More from “Swamis”

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

SO…

So, more respect than hate.

RESPECT AND THE SECOND TIER

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

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

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

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

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

No, they all knew.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Well.” I shrugged.

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

“Pretty much. To be honest.”

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

“I, um… thanks.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DEL MAR FAIR

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

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

DOUBLE EAGLES

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

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

Oh. I was the only surfer left.

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

“Optimum,” I said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Style was and is the ultimate goal in surfing.

JUST SAY THANK YOU

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

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

My father would have demanded it.

“Just say ‘thank you,’ Jody.”

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

“Thank you.”

YOU SURFING OR WHAT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I chuckled. Probably.

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

“We surfing or what?”

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

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

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

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

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

“Good location,” Phillip said.

“Optimum view,” I said.

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

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

So, more respect than hate.

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

Negative Thinking Leads to…

..negative images.

IT ISN’T that I can’t think negatively; it’s my pre-set and my fall-back position. Maybe it’s defensive; questioning everything, sometimes regretting the times I didn’t; responding to almost any statement with, “What do you mean by that?”

HEY, that sounds kind of confessional. ACTUALLY, I’m just trying to provide a little introduction to some (potential) t-shirt designs I’ve been working on.

THE IDEA is to do white on colored t-shirts, but, in order to do that, I had to do the illustrations as negatives, all the black to be white. AND, sure, vice-versa. SO:

SO, Wait. Here are the negative images. NOW, imagine white ink on a colored t-shirt.

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I have to admit I was pretty jazzed (saying jazzed rather than stoked, just to vary my vocabulary) when the guy at Office Depot in Sequim was able to do a negative image. I called up TYLER MEEKS at the DISCO BAY OUTDOOR EXCHANGE.  I did some variations on logo designs for Tyler, and had stopped by to show the originals. AND to see what progress was being made on the t-shirts. AND, yeah, just about ready to go.

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SO, now I’m thinking; if I can actually get a negative image at the printers, MAYBE I can do the original drawing as a positive image and just get… WAIT, that’s too much thinking, too much imagining. I can’t even imagine the logo (above) as a negative image without risking serious damage to my… um… brain.

BUT, I will let you know when you can get an ORIGINAL ERWIN t-shirt. WHAT I CAN’T TELL YOU is when and where some surf might appear; not that I’m not thinking about it. Constantly. Right now.

Erwin On Dylan and Another Retrieved 80s Silkscreen

I have two more silkscreens from the latest batch of works I had scanned and reduced at The Printery in Port Townsend. Yeah, more from the stash of 1980s works stored in my attic; but my home scanner refuses to fully cooperate. Oh, it’ll do the first one, but then… failure after failure; lots of red Xes. Start over.

So, here’s a drawing of Dylan I never turned into a silkscreen, and a reduced version of a silkscreen that, you might notice, could have been more tightly presented if the above-mentioned scanner would have just… yes, I am aware it’s not squared. The drawing is. Really.

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CONFESSION: Part of the reason I never moved this drawing on to the silkscreen process, cutting background run images out of rubylith, is I was never quite totally pleased with it. So, this morning, on one of the 8 1/2 by 11 versions Liz provided me, I took out part of the top dark line. Bob needed to be freed-up to go beyond the borders.

I don’t seem to have the original of the second illustration. I did have a full-sized photo positive, but, unlike some of the others I had, a slight stain on part of it did not allow the image to be saved. But, I do have several of the original serigraphs, so… uncropped… it is:

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More to come, plus, maybe a surf story, maybe about how surfing in a crowd (I just had to go to Tacoma and Seattle- haven’t recovered, George Takamoto, who I picked up at the airport, might never recover- “You drive like a maniac!” “Yes, but you knew that.”) is most similar to driving in city/freeway conditions; one false move and the merciless road/wave hogs will cut you off, pass you by, fade you back into the pit.  Yeah, overwrought; like this; like George got when I texted on Hwy 16, spilled his just-purchased groceries in the back of the van on Hwy 3. Sorry, George.

Okay, I was once introduced to someone riding to the beach with Tugboat Bill with the line, “Erwin is merciless in the water.” No, not really; but, put me in traffic where I’m not sure of the lineup and the exits, and… see what I mean?

DURN, checking out the camera at La Push, got a shot of, I swear, Big Dave, cranking a Big Dave bottom turn; but, when I tried to copy it, durn, too late. It’s probably him paddling back out here.  Go, Dave!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Not Always According to Plan

It’s a bit of a, I don’t know, irritating thing, to me, that, despite planning out an illustration, thinking it through, actually picturing it in my mind; once I check out reference material, once I start drawing… it comes out…pause… different.

Here are two drawings (please, just because of the fragility of my ego, don’t call them sketches) I finished today. I’ll let you in on what I hoped for after this:

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Simpler. I was thinking of the way photos, back in the early 70s, mostly, late 60s, were broken into three shades (dark, mid-range, and light). Psychedelic? Maybe; depends on the colors selected.  Next time. I’m kind of at the ‘still wild’ phase (“Still Wild period- not sure); and, based on advice from some guys who purchased some of my work (thanks Dave and Joey), I am kind of making my name a bit larger. I’m thinking of going with “Original Erwin.” Branding.

Ego. And, yes, Doctor; maybe doing an Orca is some pathetic reaction to Stephen Davis selling his whale painting (check’s in the mail); AND having some (quite a few) commissions for more original Stephen paintings.

Maybe a little. I have wanted to do a drawing of an Orca for a while. I also wanted to write something about a recent suicide slab session I observed, rather than participated in. I did give kudos to those brave souls who risked it, each one paying dearly for a (precious) few quality rides.  Not really wanting to be the observer, on this occasion, not participating may have been the right decision.

Meanwhile, I’m still thinking…

OH, this is the day following the above post. My new stuff goes to twitter and Facebook, and, evidently, C.L. Flint is a follower (wait, maybe he’s a Friend; and, yeah, I do know him in real life) and commented that I should finish the killer whale, as in add the rest of the Orca (he called it a fish. No). So, I did. Now, I do think it’s sort of clever to have part of the drawing outside the frame (it’s my ‘outside the frame’ period). In this case, maybe C.L. is right. Here’s a side by side:

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

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

A Bullet in the Chamber

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

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

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

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

It took a moment. Recognition.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Here’s the moment I relive, replay:

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

New Shadows and Deep and Steep Drop

I have some new illustrations, freshly reduced, ready to add color.

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I had already done the color on the larger version of the (above) drawing, but didn’t like the blend on the lower part. So, once it was reduced, I added some more lines (and a little more color).

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I’ll add some color to other drawings, but, for some reason, I get less excited about the color part than I do the original drawing. When I get going on a drawing, and I’m pretty happy with my progress, what I seem to think about is how I can screw it up. And color is another opportunity.  So… less might be better.

Meanwhile, waves seem to be missing the Strait. Now, the coast… it’s another story.

Surfing for Fun (and some new illustrations)

It’s not ready yet, but I’m working on a piece about forgetting Stephanie Gilmore. Actually, it’s about a few moments of surfing in which Stephanie forgot herself, her image, her contest persona, her heat strategy; forgot everything except the joy of the moment.

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It’s something we all forget when dealing with the crowds, the conditions, and our own expectations for ourselves.

Meanwhile, here are a couple of other recent drawings:

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Sasquatch on the Tide Flats

NOTES: The word Patagonia refers to a land of giants.

-Sasquatch sightings in the wild Olympic Peninsula in Western Washington are a bit higher in the HamaHama region along Hood Canal.                                                                -The extended family of Adam “Wipeout” James has been logging, farming, and maintaining shellfish beds for generations.                                                                      -Whether surfing, working the tide flats, or representing HamaHama Seafoods all around the country, Adam’s life is more aligned with the cycle and pattern of tides than that of night and day.

THIS is fiction, as in, ‘could be true;’ and, really, it should be titled:

WHY I’LL NEVER GET THAT PROMISED PATAGONIA FLEECE PULLOVER

MORE NOTES/EXPOSITION: Adam is, quite possibly, the most gregarious person I’ve ever met. Eternally outgoing, willing to talk to just about anyone; I sort of wrote his behavior off as trying to fit in with the surf crowd, something in keeping with my impression that he believes there is some sort of unofficial Surf Community.                                             -Yeah, maybe; or maybe it’s the same more salt-water-connected than blood-related tribe I’ve been around for the last 52 years (or so).                                                                        -Adam remembers other surfer’s names, gets some background on others in the water and on the beach; and, I don’t know, it’s kind of catchy. Or I’m kind of competitive. Knowing Adam has made me, maybe, a bit friendlier. More on the beach than in the water.                                                                                                                                             -Adam has established some sort of relationship with Patagonia. They wanted, possibly, to make some inroads into the work clothing market, take some market share from Carhartt.                                                                                                                                             -SO, Adam scored some clothing, got some photos taken, set up mutual surf friend (and contractor in the boat building/repair world), Clint, with a modeling opportunity.      -AND, maybe because I wear my HamaHama hoodie out in the world, representing, Adam scored a xxxl Patagonia pullover for me. “Double xl is big enough,” I told him on the phone, both of us trying to figure out when and where to go surfing based on the latest forecasts, buoy readings, tide reports, and anecdotal/historic bullshit.

“I was just trying it on,” Adam told me, after the INCIDENT; “It fit over the rest of my gear.” “Because it’s a triple xl, Adam.” “Yeah; right.” So, finally, here’s my piece on Adam’s story:

Since it was a warmer night than expected, Adam left his (my) Patagonia pullover, a jug of water, and a burrito left over from dinner in a pile, just where the narrow path leading down from his house hit the beach. This was his own small section of tideflats. A moon, a few days past full, was rising above the trees and scattered lights on the Kitsap Peninsula, a mile or so across the ancient (ice age old) fjord. English explorers named this the Hood Canal, another finger (and not a canal) reaching from the various bodies that make up Puget Sound.

His characteristic miner’s style headset light on his wool cap, flannel shirt, rubber boots and protective gloves, and a five gallon bucket in each hand, Adam set out across the rocks and gravel.

He had missed the ebb tide, and, forty-five minutes into the flow, was thinking about surfing, about waves; swell size and angles and periods, and winds. With just a hint of an east wind spreading texture on the always-moving water; the decision was, as always, whether, in the morning, he should go down Surf Route 101 and out to the coast or up the same highway to the Strait. Deciding which oysters to pick was, after years of low tides, second nature.

The moon was only slightly higher when, his buckets full; he looked south, well beyond his headlamp’s ability to see clearly. It was…no.

What Adam thought could be (not unheard of) a bear, smashing shells with a rock; stood up, pouring an oyster into its mouth. Standing, it was… it was very tall. And it looked at him.

“It?” I asked, just the other day, on the Strait.   After four hours or so in the water, I was out and fully dressed. Adam, who arrived later than I had, having checked out several other possible locations, was sliding on a now-slightly-used canvas Patagonia jacket (probably a size large). “Have you seen, like, elk, deer, bears… out on the tideflats?” His gesture said, “Yes, all of those.” “Poachers?”

He laughed. “Yeah. That’s what I was thinking… a couple of years ago…” Adam cut himself off to say something to a group that had just pulled into the parking area; two softtops and two other boards on the roof, three guys and a woman climbing out.

“You have any more coffee?” he asked me. We had each had some after we both got out of the water the first time, before we noticed the rights seemed to be working (sporadically- I drifted back to the lefts where Big Dave was still surfing).

“Yeah; just don’t drink the last of it. Why don’t you bring a thermos?”

Half a cup in his (I’m guessing) hip canning jar mug, Adam walked over to his next (potential) friends as I tied-down my board, then put on the fleece-lined, flannel, old man coat I’d purchased for eight bucks at the Port Angeles Goodwill, shortly before I discovered I could get a new version at Costco for under twenty.

“Surgical strike, then. Great.” This is what Adam was saying to one of the four-person-group readying to attack the mostly-mediocre (I’m legally bound to never say ‘great,’ though, on this day, they weren’t) as he backed away from them and toward me, turning to say, “Surgical strike.”

I, no doubt, shrugged. “Poacher?”

“Oh, yeah; that’s where I might have screwed up. I couldn’t tell… he was kind of out of range. He was, um, thick enough, that I couldn’t really tell how tall he was. I think I said something like, ‘Hey, Buddy… Dude; you know that these tideflats are…’ I almost said, ‘mine.’ Or, maybe I did.”

I poured out the last of the coffee into my Seahawks mug. A third of a cup and almost luke-warm. “Now, Adam, I told you I wasn’t going to tell you, again, that the best wave I saw all day is the one you were too far over to make… so pretty.”

“No, the best wave was the one I took off in front of you on.”

“Yeah, maybe it was.” With Big Dave and I kind of, possibly, maybe, catching a lot of the available waves, Adam and others had moved up the reef. Not really working. Adam moved back over. On one of the larger waves, Adam took off in front of me. I surfed up next to and under him, and actually said (not yelled, but in the heat of the moment), “I hope you don’t think I care more about this board than this wave.” We both made the wave, and Adam said, “You should have gone past me.” “You should have dropped down.” “Yeah, next time. Fun, huh?”

“Yeah. Fun.”

At some point, and it was probably when he heard the growling, deep, low, but intensifying; Adam realized this wasn’t a poacher out on his tide flats. And it wasn’t a ‘Buddy’ or a ‘Dude.’

Turning toward the beach, walking slowly, at first; his lamp turned off, looking up at the yard light at his house; Adam didn’t break into an all-out run until he approached the high tide line. Still, he never thought of dropping the buckets, even when audible (and getting closer, quickly) heavy breathing, huge feet sliding and splashing across the shallows, got closer.

Closer. Adam swears, now, he could feel the creature’s breath, smell something that, when he considered it, smelled somewhere between burnt driftwood and seaweed. Not that he was considering subtleties of smell as he ran. Near the high tide mark, Adam dropped both buckets; one spilling over, the other staying upright.

It wasn’t a growl, almost a laugh as the Creature passed him. Passed him. Adam may have shrieked. May have; but then he froze. A bucket swinging from one hand, the creature (let’s call it a Patagon’, a giant) stopped at the path, turned, sniffed, looked at Adam. Maybe he studied him for a moment: Brown hair, big mustache, beard halfway-to-full. He looked at the brown hair on his own arm for another moment as he raised Adam’s leftover burrito, ate it in one bite, drank half of Adam’s remaining water (the rest pouring down his hairy chest), and, when Adam turned his headlamp back on, the Patagon’ blinked.

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“Then, his head kind of turning this way and that, he sort of smiled. Big canines. Big. I did kind of a (demonstrates) fist bump kind of thing, then, maybe, like a peace sign. I, um, (demonstrates again) kind of hit my chest, said, “I’m Adam.”

“Of course you did.”

The Sasquatch licked his huge fingers, grunted something; four syllables. Adam answered with a, “You’re welcome.” The Patagon’ looked at Adam’s (could have been mine) fleecy pullover, then back at Adam. “It won’t fit you,” Adam said. “But, maybe… special order… I know people.”

Too late. The coat tucked/stuffed under one arm, the bucket of oysters hitting a few branches, Adam’s new friend glided (Sasquatch(es) supposedly glide) along the shore-hugging scrub brush, bounded up an unseen path farther south as a cloud covered the moon.

“Low tide’s about forty-five minutes later tomorrow night,” Adam said into the darkness, walking back to retrieve the other bucket of oysters, thinking (he claims) about how much I would have loved that sweatshirt.

“Hey, nice session,” I said, reaching out to exchange a fistbump. ”And… nice story.”

“Yeah. Um… so, you, uh, didn’t wear the HamaHama sweatshirt today?”

“No, but…I could explain that, but…” No, I couldn’t beat Adam’s story. It would take aliens, space aliens. “Next time. And, um, next time, you drop down and I’ll go past you.”

BONUS STEPHEN DAVIS, with explainer. Stephen, recovering from his recent Tuck-and-rollover accident on the Big Island, sent a photo of his most recent painting. Thanks, Stephen, paint some more. NOW! PAINT!

 

 

Waiting…and Waiting…and…

..image-125…checking the forecast. Stubbornly believing, if I check the buoys (not just those near-shore, but those in the open ocean, west and north- the ones that matter) often enough; winds and angles and period; if I check out multiple forecasts; if I overlay an optimal tide and wind situation at several different locations; maybe I’ll be able to predict the exact moment when the swirl becomes the proper energy, properly focused.

And, of course, I hope the next window is slightly before the forecasts we all look at call for it to open.  Ready to readjust my schedule to fit my idea of when and where and how far away, imagining peeling glass, properly chilled and waiting…

No, it’s me who is waiting. I’m guessing you are, too.

Meanwhile, there’s work, and, incidentally, I have quite a few drawings waiting to go to The Printery to be reduced in size so I can post them.  Something else I’m anticipating.