I should say, first, that no one under the legal drinking age wants to hear a surf story from anyone old enough to collect social security. No, they’re just being polite. A surfer in his or her forties, different story on the stories. Two old farts; they’re just going to keep rambling on.
Let us say you are on Dawn Patrol, hanging in the parking lot or trailhead or pullout, lining up your board and leash and wax, slamming down the dregs of coffee that was too hot a moment ago, dressing out in whatever surf garb is appropriate for your surf location. Someone else is nearby, doing the same thing, his or her version of pre-surf ritual, and he or she just can’t help sharing his or her resume. “I surfed here” or, “This one time, I hiked into Trestles and…”
You, of course, are tempted if not expected to reciprocate. To compete, perhaps. First liar scenario. “Yeah, I surfed there, also,” or, “Ten months I worked there, just up the hill from Lower Trestles, surfed there just about every day… drove out on the beach. An hour and a half on a half hour lunch break. And, sometimes, after work, I’d go to…”
And then you go out in the water. There are expectations you may or may not live up to in real life, in current time. So, dangerous, if not, like, foolish. No, you didn’t mention your ten months at Trestles was 1975, forty-seven years ago. Next time, perhaps, depending on your performance, you might.
Most of us, I can’t help believing, are heroes in our own narrative. Even if we dip into a little self-deprecation, we probably hope we come across as, if not a flawed protagonist, at least a character or person someone can sympathize with. If we’re talking story with another surfer with similar stories of beat downs and barrels… empathize.
But wait; maybe I’m misusing the sympathy/empathy thing. Or expanding it. I don’t want to research this, but do we only sympathize with bad things? Shit. Google. Shit; guess I am wrong, we… no, there are different interpretations: sympathy and pity, empathy and understanding without sharing the actual experience. No, that can’t be right.
WOW! I am dangerously close to getting into the sociopath/narcissist thing. I have worked for an amazingly disproportionate number of people (because everyone in my area seems to need a therapist/life coach/psychiatric specialist, or a yoga instructor/hair dresser/bartender, or, for those of us who can’t afford any of those folks, a friend) whose job it is to determine just how fucked up the client is, then make sure the client never quite gets cured (assuming, cynically, that any of us can be cured of being who we are/have become). Each one of these professionals, when pressed on the question, face to face, has told me I am completely normal.
OR maybe that’s just the story he or she believes I want to hear. Not true, actually; one professional-but-retired marriage counselor (at least once divorced) told Stephen R. Davis and I that we might not be sociopaths, but we are both, definitely, narcissists. I thought he meant Steve more than me, but “Hey man, can’t we be both?” “Um, sure; I guess so.”
YES, I have told this story before, maybe here before. Redundancies tighten a tale, the obvious embellishments dropping away. Or not.
STORIES. I heard from two sources about a ‘barrel of a lifetime’ a mutual friend got. I would tell it to you, but then it would be third hand. I called up the barrel rider, got it first hand. In the course of our conversation, which, incidentally, was consistent with the two other versions, the barrel rider told me a very funny story. It wasn’t surf related, but it was a surfer’s anecdote.
While talking to another surfer this morning, and I was so tempted to tell the story. I might have if he didn’t give me the “I’ll let you go” thing. Usually, out here in the wilderness-adjacent (I stole the ‘adjacent’ thing, now it’s part of my patter), cell calls frequently get dropped. Oddly, it seems as if it’s more frequently after the other party has completed his or her anecdote and I’m about to… I should mention that all my friends are adept at competitive talking and none are afraid to tell me it’s their turn. Etiquette, it’s important everywhere.
THE MESSAGE- Don’t tell other people’s stories as your own.
Here are two gentlemen talking story:
It is “SWAMIS,” my manuscript and where I am in it that got me thinking about stories and fiction and fictional characters. Each of the main characters is damaged, psychologically if not physically. Or both. None are created. I’m not quite delusional enough to believe they are. Each is a composite, some mixture of real people I have met in my real life. As I write and rewrite and edit, I get to know each one better. I can plug any of them into a fabricated setting and know, almost, how they will react. If empathy is not sharing the same experiences but understanding how someone in that situation feels, I want the reader to be empathetic. If sympathy can be expanded to include feeling joy for someone feeling joy, I want the reader to be sympathetic.
Did I tell you how I got pounded and held down at the Groins? I felt sorry for myself. Someone on the rocks, a witness, said, “We all have to get thrashed occasionally.” We do. I recovered. Just another story, increasingly removed by time, replaced with other thrashings, other recoveries. But shit, guy could’ve been a little nicer about it.
STORIES. Try telling some surf experience over the phone to some non-surfer. It is only a matter of time when the reaction to even the frothiest, most barrel-filled tale is, “I have to let you go.”
I could say more but, um, I have to let you go.