Phillip Harper, Trish Harper, Ray Hicks, Bucky Davis, My Sister Suellen, My Mom, Bob Dylan, and The Endless Summer
“First of all,” I said, standing in the kitchen of Phillip Harper’s parents’ house, two bars of paraffin wax melting in a soup can on the stove, Phillip’s (second-ever, and not sun-browned like the first one) surf board, stripped and ready for a ‘pre-coat’, floating between two chairs and across the dining room table, “the theater was in no way ‘underground.’ Disappointing.”
Phillip and Ray Hicks seemed to be properly impressed that I, more country kid than either of them, had gone into the city for some other reason than to ride the escalators at Sears with my many brothers and sisters while my parents shopped.
It was at about this moment that Phillip’s sister, Trish (not my Trish- hadn’t met her yet), came in from the pantry (no one ever seemed to use the formal front door). She appeared noticeably disappointed that her brother and at least one of his geeky friends were there. Trish was followed in by her boyfriend, Bucky Davis. He was, perhaps, a bit less disappointed; a nod for Phillip, smaller one for Ray, even smaller one for me (standard cool reaction to over-amped groms). Bucky took a moment to check out the board (approvingly), then the wax melting on the stove.
“You have to be careful,” he said, both hands simulating an explosion. “A candle might be a better idea.” A single hand tipping an imaginary candle illustrated the point.
“Erwin went to see ‘The Endless Summer’ in San Diego,” Phillip said. “At an underground theater,” Ray added.
“The thing is,” I said, trying to be informative, and trying to be as cool as Phil and Ray “kind of disappointing; it wasn’t at all underground. Just a regular, um, theater. And…”
Phillip and Ray appeared less impressed than the first time they heard this. Of course; though they did seem to be checking Bucky’s reactions.
“On University Avenue?” Trish asked. I shrugged. I hadn’t driven. We’d gone down 395. It was somewhere near the Zoo. “Well,” she said, “I saw it at State.” She paused, possibly to see if she had to add ‘San Diego State.’
No, I knew she had been spending some time down there, preparing to attend ‘State’ in the fall of 1967. Bucky would not be attending. He was planning on going to Palomar Junior College; he’d have to go somewhere to stay out of the draft.
“When I saw it,” she continued, “Bruce Brown narrated it… himself. He was behind this curtain and…” She stopped because Bucky seemed a bit surprised at the news. At least that is what I thought, at the time, as if she had seen it without him. That would be sad, her and her new, big-city life and Bucky…
[Let me add here, fifty years after this incident, three years after originally writing this piece, that, among my first surfing friends, Trish and Bucky were the perfect surfing couple. That they didn’t remain a couple was, bits and pieces of the disconnection playing out over, and just beyond, my high school years, tragic; tragic in that teenager’s romanticized, love-lost way.
Part of the reason I started this blog was to record how I changed from total kook, over-stoked beginner, with Bucky one of my early surf heroes, to… I don’t know… over-stoked surfer out past high school, past the inside break; my friends scattered.
My opinion of surf heroes, with Bucky the best illustration, went, along with my connection to surfing, from a sort of ‘this is magic’ awe, to a more realistic view. Bucky had some serious life challenges. He was a real person.
Still, what I loved about Phillip’s sister, that seeming-self confidence, that willingness to stand up as an equal, is part of what attracted me to my Trish.
Still… still an over-stoked surfer, awed by the magic… still I, somewhere in the part of me that never got past adolescent romantic, I’ve held out a notion that Bucky and Trish could… yeah, maybe I just hope they, and all my scattered surf heroes and friends, including Phillip and Ray… have been, mostly, happy.
And, I am grateful, while I’m anxiously awaiting my next surf adventure, that I have such great memories of interesting, and real, people. And someone to share current adventures with.]
I’m sure I was mostly trying to hide being impressed. And out-cooled. Again. Always by her.
“Bruce Brown? In person? That’s… cool.”
After all, it had been impossible for me to be really, even passably, cool, at the above-ground theater, hanging with my older sister, Suellen, AND my mother.
Still, hoping to in some way to compete with Trish Harper, I said, “Yeah, well; they had these previews for a movie with Bob Dylan, and…”
“’Don’t Look Back’,” Trish said.
“Huh?” Phillip and Bucky and Ray asked, pretty much at the same time.
“Uh huh,” I said; “and Bob Dylan’s, like… he’s holding up these…”
“Cue cards,” Trish said.
“I guess. Yeah. And my mom starts laughing.”
“Laughing?” Phillip and Trish and Bucky and Ray all asked.
“Yeah, laughing; and… I mean, not even Suellen is laughing. No one’s laughing.”
“Because it’s Dylan,” Trish said, serious and almost indignant.
“Yeah, Dylan; Bob Dylan. But, pretty soon, someone else starts laughing. And then more people are laughing; and then everyone’s laughing. And Bob Dyl… Dylan, he just keeps dropping the cards. And…”
By this time, in the kitchen, I was also laughing. Phillip started to laugh. Ray, studying Bucky’s face, allowed himself to join in the laughter. Then Bucky looked over at his girlfriend (not laughing), maybe thought for a moment about how he didn’t see “The Endless Summer” at ‘State’ with her, with Bruce Brown personally narrating; and he laughed.
And then the wax exploded.
Bruce Brown, revealing the stoke and the magic and the awe to a larger world, stepping behind another curtain. Rest In Peace. And thank you.