"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 (place cursor in text box and scroll right):

"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.

Work in Progress: Detail

All work is work in progress. Never finished. Brought to a close. Ready for fashion. Finis. Ready to beginnan. Again. How to? Cover up. Conceal the old. Bury. Build over. Incomplete. Partial, patchy: imperfect.

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.


Around the point at high tide

…picking up somewhere we left off…

The past is not enough to live on
to make ends meet.

what test passed avoids stays
to wheedle this incessant urge
past the tinnitus still sings proof
below like wave bounce go easy
under the sheer cliff and around
the mossy point to the bay
where the dolphins play

but the past is not enough to live on
you say and you say things like
anyway the sea is calm tonight
and you need to calm down
and relax we are past all that
pother the rigmarole accoutrements
impedimenta odds and ends
ins and outs no you need
to cool off i’m sorry if you are
disappointed but you see
how tranquil this palaver
becomes us as we unbend
and are made drowsy
not dreary but like
drizzle after a wave breaks.

South of Refugio

 

 

Toward a Rhetorical Ocean

Joe Waves at El Porto_4115537213_mWhen does a bummer become a hell? For the average surfer, an ocean with no waves is but a bummer of a morning. The lull will pass. Need to pull some maintenance on the surf rig, anyway. But one can’t escape the hell of other surfers when the swell does come in.

“All those little crystals flew behind us in drifting angel trails.”

We’re on page 226 of Daniel Duane’s “Caught Inside: A Surfer’s Year on the California Coast” (North Point Press, 1996, paperback 1997).

“We all paused a moment, pictured it. Willie and Vince looked at each other: angel trails . . . metaphor or assertion?”

It’s a good question that’s answered by Duane’s rhetorical decision to write about the real ocean, not a metaphorical one. If a surfer mistakes a wave for something it’s not, someone might drown. “Caught Inside” is a researched book combined with the one year memoir, with appearances by the likes of Richard Henry Dana Jr (“Two Years Before the Mast”) and Ed Ricketts (“Between Pacific Tides,” “Cannery Row,” “The Log from the Sea of Cortez”). These by writers who almost never took something for what it was not, but catalogued and described in terms of scientific method – observing objectively, identifying, naming. And Duane is good at following suit. He’s interested in local observation, behavior, and faithful reporting:

“…and John Steinbeck intentionally socks it to Ricketts with a moral about those who would romanticize the wild: ‘Here a crab tears a leg from his brother . . . Then the creeping murderer, the octopus, steals out, slowly, moving like a grey mist, pretending to be a bit of weed, now a rock, now a lump of decaying meat while its evil goat eyes watch coldly.’ It’s Melville’s universal cannibalism of the sea, where Ricketts sees in the horror of the glassed-over pool a ‘lovely, colored world” – tide pool as evasive simulacrum” (230).

Nor does the shark pull on a pair of Hang Ten trunks before drifting with the tide toward a breakfast of those yummy looking frog legs dangling off that funny looking abdomen with its upside-down fin. That’s not a frog. That’s a surfer, and the fin is the skeg of his surfboard.

Alongside the historical beachcombers, Duane populates his book with local surfer aficionados he meets along the surfer’s way, most of whom follow the surfer codes. Surfing, annoyingly, is a social activity (much valuable surfing time is spent driving up and down the coast road searching for a preferred spot where no surfers are already out), which means if we want to be something more than shark bait or flotsam flown against barnacled rocks by an unheralded outsider, we must adhere to standards and conventions of behavior – in the water, up on the beach, and in the stingy community where being a surfer bum is economically and socially a monk’s life. Affordable beach city pads are already extinct in most popular areas, just about anywhere along the 800 mile California coastline, and dedicated surfers, the true aficionados, those who plan on spending every single morning in the waves if not also every single afternoon and evening glass-off, sacrificing relationships, careers, jobs, family, the crab traps of “benefits,” don’t have much time left over to load the 16 tons, even if they wanted to.

How should we spend our time which becomes our lives? Thoreau spent two years living in his monk’s shack on Walden Pond, alone, but within walk of the city. And he had a few visitors and neighbors. Thoreau didn’t surf, but he did walk through the woods eight miles every day. Those kinds of pursuits (surfing and walking) place obvious limits on other options, finding a job, raising a family, going out for pizza and a movie every now and then, not to mention finding the time to read a book about some surfer’s year at the beach. Maybe hell is an ocean with waves but none you can take off on, none for you, caught inside a commute. Quit daydreaming about the surf and get back to work. You can always read about the ocean, in bed, before sleep, before falling into the deepest ocean of them all.

With thanks to my brother John’s friend Lisa who brought “Caught Inside” to my attention. Black and white photos in this post include featured photo of me on wave (without wetsuit) with surfing buddy sitting outside at El Porto, 1969. Collage of waves with me on my Jacobs Surfboard, same day. Those were typical waves for an El Porto foggy summer morning. The aficionados would have taken a look and continued their search, leaving the slop all to us!

Look Inside “Coconut Oil”

“Coconut Oil” is ready, the “look inside” feature enabled, paperback and e-version.

Forty years have passed since the close of “Penina’s Letters,” and Penina and Salty return to Refugio, a fictional beach town on Santa Monica Bay, in “Coconut Oil,” a sequel to “Penina’s Letters.” 

Salty is again our first person narrator, and “Coconut Oil” continues an experimental narrative form – as Sal hands the mic off to several other characters and we are brought up to date on Refugio.

The themes of “Coconut Oil” include aging, housing and homelessness, gentrification, and how we occupy ourselves over time.

The style is experimental in a way a common reader might enjoy. And there is music! Songs, dancing, and some funky text features!

The back cover photo for “Coconut Oil” was taken from the northbound Coast Starlight train as it passed by the point at Refugio Beach, California, a campground 26 miles north of Santa Barbara, in the late 70’s. The front cover photo, more recent, shows the author’s shadow over a tree hollow holding mushrooms that look like bird eggs (where his heart should be).

Refugio from Coast Starlight
Refugio Beach from Coast Starlight Special

A Short Excerpt from Coconut Oil

Here is a very short excerpt from the “Wintertide” chapter of “Coconut Oil.”

Oh, and the jouissance of the creamy oil’s single flavor savors of favor, in the bath, kitchen, by the four-poster or berth, for dry skin, diaper rash, or when the dark knells for thee. No need to refrigerate. Oil squeaky hinges, refurbish dull wood finishes, fry Copper River salmon in cast iron skillet, remove warts (rub under duct tape), fly cats to the moon or snorkel under ocean kelp beds, race around the ceiling, the coconut salesman is at your door!

Be the first on your block to order a copy of “Coconut Oil”!

Paperback $8 … e-Copy $2.99

 

  • Paperback: 194 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (May 24, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1530995264
  • ISBN-13: 978-1530995264
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches

Coconut Oil eCover