Sunday, June 24, 2012
If ‘people-watching’ is something you enjoy - in 'the activities you enjoy' column of any survey, my box would be checked and highly rated - and a week at the beach is one of the best of humanscapes. The ambiance, variety, ability to indulge un-noticed and the compliance of the watch-ees rule in this sport. The obvious, well- grounded counter to this bestowing of 'the best' is duly recognized/ acknowledged by inserting a codicil addressing preferences. Climate, purpose, time constraints - all come to mind as potential reasons to defrock my choice.
(By way of example - and a congested rte 64 West - last Father’s Day at the races in Virginia definitely places - or shows even. Colonial Downs dedicated this day of thoroughbred turf racing to our Armed Forces and a long shot, GENERAL Barbara, returned the favor. The people ran - make that slowly inched - the gamut of types from regular lout to dad and granddad-party celebrants to the usual air-conditioned Jockey Club whine and diners and box seat diehards risking rent money.)
The beach crowd offers a similar variety but far less nattily-clad - if at all - of society’s resolute, raunchy respite takers. They hail from as far North as Canada and West as Ohio. There is something about the Outer Banks of North Carolina that lures the pallid, tired masses to the sand and vitamin D and, yes, an odd olio of wild Mustangs who called the environs home for centuries. The picture of a stocky steed, grazing, with a white gull - also grazing, insects - on its back makes for a special visual for that “What I did this summer” essay.
(What Colonial Downs did was make history. Indeed, for the first time in Mr. Jefferson’s Virginia, Virginians were treated to a spectacle of shorter duration but similar singularity as growing asparagus. These specimens, however, were fully grown and eager to run. The first ‘full-of-fun’ provision was a camel race. The riders, awkwardly seated and clinging to barely reachable pommels, forced frozen smiles in the direction of the stands as the five feral beasts grinned at their own largess and took their graceless parade in stride looking like hippos emerging from a 3 inch drainpipe. The winner, Joe Camel, left his fellow ‘ships of the desert’ in the dust from the starting gate. “Shocking breach of gait”, might well have described his erstwhile competitors.)
The humans, no question, steal the show in the beach scene. Ensconced in ‘Willy Wanka-esque’, 8 to 12 bedroom mini spas - we used to call them cottages - they first nibble, then gobble and chug every new-found amenity – God or contractor/designer devised.
The “family vacation” category – those with babysitters and those with schlepping mommies and daddies, squeal in the water, castle-build in the sand and vie for the the newest water/shore toy to be had. Airborne, motored along the briny’s surface, negotiated - or not - by balance, grace and poise, the goal is to skim the rolling white caps or glide choreographically along the shallow pools at the shoreline. Shiny, oiled bodies – Balance, Grace and Poise possibly among them - bob, twirl, forge ahead on wings of the sea gods and goddesses, racing to a hair-blown, splashing dismount. Neptune be pleased.
(The big crowd pleaser at the races, wings down, were the ostriches. Sleek, proud, black-feathered, they pranced for their eleven-field parade, then did a slow gallop to the gate. This was to give their riders a taste of the white-knuckle ride ahead. Pointed, orange beaks, angled down in pure determination, they increased the gait, length and speed simultaneously. The combination achieved dizzying speed. And then, the plumed rascal in the worst post position - far outside, one being close to the rail - seemed to be thinking, “ Flightless indeed!” as its feathers spread, revealing a fluffy, white, petticoat that strained to help its wearer leave the ground. So intense was this failed attempt, the poor rider flew instead. It’s a gravity thing.)
The family members frolic. Dad paid big bucks to drive all the way to Corolla and he would smile, his hand out for another Corona. Mom sliced dozens of limes, dragged dozens of gallons of ocean in colorful pails in time for dripping, molding, and drenching enough wet sand into bathing suit linings to ensure rashes from hell. And all this while, she was glancing longingly, enviously, at shapely, comfy, teen girls and shady, lady, comfy, moms cum Au peres or zero children needing any attention – lounging. “Some day. Right, god? Some day. . .”
Young turks, cunning little shavers just last year, flex, volley, brandish La Crosse sticks, kayak out to mermaid waters and throw balls - of all categories. Bathing-beauty youth, scantily-clad, oiled, and sporting twinkling tatts, playfully run/briskly walk/gossip and tone with hand-held weights along the shoreline. And “The Readers” occasionally remove sunglasses to acknowledge the ocean wind with a grateful kiss.
(Of course, there were winners and losers at the track. I don’t have time to discuss the animals. I’d say the winners were those who ‘came out even’ – didn’t lose the rent, enjoyed the company of good friends and food at the Jockey Club, were glad the family had an occasion to gather – in some cases as many as four generations. The losers – the ones connected/controlled by cell phones and computers, conducting business or fabricating alibis – missed the point.)
The beach scene has been changing over the past decade. People ‘types’ are the same. It’s called humanity. But the losers lose bigger somehow. Invaded by the fax, the cell phone, the computer, the cable with high definition – it’s a slaughter. And poorly defined, too. “High Definition”? Is that the kind of definition that lets you see ‘nothing’ more clearly? Or the kind that best keeps your attention away from the big picture? I take my cues from the animals. Bridie, our beagle, loves the beach. She chases “Mr. crab”, skulks around in the dunes trying to look the huntress, goes along with the stick-fetching routine – for a while.
But left alone, she just ‘beaches’. Sits in the sand or by a dune; gazes at the geese flying in formation; watches the sandpipers do their double-time run against the approaching tide or just stares straight ahead, wind blowing ears and whiskers, smelling, being, doing the beach. Try it. Do some people-watching. Prelude, really. Then BE beach. The beautiful, unspoiled creation of which we are part is “Beach”. It’s a part of the whole SELF of creation. Spend some time in SELF. There IS no higher definition and beach is one with it. And when someone asks, “Have you seen. . .” You’ll delight in saying, “Yup.”