn’t realize I still have a surfing life. So, I plan on serializing the novel that fictionalizes the real story and wraps other stories around it. It will, unfortunately, be in reverse order, but, after a few chapters, interspersed with other pieces, I’ll consolidate. When it’s all done; I’ll probably change the name to “Real Surfers,” what I always wanted to be.  I did a drawing, but I didn’t think it fit the mood, didn’t want to wait until I have the time to do one I actually like, so… here we go… thanks for coming along.

INSIDE BREAK
Love and Wars and Surfing and Some Amount of Magic

INTRODUCTION-
Surfing is part of the soundtrack; whoosh, wait, wait, wait, whoosh. Always has been. Well, maybe not surf itself; but it is the tides and winds, moving in waves, and the waves themselves, maybe even time itself, another wave, spinning ever outward, all providing the heartbeat of the planet. Whoosh…wait…wait…wait…whoosh.

“So, Dad; it has to be fiction?”
“Because… you know our memories are…”
“Corrupted? Flawed? Inaccurate?”
“Hmmm. Ha. Yeah.”
“Maybe your original story could be enough. Jeez; I’ve heard it for years; headed for San Onofre; you and Phillip Harper and Ray Hicks and…”
“Dru; I’ve asked Ray. He doesn’t remember this trip. Others; yes. I think it was always Bill Buel. See? I edited him out; stuck Ray in, because Ray was… because I never liked…I mean, Bill wasn’t my friend; Ray and Phil were.”
“And you were riding with Bucky Davis, your surf hero…”
“For a while. That’s part of it. If I broke down my… shit; it’s really just another surfer coming-of-age story, but, at such an, an almost unique angle. If …and, if I could break down my surf history, to, like, chapters; it’d be illustrated with the times I went surfing with Bucky Davis. Like five or six times over five or six years. Grandview, New Break, Swami’s, the last time… your mother was there… at the beach by the state park… South Carlsbad. and part of this, this bigger story, is how my image of Bucky and…”
“Matured. And there’s the love story; Bucky and Phillip’s sister. Trish.”
“Yeah; and, again, I don’t really know. We never know about other people’s lives… or loves, and I’m such a fucking romantic, I wanted that to…”
“To work out. But that’s all… it’s the hidden story, Dad; the, um, interplay between what you thought, that so many things were magic, magical; and what was real. The, I guess, surface story, is of you guys going from Fallbrook, across Camp… Camp?”
“Camp Pendleton, 1967; the Vietnam War in full swing, and the Marines, really, were all just a couple of years older than Phil and Ray… I’m sticking with Ray, and I; and Bucky was… he was right at draft age. And the war; everyone thought, was going to go on forever.”
“Well, it didn’t. New ones. But, you know, some other stuff happened on that trip.”
“Yeah. Yeah, it did; but, this far removed, this far gone, it seems… stopped by a Highway Patrolman and hassled before we even got to the back gate, running out of gas, pushing the VW up a couple of hills, coasting down, pushing it into the little PX outpost in another tent camp as marines marched by, us all cool surfers and they ready to go to… see? It seems like fiction, even to me; like I’ve seen it before.”
“But you did. And… see, even I know the story. And you did surf at San Onofre.”
“The surfing was almost incidental; I don’t really remember it, specifically. Another session. Just like with Ray, huh?”
“But the story; it ends up at Tamarack. Tamarack, right? After Bucky tore up his Dependent ID card, and couldn’t ever go back on the base; and you’re riding shotgun… for once. Right? And Phillip and… and we’ll say Ray; they’re asleep in the back, and Dylan comes on the radio.
“It was ‘Rainy Day Women #12 and 35.’ Rare on ’67 am radio.”
“Right. And, pretty soon you’re singing along, beating on the dashboard. And pretty soon, maybe because this was the perfect song for the perfect scene; you could see and hear the waves, just about to get glassy…”
“The afternoon glassoff.”
“The soundtrack and the… the soundtrack. And now; I love this part; Bucky, so, to you, ultra cool; Bucky’s beating on the dashboard, also, and you’re both trying to sing along.
‘Everybody must get stoned.’”
“Ev-ry-bo-dy mussssst get stoned!”
“Dad?”
“Yeah?”
“Can you still see it?”
“Yeah.”
“There is magic in there somewhere.”
“Thanks. But, Dru; you know; now; because I… because real life doesn’t live up, maybe, because I’m going to steal other things I’ve seen, from other people’s lives, move things around; and, and, mostly, maybe, because I haven’t, um, lived up… it’ll be fiction.”
“Dad? Has your life contained enough… magic?”
Woosh, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait… woosh.
“Yeah.”

My Custom-Tailored 1965 Shortjohn Wetsuit

My First Wetsuit- 1965
Because it’s December, because I’m thinking about what wetsuit items I need for the colder WINTER season, it seemed like a great time to relive a few things about my first wetsuit, the classic CALIFORNIA SURFER’S SHORT JOHN, custom fit in 1965, and purchased for the sum on $15.00, plus tax. Not to give too much away too soon. So:
BOOTIES- Very fine. My daughter, Dru, bought them for my birthday. Because I have a bone spur/bursitis on my heel of my left foot, I’ve been sticking with the zip up pair I bought from a dive shop in Bremerton, though I’ve ripped through the material in a few places. So, no new booties; I can take the tightness if I don’t have to hike too far.
VEST/HOOD- In pretty good shape. Fine. This piece adds an added mil of rubber for my core. It’s a bit tighter than I might like, but, well, maybe that’s something I can work on. No, not cutting it and adding more material.
RASH GUARD- It’s fine, does its job; could use a higher neck area, and it never seems to dry out. Yes, I could bring it in the house. Okay, no new rash guard.
3/2 MIL (or is it 4/3?) BODY GLOVE LONGJOHN WETSUIT, with back zipper- Broken string replaced with longer, sturdier shoe laces, this piece was purchased in a Seattle surf shop (I was doing a job in Queen Anne, it’s the shop by the Aurora Avenue Bridge) for about one hundred dollars (plus tax), and had been (lightly) used in the shop’s rental/surf school operation down at Short Sands in Oregon; so, though I’m sure it did contain some residue of someone else’s urine, it was probably a specialty tea drinker from some Portland office complex, trying to seem more interesting (“You do know I surf, right?”), and maybe (because it is big enough to fit me, maybe the renter wanted to lose a few pounds. Yeah, the suit is getting a bit thin in the places I grip to get it into position, yes, I have patched a few spots with material cut from my previous wetsuit… So, probably not getting a new wetsuit this year. And, incidentally, I did offer the folks at my local(ish) surf shop, NXNW SURF, in Port Angeles, an opportunity to sell me a rental wetsuit; the kid working probably didn’t pass the word on to Frank Crippen. Oh, and, as I did when I got this suit, I want my next one to be a size smaller. Working on it.
GLOVES- I have several pairs of worn out gloves. I definitely need new gloves. Santa?

realsurfersshortjohn 001

PHILLIP C. HARPER , my first surfing buddy, now Dr. Phillip C. Harper (I added this for when he googles himself), as with all things surfing, found out for both of us how to get proper gear for our first winter season as surfers. He may have already gone for his fitting, but was kind enough to go, after school, with my Mom and me to the shop over by Oceanside Harbor. It was somewhere around December tenth.
The date meant the wetsuit would be my main Christmas present. It also related to the unofficial (but very important) rule that REAL SURFERS don’t don wetsuits until the water temperature drops to 58, and cease wearing them when the temperature comes back up to the magical 58 degree mark, usually some time around Easter Vacation.
MEASURING- This is always embarrassing for a chunky kid. It was somewhat lessened by the fact that Phillip and I had both gone out for wrestling as freshmen at Fallbrook High, and we both knew he weighed somewhere around a hundred pounds, and I had started out the season at 130, but somehow, with strict dieting and exercise (and as much surfing as possible) had ended up the season at 136. Vertical growth, maybe. I got through the measuring, and we got to do some surfing before going back home. Phillip was the guy in a wetsuit. Fine; he needed it more.
STYLE- The wetsuit had no zipper, but did have a, new that year, stainless steel closing mechanism on one shoulder. Stylish and out of the way.
PERSONAL STYLE- Maybe it was more modesty than fashion that made me want to wear trunks over my wetsuit. I’m going to say it was, perhaps, consideration for other surfers who were more, um, err, modestly-endowed, because… anyway; I did soon discover that my Hawaiian Jams, all the rage (according to Phillip) would rip out even faster when worn over the suit. They just didn’t ‘ride up’ properly. But, this didn’t stop me from wearing a t shirt under the suit; sort of an early rash guard effect, though the extra layer did nothing to promote warmth.
NOWADAYS (and for a long time now) surfers wear wetsuits in the summer, even longjohn wetsuits in the summer. Hey, I’m not judging; it’s no longer cool to be cold; and, it must be said, wetsuits are better than ever. I rarely get as cold in water that drops to as low as 43 degrees, possibly lower near the rivers coming off the nearby Olympic Mountains, as I did in the depths of winter in 1966, clad in my Beach Boys (style) striped shirt, my custom short john with the stainless steel closure, and my first pair of Hang Ten trunks. Phillip, no doubt, pointed out the unofficial (but strictly enforced by peer pressure) requirement for real surfers to wear surfing trunks, along with my surf wardrobe of Levis (not Sears or Pennys) jeans, Pennys t shirts, and a properly-showy windbreaker.
Actually, I purchased a pair of Jantzen trunks before the Hang Tens, at the Men’s Shop in downtown Fallbrook, along with gym trunks and an (and I was so embarrassed to ask for this that I wandered around the shop for a long time) athletic supporter. Not wanting to be measured, the trunks (and I think they just ‘ran’ small) were too tight to wear even under a wetsuit; but the other items, with the ‘boys large’ stickers, fit fine.
Not bragging.
No, I don’t wear trunks over my wetsuit. I did mention how cold the water is, right? Colder for some than others.
Again, not bragging.

Oceanside with Lightning, Ice Cream, and Melvin Glouser’s Farmers’ Toes

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So, when I get around to it (soon), I’ll put in the story. Or, you can check out the story in the next piece down. It took me wayyy too long to get the illustration from the new (son Sean’s old) printer to here, so, maybe I’ll (it’s technical speak I really don’t understand)… just stick the story in here and delete the previous piece.

I could explain the drawing and how I really wanted to make it trickier, maybe with the parking lot actually being the glassy waves and the Oceanside Pier, and the lightning, and the ice cream, and… and, and, we all want to just be better, don’t we?

Bill Birt’s Stolen Racks

There is the story of BILL BIRT’S STOLEN RACKS, stolen, partially, because his parents’ big ass car with the big ass trunk containing the big ass cardboard box (for Billy’s little friends’ wet gear), with big blue block letters spelling out *“Kotex,” was parked in the gravel parking lot, not visible from the beach or water, set aside for those who didn’t have military, military dependent, or San Onofre Surfing Club status, and how I was selected to ride back to Fallbrook with him, and, for once, I got to ride shotgun; and, because there was really only AM radio in cars, even fancy big ass ones, in those days, we got to listen to a station that kept playing hit **popular songs of the day in a tight rotation, and, of course, I’d sing along. And we had to drive around, down Highway 101 (there also wasn’t an I-5, at least on in the ‘slaughter alley’ section between San Clemente and Oceanside) because we would be borrowing the racks off a vehicle at Phillip Harper’s family’s house, south of town. “Closer that way,” Bill said; We all agreed.

The most particularly galling (to Bill) song contained lyrics including ***“Skip-a-rope, skip-a-rope… Daddy hates your mama, mama hates your dad; last night you should have heard the fight they had… skip-a-rope……”

So, it was about half an hour or so, down to Oceanside, another twenty-five minutes, Bill driving faster than his parents would like, on to Phillip’s house, a brief explanation to Phillip’s brother ****Clintswell about why we were there, gathered some drinks and snacks, and then we retraced our route, radio going the whole time.  So, probably seven or eight opportunities to sing along, window down, Bill not participating at all.Image

Yes, Bill Birt did complain, bitterly, to the other surfers, guarding our boards, when we returned to San Onofre. “That’s what you get for having a radio, Bill,” one of the two other surfers, either Phillip or Ray Hicks said. “He’d sing anyway,” the other one said. “Maybe not that song.” They all nodded, I nodded, Bill opened the big ass trunk, pulled out the replacement racks.

No radio on the way back. It didn’t matter. I was asleep in the big ass back seat.

*The Kotex box wasn’t as big as illustrated, the license plates would have been black. **”Skip-a-Rope” was a hit in 1967 for Henson Cargill. I know; I totally had to look it up. ***People nowadays don’t really believe that we had to (got to) listen to the Beatles and Frank Sinatra on the same station. Yeah, I know some Sinatra lyrics. ****Since I met Maxwell (or Clint) right about the time his mother changed his name to the other, after his father, a fighter pilot, killed in Korea, who may never have seen his second son, I called him Clintswell, and now can’t remember his proper name. I’ll guess Maxwell, since I also called him Smaxwell. He’ll show up again in other non-San Onofre tales