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From the full version of Sunnyside's Lousy Book.


So I wanna be

One weekend a bunch of my friends were going down to a resort called Timber Trails on the Cowlitz River. It’s about a hundred mile south of Tacoma Washington. Just so happened that my parents had bought a lot down there and I figured I’d kill two birds with one stone and spend the weekend with the folks and some friends. I hopped into my Rabbit and took a drive down there and as far as I was concerned, I was pushing the reliability of my car. I hadn’t had faith in either one of my vehicles to go any farther from my home town than Seattle which is only thirty-five miles from Tacoma.
       Once I got down there I realized I wasn’t really in the mood for partying as everyone else was because I was broken hearted. Joan had just left me and sitting around a fire drinking a few beers trying to have a good time wasn’t the thing I felt like doing.
       I felt like I was far away from home and half way to the romantic place I had always wanted to take Joan during the time we were together. The Oregon coast was a place I remembered from the time I was fourteen on vacation with my family. I remembered the beautiful rock formations along the coast and had the yearning to see it again even if it meant seeing it alone.
       Looking at a map, I figured that I was already half way there and I was compelled to go there because I wasn’t very good company for my friends and family. They weren't about to mend my broken heart so the Oregon coast was just the place to find the solitude I felt needed at the time.
       I found myself driving down a long winding road though a park called Cannon Beach State Park. At the end the long road was a parking lot overlooking a magnificent view. It was a beautiful place and I felt compelled to take a walk down a long traversing trail to the beach. The beach is sheltered from the wind by the rock formations that protrude as points out to the ocean.
       While sitting there on a log, I noticed a group of college students walking down the trail behind me with surfboards under their arms. The boards weren’t the big round nosed ones I’d been accustomed to seeing on TV. They were modern light weight short boards which comprised pointed noses. Then when I saw them put on their wet suits I noticed they were modern also.
       The wet suits were one piece with hoods built right into them. I thought, “Hay high-tech wet suits; now with one of those I could handle the cold water.” After I saw them catch a few waves, I felt that surfing was just the kind of sport I could get into.
       The students seemed quite friendly and I found out that there were from Seattle. I asked them if they ever surfed in Washington and it was a pleasant surprise when they told me about Westport because the fantasy of taking up such a sport was that much closer to reality.
       At the time I was working for a painting contractor for prevailing wage so my paychecks were looking pretty good and by the time I made it back home I had made up my mind that I was going to take up the sport. I even told a few of my friends that I had already surfed and was taking it up seriously as an effort to take it up with me, but nobody else seemed stoked enough to want to take it up too. When Friday rolled around I had a paycheck and the desire to find a surf board. I called a bunch of pawn shops looking for one and it just so happened that a guy who was just visiting a friend who worked at one of the shops was an owner of what he called, “a gun.” He said he had it at home and I could have it for $60. It had a pointed nose, but it was about nine foot long and narrow for its size. It was a Bill Hicky and in good shape for its age.
       The next thing I needed to find was a wet suit, but the guy who sold me the board said that there was a surf shop in Westport and that I could probably rent one there. (Then I remembered that the students from Seattle mentioned some-thing about a surf shop in Westport when I was in Oregon.)
       So off to the coast I went with my Bill Hicky crammed into my VW Rabbit. Suddenly the fear if the long commute with my car was cast aside and the song by U2, something about looking for became my theme song.
       When I arrived in Westport, I met Mal; the owner of the one and only surf shop on the Washington coast. The only rental wet suit I could rent was just too small for me and I ended up forking out almost $250 for one of the hot to go, top of the line 4/5 “Hotlines” with hood and all. When I hit the water I found out that a wet suit wasn’t complete without booties.
       Though my feet were freezing cold when I walked into the water, I still paddle out hopping my feet would get used to it. I tried my best at getting that Bill Hicky out through the shore break. The farther out I got, the harder the waves would pick me up and throw me back in. It was like paddling 50 yards and getting thrown back 30 or 40. It must have taken about 30 minutes to get out past the shore break, but it seemed like at least 45. Dam I thought; if I would have know how much work it was, I would have thought twice about taking up such a sport. But after spending $300 on it, I felt I was obligated to learn. I realized just trying to sit on the narrow board was difficult and there had to be some kind of technique to it. I had to observe what the other guys were doing to figure out how they performed such a task. I realized they were sitting towards the rear of their boards; letting the rear-end sink down, using the nose as a bobber. Once I realized this, I knew that only the guys with large longboards could sit with anything more than of their chest out of the water.
       I tried to catch a few waves and found that just getting up onto my feet was the hard part. After getting thrashed a few times, Abe, “the goodwill ambassador” gave me a pointer. He told me to go strait down the face and not off to the side; like we see in the movies where they ride big waves. I also noticed that even though there wasn’t many surfers out there, it wasn’t difficult to find myself getting in someone else’s way. After trying a few hours in the head high surf, I did manage to catch a wave, but all it amounted to was of the stand up and go straight in variety. It sure wasn’t anything like water skiing for the first time when I got up right from the dock my first try.
       After my first session I headed straight for the surf shop for a pair of booties before they closed. I wanted to have some the very first thing the next morning before my second attempt at the horrendous task.
       The next day, Mal saw me walk back in through the door at his surf shop claiming that the new wet suit he’d sold me was too tight around my shoulders. I said, “You’re looking at a guy in serious pain.” He said, “No the suite fits fine -- it’s just that you’re using mussels that you normally don’t use.” I couldn’t understand because I’d been lifting weights and though I was in tip top shape. I could only hope he was right because trading in the suit for a new one was a loss I wasn’t ready for.

The next weekend I bought another surf board at the surf shop in Westport and consigned my Bill Hicky, which eventually fetched $100. (I’ve kicked myself in the ass over the years for getting rid of the Bill Hicky gun whenever the waves got big, because it was a good looking board and I’m sure it would be of a collector’s idiom if kept in good shape.) I picked up a used 6’7” Whahlboard, thruster for $200. Mal tried to advise me to get longboard, but I figured a wider board was all I needed because I wasn’t into the longboard style of surfing because I wanted to shred. Well he was right, because the next dozen or so sessions I had that late fall, I found myself getting thrashed. Getting up on a short board is like trying to stand up on a piece of ice for a beginner.
       I had been an acquaintance of Dean’s, whom I’d known from some of my earlier hall party days; he was eighteen and I was about twenty. He played bass for a guy we use to call Barney Rubble and his band hired me to play lights for their hall gig. Eventually he ended up in the band I set JR up with. When I got to know Dean as a close friend, he was with a nice looking girlfriend who seemed to be a pretty nice gal. When they broke up, I asked why. He said, "I'm tired of getting beat up." I couldn't imagine such a thing could have been a problem for him because he was always such an easy going guy.
       Once the winter weather set in and the waves would get too big and out of control from the storms so surfing became a sport of getting skunked after a long drive out to the coast, I decided to take up playing the bass guitar because I thought that if I learned to play the bass it would make me a better lightman because the bass-line was the thing I fallowed for the color mode of my lightshow. I figured it would be more fun to actively play an instrument to the stereo than just to sit there listening to it for a past time like most people.
       Dean volunteered to teach me how to play bass. With a few lessons, he taught me the major and minor scales; the twelve bar one, four, five progression; and I was up and running. Many times we would end up at my place after going out to clubs together and Dean would give me free bass lessons or just jam out together. I'd play a bass line to a drum machine and he'd play bass solos over the top of it. It was a kick because some of it was pretty cool.
       Within a month or so he told me that I was ranked right up there with the top five of the fifty or so students that he had taught. It was because I actually practiced and learned the material between lessons. Three months later, I was hitting the jam sessions. I was playing the hell out of Louie Louie, Taking Care of Business, and Johnny B. Good. To say the least – they hated me.
       I became a regular at weekly jam sessions around the area. At first many of the musicians disliked the sight of beginner bassplayer walking through the door because they’d assume I didn’t know how to play since I wasn’t amongst the many clicks of local professional musicians. While attending the jam session I’d learn which standard songs, (usually classic rock I had on CD’s at home) that most of the musicians knew and during the week I’d practice the songs so I’d go back to the jam session knowing them. After a while the musicians gained more confidence with my playing and they began to treat me more like one of the gang. It was kind of neat I because I could go out and be a musician for a few hours every week without having to sacrifice the style of living I had as an independent self-employed contractor.

When the month of February rolled around I head for the coast for some more thrashing and found out that Mal had just bought an old building for his surf shop. It was in dire need of a paint job and he knew I was just the man to help him out. Mal offered the eggboard I wanted in trade for the paint job and luckily the color gray was in fashion for quite a while around Tacoma and it was just the color Mal was interested in. I had a bunch of gray left-over paint from the summer before. I had hawked my pressure washer to my mother for $150 and it was a pleasant surprise to learn that she let me use my pressure washer to do the job because there wasn’t any money included on the job. I’ve always thought that it was one of the nicest and most supportive favors my mother had ever done for me.
       I showed up and pressure washed the building and while prepping the building I ran across one of the strangest dilemmas I have ever had on a building’s prep job. That is while scraping back the paint; I found that the wood underneath the old paint was wetter than the exposed bare wood surfaces. It was so wet that it you hit it with a hammer it would spit water.
       The old oil-base paint just held the moisture inside so I had to let it set over night before priming it with a latex (water base) primer. The primer actually helped dry the wood out.
       The weather pattern was pretty tight since it was February and in the middle of the rainy session, but on the next trip out I showed up with my airless and the paint. Mal stored it inside the building for me. Mal and I mixed up a shade of gray he liked, but the weather was still iffy. I went surfing that morning and by the afternoon the weather was permitting I discovered I had a problem with the airless and paint being locked up in the shop and Mal was nowhere to be found. Later in the day he showed up and I had to kick into high gear. I didn’t start pumping the paint until four o’clock but fortunately, I know how to paint -- even if the sun is going down.
       At four o’clock the next morning I heard a down pour of rain on my car. The scary thing about it was that if the paint was to get washed off – I’d just as well paid cash for the new surf board because if the paint was washed off, replacing the paint would cost almost as much as the surfboard. When daylight rolled around I woke up to a nice paint job because none of the paint washed off as I expected. It was nothing short of a miracle I’d say. I was a proud owner of a 7’1” Person Arrow eggboard which had a deck shaped similar to a longboard with a round nose, but short enough to warrant tri-fins like a short thruster.
       It was day fifteen of trying to be a surfer and the waves were just right. I paddled out on my new board which was wider than my others and it was my favorite color. The board was just what I needed. The first time out on the new board and after fifteen disappointing sessions, I caught a wave and rode it all the way to the very end. After all the thrashing I had gone through to get to that point, I felt like I deserved some kind of diploma for becoming a true surfer. I was so proud of myself and when I got back on shore; I told one of my local buddies, “Now I can consider myself as a surfer.” He said in return, “You were already a surfer – you stuck with it.”
       While I was painting the trim on the surf shop earlier, I was approached by a local who expressed interest in having me paint his house. After I painted his, I got on a roll. There was only one other painter out there who new how to be neat and clean and soon he divorced his wife and left the state. I became the only painter out on the fifteen miles of coastline with a population of about 15,000 residents. Eventually I was turned in for not being a licensed contractor just as I was told would happen. One day the building inspector showed up at my jobsite and said, “A guy from L & I is out here looking for you.” I said, “It’s a good time to go surfing isn’t it?”
       I ended up going back to Tacoma for a week or two to work a job there and went back out to the coast as a licensed contractor. The first commercial job I landed was a job from the City of Westport, painting a fire station. I spent over five years of my life living the life as a surfer on the Washington coast. The desire to get a bigger airless was always one of my primary goals. The funny thing was when I would mention selling my airless so I could buy a better one, my mother didn't want to hear me talk of such a thing. She said, "You better not sell that airless, that's your livelihood.” Too start with; surfing was sort of a mid-life crisis as a result of the end of the relationship with Joan, but it turned into a life-style I will always cherish. As I look back -- it was some of the best years of my life and I truly miss it. When I first began surfing, I was surfing with transplants from other parts of the country. They had moved there where they had only twelve other surfer within a hundred miles. The other fifty or so weekend surfers where from Puget Sound area and we all knew each other no matter where they were from.
       Then there came this longboarder from California who set-up a surf shop in the college district of Seattle. He shaped a few longboards and I’m sure he wanted to boost business a little. He came up with the idea of forking out the money for insurance to cover a surf contest at our home break. I wouldn’t doubt the Westport City of Commerce helped out on the television advertisement.
       Then it even received news coverage.
       This happened to be about the time when electronic video cameras became a common house hold item and people were sending their kids off to college with them. The students from California and the east coast would send videos to their buddies in other parts of the country.
       Pretty soon, every time I went out to the coast; more and more surfers were appearing. A few years later I realized that I would be lucky to know 2% of the surfers that were showing up. About half of the original dozen are no longer living there. Abe took his family back to Hawaii. Bill went to Australia and then back to California after that. I think Mark went back to Hunting-ton Beach. The Butcher moved to eastern Washington and another moved inland and only showed up occasionally. Were some of the others went, I’m not sure. Only a hand-full are still there.
       Eventually, the priority of surfing got side tracked by the desire to create a business that would make it through the winters. The decision required a considerable amount of time back in the city where I could establish more of a commercial oriented business. My customer base from painting grew to the point where I was working full time as a painting contractor. I moved back into my house full time and took Dean in as a roommate so he would help pay for the bills through the winter. Whether he has ever considered me as his best friend or not, I really don't know. For me it was quite clear he was mine because he was the only guy I'd even consider having as a roommate. Once I was single again after a five year relationship, and he single too, we started to hang out together even more. We would go out to night clubs and it always seemed like one of us would get plastered and the other would be the driver on the way home. To say the least; I’d be the one that would usually end up driving home.
       One time I remember we were really fucked up and he had me tell a story so he could play something to it. I guess he’s always been aware the passion I convey when I tell a story and for that reason, he wanted to take advantage of it. So I told a story about paddling out along the jetty on my surfboard while he'd play background music to it. I talked about Joe the butcher paddling passed me as if he was powerfully plowing the board through the water instead of over it. Joe passed me in the faster riptide next to the rocks and was about twenty feet in front of me and the waves were coming in towards the jetty from the south. Since the jetty was on our right and the waves were approaching us from the left, it seemed like we were up against the power of the set waves that were pushing us back into the jetty. Not necessarily a good thing you might be thinking.
       A big set wave came up and threw both of us up on the large rocks. Amazingly, the water set my ass down on a big flat rock softly. As the water washed away, I grabbed my board as it was floating on water as it was dispersed through the openings between rocks. (It’ amazing my board didn't even get a ding in it.) I looked over at Joe; he was sitting on a rock too. He said, "Are you alright!" "Yeah!" Then while the swell was at a low we both leaped back in the water and paddled out through the incoming swell.
       It sounded so cool, so emotional, Dean said, "Hay lets record it." We tried, but it lacked the enthusiasm we had the first time and just didn't go anywhere. It was one of those moments you can't duplicate. It's sort of how you read about some directors don't like to have actors rehearse, because the character portrayal can tarnish if the emotion isn't right. That's where I'd feel sorry for any actor who would get stuck trying to play me. Even I would have a hard time replicating my emotions.
       Eventually Dean moved in as my roommate because he was getting tired of being controlled by his parents and wanted more freedom. Things worked out fine with us living in the same house. We got up about the same time to go to work in the mornings and we had a unique way of waking up each other. I guess I was the on who started it. One morning I cranked up my stereo and put on "Time" by the group Pink Floyd, as if it was a gigantic alarm clock. The next morning he woke me up with some Soundgarden. It became a ritual of waking each other up with some hard thumping music.
       The fun began to run out after he went out to a night club with another guitar buddy and met a girl. It wasn't long before he was moving in with her in the town of Olympia. Eventually they moved up north to Puyallup, but after awhile, her jealousy just ran him ragged. I didn't see him much after that, but when I did, it was obvious they were having a ruff time with their relationship.
       One time Dean was over at my place and we received a phone call from his girlfriend. She insinuated that Dean had another girl over at my place. I got on the phone and assured her that it was just the two of us playing our guitars, but she wouldn’t believe me either. We ended up calling her “The Psycho Bitch from Hell.”
       From that point on, Dean seemed to have changed. He has become a person that would be drawn to intensely argue. Our friendship had never been the same since the Psycho Bitch from Hell ruined his temperament. The major turning point in our lives was the time he had me and tag along with him to meet up with his co-worker for a drink at a coattail lounge. He wanted me to tag along so that nothing would happen, but it was at the expense of the two of us arguing all the way home. The co-worker and Dean are married now and they have two daughters.

As the years went on, my desire to become a professional light-man got over-run by the facts of life which we call the monthly bills. I also took up the task of being a homeowner and the chore of maintaining and up grading it. I insulated under my house and started the process of putting a new roof on my house. I made plans to remodel it as I went and also plans to build a garage.

As for my bass playing: Once I tried to get my parents to stop by a jam session that they were about to drive by so they could get a chance to see me play with a band, but after a drink or two, they decided that since their friend’s husband had gone ahead to the house that they couldn’t wait to see me play. They’ve never seen me play with a full band, but I continued to drop by jam session as a way of having band practice without being in a band. I got to where I knew well over two hundred standards and kept up current with the material played in top forty bands. I continued to purchase tools and equipment as an effort to create job security. Though I didn’t have the job history necessary to get a credit card, I managed to get a house on a private owner contract. During the difficult winter months I found my-self barrowing money though local pawn shops. It would take me most of the spring and early summer to get my stuff out and then when that was done, the state would be on my ass for the sales tax I’d collected. The object would to have some cash stashed away before winter set in, but things like truck maintenance would do a good job of helping me spend it.

While opening a new checking account at the bank in Westport, the wife of a customer/friend/inventor happened to be doing the paper work and she asked me if I wanted to fill out an application for a credit card. That’s how I got my first $500.00 limit credit card.
       I maxed out the $500.00 limit the first month on a 20 ft. painter’s plank and latter jacks. In fact it was $530 and I had to pay $30 in cash. I paid the bill off in full within the first month and within to or three months the limit automatically went up to $700.
       Later I asked for the limit to be increased again because the credit card was less expensive than barrowing money from pawn shops during the slow winter months. The credit card accounts enabled me to operate in the red at times and the lee way that it gave me was a cushion I learned to live with. I’d just be lucky to have the credit cards paid off by time the fall weather set in.

In a few years of the constant effort of building a business; the winter of 93/94 was to be the first winter I anticipating operating in the black all the way through to the next summer. I was looking forward to the summer of 94 because I thought it was going to be the first summer I wasn’t going to have to be a slave to the credit card bills. I was planning to finish reproofing my house and find an accountant to figure out how to pay back taxes.

The next year I would’ve started laying down the foundation for a new garage, or as I would say shop. Of course it would have been as big as the building codes would have allowed. I had plans to build one with at least ten foot ceiling and nine high foot garage doors. I was planning to have two twelve foot wide doors. (16 footers tend to sag and end up being troubles in a long run.) One roll-up would have faced towards the front of the house with a driveway along the south side of the house and another on the northeast corner facing the ally. I figured out how to have a small carport built into the back of the garage so that I would be able to park a vehicle in front of the rear garage door and not have it block the ally if I wasn’t going to park it inside. The way it would have been designed would has allowed me to drive through from one side to another if there would have been a vehicle blocking the driveway on either side.
       In the southwest corner of the shop I was planning to put a shallow mechanic’s pit into it. I figure running it up to the back wall so would double up as a down draft paint booth. I would have installed floor anchors around the pit when I poured the concrete so it would have made a decent frame rack for rebuilding wrecked cars too.

John was willing to help me build it, but he thought I should keep it simple, like a 24 by 24 garage. But that just isn’t how I think. He said he’d help build it but I would have to have all the materials laying right there. As he said, “I just want to go over to the pile and grab what I need. None of this running up to the hardware store shit.” No doubt he would be able to throw one together in a weekend or two, but that’s not how things get done by me. I tend to get involved in the hot to go set-up way of building things and I would have build it out of my pocket, therefore I would have just had him stop by and supervise once in a while.

Well once again -- I have to call it good for a while.
Hope you have enjoyed some of my early years. ☺

The next chapter of Sunnyside's Lousy Book is:
Burning Down the House

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