Temporarily Forgetting Taxes

I am indecisive on whether or not to take a chance and go surfing today. I have responsibilities, obligations and commitments, deadlines. Then again, whatever swell there might be drops off to nothing after today. It is already doing so.

Four years ago, on the first anniversary of my sister Melissa’s death, metastatic breast cancer, I was surfing. Some chop had developed on the water and the swell was, it appeared, dropping. I may have been the last one to get out. I was hanging on the beach with Mikel, nicknamed Squintz, and Bruce, the unofficial mayor of Hobuck. I had missed my sister’s funeral as I had missed our father’s eight months earlier. I hate funerals. I have been to as few as I could get away with not attending since the first one I attended, my mother’s, fifty-two years ago.

I did write about my paddling back out in a sort of memorial to Melissa. Writing may be shouting into the void, or not; it is how I process, possibly how I cope; even if it is difficult to partially process or cope with even the lesser mysteries of life, and knowing it is impossible begin to fathom that which no one has yet fully explained.

Death is the one guarantee in life. Death. We ignore death, we postpone thinking about death. It seems almost sinful to dwell on death. It is, certainly, counterproductive.

But people die. Some we know, some we’ve heard of. We cannot help but compare where that person was in life compared to where we are. But we don’t… dwell. We move on.

I didn’t remember that it was an anniversary. Trish reminded me. That it was five years surprised me. Thirteen years since Trisha’s father died, fifteen since her mother’s passing. She put the deaths of my parents in the timeline. Six, in December, for my father. Fifty-two, as I said, for my mother.

Surprising. Not shocking; yet I remember, easily, and vividly, the circumstances of each event.

The memories get blended into the mix, the redundancy and rhythm of the daily traumas and dramas, the routine of waking, and being awake, and trying to accomplish… something; oh, and dreaming.

Waves, I believed, during that mid-day, mid-summer, solitary session, came to me; I got into the rhythm of the sets; I believed that honored my sister. Though all this could be easily explained away, I still believe this. My sister was an artist. I have called on Melissa’s spirit to assist me, at times, when I am attempting to transform something in my mind to paper. No, I never produce anything as moving as the work she fretted and worried over and kept at until everyone but her believed the work to be perfect. No, I don’t blame her spirit.

Of course not. That would be ridiculous.

“Are you looking at me? Don’t look at me?”

If I do think about death, there is a story I go back to:

Trish and I, twenty-six and twenty-seven, had lived in among farmland in Quilcene for a cold winter, during which the bridge connecting where we lived and where I worked sank. Workdays were thirteen and a half hours long for eight hours pay. It was spring. It was a Saturday. The sound of gunshots woke us up. We looked out the window. There were several trucks in the field at Irving Johnson’s farm across the road. I went outside, walked down the road, watched from behind the barbed wire fence.

The victim of the gunshots was being hoisted up on a chain, one of the crewmembers slicing into the carcass. The rest of Mr. Johnson’s herd, seven or eight head, was a ways off, chomping on the spring-wet grass. Each of the steers would look up, toward the truck, then at other members of the herd, then, perhaps hoping the killing/butchering crew wouldn’t notice him, resume the chomping. The butchering of the first steer well in hand, two of the crew members headed toward the herd. One had a rifle. The herd moved. Slowly, not a stampede. Jockeying for position. That wouldn’t help. The farmer and the lead butcher had already selected which steers would die.

Mr. Johnson, supervising from the butcher’s truck, saw me. He waved. I waved. He put his hands out to his sides, slightly cocked up at the elbows. It wasn’t a celebratory gesture. It meant, “This is what we do.” I turned and walked toward our gate before the next shot was fired.

I hope this doesn’t make me sound… I don’t really know- Maudlin? Fatalistic? It is just a story, a memory, but it has already made me think of other memories.

No, really, I have other things to think about. There may be some waves. I’ll check.

I hadn’t really studied this work by my sister, Melissa Lynch. I cannot help but notice one of the figures is pulling the other one up, as in a rescue from drowning, OR one is trying to keep the other from ascending.

Some Spells, Once Cast

Whoa, I didn’t realize the credit for the photo is embedded in the image. I just like having palm trees and fireworks. Wait, the fireworks might be digitally produced. Wow, is nothing real? Yes, of course. The Fourth of July celebration is, of course, real; what each of us celebrates, as with all holidays, varies. And yes, every person who considers him or her (or whatever pronoun they choose to define person-ness) a surfer, is… real. We can discuss realness another time, like, is a perfect wave real or a matter of interpretation? And humor… is a line, written or spoken, funny on its face, or is it the reaction that determines the relative funniness of said line? How would I know? Okay, I don’t. I do know truth is out there in the wind and calm, bobbing and bouncing and drifting, still there between the crests and the troughs, the love and the hate and the outright lies. It is probably all right to love America and realize that there was some treachery involved with us becoming US. It may be possible to be a real American without having to have a big ass flag flying over the bed of your big ass rig. Be real.

Soft Persuasion

She offered him such soft persuasion, on the night before the fourth of July,

Began as such a festive occasion, she held him close, he never asked her why.

He went off like a roman candle, so sure the light lit up half of the night,

But love was something they could never handle, no, love’s one thing they couldn’t get quite right.

                Misunderstanding, misunderstood, he thought that they could make it happen,

                Now he sees it ain’t no good.

                Misunderstanding, he got it wrong,

                She took the words that he had written, wrote herself another song.

She said it’s just a misunderstanding, said she’d never meant to lead him along,

She hoped he’d have a really soft landing, she wrote down all the words to his last song.

All in all she treated him quite kindly, she said there are some things she should explain,

He had gone off way way way too blindly, and love that’s blind can only bring one pain.

Some things, she said, are best left unspoken, some things he said he never should have said,

Some spells, once cast, should never be broken, some love’s not in your heart, it’s in your head.

But she’d already heard his confession, she is the only woman he thinks of,

Some times, love is really obsession, well, sometimes what we think is love is love.

He walked into the teeth of the morning, where firecrackers popped and fuses burned,

He had been knocked down without a warning, he couldn’t put in words what he had learned.

All he knew is he had never known her, and everything he thought he knew was wrong,

Didn’t know from there where he could go to, Couldn’t find the words for his new song.

                Misunderstanding, misunderstood, he thought that they could make it happen,

                Now he sees it ain’t no good.

                Misunderstanding, she got it wrong,

                She took the words that he had written,

                But now he has another song.

“Soft Persuasion” is from the collection, “Love Songs for Cynics,” copywrite Erwin A. Dence, Jr.

Happy Independence Day to one and all and all the individuals, all the ones and twos, families biological and otherwise. Note: my favorite line from this song, not just because I wrote it, is “Some spells, once cast, should never be broken.”

Nothing, Nothing, Nothing

This image has little or nothing to do with whatever else I wrote

I Dreamed I Was Sleeping

In the dream, of course, I was awake, and yet dreaming I was sleeping, 

If not sleeping, waiting,

Some unmeasured length of time; weightless, waiting,

Sidestroke glide, close to shore,

Flutter kick, one arm still, one back then pointing, forward,

Sidestroke, sideshore,

Beach, bluff, streetlights,

Outline to the Sky,


That further ocean.

Gliding silent inside a globe,

A lens of sorts, crystal, foggy on the edges,

Like condensation on a windshield,

And I’m not waiting for the clearing.

Gliding forward, silent, thinking,

“Nothing, nothing, nothing.”

And there is nothing; all the thoughts kept out,


The chaos and the chatter and confusion,

Outside the lens, outside the globe,

Still there are lights too bright to block,

These I see too clearly.

“Nothing, nothing, nothing.”

And then, suddenly it seemed, I awoke.

But, perhaps, I was awakened.


I was waiting for Trish to get home from shopping/visiting with our daughter, Dru; and, because my body tells me to sleep at around ten pm, Pacific Standard Time, and because Trish, when I called her, said it would be later, I went to sleep. Then I woke up. Then, knowing there would be a phone call to tell me Trish would be home in somewhere around thirty minutes, I had a bit of trouble going back to sleep. I know I had to have been asleep, but it seemed interesting, even amusing, to me that I was dreaming I was trying to get to sleep.

Please forgive me for going anywhere near poetryland; but, on the other hand, take that, Daniel.

SURFWISE: It seems like the northeast Pacific is generating surf for everywhere else. Hopefully you can pick up a little corner somewhere. Good luck.

Just Stay Calm… Calmmmm!

 ALL RIGHT, realsurfers and everyone else, we have every reason to be anxious, nervous, even worried; possibly scared; shit’s happening. If you don’t know what’s happening, maybe you’re in a different world.

SPEAKING OF WHICH… My friend Stephen R. Davis has been on the Big Island for a while now, and there are some signs he’s fitting into the surf scene over there. There’s some concern that with waves way more consistent than the fickle Strait can provide, warm water and, you know, all the Hawaii stuff, he might not want to trade in board shorts for 4/3 neoprene. So, without trying to further guess what’s going on in the foreshore area, here’s a (hopefully) calming photo of a wave Steve says I would love; one foot Hawaiian, super awesome and probably chest high Strait scale, and, it should be mentioned, if you wipe out on the reef… good luck:                               

my guess, someone trying to retrieve a fin lost in a previous session.

BACK TO THE ANXIETY- Here is the column I wrote for the November edition of the Quilcene Community Center Newsletter. I always delay the writing until the end of the month, and usually, as in almost always, get a phone call from Robert L. Rosen (legit Hollywood guy- IMDB him) now living a canoe ride from Surf Route 101.

So, like, two days ago, I get the cell phone call while I’m heading up 101, and I tell him it’s almost done, and he says, “Good; you know it’s only six more days until the Civil War.” What? I mean, WHAT? I put the phone on speaker. I had heard there might be some… Civil war? Jeez, Bob, relax.

I am, in this piece, trying to sound impartial. If I had written it for realsurfers it would, undoubtedly, be a bit stronger, and totally partial. Hoping/guessing that locals who might not agree with my actual tendency to not vote for people who (not getting into the list of negatives right now) probably don’t check out this web site, HERE IS THE PIECE:

The most obvious part of my public, if not my self-image, is that I am a painter, and have been one for, well over, if not way over fifty-one years.  Since it is, by the time you scan through the November edition of the Quilcene Community Center Newsletter, probably just past Halloween; I will add that, at this time of year, when stopping by a market on the way home, I do frequently have to tell children, the ones who are staring, that, “No, it’s not a costume; and, yes, it is quite scary.”

If you are reading this before November third, you are, no doubt, anxious.  We all are.  Anxious; with a level of nervous, stomach-churning anxiety several levels above (somewhere in what would be, in a normal season, the nosebleed section) the usual anticipation/hope/fear a Seahawk fan feels when going into the fourth quarter.  Yeah, nervous, whether the team is behind, ahead, tied; it doesn’t matter, the game is not over, ever, until the final play; when one of the no-doubt irritating TV play callers (almost certainly never willing to give the Hawks their due), says, “another nail biter in the books.”  “No, wait; we’re going to overtime.”  “Noooooooo!”

If you’re on heart medicine, check your dosage.

Eventually the game does end.  At our house it’s either “Trish, you can come out now,” five of those so far this season, with the rest of our day/evening spent with Trish watching all the highlights she missed while hiding in the bedroom, or me shutting the damn TV off (as was the case with the last game), swearing, among other things, not to be a fanatical kind of fan; not to think a loss is the end of the world.

This anger wears off well before the next game; the anxiety starting to build by, say, Wednesday. 

As you can see, I am identifying myself as a Seahawks fan, though, I have to say, one with a level of faith in the team somewhat higher than Trisha’s.  Yes, I can watch until the final outcome- teeth gritted, hands ready to become fists if not clenched already.  Doesn’t mean I’m not equally anxious.

This anxiety is nothing compared to what many Americans are feeling about the election.  Anyone who has a choice, an opinion, is anxious.  And, with what is widely predicted to be a contentious voting day, with the possibility of no clear winner; and is promised/threatened to be a litigious non-decision on November third, we, my fellow Americans, are probably headed for… yeah, overtime.


Anyway, I wasn’t planning on writing about the election.  Trish and I have voted.  We got our ballots in the mail, and, just to make sure, dropped them in the box at the Jefferson County courthouse; then went online to make sure our votes will be counted.  Yes.  Take that off the worry list, move something else up.  There’s always something to worry about.  I have, I believe, read that a bit of anxiety helps keep fat off the heart.

Which only matters If constantly elevated anxiety doesn’t kill you.  If it does, before election day, your vote won’t count.  Or so I’ve read.  Or heard.  Somewhere.

So, Americans, stay alive.

Oh, yeah; deferred maintenance.  A house I painted had been recently purchased.  It had some problems beyond peeling paint.  “It seems to have had a few years of deferred maintenance,” the homeowner said.  “Well,” I said, “mine has had about forty years-worth.”  I wasn’t really even exaggerating.  I’ve done some remodeling, just hacked my way to the pumphouse to make sure it’s more ready for this winter than it was for the last one.   Yes, I have done some repairs, but really, it’s time to remodel areas I remodeled in the past.

Somehow, I thought I could twist this into something about how a community will have to come together after the election, whichever way it goes.  We all have friends and relatives who are obviously brainwashed or insane or insanely ignorant, meaning, of course, these friends and relatives believe the same things about us. 

Okay, the transition to getting past the divisions; let’s just… let’s get past the election, then move the anxiety of whether I can call my sister on Thanksgiving, or if I have to continue to avoid conversations on politics at the Post Office or the hardware store, and for how long; we’ll move all that up to the top of the worry/anxiety list.  Temporarily.    

Meanwhile, the addition of bandanas of various colors, and other face protection; these do make my painting outfit seem just a bit more like a, yes, costume.  Color coordinated, of course, probably sort of scary. 

How Stephen Davis Saved the Zoom…


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?’ 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?


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?”


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.”