Thursday, June 19, 2008

A Day at the Beach is not a Walk in the Park

It’s time to go to the beach. It’s time. It’s the right time. It’s a vacation. It’s necessary.
So go to the bus station and buy a ticket. It’s best to do this in 101 degree heat. Just ride down the boulevard and ride over the rail road tracks. Stop at the top of the bridge and breath. Phew, it’s hot. Walk the rest of the way to he bus station.
Welcome Greyhound. Tile floor, wire seats, and the usual loud speaker with unexplainable vocabulary of bus status. Step up to the counter and ask for a ticket to Virginia Beach. There are several other people standing there seemingly confused. Sending family members back and forth and looking about confused.
One ticket to Virginia Beach = $40. Bus leaves at 11:00 a.m. and the return is at 5:11 p.m.


Packed a extra t-shirt, socks, shorts, and underwear. Oh, and take a book, like “Can’t Buy Me Love” by Jonathan Gould recommended by Art Spencer. (I never read a word).
Then it’s waiting a half an hour for a city bus to take me to the boulevard. Walk it over the train track bridge to the bus station to find a long line. An hour before the bus and there were already a line. A bunch of folks were lined up at Gate 2 with rolling bags, duffel bags, back packs, and other carry ons.
And I was at the end of the line. So I stood next to this black woman who was worried she had over paid for her ticket. And I stood. A young black man and his younger son came and stood beside me. The son was energetic but very polite. The father seemed concerned and attentive of the loud boy. The reaction made the surrounding crowd smile. Another couple lined up behind him, then another older man.
And we waited. 11 a.m. came and went and there was no bus. 11:15? 11:30?
And then I saw the bus pull up and the crowd began to stir. Lining up with all the baggage and pressing toward the door. As the crowd shuffled through, I moved forward with my little bag. Closer and closer to the door. Then, just a step away, the door closed.
The bus had a capacity of 55 passengers. The crowd aligned at the door seemed huge. Is it over? I can see the bus. I am so close.
Another Greyhound worker walked through the door and counted the remaining riders awaiting the on board arrival. She walked away to the ticket counter as we waited. “They’ll get another bus.” one person said. “I’ve waited for over an hour.” another said. “I’ve got to get there.” demanded another.
The Greyhound worker approached us slowly and said, “I’m sorry but the next bus will be at 4 p.m.”
”Where do we get a refund?” one passenger asked. The Greyhound worker just smiled. “You’ve overbooked!” screamed another.
Just then, the driver opened the door and said “We have room for 3 more.”
The older black woman and I found seats. And the black father and his young son fond the third seat in the back.
I’d made it. I had got a seat on the bus. It was a great seat. Right next to the toilet.
So we waited on the hot bus. We twitched. We wiggled. We waited.
Suddenly, the large metal mobile machine moved. We are moving. The adventure had begun.


To begin with I was happy to be aboard and traveling, even though it was over a half hour late, I was glad. Even though a four year old black boy was screaming in my ear. Even though I was sitting next to the stink box. Next to the man wearing the headphones listening to quiet rap. Behind the cute curious kid who kept looking around to the cute black boy singing G-I-M-B-O in my ear.
The first stop, a bunch of folks got off the bus and the black father and son moved up front.
The second stop and an hour an hour later we were still rolling along.
I’m not great about traveling. Speed out of control. Turning tight curves on a top heavy vehicle.
Bumpity bump on the road. With all the instant conversation around you. The phone calls. The comments.
The middle class do not ride the bus anymore. There is a whole different class for the bus routes. Lower yourself for the ride.
And another stop. Two off, three on?
And another stop. Pause for 10 minutes until it is 30 minutes.
Through the tunnel. The long but, not as long as I remember when I was young, journey.
The water told me I was getting close.
And then at 3:00 p.m., I was there. A small strip mall with a seafood seller next door and the Greyhound station was closed. Only opened for every couple of hours a day. Swell.
”Which way to the ocean”, I asked. The driver pointed down Laskin Road and said, “ About a mile.” with a smile.


So I walked the mile. Up the pass route on Laskin Road. I kept looking to the left. I think my old friend Art lived on this road. I couldn’t place the place, but the memory was good.
So where to go? To the left was the Hilton. That doesn’t sound like it’s cheap. To the left is a Residence Inn / Marriott. I’ll try that one.
Walk up to the desk and say, “Do you have a room for the night?”
The clerk looked up at this crusty old guy and said, “I’ve got the King Suite for $275”.
Wow! One night for $300.
Oh well I was at the beach.
And it was a great room. King size bed. Kitchenette. Ocean view. What more could you ask for on the 5th floor.
Stopped and stepped out on the 3 foot deck with a plastic piping railing. Doesn’t make you feel secure. But the view is wonderful.


The soul of us all. The vast water of mother earth. Surging forward wave after wave. As far as you can see. Now that’s what I’m talking about. This is what I’m here for.
I wander through the lobby and out to the sand. Slowly. Down the steps, onto the sand, closer, closer, closer, and then there was water. Foamy surging water. I took off my shoes and stepped forward. It’s cold. I took another step step forward and the wave splashed up my shorts. Aw. I was in the ocean. Mother Earth gathered me in. I was at home. Over and over the water splashed up on me. As I stood still the water rushed around me. This is the ocean I came to see.


Walked down the strip of the beach and checked out the art show. Nice stuff. Expensive stuff. Glass, painting, interesting concepts, obvious observations, nice woodwork, and more.
But I needed food. I hadn’t eaten all day and it was now after 3 p.m.
Stop in to a Dough Boy. A pizza place full of fresh young waitresses.
”What can I get you?” she said. The little blond waitress started to say her repertoire of questions to make the pattern make the decision to consume food and drink.
”Wait”, I blurbed out, “You missed your mark. You stammered when you where asking the menu solution”.
She stopped and looked shocked. “It’s my first day” she slyly said.
I laughed and ordered a philly cheese steak and a corona with a lime slice.
She smiled, knowing I was only playing with her and walked off to file the order.
As I watched the wait staff inter act and the tourist (of which I was one ) walk past the window, the music played. The music drew me in. Peter Gabriel. Can’t beat that. Once inside, the music was still interesting.
The food came and I consumed. She was pleasantly sweet, so she got a good tip.


Now what? I was at the beach. There is the sand. There is the ocean.
I walked back to my fifth floor room and look through the glass at the ocean. The waves crashed upon the sand the same as it did in 1950, 1960, and so on. The same water. The same sand. Well kept. Clean. The trackers go back and forth raking the sand all night.
And the bikes There are hundreds and hundreds of bicycles, riding up and down the bike trail on the boardwalk.
Nice to see the bikes. I wonder if they will take that home with them?
So I sat and watched the ocean. Wave after wave. It is a heartbeat. From mother earth.
Go out and walk on the beach. Barefoot and free. Let the water wash over me. It’s rejuvenating. It life’s gift to man.
Sit on the water’s edge and look at the light. Stare at the light. Reflecting off the water. The sand is a soft chair to comfort you there. The breeze cooled your brow.
Then back to the room to sleep. A wonderful peaceful sleep. Rest. There is no other.


Woke. 5 a.m.  Rested. Ready for the day. Looked out the bedroom window and it was fogged up with the air conditioning at 65 and the outside temperature. I stepped out on the tiny patio and saw the purple and pink sky light the world. All was silent. All was the way it was in the beginning. A red orb rising from the sea. The way it was suppose to be. Lightening up the sky and the sea. Rising from the east. Lightening the world. Bright and awakening. Beautiful gift to the world every day. And I was privileged to see it again and again, but now it was different.
Many years have pasted from the viewing of the sun rise over the ocean. Thoughts of times before, sand and sea and youth. It had not changed. It was still special. Very special.
Suddenly I heard a thud on the carpet. I looked down and saw the bracelet had fallen off my arm. “Wow, what timing”. I picked up the Navy identification bracelet from my uncle who I was named after, a pilot from WWII who went MIA. Recently given to me by another uncle, I picked it up and strapped it back on. I don’t wear much jewelry, but this is pretty special.
I put down my coffee and walked down to the beach.
The sand wrapped around my feet as I slid to the water. The embrace of the earth’s kiss on my feet. Wet and raw. Rough and soothing. Power and calm.
I sat in the sand and watched the waves for 4 hours. Each wave spoke to me. Each crash of water.
There is something here. There is something in my soul.


It was time to check out. Quick shower. Ah, soap on the body. Bag up the wet clothes. Go to the desk, here you go, 502 has checked out. $310 for a night at the beach.
Now what? Wanna go to the beach? You got five hours before the bus comes. Walk the strip. “You want something pierced?” “Hi, you wanta..” the Hawkers were out.
And so it goes. White bathing suits wrapped around young teenage bodies. So ready for the future. Not ready for the future.
Onto the beach. Onto the boardwalk. Got five hours to wait for the bus. The sunburn is setting in. Walk. Walk . Walk with everything you need or own on your back.
This is freedom. This is life on the beach.
I walk past restaurants that I remember sweeping sand and dust from on the ocean in Wrightsful Beach. The beach life.


If you think there is an immigration situation, stop in any shop at the beach. There is every accent you want. These are retail shops for towels, sun tan lotion, and shells, but not a single one had Caucasian workers. Eastern Europe, Asian, Latino, .... all different. It’s not bad, just different. It is not your mother’s beach.


First walk up the beach, then the boardwalk, the street. You got hours to kill. Pass the tourist shops. Watch the flags blow in the sea breeze.
Then the wait. Wait at the Dairy Queen with water in the shade. Listen to the young girls burp and curse. Ah, the next generation. Then it’s time to move on.
Walk the mile up Laskins Road. Past the reeds. Past the young girls blowing me a kiss?
Then to the strip mall baked in the sun and waiting for the bus.
Already there is a couple of Russian girls and guys and a Navy guy unpacking his “stuff” and throwing away 80% of his life. And there was a bus. The driver was on the phone so I didn’t know if this was the one to Richmond.
Then the driver got off the phone, walked over to the bus, closed the storage compartment, climbed aboard, closed the door and drove off. Was he going to get gas? Was he just gone.
The Russian crowd talked to each other and walked about. A black car drove up with 4 males inside. The stepped out and started to speak to the Russian crowd. They walked around for a while, then opened the trunk and started to pack the car. Several girls packed into the car and others walked off in another direction.
The young Navy man was filling trash bags full of “stuff” and walking to a nearby dumpster and tossing them in. Very polite and well mannered, he spoke of how the Navy had realized he had a breathing problem after two years and basically kicked him out. So he was dissolving his assets and moving back to Missouri and his mom. We chatted for awhile. With a hat saying “I heart Bikinis” Smoking Camel cigarettes, and a wonderful attitude.
Then the bus came. A half hour late, but I was expecting it. At least I will be at the front of the line. I checked with the driver. “Richmond?” He nodded. I handed him my ticket. He tore the part he need and handed me back the stub. “Thank you sir”, I said and climbed aboard. The adventure wasn’t over, it was only beginning. It was 6:30 before we started to pull out.


The bus was rolling. On the way home. The first few miles were uneventful. The red orb I watched coming up in the morning several hours ago, was going down. It was still a bright red circular globe sinking in the blue sky.
First stop Norfolk. 30 minutes of filling the bus. Children. Gangstas. Recently released jail members. A fine lot
Next lights out and up to Hampton, then Newport News, then Williamsburg. The ride went over and over and over and over and on.
After Williamsburgs, the little historic town that held so memories for me, it was on to the home town. Richmond.
I watched the glass as the silent mobile machine moved through the night Reflections on the windows of the passing cars lights. Then there was more. As I stressed to view a sign of life the lights started appearing to me. First I could understand it and laugh it off as a hallucination. Then it became real.
As the bus rumbled down the highway, I could see visions in the windows. Perhaps I was tired. Perhaps it was reflections of the road. But I saw it Weird visions. Just like 30 years ago And it made me smile.
Then the lights started to brighten the sky. The city was near.
People started to stir on the bus. The end was near.
The driver announced that Richmond was within reach and stay seated until arrival. Then he rode over a couple of girls bags at the station.
The crowd mumbled as they stood and pressed toward the door. I sat and waited for the rush to go by watching the reflections in the windows.
I seated off the bus. I was free.
The first cab welcomed me to take me home. I stated to tell him directions as I climbed inside, but he paused and asked address for his GPS. Wow! High tech cab!
Moments and $15 later I was home.


Unlock the gate and climb the steps of the front porch. In the dark find the key to the door. Press it open against the wallboard and dust and you are home.

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