True Concessions- Prepping for the big derig 11/03/97
(Long Tales from an Epic Slice)
By Clark Merritt, Mom and Baxter Falzone, Attorney at Law
"Death to Dubock and Merritt" was recently published in a mildly popular windsurfing website by a malcontent named Anon from Oxnard. The threat was in response to the literary raping of Bajas most secret wavesailing spot. Laments Merritt " Im no Salmon Rushdie but close friends have toetagged me "Sal, Sal Monella"
Ijust got off the phone with my mom, God bless her soul, and she told me to write this up and convince Clay to print it. By the time you read this, a significant period of time will have passed and I may be dead but the point is still as fresh as when we talked about it. Now as most of my phone calls go with Mom- I call, she acts surprised and delighted to hear from me and then quickly falls into a motherly morass of suspicious, baited skepticism. She initiates the nitty gritty by questioning "Soooo, whats new out in California these days?" (This is traditional family banter, fueled by years of wiley tales, questionable jokes and long past requests for money and her award winning pound cake). You can imagine her chagrin when she popped the proverbial quizzeree and I replied, "Whats new? Well nothing really, oh yeah, youll be proud to know that I have just achieved a new personal lifetime accomplishment by receiving my very first death threat, sort of. Im actually sharing this dubious crowning achievement with a fellow photographer, Glenn Dubock." "Whos Glenn Dubock? What have you gone and done now? Are those two gadflys-Bob Bordeaux and that hooligan Modaddy involved?" she queried. I should tell you that I have taken great care in not exposing my mom to Glenns visual finery. Basically because she would never miss a chance to tell me that although she just loves her only sons artistic endeavors, " couldnt my stuff look a scosh more like Glenn Dubocks." Now I gotta tell you honestly that during my indentureship with Massa Feeta I have on occasion been more than a little envious and jealous of Glenns work. Its good and rightfully so deserves the consistent exposure it receives in this mag (boy this hurts). After all, Glenn gets to go everywhere shooting photos while Im stuck acting out my role as a graphic arts Florence Nightingale for some Orange County based HMO. Glenn gets the covers & kudos and I get to share onshore, dog squat Bolsa Chica leftovers with a bunch of stylized qeebees ,beeper toting hatters and a few well intentioned miscreants thrown in to spice up the lot. But Im not bitter about this, truly Im not.
I gritted my teeth when she opened the famous Only Son lecture series with "You couldnt even get your own death threat? You had to play second fiddle with some total stranger." "Hes not really a stranger mom, I kinda work with him" I replied. "Has he ever been in your backyard torching chicken?" She asked. "No, Mom, but we stared each other down during the Jalama shootout BBQ back in 87.
(I know she gave me of those looks even through the phone). "Is it any consolation that if you knew him youd want me to be just like him?" I whined." "Never mind, just what did the two of you do?" she grilled.
"Nothing really, we dont ever talk or hangout or anything but I did write a story about Dave and his armadillo; you remember, Dave OConnell, the car designer guy. It takes place in Baja at this place everybody goes to get away from it all so they keep it a big secret.
I never really mentioned the place cuz the storys all about Dave." "What did Glenn Dubock do that was so wrong?" she interrupted. "I guess he had some photos published about the place." "In your story!?" "No Mom, in another issue." "Well praise the saints for that. And somebody wants to kill you both for just doing that? What kind of people live out there in the land of fruits and nuts?" "I think you pretty much answered that question Mom." "Well be on the safe side son and write up a confession of anything questionable youve done since youve started windsurfing just in case some wacko tries to do the whoop-ass(translated from its biblical form) on the staff. Then see if that man, Feeter, the publisher will print it. Hes up to his lower lip in this thing just as much as you, Dubock and that impetuous twit. And for Peats sake, warn your coworker Dubock." "Hes not really a coworker Mom, I just know him Ahhh, never mind."
The next two days I thought long and hard about the list, and what it feels like having your own, (albeit shared) personal death threat. At first its a little scary then it meanders its way into denial, then into a sort of fantasyland and finally you pop out into the realm of petty jealously.
I resent having to share it with Glenn. I deserve my own. Let Glenn take the back seat with me for once. Im sure he wont mind giving me top billing this go round. I hope whoever authored our death threat reads this to see what kind of effect it has had, which at this point is no more than a handful of chump change and a little petty jealousy. Well, that and the fact my Mom would like to kick their Moms ass for raising such a lout.
The fun part (there really is a fun part to all this) came when I started the list. I surprised myself at how much Ive done and to whom. At this point Ive had my mom and lawyer severely edit out the finer points that may prohibit my journey into the downunder or hereafter. All things said and done I am now ready for whomever so surreptitiously wishes to set me up for my final derig.
But first The Other List
Before we get to the list we need to review some things that I absolutely, positively did not do. Nor did any of my very close compadres. I dont know or care if the fiends ever confess or be caught. I sorta like it that way. It sparks legend and folklore about a place. Hmmm maybe thats what all this fuss is really about. Whoooaa cosmic dude.
In San Carlos there is a famous off yellow shed that has been the center of controversy for many years. I have been accused of torching it on numerous occasions as well as other acts of wanton vandalism. Although I have dreamed of setting off nuclear strength piles of high explosives underneath it, mostly after a Schwartzenegger movie and double pepperoni pizza, alas, I have never ever done anything to it. Well, maybe back in the late 80s I peeed on it once but that may also have been Jeff Erichs Ugg Boot.
Things tended to get a little fuzzy after the tequila and six hours of 4.0s. Jeff would know. Ask him. I think hes still hiding in Manhattan, NYC.
Another Pyro Thang Ah the torchin of the Outhouse in ole San Carlos. There have been many eyewitness accounts of me torchin that sacred vestibule. Trouble is those accounts conflict with me actually grueling on a press check in Detroit at the very same time. Must have been the dreaded Clarkacabra. Until now Ive never loved that ole house, in fact I used to walk a mile into the hills for a little deepdish morning constitution with nature.
But I never torched or abused it. Finally, last year I felt the need and got the callin after an evening of hearty repast over at John Staffs camp. Seemed John was unwittingly serving up some over rippened carne asada. The very next morning I, in a very tainted and urgent state, ran the longest and fastest 75-yard sprint of my life. Lucky thing I beat out Johns other 3 dinner guests by a snoz. God Bless that ole house.
Assorted Mysteries, Accusations and Just Strange Going-ons. For the record - I have never dug up the runway, pilfered crustacean traps, vandalized trailers, put that king snake in Debbie Moshatzs sleeping bag, soaped the spudknockers surfboards at midnite on the October 94 trip, ripped Mark Nelsons coveted spacious Ted Williams special Kitchen Tent or ever traded Bob Bourget to the fisherman for crabs and lobsters. Most of the time I was by nine oclock, subdued by sleep induced by a triple strength Advil cocktail. But enough said about that. Oh Yeah I did not propagate the rumor that Clayborne Feeter is a kissin cousin to celebrity DJ Rick Dees. As far as I know, any resemblance both physical or verbal, is purely coincidental.
And now The List
By Jove I Think He Said It. I have for over ten years remained stalwart in my promise to never mention "San Carlos" in any of my ramblings. It wasnt until Brother Caserio in his Benedicto Diatribo an issue or two back that it dawned on me "what the heck for?" Thanks Mr. C! Im free! I counted at least seven times (one for each of the 7 sisters) that Ive said that most holy of pronouns in this piece and that should by the Fretters of San Carlos Propagatus Indexus begat about 483 new converts by the year 2001. But seriously folks, it wasnt the articles, photos or maps that really did it in. It was you and me and our closest of bros that only told our other good friends with a fire in our eyes we havent had since we were kids. And thats ok. No matter what you say its still confirmed although quite rare, you can still find only three cars on the bluffs in Spring-Summer when you round that corner after a dusty, two hour ride.
Cow tipping in the Vicinity of Arroyo Laguna - A leftover college thing that I now regret. It started as a bet, a science experiment that went sour. But we all know the finer points of this once popular Celtic Nocturnal Bovinic pastime.
The amazing thing is that one of them cows actually slept in until about 9am the next morning.
Several of the L.A. boys swore the thing had died in the night and had assumed the position as a final act of indignant consternation. Nerves were frying as we debated leaving the scene of the assumed crime or hanging for more sesh time.
You should have seen those city slickers sitting around in a circle marveling at the ninth wonder of the world. It was truly a joyous thing to see that cow fall over and give out a moo when ole Doc M stuffed a hand full of ammonia capsules up its nose.
The real Bummer is that afterward; a girlfriend of a very famous windsurfer chastised us all the way home. I dont believe she ever traveled with us again as a mutual decision. Also swore off cow tipping in the heat of the crisis.
Found I still had a little cow tipping left in me. This time in Jalama with the boys. Problem was that my cow turned out to be a fast bull that connected with my right thigh propelling me into a barbed wire fence, leaving me bruised and well perforated. I could have used a helpin of John Staffs carne asada that night. Changed to pig tipping, but found no fascination in it, had a brief stint with countyline ground squirrels but they demanded treats after each performance so I finally gave up animal husbandry for a fast paced exciting career in healthcare marketing. Been successfully using my cow tipping skills, ever since.
Wrote the first article about our adventures in Centenario. Rich Myers begged me not to publish the story and photos. Bribed me with three used sails. I compromised by reversing San Carlos photos to throw off the readers. Worked pretty well but several keen eye sail shop gumshoes found me out and exposed me for a fraud. The word spread that Centenario was really San Carlos and Rich was delighted. The real photos mysteriously vanished just prior to Rich moving to Maui. George Trafton is rumored to have buried them in a waterproof vault box somewhere in a cave in Malibus Arroyo Sequit Canyon.
Dave OConnell told me that he ran into Mickey Dora on a beach in France last year, quizzed him about the place and Dora confirmed everything down to the thistle bushes. Sensing that he had peaked Daves interest he offered to sell him a map for one hundred American dollars. Dave with only Francs and American Express Checks watched him walk away mumbling something about the IRS. I have tried to re-enter the area three times with disastrous results. All the original landmarks are gone with the flood of 94. I am now thoroughly convinced that the place is haunted and cursed. One day I will find it again with just a few trustworthy friends.
Point Mugu - 1992 Bob is lifeguarding at Mugu State Park. Callegas creek has been going off all summer and he sees the potential for an epic wavesailing photo sesh. The problem is that it is on very restricted U.S. Navy property.
Doing his homework, he calls Windtracks to cinch up an article with Modaddy and I. Clay, the publisher, being his usually jovial boisterous self, encourages Bob to pursue the story, - so Bob thinks. Him and Mo sail up the half-mile distance to the creek while I sneak in to the creekmouth across the marsh, cameras at the ready. 20 minutes later a full blown, high-speed pursuit by air, land and sea, corners us, literally up the creek.
Now in custody, we explain about our sanctioned article and that any costs associated with our capture will be paid by the magazine. A fax requesting $5,000 in expenses for our capture is sent to Clay. Clay sensing another "Merritt Prank" blows it off in favor of a 4.0 day and its curtains for all of us.
Mo having just returned from the SAR show pulls out a card from a recent contact from an Euro Windsurf magazine and makes the call. A deal for exclusive rights to the article is laid out and we forfeit all the money to the Navy and we are free at last. We bitterly break from the magazine for over a year. I break another vow and sell photos to Windsurfing magazine under an assumed name. Later at the PWA trade show in SFO we all make peace with a bottle of Centenario and some fine Cuban cigars. Clay still pines for the article. Our attorneys say cease and desist for not enough time has legally passed.
During my 4-year sentence here in Huntington Beach I have always been intrigued at the possibilities of sailing a broad reach from Warner Ave, down to the dam, in the calm estuary backwater of the Bolsa Chica Wetlands.
The run would need to be done during a Santa Ana condition on the deep side of the lagoon that runs right along side Pacific Coast Highway, increasing the chances of being seen. The stakes were high, as the local park officials would find several ordinances to arrest you, if caught.
In addition there would be a public stoning, extricated by Audubon Wildlife lovers and the entire population of constituents from the many conservancy organizations. Thats why it was decided to do it very late at night and on flat black painted sails. And there was one other small problem. The bottom was covered with stingrays. There were only two foolhardy adventurers crazy enough to risk capture and they shall remain nameless. The Santa Ana winds start in the fall, coinciding with the Water Planets semiannual swap meet. $30 cheap sails were purchased and painted flat black for the mission. Then we waited. In early November a mid-week condition came up and we were on. At 3:00 in the morning we launched in the lagoon near the Huntington Harbour bridge with only the lights from the beach park to guide us. It was a stiff wind; easily 5.0 weather and we were instantly over powered and planing on our black 6.0s. It was exactly as I had thought it would be. The calm smooth water made it a speed run. The distance is less than a mile, jibe to jibe. As we approached the dam I remembered that there might be a semi- submerged shopping cart in my jibe path. Less than a second later my hypothesis proved correct as my board entered the cavity of the cart at twenty knots. I was immediately and violently catapulted from my rig into the shallows of the lagoon. That in itself was painful. I landed on my back and instantly felt two sharp stabs in my leg and shoulder from rays. Dazed and in pain I lay there looking over at my mangled rig -sail separated from the board.
My two compadres noticed my dilemma as they jibed around my rig. I shouted that I was ok and in an instant they were gone into the darkness. Inching over to the rig I had only one alternative - drag it all to the bluff and hobble it back to my truck. The episode was not without its share of close calls. A Sheriff patrol car pulled into the Wetlands conservancy parking lot headlights scanning the length of the narrow bay as it turned. The beam of light highlighted one of the sails for a moment before turning back on to Warner Ave. The driver preoccupied or just tired never had a clue. We were fortunate that we had only a waning crescent moon to give us away.
It was my finest walk of shame, watching my friends boldly sailing where no one had sailed before.
The whole go out lasted less than an hour, and for me it was only about 12 minutes. But I was just stoked to have done it and not being caught. The two ray punctures reminded me of the consequences of the mission for months to come.
And now for the Finale
On one trip to San Carlos it does not blow for 5 days straight and the surf is flat. A pestilence of flies and mice infests everything. Fellow Malibu sailor, Traig Trumbo, is caught pilfering our kitchen tent for goodies in the dark of night. During this treachery he is overheard acting out both Yogi and Booboos speaking parts as he stuffs his tote sack. Soon after he is apprehended by Ranger Bob, with the goods and a courtroom is hastily constructed around the campfire. Traig is now a defendant in the most bizarre trial of his life. He stands accused of being a half-breed, Toontown cartoon, a role he was destined to play. I represent the prosecution with Bailiff Bob, opposite Mo for the defense. There is judge, jury, witnesses, exhibitors and gallery all fueled on beer, rum and tequila. There are briefs and counterbriefs, depositions and more tequila. The trial goes on until nearly midnight. Exhausted, drunk and ornery the jurors beg to be released. The evidence is overwhelmingly against Traig so he falls on his knees begging for mercy, unfortunately slipping into the voice of Felix the Cat. The jury is not amused and storms the box. They pick him up, carry him down to the waterline and cast him into the 56-degree water from a promenade on the point. Staggering from the moss-covered rock-filled tidepool he loses an Ugg and is made to improvise his footwear with duct tape and stale french bread for the rest of the trip.
Four months later, the episode still fresh in his mind, Traig volunteers to house sit for my wife and I during our vacation. He immediately commandeers our rabbit, walking him on the beach, on a leash. This proves to be a very effective icebreaker with the ladies and he scores heavy with the Secos Beach Betties, in our bed. Accompanied by Billy Wilson they turn our modest Malibu hamlet into the hippest of beachside hotspots. Traig, also a state lifeguard, graciously donates the abode for the Annual State Lifeguard Rodeo Roundup. Four hundred, very excited and inebriated houseguests kick out the jams for three straight days. In his more quieter of moments, he corrupts our bunny with margaritas and trains our African Grey parrot, Otis, the profane vocabulary of a well read, drunken sot.
This will prove particularly interesting to my in-laws and guests during Thanksgiving dinner, several weeks later. When confronted with these atrocities by my wife, Traigs only response was, "Well, at least I washed the sheets."
Theres nothing really special about these memories, except to me. Sailing Jaws or Nomotu would certainly be more interesting to you, especially if Bob, Mo and I found our way to it. But I am glad to have had the opportunity to get these little episodes off my chest. I know Mom sure is. Id like to thank Anon of Oxnard for forcing me to drift down memory lane. I realize now how much I really miss the crew in Malibu and how Id miss my new friends down at the Bolsa Chica if I moved back. Hopefully the next time Clay gets our urgent fax for cash from some unusual or exotic place hell come through. And maybe something more important.
I hope that Anon of Oxnard, in all his proclivity, has an opportunity in the future to find resolution with some of the things that he or she has done. Until Mo, Bob, Mark, Traig and the even longer list of windsurfing miscreants that flow in and out of my life, congregate once again within those hallowed halls of Epic Seshdom ..