A Nod is Good Enough- John Severson

 

 

IN MY MIND-VIDEO VERSION of the very brief encounter; looking past the front desk where the receptionist was still telling me that “John, John Severson, actually reads over all the submissions himself, so, so…” when John, John Severson; appeared through an open door, moving from the right to the center of the (my) frame, to the center of what must have been the visitor side of his desk. He stopped, looking at something, then turned toward the visitor side of the “Surfer” magazine office, maybe focused for a moment, and gave the almost-seventeen kid a nod.

I probably just froze.

A NOD is everything, really; an acknowledgement of co-membership, perhaps; a gesture that says, depending on who gives it, that things are all right between us.

YEAH, maybe that’s reading too much into a simple gesture. Or not. Maybe a nod is just so ancient, so basically human, we forget that each one of us learns more from studying expressions than we do from language. In a fight-or-flight world, a nod can and has stopped many a conflict.

OKAY, now I’m thinking of times I’ve paddled out into a lineup, seen a surfer I chatted with on another beach. Nod. Nod returned. AND NOW I’m thinking of my first venture out at Windansea, seeing two guys I’d surfed around in Pacific Beach. I nodded, they, sitting well on the shoulder, kept their gaze down. No eye contact. AND NOW I’m thinking of the times my nod, paddling toward the lineup, was returned with the STINKEYE.

SO, I had written a bunch of stuff, my best longhand on college-ruled notebook paper, and had sent it, along with a self-addressed, stamped return envelope, to “SURFER” magazine. I waited for fame and recognition, my writings in the preeminent surf publication, the magazine I studied, front to back; the basic visual images that popped up like a slide show in my dreams.

“They’ll probably have to put some in one edition, other stuff in the next one,” I, no doubt, thought. “My friends will be so… so stoked. Me, my writings…”

I did mention I waited, telling myself this sort of self-induced insanity (waiting for someone else to realize one’s stuff is great), is what a real writer endures.

THIS WAS ME in the summer of 1968, living in Fallbrook, twenty miles from Oceanside pier, about the same distance, straight west, across Camp Pendleton, to San Onofre. If I was riding with someone who had the proper ID card, we’d often surf there, park on the beach. Otherwise, it was go to Oceanside, north on 101 (pre- I-5 connection), deemed “Slaughter Alley.” The “Surfer” magazine headquarters was somewhere north of there. I’d find it.

A WORD on what I’d written: Mostly, I’ll have to guess, crap; the kind of overwrought drivel one might expect from a hormone-afflicted, surf-crazed, skateboarding-‘cause-I-fuckin’-live-in-the-hills dreamer, just starting to get competent at surfing might right. There were pages of the stuff.

borrowed from “Surfer,” article on John Severson staring down Richard Nixon

WHAT I WROTE as a twelve verse (epic?) poem on those blocking access to surf beaches, became, in the fall of 1968, when I was back in school, shorter, better. I’m not sure if I ever got my original pages back, but I received a check for ten dollars and a copy of the magazine.

I WAS PUBLISHED. Oh, I mean, I WAS PUBLISHED! But, what John Severson had done is take the first verse, delete everything from the middle, add some of the lines from the last verse. It had changed enough from the original that, when asked to read it aloud in English class, I couldn’t quite get it right. “Didn’t you write this?” “Yeah, yeah, but…different.” Penny had to read it. She did a great job.

STILL, it was, probably, still a bit, um, overwrought.

IN 2001, the poem showed up again, in “The Perfect Day… 40 Years of Surfer Magazine.” I was, by this time, up in the Pacific Northwest, rarely surfing. Trisha’s nephew, Dylan Scott, surfing down in San Diego, saw the coffee table book, surprise, on a coffee table at his dentist’s office. “That’s my uncle,” he, according to him, said. “Whoa. Really? My poem?” Yes, we do own the book; it’s on a coffee table.

HERE’S the poem, written by me, edited by John Severson (he even shortened the title, though I forget what it was).

REFLECTION

The promised sand, Forbidden land,

Restraining line With sharpened spine;

NO SURFING HERE: The warning sign.

Perfection waves, Reflecting mind;

Humanity

Could be so blind.

HERE’S WHAT JOHN SEVERSON DID: He gave a nod to all the punks and kooks and kids who wanted to be surfers. He took a disparate group and made us a tribe. If we don’t always acknowledge this in the competitive, sometimes combative setting of the lineup; it’s hopefully different when surfers meet in some other setting, a grocery store or distant parking lot. A nod of acknowledgement.

I’m actually a bit amazed at how shocked and saddened I am at hearing of Severson’s passing.

photos from fairly recent encounter

My sister, Melissa, took a few photos when we were both down at Chinook, visiting our Dad. I wrote and posted about the session earlier, and Melissa and I went over the photos she took of the session (one did include the guy who, when I moved just a little too far up the point, told me I needed to get myself over to the beach breaks). Hey, I was ready to get out anyway.

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Since then our 92 year old father has had, after many delays and a couple of stints in the hospital, an angioplasty procedure, successful, with a stent put in. He’s recovering; I’m going to go down to see him, and, if I see something breaking I can’t resist…

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…if you have a problem with me showing up, maybe you’ll have to talk to my father about it.  No, you can talk to me. I’d post more photos, but I asked Melissa to only send me ones where the waves were bigger and/or I was thinner. Big rocks, huh; at this semi-private, semi-secret spot?

Meanwhile, I’m way too busy right now to even get the additional pages for my coloring book set up… but I’m working on it.

 

new, revised, or redrawn images

I’m preparing to add some more images to the realsurfers coloring book, getting them resized, adding some lines; redrawing a few. Here are some I’ve been working on:

Image (79)Image (78)Image (80)Image (81)Image (82)And here’s a backstory on the drawing of the guy on the nose. I’ve drawn it several times, had it all finished, but it didn’t seem right. I went back to the drawing I took this from, realized the surfer’s left arm is supposed to be in front of his face. Oops. And now it’s a bit darker. If I could, on occasion, sort of duplicate the silky, magic-lighting look of classic John Severson photos, I would. Maybe this is as close as I’ll get (not that I won’t keep trying).

Hey, it’s all just lines and dots. Suddenly I’m not sure if I reported on how the poetry/singing/book selling event went with “Awkward Guy” writer Franco Bertucci and I… it went well, probably better than expected. We’re not done. I’ll let you know.

Don’t Challenge the Locals, unless…

…I was just about to leave, anyway; after my third trip onto the rocks (boulders, really); but I figured I’d paddle a little farther up the point, just to see… what?

That was my mistake. It’s clear now; but it wasn’t at the moment the white-haired guy started yelling at me. Yes, he had been silent when I was surfing the next peak down, though he had given me the stink eye when I sort of approached the main peak, a glare in response to my nod (and a nod, unreturned… ooh, that does say something).

But this time, I had paddled past him, farther up the point, taken the ‘inside’ position. This was, at any break, and particularly at a notoriously localized Oregon break, criminal. And I was on an SUP. True, bad knees, a bad ankle, and way too much weight (confirmed by photos my sister Melissa took) tends to keep me from standing on any but the longest waves) and these barrels all ended up on those boulders.  Stay too long over the boils, or get caught inside, it’s, well, difficult; but (this guy, probably my age, was on a short board- and I never really saw him make a wave- irrelevant, I know, but…) I was on a big board, pushing to the head of the pack (three other surfers, pack-wise), the point of the spear. It was like I, the non-local, was making a statement. He had to say something.

“Why don’t you… those things… one of our guys had to be airlifted outahere…geez… why don’t you go over to…” he nodded (unfriendly kind of directional nod), toward the miles of mushy and/or closeout beachbreak to our north… “those things don’t belong…”

“Yes, they can be dangerous,” I said, and paddled north, catching one more barrelling rock-roller, careful to pull out the back over the outside boils.

I had some time to think about the little confrontation, that, obviously, the local won, on the long paddle back, (catching another couple of mushburgers in the kook/non-local/SUP-allowed area. “One of our guys.” This wasn’t me. Only a little ironically, I had a discussion earlier with a guy in the parking lot on how locals “get all butt-hurt” when someone they don’t know makes the trek or paddle over to this semi-sacred spot.

Butt-hurt.

Another surfer, over at the showers, said a sponsored shortboarder he knows had to walk past the fire on the beach, in someone’s yard, where the locals sometimes hang, got heckled; then ripped it up enough that he was ‘nearly embraced’ on his way back past the same fire. The next guy in line for the shower (and I gave way) actually was the guy who was hit by some SUP A-hole’s board, suffered a concussion, and had to be airlifted out. Was that a lot ironic, or merely a lot coincidental?

He was nice, 68 years old, thin, formerly of the Sunset Cliffs area of Ocean Beach, San Diego. “Luscombs; that’s where I cut my teeth.” “Yeah, I’ve surfed it; mostly when I lived in PB.” He knows the guy who asked me to leave. “Yeah, well; give him my best,” I said.

I immediately went back to thinking about the confrontation. “I’ve never run over anyone,” I had said to the SUP victim, not forgetting (but not mentioning) that I had once run into Archie’s board. And I told him about my worst-ever, non-self-inflicted injury, a full-body hit by a guy on a regular longboard. Still, he had to mention how SUP’ers can catch more waves, overwhelm a lineup. No, that hadn’t been me. Not that day, anyway. I did wait my turn; I did sit ‘down-wave’ from the main peak.

Melissa told me that no one owns the ocean, and I shouldn’t help carry someone else’s garbage; and, when I didn’t, she said “just get over it.” I’ve had more time to think about it. Maybe a couple of those locals might show up to a beach I frequent some time. Thinking, still thinking. I’m back home on Surf Route 101 now, another spot on my list of places surfed (next to Luscombs, maybe); but I am going down to do some work on my Dad’s house soon.

Thinking, just thinking. Oh, and now I’m wondering if the victim, who hadn’t been out at the sacred spot on this day (though he said he reached his quota- 15) was hit over in the main break. I mean, wouldn’t that kind of suggest it wasn’t the board, it was the paddle-past?

 

Buy This Classic Hobie Now, Now, Now

Real Surfer/surf journalist/Drewslist owner/operator Drew Kampion contacted me to see if I could use my contacts among the surfing community in the Great Northwest. So, you; whichever sub-tribe you sort of belong to, or maybe just, too cool to belong-to, you hang, loosely, on the periphery of. Yeah, Drew kind of kissed-up to me, so, now, I’m passing the love on to you.

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Drew was contacted by a friend who wants to sell this 50th anniversary Hobie, shaped by renowned shaper Terry Martin. Drew took the photos, and says it’s in pristine condition. I thought maybe P.T., soon to be P.A. local Clint (still don’t know his last name), who has been on a board-buying tear of late, might be interested. Maybe he is, but, in case he isn’t, some hip (didn’t say Hipster) surfer who knows a classic collectible when it’s available might be ready to own a piece of history. So, I’m taking a a breath before I give the price out, but the asking price is…

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$2,000.00.

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Yeah. I know. It’s not like I can afford it; but I am really happy with my Hobie 10’6″ SUP I’m buying (easy payments) from Adam Wipeout James, who, if you scroll down, is in possession of a board he found on the southbound side of Surf Route 101 down by Shelton. But, that’s that and this is this. If you’re interested, or know some one who would just love to decorate his life with a classic, contact Erick at conundrum@yahoo.com.

And, incidentally, when Adam Wipeout said he would fix my thrashed, never-been-patched, ridden-over-every-rock-on the Strait SUP, I thought I might get a break on the Hobie I’m buying. Didn’t work. He’s a professional negotiator; I’m not. Whether you are or aren’t, contact Erick (jeez, couldn’t his parents decide which way to spell it?). My sister’s first board, first one I rode, was a 1962 Hobie 9’4″. Loved it, thrashed it. In fact, I’ve thrashed every board I ever owned; part of the reason I had to BUY the SUP.

Lost/Found Surfboard on Surf Route 101 and Panama Surf Revealed

Adam ‘Lucky and or Wipeout’ James called me yesterday, Thursday, April 21, just after 2pm. I was talking to a client and told him he’d have to call back. He did, five minutes later; quite excited, maybe more excited than the time he called me back to go over the incredible barrel he made the other evening in Westport on the new 6’4″ Takayama he purchased, or was able to justify the purchase of, because I’m buying his 9’6″ Hobie SUP. Making payments. Soon. Really.

“Dude,” he started out, “I just found a surfboard… on the side of the road… 101… Yeah, okay, surf route 101. Down by Shelton. What? Wait. What?”

What he meant is, “What do you think I should do?”

I recommended taking a photo of the board some traveling surfer evidently, unknowingly lost off his or her southbound vehicle, and sending it to me. I could post it and tag it, “surfboard lost/found on 101 near Shelton,” or something.

But then… wait a minute; if there’s a photo, no one has to describe it to reclaim it. Hmmm, better think of something else.

steve5steve2steve3indexFirst we have some shots Hydrosexual Stephen Davis sent to Keith “Stealth” Darrock via Facebook (because Trish hasn’t friend-requested Stephen yet). I think the first one is the local surf club. Steve is down there with his son, Emmett, and Scrimshaw Peter; and I told Steve before he left that I’d love to reveal all the secret spots in Panama because, durn it, I’m not going.  And I would reveal all, but I don’t have the information.  I’m sure if Steve described it, or when he does, it’ll start with, “Dude; you can’t even imagine how awesome it was.” And I’ll say, “Hey; why does everyone call me Dude?”IMG_2163Here’s a photo of Steve on his boat, about to say, “Dude, you can’t even begin to know…” Yeah, yeah.

MEANWHILE, thinking it’s probably not the best to give out Adam’s phone number; and it’s actually kind of a pain to write a comment on this site; if you, by some miracle, find this posting, and you, indeed, lost a surfboard that you can describe accurately, give me a call, (360) 774-6354. Limited time offer.

“No One That Mattered” Short Fiction From Surf Route 101

Mostly Fictional Short Stories From Surf Route 101- No One That Mattered

“‘Vietnam,’ he said; like he was impressed. ‘You, uh, um, kill anyone?'”
This was, just to clarify, my brother, Sidney, talking.
“‘No one that mattered,’ I said. I was hoping he might figure out I didn’t really mean that. Bluster. ‘Posturing,’ you’d say. ‘But, hey, man,’ I told him, ‘you’re the one with the gun.’ He looked at the old pistol, looked at me; almost smiled. Didn’t lower it, though.”
I’m still not sure why Sidney felt he had to tell me the story, but I was already picturing him, grinning; always with that grin.
Not really confessional by nature, he… we all try to have an excuse or explanation, or, something more, some justification for our actions, even those we know are wrong. This is me, then, me now; judgmental, always trying to determine what things mean.
That, introspection, that wasn’t Sidney. We, and this would be my brothers, even our dad, we tried to justify for him.
Sid continued.”Maybe I shouldn’t have let it out that I recognized Humberto; maybe… I was really just trying to save the two surfers from West Covina.”
I’m sure I nodded; support; no, just to show I had heard what Sid was saying; definitely something short of approval. My approval, I thought, at the time, is what my older brother was looking for.

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At the time. Sidney was standing in the driveway when we, that’d be Julie and I, were still at the condo; before our first kid. Maybe picture me, a younger me, cleaning out my side of the shared garage; Sid pulling the Surfboards Hawaii out of the back of his jacked-up, four wheel drive truck. Twin fin; six-four, red; one of their last boards before they closed the shop; at least the one in Encinitas. The board would be worth a fortune if I still had it.
“Just tell her you bought it from me,” he said.
“With what money, Sid?”
“Future money, man.” At this he did a sort of succession of non-surfer’s surf moves, grinning, watching me the whole time.
Maybe, now that I’ve (finally) started (resumed, really) writing this… maybe what he was looking for in my expressions, and he considered himself a master of reading people; if not approval; was admiration. Maybe even respect; or, at least, some hint of jealousy.
No; I’d never let him see that. I was working on being a master (not so much any more) of not being read, of not being close. Distant. Never cool; never Sidney cool. But, whether I hid it or not, I was intrigued.
Let me simplify this particular part of the Sidney Grace saga (saga, makes me chuckle); or try to: This was the early 70s, before the old section of 101 that went through San Diego’s North County ‘beach towns’ flourished rather than died from the effects of being bypassed by I-5. There were still cheap motels, marijuana was still homegrown in avocado orchards and hidden greenhouses.  Scoring weed was, it seemed, less corporate. Maybe more dangerous. Maybe less dangerous; but more exciting. LSD was… I really didn’t, and don’t, know. I just had to work and I just wanted to surf: Swamis, Pipes, Grandview, Stone Steps; wherever it was best.
And I was busy. So busy. I didn’t take drugs, did smoke (for too long), but not weed (opposite of the old line, “I don’t smoke… cigarettes.” Smile cleverly); not until later, and not enough to impress even an average college freshman (or high school junior).  Though friends, even good surfing friends, did get involved, none invited me into this part of their lives. I hadn’t even been good at drinking beer, wasn’t comfortable hanging out unless it was after a surf session, and then, not for long.
Decadent. Yeah, I thought that; mostly I considered it a waste of time.
So, it was fine. I was busy.
Anything I knew of a drug subculture was mostly hearsay, other people’s stories, fiction; real life embellished; stories I chose to ignore, avoid, not hear. Still, I occasionally stopped for a moment to try to make sense; always trying to have things make sense, to fit into my version.
People assumed, because of my brothers, four of them, two sisters; and who my brothers ran around with, that I knew things. I just had to know, for example, the dreadlocked white guy who was the “Luther Burbank of Dope;” who came back to Fallbrook from some secret mountain grow area; occasionally, handing out free samples.
“Bombers, righteous shit. Virgin buds,” my brother, Grace number 4, who, along with brothers one, three, and five, did know him, would tell me. “Big parties; everyone would come,” he said. “Not you, of course.” “No.” “Busy.” “Yeah.”
Even when I left home, moved to a crappy rental in Cardiff, someone would assume I knew something about inland weed. North County was that rural.
“Which Grace am I? Two,” I often had to say to random people, each with an a sort of eager, hopeful, and expectant expression, wanting to get some kind of inside information. “You’ll have to ask one of them.” No, I wasn’t being sly; wasn’t judging the person not trusted or cool enough. No, I wasn’t. This was never believed. The person was always angry, I was always a dick or an asshole. “Sorry.”
Sid was the oldest Grace. He didn’t want to be in charge, to be responsible for the rest of us when our mother died. He didn’t want to be like our father, bluecollar, to whom work is ‘so’ important. He wanted… something easier. He took two years in the Army, cannon fodder, because even junior college at Palomar was, he said, “high school with ashtrays (common putdown at the time), full of phonies, anyway, and, anyway, too much like work.”
“Fun and games,” he said, when he got back. “Easy.”
He didn’t look like it had all been easy. Most of his friends had scattered, as did most of mine. As soon as our dad remarried, I escaped, headed for the coast. The underground ‘agriculture’ economy had moved north. Grace brother number three had moved with it. He wouldn’t reveal who he worked for. Still hasn’t. “You know them,” was his explanation; “Can’t say.”
Sid was not interested in being ‘any kind of farmer.’ There were other opportunities, and there were still parties on hills, property parents had bought in the fifties sub-divided by our peers into ranchettes. There were homes, estates to build, orchards to tear out or replace, irrigation to set up. Opportunities. People from money who had more money. Easy.

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That’s only part of how Sid got into a cheap motel room in Leucadia, a block back from the non-beach side of 101; with the two surfers from West Covina gagged and tied together on a bed; with Humberto Lopez and the guy with the gun to my brother’s head; with two surfboards cut open, leaning, rather politely, against a wall; several duct tape-wrapped packages on the other bed.
“You once told me that you can’t really remember pain,” Sid told Humberto, trying not to look at the gun trembling in the hand of the other Mexican. “It’s not really true, I found out…(he laughed at this point, hoping Humberto would at least smile- he didn’t)… but I held on to the notion. It helped.”
Humberto had to soften. This was Sid, confident, grinning, cool. “Yeah; I was talking about… you couldn’t believe my father wanted me to quit high school to work in the fields.”
“I couldn’t believe he had you working in the fields at fifteen.”
The young man switching the gun from hand to hand was unimpressed by that story. White guys don’t know. Sidney and Humberto remembered the story neither would tell; how the usually-slacker PE coaches would, at some random time, have some sort of ‘Hell day,’ and run and exercise the shit out of everyone. They still did it when I went through. Humberto had been suffering more than most, not keeping up. It was my brother who came to his defense.
“Okay then Hotdog; fifty burpees (four count squat thrusts), Grace. No, all you Jockstraps. Everyone. Not you, Lopez; you just relax.” The coach went to his version of a feminine voice. “Just catch your breath.”
In the garage at the condo, Sidney said of that earlier incident; “The problem with helping someone, in a moment of weakness, is, or can be, resentment. I’m just; I know you like to figure shit out. So, now I was the one who knew about Humberto’s weakness. It lingers. When he’s attempting to steal drugs, armed robbery, and that person, me; when I come barging into the room, and he doesn’t know how that’s going to turn out, and I recognize him, and remember his weakness, and…”
“Yeah, Sidney; I think I sort of get it.”
“Yeah. Sure. So, maybe we read this on each other’s faces. Hey, he recognized me first. I could tell.”

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Look: I’ve thought about this story, about Sid’s version; thought about how much of it I believe.
“What’cha going to do with the bricks, Humberto? Got a plan? (pause, Humberto and his accomplice looking at each other) You and this guy, someone you work with in the… (checking their pants, dirt on the knees, maybe something caught in the folded-up cuffs) flower greenhouses? You see two white guys with… (nodding outside) four boards, but they only take two inside the motel… two newer boards? So, knowing these a-holes probably aren’t grinding out a living doing stoop labor…”
“Sidney?”
“Humberto?”
“Why are you here?”
“Your guess? Even though I yelled ‘surf’s up’ at the door, you know I don’t surf. No. My brother. One of them; he surfs. Number four, he kneeboards, some. You don’t know, Humberto; you don’t know how to get rid of a couple of bricks of… you even know what that is you’re stealing?”
“We were waiting for, I guess, you. Sid-ney.” That was the other guy speaking, waving the gun around; checking for Humberto’s reaction. It was negative, as if his co-conspirator had been disrespectful. He didn’t know Sidney.
“Yeah; so, fine.” Sidney backed up a step or two, looked at the West Covina boys, put a hand out toward the guy with the gun to calm him down, pulled a wad of bills out of his pocket, held that out [in a later telling this became two hundred dollar bills from a wallet].
“I’m sure they’ll be fine heading back to LA. I’ll give them some money for gas. Okay? I wasn’t holding on to the money anyway. It’s not like it’s mine.”
The three guys standing looked at the two surfers on the bed, stripped to their trunks, the larger one tied behind the other one, both trying to nod.
“Could’a gone butt to butt,” Sidney said to the other guy. The other guy smirked, shrugged. Sidney shrugged. “Okay. I get it.”
The other guy handed Humberto the gun, took the cash; smiling, a smile that went away when my brother reached down for the drugs [later the look was disappointment, and Humberto asked, “This it?”] Sidney threw his hands out as if this was the deal; looked back at Humberto, who released the hammer  on the revolver.
My brother, in recreating this, talked really fast: “Where’d you get that pistolo, ‘Berto? And, hey, man; these drugs don’t belong to me. Either. You get that, right? They’re carriers, they work for me. I’m a carrier. Just. Only. They didn’t know what… (he looked at the boards. They were waxed- he turned toward the West Covina boys, back toward Humberto). They; guess they tried to ride the boards. Shit. See? You take these drugs and you’ve got so many new problems. I have some real weapons in my truck. What do you think we trade for drugs? Huh? Too much knowledge, man; not so good. You have no plan, man. We have to… If you… you think about how hard it is to get rid of bodies? I mean; the Sheriff’ll come lookin’ hard for two wetbacks… don’t mean that… kill a couple of innocent, white, spoiled-ass suburban surfers. Right?”
“We’ll just take the money, and…” Humberto set the old pistol on the small television set, took the money, looked to my brother.  Sidney took two twenties out of his wallet, threw them on the bed, reset his grin. Humberto just wanted out.”Okay, Sid?”

“It should have been okay,” Sidney told me. “I just started thinking about all the connections.”
“Connections?”
“I thought about how this would affect me.”
“If no one found out,” I said. “The West Covina boys wouldn’t talk; Humberto and his friend…”
“Yeah, yeah; it was all rattling in my brain. I thought about… I thought about what my people would… no one wanted any attention to any kind of trafficking in those days. I kind of imagined Humberto taking the gun and…”
“And what? Kill the other guy? What, Sid?”
“‘You’ll have to work for me, Humberto,’ I said. ‘Your friend, too. You wanted it easy. Easier. Right?'”
“‘Maybe not,’ Humberto said. ‘Maybe we’ll just… (too long a pause; Humberto picked up the gun, cocked it) I don’t care about the drugs. I don’t want your kind of life, Sidney; but, really; dead drug dealers… like you said, ‘No one that mattered.’ No need to dispose of the bodies. I’m willing to leave the drugs. Or some of them.’ He took one brick.”
“‘It’s not that much money, Humberto, I said; ‘Not enough.'”
Sidney took a breath, set the Surfboards Hawaii twin fin, with removeable, adjustable rainbow fins, onto the rack of my car.
“I don’t know if I seemed weak. No, I did; it was all just so… heavy, so exhausting. Humberto…anyone could have seen this.”
“So… what did happen?”
“Humberto and his buddy backed toward the door.”
“‘We’ll just call it even, then; Sidney,’ he said.”
“‘No, Humberto; not even.’ We looked at each other. If I hadn’t smiled…’Forty burpees, Humberto; and then we’ll call it even. Forever.'”
At telling this, my brother released his serious expression and laughed. So did I.
“I did twenty. Humberto did the full forty. No problem. This time he was in shape.”
Sid said Humberto got the money, a new gun, and one for his friend, Julio; the West Covina boys never came back to the North County, as far as Sid knows, and they all went out for tacos.
“Fine. Sure. The West Covina boys, too?”
“Yeah, them too.” Both of us were laughing when Julie came into the garage, looked at the Surfboards Hawaii twinfin, looked at Sidney, looked at me.
“How much,” she asked Sidney. “No presents.”
Sidney knew not to offer any more presents.
“Easy payments,” he said. “Future money.” Sidney and I both waited through Julie’s look of disapproval.
“How long, Sidney?”
“The payments. Easy…”
“No; how long are you going to…”
Sidney seemed to think through all his previous arguments about his life, mine, our father’s; all in a moment. He nodded, and said… nothing. He shrugged. Then Julie shrugged, looked at me. I shrugged.
“Fun and games,” she said, to both of us. “I have some cash in the…” She looked at the board I was now holding, moving it through the air as if it was on a wave. Sidney watched with something short of understanding; not jealousy, really, except, maybe, he might have been just a bit envious that this simple act could make me so happy. “Nice board,” Julie said.

You can’t know how I’d love to leave the story here. I heard a slightly different version of the Leucadia motel incident, years later, from Humberto.
“Sidney Grace always told me he didn’t expect to live well AND long,” Humberto said, at the makeshift memorial at my dad’s house. Everything else was hushed, to one side; secrets.
“It was very tense. Sid asked me…it was a test… I didn’t know that… what I was willing to do if I, if I went to work with him. I had said I was willing to kill him and the two surfers. Bluff. I wanted, so bad, to be out of there. A mistake. He asked me if, instead, I’d be willing to kill Julio. He acted like he meant it. I pointed the gun at him. Julio. ‘Sidney,’ I said, ‘I would, but he’s married to my sister. I’d have a hard time explaining it.’ ‘So, no?’ ‘No.’ Your brother acted like he was putting the wallet back in his… That’s when Sid knocked the gun out of my hand, pulled one out from… it was behind his back. ‘You owe me, ‘berto;’ he said. I practically shit myself. Umm; I still think Julio did.”
We pause for a moment; our laughter only a bit out of place. Still, I stopped, looked around the room. Half the people there were… altered. The former Luther Burbank of Weed, bald and overweight, was talking with Grace number four, chuckling occasionally. Julie had just put a hand on my father’s shoulder. He stopped crying, smiled.
“So your brother says, ‘Forty burpees, Hotdog. Now!’ He did, maybe, five. Julio, he…”
We were laughing again; but we both stopped when Grace Number 5 and another law enforcement type came over. “Nice to see you again,” my last brother said, reaching out a hand; “Deputy Lopez.”
The last Grace looked at me, tipped his just-emptied wine glass toward me, said, “Not your fault.”
If my brother and Humberto tried to read my expression at this moment… they did; I just… it didn’t matter.

Since I wasn’t planning on working, I dropped Julie and the kids off, checked out Pipes from the parking lot. A little crowded. A little choppy. Went out anyway.

Real Surfing at Semi-Secret…

what? Oh, yeah; can’t talk about it. Ever. With anyone. Maybe if I redact anything that reveals anything about when or where waves might (rarely) break on the Strait of Juan de [redacted].

So, after confirming, pre-dawn, that it wasn’t really all time at XXXXH XXXXX, I met up with XXXXX XXXXXXX at Fat XXXXXX’X. We loaded up his stuff, headed XXXX on Surf Route XXX. Originally, we were going to meet up with XXXX XXXXXXX  enroute, but he had changed his mind, opting for a later start.

Meanwhile,  XXXXX had told (texted, most likely) XXXXX that, despite the forecast and the readings on the appropriate XXXXs, and, quite possibly because of the expected heavy XXXTOR XSX winds, and, more likely, because of a need to work, he wouldn’t be venturing out for this, as always, small SXXX window.

Now, it must be added that I had borrowed a shorter, and, more importantly, lighter XXP  from XXXX XXXXXXX, specifically because it would be easier to pack into and lug out of one of several, not-secret, but not-to-be-advertised spots, or, really, even spoken of; particularly to anyone who has to drive farther than you do to get there.

This bit of localism/tribalism/selectivism goes along with the widespread but more-fantasy-than-fact notion that there are still secret spots that might provide really great waves when the better-known spots are not breaking or are exhibiting only the standard Strait weak-ass, mostly-missed-by-the-swell conditions we all have built-in excuses for. Or we surf what’s there and embellish when we talk about it.

And, packing-in on some muddy goat trail also feeds the Northwest Surfer image; if you make the effort, you will surely be rewarded with clean, empty barrels.

If only. Because I am slow in donning my wetsuit, XXXXX got into the lineup well ahead of me. Fine. Normal. When I eased into the icy (bone-chilling, deadly, really) water, discover the BXXXX will actually float me, miss a couple of waves, catch one or two, then paddle out to where another surfer is waiting, and give a friendly greeting, I’m rewarded with no answer and a look you might recognize. Imagine Jack Nicholson in “The Shining.”

What? When I ask XXXXX , about the snub/shunning, he says, “Your reputation has preceded you.” “Oh.” Allright; I’m there to surf. So I do, though I tried to stay clear of Mr. Pleasant (I’d redact, but I don’t know his real name). But, as happens, because I was going for one particular wave, I had to do a sort of cautionary “Yo” so that Mr. Pleasant wouldn’t accidentally take off in front of a particular “Old guy who puts stuff on the internet.” I mean, it might be dangerous (not on purpose, just, like, because I’m old and all).

Yeah, and I thought it might have been my rep for shoulder-hopping and wave-hogging. No; and, evidently, Mr. Pleasant’s concise critique of my website is that it’s “gay.” I don’t think he means in a homosexual way; maybe just silly and/or juvenile. NOTE: I told the story to my daughter, XXX. She translated ‘gay’ as ‘lame.’

Juvenile. I actually didn’t hear about the ‘gay’ part until XXXXX and I, after I struggled to get across a hundred yards of big, slippery river rocks and what seemed like a mile longer (and many degrees steeper) trail (and I did carry my borrowed board the whole distance); and after we, because XXXXX had a little more time than originally thought, checked out XXXX XXXXXS, the parking area filled with surf rigs and the water empty; almost back to Surf Route  XXX, we passed XXXX XXXXXXX and XXXXX on State Route XXX. They apparently had already given up on several other spots.

No, I did not reveal where XXXXX and I had surfed; but it may have been apparent to those who had been hanging out for hours, that I had surfed somewhere with waves (and it’s actually not that long a list of alternate spots). I was more than happy to have the mixed crew in the parking area believe it was CXXXXXXX, also known as SXXX XXXXX. I heard the place was getting swell, but know, from experience, it was probably CXXXXD XXT.

It’s interesting that XXXXX was all right with telling me I’m not universally popular (and, yeah, I took off in front of one guy, didn’t see him, gave him plenty of room, kicked-out, apologized), and there’s no way I could be convicted of wave-hogging), and XXXXX did say, “At least this means surfers are going to your site,” but he held back, possibly to spare some of my self image, on revealing the ‘gay’ comment.  And there I was so proud I hadn’t kooked it up, but had, indeed, gotten several rides I was pretty pleased with.

Incidently, XXXXX ripped. surfing way better than Mr. Pleasant. Sorry Mr. Pleasant. It’s true. Still, the ‘gay website’ comment… it’s like saying one is not smooth, lacks style, isn’t cool. Or is it?

I don’t know. To be called-out, or shunned, or ridiculed; that does put a damper on things. Truthfully, I’m paying heavily, physically, today for the hiking yesterday. Though it was worth it, and another spot has been added to my (pretty short, actually) mental list of places I’ve surfed in the northwest, the negativity does sort of wear on me.

Or, maybe, what I really want to do is hit a couple of other legendary, not-actually secret spots I’ve heard of; even if only once each, spots that are always reported as “All time, classic, epic, etc. etc. etc”)  I’m thinking XXX WXXXX, aka XXX WXXX, XXX XXXP, XXXXXXX XXXXR, XXXO XXXXXX, XXXX XXXXT, and, of course, XXXX B.

I’ll be the old guy who puts stuff on the internet. Watch out!Image (35)

Surf Noir, Illustration for “No One That Mattered”

Trish came into the room yesterday, looked at the early stages of this drawing, asked, “A gun? What’s that for?” “A story.” “Where’d you even find that…um…” It was as if I’d been checking out porno. “What kind of story would…” “I googled ‘man with a gun in his waistband’ and, well…”

To be honest, there were some images of guys with what might be called ‘holster’ underwear, and other people with gun tattoos, including at least one shot of a woman with what my daughter Dru would call a ‘tramp stamp,’ this one of crossed pistols, on the small of her back.

Okay, now you’re opening a new tab.

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I’ll add the drawing to the next post down; the story it was drawn for. I still haven’t purchased ink for my printer, but I will get the backlog of drawings copied so I can do some color versions. Writers are always (because we have to), begging people to read our stuff) read the story if you get a chance. I’m not ordinarily a surf noir writer, and, like the (mostly fictional) narrator, don’t have a lot of first hand experience with the seamier (but real) side of surfing, but I do have some second hand knowledge.

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Illustration for the next story down

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This is the larger version of the drawing for the short story that follows. I’ve edited the story every time I’ve looked at it. Please check it out. Thanks.