Cutting Margo Godfrey and Cheer Critchlow from “Swamis”

Margo Godfrey, Santa Cruz, Oct 1969

In my attempt to cut and whittle and refine my manuscript, “Swamis,” into something, one, readable, and two, sellable (could have said marketable), I am eliminating this portion. Changes: Virginia (Ginny) Cole is now Julia (Julia), Erwin as a character (put in because some readers might believe Joey (aka Jody) is me, is gone. Out. I should (will) add that Trish did go to junior high in Oceanside with Barbi Barron and was a temporary member of Barbi’s unofficial Oceanside girls’ surf club before Trisha’s dad got transferred to the East Coast. I did see Barbi frequently at the Oceanside jetties and the pier when I was working at Buddy’s Sign Shop in (let’s call it) O’side. I did have a night class, public speaking, with Cheer Critchlow, Palomar Junior (now Community) College. He did, and I reminded him of this, at a high school contest at Moonlight Beach in 1968, in which he was a judge, eliminate real people Scott Sutton and Jeff Officer and me in our first (and only) heats. I never met Margo, did hear and read about her.

With those notes, the story is sort of (kind of) true (if fiction is sliced from real life).

CHAPTER 14- WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 1969

For reference, this was a week and a day before my father’s death, four weeks before Chulo’s.  

Ginny Cole was, to my seventeen-year-old self, perfect.  There is no way my memory, in the fifty-plus years since, could have further enhanced that image, that belief.  Perfect. 

Some of the girls I had gone all through school with were great, and I could easily supply a list of those I’d had crushes on, but, yes, I’d gone all through school with most of them. There were, always, new girls; daughters of Marines stationed at Camp Pendleton, temporary duty, three years and gone.  They came from or went to Twenty-nine Palms, Camp LeJeune, Barstow; occasionally one would come from Hawaii, Philadelphia, even overseas.

Fallbrook is on the east side of the triangle that is Camp Pendleton- Fallbrook, Oceanside, San Clemente. From kindergarten on there were sons and daughters of Civil Service workers, pharmacists and ranchers and irrigation contractors and teachers and real estate agents and builders. There were those whose fathers lived, during the week, in apartments in the vast smoggy sinfulness of Los Angeles.

If we were isolated, purposefully, there were always newcomers with stories of different places. Exotic, mysterious, sophisticated, up to date.

Ginny Cole was, in my mind, miles away from dusty Fallbrook. Mysterious, exotic, distant; and she surfed. Ginny would know what it means that someone surfed, and she would know the allure, more fiction, even fantasy, than reality, of surfing itself.  There’s what surfing is, and what surfing suggests, what being a surfer says about a person- the aura around the reality.  Perfect.

Ginny Cole was like the best photos from surfing magazines, like memories of my best rides. I could bring her image into my mind at will, or without willing it; images from the few times I’d been on the beach or in a parking area or in the water with her. Not with her; around her, near her. It wasn’t like she knew me; another teenage surfer, awkward out of the water, not yet skilled enough to be noticed in the water; but working on it; hoping to be a surfer who, when I took off on a wave, people would watch.  

Teenager fantasy, of course, in the same way, playing pickup football, my friends would self-narrate: “Roger Staubach drops back… and the crowd goes wild!”  There were always witnesses in my mind when I would skateboard; carving bottom turns and cutbacks, pulling up and into the curl, crouching, hands out, locked in, eighteen miles, straight, from the nearest saltwater.

Competing.  Improving.

It was more than that Ginny was a girl in the lineup. She could surf, ride a wave with graceful, dancer-like moves, always close to the power. She would always be noticed.

I cannot honestly swear that it wasn’t that I wanted a surfer girl girlfriend the way a girl might want a football quarterback, a lead guitarist in a garage band; the way a guy might want a cheerleader or that girl who’s always just so nice. And so pretty.

Ginny wasn’t phony nice or made up pretty. She was just-out-of-the-water pretty; she was real; she was perfect. I saw it. I assumed everyone did. 

If I did see Ginny as perfect, I did think winning her over would be difficult, challenging. There would be other suitors. I knew I was ridiculous, naïve; definitely, but I was competitive. I didn’t know her, couldn’t see more than my romanticized image of her. I did hope that if she shared that obsession with and addiction to surfing, she might understand me.

Still, also, and always, I knew I was ridiculous.

 …

Virginia Cole wasn’t the only girl surfer in the North County; there were a few others: Barbie Barron, Margo Godfrey. I frequently saw Barbie in the water and in the parking lot at Oceanside’s shorter jetty, or over by the pier.  Southside.

I once saw Margo with Cheer Critchlow at Swamis on a still-winter afternoon; uncrowded, big and blownout. Pretty scary. Yet they were just casually walking out, chatting, wading out on the fingers of rock, pushing through to the outside peak. Scott and Jeff and Erwin and I, our portable crowd; four inland cowboys, shoulder-hopped, choosing only the smaller waves on the inside, watching any time either Cheer or Margo would take off.

Coolness, casualness, some sort of self-confidence, some sense of comfort in one’s own skin.  Things I lacked, things I appreciated, qualities I believed Virginia Cole had. Yes, I do realize how this makes me sound; exactly like a seventeen-year-old on the cusp, the very cusp of… everything.

MORE NOTES: I am also tightening the timeline for the story. I have to. One thing all the over-writing has given me, besides so many back-stories for characters I have to eliminate or cut back on, is the knowledge that there is at least one main and worthwhile story in “Swamis.” I will keep cutting back and hacking and going down the line until… yeah, until.

ALSO: I have changed some other names, partially because I have written words the real people didn’t say, put them in situations that are totally and completely fictional. My best surfing friends Ray and Phillip- sorry, you’re now Gary and Roger (names from childhood neighbors), Wally Blodgett, who drove kids around for dawn patrol, is now Petey (kept the Blodgett part). Sid (whose name I borrowed from a real surfer who was in a Surfboards Hawaii ad in mid-sixties, can’t remember his last name) is, so far, still Sid. I will let you know who else changed as the manuscript changes.

ALSO: Pretty shitty spring for waves on the Strait AND pretty shitty weather for painting houses. YES, it would seem that would give me more time for writing and drawing. So, maybe it’s not THAT shitty.

Good luck to all the real people and real surfers. Remember, this stuff is copywrite protected.

Too-Epic “Swamis”

My novel, “Swamis,” keeps growing, keeps reaching past ‘novel’ to ‘epic novel’ length. I keep editing it, deleting stuff, then, tightening and polishing and making sure all the little moves are clear; it just keeps rolling past the 120k word zone, that fictional border that keeps a fictional story at a readable length.

Yeah, and as much as it hurts me to cut chapters, with where I am, so close to an ending that keeps evading me in the rewriting and editing, I definitely need to cut a couple of thousand words. SO, I keep moving them to the backup, shadow story, labeled “Sideslipping” on my laptop. I have published some of these on realsurfers, and, if I can swing the computer moves, I will stick some ‘edits,’ don’t want to call them ‘deleted scenes,’ here. MAYBE ‘deleted scenes’ is acceptable.

See the source image
John Witzig photo, Australia, sixties; but it sure looks like Swamis

The following is actually two big outtakes. Remember, though there is a lot of actual people and real events included in “Swamis,” this is fiction. I transplanted my best surfing friends Phillip and Ray into situations that never happened, stuck myself in there, too, mostly so readers don’t think I am Jody. I am not. And, yeah, it’s a lot of words to delete; still not enough:

                                SIDESLIPPING- OUTTAKES FROM “SWAMIS”

Here we go:

Someone I met much later, a former member of the La Jolla/Windansea group, ten years or so older than me; old enough to have dived for abalone and lobster; old enough to have ridden a new balsa wood board, said, of surfing in his era, “We just sort of plowed.”

When I switched from surf mats to boards, in 1965, diving for and selling abalone and ‘bugs’ (lobster) for cash was already over; being a ‘true waterman’ was no longer a priority.  This only added to the mystique.  There was a certain reverence, respect, held by surfers of the “Everybody goes surfing, surfing U.S.A.” era for the members of that post-war generation; beatnik/hotrod/rock n’ roll/pre-Gidget/rebellious/outsider/loner surfers plowing empty waves. 

That is, for those (of us) who actually gave a shit.

Tamarack was obvious; one peak in front of the bathrooms on the bluff, a bit of a channel; a parking lot at beach level.  Good place to learn; sit on the shoulder; wait, watch, study; move toward the peak; a bit closer with each session.  Get yelled at; get threatened; learn.

Eventually, if you wanted to improve, you would have to challenge yourself to ride bigger waves, beachbreaks with no channel, tough paddle outs.  You would have to learn to hold tightly to the board’s rails, your arms loose enough to move with the violence of a breaking wave.  If you wanted to surf the best waves, the set waves, even at Tamarack, you would eventually have to challenge a better-than-you surfer for a wave.

Chapter Eight- Thursday, March 20, 1969

Phillip and Ray lead the discussion about the murder and the excitement.  There was a bigger than usual crowd at the big concrete planter boxes, designed with seating all around, trees and bark inside them. The break was called ‘nutrition,’ between second and third periods, and there were two trailers set up where nutritious snacks like orange-sickles and twinkies could be purchased.  

Mostly Ray was talking, with Phillip adding key points, and Erwin looking out for any nearby teachers.  Mark and Dipshit Dave and three of the Billys were there. I was in my usual spot, standing in the planter, observing, listening.  Some of the local toughs and the cooler non-surfers were, unusually, part of this day’s group; listening; more friends of friends of Ray and Phil. 

Two of the Rich Kids came over from the Senior Area.  Mike, who had been my best friend up until third grade, jumped up next to me on the planter.  “Missed the excitement, huh Joey?”

“Guess so, Mikey.”

I had already heard the story.  My mind was somewhere else.  

“Um, hey; Joey; you know…”  I knew what Mike wanted to say.  “We’re still; you know, friends.”  He tapped me on the chest, tapped his own.  “It’s just… your dad.  Sorry.”

I tapped Mike on his chest, three times, held up a flat palm between us, went back to being somewhere else.   

In our freshman year, the most crowd-centric of several big concrete planters became the pre-school, break, and lunchtime hangout for the entire crew of Freshmen surfers (as far as we knew); Erwin and Phillip and me. With the administrative building behind it, the gymnasium/cafeteria downhill, most of the classrooms to the west, and a bit of shade provided by the trees, it was a good place for observing while still laying low, avoiding… avoiding the other students; the older students in particular; but also any awkward interactions with girls and rich kids and new kids who had gone to other Junior high schools, Pauma Valley (East, toward Palomar Mountain) and Camp Pendleton (West) and Bonsall (Southwest) and Rainbow and Temecula (Northeast).

Temecula. In my senior year, 1969, there were four or five kids from there; three were siblings; two Hanks sisters, one brother. These days, if people don’t know where Fallbrook is, they have heard of Temecula. Big city. “Yeah, sure, Temecula; out on The 15.”

Putting “The” in front of the name of highways came later, along with traffic helicopters and rush hour destination forecasts. Later.

I-15 was Highway 395 then, and Temecula was, often, twisted into Tim-meh-cu’-la; not for any good reason except, perhaps, it was more inland, farther East than Fallbrook, Fallbrook, a town that self-identified (with signage) as “The Friendly Village;” but was nicknamed, in a self-deprecating way, Frog-butt.

Again, the planter was a good place to observe the daily run of mostly manufactured dramas, crushes and romances and slights and breakups, from.  High ground.  The planter offered a good view of the slatted, backless wooden benches where the sociable girls, this clique and that one, sat (one or two sitting, two or three standing), in groupings established through some mysterious sort of class/status jockeying, some girls able to move from one group to another; some not.

The planter was adjacent to the Senior Area, a sort of skewed rectangle of grass and concrete with covered picnic tables.  This chunk of real estate was off limits and jealously guarded, mostly by guys in red Warriors letterman jackets, against intruders; though any senior who made any effort to appear cool (particularly when talking with underclass girls) would feel obligated to say the exclusivity of the senior area was no big deal to him. 

Girls.  Yeah, the planter was a good place to observe girls, some I’d known since kindergarten. Changing.  So quickly.  Heartbeat by heartbeat.  Girls.  So mysterious. 

It’s not that I didn’t try to understand how a (comparatively) poor girl with a great personality could be in with three rich girls, at least one of whom was totally bitchy (I mean ‘slightly difficult, quite mean, and unreasonably demanding,’ but I would have meant and said bitchy back then).  I figured it was because they knew each other before we figured out whose parents had more money than whose (ours).

…  

Phillip was new when we were freshmen.   He had come from Orange County; but he had done some surfing and his older sister was going out with a guy who was definitely one of Fallbrook High’s four or five real surfers.  Phillip and I shared a couple of classes.  I’d known Erwin since kindergarten.  He was a Seventh Day Adventist, which was, he explained, “Kind of like Christians following Jewish traditions.”  “Oh, so that’s why you’re not supposed to surf on Saturdays?”  “It’s the Sabbath.  Holy.  Sundown Friday until sundown Saturday.”  “Too bad.”  “Well; we have gone to, um, Doheny; somewhere we wouldn’t run into anyone from, you know, here.”  “Oh?”  “Yeah; hypocrisy and guilt. If surfing isn’t, you know, actually sinful…”  “Oh, but you know it is.”  “Sure is.”

Erwin was one of the only Adventists at our school, and he started board surfing right after junior high; about the same time I did; when his sister, Suellen, beguiled by “Gidget” movies and an episode of “Dr. Kildare,” probably (no doubt, actually); got herself a used surfboard and let her brother borrow it. 

Sinful, yes; addictive, undoubtedly.  I once, early September, just after school started, saw Erwin sitting on his sister’s board, toward the channel of the lineup.  Sunday.  Tamarack.  It wasn’t big, really, maybe a little bigger than had been average over the summer. 

“You’re in the channel, Erwin.”  “So?”  Closer to the peak meant closer to the crowd.  We challenged each other, had to go.  We both paddled, over and out; and sat, anxiously, outside of where the waves were breaking, watching other surfers, from the back, take all the waves.  When a set wave showed up, we were (accidently) in position.  We both; heads down, paddled for it; Erwin prone, me on my knees.  We both caught the wave.  I pearled, straight down, my board popping back up dangerously close to other surfers scrambling out. Erwin rode the wave. Probably quite ungracefully, but, if only between him and I, he had bragging rights.

Bragging rights, but only between Erwin and me.  Being ignored for a mediocre ride was far better than being noticed, called-out as a kook, told by three surfers, only one of them older than I was, to go surf somewhere else, go practice my knee-paddling in the nearby Carlsbad Slough.

I never did.  I persisted.  I got better.  I had significant surf bumps by the time I started riding boards that took knee-paddling out of the equation.

Sometimes I, or Phillip and I, would go (on a Sunday) with Erwin’s mom and his many siblings; sometimes Phillip (on a Saturday) or both of them (on a Sunday, after school, or on a holiday)  would go with Freddy and me and my mom.  Always to Tamarack.  Lower parking lot.  Freddy never surfed a board.  Surf mat; the real kind, hard, nipple-ripping canvas.  Sometimes Freddy and I would get dropped-off, try to fit into the crowd, ease close to someone else’s fire when our mom’s shopping took longer than the time we could manage to stay in the water.

Ray and some of the other guys our age didn’t start surfing until the summer before our sophomore year, so Phillip and Erwin and I were ahead of them, better than them.  Many of our contemporaries at least tried it.  Anyone newer to surfing than you were was a kook and/or gremmie.  Surfing had its own dress code and, more importantly, a fairly strict behavioral standard.  A code I thought, at the time.  It was fine to get all jazzed up among other surfers, going to or from the beach, but not cool to kook out among non-surfers. 

Even in the proper surf gear, Phillip and Ray, both blondes, looked more like what TV and movies said surfers should look like (unless you were foolish enough to believe Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon were anything even close to real- real surfers knew the extras, the background guys, Miki Dora especially, and Mickey Munoz, were the real surfers).  Erwin and I, dark haired; even when dressed in the requisite surf garb of the time, weren’t immediately recognized as surfers, weren’t immediately given whatever prestige we thought surfers received.

Or we were, and the prestige wasn’t what we thought it might be. 

By the time we were seniors, most of the other Fallbrook surfers our age had dropped off; surfing was less important than whatever they were doing; though they still looked like surfers and always asked when I’d gone last; always said we’d have to go, together, some time.

Some time.  We still rarely hung out in the Senior Area.  The planters.  

We all seemed to have cars; hand-me-downs from parents or older siblings off somewhere new.  We could go surfing alone.  Phillip and Ray had girlfriends, on and off.  Even Erwin had a girlfriend, Trish; not an Adventist.  Separate lives.  Separate adventures.  Romances.  Drama.  Sometimes we’d still surf together; usually not.

The stories of those adventures connected us. Loosely, probably.

I studied, I surfed. But, at nutrition and at lunch, pretending not to notice the swirl of so many stories around me, this concrete planter box was my social scene.

Ginny Cole in Color

I probably should start with the color version of the Ginny Cole illustration for “Swamis” before I get into anything remotely political. I am making progress on the novel; with at least one new character and so much concentration on how Jody’s father, Joseph DeFreines, Sr. died that I may have to severely cut back on the drama and adventure involved in the killings of Chulo and Gingerbread Fred.

Sequel? Not yet. Trish asked me if I wanted the drawing to be sort of mystical. Yeah, definitely; reflecting the time, 1969, and, more specifically, how a young person felt about the time, the place, life, love, surf, everything.

Fictional Ginny Cole on a mystical ride

I’m not actually through doing satirical political drawings. There is just too much material out there. For example, Ivanka Trump leading a public relations effort to encourage desperate and out of work folks to just ‘find something new.’ Yeah, like, um, with jobs at a premium and Republicans claiming the unemployed are just living it up on all the extra money; maybe what folks need is a new daddy. Works for her. Cake, yeah; let them eat cake; oh, and, because the owner of this outfit said nice things about her daddy; eat lots of Goya beans.

AND, I would like to do a drawing of Tucker Carlson, whose lawyers went to court recently to defend his right to tell lies; or, put in Fox-speak, Tuck-man is under no obligation to tell the truth. It’s not like he’s a real journalist. I would add, perhaps, a little sign that says, “Truth don’t matter; Ratings matter.” Yeah, it should be Truth ‘doesn’t’ matter; thanks for catching that.

Stay safe, surf when you can.

More “Swamis?” Yes, More “Swamis”

If you haven’t checked out realsurfers in a while, I’m posting pages from the manuscript in a reverse order.  There are some non-“Swamis” posts between this and the next parts, the plan being, that, when I get back to the beginning, one can read them in order, with, again, the interruptions.  Much like real life, spurts and moments and interruptions.  I have been continuing to re-re-re-edit the manuscript and have recently been moving chunks around in order to make it less confusing.                                                                         This doesn’t mean that the fictitious writer of the fake memoir, Joseph Itsushi (Jody) DeFreines, Junior, doesn’t take a probably-annoying number of narrative side trips, despite my attempts to control him.  OKAY, we just jump in about here and…

I moved closer to the screen. I was pretty sure I saw Ginny Cole in with a couple of the San Dieguito High School crowd, surfers, but the pan of the crowd passed too quickly. No rewind.

“Ginny,” I said. “Ginny Cole,” I whispered. Ginny.

No, I had my own rewind. Words. Images. Blink. Remember.

“And now, the weather…”

PART TWO

SATURDAY, MARCH 15, 1969- THE OPTIMUM VIEW

-Pre-dawn Swamis. South wind. Great parking spot. Checked out murder scene. All cleaned up. Carlsbad Liquor matches. Clue? Wally’s crew there. Ginny Cole. Rousted by Dickson and Wendall. Found pistol. Surfed 1-2 ft Swamis beachbreak w/Ray & Phil. Fallbrook house sold. Profit. Escrow.

The damaged section of the wall at the Self Realization Fellowship was back to white when I next went to Swamis, against my mother’s warnings, two days after Chulo’s murder. It was a Saturday. Weekend. Barely light. I got there early enough to park the dust bowl tan 1964 Falcon station wagon in the choicest spot; a little toward the stairs, but front row, and offering the optimum view of the lineup. It was the same car my Mom had used to drive us to swimming lessons and church and Doctor visits, and to the beach; surf mats and Styrofoam surfies and whining Freddy, maybe an annoying friend of his; the factory installed (optional upgrade) roof racks now pretty much rusted in place.

A predicted swell (this gleaned from other surfers and pressure charts in the Marine Weather section of the newspaper) hadn’t materialized and a south wind was blowing. Cars with surfboards were passing each other up and down 101.   Surfers were hanging out in parking lots and on bluffs and beaches, talking surf, watching the few surfers bobbing in the side chop. Maybe it would clean up, maybe it would actually get bigger.

So, I would wait. Waiting is as important a part of surfing as trying to be in the water before the best conditions hit. My shift, at my new, weekend-only (at that time) didn’t start until ten-thirty; about the time the onshores typically get going. Different with south wind. Perfect. Maybe. I could wait. I had my notebook, college-ruled; I had the probably stolen (not by me) four and eight track tape player under the passenger’s side of the seat; and I could do some studying.

Read, recite, memorize. Study.

I really wanted to sneak over to the crime scene, the thick, high, stucco-finished walls, gold flower bulbs perched above them. There was (and is) a wrought-iron gate in the higher, arched entrance, also topped with the flower (though it could as easily be a flame, not dissimilar to the top of the statue of liberty). This is not the actual entrance to the Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) compound, a place where people go seeking enlightenment, a realization of the true self.

THE OUTSIDE THE WALL GUY

I did walk over. Had to. I expected more. I expected some explanation. There was a man by the wall, wheel-barrowing soil from a pile near the highway to the wall. I had seen him before. I have already mentioned him. Dark skinned. East Indian I presumed. I also presumed him to be the outside-the-wall SRF gardener. He was dressed in a long-sleeved shirt, white, with faded blue workman’s pants, rubber boots, and heavy leather gloves. Most of his face (and I knew he had a beard) was covered in what appeared to be an overlarge (plain cloth) bandana, a standard bandana (they came in red and blue- still do) around his nose and mouth, and a tropical straw hat (quite different from the cowboy style Mexican farmers and landscape workers preferred). He dropped the new soil around newly transplanted, but full-sized plants.

There was no explanation, no evidence that something horrific had occurred. The new paint blended perfectly. The plants looked… it all looked the same as it always had; as it did even in the late 1950s. Exactly the same. Perfect.

If I blinked, I thought, it might be like taking a picture. I might remember details. I might remember better.

Blink.

NOW ANALYZE

“What do you see?” This is what my father would always ask me. I would know it was coming; any time he was around, anywhere. It’s the first thing I remember him saying to me. I always tried to be ready, tried to see everything, determine what it meant. I was never ready; never saw enough.

But, and maybe it’s a good thing, my father would point out the things I had missed; clues; someone’s expressions that were evasive, someone’s words that were lies, patterns and random things that weren’t random, things that meant something.

“Okay,” I would say, “I see it now.”

“Do you? Great; now analyze.”

“Analyze?”

“There’s what you see, and there’s what it means.”

“Analyze.”

CLUES

There were cigarette butts, quite a few of them, forming a half circle, a perimeter, cleaner areas where the structures that held the police tape had been set. No one had bothered to clean up outside the police line. I positioned myself dead center, optimum view, pulled the pack (box, not soft pack) from my windbreaker’s pocket, pack of matches inside, lit up a Marlboro.

“Power of suggestion,” I said to myself, throwing the now-empty pack of matches down with the line of butts. “Peer pressure.”

There was an opened pack of matches on the ground. Half the matches were gone, removed left to right. “Left-handed,” I thought. I picked the pack up, tried one of the matches. Nope, too soggy. Rather hip lettering on the cover, red on black, read, “Carlsbad Liquor.”

Clue?

Yes, I did think it might be a clue; one missed clue. Important. I knew the place. Carlsbad Liquor. Coming north to south, it was just before you would see the ocean. It was there before the 7-11, good place to get snacks. My friends said there were dirty magazines in a back room. One of the Billys (Bigger Billy), supposedly, snuck in; got run out, but not before he saw some, as he described, “sexy, almost disgusting stuff. Close ups.” Closeups? “Adults only,” he said with some sort of indiscernible accent. Hey, it was a liquor store. Adults only.

I put the pack inside the Marlboro box, that in the windbreaker’s inside chest pocket.

The groundskeeper dropped the wheelbarrow in the center of the already-cleaned, formerly roped-off area, threw a wood-handled, metal lawn rake onto the strip of lawn (maintained, I assumed, by the State of California), took out a stiff-bristled push broom, and started sweeping the asphalt along-but outside the crime scene.

He was close enough that I felt I had to say something. “How’s it going?”

He nodded before he spoke, looked at me, looked at the other cars in the lot, the surfers gathered at the edge of the bluff. He didn’t pull down his bandana. “Nasty business, this,” he said.

I probably made that sort of ‘smells bad’ expression, one that he, it seemed, returned. “I was informed that it would be permitted. Clean up. ‘Okey dokey,’ one of the detectives told me.” He pointed a gloved hand, vaguely, toward the compound. “Today.”

I probably stared. It was a bad habit I was, mostly, unaware of. His eyes were darkest brown, bloodshot, and there was something about his eyebrows. I was thinking; thinking about his accent; Indian, of course, but his English, not American-learned; British. Of course.

“I didn’t do the initial… work.” He pointed toward the wall. “Professionals. Contractors (emphasis on the ‘ors’ syllable).” He pulled the bandana down, awkwardly, because of the gloves, looked at me, said, “Sunburn. Even I… one must wear the hat.” He had a bit of trouble pulling the bandana back over his nose. “Sun.”

“You, um, work… (my hands mimicking the sweep of the walls) here? Swamis?”

“Voluntary, one would say; work, yes; compensated; not really; not in… dollars.” I nodded. He went back to sweeping. I stepped back, out of his way. He stopped, looked up. “You’re a surfer. Yes?”

I nodded. “Yeah. I mean, yes. Um, so, um… voluntary; like… like, um, like penance?”

He laughed. “Perhaps. No, they teach… we are taught that hard work is good. We strive to…” He leaned the broom against his body, made a gesture like an expanding circle. “Perfection. Realization.”

“Well; the grounds are… perfect. I’ve been inside. Every rock, the paths, the garden up on the very point… the, I guess, meditation garden. Good place to see… surf.”

“And, yes; meditation, surf vantage point; so many benefits of having a committed volunteer labor force.”

“So, um, are you, like, the only one who does this?” I made a gesture I thought indicated working on the outside of the compound. “I, um… (short, embarrassed laugh) thought you were… your hair and beard… I’ve seen you before. I thought you were, um, older.”

He laughed. “With all the people nowadays sporting longer hair, people doing what they want to…” He stopped. “Surfing. Swimming. People.” He paused again. “I do feel, sometimes… older.”

We both stood there a few moments longer. I had questions. He started sweeping. I nodded toward the bluff, he nodded in the same direction. I did a little bow, felt stupid instantly, but he returned it.

SINNERS LOVE COMPANY

When I approached the bluff, surfers I recognized as locals, all about my age, three guys and one girl, Ginny Cole (you always knew the names of the few girl surfers), were sitting on the guard rail, two other guys standing on the parking lot side of it, directly in front of my car, and, in fact, leaning against it.

Sure. Optimum view. This was their spot; the land equivalent of the apex of the peak in the water; they wouldn’t give it away to some tourist; they were less willing to give it to me.

Ginny and one of the guys, who had been watching me, evidently, turned back around after I gave a bit of a gesture that I meant to say, “Yeah, I looked at the crime scene; so what?”

Maybe I looked too long at Ginny Cole. Evidently. At least the guys on either side of her seemed to think I had. I had. Of course. I was forced, by the rules governing adolescent encounter, to give each of them (the guys) the “yes, I looked” look.

Then, as required, I looked away.

Ginny pulled her coat and an over-sized gray bag (I would say purse, but surfer girls were way too cool for that) off the hood of my car. Not in an apologetic way. Two of the guys continued to lean the just-past-comfortable distance between the railing and my car.

Fine. I probably would have been sitting on the hood if they weren’t there. Casually. Observing. Analyzing. If I were someone else, if I was observing someone else, I’d say posing. Posing. Posturing.

Each surfer had a small carton of orange juice or a quart of chocolate milk in his hand, maybe a cold piece of pizza. One might have had a large coffee from the 7-11 down toward Cardiff. One very well could have had a mason jar of juice, carrot always an ingredient, some color from sick green to sick orange; always willing to share. Not with me. Maybe once. Later. Months later. Only once because I turned the offer down. Green.

None of these surfers were smoking. These weren’t my high school friends, so anxious to learn how to smoke; starting out with, Parliaments, maybe, cigarettes for beginners, moving on to Marlboros or Winstons, arguing about which was better; urging me to be cool, to not be a pussy. Tobacco evangelists.

Sinners love company, I had thought, and I put off starting the very same habit my father had only participated in in secret, or at work, never around his children.

Still, we knew. Camel non-filters. My mother kept his last half pack in a dresser drawer with his badge and empty holster. Nothing else. Occasionally she would open the drawer. Leather and tobacco.

I squeezed the cherry out, tossed the butt through the opened driver’s side window and onto the floorboards, grabbed my fairly-full quart of chocolate milk and my half-gone package of donettes off the seat, went into a practiced lean, a slouch, against the backseat door, driver’s side.

Frosted, never chocolate.

Posturing.

DOWNRAIL SPEED MACHINES

It seems wrong to me, now; it’s obviously wrong; but, somehow, when I was a teenager, it seemed all surfers were somewhere around my age. Some younger kooks, some older surfers. Not many of those; or maybe I just didn’t focus on them; only the ones who were well known, who had been in “Surfer” magazine. If someone like that showed up, his name would spread quickly through a parking lot or lineup: L.J. Richards or Rusty Miller at Pipes, Mike Doyle at Stone Steps, Skip Frye at a contest at Tamarack; surfers you would, definitely, watch, keep track of, give way to in the lineup; just to see if they were all that good. Better. They were better.

How much better?

But these were days of evolution in surfing; shorter boards, more radical moves, backyard soul shapers, V bottoms and downrail speed machines; and the new heroes were younger; more like my age; s-turns and tube stalls and 180 cutbacks.

The first 180 cutback I ever saw, with an off-the-foam-to-bottom-turn, was at Swamis, from that landing two-thirds the way up the stairs; the one with the metal screen, ‘Old guys stop here’ carved into one of the rails. The stance, so solid, the moves, so controlled, so fluid, one to another, seamlessly, were performed by Billy Hamilton, on a longboard; smooth and stylish. He was older, maybe even ten years older. Still, older.

Chulo Lopez was, or, rather, had been in this group. Older. Aggressive, stylish, and dominating, back-foot heavy; always pivoting off his good (right) leg. Surfers who dominate a lineup, who get their choice of waves, are respected and hated, sometimes almost equally. If they take a wave you thought you should have been on… your opinion would swing more toward hate.

Chulo had once, on a glassy evening at Pipes, given me the signal to go on the first wave of a set. Two other surfers in position to go didn’t go. Wouldn’t. Chulo looked them off. No need to yell. Then he looked back at me, said the second of the two things he ever said to me. “Go!” I had to go. I did.

So, more respect than hate.