Roy’s Real Tales #3

Sister Golden Hair So Bright

I always liked to read, especially alternative books about art and politics.  “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee”, was an eye-opening book that started me asking questions about our government and history at an early age.  It was history as told by the Native Americans not the Governmaent. My older sisters were barefoot, bell bottom wearing hippies. My sister Christine always carried that paper back in her back pocket, it was her little rebellion bible. One day I asked her, “Why you always carry that? I want to read it.” I grew up watching the Vietnam War on the nightly news and witnessing the Watergate scandal – I just wasn’t buying the rosy, All American Dream they were trying to sell me at school.  After reading that book me and my sister were bonded. I got her vibe and I was down. My days now consisted of leading my own crooked path, waking at dawn to surf and smoking a joint on the way to school with my sis. 

The teachers tore up my drawings when they could but they only got about ten percent of them.  I’d smoke another joint at snack break and show my friends my new creations.  Surfing Magazine was my bible, it was the only literature I really cared about and in that book there was a cartoon messiah who changed my life and inspired me like nobody since Walt Disney as a kid.

Rick Griffin

Art by Rick Griffin

His name was Rick Griffin. Holy Fkn Guacamole!  What did this guy eat for breakfast?!?  He blew my mind!!! My parting on the left was now a parting to the right!!!  He was the man!!! He was from San Clemente, the home of Surfer Magazine right down the road so my goal was to meet my hero and show him my art one day.  I pored over his cartoons and drawings constantly.  He set the standard, anyone else was just an imitation or derivative of his work and vision.  It was like Walt Disney took some acid, told the establishment to fuck off and went surfing.  He drew the world I lived in absolutely and authentically correct, only cooler, inspiring and awesome.  I pored over Griffin’s work for hours being transported to his mystical surfing world.  I put extra time and care into my own drawings.  

Years later, a guy I’d never met was yelling at me, giving me shit for drawing like Rick Griffin, he didn’t know that was the highest compliment he could give me.  As if I played guitar and he was accusing me of sounding like Hendrix.  I never knew I would make a living with my art and it has not been easy.  Back as a kid drawing waves there was no one else to emulate.  Rick Griffin, John Severson and Ogden were my holy trinity.  I devoured every pen and paint line they ever laid down.  No one ever taught me shit about art so if my work is reminiscent of theirs, I am proud.  I learned myself by studying the best.  I believe every artist is a vehicle, an ink spewing sponge, taking in his inspirations and spitting it out for the next generation.  You don’t choose to be an artist; artists are chosen!!

Time went by and my sister Christine got her driver’s license, yahhh!!  We’re mobile now!  We only lived 20 minutes inland from Salt Creek beach but without a car as a kid, it was like a hundred miles away.  I would get there however, whatever.  I was fearless! I had come from the heaviest neighborhood in LA and skateboarded  through gangs to get my Nanas Masa for her tamales at Christmas!  I was a little league all-star and played middle linebacker in Pop Warner football. I still had the best monster stickers, Mad Magazine and baseball card collections on the planet. My Pops taught me the one-two punch!  I was pushing 5 feet and weighing in at a buck twenty and was about to get my first hair on my nuts!!  I pitied the fool who would ever mess with me!  The one thing that did scare the hell out of me was that my sister was 10 times more fearless!  She was my Irish twin and one of my mentors. I loved and looked up to her so much.  My sister’s golden hair so bright, she shined wherever she went!  The hippy free-spirit California beach girl rebel that definitely listened to her own drum beat.  She was a vegan at 14 and worked at natural food stands. I was a little grom chip tester when she and her girlfriends came up with the Hava Chips in Laguna’s Hava Stand.  That’s where the Hava Chips came from – the Hava Stand and I would hang out in the back and eat the chips.  Next thing I knew I was also a carrot juice guzzling, trail mix granola juggling health food nut.  Nature was our church and the sunshine was our shrine. All was cool and groovy but when I would see her on the side of the road with her friends with their bell bottoms on thumbing to the beach, I would get so nervous that she and her friends may never come back home.  Now that secret nightmare I lived daily was finally over!  We now had our own ride!  No more need to thumb!

‘62 Convertible, throw the boards in the back and we were gone, cruising the coast to Mexico or Santa Barbara.  As much as I dug the beach, she loved it more and now she had a V8 engine under her “free bird wings”.  Back then localism was a real deal, when you went to a localized surf spot as an outsider you were never welcomed with open arms. I knew this but Christine was adamantly against it.  She reminded me many times that I was a native american and like our nomadic elders, everywhere we go, from the mountains to the sea, we go giving love and receiving love.  Full hippy chick!  Punk rock!  That was my Sister Sheshalman and she always practiced what she preached!  Maybe it was the way we were raised when my pops would get all us kids into the station wagon to go to the beach and my poor little Mums making more sandwiches that could feed an army to share with anyone around us who was hungry or thirsty.  My sister was the same, always had her Mother Nature goody bag packed in the car with avocado and sprouts sandwiches and her almighty granola trail mix to share with whoever, wherever we arrived.  Me, I was her juvenile delinquent, five-finger lid slinging brother who could roll a joint faster than the meanest stink-eyed locals could smoke. Soon older guys who used to hop me and tell me to split were being cool and gave waves so they could meet my beautiful sister and her gorgeous friends. I knew the game, happened to me my whole life.  It wasn’t me they liked but as time went by we all ended up becoming lifelong friends.  Life was great! 1 was a young grom, in with the in crowd at all the parties because I was with my sister and her friends. Rock concerts, surf movie premiers – the 70s was cool!

My Sister was a trip, she was oblivious to all the heads she turned or never really cared. My new first name was ‘where’s your sister’ and my last name was ‘you have a joint?’  I would give them a daddy roller and point up at my sister sitting on the park bench.  After surfing she gave homemade, heartfelt, granola cookies to the old folks.  She loved, loved, loved and respected old people. We were all taught in my family to respect our elders. Every holiday I had to always kiss my Aunt Mary from Mexico on the lips (lips like Yogi Berra’s catchers mitt with gray whiskers) to show my loyalty!  That was rough, and if I dare wipe my mouth off after, my uncles would have beat me.  Christine took it to a different level. If an old lady was crossing the street my sister would be the first to hold her hand to bring her across. I was a kid just wanting to go surfing. The next thing I’m in a half hour conversation with a grandma I don’t even know. My sister loved taking her new elderly friend and her husband for ice cream! I asked her one day why do you love old people so much?  She looked at me like I was new!  She said, “They are the roots, they are golden!”

(Rick Fignettie, Sean McNulty, Pat Allen)

One weekend a friend invited me to stay at his house and surf Blacks Beach, one of my favorite waves, and he said there was a freak summer west swell and it was going to be nuts. I told Sis lets go but she had other plans. I went and it was even better than I could have imagined, crystal clear, glassy perfect barrels for three days.  I was with the lokes so was getting the best waves of my life. It was a weekend I would forever remember but soon wanting to forever forget.  When I arrived home, sunburnt, surf stoked, stoned to the bone. I was suddenly surrounded by aunts, uncles and cousins telling the most horrific news I could not ever want any other human to experience. They told me my sister Chrisine had died in a car crash while I had been gone! Whattt!!!!  It was more than my young brain could ever come close to comprehend!  Everything went into slow motion. I saw lips moving but I couldn’t, or wouldn’t listen to what they wanted to say, or see any of them.  I was just on a bad trip.  I pushed everyone away and went to my room, locked the door and went to bed to sleep it off.  When I woke the next morning I was fresh, totally forgetting about the nightmare that soon to become reality.  When I came into the living room they were all still there.  It was like a bomb had landed in my living room and I just had a spear thrown into my heart.  The first cut is the deepest!  My world was turned upside down, inside out!  There was no more denying, it was time for heartfelt hugging and crying.  I had to face the dragon and be strong for my mom and dad and sisters. My worst fear had come true. My freebird did not return home. She had spread her Angel wings to fly to a higher plane.  A star that shines so bright does not shine as long.  God has his plan.  I am forever blessed and grateful for the time we spent together on this earth and will miss you and love you for eternity my sister golden hair so bright!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *