Over Time, Comparatively Speaking

                         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.

HAPPY EQUINOX!  

“Whoa, dudes; it’s like… Fall, man; it’s the best. This one time… Hey, thanks for loaning me your spare suit; you should know, three more steps, I’m peeing. Traditional. So, like, glad it’s less crowded. Those Summer-only kooks, huh? I totally plan on dominating. Say, you even wax up this board?”

FUCKCANCER UPDATE:

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.   

Ironically Flipping the Peace Sign

It’s another outtake from my manuscript for “Swamis,” re-edited, because I just can’t help it, and posted here because I just can’t leave it in some bound-to-get-lost file. I like the story. It is based, mostly, on two incidents: My running into a classmate on the night of the homecoming game, five years or so out of high school, and my being declined for purchasing cigarettes when I was seventeen. Gordy was with another classmate, a girl who was my chemistry lab partner, and with whom I had gone on one date, just before I met Trish. Gordy had gone full-on hippie, did put the emphasis on the ‘ing’ part of the word ‘fuck-ing.’ All a bit anachronistic.

This was the first image in a search. I wasn’t lazy, it just works the best.

SO FUCK-ING COOL… MAN

Gordy claimed to be a surfer, though I never saw him actually in the water. On the beach a few times, talking surfing as if he had just been in, somewhere else, somewhere better, or just about to get in. Later, if it got better. He was two years ahead of me in high school and regaled the other non-surfing jocks at school. Gordy was not one of the older students Gary and I bugged and begged for rides to the beach. Once, maybe.

I was in a liquor store in Vista. Gordy was sporting a full-if-sparse beard and long hair (Fallbrook High had a dress code), parted in the middle (of course), and clothing, Hippie-garb I called it, that denied his quite-upper class upbringing.

“Still fuck-ing’ surfing, Jody?”

I took the usual few seconds to replay his sentence. He had separated the syllables, put the emphasis on the second one. “Ing!’”

“Of course.”

“So fuck-ing’ cool, man.  We just don’t fuck-ing’ see each other, man; like, like we used to.” 

Gordy was, obviously, stoned. He had his left arm over the shoulder of an even more-stoned girl, younger, possibly still in high school. She was wearing a headband, her boutique-chic top hanging precariously on her breasts. She was nodding, giggling, her eyes unable to focus or even adjust to the light from the coolers we were standing next to.

The girl looked at me, squinting, then nodding, a finger pointed way too close to my eyes. Big smile. “My brother Larry,” she said, “he says you’re a fuck-ing’ stuck-up asshole; oh and…” She lost her thought. 

Emphasis on the ‘ing.’

“Larry?”

“Larry,” the girl said. “Larry Walker.”

“Oh. Larry Walker? Yeah.”  

“Yeah. Larry. You did punch him out, Jordy.” Gordy didn’t wait for my response. “Freshman football. Practice. I was J.V., just before I went varsity.”

I replayed the incident in my mind. Larry was the ball carrier. I had tackled him. Open field. He and I were both on the ground. The play was over. He gave me an elbow shot to the groin. Someone pulled him up. He pulled his helmet up and back, smiling at me with his plastic mouth guard smile. “Gettin’ tackled by a beaner’s bad enough. Some fuckin’ half-Jap…”

Straight shot. No broken teeth. Mouth guard.   

“Yeah.” Gordy and Larry’s little sister had walked away. I walked toward the counter. The guy behind it looked at me for a second, continued leering at the girl as she and Gordy came up behind me. “Larry’s little sister,” I said. The Counter Guy nodded. Appreciatively (by which I mean creepily). 

“She’s probably going to be, like…” I turned, looked at her (questioningly, not, I hope, creepily).  “…a Junior?”

Larry’s sister nodded, her nod a bit uncontrolled. “Uh huh.”

“Class of, uh, a second…”

“Seventy-one!  Yea!”  She made a bit of a cheerleader pompom gesture, one hand, a jump motion without actually getting off the ground.  Junior Varsity.

I looked back at the Counter Guy. He looked at Gordy. A little judgey, not that Gordy noticed. 

Gordy took his left hand off Larry’s sister’s shoulder and put it on mine. I looked at his hand. He took it away. I put two one-dollar bills, my package of Hostess donettes and a quart of chocolate milk on the counter, pointed to a pack of Marlboros (hard pack) on the back wall, turned back to Gordy and Larry’s sister. Gordy sort gave me a specific look. Disappointment.

“I know, man… Gordie; you probably don’t fuck-ing’ smoke… cigarettes.” He and the girl both giggled.

The Counter Guy set the cigarettes on the counter, rang up the carton of milk and the donettes. 

“Pack of matches, too; please.”

Counter Guy put two packs of matches on top of the Marlboros. “You’re seventeen, huh?”

I didn’t think. “Yeah, I am.”

“Well,” he said, “You got to be eighteen.”

Gordy laughed. The girl laughed a moment later.

The Counter Guy slid the cigarettes away from me, slid a fifty-cent piece and two dimes and two pennies back to me.

“Oh,” I said. “I’m eighteen, too. I meant…”

Counter Guy looked past me, to Gordy. “And you, sir?”

“I left my license in my other pants,” I said. Counter Guy ignored me, smiled (still creepily) at Larry’s sister. I looked at her. She seemed to take the leering as flirting. Gordy handed his date a bag of potato chips and returned a six pack to the cooler. 

Gordy returned, surprisingly quickly. He put one hand on the cigarettes, the other on my change.  “I’m eighteen,” he said, “and I can fucking’ prove it.”

“Twenty-six cents more then, for the chips.”

“Didn’t mean to be so… fucking’ uncool, Gordy,” I said, as he and I stepped outside, Larry’s sister a few steps behind us.   

“Nah; it’s cool,” Gordy said. He flipped me the cigarettes, one pack of matches, making sure I realized he was keeping the other one. He pulled Larry’s sister closer to him, slung his left hand over her shoulder and perilously close to her breasts, extended his right hand as two (obviously) off-duty Marines approached (obviously Marines, obviously off duty), both looking more at her than at him. “Either of you two gentlemen twenty-one?” he asked, pulling out several ten-dollar bills.

Neither of them was, but the next guy approaching, not a Marine, definitely was. The citizen looked at the two Marines, at Gordy, at Larry’s sister.  He put his hand out, said, “it’ll cost you.”

“Peace, man,” I said, walking away, waving my free hand in a peace sign. Gordy, his hands off Larry’s sister, left hand holding his wallet, flipped me the peace sign with his right hand, but quickly, and not where the Marines could see the gesture. Not that they or the Citizen taking money from Gordy were looking past Larry’s sister. She gave each of them a very quick, weak smile, and, in a moment of self-awareness, pulled her top up a little higher on her breasts.

Flipping the peace sign was, for anyone under thirty or so, pretty much over by this time, the winter of 1969. On special occasions, perhaps; the act was shared with friends as a sort of code, an action we would only later” refer to or try to explain as having been done “ironically.”

IF YOU’RE STILL WITH ME, thanks. I should add that the football punch part is actually derived from an incident in which classmate Bill Birt, in practice, sophomore year, pulled off a teammate’s helmet and slugged him in the face. Kicked off the J.V. team, the coach, allegedly, said, “Now, Bill, if you only played that way in a game…” The result of blending in all the real stuff is fiction.

All original writing contained in realsurfers.net and anything taken from manuscripts for “Swamis” is protected under copywrite and is the property of Erwin A. Dence, Jr.

GOOD LUCK SURFING. And I don’t mean that sarcastically or ironically.

Real Kooks and…

…the rest of us. Franticly, desperately seeking surf. Franticly, seems like it should be spelled differently. Anyway, us, real surfers.

I must be a bit more surf deprived than I allowed myself to believe. Because it’s Sunday, I Youtubed the latest chapter, number 7, I think, in the eleven-episode series on Kelly Slater; like I even care about any mental anguish a guy who (apparently) can go wherever he wants in the world to get the best waves available. Maybe I do care. On Monday, a new clip might be available from Nathan or even JOB, at some point there may be a new cut from Mason Ho. If I get the chance, I will check them out.

Already off topic. I was just vulnerable enough to google “San Diego Surf Cams,” ended up with constantly stalling videos provided by Hansens Surf shop. Cardiff Reef. Sunny, choppy, crowded, a cop car cruising the parking lot. These are cameras that a person can wait for some period of time, then move the angle. No, I didn’t wait. I ended up at a cam at Tarramar Point. I did surf there quite a few times back when I lived in the North County. Oh, no one out. Camera move. Many people out, most on long boards. Many, many surfers, bobbing and floating and waiting. I did see a guy on a shortboard on an insider. Cool.

Not a kook. Some percentage of the bobbers and floaters and back-offers and folks who will just blindly paddle and/or block your ride are kooks.

Right-hander, left-hander, straight-hander (term borrowed from ‘shortboard’ Aaron.

It depends on how you define kook.

If a kook is someone who is just thrilled to be in the water and among waves, trying to improve, trying to… yeah, there’s that. I qualify. Hodad? No. Being a surfer is an important part of my self-image, but it is only one item in a list of self-descriptions, categories in which I constantly try to improve. Father, husband, painter, writer, artist- surfer slides back and forth in importance.

Home improvement guy, mechanic, gardener… secondary list. Still, I do try to do better. Example: Just bailing-wired what remains of the burned-out tailpipe on my surf rig after it hit the ground, just bought a small freezer after ours developed a problem I couldn’t fix by watching Youtube videos on “What to do when your freezer doesn’t cool properly.” It must need a part. I’ll get to it. Soon.

Later.

Meanwhile, I’m writing this outside in an attempt to allow the proper birds to eat some of the seed and peanuts we put out. If I leave, the pigeons (non-locals, incidentally) will attack. A horde of them. Some, no doubt, are kooks. Tough to tell.

Okay, I better check the forecast. Yeah, kind of bleak. Hopefully there are waves where you are or where you’re going.

WAIT. Perhaps I should mention that part of my description of a real surfer is someone who has a high level of respect for waves, a certain, and I can’t really verbalize this adequately, reverence toward the ocean. There is some difference in that than having respect for every individual sharing a lineup. Okay, shouldn’t have said that; makes me sound kind of dick-ish.

As I always say, I am trying to do better at sharing. Always say it, usually mean it.

Competitive Burning for Fun and Profit

The World Surfing League has advanced the image and the business of competitive surfing.

It has. This is true. Most of the rest of this piece is opinion. Mine. There are other opinions.

A couch surfer in Vermont or Ohio can now go to YouTube or go online and see professionally managed contests featuring wave riders from about ten years old to somewhere around 50 (even older than Kelly in some specialty events) going for the win, entertaining the audience with a succession of score-enhancing cranks and punts and cutbacks and floaters, throwing a creative claim when appropriate, always looking for an advantage over the competition.

On a recent Saturday, between sort of doing chores, taking a too brief nap, and writing until I forgot the original plot, I switched the big screen from restful music with soothing images and optimistic aphorisms, to Roku, then to YouTube. Whoa, there was a contest going on at Lower Trestles. Trestles! I loved the spot. This scene was way different than the way it was set up when I worked across the tracks and the freeway, and up the hill, in 1975.

While I, not fully aware of how lucky I was, was able to drive out as far as Uppers, the scene on that Saturday was of hundreds of big-tired bikes, sani-cans, judging structures. This was some sort of contest for kids, ages 10 (guessing- really young) to 16. Some of the competitors were there with parents (some well- known former competitors), some with coaches. They were in heats, going wave for wave with other kids. They all seemed to rip.

Contest rip. It is different from free surf ripping. Show. It is for entertainment. Going down the line on a perfect wave will get one three points. Throw in a couple of cutbacks, five. Big air into the rocks, excellent.

And there are the priority rules. They are somewhat similar to the classic lineup etiquette. The biggest difference is the absolute right to ‘sit on’ your competitor and/or to burn him or her if you have priority.

Priority.

Kelly, with priority, gets the double eagles from a 3rd degree-burned Joel Parkinson at pumping, dredging, draining, rip-torn Kirra. Totally legal.

What made me think about this is this: Unable to stay up late enough to watch more of the contest from Jeffrey’s Bay (I gave up after Italo was injured and spectators wouldn’t get up from sitting on the stairs to let him get helped up them- but Kanoa did get a buzzer-beater to win their heat), I got up early to see which one of my surfing heroes won the event. Fast-forwarding the post show, I saw replays of the interference call against Carissa Moore that gave Tatiana Weston-Webb an almost free pass into the finals. It just didn’t look right. It didn’t look fair.

Wait a minute. I suddenly flashed back to my second favorite scene from the docu-series “Make or Break.” My favorite scene was when Stefanie Gilmore was (I thought), goaded into saying, about winning, “Fuck them, I want it more.” The second favorite scene involved Tatiana and Sage Erikson in a contest in Mexico. An interference call had cost Sage the heat. Sage seemed to believe Tatiana had tricked her into going on a wave by claiming not to know which of them had priority. Then Tati dropped in. Sage wasn’t happy, and in stark contrast to the way the WSL portrays competitor interaction, all mutual respect and love, Sage called Tatiana out for the cutthroat move.

Tatiana looked… if she looked sorry, I didn’t see it. It was more of a “Fuck you, I wanted it more!” look.

Now, I should add that I am a huge Stephanie fan. I also should add that Trish is a Courtney Conlogue fan. Stephanie won the Mexico contest by surfing harder, making aggressive and high risk maneuvers with her classic smoothness. Sportsmanship (or sportspersonship) wise, after Steph beat Court in a heat at Jeffrey’s Bay, it was reassuring to see both of them in a warm-back-up hot tub. I am hoping both of their smiles were real.

I googled “Did Tatiana burn Carissa,” and got a story, with video, on Tatiana burning Moana Jones-Wong at Pipeline. Yes. The surfer Jamie O’Brian calls the undisputed “Queen of Pipeline,” a surfer who legitimately outsurfed every other woman competitor and beat Carissa Moore in the finals of the Billabong Pipeline contest, was locked into a tube and Tatiana dropped in on her, then straightened out.

Moana called Tatiana out on the beach. And on social media. A couple of points: Tatiana claimed she didn’t see Moana but didn’t drop in on male surfers; Tatiana had a coach or someone blocking for her in the lineup. Now, Tatiana said she was trying to earn a spot in the lineup, but Moana countered that, rather than “buying her way in” she had taken years to work her way from the shoulder to the peak, without dropping in on others. It is a matter of respect.

All this in a case against Tatiana is circumstantial, of course. But here’s more: Carissa has been surfing competitively since she was, guessing, ten years old. She knows the rules. It is difficult to believe she didn’t know who had priority. Tatiana waited until Carissa was fully committed on a dangerous and well-overhead wave before she dropped in, not on an angle, but straight down. There was no way Carissa could have avoided the interference. Tati made no real effort to complete the ride but fell in an overly dramatic way more reminiscent of the WWE than the WSL.

Did Tatiana Weston-Webb win the final heat fairly? As nearly as I can tell, she did. Is there a little tarnish on her trophy? Up for debate.

A last point: It seemed to me the commentators were risking injury in trying as hard as they could to not say there just might have been tactics at least underhanded if not all out dirty. Legal tactics.

Yes, the stakes are high. There is one more contest and few spots left in the Final Five. So much drama, so much hype. The waiting period for the one-day contest to decide this year’s top male and female surfers is September 8 through the 16th. Trestles.

Pump up the tires on your e-bike, check your Wi-fi connection. It might just be EPIC! It would be great if the winners win with pure surfing rather than tactics.

Again, I love that contests are so easily accessed, so expertly analyzed and brilliantly filmed. Live action. Replays. Members of the audience can pick our heroes AND our villains. We know something about the competitors, but we don’t really know them. Such drama!

Meanwhile, in the real world, priority disputes continue.

Cutting Margo Godfrey and Cheer Critchlow from “Swamis”

Margo Godfrey, Santa Cruz, Oct 1969

In my attempt to cut and whittle and refine my manuscript, “Swamis,” into something, one, readable, and two, sellable (could have said marketable), I am eliminating this portion. Changes: Virginia (Ginny) Cole is now Julia (Julia), Erwin as a character (put in because some readers might believe Joey (aka Jody) is me, is gone. Out. I should (will) add that Trish did go to junior high in Oceanside with Barbi Barron and was a temporary member of Barbi’s unofficial Oceanside girls’ surf club before Trisha’s dad got transferred to the East Coast. I did see Barbi frequently at the Oceanside jetties and the pier when I was working at Buddy’s Sign Shop in (let’s call it) O’side. I did have a night class, public speaking, with Cheer Critchlow, Palomar Junior (now Community) College. He did, and I reminded him of this, at a high school contest at Moonlight Beach in 1968, in which he was a judge, eliminate real people Scott Sutton and Jeff Officer and me in our first (and only) heats. I never met Margo, did hear and read about her.

With those notes, the story is sort of (kind of) true (if fiction is sliced from real life).

CHAPTER 14- WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 1969

For reference, this was a week and a day before my father’s death, four weeks before Chulo’s.  

Ginny Cole was, to my seventeen-year-old self, perfect.  There is no way my memory, in the fifty-plus years since, could have further enhanced that image, that belief.  Perfect. 

Some of the girls I had gone all through school with were great, and I could easily supply a list of those I’d had crushes on, but, yes, I’d gone all through school with most of them. There were, always, new girls; daughters of Marines stationed at Camp Pendleton, temporary duty, three years and gone.  They came from or went to Twenty-nine Palms, Camp LeJeune, Barstow; occasionally one would come from Hawaii, Philadelphia, even overseas.

Fallbrook is on the east side of the triangle that is Camp Pendleton- Fallbrook, Oceanside, San Clemente. From kindergarten on there were sons and daughters of Civil Service workers, pharmacists and ranchers and irrigation contractors and teachers and real estate agents and builders. There were those whose fathers lived, during the week, in apartments in the vast smoggy sinfulness of Los Angeles.

If we were isolated, purposefully, there were always newcomers with stories of different places. Exotic, mysterious, sophisticated, up to date.

Ginny Cole was, in my mind, miles away from dusty Fallbrook. Mysterious, exotic, distant; and she surfed. Ginny would know what it means that someone surfed, and she would know the allure, more fiction, even fantasy, than reality, of surfing itself.  There’s what surfing is, and what surfing suggests, what being a surfer says about a person- the aura around the reality.  Perfect.

Ginny Cole was like the best photos from surfing magazines, like memories of my best rides. I could bring her image into my mind at will, or without willing it; images from the few times I’d been on the beach or in a parking area or in the water with her. Not with her; around her, near her. It wasn’t like she knew me; another teenage surfer, awkward out of the water, not yet skilled enough to be noticed in the water; but working on it; hoping to be a surfer who, when I took off on a wave, people would watch.  

Teenager fantasy, of course, in the same way, playing pickup football, my friends would self-narrate: “Roger Staubach drops back… and the crowd goes wild!”  There were always witnesses in my mind when I would skateboard; carving bottom turns and cutbacks, pulling up and into the curl, crouching, hands out, locked in, eighteen miles, straight, from the nearest saltwater.

Competing.  Improving.

It was more than that Ginny was a girl in the lineup. She could surf, ride a wave with graceful, dancer-like moves, always close to the power. She would always be noticed.

I cannot honestly swear that it wasn’t that I wanted a surfer girl girlfriend the way a girl might want a football quarterback, a lead guitarist in a garage band; the way a guy might want a cheerleader or that girl who’s always just so nice. And so pretty.

Ginny wasn’t phony nice or made up pretty. She was just-out-of-the-water pretty; she was real; she was perfect. I saw it. I assumed everyone did. 

If I did see Ginny as perfect, I did think winning her over would be difficult, challenging. There would be other suitors. I knew I was ridiculous, naïve; definitely, but I was competitive. I didn’t know her, couldn’t see more than my romanticized image of her. I did hope that if she shared that obsession with and addiction to surfing, she might understand me.

Still, also, and always, I knew I was ridiculous.

 …

Virginia Cole wasn’t the only girl surfer in the North County; there were a few others: Barbie Barron, Margo Godfrey. I frequently saw Barbie in the water and in the parking lot at Oceanside’s shorter jetty, or over by the pier.  Southside.

I once saw Margo with Cheer Critchlow at Swamis on a still-winter afternoon; uncrowded, big and blownout. Pretty scary. Yet they were just casually walking out, chatting, wading out on the fingers of rock, pushing through to the outside peak. Scott and Jeff and Erwin and I, our portable crowd; four inland cowboys, shoulder-hopped, choosing only the smaller waves on the inside, watching any time either Cheer or Margo would take off.

Coolness, casualness, some sort of self-confidence, some sense of comfort in one’s own skin.  Things I lacked, things I appreciated, qualities I believed Virginia Cole had. Yes, I do realize how this makes me sound; exactly like a seventeen-year-old on the cusp, the very cusp of… everything.

MORE NOTES: I am also tightening the timeline for the story. I have to. One thing all the over-writing has given me, besides so many back-stories for characters I have to eliminate or cut back on, is the knowledge that there is at least one main and worthwhile story in “Swamis.” I will keep cutting back and hacking and going down the line until… yeah, until.

ALSO: I have changed some other names, partially because I have written words the real people didn’t say, put them in situations that are totally and completely fictional. My best surfing friends Ray and Phillip- sorry, you’re now Gary and Roger (names from childhood neighbors), Wally Blodgett, who drove kids around for dawn patrol, is now Petey (kept the Blodgett part). Sid (whose name I borrowed from a real surfer who was in a Surfboards Hawaii ad in mid-sixties, can’t remember his last name) is, so far, still Sid. I will let you know who else changed as the manuscript changes.

ALSO: Pretty shitty spring for waves on the Strait AND pretty shitty weather for painting houses. YES, it would seem that would give me more time for writing and drawing. So, maybe it’s not THAT shitty.

Good luck to all the real people and real surfers. Remember, this stuff is copywrite protected.

Rather Quickly Forgetting Massacres…

…as we tend to do, turning the channel to avoid any unpleasantness from Ukraine or Uvalde, we look for, yes, pleasantness, peace, quiet beauty. The previous piece, available with a simple scroll-down, was a lightened-up alternative to a harsher, much harsher one. Yes, it is in my files. Ready.

But now, here is the latest work from my friend, Stephen R. Davis.

Northwest Fantasy Point Break, somewhere between Oz and Neverland

There is a certain distance from Steve’s paintings at which abstraction becomes rendering.

Inside, outside

I am considering the places in our minds in which we look at the crazy, fucked up world at the proper distance. Considering. I’ll get back to you on that. Meanwhile… peace.

Original E Hits North Shore Ha-waii-eeee!

Hawaii. No, it’s not the first time one of my t-shirts has hit the 50th state in the Union. Stephen R. Davis rocked (I don’t usually use this expression- fits with Steve) one or two of my designs, and, if I remember correctly, shared one with Cap. Not sure. Anyway, the Erwin Original shirts have been there before Chris Eardley, ripper on the North Shore of the contiguous US, showed up there.

Chris was nice enough to send me a photo. Here’s how the text exchange went:

Whoa! Is this, like the Volcom House? Florence residence? JOB’s pad? Wait, is that wave even rideable?

Chris: “Got my lucky shirt here at Pipe. Got some good waves at Sunset Point this morning before it got huge. The shirt keeps its lucky streak!”

Erwin: “Holy fuck, Chris, you hangin’ wit’ day (sp. I meant ‘da’) boys AND resenting (meant ‘representing’) OWWW! And I don’t use !!!!s without cause. Hopefully the slab work here helped you conquer. I have watched so many north shore videos I feel like I know the crew. Good luck!!!! Yeah, more of those, writer shakas.”

Yes, that is exactly how I wrote it; not that I actually talk like that.

More Erwin: “If you would send shot to __________ (email address, not really secret- we do get lots of unsolicited stuff). I would be proud and stoked to put it on my site. It’s just another north shore.”

Chris (next day): “I just got back, scored some great surf. Lots of positive comments on your shirt and, as usual, it brought good luck. It’s usually my shirt of choice when I hit the Strait because I’m on a streak with it!”

OKAY, so Chris followed local etiquette by not telling me about surfing in Hawaii until it was too late for me to show up. Good.

Erwin (while about to change lanes on freeway en route to job in Gig Harbor: “Great” (third attempt at completing this particular verbal text- no period or explanation point- or … I hate it when it shows up as something like- “. dot dot” or “Great” comma).

Because I wasn’t sure Chris would send the photo to my e-mail address, and because I wanted to share the shot with the few (seriously, few) surfers I have phone numbers for, I sent the photo to Stephen R. Davis with a request to send it back to me. I have a problem transferring photos from my phone to the e-mail. It could, possibly, be remedied if I allowed some sort of hookup that might mean every email would ping on my phone. Steve did send it, but Chris also came through.

Chris (via e-mail, and there may be a slight amount of redundancy, not that it bothers me): “Here’s a shot of me at Pipeline sporting an E. Dence original. I got quite a few compliments on the shirt in Hawaii, stayed up on the (other) north shore and scored some great surf. Did NOT surf pipeline, of course, but as you can see, had a pretty good view from the safety of the deck. Aaron’s coaching at some local slabs paid off as I pulled into some challenging ones elsewhere, though. For my next Erwin shirt, I think I’ll seek a lighter color as black got a little toasty in the Hawaiian sun.”

Chris Eardly is a guy who runs for fun, travels to the East Coast for Hurricane Season, hits the slopes and… yeah, he qualifies as a real surfer (skateboarding and snow stuff are optional, perhaps- but helpful). He is part of the PT Crew if there is such a thing, and, if there is, it would be so loosely connected and… really, how would I know? As far as scoring on the Strait- yeah, I thought that was pretty funny. Chris’s reference to Aaron might be the elusive and well-traveled “Short Board Aaron.” Slabs? It’s a matter of definition and proportion. And location; as in, somewhere else. So much for the disclaimer.

As far as Original Erwin t-shirts- If you have one, hang on to it, don’t spill paint on it. I haven’t made any in several years. I have no stockpile of them. I have done some drawings that could be shirts, I do plan on getting some more printed up, but… right now… collector’s items. Am I trying to hype up the value? Yes.

Not available… yet
For light colored t-shirt, perfect for tropical climes… coming soon.

Searching for One Thing…

…finding another.

Not what I was looking for, what I found

We’re here, the Solstice, the official start of the bleak dark season, jump-started a bit more than usual, right after Halloween. I’m not nearly far enough into the third full-on rewrite of “Swamis,” cutting and chopping and polishing and tightening and (I would love to say) perfecting the plot, honing-in on what is just way too important to me, the dialogue.

There are so many scenes/encounters that I have already cut; some of which I have posted here. There is a certain interplay that I wanted to include, a meeting between RUTH DeFREINES, wife of the recently deceased detective, and the detective’s longtime partner, LARRY WENDELL.

The occasion for this encounter between these two is this: CHULO was murdered, set alight at Swamis. Chulo was a witness to the highway accident, a month earlier, in which JOSEPH DeFREINES died. Ruth and JOSEPH (aka Jody/Joey) DeFREINES, Junior, were involved in the accident. Joey was responsible for his father going off the road. Chulo, at Ruth’s request, lied about Joey being present at the accident scene. Larry, recently separated, has feelings for Ruth, believes she was in the vehicle his partner went off the highway to avoid, and is attempting to cover up what he believes to be the truth.

Not complicated at all. BUT, when Chulo is murdered, Ruth wants to find out what Wendall knows. My dilemma is this: Joey is the narrator, and I am trying to not include scenes he is not witness to. So, I have Larry telling Joey about Ruth attacking him about what he knows about Chulo’s death, or I write that actual scene.

Or I write both and drop one. No, probably both.

All of the characters in “Swamis,” are fictional composites of several real people. My mother would be the obvious model for Ruth. How my mother would react to situations helps, but the real fun is imagining the many ways Ruth, and each of the characters, is different; fictional, but realistic enough that, if you ask me the backstory of even incidental players, I have answers.

I am, clearly, not going to take the time to write the above scene right now. Later. BUT here’s what I was looking for when I did an image search: My real mother worked at the Base Photo Lab at Camp Pendleton in the late 1960s. She worked with Marines who had photographed war and all its aspects, in World War II and/or Korea, and some, no doubt, were taking photographs in Vietnam. My brothers and sisters and I (some portion of 7) went to my mom’s work for at least one Christmas party. Not a fun group, the photographers. Many, including a neighbor we had for a while, had seen too much. If I asked my mom why Scott’s father was so… solemn, she answered, “He was at Iwo Jimo, other places.” These men were damaged- some more than others.

Or so I still believe. Okay, so Ruth works at… yes, the photo lab. It works. Orphaned in World War II Japan, married to an Ex-Marine (if there is such a person), ex hired thug, ex patrol officer… yeah; damaged individuals with a damaged son who either has brain damage or is kind of… dangerous… sure; building blocks for a novel that a reader of the second unexpurgated version described as “Cutsie.”

I can’t leave that at that. He also said, “I see what you were going for here- a slice of life kind of thing.”

Oh? Like… real? I hope so. Without going into the overly-psychedelic or cliched way in which the late 1960s might be and have been portrayed, the setting is mostly bright if not sunny. Joey is, in some ways, like Alice in a different wonderland. Surfers in a time of board revolution, cops with aspirations, marijuana marketeers in a period of rapid and dangerous growth. Do we really remember as much about Alice as we do the characters she meets?

Still, no Mad Hatters or Cheshire Cats, but a logical chain of events in a crazy, real-as-I-can-get-it world.

I am obviously getting too far into whatever writing process I have been muddling/working through, but, if “Swamis” is the last novel I ever write… it is going to, eventually, be tight.

Not that this piece is. BUT while I was looking for some image connected to the Base Photo Lab, I came across the photograph, above. A Marine on a phone, another one behind him. That is what my father did in World War II and Korea. He ran phone lines. The enemy tore them down. They ran them again. He was at Guadalcanal, he interacted with the Navajo Code Talkers (as Trisha’s father, he from the supply side), and I’m not sure where else he served. He didn’t talk to me about it. Saying my father was at Guadalcanal is usually enough.

My actual father; some percentage of the fictional Joey’s fictional father.

That’s actually what the scene I haven’t written and might not write hinges on: Detective DeFreines did tell stories from work to Ruth; the guys she worked with did not. Saying someone was at Iwo Jimo is enough. Probably.

Happy Solstice! Peace.

I HAVE TO add that Joey is not me. I do steal some experiences from my life, but no. Not me. Characteristics from several other people are included; Joey’s reactions are imagined. Here’s a line I will eventually cut. It is between Joey and JUMPER, probably the most fictional character in “Swamis.” They are in a critical and dangerous situation. Joey- “We are not friends; but we are… close.”

Legends and the Rest of Us

Here’s what, before I actually start writing it, this piece is meant to include: A remembrance of a local surfing/boatbuilding legend; something nice about a local living legend; and something not too whiny or snarky about how many asterisks are attached to my own advanced-age surfing.

Okay, we’ll see how it turns out.

The first thing Clint Thompson, temporarily back on the Olympic Peninsula to do what he does (extremely fine carpentry on expensive boats) reported seeing (to Adam Wipeout) was, when he got a view of the lineup, me burning Tim Nolan. Not the first time, and I did, as I did the last time, apologize to Tim for shoulder-hopping, with the excuse/explanation, “I didn’t think you would have made the wave.” True, I believe, this time, probably not true of the previous infraction.

Yes, guilty with no credible explanation. Place that asterisk next to my name. *Greedy wavehog.

Michael “Miguel” Clay Winterburn is a name I have heard for many years, though, to my knowledge, I never met him. A pioneer of Northwest surfing, held in the highest esteem in the world of boat building, he passed on late last month. His obituary is online in the “Port Townsend Leader” and the “Peninsula Daily News.” I took the photo I am using and more information from the Port Townsend Marine Trades Association.

I recommend checking the testimonials out. Particularly interesting to me was the Leader article mentioning he left behind five children, numerous grandchildren, several siblings, and “Three beautiful wives.” Obviously Miguel also left behind hours of stories from the Santa Cruz surfing and shaping scene, to the boat-building/sailing days, to his life as an instructor for others. Highly regarded. Legend. True.

May be an image of 1 person, beard and outdoors

If this man is not familiar, the pose is. A moment, perhaps, of contentment, a view of the water.

I have seen surfboards Miguel made, some still in use. Rico, better hang on to that one.

Here’s a photo of Tim Nolan receiving an award for his boat designing achievements from his contemporaries. High praise, indeed. I found this while researching Miguel Winterburn.

Maybe it’s coincidental, but Tim, Miguel, and Clint are all part of a world I bump up against but have very little knowledge of. Boatbuilding. As surfers, they are not, of course, alone in this. In fact, I know several other local surfers who have a connection (“Boatyard” Mike, Lacy the sailmaker, for example) to the industry.

What we seek, as surfers, is some closer connection to the water. Since I also mentioned Adam James of HamaHama Oysters here; yeah, with his time out on the tide flats and in the water, Adam does have a chance to keep tabs on where what is happening, combo-ing checking oyster beds with a rising swell. The closest I come is painting houses on waterfront. No, haven’t painted any at a potential surf spot in a while.

Because I collect all the little bits and pieces and irritations and joys of life, then try to assemble the random parts, attempt to transform the mundane into some sort of story, and because… okay, mostly I’m full of shit. What I was thinking about on my way out to search for waves and hopefully find and ride some was this: Anticipation, I decided, is a mixture of considering just how excited it would be if the waves were glassy, uncrowded, lined-up; and the mental preparation for having to accept that the surf might be blown out, totally overcrowded, crappy, or just not there.

I figured my chances were about 60/40. Yet, there I was, speeding, only vaguely letting the truth set in that anyone who would be competing for waves was either ahead of me or already there, and there was no way anyone was going to pass me.

No, this didn’t slow me down.

Okay, I have other things on my ‘must do’ list. I’ll get into my other faults next time, or the time after that. What I had planned on writing about was ‘harshing one’s paradigm,’ a phrase I heard a few years ago, one that didn’t catch on enough to be overused. The context here is that I believed I was surfing well the last time I paddled out, felt that combination of contentment and exhaustion, actually got a few compliments.

It took a day or two for the head-swelling to go down and the asterisks to start kicking in. *I have a big-ass board (actually 10’6″), *use a paddle, *surf almost entirely on my knees. *Add in the previously mentioned wave hogging and *lack of etiquette (I actually, even with earplugs, heard a guy in the lineup tell a woman, ‘No, there’s no rotation here’), *factor in that the surf spot is not, like, super critical, that *I’m fat and *old, and you get… shit, I suck.

Fine. Okay. The thing is, and I told several people this: “I am totally aware of the asterisks next to my name, and I don’t give a fuck.”

But, of course, I do. Probably 65% don’t care, 35% care too much.

So much of surfing is so connected to the ego, our self-image. The session before last, I was at a difficult, critical spot. I caught, maybe, twenty waves, got thrashed by four or five, got pitched, got rag-dolled, got three or four decent rides, got one really good ride (in my own judgment), and freely admitted I was eighth best out of seven surfers. *With asterisks.

I still count it, as I do almost every session, as totally worth it. Enjoyable.

What we do, too often, is harsh other surfer’s paradigm. My friend (apologies for ranting on) told his girlfriend, Sierra, both of them watching two young girls having a ball in tiny, blown out waves, that that is what surfing is supposed to be. Maybe I’ll get into more apologies next time, but I would like to apologize to Concrete Pete for kind of wrecking his story of a young surfer who was so impressed by some of the older folks out there in the water going for it.

Meanwhile, surf in peace, live in peace. For those who pass on, rest in peace.

What Thought has to do with It

I’ve spent too much time on Youtube lately, what with the big ass swell hitting Hawaii, and now California; and with at least one part of the latest national nightmare closer and closer to some undoubtedly (by which I mean hopefully and peacefully) anti-climatic conclusion; guy loses, won’t concede, wants a military sendoff after coup failed, sneaks out of town at dawn… yeah, yeah, yeah; feels like we saw that one already, seems derivative. And, though we try to forget it, there’s the ongoing omni-demic, can’t count fast enough to keep up with the cases and deaths. One, one thousand, two, two thousand, three, three thousand…

If I could just concentrate on surf videos, raw footage from Big Rock and Waimea Bay and Jaws and Mavericks, I would. And I can, for a while, before my mind wanders. And Youtube offers such delightful options: Politics from whatever side you’d consider risking your life to support; exposes on pretty much anything, new folks grabbing video and hoping to build enough followers to, maybe, make a living. Not sure how many that would take, but… wait, I’m still waiting for a list of who is getting pardoned, who might get executed in the final push; and I’m just not all that patient.

For God’s sake, it’s almost 9:30 pm, eastern time, and the outgoing president has to be at the airport at dawn. So, yes, still some suspense in what someone must have imagined as an ultimate reality show. Waiting.

Thinking. Okay, so, because I have some history of checking out things other than “If I drive ten miles with the emergency brake on, will I have any brakes when it all cools down?” and “How to replace brake pads,” I sometimes get things related to Bob Dylan. And so it was that I got onto a little video with Dylan and Joan Baez. Trish and I have seen both of them in concert, though not together, and I have followed their… okay, I might be enough of a romantic to believe they could have been happy together.

So, here’s the scene: Bob says Joan went off and got married. Joan says Bob got married first, without telling her, and he could have told her. Bob hims and hahs and says yeah, but he got married to someone he loved. Joan says, yeah, and she married someone she thought she loved. Then Bob, after sufficient pauses, says, “See, that’s what thought has to do with it.” Pause. “Thought will FUCK you up.”

Joan Baez and Bob Dylan from Rolling Thunder tour. Photo from Vanity Fair

And it will, and it can; and it does.

Or maybe I just imagine that there’s such a thing as blissful ignorance.

Wait, here’s an admission: Because I have stated, publicly, my belief that any and all relationships between two people are fragile, tentative, and have the distinct possibility of ending at any given moment, I didn’t actually consider that the relationship between these two, on and off and on and off again; that whatever level of understanding and appreciation of each other, of love for each other they have now; that might be about as good a relationship, over time one can hope to have with another human being.

I won’t admit to being a romantic, hopeless or otherwise, but I do plead the fifth on thinking too much. “Thought will FUCK you up.”

Incidentally, quick mention of “Swamis,” my ever more polished, still too long and too complicated novel; there may be a bit of an underlying romantic-ness in there.

NEXT TIME, I swear, I will write about ADAM WIPEOUT’S big wipeout. I have never spent so much time discussing one wave in my lifetime of talking surf story; and, I promise, I will spend some more, including (note the suspense) a guest visit by BIG DAVE.

Of course, first we have to get through tomorrow. I

UPDATE – It seems like the slimiest and least surprising pardon traded was for the slime ball who collected money from maga folks and kept a cool million or so to work on his tan. Who loves ya’ baby? OH, can’t help mentioning that, while the helicopter was lifting off, “I did it my way” was playing.

“Outside in the distance, a wildcat did growl, two riders were approaching, and the wind began to howl.”