I MAY HAVE, finally, gotten enough EDDIE to fill my craving for something I have sworn, repeatedly, sometimes with actual swear words, never to really care about: SURFING BIG ASS WAVES. It may have helped that I did go surfing in the week since I sat, transfixed, kiddy cornered to our big ass flat screen (No, don’t care if your is bigger, Dick), listening to commentary by Kaipo (from the WSL- hope he still has a job there) and the two guys who did the color work for the recent DA HUI SHOOTOUT, which I also watched a shit load of, and somehow, with one participant in that event knocked unconscious and having to be resuscitated and at least two other surfers seriously injured, made riding PIPELINE seem somehow boring. Thanks, Kaipo.
THERE WAS NO WAY the Eddie could or would be boring. That a lifeguard, LUKE SHEPARDSON, getting a time deduct for his time surfing, won the event seemed almost poetically fitting.
AND/BUT I didn’t just watch the live coverage. OH, no, I checked out videos by and/or about all of my Hawaii favorites during the past week, last YouTube vicarious surf trip, last night. YEAH, like NATHAN FLORENCE, KOA ROTHMAN (one with both of them together), MASON HO, and, because YouTube obviously has me dialed in, I was offered and perfectly willingly clicked on more stuff from MARK HEALY and ELI OLSON. And maybe a few others I don’t want to check my search history to verify.
BUT WAIT… So many people I ran into over the past seven days, some with only a tangental connection to surfing, had to ask me if I watched THE EDDIE. Oh, yeah; want to discuss it? I did. Yes, since I just thought of it, I did enjoy the commercials from the TV Station in Hawaii (KHON2) that was airing the event. No, they probably do have as many ads as mainland channels for various charities, and for pills and vitamins and products to make any body part smell great, but if they took a day off from that to show some surf related products, thank you.
I SHOULD confess that it was often me who brought up the subject.
THERE WAS, as I alluded to, a day between last week’s BINGE and today’s (possible) start to the WSL’s version of a PIPELINE contest (which I will follow), a full day adventure, dark to dark, with STEPHEN R. DAVIS, seeking waves. It took two days of bleaching and pressure washing to get down from that buzz-worthy experience, my froth, no doubt, amplified by the dull hangover from the EDDIE.
SO, THIS MORNING, searching Google for an appropriate photo to purloin (doesn’t sound as nefarious as steal), I chanced upon some stuff from BEACH GRIT, almost always satirical, and always clever commentary by CHAS SMITH and DEREK RIELLY. So, I just had to get their take on (what else,) the EDDIE. And, of course, between them, they also skewered other surf related sites, QUIKSILVER (who formerly sponsored the EDDIE, missed out on this bonanza), and the easy target of the WORLD SURF LEAGUE.
GOOD STUFF, though I’m always a bit hurt that my friend and librarian/surf ripper/zealot, KEITH DARROCK, believes Chas Smith is just SOO great. So radical. I mean, yes, Chas is smoking in his online image, and I just someone, choosing breathing without coughing over coolness, who used to smoke, but… Now, it isn’t that I don’t agree with Keith, it’s just that I’m… competitive.
OKAY, I have almost worked on this long enough to find out if the PIPELINE contest is going to run today. I am also working on some drawings and very, very close to writing the final chapter, the grand conclusion of “SWAMIES.” OH, AND, YES I have watched some videos of the actual spot filmed during the recent FIFTY YEAR SWELL (fifty-three if you go back to the one in December of 1969). MY COMMENT: They always seem to focus on the outside peak. It doesn’t usually connect all the way through. Certain tides. Now, the inside peak…
This is one of the paintings realsurfer and real artist Stephen R. Davis has been producing during, and particularly since his epic battle with Lymphoma. Not that it’s over. Steve is offering limited edition prints and posters and cards of this and other paintings. I asked him to send me the image and the contact info so others can get in on purchasing some of his work. I don’t really communicate with him on ‘social,’ BUT I will get the connections sorted out.
MEANWHILE, I am perilously, dangerously close to finishing the manuscript for “SWAMIS.” I mean, like, today if I don’t get distracted by rumors of waves. THE ISSUE is, how to sell these things, also including ORIGINAL ERWIN t shirts and, yeah, I have some art works of my own (less so with my dark-of-winter obsession with finishing the novel.
BUT, and this is related, my daughter, Drucilla, also engaged in her own battle with cancer (Fuck Cancer), is getting back into the work mode, AND she has skills in setting up some platform on which Steve (and our mutual artist friend, Reggie) can market our work.
AS FAR AS the selling “SWAMIS,” I have some ideas. First among them, as I try to find an agent, is offering a limited edition version, printed on regular paper, and contained in a Pee-Chee folder, a critical item in a 1960s students’ life, and something that is a part of the “Swamis” narrative. With pockets on both sides of the folder, a reader could easily slide pages read from one to the other. AND I would include artwork I have done in connection with the manuscript. ALL NUMBERED AND SIGNED, of course.
AS WITH Stephen’s contact info: I will have to get back to you on that.
SOB, sob, why, God, why does a team like… sob… I just wanted… they were ahead at halftime. I mean, yeah, I know the Seahawks weren’t supposed to win, but…” unattributed quote.
Trish and I were watching the Wild Card game over at our daughter’s house. The Seahawks were behind by ten point by the end of the first quarter. I promised I would turn it off and go to the market if the 49ers got another touchdown. Halftime, the Seahawks were ahead. YEA!
Trish, before the kickoff, turned the volume down. Biased coverage. I was listening to the radio version, Steve and Dave. Properly biased. Trish did turn the volume up at halftime, just to see what the Fox Sports experts, who had all agreed the Seahawks were outmatched and would lose, had to say. “Wait until the second half,” was pretty much their message. Volume off.
Partially because their commentary was behind the TV, and partially because it’s thrilling to hear Steve Raible when the Hawks do something amazing, not so much fun when they’re sucking wind. So, no sound except Trish, face at her laptop screen, saying, “I can’t look,” “We’re bad luck,” “Oh! San Francisco’s the greatest. All world! (Sarcasm),” and my loud-but-appropriate grunts of disapproval, or my less frequent and multiple-syllable shrieks of celebration.
With no other distracting sounds, and hope still hanging by some vague remembrance of every sport movie ever made and a few miracle comebacks, it became easy to notice that there are a hell of a lot of commercials during sixty minutes of football.
Early in the fourth quarter, I did notice there were other folks rather aimlessly wandering the produce aisles, or lining up for fried chicken, people who one would never imagine actually playing football, but all in various amounts of Seahawks garb, heads down, possibly still wondering if Geno had connected of a few more long bombs. and, no doubt, happy that they (we) had beaten the crowd that waited until the inevitable San Francisco celebration, with interviews featuring the all world winners.
This isn’t sarcasm. It is sardonic (sarcasm where the speaker’s pain is just too obvious) commentary.
Oh, I did see, while checking out (saved thirty cents on a thirty dollar total), a guy in the line one over wearing a Seattle Kraken shirt. And later, my friend, Stephen R. Davis, who actually did play ice hockey, told me the Kraken just defeated Boston, and that’s a big deal, and… No, not switching my allegiance. Maybe. No; I’ve said I would before. But, added to all this, the San Diego Chargers, who were once my team to root for, were killing it in their game. And then, comeback by the… I don’t know, one of those southern teams. Miracle. Sure. Why not?
MY POST GAME ANALYSIS: Underdog, Over-dog; it’s better to be the Big Dog. And, since I am kind of thinking about, and planning to write about surf heroes, I should relate this to SURFING.
YES, older surfers do like to say, “Back in my day, the best surfers got the best waves,” that kind of thing that runs contrary to sharing and caring, the kind of easily-said aphorisms that run into the reality of limited waves and increasing crowds. NOW I am thinking about PARTY WAVES and DOG SLED TEAMS. If you’re in front, there’s an expectation you will leave lots of room for the other surfer; if you’re in back, you’re dealing with the wake and chandeliers, wondering if there’s an opportunity for a go-behind. AND NOW I’m kind of wondering (and trying not to wonder or care) which teams are playing today, and, by extension, who I want to root for.
AND NOW, realizing I should have taken off for a money-making opportunity half an hour ago, I am wondering when I will get to surf next.
I got the dog image from GOOGLE. All other content is copyright protected and is the property of Erwin A. Dence, Jr. NOT THAT I WON’T SHARE IF YOU ASK NICELY.
Shoppers saving their ‘good hair’ for later. I do love this photo. Not mine, but…
UPDATE- There will be a paddle out on Sunday, January first to honor and celebrate the life of real surfer Omar Jamaludin. It will be held at a break Omar and many of us consider our (favorite or a favorite) spot. No, not H****ck.
I am, finally, getting to the end of where I have now decided “Swamis” should end. While I have been actively, consciously trying to cut down or cut out anything that doesn’t further the main plot, I found myself with ninety thousand words and needing more than ten thousand more. THIS EXCERPT is from a chapter in which Joey is working at the fictional San Elijo Grocery Store, known as Mrs. Tony’s to the locals. There was, in the late sixties, a grocery store there, across the railroad tracks and highway 101 from the San Elijo State Beach. It featured a high wall of windows facing the view. I do recall Phil Harper and Ray Hicks and I, well into a week or so of camping and surfing, going into the market, and my becoming aware that I was probably close to maximum sun exposure. So, chocolate milk and Hostess donettes, back across the street.
The in store information is largely from Trish working at the Quilcene Village Store in Quilcene (in the 1980s) while it was known, by locals, as “Mary’s Village Store.” It was easy to get credit, easy to put purchased items on your tab. Mary also accepted, from the right customers, post-dated checks. And, she did some payday lending. Ten bucks on Monday was repaid with eleven on Friday. And, as the fictional Mrs. Tony and other checkers do in the manuscript, Mary and other checkers (not Trish) wore their hair in curlers at work, saving their ‘good hair’ for their men at home.
So… Swamis- a Sunday in March of 1969. Joey redefines is the narrator.
I was getting faster, steadily, at the register. I had already memorized most the prices on the most frequently purchased items, read others, only guessed on a couple; always, as instructed, ‘guessing up.’ And I was smiling, and sliding the goods, and bagging, and loading the carts, and responding positively to whatever clients said; I was making change and putting new balances on old tabs.
By my lunch break, 2:20, each of the Tonys told me I would get faster. Eventually.
Just before what was supposed to be my afternoon break, 4:20, I checked out one customer, Sylvia Crawford, whose account card featured a red line under the balance. Sylvia Crawford, then I, looked over at Mr. Tony. He mouthed ‘okay,’ with a smile, followed by a bit of a stern look for Sylvia Crawford. Her expressions went from relief to a purposefully awkward smile, one meant to, if not conceal, to acknowledge the awkwardness and thereby lessen her embarrassment. She had offered no explanation of why she was behind, or when she would try to catch up. I was grateful for that. I just smiled. Neutral smile. As instructed.
After my smoke break, I held up a three-person line to get Mrs. Tony when a guy with a rather full cart slid a Traveler’s Cheque across the counter. “Where you from?” Mrs. Tony asked him. When she found out it was Arizona, she said, “Sure. Too hot there already, that’s my guess.” She took over checking out his purchase. I did the bagging and the moving of items from counter to bag to cart.
“Now, Jody,” Mrs. Tony said, the Arizona guy still there, “If this was an out of state check, you’d have to say ‘no.’ With a ‘sorry,’ of course.”
“What if, Mrs. Tony, he had been from, say, Minnesota?”
“I’d have said, ‘sure, still too cold there’s my guess.” Arizona Guy and Mrs. Tony both chuckled. Still, her look told me I could have stayed quiet. Should have.
When Arizona Guy and the three other customers were gone, she said, “Jody. I know you’re smart. What you aren’t is better. None of us is better than our customers.” She put her right pointer finger high on my nose. She slid the finger down slowly and held it there for a moment. “They might want to tell us their business. Selling them… stuff, that’s ours. Got that, huh?
At about 5:45, I rang up purchases for a guy in his mid-twenties. He had a clean shirt on, but there were some grease stains on his hands and forearms, and he was wearing dark blue mechanic’s work pants and hard leather shoes. He held out a check made out to Jack Jacobs, and flipped it over. Jonathan Jacob, Junior’s signature was at the top, “pay to the order of Richard Haber” below it, and a signature, “Richard Haber” below that.
“That’s me,” he said. “Richard Haber. Two-party check. I already signed it over.” Richard Haber flipped the check over and set it on the counter. “Jackie Jacobs says you do this all the time.”
I smiled, took the check, pointed at Mr. Tony at the first register as I walked away.
Mr. Tony looked at the check, looked at Richard Haber, who was busily bagging his own groceries. “Don’t recognize him.” That was in Mr. Tony’s version of a whisper. In his loudest, announcement voice, Mr. Tony said, “Mrs. Tony, can you come to check out stand two?”
Richard Haber, Mr. Tony, several other customers, and I all looked around for Mrs. Tony. “Friend of John Jacobs, Junior,” Mr. Tony said in his normal-but-still-loud voice. “Jackie Boy Jacobs.”
Richard Haber had loaded the groceries into a cart by the time Mrs. Tony almost ran down the cereal and bread aisle and to the middle register. Her apron and scarf were off, and her hair was out and brushed. Only two clips on her bangs remained. She had makeup on, far less than what she would describe as ‘whorish’ on another woman. Her lipstick, however, was color I had overheard her refer to in a conversation with Doris as Revlon red.
“Almost closing time,” Mrs. Tony said, more to me than to Richard Haber, “It’s Sunday.” She took the check in her left hand. “Better start sweeping up, Jody. I mean, Joey.”
The oversized dry mop and the other clean up items were already staged against and in the very middle of the front windows. On my walking away from the middle register, and with several gestures from Mrs. Tony, two of the customers who had been waiting moved over to her husband’s line.
“No. Sorry, kid,” Mrs. Tony told Richard Haber, in a low-but-not-low-enough voice, “Jackie Boy Jacobs stiffed Mr. Tony and me good.” Richard Haber waited as Mrs. Tony walked over to the file cabinet, pulled a card out from the bottom of the ‘H-I-J’ stack. She held the full card, three red lines under the last entry, by the top edge, hitting it against her left forearm as she walked back to the register. Don’t know what you did for him, but…”
Mrs. Tony pointed at pieces of paper suspended on strings above the filing cabinet until Richard Haber followed her eyes. “Bad checks,” she said, “Never could collect. I used to have a board… with names of cheats and deadbeats, over on the back of the register… so’s people could see them. Some guy from the County, a detective. He…” Mrs. Tony looked at me, the message being to return to her register. I leaned the mop against the cabinet. “He said naming names might be what’s called, ‘bad form.’ But, Richard Haber, I still got every one of the names…” She tapped her forehead. “…Up here.”
Mrs. Tony put Jonathan Jacobs, Junior’s check on the top row of keys on the register. She looked at the total for the items on the counter, hit a key, opening the drawer. She took out five dollars and sixty-five cents, moved it all into her left hand, and said, quietly, “Or you can try the bank. Tomorrow. Or… maybe, if you see Jackie boy, see if he’ll come in and… honor his debt.”
“I need more money than that,” Richard Haber said. He removed several items from the bags, set them on the counter: A half-gallon of milk, a loaf of bread, a medium sized jar of peanut butter.
“Tell you what, Richard,” Mrs. Tony said, ringing-in the items, sliding them backwards on the counter, “take the bottle of Red Mountain… on me… and Mr. Tony. And, good news, you’re out of it. Lesson learned.” She looked at me, mouthed ‘lesson learned.’ I nodded.
Richard Haber wasn’t halfway to the door when one of the customers from Mr. Tony’s line, probably about their ages, late forties, headed back toward Mrs. Tony’s and Doris’s and, for a few hours, so far, my register. “Quitting time, Lenny; me and my mister are… going out.” Lenny smiled, turned back toward Mr. Tony’s register. “I got my hair undone, my lips painted up, and…” She kicked her right foot out toward Lenny, half-whispered, “Got my ‘chase me, catch me, fuck me’ pumps on,”
“You do look… delectable, Loretta.”
Loretta La Rosa shook her head, turned toward me. “You didn’t hear that part, Jody… I mean, Joey.” I shook my head. “So, Joey… Miss Cole? Huh?”
I shook my head again and started loading the items Richard Haber couldn’t afford into an empty cart.
“Swamis” is copyrighted and, as is all original material in realsurfers.net, the property of the author, Erwin A. Dence, Jr. All rights are reserved.
Drucilla ‘Dru’ Dence just after her last radiation treatment. Her course was originally set for thirty sessions, but they cut it down. Nice. They increased the voltage, or the duration, something, so that was less nice. It’s all pretty scary. Fuck Cancer. Sorry for not being trying to hide the ‘fuck cancer’ in some sort of sneaky, subliminal way (like cancers themselves- sneaky). I totally screwed up the shot of Dru inside the place, ringing the bell. Some sort of tradition, started, I joked, after someone saw a similar setup at Arby’s. “If you like the service, ring the bell.” Three times is the standard. I did criticize Dru’s weak first ring. She nailed it on the second and third. “Three rings, for ‘fuck cancer,’ huh?” “Yeah, Dad; can we go now?” “Sure. You hungry?”
I don’t want to take any more credit for getting Dru to the doctors’ appointments and to most of the sessions. Trish did almost all of that, Dru drove herself several times. Because it’s cancer, none of this is really over. She was told that she would feel weak for several weeks, her body still kind of ‘cooking’ from the radiation. “Cooking? They said, ‘cooking?'” “Cooking. Yeah.” And there’s more; the post-surgery reconstruction process is coming up; follow up visits; it’s not over. (insert your own verb here- you know mine) Cancer!
Updating the post-bone-marrow-transplant situation for surfer/artist///all the other things he excels at- Stephen R. Davis: The post-treatment weakness is, he says, less of a problem. He is stronger. His blood, and, in particular, his immune system, nearly and purposefully destroyed, is doing what blood is supposed to do, All good. He still can’t get too close to too many people, he still can’t do physically demanding work or surf for months. So… again… DING ding-ding! Yea, STEVE!
Dru and Steve are doing what they can to bring in some money: I’ll update on Steve’s latest surf-and-non-surf related paintings soon.
WORD ON THE STRAIT- Aaron Lennox does not want credit for the phrase. So, okay, Aaron. Still, the lack of surf, as always, is a point for discussion. It is particularly frustrating when it would seem that winter, and let’s face it, winter starts well before the solstice, should be the season for swell to come into the Strait. And yet… not so much.
Adam ‘Wipeout’ James offers a word on that- “There’s the ‘dog days of summer.’ I think it should be called the ‘cat days of winter.’ Many of us have been surfing around the Strait long enough to believe the truth of that. “Historically,” Adam said in a recent cellular conversation, “the best and most consistent swells… last year, for example, they came in in…”
Oops; dropped call. Cell service is also remarkably inconsistent out this way.
Is that a wave? Is it? Is it?
FUTURE TOPIC- Who is in your phone tree (archaic term)? Who do you call if you know the surf is going off? Who do you call because that person might just know if it is going off? Answers? Next time.
ONE LAST THING: There has been some talk about New Zealand. It has seemed like a worthwhile destination, surf-wise, a some day destination, since “Endless Summer.” Just wondering, why did people ever leave Old Zealand? My guess? Next time. You’re thinking ‘Hodads,’ aren’t you? OH, and… fuck cancer!
It has become an unwanted tradition that work is scarce in the short cold days on both sides of the winter solstice. If Christmas came in July… different story. “Swamis” the novel, has been almost done for far too long. In ‘The Time of Covid’ I completed two versions and an outline/treatment, all with the same issue: A lack of focus, what one person who tried his best to read the second unexpurgated version, he claims, called “A slice of life… too much so.” So… slices. He was, of course, correct. I blamed the narrator, Joseph Atsushi DeFreines. Focus, focus… uh, what?
I have been devoting as much time as I could to turning a manuscript into a novel.
I believe I am closer, but not… quite… there. Yet. And, kind of a surprise to me, the relationship between Joey (aka Jody) and Julia Truelove Cole (nickname Julie) has taken up a higher percentage of the manuscript. I credit Julie. It is the beginning stages of a complicated (I hesitate to say) love story.
The timeline has been shortened. I plan to end the story where it begins; Jumper Hayes, severely wounded in Vietnam, returning to the surf at Swamis- after the death of his best friend, Chulo and Swamis parking lot character, Gingerbread Fred. Sequel? Impossible to say. I need to complete this one. Bonus – Overwriting the shit out of my manuscript has given me so much other material, so many side stories. Over-thinking and over-explaining the characters has made them real enough in my mind that I can almost predict what each would do in a different situation. Other than Joey and Julie. No, none of the characters behave as planned.
Which is great. I started the latest re-write, slashing at the dialogue and action that didn’t move the plot, probably a third of the way into the manuscript. I devised new ways to insert details into the manuscript, a line rather than a page. It has helped. With a fairly clear vision of how to end the novel, with the newer chapters having a more consistent flow and style, I still have to go back and work on the beginning.
Without going off on how fiction eliminates too many of the side characters to focus on developing relationships between the main ones, edits out too many slice of life moments to focus on moving the narrative quickly enough, I admit to doing the same thing. Joey’s detective father, and Jumper, though still key players, move into the background. Action wise, the story still has three incidents in which characters die. No car chase, however, no violent revenge. Not yet.
With all the side stories I have to eliminate, one that I could never quite fit into the narrative timeline is one I include in a rewritten Introduction. The two versions are not all that much different, but I took the opportunity to include an actual surfing story. Q Oh, the joy of just making stuff up!
BUT WAIT! Before we get to that, here is this posting’s… WORD ON THE STRAIT with AARON LENNOX- “Salivating with a chance for froth!” Some explanation might be needed here. While the official position is that there are never any good waves on the Strait, and that the best we can hope for is “Almost,” as in almost good or even almost rideable, occasionally, in the midst of real and actual doldrums, there is some hope for an ‘almost’ session. This becomes a serious topic on various text threads between surfers. Secondary Word- “Some people are polythreaderous. They have multiple thread partners.” What?
Anyway, if you’re in a pre-froth state, just starting to salivate… good luck.
San Diego County Sheriff’s Office Detective Sergeant Joseph J. Defreines was asked to speak at a meeting of the Chambers of Commerce from several cities and other unincorporated towns in the North County. He was there to answer concerns about marijuana. In particular, he was asked to address how to control the growth of growing and selling the illegal crop. It was August of 1968. Tall, well built, blonde, my father was quite impressive in his full uniform. Daunting, even. “You ask me about arrests,” he said. “You tell me who to start with; you don’t say where to stop.” The room was, after my dad allowed the coughs and whispered comments to subside, quiet.
“The world works at an acceptable level of corruption,” he said. “As business… people, you understand this.” The chairman of the Oceanside Chamber stood up. “You’re not the first person to say this, Joe.” “Probably not,” my father said, lifting a heretofore full glass of red wine, “Then let me add…” He toasted the room in three slow moves, making eye contact with selected people in the room, then took one drink that emptied most of the glass. “It’s not a particularly low level.”
Joseph Jeremiah DeFreines- March 15, 1926- February 27, 1969.
I choose to start the story at exactly this time and place, Monday, June 7, 1969, because, though my father was dead; though I was responsible for his death; though I was facing the draft, college, or Vietnam; though everything in my life was uncertain, muddled, frightening; I was exactly where I had long wanted to be; Swamis Point with a four-foot swell.
The stories we are told, the stories we tell, are taken and reshaped from some bigger story, one without some definite beginning or contrived and convenient ending, one that continues after the players move on. Or die.
All good surf stories start or end in the dark. Some barely awake surfer powered by anticipation, fumbling with wet towels and trunks, trying to beat others with the same incentive, to get a few seconds-long rides on liquid energy, possibly making a wave that shouldn’t have been made.
I have selected scenes, and cut scenes, and edited passages, manipulating if not controlling the narrative. This story will begin and end in the dark. As such, “Swamis” is a surf story.
“Swamis” is a coming-of-age story as well. It has to be. I was almost eighteen, an inlander, dreaming of being a local in the North County beach towns, dreaming of some sort of relationship with my idea of the perfect surfer girl. Not one who sat on the beach, one who complimented her man’s ‘good rides, made excuses for awkward rides, my vision of a perfect surfer girl was of one who surfed. I had one in mind.
This is, then, a love story. The best love stories end sometime after a shared sunset, perhaps, in the dark. This story will, also. Not that that story, with romantic visions hit hard by real life, was over.
Mystery? My father constantly added to his collection of easily dropped aphorism, little witty sayings. “There are no mysteries,” he would say, pausing in this one, as he did with most, before finishing with, “Someone knows.” Another pause. “You just have to ask the right person.” Pause. “Or persons.”
That Joseph DeFreines had an assortment of phrases at his disposal is not a mystery, really. My grandfather was a preacher. A preacher needs a certain ready-to-go phrases. Here is an example, passed down from my grandfather: “I search for a glimpse of the reflected glory of our Lord and Savior in the countenances of my brothers and sisters.” I never met the man. He didn’t go to my father’s funeral. I didn’t go to his.
There are mysteries in my novel. Some are solved. Only a few are resolved. Though I am trying to write the story fifty-plus years on, I have always taken note of details, almost forcing myself to know and to file away moments, images, dialog, back stories of people only tangentially connected to a straighter storyline; these are important to me. I have deleted and edited and manipulated so many side stories and characters to present a reasonable version of a flawed-character-as-detective novel. Please make note of and accept my apology for straying from a simpler narrative.
I have the stories retrievable from my memory, and I have notes. Years and years of notes.
I am setting a deadline: Completion, with something worthy of getting copies made, before Christmas. Before. It might make a great gift. Let’s see- Original manuscript, with illustrations, locally printed, packaged in a customized PeeChee folder (a reference to habits of the fictional author); Oh, and limited edition, maximum of one hundred copies, hand signed by the author/illustrator… WHOA! I better get to work.
NOTES: Information on the recent drowning is still going back and forth on the various social threads. When I have more info, I will let you know. ALSO, all the rights for everything in this and all postings on realsurfers.net is copyright protected. Rights belong to Erwin A. Dence, Jr. ALL QUOTES by Aaron Lennox, including “Word on the Strait,” belong to him.
There’s no way this version of an essay, a replacement for one lost to the misunderstood mechanics of Mac and Microsoft, could be the same. Retelling, rewriting; stories change, only imagined word magic is dulled, made somehow transparent. They are only words.
If you are kind enough to read this, please scroll down to the previous posting. Something related to this piece was written and meant to go there. Thanks.
Drowning. Someone drowned surfing on the Strait of Juan de Fuca on Sunday. I didn’t know him, but I do know he was someone’s sibling, someone’s child, someone’s love. Perhaps I surfed with this young man, passed him on the highway or the trail, saw him in the parking area. I couldn’t put a face to the name that was being spread on the fir cone wireless, the various and overlapping circles of surfers and their surfer and non-surfer friends.
I do know something about him.
While there is little information on the actual cause of the drowning, the conditions in the water at the time are known; a rising swell in a narrow bay, mostly closeout waves, rip currents running parallel to the beach, other surfers in the area. He was pulled from the water by another surfer, a friend of a friend of mine. Attempts to resuscitate failed.
The scene was, by all accounts so far, chaotic and tragic.
More is already being discovered about the victim. As always, this adds to the tragedy.
For all our competitiveness, for all the ‘my crew’, ‘your crew’, ‘local’, ‘regular’, ‘outsider’ divisions, surfers, out of the water, are united. I realize it’s a ridiculous conceit of mine to draw some distinction between real surfers and… everyone else. It is my belief that you do the same. Slightly different criteria, no doubt.
While surfers understand something about drowning, it is also known by anyone who has ever choked on water that went anywhere even close to the lungs.
Just one jolt of that; mistiming the top of a wave you’re paddling over, breathing in too quickly after a wipeout; you will remember other times when you sucked in water or heavy foam instead of air, times you’ve choked and sputtered, times you were afraid you might not make it back to shore. If you or I haven’t been knocked unconscious by a rock or a surfboard, haven’t been held down longer than we can hold our breath… we’re lucky.
We forget that. Too easily.
Writers have, for the history of writing, almost romanticized drowning. Perhaps it is the notion that, in the end, it is, according to survivors, a sort of peaceful thing, a surrender to what is inevitable for all of us. Death. Not a violent, painful death, but a… No, that’s fiction. There is a reason for the phrase, “fighting to the last breath.”
I decided long ago that I do not want to drown. I don’t want to think about drowning.
IT MAY BE TRUE THAT, as accused, by various people, independent of each other (so, almost assuredly true), I do constantly dole out rolling commentary with my big, loud voice. Also true that I have a sarcastic streak that too often borders on, no, invades the territory of… hurts me to admit it, meanness, or even, nastiness (definitely rudeness). One of my surfer friends (and, because I am thinking about surf friends frequently, and whether any of us would be friends at all if it wasn’t for the common denominator, surfing) said (wait, I do want you to know I truly value my surf friends) I might make a good bartender, with the caveat that it would be necessary to have a sign behind the bar, in big letters, that says, “He doesn’t mean everything he says.”
I think, originally, he said, ‘anything’ he says. After discussion, ‘everything.’
SO IT WAS that I was at a fickle (and let’s just say, mediocre at best, flat the rest of the time) spot, pre-dawn. My surf friend, Tom (I didn’t ask his permission to use his last name), arrived there well ahead of me, and I was there just about dawn (the sun being blocked by mountains). Tom would, ordinarily, be in the water. That’s his thing, beat the hoards. This time Tom was waiting for the swell or the tide or the sun to rise a bit. There was one guy in the water. Tom and I watched him catch three waves in the grainy half-light. “See, it’s closing out.” “Little bit.”
MEANWHILE, several more vehicles pulled in, several of those with multiple surfers and multiple boards. NATURALLY, I started complaining as I was going through my pre-surf warmup (turning the wetsuit rightside-out” checking my booties, moving over here to see if the rights were working. RAJA pulled in next to Tom. I was more than willing to agree with Raja (loudly) that he should go somewhere else, listing a couple of spots that “Are for sure, working.” Westport is usually one of them. “Always good.” Raja whispered a couple of spots on the coast he was going to check. “Really? This was a whisper. “By yourself?” “Hopefully.”
EVIDENTLY it was JAY who walked past me and said he was once like me. I asked what he meant by that. “Well, you already said it.” Yeah, I was overly-amped to get in the water (as always), and overly-pissed that so many surfers were showing up. As I surf-splained to Tom, as if he wasn’t fully aware, “if you go out early, all you see is more surfers to ‘share’ the lineup with.” This was not said with my inside, nice-guy (usually fake) voice, the one I use with clients. Then, turning back to Jay, with my lifetime developed, smart ass inflection, “I’m 71; how old are you?” Jay said he is 73. SO, TWO MORE YEARS and I’ll be mellow. SO mellow. But not on that day. Would I even get a wave? How many people would be out? Why am I not out there already? I’m pretty sure I just turned away from Jay and went back to my pre-surf, ‘don’t have a heart attack’ routine.
NOT even ZEN-like. Not Zen-ish.
NOW, I did write about this little encounter in my last posting, and I did mention I didn’t see Jay in the lineup. The JAY part was part of a little intro/aside before the actual piece, one I wrote in ‘Word’ rather than free-balling (phrase borrowed from Stephen R. Davis, currently getting the ‘Big Chemo’ over in Seattle) it on the Word Press page as I am now (with some editing- of course). BUT THEN, JAY was nice enough to write a comment (scroll down). THE THING IS, JAY was apologetic.
THE REAL AND ACTUAL THING IS that JAY really has no need to apologize. When I think about surfing, the cultural, shared lineup aspect, the real or imagined surf community; and I am constantly distracted from real life by this, the two main subjects, the two main topics are: ATTITUDE AND ETIQUETTE.
I have been heavily criticized for both.
IT WOULD BE SO NICE if surfers talked more about actual wave riding.
Next time. MAYBE. Ommmmmmmm. Ommmmmm. Ohhhhhhhhh. Didn’t work; thinking about waves… again.
I delete a varying number of spam comments every day. Most of them seem to come from one source, and, I have checked them out, they seem to make little to no sense. Perhaps they do to the many writers, each with the last name of Jerry. The comments have nothing to do with surfing or surfers, real or otherwise. I am happy word press determines the relative spam-iness, and have stopped going through them to determine if even one is real and relevant and… and, even if a comment is less than complimentary, I do appreciate that someone went to the trouble of writing and sending it through the not-so-easy process.
The other day I got a comment on one of several pieces I have posted concerning my ongoing battle with completing my manuscript, “Swamis.” It was sent by, the note said, a college student who “grew up at Swamis.” Perhaps he meant “in the vicinity of Swamis.” No biggie. He wanted to know more about the place in the late 60s and early 70s (exactly the time in which I most frequently surfed Swamis). “Did I ever surf with Skip Frye? Ron Stoner?”
The truth is… Skip Frye, definitely. Mr. Stoner, maybe. Probably.
“SURF WITH,” though only two words, is kind of loaded. There is an implication of togetherness, that the esteemed, known surfer might actually have some sort of knowledge of or relationship with the lowly surfer. Additionally, there is an expectation that, in a crowded (for the time) lineup, a fourteen-year old might just hear, “Holy shit! Someone said L.J. Richards is out! (Pipes, 1966),” and respond by asking, “Who?” And then look around to see if L.J. Richards surfs so fantastically much better than the other surfers out at that particular place and time.
If I became aware that L.J. Richards was out, he wasn’t aware of me.
The revelation, on the beach or in the water, that someone with a reputation is considering going out, is out, or was just or recently out, has been repeated, um, repeatedly: Mike Doyle at Stone Steps or Swamis or the little jetty at Oceanside Harbor with Reno Abellira (neither of whom went out); Mike Purpus at Grandview; Mike Hynson at La Jolla Shores (and those are just the Mikes).
The more common surf celebrity session sharing involves recognizing someone you had seen in magazines or surf circuit movies, then, or YouTube clips, other social media content producers, more recently. I recognized Corky Carroll and Billy Hamilton at Swamis on a day (in 1967) in which I believed my own performance in the water was my best ever. Instant realization that my best was not even close to mediocre for Mr. Hamilton (Corky was on the stairs, pointing out Billy to someone he was with). I recognized Herbie Fletcher at Lower Trestles (1975) by his stance and because he was sideslipping from the nose. I recognized Donald Takayama at Seaside Trailer Park (1969- oops, going backward) because he was Donald Takayama.
Then there are the local (only or mostly local) stars, rippers and assholes, surfers one runs into repeatedly. When I was a true local in Encinitas and Pacific Beach, there were ‘regulars,’ surfers I knew by their performance in the water, and had no real relationship with otherwise. Joe Roper at P.B. is an example, as is, yes, Skip Frye. As far as, to answer the question originally asked, surfing with legendary surf photographer Ron Stoner- don’t know. Maybe. I did get burned once, severely and purposefully, by noted surf and skate photographer Warren Bolster, Swamis. It was okay; I caught the next wave.
It is probably worthwhile to remember that for every surfer one recognizes, there are legions of non-legends, and that legends are, by definition, history. History, the stories in time, is the ultimate cleanup set. It moves on. I realize, in writing this, and somewhat sadly, that some of the surfers whose names I am dropping are gone.
My motto has always been, “I’m here to surf.” Explains something. My more recent motto is, “That wave is gone.” The unspoken second part might be, “I’m looking for the next one.”
What every real surfer has, I believe, is a memory of several best rides, best moments, best waves. Stories. Images. What we all want to do is add to that mental list, those stories, that legend.
With the inclusion of inarguably life-changing events, we determine what we remember, over time, of the rare but truly horrific and the rare but truly blissful events.
Recalling a specific moment once makes it easier to remember, more clearly, the next time.
Memory banks and memory files, images and sounds and feelings, still shots and little videos; something that happens in the present snaps the synapses and, whoa, yeah… that one time…
I quite surprisingly and suddenly realized that the official start of Autumn is only days away, one of two moments, and I may be wrong about this, when the earth is in true balance and there are equal amounts of day and night. From that point, the next defining point is the dropping of Daylight Savings Time, somewhere around Halloween, the semi-unofficial end, for the most part, of the exterior painting season in the Great Northwest.
Yet, somewhere in here is the start of the surf season, such as it is, with the hope of North Pacific storms and waves over knee high. Hope is different than expectation. Around the Strait, even hope is tempered by experience; skunkings when forecasts call for waves, defiant winds when the forecasts call for calm.
In the Summer of 1968, the summer season defined as the interval between school sessions, Ray Hicks and Bill Buel and Phillip Harper and I were cruising in one of their cars, returning inland from a day of cruising Surf Route 101, anywhere from San Onofre to, most likely, Cardiff, in search of a beach with some possibility of girls hanging out, and with rideable waves, and with the hope that the lineup was not too crowded. We did, no doubt, surf, most likely at Grandview or Swamis beachbreak.
Whichever vehicle we were in (again, not mine) featured the latest in in-car entertainment, an 8 trac tape player. Because we were middle class suburban teens, we related to the non-bubblegum-pop tunes of Cream, the Beatles (less and less), and the Doors. Most shared, most sung along to. Yes, if we were a year younger, Led Zeppelin’s orgasmic rock might have taken over. We weren’t. We listened to the Doors. We could relate.
It wasn’t just the AM-radio/garage-band-at-the-VFW-hall stuff. Deep cuts. “Wait until the war is over, and we’re both a little older; the unknown soldier.” The war wasn’t over. It would still be there when we were older… old enough.
It was almost dark, we were parked somewhere, facing west, perhaps, more likely facing some thicket of sage like brush off Mission, the route from one or our homes to another- extending the length of the surf trip/adventure. Smoking. Click. Another tune. “Summer’s almost gone, summer’s almost gone; Where will we be… when the summer’s gone.” There was an instrumental fill at this point, the perfect four beat place in which, from my spot in the back seat, I added, “We’ll be in school.”
It wasn’t well received. ‘Fuck you’ and ‘oh, man,’ and ‘get out’ didn’t make for a unified chorus.
Yet, summer had gone on long enough that the days of not surfing, of hanging out or playing some pickup game at the high school, of listening to other groups, other songs, had gone on long enough. School was… we’d be seniors, there were girls, guaranteed. There was a certain level of anticipation.
Time seems to move faster as we get older. I have noticed. I have decided it is because, the longer we are alive, rotating and spinning, the shorter the comparative time is of any particular season. So, summer is, relatively, short. That’s my theory.
Incidentally, the reason I know it wasn’t my car is this: My vehicles never seemed to have a functioning radio. Fifty-four years later, my current surf rig’s radio started shorting out a few years ago; irritating; and then it quit completely. I do have my harmonica, and, since I usually go surfing alone, I don’t mind my singing and playing. Other than my own tunes, I will do a few of Dylan’s. I have a killer version of “All Along the Watchtower.” The Doors? No, not really.
The subject next time, perhaps, could be: “Froth.”
I’m getting some stick-on lettering made saying, “realsurfers FROTH!” So far, Keith is signed on to get one. Steve and Adam, the only others I’ve offered them to, didn’t seem enthusiastic enough; I will not beg them. So… as with everything, forever, we’ll see.
Dru is probably going to have radiation treatments, but, hopefully, not Chemo. Trish is doing most of the hanging out with our daughter over in Port Gamble, making sure Dru doesn’t lift heavy stuff. I’ve done like one night a week, but I, um… well, I do plan on going over tomorrow for the Seahawks game, partially so Trish can get her hands back on this computer, probably do some lifting.
Stephen R. Davis is staying in Bellevue and going for procedures in Seattle. He is getting a full ‘workup’ (not fun in itself) ahead of two doses of Super Chemo. I will get a proper copy of Steve’s painting of a fantasy surf spot this week and will post it here with info on how you can purchase a limited-edition copy. Evidently Steve has already promised the original to some lucky person.