Mark Barkawitz

STORYBLOG

8/20/2016

Ckout my short-short story, “Amphibious Again,” on pg 9! Wet ‘n wild rehab & recovery! https://issuu.com/inspireusma…/…/inspire_us_magazine_-_aug16

Inspire Us magazine – August 2016
issuu.com

7/24/2016

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Went down to South Oceanside for some waves.  Stayed in my in-law’s empty condo on the beach. (Lucky me!)  Fun, beach-break waves.  Mostly 3′ – 5′.

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Under the palapa in front of the condo

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Sunset from the condo balcony

7/4/2016

Flag & Summa1

HAPPY 4th of JULY!

2/10/2016

jpl ride5

Winter in SoCal: It was 86 degrees @ the beach today due to El Nino combined with Santa Ana condition.  But no waves, so I went mountain bike riding behind Jet Propulsion Laboratory instead.  (I still like to go fast downhill!)

10/1/2015

sunset shark

Got to Sunset Beach this morning & was alarmed to find warnings of “SHARK SIGHTINGS” posted!  But the air was 78 degrees, the water 75 degrees–thanks, El Nino–& the waves were pretty good, so I went out anyway.

sunset buds

We didn’t get eaten!  Surfed with local Mike “Grave-Digger” Clements.

9/11/2015

Oceanside 9-11-15

My old elementary school pal, Frankie Zaita, stopped by the condo (my mother-in-law’s) where I was staying at South Oceanside.  We followed a bike trail to Carlsbad & back.  Fun ride!   Dove into the 75 degree ocean right after this photo was taken.

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9/28/’14

dan6

Been awhile since I last updated this page.  All’s well!  Still writing & surfing as much as possible.  This was from a small day at my favorite local break, Sunset Beach.  Bigger waves were supposed to show but didn’t.  Dan Unfried had a new telephoto lens & got some good pics anyway.  As usual–had fun!

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6/6/2013

Mark & Summa

This is the two-year anniversary of my stem cell transplant @ City of Hope.  Summa & I are both glad I’m still breathing air & not pushin’ up daisies.  LOL!  I am one lucky dude!

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12/25/2012

Played golf on Christmas day at Arroyo Seco with nephews Kevin & James, son Nick (sunglasses) ,  & high school bud Ron “Itchy Rat” Crawford (golf bag).  My first time out since back surgery last February.  Stiff as a board & only made one par all day but had a great time.  My brother-in-law Bob (taking picture) played par golf!

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11/3/2012

My son Nick & I went surfing last week.  Santa Ana conditions: mild off-shore winds, 80 degrees on beach, & 68 in water.  He played photographer for me at my favorite break–Sunset Beach.  Small but fun waves &  I was rippin’!

First wave–my hair’s still dry.

Smoo-o-oth cut-back!

Going backside on a fun, little left.

The right place at the right time.

Dropping inside.  Sure had a lot of fun with my boy that morning.  Looking forward to more Santa Ana conditions tomorrow & Monday. Hope there’s a swell.  Have to check surfline.com.  Life after cancer sure is fun!  I’ll keep you updated.  MB

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8/19/2012

Surfed Doheny last Monday.  2′ – 5′ with nice shape & warm water.  Then surfed Sunset Beach on Saturday.  3′ – 5′.  Some pretty nice peaks.  Got tubed on a big right!  So much fun.  Love being healthy, semi-retired, & chasing waves again.  There is life after cancer, my friends!!!

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7/26/2012

Five months & one week after back-fusion surgery–three titanium rods installed with a half-dozen screws–I was able to paddle-out & ride waves again.  Thank you, Dr. Rahul Jandial!

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Just got out of the ocean.  One year ago, I was in an isolation unit at City of Hope, getting a stem cell transplant to wipe-out my cancer.  Never envisioned I’d be able to surf again.  Heck, I even enjoyed the day’s wipe-outs!  Muchos gracias, Drs. Hu & Htut, the City of Hope, & the Big Guy &/or Gal upstairs for saving me.  Life is good again!  MB

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6/15/2012

 

GAME

by

Mark Barkawitz

 

 

It’s late Sunday afternoon.  My teenage son and his friend aren’t yet back from shooting hoops at the park.  My son plays on the freshman basketball team at his high school.  He plays pick-up games at the park to work on his game, experiment with new moves his coach would glower at in league play.  So my wife, who doesn’t like them to hang-out alone for too long down there, prods me off the couch to bring them home.  I put on my old sneaks (just in case my ball-handling skills are needed) and jog the few blocks to the park.

The wide-open, grass-covered square block is filled with families and teams of amateur athletes, playing softball on the diamond, soccer on the grass, and basketball on the courts.  Frisbees fly on air smoky and sweetened by barbeques.  Friends eat in groups at tables and on benches.  Kids swing on playground swings, ride razor scooters on walkways, and run zig-zag everywhere.  But as I near the b-ball courts, another sweet, familiar fragrance wafts past me.  Three young guys—late teens or early twenties—share a burning roach on the sidelines of the court under a sign which reads: “DRUG FREE ZONE—Increased Penalties for Drug Use or Possession.” One guy—with tatts and scars—looks like a gang-banger maybe; the other two are just a couple of tight-eyed knuckleheads.  No one says anything to them, even though we all know it’s not cool to smoke around kids.  But why start trouble?  Or risk acting uncool.

Everyone plays basketball nowadays: blacks, whites, Asians, Armenians, Latinos.  Even girls.  It isn’t about color or sex.  It’s about game.  And whether or not you have it—the ability to impose your will upon others.  I recognize some of the guys hangin’ on the sidelines from past games.  I nod.  They nod back.  Everyone’s cool.

On the court, my son—fourteen and already taller than I—pushes the ball on a fast break, then passes off to his buddy in the corner, who jacks up a three-pointer that clangs off the rim.  But their center—tall, broad-shouldered, a little older than the others and obviously the most imposing presence on the painted asphalt—trails the fast break, muscles the rebound away from the opposition, and slams home what is apparently the game-winning basket.  The losers swear, hang their heads as they relinquish the court.  Another make-shift team runs out to challenge the winners, who slap palms and knock fists in victory.  My son spots me on the sidelines and gestures if I want in their game.  I shake my head and indicate that it’s time to go.  Reluctantly, he tells his buddy.  They bid goodbye to their center, who offers his fist.  Eager to be comrades with the big man in the middle, each boy coolly bumps knuckles with their center before walking off the court.

My son grabs his basketball from the bench.  His bud grabs a backpack, from which he produces an iPod; he places the earbuds in his ears.  As they relate the day’s exploits, they smell of sweat, not weed.  I’m relieved.  Not that I have any reason to be suspicious.  It’s just the situation.  And they are teenagers.  So I’m still anxious as we leave the park.

I hate sounding like a parent, but it’s my job, so as we walk home, I give them the low-down: “Just so you know, this is what’s going to happen down there.  Someone’s going to complain.  Cop cars are going to pull up on both sides of the court.  Three, maybe four cops will approach.  One of the guys in the game—an undercover cop—will point.  Him, him, him.  Cops are going to bust anyone who’s been smoking weed in a public park.  Cuff ‘em and throw ‘em in jail.  Just so you know.”

My son dribbles the ball between his legs and replies: “We weren’t smoking, Dad.”

“I know.  I’m just letting you know.”

“Dude, Big Man already told us,” his buddy adds, although I’m not sure how he can hear me with the earpods blaring in his ears.

“Big Man?”

“Our center,” my son explains.

His buddy continues: “Dude, Big Man said you got to prioritize.  Get your education, your wife, your house, your fence, and your dog first.  Then smoke if you wanna smoke, Dude.”

It isn’t the worst advice I’ve ever heard.  They’re a long way from the “then” part.  But as I said, it’s my job, so I’m compelled to add to Big Man’s game plan: “Just don’t do it.  Okay?” All of a sudden, I’m Nancy Reagan in baggy shorts and high-tops.

Still dribbling, my son advises: “Don’t worry, Dad.”

“Right.”

His friend adds: “Dude, we’re cool.”

Yeah, everyone’s cool.  “Let’s not mention this to your mother.”

My son picks up his dribble, “Dad, I’m not crazy,” and looks at me as if I’m crazy.

“Dude,” his bud agrees.

I nod.  Right.  But when we cross the street together—it’s about game, boys—I reach in, poke the ball away, and push it out front like a point guard on a break-away.  Laughing and cussing behind, the boys chase me up the block and follow me home.

 

Three weeks later, the cops make their bust at the park.  Game.

(Photo by Jim Kendall)

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5/17/2012

A HAPPY GUY

i’m usually a pretty happy guy.

i was even happy the day my spine

was sliced open and hardware installed.

of course, i woke up with a morphine-strength drip

and the ability to self-administer every ten minutes.

(the nurses took away that toy the next day.)

still, I was happy.

 

but admittedly, the cancer that had spawned in my marrow

—weakening my vertebrae, threatening my life—

really pissed me off.

i wanted to kick cancer’s ass—

break its back, just as it had mine!

but anger and machismo aren’t enough

against such a ruthless killer.

 

it’s said that it takes a village to raise a child.

i know it took my hmo, primary care physician, two

great oncologists, talented and caring nurses, office staff,

and the entire city of hope to raze the cancer from my bones.

then a top-notch neurosurgeon and another

hospital et al to put me back together again—

an incredibly lucky, grateful, and happy guy.

 

barkawitz

 

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4/23/2012

                    SEEDS

 

we sat on the front porch,

my six-year-old boy and i,

eating watermelon under a hot sun.

dutifully, i demonstrated

the art of watermelon seed spitting . . .

 

while practicing,

he became engrossed with the pattern

of seeds that had fallen short

and dribbled down his chin

to the pavement below.

 

between his sneakered feet,

four white seeds surrounded

a single black seed.

“hey, dad.  is that rodney king or what?”

he looked up at me.

 

one doesn’t expect

metaphors of such magnitude

from a kindergarten graduate.

i put my free arm

around his shoulders.

 

but then again, it had been

a season of unexpected verdicts.

at least for a forty-year-old white guy,

sitting on his front porch,

eating watermelon.

 

barkawitz

 

National winner 12th Annual Salute to Arts Contest,

Triton College, IL, ’93.                   

 (Illustration by Jonathon Lo)

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4/19/2012

 
Bella is a 4 year-old golden retriever that I bred in my Woof Goldens line.  She is currently starring in a video about flea protection (in the beginning & again @ 2:14).  She also just shot a national commercial for GPS tracking and word on the street is that she’s up for the canine lead in an upcoming Christmas movie!  It’s nice when your children do well.
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3/30/2012

ANGEL’S SLIDE

by

Mark Barkawitz

 

It was the late spring of 1969, when my friend Mike Condon introduced us to the short-lived phenomenon we called Angel’s Slide (aka The Slide; Booty Slide).  It was so christened because of the large, artfully spray-painted angel, who slid on her belly amid the graffiti down the side wall of the concrete wash.  Hidden in the Arroyo Seco under Pasadena’s renowned Suicide (Colorado) Bridge, this wide, sloping, concrete spillway connects the upper creek to the concrete wash below which carries the spring run-off from Devil’s Gate Dam to the Pacific Ocean.   Covered in slippery moss from the creek water that spilled over the top of this over-sized inclined plane, it was the pre-cursor of the giant water slides at today’s water parks.  And that spring, it became our playground, much to the consternation of our local police department.

Most of us who were involved in this unauthorized use of county property were local high school students or enrolled at Pasadena City College.   And most were avid skateboarders and/or surfers.  So when Mike told a group of us that he had discovered this ready-to-ride water slide, we put on our surf trunks or cut-off Levis and followed him to a small street under Suicide Bridge.  We climbed down the dirt walls of the Arroyo to where the creek water backed-up and formed a shallow pond, which then ran over the edge of the spillway.  It washed down over the entire width of the concrete incline to the likewise concrete wash below, where debris—tree limbs, leaves, rocks, bottles, cans, and plastic bags—had deposited at the bottom.  On the far side, a thick, knotted rope ran conveniently from the top to the bottom of the run. (We had no idea who had previously-installed this necessary ascending device—perhaps the angel’s unknown artist?)  Shirtless and barefoot, Mike waded through the shallow pond water and sat atop the spillway, as if on the crest of a stilled wave.  To demonstrate for us, he pushed himself over the edge and slid smoothly on his rear end all the way down the face of the concrete water slide to its trashy bottom.  He then used the knotted rope to climb back up.  We smiled collusively, as if we had just discovered a secret surfing spot.  We cleaned away the trash and debris at the bottom. At first, we slid cautiously on our booties down the slippery-wet incline.  But before long, we were belly-slidin’, going-down-backwards, and standing up like surfer/skateboarders, riding on our bare feet over the mossy, smoothly-worn concrete of the washed-over spillway.  The next day, we came back with our girlfriends and dogs.  It was like a day at the beach, without the freeway drive.

Before long, word began to leak out about our secret spot and more and more young people came to ride Angel’s Slide.  Spectators peered down at us to cheer and take snapshots.  A TV reporter even showed up with a cameraman one day.  Later at home, we watched Mike in his green and yellow surf trunks interviewed on the local news.  Then for his TV audience, Mike rode down standing-up, like a board-less surfer.

Apparently, we weren’t the only ones watching the TV news that night.  Because the next day, the Pasadena Police showed up at Angel’s Slide, too.  One of them got out a bullhorn and informed us we were trespassing and had to come up out of the canyon immediately.  Most complied.  But this was 1969 and my friends and I were long-hairs and some of us political activists, so we had had dealings with The Man on previous occasions.  As such, we were already hiding-out in the overgrown bushes as soon as we saw the patrol car pull up and park.  Tickets for trespassing were written for those who had obeyed the policeman’s orders.  We waited-out the cops, who suspected there were more of us hiding down below, but they drove off eventually anyway—better things to do with their time.

The next day after school, we found the rope ladder had been cut-off and removed and the bottom of Angel’s Slide was littered with broken glass.  Apparently, county workers had done the dirty deeds, breaking bottles at the top which washed down and deposited the broken glass at the bottom.  Closing down Angel’s Slide made sense of course.  It was dangerous.  None of us wore helmets.  All of us had bonked our noggins, had road-rash on our elbows and knees, contusions everywhere, and split toes from riding the concrete beast.  But foolhardy youth that we were, it wasn’t enough to dissuade us.  So we brought our own rope ladder and brooms to sweep away the glass.  After all, we were locals; it was our spot.  We rode Angel’s Slide again.

But the cops returned, too, and this time with reinforcements.  They climbed down the canyon walls in search of scofflaws.  Three of us—my little brother Bruce, our friend “Thick” Dick Alfano, and I—snuck upstream under the cover of shrubs and trees.  But the police had anticipated our escape route and had already sent two park rangers on horseback down from the upper canyon.  We were trapped like proverbial rats.  Most won’t believe what I’m about to tell you; it’s the storyline of folklore and TV shows.   But I swear on my late brother’s ashes, it’s the truth.  Before the rangers spotted us, we waded out into an over-grown lagoon.  Bruce took out his Buck pocket-knife and cut us each a reed.  We three submerged, eyes squeezed closed, breathing under the murky water through the hollow reeds for what felt like an hour, but in fact, was only a minute or two.  When we quietly—one at a time—broke the surface of the water and looked around, the rangers had passed by us.  As the cops made their arrests downstream, we hiked up the canyon and made our dripping-wet get-away.

Fortunately, before my friends and I ended up behind bars at the Pasadena Police Station or in the orthopedic ward at Huntington Hospital, Nature took its course and saved us all a lot of trouble; summer arrived, the creek dried up, and Angel’s Slide shut down naturally.   And when we returned next spring, the county had in the interim re-routed the water at the top of the spillway, so that it only ran down a small portion of the concrete slide near the wall, making it impossible to ride.  Thus ended this small piece of history from Pasadena’s underbelly known as Angel’s Slide.

 

If you somehow manage (as I did recently) to get around the locked gate which the county now uses to fence off this restricted area under Suicide Bridge, you’ll only find gray primer spot-painted over the graffiti and sliding angel on its concrete wall—more a memory than a monument.

 (Illustration by Newa; Photo by Author)

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3/26/2012

ME=MC SQUARED

by

Mark Barkawitz

    I return home from a long run.  Sweat rolls down my face and bare back.  As I climb our front porch steps, my six-year-old daughter greets me with a weird look on her face.

“Your hair looks like that Elmer Einstein guy,” she says to me.

I pant a laugh.

Unfortunately, she continues: “You’re supposed to be dead.”

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3/22/2012

200 METERS

by

Mark Barkawitz

 

 

When she draws the outside lane, I mumble my displeasure, then look my daughter in the eyes.

“It’s the toughest lane to win from.  You’ll think you’re leading, then as you come out of the turn, the entire field makes up the stagger.”

“I know, Dad.” Even though she’s only twelve, she’s already run this race a dozen times for our track team.

“Don’t let ‘em catch you.   You’re fast enough.   Strong enough.”

She’s trained hard this season—the onus of being “coach’s daughter”—and was blessed with sprinter’s speed.  She sips her water bottle, tosses it to me, then walks across the track on long, sinewy legs below team red running shorts and white tee.  She sets herself in the outside lane—toes the line, leans forward, head down—focused.

At the crack of the starter’s gun, she’s the first one out, already increasing her staggered-lead.  Leaning into the turn, her long legs lithely reach ahead, turning over like a sprocket, driving her, arms pumping synchronically, hands slicing ahead, ponytail waving blondely behind.

As the grandstand cheers, no one catches her out of the turn and she continues an indomitable pace down the straight-away never relinquishing her lead until she crosses the finish line first in personal best, meet record time.

As the officials take her race sticker to record her victory on their clipboards, I jog across the infield grass, a privilege I’m granted as head coach.

Panting deeply, she finger-laces her hands atop her head, spreading her arms and chest to increase her lung capacity, just as I’ve coached her.  When she sees me, she smiles wearily, confidently, and leans into my arms.

I hold her, a privilege I’m granted as Dad.

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3/19/2012

BIG DOGS

i have big dogs.

i like to wrestle with them.

they wrestle back.

 

my hands and arms

are usually scarred with

claw and fang marks.

 

and there’s the occasional

paw in the eye.

but it’s all in good fun.

 

my great dane broke my arm.

inadvertently, of course.

that wasn’t fun.

 

i was in a cast

for two months.

i hate casts.

 

but i don’t blame her.

those things happen,

when you wrestle big dogs.

 

barkawitz

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3/12/2012

WHEN SHE GETS EXCITED

my free-spirited great dane

runs a self-imposed course

around the ivy-covered

 

outskirts of our backyard.

round and round she goes—

forelegs reaching out,

 

paws pounding the lawn,

hindlegs pumping like a

thoroughbred around the

 

turn at santa anita—

until tired and panting,

she prances proudly towards me.

 

i smile at her exuberance

and pat her muscled, heaving side.

she slobbers on my hand.

 

barkawitz

 

 (Illustration by John E. Lepp)

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3/7/2012

AIN’T THAT YOUR SON?

by

Mark Barkawitz

 

As I climb carefully around the steep rocks, making my way back down the gorge, the same shirtless, pot-bellied guy we’d passed on the way up stands knee-deep in the rushing water.  What looks like the same, half-smoked cigarette protrudes limply from his lips.  He still grips a can of Coors in one hand, but with the other points downstream.

“Ain’t that your son?” he asks.

On the shoreline below us, my tall, mop-haired seventeen-year-old stands over a young woman and two little boys, whom she tends on the sand.

I confess: “Yeah.  He’s mine.” And ask tentatively: “Why?”

The guy waves his cigarette like a pointer.  “Them two kids got sucked downstream an’ was drownin’ in a whirlpool.” He takes a long draw on his smoke, as if to let the tension build, then exhales slowly, knowingly.  “Your boy fished ‘em out—one under each arm—like some goddamn superhero or somethin’.”

Climbing hurriedly down the steep shoreline, I can’t reach them fast enough.  Ain’t that your son?  Or wipe the smile from my face.  Yeah.  He’s mine.

 

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