This is one of the paintings realsurfer and real artist Stephen R. Davis has been producing during, and particularly since his epic battle with Lymphoma. Not that it’s over. Steve is offering limited edition prints and posters and cards of this and other paintings. I asked him to send me the image and the contact info so others can get in on purchasing some of his work. I don’t really communicate with him on ‘social,’ BUT I will get the connections sorted out.
MEANWHILE, I am perilously, dangerously close to finishing the manuscript for “SWAMIS.” I mean, like, today if I don’t get distracted by rumors of waves. THE ISSUE is, how to sell these things, also including ORIGINAL ERWIN t shirts and, yeah, I have some art works of my own (less so with my dark-of-winter obsession with finishing the novel.
BUT, and this is related, my daughter, Drucilla, also engaged in her own battle with cancer (Fuck Cancer), is getting back into the work mode, AND she has skills in setting up some platform on which Steve (and our mutual artist friend, Reggie) can market our work.
AS FAR AS the selling “SWAMIS,” I have some ideas. First among them, as I try to find an agent, is offering a limited edition version, printed on regular paper, and contained in a Pee-Chee folder, a critical item in a 1960s students’ life, and something that is a part of the “Swamis” narrative. With pockets on both sides of the folder, a reader could easily slide pages read from one to the other. AND I would include artwork I have done in connection with the manuscript. ALL NUMBERED AND SIGNED, of course.
AS WITH Stephen’s contact info: I will have to get back to you on that.
SOB, sob, why, God, why does a team like… sob… I just wanted… they were ahead at halftime. I mean, yeah, I know the Seahawks weren’t supposed to win, but…” unattributed quote.
Trish and I were watching the Wild Card game over at our daughter’s house. The Seahawks were behind by ten point by the end of the first quarter. I promised I would turn it off and go to the market if the 49ers got another touchdown. Halftime, the Seahawks were ahead. YEA!
Trish, before the kickoff, turned the volume down. Biased coverage. I was listening to the radio version, Steve and Dave. Properly biased. Trish did turn the volume up at halftime, just to see what the Fox Sports experts, who had all agreed the Seahawks were outmatched and would lose, had to say. “Wait until the second half,” was pretty much their message. Volume off.
Partially because their commentary was behind the TV, and partially because it’s thrilling to hear Steve Raible when the Hawks do something amazing, not so much fun when they’re sucking wind. So, no sound except Trish, face at her laptop screen, saying, “I can’t look,” “We’re bad luck,” “Oh! San Francisco’s the greatest. All world! (Sarcasm),” and my loud-but-appropriate grunts of disapproval, or my less frequent and multiple-syllable shrieks of celebration.
With no other distracting sounds, and hope still hanging by some vague remembrance of every sport movie ever made and a few miracle comebacks, it became easy to notice that there are a hell of a lot of commercials during sixty minutes of football.
Early in the fourth quarter, I did notice there were other folks rather aimlessly wandering the produce aisles, or lining up for fried chicken, people who one would never imagine actually playing football, but all in various amounts of Seahawks garb, heads down, possibly still wondering if Geno had connected of a few more long bombs. and, no doubt, happy that they (we) had beaten the crowd that waited until the inevitable San Francisco celebration, with interviews featuring the all world winners.
This isn’t sarcasm. It is sardonic (sarcasm where the speaker’s pain is just too obvious) commentary.
Oh, I did see, while checking out (saved thirty cents on a thirty dollar total), a guy in the line one over wearing a Seattle Kraken shirt. And later, my friend, Stephen R. Davis, who actually did play ice hockey, told me the Kraken just defeated Boston, and that’s a big deal, and… No, not switching my allegiance. Maybe. No; I’ve said I would before. But, added to all this, the San Diego Chargers, who were once my team to root for, were killing it in their game. And then, comeback by the… I don’t know, one of those southern teams. Miracle. Sure. Why not?
MY POST GAME ANALYSIS: Underdog, Over-dog; it’s better to be the Big Dog. And, since I am kind of thinking about, and planning to write about surf heroes, I should relate this to SURFING.
YES, older surfers do like to say, “Back in my day, the best surfers got the best waves,” that kind of thing that runs contrary to sharing and caring, the kind of easily-said aphorisms that run into the reality of limited waves and increasing crowds. NOW I am thinking about PARTY WAVES and DOG SLED TEAMS. If you’re in front, there’s an expectation you will leave lots of room for the other surfer; if you’re in back, you’re dealing with the wake and chandeliers, wondering if there’s an opportunity for a go-behind. AND NOW I’m kind of wondering (and trying not to wonder or care) which teams are playing today, and, by extension, who I want to root for.
AND NOW, realizing I should have taken off for a money-making opportunity half an hour ago, I am wondering when I will get to surf next.
I got the dog image from GOOGLE. All other content is copyright protected and is the property of Erwin A. Dence, Jr. NOT THAT I WON’T SHARE IF YOU ASK NICELY.
I posted this late at night, and woke up knowing I had to make it clear that these are sections cut out of the manuscript. This material does go along with the storyline, and is, itself, edited. I can’t seem to stop myself.
I say “these” because I also did some moving of paragraphs. Joey in the parking lot:
Chulo knew the truth.
The truth is Chulo jerked the wheel and moved over far enough that the Jesus Saves bus went into the ditch. I stopped. I backed up, ready to go around the bus and see what happened with my father. Chulo had a better view. He motioned me on. I knew it was fucked up, that I was in more trouble. I knew my mother was ahead of me and had seen her husband pass her. I knew my father would be fine. Angry, but fine. He was always fine.
I am not offering excuses. My father hated excuses. “There is no such thing as a good excuse.” Second part. “Even the best excuse is a bad reason.”
Nine-twenty-seven. Time in the sun had not cleared the water from my watch. It had converted it into fog on the inside of the glass. I was dressed for work; chinos, a light blue shirt with a collar, short-sleeve, not yet tucked-in, off-white Levis cords, slightly bent-over-at-the-heel leather shoes. My surfboard was inside the Falcon at an angle, the nose against the back of the passenger side of the front seat. I moved the notebooks from the towel but left them on the hood. I draped the towel over the board. My trunks were half-hung on the fin of my board. I pulled up the tailgate, rolled up the back window, and locked the back door.
The red notebook, with two pages for February 27, 1969, on the hood, was still open, but face down. I stuck my hand under one side and flipped it closed.
I looked around to see which car full of tourists or families who sometimes went to the beach, or which surfers, looking for a first or second session, might want my spot. Surfers, three, in the car, four boards on the rack, stickers on the window from Chuck Dent and Harbour. L.A. surfboards. No, not them. I pulled a green apron from the back of the front seat, passenger side. A circular logo with “San Elijo Grocery” and “Cardiff by the Sea” and “Since 1956” was silkscreened in white. “Jody” was stitched on the front, pocket high on the left chest side, in yellow. I put the apron on, let it hang, and walked to the edge of the bluff.
Choppy. Crowded. I looked down at the stairs. Julia Cole and Duncan Burgess were two stairs above the landing, their boards leaning against the fencing at the ninety-degree corner. Julia had her omnipresent gray bag on the deck and her camera resting on the railing. She was aiming a telephoto lens toward the surf break.
Duncan, not too involved in the camera work or what was happening in the water, looked up and at me. I didn’t step back. Duncan tapped Julia Cole. She shook him off, he tapped her again, she looked around and up. I stepped back from the bluff.
I looked up, toward but not into the sun. Just for a second. Just long enough that I saw a few blinks of red. I took another step back, blinked. Okay.
There was the truth of what happened on the road just east of the Bonsall Bridge. There was what I saw in flashbacks: The low sun in my eyes, the red, spinning light and the car coming straight at me. My mind, I theorized, might put events that passed by so quickly into slow motion, into crystal focus.
It didn’t. Rather, it hadn’t.
I flipped the red notebook open, looked at what I had written. I closed the red notebook. It didn’t matter. Everything else I wrote in there for February 27 was a lie. For the next four days I wrote nothing. Mourning. Excusable.
I thumbed through the pages for the days before February 27. Notes and little sketches of cartoon teachers and classmates, cartoon waves, psychedelic lettering for various surf spots. “Grandview.”
That was enough. I visualized. I would be happy enough to admit I was merely remembering if it wasn’t that, eyes open or closed, I could see what I had seen. If it wasn’t reliving the moments, it was more than just remembering.
Nine-thirty-nine. I set the red notebook down on the towel and turned back toward the water. I looked at my watch, walked over to the bluff. A set of waves, four, ruffled the horizon. The waves moved toward the point, each one growing in the rough water beyond the fields of kelp. The first wave cleaned up, picked up sparkles along the top edge and a sky-reflecting line two-thirds of the way down the face. A darker horizontal line, the wave’s true color, widened, lengthened, moved up, became a shadow version of the true color, as the wave steepened, and a definite peak formed. Another bright line, reflecting the flat, clean water inshore, appeared, three-fourth of the way up the wave. The lines became other shapes, irregular, but balanced and moving. The dark line became almost black, the topmost line almost white. Energy against gravity, tripped by underwater fingers of ancient rock. Explosion. Shades of green and blue on crazed white, the true wave color moving down the line, the explosion following it.
One of four surfers in the water paddled for the second wave, pulling with two even strokes, pushing off and up as she and the board dropped down. She. It had to be Julia Cole; smooth, graceful, goofy-foot. At the bottom of the wave, her legs compressed, her upper body straight, she raised her right arm and leaned back. Her left arm low, her right hand and arm were tracing the shape of the wave as she moved up into a position high on the wall. She shifted to more of a parallel stance and crouched. The wave, at the highest point, just below the lip, was almost transparent. Julia Cole was flying.
There are an infinite number of ways to tell any story. So many choices. This is undoubtedly my biggest problem in completing “Swamis.” Somewhere between a sketch and a rendering is a novel.
I’m getting there.
“Swamis.” copyright 2020. Erwin A. Dcnce, Jr. All rights for original work in realsurfers.net are held by the author/artist.
Shoppers saving their ‘good hair’ for later. I do love this photo. Not mine, but…
UPDATE- There will be a paddle out on Sunday, January first to honor and celebrate the life of real surfer Omar Jamaludin. It will be held at a break Omar and many of us consider our (favorite or a favorite) spot. No, not H****ck.
I am, finally, getting to the end of where I have now decided “Swamis” should end. While I have been actively, consciously trying to cut down or cut out anything that doesn’t further the main plot, I found myself with ninety thousand words and needing more than ten thousand more. THIS EXCERPT is from a chapter in which Joey is working at the fictional San Elijo Grocery Store, known as Mrs. Tony’s to the locals. There was, in the late sixties, a grocery store there, across the railroad tracks and highway 101 from the San Elijo State Beach. It featured a high wall of windows facing the view. I do recall Phil Harper and Ray Hicks and I, well into a week or so of camping and surfing, going into the market, and my becoming aware that I was probably close to maximum sun exposure. So, chocolate milk and Hostess donettes, back across the street.
The in store information is largely from Trish working at the Quilcene Village Store in Quilcene (in the 1980s) while it was known, by locals, as “Mary’s Village Store.” It was easy to get credit, easy to put purchased items on your tab. Mary also accepted, from the right customers, post-dated checks. And, she did some payday lending. Ten bucks on Monday was repaid with eleven on Friday. And, as the fictional Mrs. Tony and other checkers do in the manuscript, Mary and other checkers (not Trish) wore their hair in curlers at work, saving their ‘good hair’ for their men at home.
So… Swamis- a Sunday in March of 1969. Joey redefines is the narrator.
I was getting faster, steadily, at the register. I had already memorized most the prices on the most frequently purchased items, read others, only guessed on a couple; always, as instructed, ‘guessing up.’ And I was smiling, and sliding the goods, and bagging, and loading the carts, and responding positively to whatever clients said; I was making change and putting new balances on old tabs.
By my lunch break, 2:20, each of the Tonys told me I would get faster. Eventually.
Just before what was supposed to be my afternoon break, 4:20, I checked out one customer, Sylvia Crawford, whose account card featured a red line under the balance. Sylvia Crawford, then I, looked over at Mr. Tony. He mouthed ‘okay,’ with a smile, followed by a bit of a stern look for Sylvia Crawford. Her expressions went from relief to a purposefully awkward smile, one meant to, if not conceal, to acknowledge the awkwardness and thereby lessen her embarrassment. She had offered no explanation of why she was behind, or when she would try to catch up. I was grateful for that. I just smiled. Neutral smile. As instructed.
After my smoke break, I held up a three-person line to get Mrs. Tony when a guy with a rather full cart slid a Traveler’s Cheque across the counter. “Where you from?” Mrs. Tony asked him. When she found out it was Arizona, she said, “Sure. Too hot there already, that’s my guess.” She took over checking out his purchase. I did the bagging and the moving of items from counter to bag to cart.
“Now, Jody,” Mrs. Tony said, the Arizona guy still there, “If this was an out of state check, you’d have to say ‘no.’ With a ‘sorry,’ of course.”
“What if, Mrs. Tony, he had been from, say, Minnesota?”
“I’d have said, ‘sure, still too cold there’s my guess.” Arizona Guy and Mrs. Tony both chuckled. Still, her look told me I could have stayed quiet. Should have.
When Arizona Guy and the three other customers were gone, she said, “Jody. I know you’re smart. What you aren’t is better. None of us is better than our customers.” She put her right pointer finger high on my nose. She slid the finger down slowly and held it there for a moment. “They might want to tell us their business. Selling them… stuff, that’s ours. Got that, huh?
At about 5:45, I rang up purchases for a guy in his mid-twenties. He had a clean shirt on, but there were some grease stains on his hands and forearms, and he was wearing dark blue mechanic’s work pants and hard leather shoes. He held out a check made out to Jack Jacobs, and flipped it over. Jonathan Jacob, Junior’s signature was at the top, “pay to the order of Richard Haber” below it, and a signature, “Richard Haber” below that.
“That’s me,” he said. “Richard Haber. Two-party check. I already signed it over.” Richard Haber flipped the check over and set it on the counter. “Jackie Jacobs says you do this all the time.”
I smiled, took the check, pointed at Mr. Tony at the first register as I walked away.
Mr. Tony looked at the check, looked at Richard Haber, who was busily bagging his own groceries. “Don’t recognize him.” That was in Mr. Tony’s version of a whisper. In his loudest, announcement voice, Mr. Tony said, “Mrs. Tony, can you come to check out stand two?”
Richard Haber, Mr. Tony, several other customers, and I all looked around for Mrs. Tony. “Friend of John Jacobs, Junior,” Mr. Tony said in his normal-but-still-loud voice. “Jackie Boy Jacobs.”
Richard Haber had loaded the groceries into a cart by the time Mrs. Tony almost ran down the cereal and bread aisle and to the middle register. Her apron and scarf were off, and her hair was out and brushed. Only two clips on her bangs remained. She had makeup on, far less than what she would describe as ‘whorish’ on another woman. Her lipstick, however, was color I had overheard her refer to in a conversation with Doris as Revlon red.
“Almost closing time,” Mrs. Tony said, more to me than to Richard Haber, “It’s Sunday.” She took the check in her left hand. “Better start sweeping up, Jody. I mean, Joey.”
The oversized dry mop and the other clean up items were already staged against and in the very middle of the front windows. On my walking away from the middle register, and with several gestures from Mrs. Tony, two of the customers who had been waiting moved over to her husband’s line.
“No. Sorry, kid,” Mrs. Tony told Richard Haber, in a low-but-not-low-enough voice, “Jackie Boy Jacobs stiffed Mr. Tony and me good.” Richard Haber waited as Mrs. Tony walked over to the file cabinet, pulled a card out from the bottom of the ‘H-I-J’ stack. She held the full card, three red lines under the last entry, by the top edge, hitting it against her left forearm as she walked back to the register. Don’t know what you did for him, but…”
Mrs. Tony pointed at pieces of paper suspended on strings above the filing cabinet until Richard Haber followed her eyes. “Bad checks,” she said, “Never could collect. I used to have a board… with names of cheats and deadbeats, over on the back of the register… so’s people could see them. Some guy from the County, a detective. He…” Mrs. Tony looked at me, the message being to return to her register. I leaned the mop against the cabinet. “He said naming names might be what’s called, ‘bad form.’ But, Richard Haber, I still got every one of the names…” She tapped her forehead. “…Up here.”
Mrs. Tony put Jonathan Jacobs, Junior’s check on the top row of keys on the register. She looked at the total for the items on the counter, hit a key, opening the drawer. She took out five dollars and sixty-five cents, moved it all into her left hand, and said, quietly, “Or you can try the bank. Tomorrow. Or… maybe, if you see Jackie boy, see if he’ll come in and… honor his debt.”
“I need more money than that,” Richard Haber said. He removed several items from the bags, set them on the counter: A half-gallon of milk, a loaf of bread, a medium sized jar of peanut butter.
“Tell you what, Richard,” Mrs. Tony said, ringing-in the items, sliding them backwards on the counter, “take the bottle of Red Mountain… on me… and Mr. Tony. And, good news, you’re out of it. Lesson learned.” She looked at me, mouthed ‘lesson learned.’ I nodded.
Richard Haber wasn’t halfway to the door when one of the customers from Mr. Tony’s line, probably about their ages, late forties, headed back toward Mrs. Tony’s and Doris’s and, for a few hours, so far, my register. “Quitting time, Lenny; me and my mister are… going out.” Lenny smiled, turned back toward Mr. Tony’s register. “I got my hair undone, my lips painted up, and…” She kicked her right foot out toward Lenny, half-whispered, “Got my ‘chase me, catch me, fuck me’ pumps on,”
“You do look… delectable, Loretta.”
Loretta La Rosa shook her head, turned toward me. “You didn’t hear that part, Jody… I mean, Joey.” I shook my head. “So, Joey… Miss Cole? Huh?”
I shook my head again and started loading the items Richard Haber couldn’t afford into an empty cart.
“Swamis” is copyrighted and, as is all original material in realsurfers.net, the property of the author, Erwin A. Dence, Jr. All rights are reserved.
This is a posting by Nam Siu. I got it as a text image from Reggie Smart. It speaks for itself. It speaks for many of us, even all of us who consider ourselves part of the diverse group of individuals who make up the Northwest surf community.
Thank you for representing. Peace.
Meanwhile: Because, in my attempt to shorten and tighten my manuscript, “Swamis,” I have to eliminate storylines that give more background, more exposition than plot, I have been aware for awhile that I would have to cut this story about Rodrigo and Sid and the narrator, Joey DeFreines. SIDE NOTE: I will probably have to change SID’S name. I did want to include some real people in the novel. Putting real people in fictional situations might be… dangerous. And I know very little about the Sid who was in a Surfboards Hawaii ad fifty-five years ago or so, hanging ten. I did know his last name. I no longer remember it. I am not skilled enough at researching to find him. AND, I put the character in situations the real Sid might not be stoked about. NO, he’s not a bad guy. SO, new name. I have a few in mind. For now, he’s still Sid.
So, still thinking.
The parking lot was about three-quarters full. The wind was just changing to onshore. It was relatively glassy. Kelp beds would dampen the chop. Another truism learned early in any surfer’s evolution, is that winds, rising to clear the bluff, kept a spot like Swamis from getting blown out just a bit longer. The sun was high enough that the entire lineup was free of the shadow of the bluff.
Though it would easily fit inside the station wagon, my new-to-me Surfboards Hawaii six-six was resting on the Falcon’s factory model roof racks; proof, perhaps, that I was no longer riding garage soul boards made using foam from stripped-down, reshaped long boards. If no one else noticed the change, it was important to me.
My towel, once white, with palm trees and a sun and some ridiculous allusion to surfing, was spread out on the hood of the Falcon. My windbreaker was hanging on the sideview mirror. I was wearing my almost-matching Hang Ten t-shirt and trunks. The one-third full quart of chocolate milk and the three PeeChee folders were spread out on top of the towel. I opened the top folder, took out a red notebook. I grabbed the chocolate milk container, closed the spout, shook it, opened it, and took a drink as I moved to the front bumper. I set the milk beside me and did a half-sit lean onto the hood. It was a pose. I was aware. Posturing. Not like Hodad posturing; but posturing.
I thumbed through the pages. Notes and little sketches of cartoon teachers and classmates, cartoon waves, psychedelic lettering for various surf spots.
GRANDVIEW. That was enough. I visualized:
The Hawaiian guy, probably my age, and I were the only ones on the south side of the almost channel. We were on the lefts. The rights were a bit bigger, a bit more lined up, better. He paddled over to me, sat closer than necessary.
“Right’s better… huh?”
“Yeah,” I said, “I was there before, at the peak, before… everyone else got here.”
“No,” he said, pointing to the empty space between houses. The vantage point. The access. “I saw it. Sid ran you out.”
“I thought Swamis was his spot.”
“All spots are his spots. He burned you, though. Saw it.”
“I guess all waves are Sid’s waves.’”
“Assholes always be assholes.” The Hawaiian Guy laughed. “I’m goofy; so lefts good with me.”
“Yeah.” I kept looking at the rights. Surfers, paddling back out, seemed to be looking at both of us, but mostly at me.
“You… you’re not so popular ‘round here. Huh?”
“Not popular. My father’s a Sheriff’s… detective. Kind of a… hardass.” The Hawaiian guy nodded. “Half-Japanese,” I said, before he could ask.
“Half-Portuguese,” he said. “Thereby, I’m… Hapa Hawaiian. But here, Mainland, people just take me as… Hawaiian.” I nodded. “Rodrigo. My name. My dad also surfs, so I’m called ‘Little Rod.’ I’m okay with it.”
“Joe DeFreines. My, um, friends call me… Joey.”
Little Rod looked over at the rights. There was a lull. Six or seven surfers were in a loose pack at peak. Sid was still the farthest surfer out. Apex. “What do those… people call you?” I didn’t answer. “Hey, Joey; follow me.”
Rodrigo paddled out and toward the main peak. With every stroke, he would point out toward the horizon. The peak pack started to notice. He yelled, “Outside!” He started paddling harder. There was a set coming, though not an outside set. Two surfers turned and paddled out. The others maintained their positions.
“Your wave, Joey!”
Little Rod blocked the one surfer who tried for it. I went. Bottom turn, two up and down moves, kicked out in the closeout section. The blocked surfer caught the second wave. I was paddling back toward the lefts, watching the peak as I went over the second wave. The third wave was the one. Bigger, peakier. Little Rod paddled hard. Sid was sitting toward the tail of his board, the nose up, parallel to the wave. He was ready to turn and take off on the shoulder, but, seeing Rodrigo’s furious paddling, knowing Rodrigo’s intent, Sid spun around, paddled, at an angle, even with, then beyond the peak.
Two deep. Rather than backing off, Sid attempted a takeoff and failed. He went over the falls as Little Rod dropped in. He ripped it. Backside. Sid swam.
The surfer Rodrigo had blocked flashed him a peace sign as he paddled back out. Rodrigo returned it, moving his hand into a ‘hang loose’ gesture; the first time I had seen one.
Rodrigo joined me and two other surfers at the lefts. The three of them laughed. With Sid just getting to his board inshore, I did not. “Joey,” Rodrigo said, “I’m here with my uncle. Not my real uncle. Hawaii, lots of uncles and aunties. He’s shaping at Surfboards Hawaii. No one’s gonna fuck with me. And, Joey, you surf… not bad.”
“Not bad’s… good. For now. You rip it up, by the way.”
“I do.” Rodrigo laughed. “Things go on ‘round here, Joey. Got to ask… you a narc?”
I laughed. “No, Hot Rod. No one tells me shit.”
The four of us at the south peak watched as Sid paddled back out. His eyes were on the rights, but he did flip the bird with his left hand, twice, between strokes. “So, Joey; if I asked you if you know Jesus…?”
“Jesus?” I thought of the many churches I had attended: Vacation bible schools, revivals. “Jesus. Yeah, he’s either half-God or um, guess he’s hapi human.”
I laughed. We both laughed. “Hapa, Joey; hapa human.”
All excerpts or outtakes from “Swamis” and realsurfers.net original content are copyright protected. All rights are claimed by the author, Erwin A. Dence, Jr.
It has become an unwanted tradition that work is scarce in the short cold days on both sides of the winter solstice. If Christmas came in July… different story. “Swamis” the novel, has been almost done for far too long. In ‘The Time of Covid’ I completed two versions and an outline/treatment, all with the same issue: A lack of focus, what one person who tried his best to read the second unexpurgated version, he claims, called “A slice of life… too much so.” So… slices. He was, of course, correct. I blamed the narrator, Joseph Atsushi DeFreines. Focus, focus… uh, what?
I have been devoting as much time as I could to turning a manuscript into a novel.
I believe I am closer, but not… quite… there. Yet. And, kind of a surprise to me, the relationship between Joey (aka Jody) and Julia Truelove Cole (nickname Julie) has taken up a higher percentage of the manuscript. I credit Julie. It is the beginning stages of a complicated (I hesitate to say) love story.
The timeline has been shortened. I plan to end the story where it begins; Jumper Hayes, severely wounded in Vietnam, returning to the surf at Swamis- after the death of his best friend, Chulo and Swamis parking lot character, Gingerbread Fred. Sequel? Impossible to say. I need to complete this one. Bonus – Overwriting the shit out of my manuscript has given me so much other material, so many side stories. Over-thinking and over-explaining the characters has made them real enough in my mind that I can almost predict what each would do in a different situation. Other than Joey and Julie. No, none of the characters behave as planned.
Which is great. I started the latest re-write, slashing at the dialogue and action that didn’t move the plot, probably a third of the way into the manuscript. I devised new ways to insert details into the manuscript, a line rather than a page. It has helped. With a fairly clear vision of how to end the novel, with the newer chapters having a more consistent flow and style, I still have to go back and work on the beginning.
Without going off on how fiction eliminates too many of the side characters to focus on developing relationships between the main ones, edits out too many slice of life moments to focus on moving the narrative quickly enough, I admit to doing the same thing. Joey’s detective father, and Jumper, though still key players, move into the background. Action wise, the story still has three incidents in which characters die. No car chase, however, no violent revenge. Not yet.
With all the side stories I have to eliminate, one that I could never quite fit into the narrative timeline is one I include in a rewritten Introduction. The two versions are not all that much different, but I took the opportunity to include an actual surfing story. Q Oh, the joy of just making stuff up!
BUT WAIT! Before we get to that, here is this posting’s… WORD ON THE STRAIT with AARON LENNOX- “Salivating with a chance for froth!” Some explanation might be needed here. While the official position is that there are never any good waves on the Strait, and that the best we can hope for is “Almost,” as in almost good or even almost rideable, occasionally, in the midst of real and actual doldrums, there is some hope for an ‘almost’ session. This becomes a serious topic on various text threads between surfers. Secondary Word- “Some people are polythreaderous. They have multiple thread partners.” What?
Anyway, if you’re in a pre-froth state, just starting to salivate… good luck.
San Diego County Sheriff’s Office Detective Sergeant Joseph J. Defreines was asked to speak at a meeting of the Chambers of Commerce from several cities and other unincorporated towns in the North County. He was there to answer concerns about marijuana. In particular, he was asked to address how to control the growth of growing and selling the illegal crop. It was August of 1968. Tall, well built, blonde, my father was quite impressive in his full uniform. Daunting, even. “You ask me about arrests,” he said. “You tell me who to start with; you don’t say where to stop.” The room was, after my dad allowed the coughs and whispered comments to subside, quiet.
“The world works at an acceptable level of corruption,” he said. “As business… people, you understand this.” The chairman of the Oceanside Chamber stood up. “You’re not the first person to say this, Joe.” “Probably not,” my father said, lifting a heretofore full glass of red wine, “Then let me add…” He toasted the room in three slow moves, making eye contact with selected people in the room, then took one drink that emptied most of the glass. “It’s not a particularly low level.”
Joseph Jeremiah DeFreines- March 15, 1926- February 27, 1969.
I choose to start the story at exactly this time and place, Monday, June 7, 1969, because, though my father was dead; though I was responsible for his death; though I was facing the draft, college, or Vietnam; though everything in my life was uncertain, muddled, frightening; I was exactly where I had long wanted to be; Swamis Point with a four-foot swell.
The stories we are told, the stories we tell, are taken and reshaped from some bigger story, one without some definite beginning or contrived and convenient ending, one that continues after the players move on. Or die.
All good surf stories start or end in the dark. Some barely awake surfer powered by anticipation, fumbling with wet towels and trunks, trying to beat others with the same incentive, to get a few seconds-long rides on liquid energy, possibly making a wave that shouldn’t have been made.
I have selected scenes, and cut scenes, and edited passages, manipulating if not controlling the narrative. This story will begin and end in the dark. As such, “Swamis” is a surf story.
“Swamis” is a coming-of-age story as well. It has to be. I was almost eighteen, an inlander, dreaming of being a local in the North County beach towns, dreaming of some sort of relationship with my idea of the perfect surfer girl. Not one who sat on the beach, one who complimented her man’s ‘good rides, made excuses for awkward rides, my vision of a perfect surfer girl was of one who surfed. I had one in mind.
This is, then, a love story. The best love stories end sometime after a shared sunset, perhaps, in the dark. This story will, also. Not that that story, with romantic visions hit hard by real life, was over.
Mystery? My father constantly added to his collection of easily dropped aphorism, little witty sayings. “There are no mysteries,” he would say, pausing in this one, as he did with most, before finishing with, “Someone knows.” Another pause. “You just have to ask the right person.” Pause. “Or persons.”
That Joseph DeFreines had an assortment of phrases at his disposal is not a mystery, really. My grandfather was a preacher. A preacher needs a certain ready-to-go phrases. Here is an example, passed down from my grandfather: “I search for a glimpse of the reflected glory of our Lord and Savior in the countenances of my brothers and sisters.” I never met the man. He didn’t go to my father’s funeral. I didn’t go to his.
There are mysteries in my novel. Some are solved. Only a few are resolved. Though I am trying to write the story fifty-plus years on, I have always taken note of details, almost forcing myself to know and to file away moments, images, dialog, back stories of people only tangentially connected to a straighter storyline; these are important to me. I have deleted and edited and manipulated so many side stories and characters to present a reasonable version of a flawed-character-as-detective novel. Please make note of and accept my apology for straying from a simpler narrative.
I have the stories retrievable from my memory, and I have notes. Years and years of notes.
I am setting a deadline: Completion, with something worthy of getting copies made, before Christmas. Before. It might make a great gift. Let’s see- Original manuscript, with illustrations, locally printed, packaged in a customized PeeChee folder (a reference to habits of the fictional author); Oh, and limited edition, maximum of one hundred copies, hand signed by the author/illustrator… WHOA! I better get to work.
NOTES: Information on the recent drowning is still going back and forth on the various social threads. When I have more info, I will let you know. ALSO, all the rights for everything in this and all postings on realsurfers.net is copyright protected. Rights belong to Erwin A. Dence, Jr. ALL QUOTES by Aaron Lennox, including “Word on the Strait,” belong to him.
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 would love to blame stress for my latest episodes of embarrassingly stupid mistakes, and for a more than usual number of meltdowns and indefensible asshole-ness.
So, of course, I want to write about all of this. But first, Fat Boy kneeboard update: It was watching some YouTube videos of kneeboarders ripping on boards longer than the average from, you know, the past. Not re-explaining my board choice here, but I must mention that I would like to not have to wear swim fins. Anyway, these rippers are on, like, six foot instead of four-and-a-half foot boards. I want to rip. I want to turn off the top, do an actual cutback at, like, speed. Tough to do, though I try, on a big ass board. But, on an eight-ten fish… yeah! Or, yeah, hopefully.
Believing I have the knowledge if not the expertise, this based on having shaped and painted and glassed five or six boards back in the late 1960s, of having painted a blank someone else shaped and then glassed in the 70s, and doing one side of a board, like, ten years ago or so (before giving up, stacking it in the garage), of having watched at least five videos on glassing, I felt… I’ll be honest, worried sick about what would happen once I started pouring resin on my hand-shaped board.
I went to Admiral Ship Supply in Port Townsend and bought some (I would say invested in some if I were only a bit more confident of the results) supplies to complete the glassing portion of the project. Yes, I do realize I am a total kook every time I go into the place that caters to the alternate universe of the boatyard. Boat-yarders. Real boat-yarders. Yes, I did actually work on submarines and aircraft carriers, but this, this is different.
The knowledgeable staff at Admiral were helpful in my constant awareness that I was out of my depth. Kook. Ask a couple of stupid questions, and… “Um, uh, do you think epoxy resin will melt the paint?” “Definitely maybe. Did you do a test sample?” “Huh?”
Buoyed by another YouTube video in which an artist pours epoxy resin on acrylic paintings, I made the investment. Yes, investment, because rough or perfect (no way on that), I do plan on riding this board, Plan to ride, dream about ripping.
OKAY, so stress. Virginia Mason Medical Center’s computers were hacked early last week. Maybe you heard about it on the Seattle news. If so, you know as much as our daughter Dru knows, and she was supposed to start radiation this week. So, no. So, Dru is in the dark, depressed, ready to get beyond the treatment. Dru’s surgeon compared the radiation treatment to vacuuming up the little remnants of the cancer (and, as always, fuck a bunch of cancer). Meanwhile, Trish is hanging out at our daughter’s house, I go over once a week (even though it continues to be rare and unseasonal painting weather), and… did I mention stress?
It has not escaped my attention that I go on a bit. It isn’t as if I don’t have what YouTubers call ‘content.’ Plenty. SO, I won’t talk about how my super secret stealth cell phone device suddenly stopped working while I was talking and shopping at Costco last, or how frustrated I was to call the folks (no actual folks, many prompts), repeatedly, trying to figure out why in hell it wasn’t working when the money comes out automatically, AND, then I spent a couple of hours on the phone this morning before I gave up. From frustrated to surly. “Could you repeat that?” “No, I don’t know how to do a text without hanging up.” “Sim card?” Eventually, either they hung up on me or I pressed 6 instead of 7.
MEANWHILE, Trish bought one of those kind of phones old people are supposed to have. Big numbers. One button to push when you can’t get up. “Just like the one George has,” she said, “should be there (note ‘there’ rather than ‘here’) Tuesday. Okay?” OKAY, so I called to cancel the super secret stealth phone, ONLY TO DISCOVER… I don’t have unlimited minutes.
I have one thousand, and SOMEHOW, three days short of the refill date, I used them up.
FUTURE CONTENT will include updates on Stephen R. Davis’s battle with cancer (fuck cancer), the latest and quite-likely last piece I wrote for the Quilcene Community Center newsletter (I’m not quitting, the director is), some outtakes from “Swamis,” some reports on local spots not being blown up by me, and the very real possibility that rather than having something like an artistic temperament, or even behaving in what could be called a mercurial manner (doesn’t sound too horrible), Trish says, with evidence to back it up, I might be… it’ll wait, but I would like to say eccentric and gifted is one thing, being rude and not too bright is another.
I am trying to quit writing, but I was suddenly amused in thinking it is a political season; rude and not too bright doesn’t mean unelectable.
People Steve has shown this painting to always seem to ask, “Where is it?” The answer varies. I suggested “Canada. It was reversed so the Canadians don’t get upset and perhaps, go into impolite territory.” “You mean,” one art fan asked, “like Westport?” “No, more like Seaside.” “Oh.”
So, don’t ask. This is one of my favorite of Steve’s paintings. Steve had already promised the original to someone. He is… UPDATE… over in the ‘Cshitty’ (pronounced, yeah, shitty), getting two big ass doses of Chemo designed to kill the remaining cancer cells in his body. While pumping chemicals into Steve, the good folks at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance are pumping blood out of him, harvesting cells, growing a batch of stem cells that will… I can’t follow it all. There’s a bone marrow transplant in the plan, somewhere. Meanwhile, his immune system is totally vulnerable.
Stephen R. Davis is out of commission for at least six months. People accustomed to working know just frightening this prospect is. BUT WE HAVE A PLAN. Copies. Limited edition prints.
BUT, NOT YET.
SOON. There is a process. The Fantasy Point painting was taken off its frame and, using a copier designed for blueprints, the color image can be transferred to a thumb drive, and… yay!… copies.
Speaking of things in progress… I am trying to turn the remains of an eleven-foot SUP into a 7’10” Fat-Boy Kneeboard. It is in the painting part of the process. My motto back in my sign painting days was “It’s not done until it’s overdone.” I have yet to determine if I can use epoxy resin on it without melting the whole thing down, but I have been checking out some YouTube videos on how to do the glassing. Oh, it’s not that I haven’t done some board making, it’s just that it was a long, long time ago, in a land far to the south. SO, as with future swells and elections and just about everything else, we’ll see.
My manuscript, “Swamis,” is actually coming along pretty well. As with everything else ongoing… I have plans. I’ll let you know.
I am writing this on my tablet. Dru loaned me a computer so Trish can keep the one we share while she is spending time at Dru’s house. The borrowed laptop is a Mac rather than Mic (read Mike). Mostly the mac is for continuing “Swamis.” I haven’t yet connected it to the internet. So, hunting and pecking on my tablet. Mic and Mac and now, Tab.
IS writing a novel set in my youth a way to relive what has been lost in the fifty-plus years since? Yes. And no.
NO, much of the time covered was great. Far from all. It’s over. That wave is gone. I’m having new setbacks and adventures, dramas and traumas and the occasional great ride.
YES, I get to remember the obvious people and events. In remembering, things I have not put in the easily accessed files are brought back. This is… enjoyable, even as I realize an ever higher percentage of what I write will be cut (but probably saved, elsewhere).
AND, I get to shape characters from the amazing real people I have come into contact with. Even those characters originally based on friends have become… different. This is, again, part of the fun. Each character becomes more complex, the added fictions making him or her more… realistic. Hopefully this is also true for the reader.
THE STORY I believed I knew has demanded to be something else. More and, somehow, less. I am tightening the timeline. YET, when I finish whatever counts as a writing session, I cannot help but consider where and how it could be different, hopefully better.
We can’t change the past. We can’t go back and edit out the awkward falls and crappy conditions, can’t add a few more awesome rides to past surf sessions.