All Respect on Veteran’s Day

NOTE: The day after I wrote and posted this piece, I received a comment from GP Cox. He has a site focused on paratroopers in the Pacific Theater in World War II. I did go to his site, pacificparatroopers.wordpress, and checked it out. What is somewhat, at least, ironic is that my father intended to enlist in the Army Air Corps, but, because he was only seventeen, he was not allowed. The family story is: He walked on down the hall.  There is a link to the paratroopers site with the comment. Check it out; and thank you to GP Cox.

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Because it is Veteran’s Day I want to extend my respect and gratitude to those who are serving or have served our country in the military…

…particularly in times of war; and, it seems, it’s always a time of war.

War is a failure of diplomacy, of compromise, of any promise of advancing civilization beyond our ancient-but-constantly-renewed tribalism. War is a consequence of the fear-hatred-action model. Either we’re on the side of coveting and going after that which we can not merely bargain for; or we’re defending against those forces.

The history of human beings is a history of war. War defines us.

This is what I was taught; yet this thought that war is wrong comes directly up against the war movies, the Cowboy-and-Indian sagas; swarming and falling; heroes prevailing or sacrificing all for some noble cause.

This “Noble Cause” idea is always there; it has never been defeated.

My childhood friends and I played Army, played Cowboys-and-Indians. Occasionally play would turn to a fight. Not necessarily noble.

I’m working on a novel, “Swamis,” that takes place in 1969, the year I turned 18, required to sign up for the draft.  I had just graduated from high school in a town anchoring one point of the triangle of Camp Pendleton. My parents both worked there. Most of Camp Pendleton was in the Fallbrook school district.

Though my father went into the U.S. Marine Corps before Pearl Harbor, and was at Guadalcanal and other horrific battles; contracted malaria, was wounded numerous times between World War II and his time in Korea (which coincided with my birth and, while he was there, the birth of my next sister down); my mother served in Washington D.C. in the office where decisions on rationing were made.

When I was in my teens, while my father was a civilian cable splicer for the (separate) phone service on Camp Pendleton, my mother worked in the base photo lab alongside some of those who took now-iconic photos from previous and ongoing wars.

One of her coworkers was our neighbor, father of children whose ages lined up with the kids in our family. You couldn’t meet him and not see that he had been damaged by what he had been through, what he had seen, what he had photographed.

The Vietnam War and all its associated drama were covered almost live; campus protests and jungle patrols. And there were stories wherever one went. Parents of friends were over there, in the military. Older brothers of friends were there, sons of people from my church were there; at least one of whom died there.

Coming of age is, of course, always difficult. At almost eighteen (an age in which my father was at Guadalcanal) I had to sign up for the draft; but I was working in a sign shop, going surfing pretty much every morning, and deciding between a church-run college and the local community college. Either way I’d be registering as 2-S, a student deferment.  Though there was a lot of talk among my peers of which branch to sign up for, Coast Guard Reserve getting the nod in the surfing community; there was also the often-repeated rumor that this war was going to go on for years, and, once the student deferment no longer applied, it was Vietnam for sure.

This is where the novel comes in: The narrator, who is not me (though I am a resource), has to make a similar decision on the draft. On December 1, 1969, the first (supposedly fairer than the existing system) lottery draft was held. Every male born before 1951 was eligible. I was born in 1951; the next year would be the critical one for me.

I thought I could remember the exact numbers of my birth date for the first and second lottery drafts. 36 for the first year; 174 for the second. I looked it up. I had remembered correctly.

Somewhere between the first and second drawings I made (possibly- certainly seemed so at the time) the biggest gamble of my life; changed my status to 1-A.

They never called me, I never called them.

It’s way more complicated than that, of course. My church had training for those who could serve as medics. Some heroes of the Seventh Day Adventist Church had done so. It would be easiest, if drafted, to just go in the Army. Two years. “Cannon fodder,” was the word on it. My father told me that if I went in as an officer, he wouldn’t care which branch I went into, but if I went in enlisted, it had better be the Marine Corps.

But here’s what happened: A little over two years in a sign shop got me qualified, barely, to get a job as a journeyman painter with the Department of the Navy in San Diego at 20 years old; 1971. I went to work with veterans of World War II, Korea, and with returning vets (slightly older than I was) in the apprenticeship program.

All of these folks were affected, if not damaged by what they had seen, what they had participated in. Although veterans are not fond of talking to non-vets, they will talk among themselves, and most of the people I worked with were veterans.

I worked with a guy who (and his peers never guessed it) piloted a landing craft on D-Day, was issued a 45 and orders to kill anyone who wouldn’t disembark; I worked with a man who was on several ships that were sunk, who fought against Rommel’s forces in North Africa.

When I transferred to the shipyard in Bremerton in 1979, I worked with a guy who was on Navy river patrol boats in Vietnam. He was very quiet, didn’t want to talk to anyone about it. “Yeah, like the movie; only real.” Another Vietnam veteran, who, when I would see him talking to his real peers, seemed unable to get past his experiences. He died (and I can’t help think his Vietnam time contributed to this) in his mid-thirties. Another painter, who sported an ever-longer beard and hair, was willing to tell me how, on an off-station project in Spain, an American guard said something about his hair, and, if he was a Marine… “I am a ___-______ Marine,” he answered.

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There are no ex-Marines. My father was a Marine when he died. “Very bad things happen,” he said, when the subject of Post Traumatic Stress disorder came up, “you just have to keep on going.”

I don’t know war. I have seen what war does to people. To ask someone to go to war is to ask them to go against what most of us are taught, to possibly die or possibly kill another human being for some noble cause. If the cause isn’t actually noble…

War is the tragedy of man.

To those who serve, who have served; all respect. I do mean all respect.

 

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If it’s not chiaroscuro, maybe it’s…

…possible the illustration could be described by some other word that is, itself, defined as an image with an almost equal amount of black and white.

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I discovered this ‘equalness’* when I took the original drawing, the negative of this image, to a printer to be reversed. I didn’t have that version reduced, so I can’t show it here, but, probably because I just can’t leave space, black or white, bare; the amounts of toner necessary to print either version, according to the guy behind the counter, were pretty much the same.

*I wanted to use the word ‘equanimity’, but, when I looked it up, it referred to a state of calmness despite whatever existential craziness is going on.

You’re right; I didn’t have to use the word ‘existential.’

SO, this one probably won’t become a t-shirt. Like everything; art, writing, paint contracting, marketing of art and writing; I’m still working on it.

AND trying to maintain some level of equanimity-ness.

MEANWHILE… Evidently some t-shirts are being sold at Tyler Meek’s DISCO BAY OUTDOOR EXCHANGE, located on SURF ROUTE 101, the main route to the ‘still wild’ Olympic Peninsula.

Original Erwin T-Shirts Available…

…Now.

It cost me a little more to get the first two Original Erwin designs on quality shirts (rather than the flimsy wet-t-shirt variety). I have some promised out, saved one each of the XXLs for myself, and have some for purchase among TYLER MEEK’S ever-growing inventory at DISCO BAY OUTDOOR EXCHANGE.

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Here’s Tyler in the ‘offshore’.

And here’s some old guy in the ‘golden light, XXL.  20181025_143412_resized

Melissa’s last Oil Painting

It was almost dark, and I was doing the “Rambo,” painting a house with a six foot ladder and me jammed between fist-pruned bushes when I got a call. Weird; I hadn’t been able to call out from this house, hadn’t been able to check the buoys to see if Stephen Davis, off to the coast to celebrate his 50th birthday, was getting any waves.

It was my brother-in-law, Jerome Lynch, calling, ostensibly, to report that my nephew, Fergus, was heading back from the Midwest to Seattle, with stops at some national parks on the way.

I’ve been, pretty much, afraid to call Jerome since my sister, Melissa, died a little more than a year ago at age 56.  The drawing I’m using as the header was done by Melissa. I haven’t gotten past or over her death, and I really haven’t known what to say.

Fortunately, Jerome did more of the talking. Surprising, yes. Partially, he said, he wanted to let me know Melissa’s last oil painting is being featured in a gallery.

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It’s the one closest to the door; described by Jerome as “kind of a self-portrait, looking away, with another, older woman, looking in the other direction.

What’s noteworthy is that Melissa always had lots of hair, up to the time the treatments for the aggressive cancer took a toll. This makes me wonder, well; several things: When did Melissa do the painting? Is the other woman a representation of someone she didn’t get the opportunity to become?

I did tell Jerome that if Fergus’s car breaks down in Big Sur (or anywhere on the coast, no place in the desert), I’ll go help him out.

MEANWHILE; it seems to be birthday week; with Stephen Davis turning 50, Adam “Wipeout” James turning 40 (and heading to Legoland, possibly some North County breaks), and my son, James, over in Idaho (yeah, I know) turning 42.

AND, the clear weather seems to be continuing, SO, got to get back to doing the Rambo.

OH, and I dropped off the two drawings (scroll down) at a great shop in Port Townsend; with t shirts coming back in the next two weeks. Some will be available at Tyler Meeks’ DISCO BAY OUTDOOR EXCHANGE.

Not Keeping Up with Stephen R. Davis

My friend, ‘Hydrosexual’ Stephen Davis recently went from the Big Island to the Windy City.  He’s doing some work with his friend, Cosmo; who, after visiting Hawaii, decided he wants to move there.

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BUT FIRST,  Steve stopped off in Port Townsend. We were supposed to meet up, but I was working and he has a lot of friends. Weirdly (not really for Stephen or me), he found me getting a drawing reproduced at The Printery.  He was cruising around with Lisa, a surfer he met in Baja, who actually lives and teaches school in North San Diego County (near where I was raised), and reminds me of what Courtney Conlogue might be like at fifty-something.

Outerknown Fiji Women's Pro

So, Lisa started giving me the kind of “are you a real surfer” kind of grilling I tend to practice.  Actually, she started with, “So, you surf?” “Kind of.” “Oh,” Stephen said, “Erwin has great wave knowledge.” “Uh huh.” Then back to me, “Do you know Blackie, Bonzo, Little Snickie…?” “Um; I left there almost forty years ago. Do you ever surf Pipes?” “Sometimes. You know, old guys surf Tourmaline.” “Yeah; I used to live up the bluff, in P.B. Like, in 1971.” “Oh. Yeah.” “Do you know Joe Roper?” “Joe Roper? Of course. He’s the only one I’ll let work on my Skip Frye.”

Sensing I was holding my own, maybe with a B-, I told a story about stealing a design from Morey/Pope that Skip was working on at Gordon and Smith (the waterskate, though I couldn’t think of that under the pressure), having it built/pirated at the PB Surf Shop, and, first time trying it; there’s Skip on the beach. Yeah; Skip Frye.

MEANWHILE, Stephen and Cosmo have spent some Chicago time at museums and other highbrow locations.

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BUT, and I know this is going on a bit, I want to get to Stephen’s story. Steve is my Wal-Mart call; someone to talk to when I’m following Trish around. On one call, he told me he wants to submit a story of how he had a new take on all the posturing and posing and preening associated with surfing. “Preening?” “Yeah, P R E E N I N G.” “I know how to spell it, Steve; I just love that you’re using it.”

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“Old Man Winter,” original charcoal by Stephen R. Davis.

No, sorry; lost it (temporarily). I’ll post this, then post the version with Steve’s story. Mostly I’m worried about losing what I’ve put together so far.

I may be a real surfer; but I’m definitely not a real computer dude.

OKAY, I can’t seem to get it here. I’ll just retype it. Here’s Stephen’s latest story:

I was bailing the Big Island and my shoulder was feeling good.  There was a new, pumping South Swell, so I decided to catch a few waves.

I had surfed quite a bit in the last few weeks. The swell had been relentless.

I explored a bit. I checked out some spots off the beaten path I had been wondering about, but, not knowing the swell angle and the direction, nor the relative position of most of the lava rock points and reefs, my regional knowledge was still a work in progress. Old standby spots seemed to be the ones firing, and they had been firing. Local rippers with shoulders the size of coconuts were casually, nonchalantly packing and petting low tide bombs where the reef seemed too close to the surface for any personal comfort level.

Hilo-side and Puna folks were migrating to Kona side also, because of the unprecedented lava activity, borrowing old, yellow, dinged-up longboards and railgrabbing gnarly, late drops and pulling it, coming out of massive amounts of exploding white water, while I watched from the inside corner on my old 6’8″ Al Merrick, “Big Willy,” waiting patiently.

Echoing in my mind was Cap, constantly telling me, “You need a bigger board,” as only a charter boat Captain can. Hmmmmmm…. in his mind the 10′ popout Infinity he ‘gave’ me to fix for him (?), with the GoPro mount right where I would want to stand on the nose, combined with the thruster set-up (??) would get me more waves, and serve as what Cap refers to as ‘crowd control.’ I seriously don’t want to think about what was in the old wax on that thing. Though I am grateful for the gesture, it just definitely was not my preferred solution to this crowd situation. I’m sure it would have been fine, but it just is not my style.

I came to the Big Island to ride waves on a short board with no wetsuit, and I was fine up until the head-on collision when my right shoulder was injured. After rehabbing it for months, along with the whiplash in my neck, I really wanted to be back on “Big Willy.” I had pulled her out of the wreckage, cleaned the broken glass out of the wax, fixed the dings, put a new deck patch on her (ERWIN- Wait, Willy’s female?), and even bought a brand new leash for her. Ya, she is old and yellow, but she is my shortboard. I bought her when my Mom passed away, when I realized just how fleeting life is.

The swell was pumping and I wanted to carve going fast.

After being caught inside on two huge sets of empty lineup with ‘victory at sea’ conditions, I positioned again, on the corner, to wait for the wide-swingers. I went for one no one could get, and, rather quickly, ejected, hanging and slowly descending into oblivion, perfectly, with the lip I wasn’t in, and I knew it.

Oh, well. Went for another one, more resolute, after another waiting period. Couldn’t get to my feet. Hmmmm. Now I wanted it bad. Waited for another one. Same thing. These were extremely stretched-out, hollow lefts hitting a shallow reef, but the waves were familiar to me. I knew I could do better.

Finally, I popped to my feet on a nice roll-in, managed a big backside roundhouse-to-foam-bounce, then hit the lip and landed it as the wave finished it’s destiny on the reef. OK, now I could go in. I caught a good one.

The next day I went to check a fun, family spot. It was a weekend morning, glassy and closing-out at the small takeoff spot. There was one makeable bomb per set, and about 20 or more, no doubt, preening ‘locals’ that I had no interest in competing in the lineup with. I am old, and I have fought the dragon that is my ego, and have no interest in proving my worth to anyone. Nor do I have any urge to be judged or evaluated by strangers. Mind you, I am happy to have been evaluated by my long time counselor whose awareness and ‘judgement’ of me I trust.

What to do? As I sat on the beach, I noticed the Keki on the inside, catching little pockets, and laughing all the way in and back out to their inside takeoff spot. This surf spot is notoriously family friendly where folks come to find Aloha and be together. People bring friends who don’t surf there to learn, and there is an illuminating Vibration of Love that can be felt if one tries.

I decided to go out on my forest green 7’6″ funboard, and to stay inside with the Ohana. I was next to two little girls, walking their longboards on inside nugs, and a father teaching his young son to surf. I had so much fun, and felt so much joy in the warmth of the sun, the laughter, and the little pockets and walls-a-plenty. I was trimming along, with the clear, beautiful water, the reef, and the sea life. I caught a dozen incredible waves, and remembered what it felt like to truly play amongst friends.

Asa result of my parenting, I have an ability to learn from children, and this was no different. I relearned what it means to play, and to share, again, and how nice it feels to celebrate, and to be celebrated for catching and riding a wave that offers that vibration back as a child. I learned the value of a smile.

Aloha.

Father’s Day Weekend, International Surfing Day…

…and, as always, I’m just glad to get some waves. Swell windows along the Strait of Juan de Fuca are small, tight, and reliant on so many variables.  And I wouldn’t have even been checking them out or considering surfing on a weekend if I hadn’t had such an exhausting work week; work completed on a frustrating and not-really-all-that-profitable project at about 8pm on Friday, painting stuff piled back into the van, check ATM-deposited.

EDIT; [Hey, wait; was International Surfing Day June 16, or is it June 22nd? Kind of confusing. Doesn’t really matter; I surfed on one of the possibilities, not sure about next weekend; or any weekend, but, since this weekend is gone and the reports are in, it seems like those who really wanted northwest waves got some. So, good.]

It was a Hobuck weekend for sure. It was the kind of Olympic Peninsula weekend Seattle-Siders dream of. White Reggie Longstroke had taken off on Thursday night to secure a prime spot. Temperatures were predicted to be in the 80 degree range, no big disturbing winds, moderate swell.

I definitely had no plans to go to the coast, and was trying to get all the parties together to start another job, miss the mob. I was hoping for a small swell window, like, checking, like today, right now. It’s a maybe, but… yeah, someone might be getting some waves.

Big Dave, who I’d run into on Wednesday or so, me on my way to a job, he standing by his Jefferson County dump truck, waiting, evidently, to fill in some pot holes on the Center Road, and who I really just wanted to clue in on a session I’d had (and he’d missed) with Clint and I pretty much the only surfers out; but he had to tell me the coast looked to be the bet for the weekend, and, man, I really missed the Memorial Day surf at La Push.

“Wait,” I said; I was checking out the camera, swear I caught an image of you bottom-turning on a wave.” “Probably. I was out there.”

I must add that I also got a clue, texted from an unnamed surf zealot down the canal, that there might be a little window that might not show on the forecast, even on the buoys.

“My board’s still on my car,” I texted; “What time r u thinking? 6? 5?”

No response to my “Going for it” text at 4:30. Knowing he had graduation parties to go to, probably from Shelton to Chimacum, I just knew he was already on it in the pre-dawn light.

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Okay, this isn’t actually the lineup when I arrived at around 6;45. I did take some photos with my phone, but can’t figure out how to send them to my e-mail. It was similar, but cleaner; the tide already low and headed for the lowest low (I’m told) of the year; and the swell was dropping, had dropped overnight, one surfer was out, one was headed out, two more were suiting up, and, well, I had to get out there.

Adam Wipeout wasn’t already there, but, with all I didn’t know, he might have been somewhere, hitting waves bigger and better.

It was pretty much over two hours later when I slogged through the mid-cove quicksand. Window closed.  On the way home I did pass a lot of surfers, even more kayakers, as many rigs trailering boats.  Hopefully each of those folks found something to enjoy.  With a rising tide, there could have been another window. And there’s always the coast. Hobuck, La Push, various spots in between… maybe.

Geez, it’s already late; got to get to work.

 

Scapes, Landscapes, and Possibly the Last of Captain Sketchee

I have been doing some Olympic Peninsula-specific landscape drawings lately, and I’m trying to get a few more done before (and, hopefully available at) the HamaHama Oysterama coming up the weekend around the 21st, down (or up, maybe even over) Surf Route 101.

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Here’s something I did for the Disco Bay Outdoor Exchange. And, incidentally, Discovery Bay seems to be the happening spot, so near the confluence of highway 20, 104, and Surf Route 101.  Tyler Meeks offers all kinds of gear for skiing, hiking, surfing; all the outdoor activities one can participate in on the ‘still wild’ Peninsula.  AND clothing; so much easier than perusing the Goodwill or paying full boat.

Since, and probably because Trish hates the Captain Sketchee character, I went a little whole hog (and I may not be done with the good Captain).

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Captain Sketchee in Color

and ready for more.

More what? More whatever; as long as it doesn’t require running or excessive sweating. No, and he’s done with nude beach volleyball (something about the leaping). He is educated (and he can list his credentials), opinionated, and ready to discuss several non-urgent, not-really-controversial topics in any one of several casual settings, including surf beaches and/or surf-adjacent parking areas.

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“They’re called car parks in much of the world,” is just one of many pieces of info he’s willing to share. Plus, Captain Sketchee has an encyclopedic knowledge of pretty much every wave he rode from 1963 to 1968, the year he used his Uncle’s influence to get into the Coast Guard Auxiliary, just the start of his auxiliary naval career (the ‘Captain’ is strictly honorary).

“Yes, I hot-dogged the outside section, did a spinner, dropped a BA, cheater-fived right past one of those kooks on a 7’6″ garage soul ‘experimental’ board, did a soul arch and a standing Hawaiian in the shorebreak; Tamarack, September 17, 1967. Ebbing tide, afternoon session, fourteen completed rides, one swim, three ‘call offs,’ one verbal exchange, one deferred confrontation on the beach. Early cloud cover.”

The Captain is also known to distribute sage insight such as: “I probably should have made a few friends along the way, but… friends, inevitably, want to share a wave. One (I’ve found that, if he says ‘one,’ he probably means himself) evidently, has to be willing to go alone. All alone.” This might be followed by, “No one drops in on someone he or she (rather than using the more common, less elegant ‘they’) respects, so, blast it all, why’d you totally flamin’ burn me?”

“I don’t think I ‘totally flamin’ burned’ you, Captain; you blew the takeoff on the previous wave, missed two before that; I just… maybe I just lost faith. Sorry, I said ‘previous.’ Maybe ‘preceding’ might have been a better choice. What say you?”

CAPTAIN’S LOG- Surf Date, 03/11/18. Secret spot of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Muddy parking area/pullout. Very small reef break. Sunny but East wind side chop. Four completed rides. One semi-barrel. Two drop-ins. One verbal situation. One shared ride. One confrontation diffused. Going to Westport tomorrow. Ample parking.

Yeah, okay; I was just going to post the photo. Got to go.

Apre’s Surf and Avant Anything Else; Captain Sketchee’s Sport Togs and Fashion Garb

“Avant,” Mr. Sketchee told me, evidently including me with the ‘Surf Fashion lemmings’ and ‘Thrift store dumpster divers,’ “is French, and thereby, mas’ sophisticato, for ‘before.'”

“Mas’ sophisticato?” I asked, knowing, that as another figment of my imagination, Captain Sketchee got his start in fashion at the Port Angeles Goodwill (just down Lincoln from the North by Northwest surf shop) when he found some faux (more French) Admiral’s nautical coat; unfortunately not in the proper size.

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“It’s creepy,” Trish said when I showed her this drawing; “Why would you want to draw… him?”

“T shirts,” I said. “I’m going to add some waves, some lettering… and, besides, he was Mr. Creepee, originally; but, um, he’s, uh, evolved. And, anyway, what about the drawing? Clean, tight; medium lines?”

“The drawing’s fine, but… nobody wants that on a t shirt. I mean, do you?”

I kind of do. I mean, with the lettering and… quality t shirt, and… in my size.