This from a guy who surfs on his knees

I was on my way back home, south on Surf Route 101, and, as is part of most of my surf expeditions into the cell-free zone (not free if you pay roaming/Canada fees), I had lists of things to get in the Vortex that is Sequim.  So, checking out at Costco, I notice the checker, on the other side of plexiglass, has a black facemask with images and writing.

Oh.  I was, of course, curious.  “I, um, can’t read everything on your, uh…”

He pulled the mask taut, and, though I can now read it, he tells me what it says.  “Stand for the flag, kneel for God.”

“Oh.  Okay.  That’s, um, a little political, isn’t it?”

“A little, maybe, but that’s what I believe.”

“Sure.”  Pause while I sign the check.  “Um, uh, what about if someone’s, say, on his knees, but he’s doing this?”  I make the sign of the cross, punctuated, as I often do, with a throwing out of the right hand as a sort of shout out to God.  I know what it means; an acknowledgement that I have serious faults.  I kind of figure God also gets it.  God, after all.

“Oh,” the checker said.  That’s it.  He’d already told the girl who asked if I wanted any boxes that he was going on break in eight minutes.  My receipt was on the cart and I was shuffling toward the exit.

It took a while before I thought, if he was, and I’m pretty sure he was, referring to football players kneeling during the national anthem, a gesture referencing the social injustice that can be denied but not, evidently, corrected; I could have mentioned that I have observed, when a football player is seriously injured, injured enough that the game has to be stopped, other players, from both teams, gather around the medical team and the injured player, and take a knee.

Are they insulting the flag?

How would I know?  I was busy thinking about how many waves I caught, how many hodads and kooks and rippers were around, what other spots might have been breaking; almost forgetting that, though I’m certainly not above praying for surf on the way out, I am a bit lax in thanking God for a beautiful day and a few fun rides.  Yeah, that’s from me, kneeboarding; not out of any disrespect.


Late (Very Late) Evening Glassoff

“All good surf trips begin or end in the dark,” I told my friend Archie Endo as we each tried to feed frayed straps of the soft racks through the buckles in the rapidly-spreading darkness. “I agree,” he said, moving to the middle (regular, Home Depot type) strap (stops that bounce when big rigs pass). I slammed the back door on the extra lengths of the back two straps, and added, “Preferably both.”
It was well past 10pm, and the waves were, at last, almost totally glassy, the wind gone from howl to whisper, the blacker, broken-wave-front of a rain storm still to our west. We had scored. 8:10 to 9:50.

Still, several hours earlier, it seemed more likely we were going to suffer another Straits of Juan de Fuca skunking. No, I wasn’t going to be skunked. I’ll surf ankle-snappers, exposed-rock peelers, even wind-blown peakers- and I have.
Keith Darrock had been right. As he had predicted early in the morning, the afternoon westerlys had pretty much blown out everything on the Straits, and he and Rico had scored glassy peelers at the sheltered semi-secret spot. If the Straits are a place to smooth out disorganized ocean waves, there have to be some sheltered coves where crazy windswell…
“Yeah, yeah. Uh huh, lined-up; barreling. Oh, and even Rico got some good rides. No, we haven’t given up. Not yet.” Keith, of course, had called me AFTER Archie and I decided against our favorite spot (and not just our favorite spot), had back-tracked ten miles, only to rule out the backup spot. We had also failed to gain access to (even to check) a wind-sheltering, secluded cove.
Sure, it’s their right to deny access. This isn’t California, or Hawaii, or even Oregon. “You can own beach in Washington. It just takes money. I had used Archie’s new smart phone to call the number on the sign that denied us access. The woman was polite. A person could rent a cabin, but they’re booked up. “Yeah, okay; but, um, how does the surf look?” “Oh, it’s rolling in.” “Rolling?” “Yes.” “But you’re booked?” “Yes.”
I was pissed, irritated, steaming like a Bolshevik, like an uninvited socialist, from the denial of access, and well aware of the wind’s refusal to abate, and well aware of the odds against finding anything close to perfect waves (ever), when I repeated to Keith, from our conversation earlier in the day, “Maybe we’ll (still) all get lucky.”
Heading back west, I told Archie that, because we had been discussing music and the possibility of him backing me up to at least record several of my songs (Archie and the V2s is all Archie, talented on guitar, bass, keyboards, and drums- I would just play harmonica and sing, and, anyway, I know a guy who might be able to slightly fix the results, once recorded), we’d forgotten to do ‘the sign of the cross,’ my favorite thing about being a convert to Catholicism (Trish gets the credit or blame), to which I add (on surfing trips mostly) a sort of ‘gang sign’ flourish at the end. Like a hoot-out, like, “Yea, God!”
Archie isn’t Catholic (or practicing Buddist), but he is intrigued with things religious and/or mystical; so he will join in; usually with a chuckle. And, if it helps… well, that’s just pragmatism (different religion- maybe).
To back up a bit, again, the reason I was able to gamble on the chance for an afternoon session was because Trish had given my spot at an evening cultural event (a Mozart Mass performed by world class presenters) to her friend Diane. So, once I said I could pick up ‘the heavy stuff’ at Costco, and check out a possible painting project in Sequim; I was in. Archie was up for it and… Port Townsend? No, that option was over (tide shifts, subtle swell fluctuations) before Keith had called.
Another Backtrack: Adam “Wipeout” James had also committed to surfing this afternoon. He met up with Nathan Jones of Pirated Surfboards Company in Sequim to pick up a board shaped for him. Adam, Nate, and a guy from Seattle (Ian, I think) had been the only ones out when we arrived at First Choice the first time. Adam got out of the rip-and-wind-torn lefts to show me the Nate version of a classic Simmons twin fin.
Now, hours later, the wind still blowing but the faces considerably smoother, Nate and Adam got out as Archie and I suited up. “If you catch more waves per hour,” I said, “you wouldn’t have to stay out so long. I was saving that up for you.” “Good one. You guys are really going to score. It’s finally…” “Yeah, look, Archie already caught two.” “Yeah.”
The session was a workout. The push was all west to east. Amazingly strong. While there was an audience, especially, maybe Adam, I wanted to do… better. Yes, I always want to do better. Bet-ter.
And then they left, and another guy, headed to Neah Bay to do some filming, parked, watched, and eventually came out, mostly, he said, because Archie and I seemed to be having so much fun. We outlasted him- ever glassier, cleaner, better, darker.

On the way home, the rare full moon on a Friday the 13th (next one, Trish says, is in 2049) was rising over the trees and the Olympics. “Here’s a pagan deal,” I told Archie, prying my wallet out of my back pocket, opening it, waiting until the moon was fully in view; “Fill ‘er up, fill ‘er up, fill ‘er up. Thank you.”
I don’t know if Archie tried it. I called Trish as we drove through Joyce. The concert had been “wonderful, great, Diane thought it was just sooo beautiful.” “Great. The moon?” “It’s not showing. Raining.” I repeated the pagan ritual, for her.
The next day, when Keith texted he was hoping for a repeat, I told him we had all gotten lucky. When Adam texted that Archie and I had been like the old bull who said “let’s wait and catch them all,” I had to call him back. “It’s not ‘catch’ them all.” “I know. Man, Archie was killing it.” “Yeah. He always does. What about me?” “Yeah, um, well; you know… sure.”
Prayer, voodoo, pagan rituals… whatever; sometimes we just get lucky.
And sometimes we all get lucky.


Guest Writer Stephen Davis on ‘Nose,’ Talking Story


 “The restaurant smelled like vomit and I couldn’t tell where it was coming from.” I was telling the story to our accountant Dolph, short for Adolph.  “You could smell it in the kitchen, the dish pit, and the twelve-top in the bar next to the wait station could more than likely smell it too”.  

Katrina, my stepdaughter, initially said she couldn’t smell anything.  Five minutes later she said that someone had, indeed, thrown up in the ladies’ room and that I must have a good sense of smell.

Having a discerning ‘nose’ is something I must have developed over a lifetime of cooking food and working in kitchens.  I never really thought about it consciously until now, but you can tell a lot about things just from smell.

 Once I was at a friend’s house when the retired fire chief, who was a neighbor, knocked on the door. He said my buddy’s chimney was on fire. After a career of fire fighting, he had a nose for chimney fires.  Both of us ignorant of the blaze, we were stoked the chief caught it.

“I think it might be a good idea to replace the fan in the ladies’ room one of these days,” I insisted. The fan had burned out two years ago and I had pulled it to get the part number. We never bought a new one because cash had been tight until the thought had dropped off everyone’s radar. 

“Having a strange hole in the ceiling of the ladies’ room for two years is just a buzz kill too,” I said.  No one is super comfortable using public restrooms and one having a strange, pervert hole in the ceiling just makes it more awkward.

The truth is, we’re a good team; Dolph and I.  We opened our restaurant in Port Townsend, Washington just before the banking meltdown and, somehow, we were able to skate through the recession, the Hood Canal Bridge closure, and another ferry crisis.  We pulled it, but it was tight, and the women’s room fan was a luxury no one considered until the smell brought our attention back to it. 

The reason I was involved in the restaurant business at all was because of my love of surfing, not food. I started working in kitchens to get through college by working nights.  As it turns out, working in the evening is great for surfing too, and, being an art major, I  just stuck with it after college. 

What gets confusing is that people think I must love food because I’m a chef.  Recently, reality cooking shows seem to be everyone’s window into the professional kitchen. Food becomes pornographic.  We now watch people eat for entertainment, like drooling dogs begging at the dinner table. 

That’s great, but waves are my true passion, and cooking has allowed me to ride a lot of them.  Having my weekdays free allowed me to surf every day waves were breaking; and I often surfed good spots alone.  I could go on long surf trips during the off season and not worry about losing a good paying job.

Like I had a good paying job.

College was amazing, but I didn’t see how it would help me surf more, so I bailed. That’s how I found myself owning my own place and talking to Dolph about foul smells in the ladies’ room. 

Foodies would often call me on my surf-over-work ways. When I asked a previous employer for a raise, he declined saying I didn’t “put enough love in the food“. 

“Whatever,” I thought,  “he should try putting love into two hundred-plus dinners a night.

 Assembly line workers don’t always put love into the torque wrench either. Maybe they‘re doing their best to make a buck for the fam and do some bowling at the end of it.  My boss had obviously never seen me praying for surf to a barrel-shaped tortilla chip on the dash while driving to the beach. 

People are extraordinarily fortunate when they get to do what they love for a living.  I do enjoy cooking for folks, but surfing is my love. 

I wandered out of the office and down the stairs to get back to work. A few minutes later Dolph comes down and says, “You really know how to tell a story,   your stories are always WAY beyond everyone else’s ”.  

“Oh,” I say, “It’s cause I’m a surfer. Talkin’ story is important to us!”