How Stephen Davis Saved the Zoom…

…LONG DISTANCE.

IF YOU WANT TO KNOW PRETTY MUCH EVERYTHING THAT’S WRONG with something you have written, read it out loud.  I figured I would start with that, only part of what happened at the “Art and Writings of Erwin Dence” Zoom event on the most recent Thursday night.

Keith Darrock, Port Townsend Librarian (he has a fancier title I can’t remember- just think librarian only more so, add in that he rips on any board in an ever-increasing quiver) and I got into the Zoom virtual space early, me on standby in my living room, he moving his laptop to an appropriate location in his home, books in the background.

Trish and our daughter, Dru, who had spent a lot of time making a slideshow from the illustrations (available for viewing on the previous post, non-slideshow) were joining-in from Dru’s place in Port Gamble.

I had spent part of the day preparing for what I hoped and imagined would happen at the Zoom event, having been way too distracted to get any significant work done the previous day because I was contacting and inviting (texting, mostly) folks I thought might be willing to participate.

WHEN I DID speak to someone, it turned into… well, I do like to talk.  I should particularly mention that I spent some time on the cell phone with a local Port Townsend (professional- as in no other ‘real’ job) writer who was gracious/foolish enough to read the entire unexpergated version of “Swamis” and give me a lot of guidance.  He said he’d probably be watching the last night of the Democratic National Convention, but, again, he was gracious/foolish enough to discuss what changes I had made to the manuscript since his review, and he did reveal why he had dedicated himself to writing.  “I just couldn’t see myself doing anything else for a living.”  “Road construction, retail sales?”  “Good luck.”

BECAUSE I had never actually written a succinct description of “Swamis,” as in 25 words or less, and I wanted to sound more author-like if pressed, I endeavored to do so.  Okay, it’s 376 words or so.  AND, because, in my mind, the audience/Zoomers might include the folks who have attended library events in the past, I went through the manuscript and picked out three pages that I thought might appeal to that educated group of hip and literate PT word lovers.  The subchapter is one of the more (I thought) semi-romantic parts of the story.

SO, 7pm Pacific Daylight Savings Time is 3pm on the Big Island of Hawaii where Stephen R. Davis, freshly freed from quarantine, is hanging out (and, yeah, I guess, working).  He was one of the first to ZOOM in, from his phone, from a vehicle, riding with former PT resident, and, by all accounts, surf ripper, McKinna (probably didn’t get the name right- I’ve heard of him but may never have met him- son of a well-known surfer, actually learned to surf in Wa. state), heading out looking for surf.

“So crowded,” Steve said, “Lots of wahines in bikinis.  Very little material.  I can’t tell you how little material there is in these bikinis.”

Okay, pretty appropriate.  By the time some other folks had joined, Steve and McKinna were going out at a surf spot with (we got to see this) some great looking waves.  Other folks had joined in, a couple of library types, as in solid citizens, but mostly local surfers I could easily name; and, if I get them to sign some simple non-disclosure agreements, I might.  Joke.  Sort of.  Permission.

If I had to summarize the evening, it was like what one would hear from a group of surfers in any beachside parking area, probably anywhere:  Who snaked who, what happened after that one session at that one spot, where did all the hipsters and hodads come from, and what about that time when…

SOMEWHERE IN THERE, about the time when I had to cut my video because of limited bandwidth from my overstretched DSL line (not that I minded this, the slideshow was designed, mostly, so that folks didn’t have to look at me) I did read my description of “Swamis,” and, most-embarrassingly, I did read the three pages I had (erroneously) selected, trying to vary the voices for the four characters.

THERE ARE sections of the novel with actual surfing, brilliantly described, with less dialogue from fewer voices.

THIS WAS WHEN STEPHEN R. DAVIS returned, chased, he said, out of the water by a “pack of rippers.  Kids.  They’re everywhere over here.  So many rippers.”  SO, we (and we, by this time, included, among others, Dru’s friend, professional DJ, Trenton, and Trisha’s nephew, and, I guess, my nephew-in-law, or, maybe, just nephew, Dylan, La Jolla surfer and recent graduate from UCLA Law School) were treated to another virtual tour of the Big Island, commentary by Steve, with continuing banter from what constitutes most of the unofficial PT Surf crew, special dispensation for ADAM WIPEOUT and, sort of, me, both of us from the SURF ROUTE 101 division.  Unofficial.

NEXT DAY REVIEW:  Fun; some good stories shared.  Trish told Dru I was nothing like Joey in my novel, told me I definitely need help in writing anything even close to romantic fiction.  Steve added significantly to if  he did not entirely save the event.  Dylan, probably used to surfing in the crowded California city surf with it’s ghetto mentality, thought it was great that surfers actually could enjoy each other’s company, even virtually.  Steve and McKinna scored some empty rights at sunset, Hawaii time.

Here’s my description of “Swamis:”

Joseph DeFreines, Jr. tells stories centered around the legendary Southern California surf spot, Swamis, focusing on 1969.  It’s a world of hippies and burnouts and Jesus Freaks and protesters, a time when words like love and peace and war and revolution might all be used in a single sentence.

Joseph’s father, a detective with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Office, has just died in, of course, mysterious circumstances; Joe has just graduated from an inland high school and moved to the coast; he’s turning eighteen and facing the draft; and he’s falling in love with a surfer girl whose father definitely has a connection with the North County’s cash crop, the area’s open secret, marijuana.

The growing and processing and selling of marijuana is progressing, getting more sophisticated, more profitable, and more dangerous.  The formerly cottage industry is evolving from the homegrown, with plants hidden in the avocado orchards and kids selling dime bags.  There is money to be laundered, good citizens getting involved.  There is, or could be, a wholesale market.

The unofficial line with the Sheriff’s Office, in a quote from Joseph, Senior, is “The world works on an acceptable level of corruption.”

When a man is burned to death just outside of the white walls of the religious compound that gives Swamis its name, that level has been breached.

While surfing has its too-obvious allure; too much freedom in too little clothing, its aura of rebellion and undeniable coolness, it also has, at least in Joseph’s mind, a certain set of high standards, a code of conduct.  He’s wrong.  He’s naïve. It’s a different world, existing con-currently with the world of commuters, the world of law enforcement, the world of pot… so many concurrent realities.

The characters in “Swamis” are complex: A detective’s son with possible epilepsy and a history of violent outbursts; a wounded returning Vietnam Vet; an ex-teen runaway-turned-evangelist; a Japanese war bride; a hired thug who becomes a respected detective; a black photojournalist; an East Indian who wanted to be a revolutionary and was banished from London; Mexican middlemen under immense pressure.  If Swamis are seekers more than prophets, they are all Swamis.  Still, none are perfect.

Maybe Virginia Cole.  To Joey.

Maybe, among the chaos, there’s the occasional perfect moment, the perfect ride on a perfect wave.

385 words.

 

 

 

 

Vivid Covid Dreams

Maybe this piece is self-explanatory. Anxiety has hit us like a, um, wave; enough so that I was just thinking, yesterday, trying, as always, not to panic (in this case I was about twenty-five feet up on a ladder stuck, improperly at a bit of a left-of-straight angle that allowed me to, hopefully, paint trim up on a roof- it worked), that maybe being manic-depressive is normal.

NORMAL. Moments of bliss are, yeah, moments; and, while most of life is just kind of a glide, maybe a bit of an uphill grind, there are moments where things would cause just about anyone to… to be rightfully depressed.

MOMENTS, only, hopefully. It’s not that I’ve been more depressed than anxious, but I have been waiting to use some of my manic-ness on some waves. SOON.

I did do a video reading of this piece, tried to send it to Keith Darrock, PT ripper and librarian. I’m scheduled to do a ZOOM thing in August, connected with my novel, “SWAMIS” and I thought this might be a sort of prelude. BUT, e-mailing videos, I’ve discovered, is actually kind of tricky.

I am considering UPGRADING MY WORDPRESS ACCOUNT. This would get rid of pesky ads (for which I receive no compensation), and might allow me to post occasional videos. WE’LL SEE.

                Not Out, Just Put Away

In these anxious times, I have heard and read that many are afraid to dream while others have wild, vivid, Corona fever dreams, even without the fever.  Last night’s dream was, then, one of those, and I am writing about it before it fades into the early morning drizzle.

Write, because that’s what I do; that’s how I cope.  Whatever trauma or drama is going on, I can and mostly do think of it as part of some bigger narrative.  If dreams are meant to make some sense out of chaos… writing is dreaming; and I write.

It is, quite obviously, some sort of party.  People in nice clothes; some women in dresses, some men in sports coats.  It is one of those large rooms with a high ceiling on one side and a loft on the other, view of the water through the two-story bank of windows, sliding doors open to a deck.  Weekend cabin, second home along the Canal.  I’ve painted many through the years.  There is a large countertop toward one end of the great room, food spread out.  Party food.  Trays- cheeses and crackers, various.  Casserole dishes- various.  Three bottles of wine with interesting labels- open, glasses adjacent.  Sparkling sodas and colas in a cooler to the side; plastic cups on a corner of the counter.  Real plates, real silverware.

So, not a potluck, but guests, as is proper, have brought side dishes, bottles of wine with interesting labels.

This dream is all taking place from my point of view (POV), my perspective.  Of course.  Dreams.  I’m on one side of the room, scraping the last of some sort of dip onto my last cracker.  Not guacamole.  It might be red, though Trish claims men don’t dream in color, and, though I’d prefer her to be wrong; she is almost surely correct.  Still, I’m saying red; and there’s enough dip left that I consider either getting more crackers or scooping it up with one side of a finger.

Manners.  Leave it.

Trish isn’t here.  No, it must be one of those events where I will almost surely do something, say something embarrassing; me with my loud voice and big gestures.  She has obviously sent our daughter, Dru, in her place.  For some reason, our friend George, who avoids potentially awkward social situations more often (and less apologetically) than Trish, is here, more leaning than sitting on the edge of an overstuffed chair.

I start to say something to Dru about how soon we can leave when two men approach me.

This is the setup part: “I hear you’re a writer,” one of them says.  He is quite a distinguished looking fellow, and the statement is made without the condescension my reaction to it might suggest.

“Who would have told you that?”

This is when Dru moves away and I’m faced with two faces, my POV moving between them.  There is some sort of writing competition they are both aware of, submission deadline this very evening, and maybe I should consider entering.  At the least, they would be interested in hearing about what I write.

Here is the analysis part: I’m writing a novel.  Yeah.  And?  And when I’d written enough to get to an actual ending, I edited it, completely, first line to ‘The End.’  Then, so excited, so sure it was the genius work of a genius; I sent it out to several people to read.

This is when someone crazy enough to consider him or herself a writer gets truly crazy.  Out of his or her control, the manuscript must face the world on its own.  Waiting.  Waiting. 

Waiting for someone else’s assessment.

You only get one chance at a first impression.  I had overshot, overthought, overdone; and, as I feared, as I probably knew, early feedback made it obvious that I need to seriously edit the work; ruthlessly cut out so many of the peripherals, clarify the changes in time and place, simplify… it became obvious my manuscript might not actually be the genius work of a genius writer.

So, okay; I’m working on it; two-thirds of the way to the end; again.  But, doctors, counselors, friends, readers; now that I have eighteen point headings for chapters, fourteen point subheadings; now that I have moved whole blocks of words to where they should be, chronologically; now that I have deleted thirteen thousand or so words out of one hundred and twenty-three thousand; the tension now, the anxiety, in addition to all the other anxieties of real life, is this: Publishing, selling, getting the novel sold, published, out there.

Out there.

I must have said something abrasive and offensive and off-putting; the distinguished gentlemen are now at the far end of the room, leaning on the wall near the stairway to the loft.  George asks a question of the woman who, evidently, owns the house.  “I invited you over many times,” she says.

“Okay,” I say, full room voice, “I have songs, and a few poems, and short stories, and a couple of screenplays, and… don’t know where the other one is… two almost complete novels; so, now what?”

They don’t seem to have heard me.   Dru walks between me and them.  She gives me a look I know to mean I didn’t handle this well, and, additionally, I have just provided another story to share with her mother.  Proof. 

Time break.  I’m looking at the food on the counter.  The casserole dishes have lids or are covered in saran wrap, contents of the two-thirds-full dishes visible.  “I never got a chance at the real food,” I say.

“They’re not out of food,” Dru says, “It’s just put away.”

The woman who spoke to George appears.  She peels back one corner on a dish.  Noodles and cheese, the cheese on the top seared perfectly, only a few holes dug into the glaze.  There also might be green beans.  I’d guess green.  The homeowner looks over at the distinguished gentlemen.  “Good thing I didn’t say anything,” she says, “my daughter’s a writer and…”

“Oh,” I ask, “What kind of thing does she write?”

Dream’s gone.  I spent time I could have used on my manuscript.  Still, I have to get ready; get to Costco before the best selection of meat is gone.

Stay safe, stay sane, avoid panicking when you can, stay tuned.

“Sideslipping”& Competition

One of the effects of the omni-demic is that, for surfers, the chess board has been upended, the playground closed.

So, surfers can’t compete in the water when the water is off limits. Competition. Poor us. I started thinking about several aspects of competition, and discussing the competition aspect of our sport with several of my surfing friends. Specifically, I’ve been working some sort of scale in which a surfer can judge where he or she fits in a sort of, think fractions here, competitiveness over butthurtness equation.

Because we’re not equal. Yeah, I’m working on it; don’t claim to have it worked out. I’m trying to judge COMPETITIVENESS without factoring in actual surfing ability. This is, obviously, because one might be more competitive as one improves. I would also love to separate aggressiveness from competitiveness, so, there’s another problem.

THE NUMERATOR- One to nine, if you’re hyper-competitive in the water, give yourself a ONE. Well, that’d be kind of cocky of you. If you believe you’re a one, lie, give yourself a TWO. I really can’t imagine any surfer would give him or herself a nine, so, if you’re the surfer waiting near the channel, smiling as some wavehog paddles past you for the many-ist time, or someone not going out if the surf is good and just kind of crowded, you might give yourself an eight.

I’m giving myself a THREE, meaning, code-breakers, I really think I’m a TWO.

THE DENOMINATOR- So, BUTTHURTNESS. Where you might fit on this scale is determined by whether you’re prone to occasional screaming in the lineup, pouting in the parking area, quite obviously suffering in silence, board-punching, writing rude comments on windshields in wax, any acts of violence and/or vandalism, and, sort of a side consideration; how long you hold a grudge for wave sins you feel where perpetuated against you.

You can list these crimes against you. If your list is really long, if you have a large group of named surfers you hate, if you pretty much hate anyone else who is in the water with you, you may have earned a ONE.

Now, I was going to give myself a NINE, but, really, I have had a few resentments in the fifty-five years since I began board surfing. Warren Bolster once blatantly took off next to me at Swamis. It was my wave; I had position. It was probably about 1971, but, though I remember it, I figured he was probably frustrated because he’d been photographing rather than surfing, and maybe a bit over-zealous.

And I have definitely been guilty of OVERFROTHING. I’m still giving myself an EIGHT, though I’d love to be a NINE. Working on it.

WAIT, here’s a little more to back up my self-devised, non-reduceable (a 2/8 is not a 1/4) score: When I lost my paddle and it turned up stuck in the pilings and no one on the beach would fess up or give up the culprit, and he was, in fact, deemed, by popular opinion, a hero for getting even with the ruthless wavehog, I do admit to whining, complaining, pouting, with some threat to get even; but, when the perpetrator confessed, I immediately (well not quite immediately) forgave him. When I occasionally run into Raja, it’s all over, a fun story. “You’re still a hero, I’m still a wavehog.”

OKAY, I am still thinking about COMPETITIVENESS. I will concentrate on “Is competitiveness a bad thing?” ANOTHER TIME. MEANWHILE, here’s another outtake from “Swamis,” still in the massive edit phase. “SIDESLIPPING”

*The word ‘punk,’ evidently, comes from Elizabethan/Shakespearean times, referring to prostitutes; updated to include petty criminals in the early nineteen-hundreds, with a secondary meaning added in American prisons in which punks were prisoners available, willingly or not, for sexual favors.  ‘Kook’ supposedly is a synonym for shit in Hawaiian, has come to mean someone who isn’t proficient.  Shitty. A friend of mine, one who has spent enough time in Hawaii to risk using some pidgin if in the right company, informs me ‘donkey’ has become a synonym for kook, even cooler when a bit of a bray is included, as in, ‘donnnnnk,’ the final ‘ey’ optional.

——————————————————————————————————————————-

MEXICAN INFLECTION

‘Mexican inflection?’ I wouldn’t have meant this in any derogatory way, necessarily; but, if there is a California inflection; it comes from the mixture of Spanish and the many languages of everyone else who came here; pathfinders and cowboys and gold seekers and Oakies, post-war migrants like my parents, and, I guess, me.  One cannot deny the Mexican influence, flattened and foreshortened by all the rest of us.

And then there’s the black and gay influence: Words and phrasing and phrases; how we thought gays and black people talked; exaggerated, co-opted, stirred into the California lexicon, the California dialect, the California inflection.

Still, the Mexican influence cannot be denied.

Surfers, of course, had to be a bit different; speak with a different rhythm, introduce new words.  You know the words.  The attitude, the surfer attitude, is probably more your idea than reality; exaggerated and perverted and spread by TV and movies and advertisers.

Sure. Surfing is sexy, coolness illustrated; pirate/rebels washed clean.

Coolness, hipness; we adapt our lives, change our speech patterns, make different choices in clothing and music and attitude as we discover new, and, if not better, more modern things, newer new things; trends, fashions.

The very word, fashion, describes its temporary nature.  Subtext.  That fashion goes in and out is given to the user of the word for free.

We steal, borrow, incorporate.  The strands are pretty obvious; like blues to jazz, blues to rock and roll, blues coopted by popular AM music.  If you were born in the 1950s, you heard Sinatra and Chuck Berry on the same AM station; experienced the Beatles, then Dylan.  No, you probably got Dylan through Dylan covers; Peter Paul and Mary, the Byrds; then Dylan, then… whatever was fashionable.  Temporary.

In Order to have Faith…

…one must believe faith works. Sometimes. Ever.

It’s Easter Sunday, somewhere in the season of Passover; and it’s Spring in the Season of Corona; the era of probably-won’t-actually-die, but most-likely-can’t-surf; whatever it is History ends up calling the period of time we’re all hoping will end soon with a rush of people coming out of our houses and condos and shelters, raising our hands to the heavens and…

I have had the thought that videogamers might just come through this all, if not unscathed, pretty much the same as when it all started; soft, pale, with definite signs of carpal tunnel and eye strain; claiming dominance over a vast number of levels and worlds and whatever folks who didn’t give it all up with Ms. Pacman.

Anyway, faith. I put it in pragmatic terms (above). This isn’t because I’m cynical; but I am careful where I place my faith. People. Very few. No, no list. Faith is tested; constantly, but somehow, with an apparently endless line of challenges ready to kick the living shit out of us; most of us have managed to, if not thrive, if not find ourselves without struggles and possibly with low-bank waterfront at an uncrowded surf break with minimal crowds, warm water, no sharks, no urchin-covered rocks, no jellyfish, no… no, but we’re still going.

It seems reasonable to have that much faith, enough to say, ‘it’s going to be fine,’ fine meaning life is mostly a total shit-show, broken this and lost that. Again, so far. But, there are those moments of joy and laughter, rare instances of total bliss, hopefully enough to keep us slogging forward. Forward.

I have been accused of being, uh, religious. Okay, I kind of am, but not religiously. It’s not like yoga, where, I’ve heard, if you skip a day, your joints all seize up and your yoga pants just don’t fit right. I’m religious in that whatever incomprehensible force or being or spirit or algorithm created or caused or allowed the reality we are slogging forward in, whatever it is that pushes the planets and stars and tides and the clouds… well, I think about it; I respect it. Celebrate when and what you can.

I am working on some illustrations for “Swamis.” I have invited Stephen R. David to help out. Going for a look. Looking for a look. Working on it. Stay safe.

working on some illustrations for “Swamis”

“Even the President of the United States…

…sometimes must have to stand naked.” Bob Dylan

This isn’t about the president, really, it’s about writers and artists, and, no, really, it’s about all of us. I’ve often said all of us are in sales; we’re all selling something, whether it’s a service or something we *created, designed, built; or something we’re promoting.

As sales people, we’re all being judged. I’ve been working on the manuscript for “Swamis” for quite a while now, and this morning, for the first time in that same quite a while, I woke up without wanting, feeling as if I had to work on it, whether I could or not.

I spent some time yesterday insuring that I have an actual Library of Congress copyright on the story that I *designed and built (rather than saying I created it- it’s a remembering and a remix and a projection and a compilation and a fitting of character to setting) trying to fit all that into some sort of structure; chiseling here, hammering there.

NOW I’m at the naked stage, sending out the product to be judged. I can’t put a value on it, can’t grade it, can’t say your reading “Swamis” will be a worthwhile experience for you.

I think it’s genius, of course.

If one doesn’t have to be crazy to consider him or herself to be a writer, sending your work (and don’t be fooled, writing is pure pleasure, editing is work) out, naked, to be judged; the necessary part of selling the thing, and waiting, waiting, waiting for judgement… that will make you crazy(ier).

I should also mention that preparing myself to ask someone to do me the honor of reading my work tends to make me a bit nauseated. It’s like that feeling you might get (I mean, probably have had), headed for your favorite surf spot because you just believe the waves will be soooo good, then knowing that way too many other surfers will have the same idea, and you, being a sociopathic wave hog, might just have to get all scrappy and…see?

Crazy.

The unexpurgated version, all 298 pages, all 23,345 words, is being put into a book version, one copy, a ‘galley proof’ by one of my clients in the real world (in which I paint houses), Mike Kenna, owner of The Printery in Port Townsend. Thanks, Mike. I have sent electronic versions to several other people, people I know will be honest in their assessment.

There’s no profit in not being honest.

MEANWHILE, while I’m waiting, I do have the opportunity, through my connection with the (currently closed) Port Townsend Library, soul rebel stealth surf ripper Keith Darrock, to do some sort of electronic reading of “Swamis.” We’ll see. I’ll let you know. I did a test video this morning, me in the living room.

No, I wasn’t naked, but I did put a shirt on; and that was with just me watching.

Spring and Poetry and Panic and Such

This is my piece for the Quilcene Community Center (currently closed) April Newsletter. No, I didn’t say “shit” in that online (a proper distance, socially) only publication; but I am here. Shit

First, to almost-quote something a surfer friend of mine said (more like exclaimed) while donning his wetsuit at a beach also frequented by dog walkers (actually a leash-free zone) and their caretakers/companions/emotional support humans, one of whom, evidently, hadn’t followed the only-proper and socially-mandated protocol of packing a little bag, frequently seen as a sort of glove, at the ready, on one hand, for the almost-certain activity dogs enjoy just slightly more than rolling in dead sealife along the shoreline: “Shit just got real!”

It took a while, but it seems reality, too frequently referred to as ‘the new normal,’ way beyond the shortage of toilet paper and hand sanitizer, is sinking in. 

With all this reality forced upon us, the TV filled with frightening headlines and scrolls and death counts and maps and prophesies of doom and down markets, with the regret that we’ve already binge-watched every available episode of “Bosch” and “Vera” and we’re almost desperate enough to start on season one of “Doctor Who,” it may have escaped our notice that Spring is here.  No, really.

I actually, and this is unusual, started writing stuff for the April newsletter early.  It’s all a bit scattered, as if my usual writing is so concise and straightforward.  So, take a deep breath, if you can (gallows humor- maybe). Here’s some of it:

            Love in the New Normal

“I love you,” you say, in an optimistic way, yet I sense there’s a tinge of resistance,                        we cannot quite touch, and it’s hard to feel loved, when we’re kept at six feet or more distance:                                   “We’re in this together,” you say, while affecting an upbeat inflection;                                       “Still, you’d better stay back, I don’t know what you’ve got, and I certainly don’t want an infection.”

Now I don’t want to snipe, I can see you on Skype, we’ll have all kinds of cellphone engaging, “Hey, it’s just for a while,” you say, with a multi-pixel smile, “’til there’s a drop in the rate of contagion.”

            “Last Saturday”

It was a Saturday.  Not a Saturday in what were normal times; last Saturday, a Saturday in the… (cue the scary music) TIME OF COVID 19 (maybe it’s 19/20 now).

I used my ten cents per gallon discount (for using cash) at the Quilcene Village Store, stuck two twenty-dollar bills (from the ATM at the US Bank, the lobby now closed, even on, you know, weekdays) on the table blocking the door.  The clerk approached from the darkness (maybe it wasn’t that dark), wearing something more like a respirator than a mask (though my imagination might have embellished this a bit, this being the first time I’d come up against the blocked entrance).  I wanted thirty bucks worth (regular unleaded, ethanol included).  He brought a ten-dollar bill back (the store clerks were, in old normal times, really fond of giving change in two-dollar bills and fifty cent pieces, both of which, for no good reason, scare me).   I could have taken the bill in my hand, but, with an overabundance of caution (and my newly enhanced sense of fear), I signaled him to put the change onto the table.  I picked it up with my gloved hand (yeah, some paint on it- that kind of glove).

I headed for Silverdale, enjoying the empty roads.  When I tuned into “This American Life” on the radio, I was confronted (I could say assaulted) with several tales of people not able to see dying parents in hospitals, usually-controlled (and kind of dry) commentary replaced by people actually crying.  No, can’t take that.  I switched to KPTZ from Port Townsend, just in time to get a “Corona Virus Update.”  Nope.  I had already checked the running scoreboard for infections and deaths and recoveries around the world on my computer, along with the doppler radar (scattered rain) and the surf report (down, with any spots on any Native Reservations- and there are some- closed). 

I needed a bit of optimism.  I tried to speed dial a couple of friends (possibly illegally, not a confession).  No one answered.  Hey, I know people are at home; why don’t they answer?  Oh no.  Oh, so I called Trish.  She did answer.  “You’re driving my car.”  “Yeah.” “Get off the phone.”

There’s no real story here; I did notice, cruising through the Central Market (which we refer to as ‘the Fancy Store’) that I have become ultra-aware of social distancing; enough so that, when someone passes me in an aisle, I hold my breath; just in case; and, when I saw a woman who had a baby in a carriage, I couldn’t help but think she probably shouldn’t have exposed the child to the risk. 

Over by the area that used to have components for salads, I asked myself, “Are we all Zombies?”  Evidently, with my loud voice, a whisper is normal speaking volume, and what I thought was a thought is a whisper.  I only say this because, a guy, passing me at a distance (I’d estimate it at five-foot-six), answered, “Not all of us.”

Then he gave me a kind of almost-evil smirk. “Ahhhhhhh!”

Anyway, I continue to wonder about those carpool lanes.  Let’s say a cop pulls someone over, taps on the window, says, “License, registration, proof of insurance.  No, hold them against the glass, please.”  “What did I do, Officer?”  “Risky driving, citizen.  Is this a loved one or do you just not care?”  “Oh, I care.”  “Okay, open your trunk.”  “What?  Why?”

STAY SAFE.  SHIT’S REAL.  

BONUS MATERIAL- Three guys attempt to go into a bar.  One wants a Corona, one has Corona, and one is from Corona Del Mar.  No, it isn’t funny.  I heard losing one’s sense of humor, almost as serious as the loss of one’s sense of irony, is immediately followed by a loss of sense of taste and/or smell, and that followed by, yes, Coronapocalypse.  Now…

Now, since I’ve gone into overtime on the additions to what was published in the Quilcene Community Center Newsletter, here’s a quote Adam Wipeout dropped on me after I, super stressed in trying to finish a job before it and everything got shut down, texted him to  stay calm and not put scary rumors out there:  “I’m calmer than you are, Dude.”  Evidently it’s from “The Big Lebowski.”  It is better than the usual texts I get from Adam and some others of my surfing friends.  “You would have loved it, Dude.”

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.

No Photos, Please- The Report from the Hodad at the Hodown

The event last night at the Port Townsend Library was billed as a ‘Hodown,’ and featured a local (but world-traveled) bluegrass band, which was really good, and please forgive me for forgetting the band’s name (something something String Band).  I was pretty nervous about reading my stuff, hoping people showed up despite the crowd that did show up (including me) pretty handily fit into the demographic most at risk of dying from any episode of the virus.

Or a person could die on stage.  Not that there was a stage.  I did get some photos sent to my phone from Stephen Davis (thanks for attending), and a video and photos from my daughter, Dru (who sent them live to Trish- great).  I could share them with you, but I won’t; and not just because I’d have to set up some deal on my phone that would probably send me endless bits of junk email; it’s just that…

…It’s all pretty embarrassing, really; publicly reading something I wrote and, probably, hold too dear; and yet I keep trying.  I keep thinking I’ll learn something.  Other than that I really need something to stand behind that’s wider than I am, and that I should wear glasses selected for reading the pages rather than hiding behind them, and that I should read slower, and only read things shorter than twelve hundred plus pages… oh, and that I shouldn’t wear any pants that might, in contrast to my upper body, look like skinny jeans; giving the effect of a bear keg with a glowing red bulb on top, balanced precariously on sticks… other than that… I still, after risking stroking-out from the first reading, really did want to read my excerpt from “Swamis.”

So, maybe I learned something, just not quite enough.

Now Keith Darrock, PT ripper and my contact at the library, did say he’s ‘always willing’ to subject me to this type of public, um, scrutiny.  I did notice that he said ‘always’ with the same gleam in his eye that he has (could have chosen ‘might have’ if that was true) when paddling around me to catch a wave (in, of course, a friendly, competitive way).  Keith and I have been talking about having a THIRD OCCASIONAL SURF CULTURE ON THE STRAIT OF JUAN DE FUCA AND THE SALISH SEA event.

“Then you can read something from ‘Swamis.'” “Oh. Yeah.” “You know, after it’s actually published.”  “Oh.  Yeah.   Sure.    Then.     Uh huh.”

I am working on the re-re-re-re-edit, a hundred or so pages left to work on; and then there’s the process of having other people look it over, possibly edit it, and then there’s the task of, yeah, selling the thing.

SO STAY TUNED.  Meanwhile, here’s what I read last night:  It is fiction. I never was a cowboy, never was a log truck driver.  I have driven I-5, straight through, many times.

Never Was A Cowboy

I never was a cowboy, never rode a fence line, alone. Still, I believe I can relate.

It’s the aloneness.

Whatcom, Skagit, Snohomish, King, Pierce, Lewis, Cowlitz, Clark; Multnomah, Clackamas, Marion, Linn, Lane, Douglas, Jackson; Siskiyou, Trinity, Shasta, Tehama, Glen, Colusa, Yolo, Solano, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced, Madera, Fresno, Kings, Kern, Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego.

I count the counties, North to South, border to border, rather than the miles. Rather, I count the counties I drive through, rarely all the way North, rarely all the way South. Seattle or Portland, L.A. or some indistinguishable suburb, if there is such a place- it’s all city down there. Urban: Warehouses and apartment houses, single family homes; squeezed and stacked and spread; criss-crossed with congested surface streets and ever-under-construction highways, never quite wide enough; overpasses and underpasses, on and off ramps, collector/distributer lanes with one-at-a-time lights; ever-competitive drivers in sub-compacts sliding in between house husbands in oversized pickups, women executives in luxury Sports Utility Vehicles, motorcyclists splitting the lanes; any patch of open road demanding kamikaze/video game speed; and there are road signs and arrows and overhead indicators flashing updates on how long it will take to get the next so-many miles; billboards, some lit up and flashing a succession of ever-brighter messages about Casinos and Recreational Vehicles and spa retreats and exclusive resorts; neighborhoods designed, obviously, from thousands of feet up; strip mall here, Starbucks there, McDonalds caddy-cornered from Burger King, various Crayola colors on houses, duller colors on warehouses, each building trimmed in white.

Like white lines, between lanes, fog lines and rumble strips to keep us out of the ditch, away from the guardrails.

Drop the load, get another trailer, reverse the order, South to North. Orange, Los Angeles, Kern. I count the rest stops. I count the gas stops, keep track of which ones had the cheaper diesel last time. I keep track of how many miles I have left between, say Redding and Grant’s Pass, then there and Medford. Portland. Tacoma. Closer, closer.

Miles are converted to minutes. Oregon, on I-5, is almost exactly three hundred miles, with markers, south to north. If I stop only once for gas, whiz, maybe get a quickie mart burrito, I can average fifty miles an hour. So, 300 divided by 50; six; yeah, six hours. If I want to make it in five hours: 300 divided by 5 equals, yeah; sixty. The speed limit for semi-trucks is… anyway, I’ve done it; even with half the state mountains and the other half one big valley, even with the seemingly permanent slowdown south of Portland.

That would have been in Summer, of course; none of the chaining and unchaining, avalanches and black ice and whiteout snowstorms; and without some fool sliding and jack-knifing and closing all the lanes. This rarely uneventful trip would be what high lead loggers, back in the northwest, in the country, in the woods, would call ‘spooling;’ the choker-setters hooking the freshly-felled, limbed logs onto the overhead lines; a variety of whistles, controlled by the Whistle Punk, signaling the movements, the Yarder Engineer at the tower, on signals from the Hook Tender (these are all semi-official titles), stopping and starting the lines; logs eased onto the landing, loaded onto a waiting log truck. Spooling.

Things almost never go that way.

If I hadn’t gotten hurt by an improperly choked log (my fault) I wouldn’t have become a log truck driver. If I hadn’t parked too close to the edge (my fault), if my dad’s truck hadn’t rolled, sideways, down two hundred foot of mountain when the constant rain weakened the old tires and rock and gravel landing until just enough of it gave way (not my fault); if I had, actually, been a cowboy, I wouldn’t be one of an army of long haul truckers; I wouldn’t be sitting in my ergonomic, multi-position, massage-available, heat on demand chair/throne/saddle; in my temperature controlled cab/office/cubicle/cell; with a corral full of horsepower in the front and a full bunk in the back; a great sound/video system, and a hands-free telephone with, nowadays, only a few blank spots, the deepest valleys between the highest peaks.

I could make more comparisons between me and a cowboy. I wanted to. It was the telephone thing that stopped me. No one, really, left to talk to. A hundred-seventy-five-thousand-dollar semi-truck with all the customized amenities wasn’t enough to keep my woman (woman does sound more cowboy than wife or girlfriend or fiancé) riding with me. Time on the road, even together, time away doesn’t help a relationship. Blank spots, increasing over time.

Over time, without real movement, real exercise, with real gravity and the inevitable weight gain, road food becomes something like skittles or pretzels, doled-out a few at a time. Time. Time, that’s what I keep track of. A cigarette takes about seven minutes to smoke, a cigar can last longer; road songs rarely go over ten minutes; even the Grateful Dead, live, in concert. Road songs might not keep you awake, but you can sing along. Maybe. You can listen to local radio. It used to be that the choice, out in the boondocks, came down to country-western or some preacher.

I frequently chose the preaching. “Amen.”

It’s about twelve hundred miles of road, Seattle to L.A., with regulations on how many hours you are permitted to spend behind the wheel. Averaging fifty miles an hour, that’s twenty-four hours. Eight, eight, eight.

There are places, landmarks by now, where a trucker can get a shower and a meal, with lockers and a lot big enough for however many trucks from the almost-unbroken caravan stop in. There are dealers who can amp you up or chill you out; women who don’t mind climbing into your bunk, who might comment on the luxuriousness without asking who you customized it for.

That might make you feel less alone.

For a certain amount of time. Are you then more alone? I can’t answer that. I try to avoid questions. I have a job, some sort of load to deliver. It doesn’t matter what it is. It matters that I get it there. And then, another load. Another schedule. Same road, same mountains you can’t quite see, low toward the coast, jagged to the East- same mountains, different side.

Then again, maybe loneliness is like… I’m trying to think of a proper metaphor. Loneliness is one blanket when you really need two.1

Best I can come up with.

My favorite spot on the route, I-5, north to south, is heading down Mount Shasta, slaloming, foot off the pedals, half an hour before sunrise, the sky some crazy shades you might never see; purple to green, orange to red to blue-white-purple on the rock pile peaks so close to me; reaching up as I’m threading, weaving, winding my way down.

It’s my name on the doors of my rig, hand lettered, with drop shading and highlights. I’ve been known, window down, to tap on it to some road song beat, so many minutes to somewhere, my left arm perpetually tanned, drafting off of the rig in front of me, a variety of people passing me in the fast lane. Sometimes, sometimes when everything’s just spooling, I feel like I am so incredibly, impossibly free.

I never was a cowboy, but, from my office, my cubicle, my cell; I can’t help wondering where your fog line is, your rumble strip, your guardrails, your landmarks.

Cowboy (or Cowgirl) on.

 

Endless (lists of) Summer

This is my July submission for the Quilcene Community Center Newsletter, which goes out to some unknown (to me) number of recipients up and down the Olympic Peninsula portion of Surf Route 101.  I’m always a bit irked that more folks don’t get the opportunity to read (or not read) it, and, since I took the time to write it, and I have this platform, AND the buoy readings are in the one foot range, here is your opportunity.

Now, I did add the reference to the Emerald City (first paragraph) to this version because, well, Seattle’s not that far away, it’s a pain to get there, AND I have an allusion to “The Wizard of Oz” later on.

thFTIJJXUO IMG_2612

A Hollywood producer once told me a setup that always works on television and in movies is some version of one character saying some version of, “It’s all downhill from here;” and then, of course, more mayhem (or comedy or drama, definitely some explosions and car/horse/train/foot chases) ensues; and all just this close to the Emerald City 

So, thanks, Bob; it’s just past the Summer solstice, the longest of what have been, mostly, pleasant days; and we’re rolling toward winter.  Downhill.  

“Wait,” you say, “That’s kind of a glass half empty kind of way to look at this.”

Yes, it is, but I can’t help it. Summer is a busy time for a northwest house painter, and pretty much everyone else. There are almost too many hours of daylight.  If one just worked on the list of projects put off during the more-dark-than-light part of the year, ignoring the way the grass grows and the weeds invade, and the new projects that come up; and, I must add, picnics and memorials and reunions and other summer-centric social events; one could be exhausted.

Or, at least, anxious.  And, if it seems like there are a finite number of fine days before the weather descends, it gets progressively worse until… well, Halloween; that’s the breakpoint.  Not that far off.

So, just recently, after I had caught up on several projects put off for a couple of summers (the downtown mini-storage is one example); just before I got a fierce summer cold; just when I had a reasonably-attainable list of jobs to work on, I may have said some version of, “it’s all under control.”

And then it wasn’t.  If one job takes longer than anticipated, bad; two jobs, worse.  Deadlines and new jobs and emergencies; lions and tigers and bears.  Oh, my!

I was going to be kind of rationalistic here, explain how I actually kind of roll with the punches, try to fit my schedule into other folks’ delays and deadlines; but I thought, first, of how many times I’ve been painting, trying to complete a project, trying to find some shade; and someone, possibly just temporarily a person of leisure (after all, I don’t have real insight into the work life of strangers) comes up to me, possibly with an ice cream cone, hand-dipped, waffle cone, in hand, and says, “Great day for painting, huh?”

Yes, I have answered, and more than once, “Sure; what are you doing?”  Maybe that sounds kind of sarcastic.  Let’s try, “Yeah, by cracky; can’t think of anything else I’d rather be doing on such a fine fine day.”

But I can. I have my list, and Trish has her list, and many of the things put off all winter for lack of money are now put off for lack of time.  A solution, I’ve been told, is to gather the materials needed in the summer, work on the projects in the winter.  In the rain. In the dark. In the cold.

Sorry. Glass half empty again. There are the things we have to do and the things we want to do; what we all need is a balance, maybe just a bit want-to heavy.  When I was a kid, summers were boring enough that I went to summer school.  And then I started surfing. And then I got a car. And then I got a job. And then; well; that brings us up to now.

Right now, two-ish on a Wednesday, I have several jobs I could be on; but I was supposed to go to Bremerton on the (hopefully) final day of an interior job that got me through the worst of the winter, but that was cancelled because the carpenter couldn’t make it; another job put off because a (different) carpenter fell off the roof; several others bunching-up for completion before the Fourth of July (one a rental not vacant until the first). 

So, partly because no one really expects me to be at this place or that, and partly because I’m still pretty sick; though I do have to go somewhere later today (darned social obligations); I wrote some proposals, made some phone calls, took a nap, and I took some time to write this.  I have a few minutes here; think I’ll write a list.

Hey, it’s a great day to do whatever it is you’re doing.  Happy July.

 

 

 

“SWAMIES”- INSIDE THE LINEUP

I continue to be baffled by computers, and get tangled and confused even with tasks I’ve previously performed successfully; like transferring something from the 35,000 plus words I’ve written so far on my novel, “Swamis.”

BUT, this particular chapter with actual surfing in it, which was set earlier in the narrative, had to be moved, just to lessen confusion for readers, from around page 42 to somewhere in the high 50s.  I was able to highlight, copy, and transfer the words, intact, but three attempts to move it from the thumb drive too realsurfers, doing some refining each time, failed.

AND I lost the changes.

SO, here I am typing it onto the site.  I do have some other actual surfing in the manuscript, and plan on writing more, and (spoiler alert) the novel will come to some sort of conclusion during the famous December 1969 swell, though probably not on Big Wednesday.  Maybe on ‘Still Good’ Friday.

REMEMBER, although I surfed Swamis every day during the swell, with varying degrees of success, “Swamis” is still a work of fiction.  That is, the story and characters are fictional, mostly; THE WAVES ARE REAL.

INSIDE THE LINEUP

Jumper was the farthest surfer out, sitting on the Boneyards side of the outside peak, looking at the horizon.  There was a pack on the safer side of where most waves would start to break. As always. Swamis.  There was that string of surfers, with another pack in the vicinity of the inside peak.  At this tide, probably a third, or so, of the waves, the bigger waves, would connect all the way across.

Jumper seemed to feel someone approaching, or he heard the splash and glide of my paddling. He didn’t look around, but rotated his board enough to catch me in his peripheral vision.

“You didn’t call… could have called Tony; given me a head’s up.”

“Figured you’d know.”

I did. “I did. Of course. Cardiff’s… the parking lot is full, and…”

“So it must be good. Huh?”

A line on the horizon started to thicken, darken, take form; a wall, the peak of it fifty yards over from me, farther for Jumper. I could see the lineup come alive; surfers dropping to prone, paddling out and toward us.

“Number three,” Jumper said. “Block for me.”

“Fuck you, Jumper,” I said, stroking hard, out and toward the first wave.  I looked-off three guys also trying to get in position, turned, sank the tail of my board, stroked hard, and took off. I dropped in, made the down-the-line bottom turn, knowing, if it didn’t look like I would make the first section, shoulder-hoppers would take off.  If they didn’t kno0w wave etiquette, didn’t know who I was, or didn’t care, some fool might drop in anyway.

Some surfers, taking off from the outside (weirdly enough, called the ‘inside’ position- closest to the peak) will whistle at the attempted interlopers, or yell something like, “I’m on it!”  Or something harsher. I tried to resist those urges; but I had been known to come as close to any surfer dropping in that… maybe it was an intimidation tactic. Maybe.

I was more likely to just yell, “Go!”

I leaned hard into another bottom turn, looking off two new scrappers. I aimed for a place high on the steepening wave; hit it, tucked into a short tube. Then, while I’m trying to deal with the board speed on a weakening shoulder, someone did drop in.

“Fuck!” I tried to cutback, couldn’t, fell sideways, awkwardly, trying to fall onto my board, or, at least, close enough to grab it.

Nope.  The guy who dropped in, totally unaware (probably) that he was almost hit by my board, (probably) had one of the best rides of his surf life; while I hoped my board would pop up within a swimmable distance before the second wave of the set hit. Nope. Almost there, then… whoosh; more swimming.

Three kooks were sharing the second wave, which had, as I would have predicted, swung wider, more toward the inside peak.  The guy in front stayed in front, the guy in middle tried to stay in position, the back guy (who should have had priority) got (and this is pretty standard, though, sometimes the front guy pulls out- etiquette)  knocked off the wave. I ducked under rather than (and this would have been good etiquette) making a grab for his board.

The third wave, number three; that was the wave. Of course. I just stopped swimming, turned around, bouncing in the eel grass on the ledges, keeping my head above water. I watched Jumper backdoor the peak; tucked-in, covered; emerging, still high on the wave, most of his body above the lip, backlit for a mind-extended moment; then unweighting, redirecting, s-turning while dropping to the bottom. He leaned forward and into the wave, body stretched-out, front hand pointing down the line.

As the inside section formed, he kick-stalled (another freeze-frame-moment in the flow), crouched, and disappeared again.

Some gremmie retrieved my bo0ard, shoved it out to me, just as Jumper finished his ride with an in-the-closeout island pullout, the tailblock of his board coming quite close to me.

He brushed back the water, pulled the hair out of his eyes. “No, fuck you, Jody.”

“Nice ride, man. Number three. Outside peak. Why’d I doubt?”

“Because you, my friend, lack faith.”

“”We’re not friends.”

Another set caused us both to wait, reef-dancing on the finger ledges. “We are. I am the best fucking friend you’ve got.” He tapped me on the chest. A little too hard; looking for my reaction.

“Then, friend; why didn’t you tell me?”

“You’re the detective.”

“Fuck you… again, man. You heard Dickson. ‘There ain’t no eighteen-year-old detectives.’ Right? Stoolies, narcs, informants. Undercover, um, agents.  Not interested. But you…”

“Yeah, me. Me; I am interested. Stoolie, narc, informant, undercover… yeah.  And you, you need to stay away.” My expression, evidently, changed. Way too readable. “You aren’t going to… stay away.” Nope.  “You should.”

We both saw the break in the waves, the chance to paddle back out. We both leapt onto our boards. Jumper almost instantly jumped off his, blocked me from paddling. “First of all, Joseph; you were interested. Second, it was me who said ‘eighteen-year-old detectives.’ Dickson thought you were still seventeen. Friends.”

Image (91)

Jumper got back onto his board, paddled through a wave and toward the channel. He paddled toward the pack at the inside peak, past the shoulder-hoppers and the scrappers, past the sitters, the channel markers, those folks afraid to go on set waves, afraid to get caught inside.  Those who knew who Jumper was would, if in his direct path, move aside, their feet moving like ducks, rotating.

I tried to paddle out inside (closer to shore) the pack, and got caught by a four wave set. I had almost made it past and through to the outside when an older guy (probably pushing thirty), but an obvious beginner (stink but stance, big arm movements) from Escondido (at least that’s where his license plate frame said he bought his flashy black Monte Carlo), wearing out-of-date, out-of-fashion jams over his wetsuit (for modesty, perhaps, but totally impractical- they wouldn’t ride up, almost instantly rip out) had to fall on his flashy board to avoid hitting me.  His anger only added to mine.

“Fucking paddle around, Kook,” he yelled. Hand signals were added; big arm movements. “Don-cha-fuckin’ know nothin?”

I chose not to be angry. “Sorry, sir. You were… (I made a smooth hand/forearm gesture) surfing so very well. Sir.” Nice guy/apologetic smile.

“Um. Oh. Well. Oh? Yeah?”  I nodded. He smiled.  Now he had a story. “Well; next time…”

I was already paddling, again, taking the inside route.