“Surf’s Up” and Other Stuff from “Sideslipping”

DESPERATELY SEEKING SALINE. Hey, it’s been too long between swells, too long since we got out there. YouTube videos just don’t replace being out there, in the water. Paddling isn’t the same as surfing. My standard line is, “If there weren’t waves you couldn’t get me into this (Strait of Juan de Fuca is colder than the actual ocean on the Olympic Peninsula) water; if there are waves, you couldn’t keep me out.”

Despite that, my most recent attempt at finding a place where one is allowed to surf and there were actually waves found me paddling, paddling, paddling. NOW, I frequently ride pretty small waves, and always say it’s practice for when larger waves show up. Not that time; but I did practice the standup part of standup surfing. Fun. Practice. Sarcasm.

I WANT WAVES.

Meanwhile, I am making some progress in my bigtime edit of “SWAMIS.” It’s way easier on the reader; chapters clearly identified, almost all the stuff related to the current/older Joseph DeFreines, Jr. cut completely. I am saving the longer cut scenes/chapters as “Sideslipping,” now up to about forty pages with about half the manuscript left to work on. Oddly, because I’ve moved chapters around and added some stuff, the actual word count has not dropped to the same place. Still, I’m hoping to get it all to around one hundred thousand words.

TO SET UP THIS CUT, Jody (Joe DeFreines, Jr.) is typing/editing a piece Jumper Hayes wrote for a creative writing class at Jumper’s house when Jumper’s parents come home. Part of one of my conceits in the story is that almost every character is part this and part that; Jody is half Japanese, Jumper’s father is a descendant of the original Spanish conquerors/settlers; and California is as mixed a melting pot as, really, almost anywhere.

MEXICAN INFLECTION

‘Mexican inflection?’ I wouldn’t have meant this in any derogatory way, necessarily; but, if there is a California inflection; it comes from the mixture of Spanish and everyone else who came here; pathfinders and cowboys and gold seekers and Oakies, post-war migrants like my parents, and, I guess, me.  One cannot deny the Mexican influence, flattened and foreshortened by all the rest of us.

And then there’s the black and gay influence: Words and phrasing and phrases; how we thought gays and black people talked, exaggerated, co-opted, stirred into the California lexicon, the California dialect, the California inflection.

Still, the Mexican influence cannot be denied.

Surfers, of course, had to be a bit different; speak with a different rhythm, introduce new words.  You know the words.  The attitude, the surfer attitude, is probably more your idea than reality, exaggerated and perverted and spread by TV and movies and advertisers.

Sure. Surfing is sexy, coolness illustrated; pirate/rebels washed clean.

Coolness, hipness; we adapt our lives, change our speech patterns, make different choices in clothing and music and attitude as we discover new, and, if not better, more modern things, newer new things; trends, fashions.

The very word, fashion, describes its temporary nature.  Subtext.  That fashion goes in and out is given to the user of the word for free.

We steal, borrow, incorporate.  The strands are pretty obvious; like blues to jazz, blues to rock and roll, blues coopted by popular AM music.  If you were born in the 1950s, you heard Sinatra and Chuck Berry on the same AM station; experienced the Beatles, then Dylan.  No, you probably got Dylan through Dylan covers, Peter Paul and Mary, the Byrds; then Dylan, then… whatever was fashionable.  Temporary.

THE REAL DYLAN

We, my Fallbrook contemporaries, suburban teenage males, isolated from the big cities, behind the times; we were Doors fans.  Of course.  My friends bought the albums.  Garage bands played extended versions of ‘Light My Fire’ at sock hops and VFW dances.  When tape players came out, some of my friends had them installed in the cars their parents handed down to them.  Or bought for them.  Four trac, then 8; Three Dog Night and Jimi Hendrix.

Somehow, I held on to the songs from the 78s my parents owned, surprisingly varied, with jazz, husband and wife duos, black torch singers, Nat King Cole.  I remembered tunes from musicals in my mom’s LP stash, “Oklahoma” and “South Pacific.”  They had LPs, 33 1/3rd, Johnny Mathis and The Everly Brothers.  I didn’t want doo wop or bubblegum pop, I wanted to hear the real Dylan.  Dylan was in the magazines, angry young man, voice of a generation; why wasn’t he on the radio?

Dylan was certainly not on KCPQ, the station my friends in Junior High went on about.  KCPQ advertised pimple cream and played Beatle songs for portable radios, songs sung in the hallways by hormone-strained voices, guys suddenly affecting English accents.  There were sanitized versions of Dylan; but no Dylan.  I didn’t want more Chad and Jeremy, more Herman’s Hermits.

Someone dropped a clue, something heard by overhearing an older brother.  There was a station from San Diego, KPRI, FM (for god’s sake), that played whole albums; radical, underground music.  I could barely get it, but I tried, over in the corner of my bedroom, while I studied, wrote; edited and typed-up other people’s term papers (for a fee); another detached, isolated, suburban (almost rural, really) teenager.

KPRI, as close to tuned in as I could get it, still had that grainy, scratchy, ringing-in-the-ear background.  I tried.  I persisted.  I listened.  That it was difficult to tune into made it better.  Way better.  FM, for god’s sake.

SURF’S UP

Channel 9, from Santa Barbara, was a similar, hard-to-tune-in mystery.  With Ray on the roof moving the antenna, Phillip at the window, and me at the TV set, we tried to get “Surf’s Up.”  It was listed in the Fallbrook-specific TV Guide; and, at best, we almost saw, or barely saw, some footage of Trestles, a legendary break, peeling.  The only audio we could hear was, “peeling like a washing machine.”

That barely-there-ness only added to the appropriateness.  “Peeling like a washing machine” became, briefly, our phrase for a perfect wave on an imperfect day.  Rare, peeling…

“We’re going,” the slow-speaking voice (opposite of am radio) of a possibly-stoned KPRI disc jockey would say, “to go in the back room and get our heads together (background chuckles); so, here’s Dylan’s “John Wesley Harding.”  Sound of inhalation, extended version.

Appropriate.  Black-and-white, scratchy-grainy TV, whispered songs with tinnitus backgrounds.

When I got my first tape player, 4 plus 4, capable of playing four and eight trac tapes; and stolen, as previously mentioned, traded for fifteen bucks and some homemade sandwiches (and a promise for more) in the school parking lot, installed (rather, wired) by a guy (can’t remember his name) who told me I, my dad being an asshole and a cop and all, should have known it was stolen.   I bought some on-sale tapes at the Buy-and-Save market: Laura Nyro, Leonard Cohen, “Aerial Ballet” by Harry Nilsson.

“What’s that shit?” One of my friends would ask.

“Good music,” I would say.

Yeah, I had some Doors, Hendrix; often wondered if I really liked them more than the Moody Blues. When Led Zeppelin came out, I just avoided it.  Or tried.  Orgasmic rock.  All these years later, KPRI is probably sports or talk or playing new age country/western, and there is no classic or hardrock station that can go an hour without playing something from Led Zep.

Orgasmic rock I called it.  Hated Led Zeppelin, but I still know most of their songs.

Somewhere in those years, I lost my California coastal accent.  Or, maybe I just thought I had.  It comes back sometimes.   “Oh, I see; you don’t like avo-caaa-do.” 

STAY SAFE, and watch out next time you see me. I may have been practicing.

“Sideslipping”& Competition

One of the effects of the omni-demic is that, for surfers, the chess board has been upended, the playground closed.

So, surfers can’t compete in the water when the water is off limits. Competition. Poor us. I started thinking about several aspects of competition, and discussing the competition aspect of our sport with several of my surfing friends. Specifically, I’ve been working some sort of scale in which a surfer can judge where he or she fits in a sort of, think fractions here, competitiveness over butthurtness equation.

Because we’re not equal. Yeah, I’m working on it; don’t claim to have it worked out. I’m trying to judge COMPETITIVENESS without factoring in actual surfing ability. This is, obviously, because one might be more competitive as one improves. I would also love to separate aggressiveness from competitiveness, so, there’s another problem.

THE NUMERATOR- One to nine, if you’re hyper-competitive in the water, give yourself a ONE. Well, that’d be kind of cocky of you. If you believe you’re a one, lie, give yourself a TWO. I really can’t imagine any surfer would give him or herself a nine, so, if you’re the surfer waiting near the channel, smiling as some wavehog paddles past you for the many-ist time, or someone not going out if the surf is good and just kind of crowded, you might give yourself an eight.

I’m giving myself a THREE, meaning, code-breakers, I really think I’m a TWO.

THE DENOMINATOR- So, BUTTHURTNESS. Where you might fit on this scale is determined by whether you’re prone to occasional screaming in the lineup, pouting in the parking area, quite obviously suffering in silence, board-punching, writing rude comments on windshields in wax, any acts of violence and/or vandalism, and, sort of a side consideration; how long you hold a grudge for wave sins you feel where perpetuated against you.

You can list these crimes against you. If your list is really long, if you have a large group of named surfers you hate, if you pretty much hate anyone else who is in the water with you, you may have earned a ONE.

Now, I was going to give myself a NINE, but, really, I have had a few resentments in the fifty-five years since I began board surfing. Warren Bolster once blatantly took off next to me at Swamis. It was my wave; I had position. It was probably about 1971, but, though I remember it, I figured he was probably frustrated because he’d been photographing rather than surfing, and maybe a bit over-zealous.

And I have definitely been guilty of OVERFROTHING. I’m still giving myself an EIGHT, though I’d love to be a NINE. Working on it.

WAIT, here’s a little more to back up my self-devised, non-reduceable (a 2/8 is not a 1/4) score: When I lost my paddle and it turned up stuck in the pilings and no one on the beach would fess up or give up the culprit, and he was, in fact, deemed, by popular opinion, a hero for getting even with the ruthless wavehog, I do admit to whining, complaining, pouting, with some threat to get even; but, when the perpetrator confessed, I immediately (well not quite immediately) forgave him. When I occasionally run into Raja, it’s all over, a fun story. “You’re still a hero, I’m still a wavehog.”

OKAY, I am still thinking about COMPETITIVENESS. I will concentrate on “Is competitiveness a bad thing?” ANOTHER TIME. MEANWHILE, here’s another outtake from “Swamis,” still in the massive edit phase. “SIDESLIPPING”

*The word ‘punk,’ evidently, comes from Elizabethan/Shakespearean times, referring to prostitutes; updated to include petty criminals in the early nineteen-hundreds, with a secondary meaning added in American prisons in which punks were prisoners available, willingly or not, for sexual favors.  ‘Kook’ supposedly is a synonym for shit in Hawaiian, has come to mean someone who isn’t proficient.  Shitty. A friend of mine, one who has spent enough time in Hawaii to risk using some pidgin if in the right company, informs me ‘donkey’ has become a synonym for kook, even cooler when a bit of a bray is included, as in, ‘donnnnnk,’ the final ‘ey’ optional.

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MEXICAN INFLECTION

‘Mexican inflection?’ I wouldn’t have meant this in any derogatory way, necessarily; but, if there is a California inflection; it comes from the mixture of Spanish and the many languages of everyone else who came here; pathfinders and cowboys and gold seekers and Oakies, post-war migrants like my parents, and, I guess, me.  One cannot deny the Mexican influence, flattened and foreshortened by all the rest of us.

And then there’s the black and gay influence: Words and phrasing and phrases; how we thought gays and black people talked; exaggerated, co-opted, stirred into the California lexicon, the California dialect, the California inflection.

Still, the Mexican influence cannot be denied.

Surfers, of course, had to be a bit different; speak with a different rhythm, introduce new words.  You know the words.  The attitude, the surfer attitude, is probably more your idea than reality; exaggerated and perverted and spread by TV and movies and advertisers.

Sure. Surfing is sexy, coolness illustrated; pirate/rebels washed clean.

Coolness, hipness; we adapt our lives, change our speech patterns, make different choices in clothing and music and attitude as we discover new, and, if not better, more modern things, newer new things; trends, fashions.

The very word, fashion, describes its temporary nature.  Subtext.  That fashion goes in and out is given to the user of the word for free.

We steal, borrow, incorporate.  The strands are pretty obvious; like blues to jazz, blues to rock and roll, blues coopted by popular AM music.  If you were born in the 1950s, you heard Sinatra and Chuck Berry on the same AM station; experienced the Beatles, then Dylan.  No, you probably got Dylan through Dylan covers; Peter Paul and Mary, the Byrds; then Dylan, then… whatever was fashionable.  Temporary.

“SIDESLIPPING” YOUR WAY

I’m, apparently, anal retentive when it comes to my writing. This is why the manuscript for “Swamis” is 123,000 words long; evidently somewhere around thirty, forty thousand words too many. WAIT, maybe I’m actually just trying to share all the good, um stuff. Wait; that would possibly make me anal explosive, the opposite, I’ve been informed, of, you know… hey, I wouldn’t think anyone wants to be identified as anal, um, anything.

OKAY, so, if I have to be that; if I have to radically, ruthlessly cut out a lot of words from “Swamis,” I’m going to, yeah, save the stuff.

SO, I’ve set up a place to put it, knowing, or, more likely, hoping that some of the peripheral stories I’ve so enjoyed writing might be useful in the, say, Season 2 of “Swamis.”

Yes, my ego is pretty much intact, despite getting reviews of the manuscript by two trusted people who actually got through it, both of whom (nicely but firmly) informed me it’s just too frustratingly complicated. Not the same as badly written. So, okay. That is, yeah; I knew that. Explosive.

What I would like to do, then, is publish some of the outtakes here. Here is the first batch, plus an illustration for the manuscript by the fictional Jody DeFreines by the real Erwin Dence.

The first segment is an embellished version of two separate incidents, one in which my friend Phillip Harper, both of us 16, had me try to purchase cigarettes as I, according to him, looked older. Not old enough, evidently.

The other segment and the illustration relate to the fictional presence of Ray Hicks and Phillip Harper at the aftermath of Chulo’s death (also fiction; based, sort of, on a real story of the body of a well know surfer ending up in a dumpster in Encinitas. Phil and Ray did get busted for serial ditching as per the insert.

the day after the Chulo thing. Sorry it looks cartoony. Good luck Joey

SIDESLIPPING- OUTTAKES FROM “SWAMIS”

Here we go:

SO FUCK-ING COOL… MAN

For a short period of time, but right about this time; well past ‘groovy,’ way past anyone remotely cool (or young) calling anyone a ‘Hippie,’ I made the adjustment, from ‘fuckin’, dropping the ‘ing,’ to Fuck-ing, emphasis on the ‘ing.’  This was after running into a guy, Gordy, a year ahead of me in high school, at a liquor store in Vista.  He was sporting a full beard and long hair (longer- Fallbrook had a dress code and I’d just graduated), parted in the middle (of course), and clothing, Hippie-garb I called it, that denied his quite-upper class upbringing.

“So fuck-ing’ cool, man.  We just don’t fuck-ing’ see each other, man; like, like we used to.”  And he was, obviously, stoned, with an even more-stoned girl, possibly still in high school; headband, boutique-chic top hanging precariously on her breasts, nodding, giggling, eyes unable to focus or even adjust to the light from the coolers; next to him.

I was looking at the girl.  Maybe I knew an older brother or sister.   She 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’ asshole; oh and…”  She lost her thought.  Emphasis on the ‘ing.’

“Larry.  Yeah.  Well.”  Larry.  Yeah.  Larry’s little sister.

I walked toward the counter, looked at the guy behind it; older guy, sort of leering at the girl.  “Larry’s little sister,” I said.  The guy nodded. Appreciatively (by which I mean creepily).  “She probably going to be, like…” I looked at her (questioningly, not, I hope, creepily).  “…a Junior?” she nodded.  “Like, uh, next year?”

“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 put a hand on my shoulder.  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 of gave me a specific (disappointed) look.

“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, “Got to be eighteen.”

He slid the cigarettes back toward him, a fifty-cent piece and two dimes and two pennies back to me.

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

“And you, sir?” he asked of Gordy.

“I left my license in my other pants,” I said.  Counter Guy ignored me, smiled (still creepily) at Larry’s sister.  She probably took it as flirting.

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

“Didn’t mean to be so… fucking uncool, Gordy,” I said, as we stepped outside. 

“Nah; it’s cool,” Gordy said.  He flipped me the cigarettes, one pack of matches, kept one pack; pulled Larry’s sister closer to him, put his hand out 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.  He 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 flipped me the peace sign with the hand holding the money, but quickly, and not where the Marines could see the gesture.   Not that they or the Citizen taking money from Gordy and him 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.

Class of ’71.  Yea!

Maybe I was trying to make up for my uncoolness in challenging Gordy.  Probably.  Yeah.  Flipping the peace sign was pretty much over.  On special occasions, perhaps; displayed and shared with what we would only later refer to as ‘ironically.’

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NOTE- Phillip and Ray were (I’ll get to this) busted, partially because of this incident, for serial ditching at Fallbrook High.  They had so many hours of detention to serve (the usual punishment, an hour served for each hour missed) that they couldn’t do the time before graduation.  They were, instead, tasked with having to pick up trash around the campus at nutrition and lunch until the end of the year.  While some students threw wrappers and apple cores and lunch sacks to the ground when they saw either (or both) of them approaching with their large canvas bags and sticks with a nail on the end; they were also folk heroes of sorts, rebels; an enviable status.  Peace signs and nods, a few slugs to the shoulder (precursor to the high five and/or fist bump); maybe an already-dated ‘far out’ or ‘right on;’ probably not a ‘groovy,’ even from some otherwise-clueless classmate.  

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