Dear Diary,

Sylvie suggested I keep a diary, to care for my days, to reel in my foul funny feelings, to reflect, contemplate, light a candle in the dark corner of the mind’s attic. She even bought me a little pocket notebook, with which I now wobbled down to the beach, wondering what to write, when, how, where. I had laughed, because my days were so full of nothing, nothing sure to write about. At first I thought she was kidding. But she said I missed the point, which was to interrogate oneself, one’s actions and inactions, hits and misses. At that I balked. Keep track of your seven deadly sins, she said, giving me some ideas to write about. Those were, she reminded me, in alphabetical order: anger, envy, gluttony, greed, lust, pride, and sloth. Notice how commonplace the words are, Sylvie said. It’s almost impossible to pass a day without experiencing one of them. If you fast, for example, are you not being a glutton of denial. I wasn’t likely to go on a fast, I said, but again, I apparently missed the mark. We fast from things other than food, Sylvie said. We all the time fast from what is good for us, and that’s a deadly sin. But to complicate matters even more, I had forgotten to pack a pen with me down to the beach with my little notebook. It was also a beautiful morning, full of graceful offshore breezes as the Santa Ana devil winds had abated. I wanted to run down the tide berm run into the water high stepping the expelling waves and dive under a thin lipped curl held up by a breeze, waiting for me. The water was cold and the cold bees stung the skin and I sprinted and dove and swam out past the break, all seven deadly sins flying off from the cold and sudden exercise. Outside the break I stopped and treaded water and turned to watch the beach from the water and suddenly remembered the little notebook Sylvie had given me, which was in the pocket of my swim trunks, soaking wet. Uh, oh, I said to myself and any fishes nearby, an eighth deadly sin.

“Dear Diary,” is episode 64 of Inventories, a Novel in Progress in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.

A Demon Wind

Up early, Sylvie off with quick cup to her conference, and I down to the sea in flip flops and swim trunks, beach towel tied around my waist, sweatshirt and an offshore breeze on my back, the beginning of a seasonal Santa Ana wind, air hot and dry and devilish flowing down hills and through canyons, the desert and basin air we’d just driven through now following us, blowing through the beach cities and across the beaches and out over the waters. Superstitious, noir ideas whirled around in these winds, some often true, said to increase anxieties, stoke wild fears and wildfires, redress phobias, reduce inhibitions, pull the Hyde out of the Jekyll. So I was not surprised when I spotted what appeared to be Cagetan’s van parked aside the beach frontage road. I walked up to the van: it was his, the curtains drawn, he was probably in there sleeping, and I banged on the side door. Nothing stirred. I walked on, beachcombing down at the tide line, circled around at Dog Beach and walked up to Smiley Lagoon, heading back now toward the bungalow. When I came near Cagetan’s van again, there he was, climbing out and stretching in the wind, his long hair blowing like beach grass. I stopped and watched him watching a few California brown pelicans diving into the water just outside the surf break. And still I was not surprised when I saw Sot now climb out of Cagetan’s van, followed by a squall of Santa Ana wind shaking the van, and I spread my legs to anchor against the gust, Beelzebub himself now spitting dryly, and I turned sharply down an alley and hurried into the wind away from the beach, deciding all at once against a Cagetan and Sot reunion.

“A Demon Wind” is episode 63 of Inventories, a Novel in Progress in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.

The Yachts

Before not long at all, Cajetan got caught in the capture spiral of the fancy riggings of yacht harbor life, seduced by marine varnish and well groomed boats, afternoon Long Island iced teas sipped on a securely docked deck, and untouchable ship’s daughters yearning, not to mention, to hear him tell it, a few ship’s mothers in the bounty. That some best man would certainly unceremoniously cut him adrift should his sycophant stowaway piracies be discovered only seemed to quicken his thirst to drink straight from the yacht hoses – the blower, the bilge, the drain line. He quickly promoted from cleaning boats to supervising the cleaning of boats, and with barely a month’s experience casting about the harbor for starlight opportunities, he started up his own hull cleaning diving company, a one man show, a startup enterprise he was keen to offer me a partnership in as he planned the floating of an initial public offering. All he needed was a bit more capital. I rushed to assure him he had no idea how moody a harbor could be, how skillfully the owners could cast him from dockside to a dirty ocean while they continued to hop yacht to yacht rarely if ever testing their prows against the same seas he grew up in. I told him his two weeks before the mast seemed to have netted him little more than more want, and he’d end up walking some endless plank of broken dreams if he did not soon “heel to his own keel.”

“The Yachts” is episode 39 of Inventories
a Novel in Progress in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.
(Click link for continuous, one page view of all episodes.)

Note: With episode 30, the title of the novel was changed
from the original working title of “Ball Lightning” to Inventories.

Postcard from Sylvie

I wandered over to the post office at Fort MacArthur to check General Delivery and found I had a postcard from Sylvie: Hi, G! With team in Japan 3rd day of 9 day whirlwind tour with 3 game series at the Hiroshima Stadium vs the Carp. Visited the Peace Memorial yesterday. Very sober. Team in good shape, but lost first game to Carp, 5 to 3. Got 6 ok innings out of starter Bell, who gave up 3 runs on 2 walks and a double in the third then a solo homer in the 5th, then bunt, stolen base, and walk off double off reliever Potts by Carp in bottom of 9th. Heading out to ballpark now for some publicity interviews, pics, etc. Hope all’s well w you! Love, Sylvie. Continued walk and from the views around Fort MacArthur I took in the ocean, thinking of the possibility of a neutrino like trip through the waves and I’d instantly be able to join Sylvie at the ballpark and take in the game in Japan with some salty peanuts and a couple of beers and maybe a sushi and rice bento. Instead, I found my way over to the harbor and walked down a ramp to check out the yachts, and there I found Cajetan who had found a job cleaning boats. We agreed to meet up for a beer later on the Rooftop. I walked back to Hotel Julian and pinned Sylvie’s postcard to the wall by the side of my bed, with the pic of the Peace Memorial facing out, and fell asleep and dreamed of meetings and presentations and trips up and down the West Coast thwarted by failed connections, ticketing issues, floods, and train wrecks, roads rising and falling like waves.

“Postcard from Sylvie” is episode 38 of Inventories
a Novel in Progress in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.
(Click link for continuous, one page view of all episodes.)

Note: With episode 30, the title of the novel was changed
from the original working title of “Ball Lightning” to Inventories.

What Shall We Do With a Drunken Surfer

She bops down to the beach to dance
in the sand by the water the seaweed
brittle and he trips aback and nearly falls
like the drunken sailor in the shanty
“Ho! No! Thar she blows!”

She desires to dance politely
he wants to throw the bottle
into the waves they bouncing
round two junks in the vessel
carried away in a rash riptide

With a message for the great white
whale they glide over the stonefish
ease through a fluther of box jellies
the moon full but the night not fair
the music stops the beach empties

He awakes in the bottle rolling in the ripples
with her sound asleep soft nipples
in the warm sand above the water line
calm and sober like the walrus
angel watching over you

What shall we do with a drunken surfer
who dreams full of fishes seaweed wrack
brack Saltwort Ale and other foolishness
who never caught a fish nor wave enough
to feed his wife out combing the beach

“Loomings”

“Loomings” is the title given this now completed painting, shown below in various work in progress stages. The piece is 24″ x 36″ x 1&1/2″. For the first time, I used Lukas BerlinWater Mixable Oil Colour” paints. I did not mix in any water. Though I have wall-hung the painting, the paint is still wet, but not dripping wet. It will take up to a year to completely dry, as discussed in the info. pdf linked above. I like the paints. Will experiment with mixing with water next time. The canvas stretched on wood frame was purchased used for $5 at a garage sale last summer. The black showing through, mostly around the edges, is from the original painting, which I mostly covered over, beginning with a squeegee wash of titanium white acrylic. “Loomings” is the title of Chapter One of Melville’s “Moby Dick.” An alternate title I had considered was “Sailboat with Umbrella.” But that seemed too specific. One wishes not to disambiguate one’s paintings no more than one’s poetry.

“end tatters” 1st Review, and a Cover Revision

The first review of “end tatters” is in, received via cell phone text:

“Finished End Tatters; especially liked About Confusion, Bells, and To Surf, which I hope to do this morning. Milk made me very sad. Waiting for your next novel. Alma and Penina my favorites.”

To drive down, stop, and check out surf spots at the end of a beach town road is part of surfing. A second text from our first reviewer came in that evening, with a couple of pics and a note that he had made it into some waves:

Meantime, still not entirely satisfied with the “end tatters” cover (having already made several changes pre-publication), I made a post-publication cover revision. Copies sold with the blue back cover are now considered to have some increased value for collectors. New cover photos below:

Original back cover shown below:

Go here to order your copy. Write a review and send it to thecomingofthetoads @ gmail dot com, and I’ll post it to the blog.

Coast Road Trip: Inland Slant

South of Eureka, Highway 101 again turns inland, curling through more redwoods, passing through a few small towns. The road curves and curls through the tall woods and slants south-southeast away from the ocean, the trees gradually grow smaller and more sparse, the land opens up into rolling hills, and you enter wine country. Travelers wanting to continue hugging the coast cut over from Leggett to Fort Bragg and continue down old Highway 1, through Mendocino, and can roll and stroll on down all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge. Travelers wanting more Pynchon can spend a few nights in Garberville. But we were on our way to Healdsburg, in Sonoma County, in the heart of wine country, though we’d only be about 20 miles from the ocean as the crow flies, about an hour from Bodega Bay, where Hitchcock filmed “The Birds,” and on the south side of the bay, Dillon Beach, where my brother John likes to go surfing.

Alas, we would not go surfing this trip, in spite of the fact my brother has enough surfboards in his garage to supply a squad of dolphins, and Kevin had brought along his wetsuit. Healdsburg was a happy happening hive: a wedding was being planned though a couple of weeks out yet and anticipation was high; more immediate, a birthday gathering weekend was bringing California family coming in from all directions; Healdsburg High was holding its annual graduation ceremony; there was a jazz fest blowing in the downtown square; and at John’s place there were guitars enough to equip a choir.

After the long drive down the coast, getting lost upon arrival in tiny Healdsburg trying to find John’s house, and the excitement of seeing folks we’d not in some time, we slept like sloths.

to be continued: this is part five in a series covering our June 2019 coastal road trip.

Coast Road Trip: A Body on the Beach

From our motel room, looking south/southwest, I could see Crescent Beach. A few surfers were out, but the waves looked very small, 1 or 2 feet. The water was glassy. There was no fog, the sun was coming up, and I went down to the lobby where I filled a paper cup with coffee and water and headed out for an early morning walk on the beach. We were staying at the Anchor Beach Inn, located on the west side of 101, at the southeast edge of the harbor. Tommy and Barbara were in the room next to us. I knew Tom would be awake, and from the street I tried to yell up through his open window to come down and join me. I didn’t want to sound an alarm, though, and he didn’t hear me. I walked on alone and crossed the street where a path led through the deep sand out to the beach area. I had thought the beach empty, but at the far end of the path a young woman came walking toward me.

“Are you staying in the motel?” she asked, as we approached one another on the path.
“Yeah. Good morning.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. I don’t want to ruin your morning.”
“What’s the matter?” She was wearing beach combing clothes, barefoot, looked like she had just awoken. I thought maybe she was about to ask for a handout or some coffee.
“Well, I’m sorry, I don’t know if I should say anything, but, I don’t know, you know, but there is a body on the beach. I almost stepped on it. And I don’t know if its alive or do they need help. I don’t know, maybe we should just leave them be. I don’t want to ruin your day.”
“No, that’s fine, if they need help we should try to help. Where?”
“Over there,” she turned and pointed.

We were at the end of the beach, where the sand is deep and windblown into small dunes and strewn with driftwood and beached logs and trees of all twisted shapes and sizes washed ashore in storms, beach debris people like to comb through. Here and there smaller pieces of wood and log had been stacked or piled into fire pits. Long, thinner pieces were stood up into teepee shapes but with no covering. There were a few of these built along the outer beach edge. I didn’t know if they were meant to be works of art or something practical, shelter or bonfire starts.

“Where is it?” I asked.
“Right there,” she pointed.

I had thought we would find the body out on the open beach, washed in maybe, but there it was, against a big log, covered with a thin blanket, stretched out but elbows and knees and feet pointing this way and that as happens when people move about in their sleep. The head was covered. The feet stuck out. It was right there, maybe five feet away from where we had stopped short. There had been a sign at the entrance to the path. A city ordinance prohibited camping on the beach.

We were both watching the body for the same thing. We watched and stood staring for about a half minute.

“Oh,” she said, breaking our silent watch. “There.”
“Yeah. He’s breathing. Probably just someone spent the night on the beach.”
“You think he’s ok?”

The tide was very low, the edge of the water over a hundred yards out. A small creek flowed from out of the beachgrass and meandering stained the beach like a tiny river all the way out to the water’s edge. The beachgrass and sedge stuff held quickly and piled up and across a kind of no man’s land up to the highway, which took off at a southeast angle away from the beach. But there were few cars and trucks and you could hear the waves as small as they were and I walked on down to the water and the girl walked off back up to the road. I spent maybe half an hour walking at the water’s edge, rolling my pants up to my knees, walking out into the thin soup. The water was cold, but not so cold it stung like bees. The sand was smooth and worn fairly hard. There were no shells or agates or rocks or driftwood down at the water’s edge. The beach was all wet sand and low tide and shallow water for a long ways out.

I walked back up the beach and had another look at the body sleeping in among the driftwood piles before climbing the path back up to the road.

Later, before leaving Crescent City, we drove back up through town around the harbor and out to Battery Point, about a mile and a half diagonally across the harbor as the crow flies from where we had spent the night and in the morning I had encountered the body on the beach. At the point, the tide was still low enough that we were able to walk across the tide pools and out to visit the Battery Point Lighthouse, located on a small, rocky island at the end of the breakwater structure built up to protect the harbor from the open sea. We walked and climbed the trails up and down all around the lighthouse on the island, watching the water, the small swells breaking up on the rocks, listening to the sea birds, their open air market rife with the shrill economy of their language, calling out finds and deals and steals, calling off and calling to, calling, calling.

to be continued: this is part two of a series covering our June 2019 coastal road trip.