Thursday, July 28, 2011

And Now For Something Completely Different...

And now for something completely different…truth in politics. Wouldn’t it be great if politicians felt secure enough to tell us what they really think? Suppose there were no polls or focus groups and the two parties could just come out with it. Because we are Americans this concept seems incomprehensible. We are conditioned to spin-meisters. All of us instinctively know that whatever our elected officials say is carefully field-tested to appeal to the widest demographic possible. Consequently, we sorta know that we’re being lied to and we accept it as a political fact of life. But, how cool would it be if they just threw caution to the wind and let fire with what all of them wish they could say?

For Democrats it would be liberating. They could stop pretending to like the private sector. They could just come out and say that business is evil and it’s the job of government to take as much money from the rich as humanly possible. See, the problem isn’t that we have too many entitlement programs that cost too much, the problem is that we don’t have enough welfare and the only reason we have budget shortfalls is because the American people don’t pay enough in taxes. Democrats know that the average American is too stupid and too lazy to take care of himself. Besides, even if he can, the odds are stacked against him because this country is irretrievably racist, homophobic, and misogynistic. Those who have succeeded have done so through no personal ingenuity, but rather on the backs of others. Therefore the government has an obligation to step in and level the playing field by eliminating the class and economic disparities that unfairly exist in our society. For Democrats history is simply the story of mankind evolving away from the greed and self-interest of the individual to the utopian paradise of the collective. Each of us needs to give up our personal ambitions and desires and let the government have more and more of our money so that all of the ambitions and desires of everyone can be achieved. They could just cut all the crap about tax rates and fairness and just go ahead and say that the rich should pay a minimum of 75% of their income in taxes and be grateful that it isn’t 90%. With the new-found revenue that would flow into Washington, the great society would finally be in reach. Everyone would have free health care. College education would be free to all. People who lose their jobs would get 100% of their pay for as long as it took until they found a job. Housing would be free. Food would be free. It would be a beautiful world.

For Republicans it would be equally liberating. They could stop pretending to support Social Security and Medicare. They could just admit that the only reason they say that they do support these things is that they realize that the American people do by huge margins and to say otherwise would destroy their careers. They could unburden themselves of their core belief that all of the welfare legislation that has been passed from FDR through LBJ is in the process of destroying the fabric of the country by turning us into a nation of dependant slobs. The type of Americans who established the 13 colonies, tamed the West, and won WWII no longer exist because the modern welfare state has destroyed the epic American spirit of rugged individuality and self reliance. The modern nanny state has made pussies of us all. The real problem with the debt ceiling is that it should be lowered, not raised and we should be talking about scaling back government spending, not just slowing its growth. For Republicans, it would be such fun to just look out at a rally and say something like…”If you people expect the government to take care of you, then move to Norway! This is America. The sky is the limit here and if you want a big slice of it, its yours for the taking. Elect me and I’ll fight to help you keep as much of your own money as possible. But don’t even think of asking me to trim the defense budget because we republicans love the concept of Empire and we like to be able to kick ass every once in awhile. Oh, and if you lose your job, don’t come running to us to pay you a bunch of money for sitting on your assets for two years looking for work. That’s what a savings account is for! Want health care?…buy insurance. Can’t get insurance because youre sick? Sorry. Life is and always has been unfair. Think the government should pay all of your medical bills?…then move to Cuba. I mean really…you think we can provide health insurance for 300 million people? Have you been to the DMV or tried to mail a package at the Post Office lately? You’re on your own out there, like its been for 5000 years of recorded history…deal with it!”

The truth is this. There are more Americans who want the government to take care of them than there are Americans who want the government to leave them alone. Which is why we have a debt ceiling crisis. Ultimetely, the Democrats will win and before too much longer they won’t have to lie about it anymore.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Dummers Beach Journal...Part Five

Our last day at Dummers dawned clear and bright and I felt like my old self. I slept all the way through the night and awoke without a headache. I drove up to Morning Glory bakery, bought 4 muffins and a paper and returned to camp to drink my coffee on the beach. The mountains looked bigger somehow and closer. The sky was filled with thin feathery clouds with a soft half-moon still visable against the pale blue. The forecast was for hot temperatures today but just as I headed back to camp for breakfast a wind had started to blow, raising waves from west to east across the lake, a good sign.

Breakfast was typical Webb Lake cuisine. Bacon and ham, French toast, muffins and juice, and for the first time all week I could actually taste it. Wonderful. By this time a steady wind was blowing, the thin high clouds were thinning further and the sun was getting hotter. We made it to the beach by 10 or so and immediately went for a swim. The water was surprisingly warm and the slow agony of walking a half an hour in thirty minutes before we could jinn up the courage to go under was replaced by going under right away and doing the Dummers Beach crawl in reverse. All morning the view across the lake was stunning. At one point a float plane circled overhead, landed about a mile to the north then took off again soaring up towards Tumbledown mountain. The dude was clearly showing off and I was insanely jealous. Pam suggested that the four of us head to the canteen for a snack. All the very best candy was available, cow tails, Snickers, and the most delicious Nutty Buddy ever! Upon returning to our favorite spot on the beach and after an hour or so of reading, Pam and Kaitlin decided that it was time for lunch. Flashing their best 19th century feminine wiles they offered to serve us on the beach! There would be fluffer-nutter sandwiches, finely sliced chunks of watermelon, our choice of chips, and cold iced tea. Clearly, this place has magical powers.

The rest of the day was spent swimming, floating on rafts, and engaging each other in relaxed conversation. Surprisingly, no tears were shed. Because this would be the last day, Pam was determined to stay in the moment and enjoy every second. After a delicious dinner of Italian grilled chicken, we all loaded up in two cars and made the pilgrimage all the way to Farmington for Gifford’s Ice Cream. The night was perfect with not a trace of humidity, a fine breeze blowing. Heading back to camp we could see the fiery western sky in the distance. The sunset at camp would be incredible if only we could make it there in time. Although we missed the best of it, we all gathered in chairs by the lake to watch the dying embers of this perfect day in Maine. The camp fire later was quiet and soothing, but the smoke kept drifting to where Russ sat. He pointed out that this simply proved the old adage that smoke follows the “most beautiful” person!

We awoke to dark skies and a light mournful rain. It seems that every year we pack up in the rain. Sharon thought that the Lake was crying with us. It was a very sad morning. After saying our good-byes we began the 14 hour trip home. For Pam the tears didn’t slow until we made it to the Maine Turnpike. We arrived home at 11:15 last night to a rapturous welcome from Molly. Now I face the tyrannies that await me at the office, the demands that the real world makes upon me. Today I will rest, prepare for the hectic week ahead, and do my chores. But in a quiet corner of my mind I will linger on that beach and listen for the Loons.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Dummers Beach Journal...Part Four

Of all of the most dreaded contingencies of life, being ill while on vacation isn’t the worse thing that can happen to someone, I suppose. I mean, it’s certainly not as bad as being told by a doctor that you have a rare disease that will prohibit you from ever eating cheese again. It’s not as bad as being forced to watch reality TV all day, or even worse...C-SPAN. But as someone who has been sick almost from the day that I arrived on the sun-splashed shores of Webb Lake, I am here to tell you that it IS worse than most things.

Yesterday it got so bad I had to drive myself to the Farmington Medical Center. I was prepared to write a snarky piece about my experiences in what I was sure would be some rundown backwoods hospital. I had even come up with a name for the place…the Farmington Medical Center/ Book-Emporium/ Late-Night Car Wash, etc.. But I was pleasantly surprised to find the place to be a first-class facility with courteous, competent employees who all seemed devastated that I was here on vacation and had gotten sick. They were even more devastated to tell me that I had the mother of all colds, a venomous brew of bronchitis and sinusitis that would require high powered antibiotics and strong cough medicines. Today I sleep-walked through the day. But tonight I’m screwing on a happy face and taking the family to the Kawanhee Inn for a lovely dinner which for me will be tasteless. Afterwards, as is our tradition, we will pose for a photograph on the beautiful deck that overlooks this great lake. When you see it, you will not be able to tell that I am sick. But every time I look at it for the rest of my life, I will remember the endless coughing, no appetite, sleep-deprived, getting up to pee 5 times a night because of the stupid medicine I was taking ordeal that this week has been.

Today at lunch Vi walked up to the table all excited to tell us that they had in fact sold the camper for full price to a couple of real nice Christian ladies who were just thrilled to have it. Pam instantaneously burst into tears. Even though she understands what good news this was for them, my wife is a person of huge heart and immense loyalties. When the finality of the transaction was announced, she just was overwhelmed with loss. I feel for her and admire the intensity of her emotion. The next few days will be tough last days, as all “last days” are but we will get through it as a family. It’s what families do. It will be my job for the rest of my life to find a place that will, over time, take up residence in her heart. Nothing will ever replace Dummers for Pam, but a new place that we can call home in July will help us build new memories. Family is all about place, and for Pam this was that place for over 45 years. A new place is waiting for all of us out there somewhere. It’s my job to find it.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Dummers Beach Journal....Part Three

A couple of nights ago we had our first fun weather event. After a gorgeous sunny day of 86 and a nice night around the campfire we got all snuggled in our amazing RV for the night. Earlier, on a whim, Pam had decided to put the 4 inflatable rafts we had been using in the huge storage bay under the RV instead of leaving them on the ground as we had done all week. In literary circles this plot device is called foreshadowing!!

Around 1:45 in the wee hours Pam and I became vaguely aware of a whistling noise from out side. Since we run the overhead fan all night and it makes such a horrendous racket we weren’t entirely certain what it was until we felt the RV start to rock gently from side to side. We quickly opened the shades to our bedroom window that faces the lake. Everything was awash in moonlight with only a few dark clouds off in the distance obscuring the view of Tumbledown. But the boats on the lake were all bobbing up and down wildly. The trees were bent over and small pieces of camp debris was flying through the air. We looked out the back window just about the time that our neighbors were evacuating their daughters from their freestanding tent in favor of the pop up camper. If Pam had left the rafts out in this mess we would have had to drive to Weld to find them! Pam walked down the hallway (yes..we have a HALLWAY in this beast!!) to check on the kids and to reassure them that ,in fact, this was NOT the end of the world. Kaitlin was enjoying the righteous sleep of the just, totally oblivious to the gale-force madness outside. Patrick was newly awake, not quite alert enough to understand what was happening but aware that his bed was rocking a pretty cool rhyme. Who knows, maybe it will inspire a composition that wins him some fabulous scholarship to graduate school.

Actually this is the sort of thing that I enjoy about camp in Maine. There’s a certain amount of fiction at play in Maine, an element of danger, a sense that all is not quite safe here. Anything might happen. Nothing is guaranteed. The uncertainty is visceral. It’s the thing that makes camp unique, the possibility of nature blowing a gasket. When I’m here, no matter how beautiful the weather is I always have one eye on the horizon with a mixture of dread and excitement.

Today I play golf. Then the afternoon on the beach. Then a lobster-roll dinner celebrating Pam’s 4-?? Birthday. I still feel awful, but its vacation so you have to plow through. I read my e-mails last night and discovered that there is a world of grief awaiting my return to Richmond. I will try to cast that depressing thought out of my mind for the next 5 days. In literary circles, that’s called denial.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Dummers Beach Journal....Part Two

The trip up was uneventful with no rain and very little traffic except for the brief period when I let Pam take the wheel. As soon as she made her way back unto 495 in Eastern Mass. The interstate ground to a halt as if the Gods of transportation knew that something was just not right. An hour and a half and 45 miles later I had had enough. We pulled into a rest area in New Hampshire and I once again seized the wheel. When I merged back onto 95 the mysterious traffic jam had disappeared and it was smooth sailing. The thirteen and a half hour trip ended at 4:45 pm Saturday afternoon. The lake was beautiful, the mountain views stunning and clear, and my throat was on fire and my chest felt like there was an anvil sitting on it. Other than that all is well.

So far Pam has cried/ gotten choked up/ abruptly ended sentences about some Dummers memory only three times. I suspect that there will be many more. She actually had convinced herself that she was prepared to say good-bye to this place. I knew better. Just before I left Richmond I bought 100 shares of Kleenex.

Today it was 86 and sunny with a wonderful breeze. The rest of the week looks even more delightful with even lower temperatures. Our fancy new Rent-A-RV diggs are amazing. Air-conditioning, working fridge and freezer, queen size mattress actually thicker than the hard backed edition of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. This place is sweet. But just so we don’t start feeling cocky we have discovered that the AC leaks causing a small puddle to form right in front of the kitchen sink. And apparently this place does NOT come with a cleaning service as I was lead to believe. My father-in-law….such a cheap-skate!

Ordinarily I would head out to Wilson Lake to play golf in the morning. But I feel pretty lousy and am short of breath so I think I’ll give it another day.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Dummers Beach Journal....Part One

Tomorrow morning at 3 am I will leave Richmond in the wee hours heading to the great state of Maine and a little corner of paradise called Dummers Beach. I was introduced to this obscure dot on the map 29 years ago when I was dating Pam. Her family had always vacationed here since the dawn of time and I just HAD to go. I had heard them all celebrating its many virtues, its beautiful mountain views, its clean and perfect lake, the lobster rolls, a mysteriously named “canteen”, holder of all manner of delectable treasure. So, against my better judgment and drunk on love I climbed into their giant station wagon for the 13 hour trip. Upon arrival I was treated to the pure delight of setting up a pop-up camper in the dark, in a thunderstorm. Afterwords, soaked to the bone, I settled around the camper table for a pizza dinner featuring the much bragged upon and famed “Maddies” Pizza. It was cold and the entire bottom was black. But after the previous 14 hours of my life anything would have tasted good. At that point I figured nothing else could ever be as bad as the trip, the camper assembly and burnt pizza. I was wrong. Once we all got in our bunks for the night, that would be me and all 5 of the Whites in a camper which could comfortably sleep zero people, I discovered the terrifying echo effect that campers have with snoring. Because I refuse to publicly identify the culprit, I will just say that this particular chainsaw-Harley-Davidson-turbine engine-like sound came from my future in-laws’ wing. I may have dozed off once for 10 minutes or so but my night was spent wondering why on earth I had let my love for Pam allow me to make such an epically awful decision.

Then, the sun came up. I rolled out of the rack-o-pain torture chamber that was my “bed”, opened the door and stepped out into perhaps the biggest single surprise of my life. First of all, it was July and it was FREEZING! I quickly rummaged through my suitcase in the car to find a bath robe. Unfortunately I hadn’t packed my winter coat. I cursed softly under my breath for being such an idiot to agree to this God-forsaken vacation where I was going to freeze to death eating molded pizza for the next week. Then I glanced through the trees and saw the sun reflecting off the lake. I saw the path leading down to the water. I found myself walking slowly, mouth open in wonder. I’m from Virginia. It happens to be the best state in the union without question, but the thing is, we don’t have lakes. At least we don’t have lakes like this. I made it to the beach and saw the most beautiful combination of water and mountains I had ever seen. Little did I know then that I would be coming back to this spot 20 more times in my life and that I would fall in love not only with Pam but with her lake as well.

This week will be our last Dummers Beach trip. Russ and Vi have decided that its too much for them at this point in their lives and that’s ok. I am in the process of finding a lake house near Camden because after 29 years I’m hooked on this State. But this will be our last time here. I will be updating this blog with the hilarity that will surely ensue in the week to come. If my tech-savvy children can show me how, pictures will be forthcoming as well. Hope you enjoy.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Greatest Pitcher of All Time

This being the All-Star break for baseball, sports pages all over the nation are running retrospectives of the 2011 season and highlighting the best performers. So it was in yesterday’s USA Today. There in bold print with a color picture covering half the page was a story about the year’s best pitcher, Justin Verlander. In the article mention was made that he is having a “ Sandy Koufax type year” and that comparisons were being made throughout baseball between Verlander and Koufax, to which I must humbly respond…what a steaming pile of barnyard manure!!

I love Justin Verlander. He is the best picture in baseball at the moment with amazing stuff , not to mention the fact that he grew up right down the road in Manakin-Sabot. But Justin has done nothing this year or ever to warrant comparison with Sandy Koufax except that they both are pitchers. A cursory examination of the numbers would have saved the USA Today writer a world of embarrassment. First, Verlander.

So far this year Justin is 12-4 with a 2.15 era, terrific numbers for this or any season. He has made 20 starts and has 4 complete games and 2 shutouts. In 151 innings he has stuck out 147 batters, all great numbers. In addition , his career numbers through 6 seasons are impressive. He has a 95-56 career record with a 3.6 era, 14 complete games, 5 shutouts and over a thousand strikeouts. Nice work. But to compare him to the most dominant pitcher in history is laughable.

Sandy Koufax was an blazing comet that lit up baseball for 10 short years until an arthritic arm forced him to retire at the age of 31. In the last four years of his career from 1963 through 1966, Sandy Koufax was as close to un-hittable as any pitcher( since the end of the dead-ball era) has ever been. In those 4 years he had a record of 97-27 with a surreal era of 1.84. He was given the ball 150 times and threw 89 complete games and 31 shutouts. In those 1192 innings he struck out 1228 batters while managing 4 no-hitters, one of which being a perfect game. Oh, and his team made it to the World Series twice in those years with Sandy going 4-2 with an era of 0.95, winning MVP both years as he led his team to victory. During that 4 sesaon domination he won 3 Cy Young awards back when only one was given for all of baseball, not one for each league. All three awards votes were unanimous. No other pitcher in baseball history ever compiled such a four year record, not Gipson, Ryan, Seaver, Carlton, Feller, Clemens..nobody. There was nothing like Koufax then and there has been nothing like him since. The only reason he is not universally listed as the most dominant pitcher in the history of the game is because his career was cut short by arthritis. But for those four glorious years the baseball world agreed with the great Mickey Mantle who famously and profanely muttered after being blown away in the 1963 world series by Koufax…” how in the hell am I supposed to hit that sh**??” The great Willie Stargell described trying to hit Koufax this way…” its like trying to drink coffee with a fork”

I am a big Verlander fan and will continue to be. But until he becomes twice the pitcher he is today I will studiously avoid using his name in the same sentence with the great Sanford "Sandy" Koufax.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

A Crisis of Faith

This week I had a crisis of faith. It came not from any theological epiphany or some obscene example of man’s inhumanity towards man. It didn’t come from a killer tsunami or avenging tornado or some nightly news account of starving children in the Sudan. Rather, my crisis was the result of the simple cruelty of gravity.

The Texas Rangers were playing a baseball game against the Oakland Athletics and there in the front row in the left field bleachers was a 39 year old firefighter and his 6 year old son. The two of them were a fixture at the ball park and everywhere else it was learned later, inseparable father and son taking in a game in the bright sunshine of Texas summer. His fellow firefighters would later say that Shannon Stone would often bring his son to the firehouse on his day off where they would just hang out. “They did everything together”, they would all say. On this particular day he had called his wife to tell her where they were seated so she could look for them on TV. She had stepped out of the room when left fielder Josh Hamilton caught a lazy foul ball down the left field line for the third out of the inning and nonchalantly turned towards the stands, spotted the father and son team and flipped the ball to them graciously. Only the toss was a little bit short. Stone instinctively lunged for it at the rail, lost his balance and in the blink of an eye plunged headlong over the rail and out of sight behind the wall, hitting the concrete floor 20 feet below. Josh Hamilton froze in his tracks, 25000 fans let out a gasp, and Shannon Stone’s 6 year old best buddy stood helplessly screaming at the rail. On the way to the hospital he died in the back of the ambulance with his son riding in the front seat.

It is this sort of thing that has always paralyzed my faith. I can deal with the existence of evil in the world. I can grapple with the challenges that science makes to the nature of faith and its dependence on the supernatural. But when a father trying to catch a baseball for his boy freakishly falls to his death on live television, leaving behind a forever scarred and tortured 6 year old, there is a sound something like rushing wind of the breath leaving my soul. Then something rises up to fill the void, something like fury and anger. After that passes, emptiness and sadness come. I want to pound on the gates of heaven and demand an explanation. To those who chime in piously with the always reliable, “ God works in mysterious ways” I want to scream, “ Tell that to the kid!!” There’s nothing mysterious about the law of gravity. It is inexorable, relentless, and it works every time. Is this the way God intended for Shannon Stone’s life to end? Is this the way God drew it up when he was knit together in his mother’s womb? Or is it all a huge crap shoot where one false move and all of our plans for a long and fruitful life vanish into thin air?

This being America, I know how this story will play out in the weeks and months ahead. The Ranger organization will set up a scholarship fund for the boy. Major League baseball will order a game-wide safety review that will end up erecting giant nets in ballparks all across the country. Some lowlife bottom-feeding lawyer will exploit the family’s grief and bring a 20 million dollar wrongful death suit against the Rangers. Ballplayers will never again flip balls into the stands, another time honored tradition of the game gone. And at some point one of my more grounded, clearer thinking Christian brothers will explain it all to me and I will move on. In the meantime I will try to get the image of 6 year old Cooper Stone crying at the rail out of my head. Josh Hamilton was Cooper’s favorite player. He even had his jersey. I guess I’ll say a prayer for Josh Hamilton while I’m at it.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Casey Anthony Trial...My take

When it comes to big pop culture events like the Casey Anthony trial, I always come to the party late and over-dressed. I only really became aware of the thing and how huge it was while listening to the verdict being read on my car radio coming back from the beach. Basically I knew the outline of the story but none of the details. I never watched one minute of the trial on television. What I knew was that this batty party girl single Mom was accused of killing her adorably doe-eyed daughter. I also knew that pictures of Ms. Anthony had surfaced showing her partying like it was 1999 at the same time that her child was listed as missing. Although these facts prove conclusively that Casey Anthony is a loathsome human being, they do not necessarily add up to a murder conviction.

The reaction to the innocent verdict in this case has been reminiscent of the anger that poured forth out of the nation after the O.J. Simpson trial. It is seemingly unanimously believed that a gross injustice has been done here. The jurors in this case have been subjected to bitter condemnations from all quarters. The talking heads of the media have been apoplectic in their outrage. Cable news legal analysts who were all so outrageously and spectacularly wrong were reduced to sputtering incoherent gibberish and ass-covering. Nobody enjoys watching the media being made fools of more than me, but I did sense that justice had been denied. The overwhelming and sometimes ridiculous reaction of so many to the verdict did spark curiosity on my part to at least investigate the story and see what all the fuss was about. After doing so I have come to the conclusion that A. Casey Anthony was guilty of murder and therefore got away with it, and B. the jury made the right decision to acquit her of the charge. Let me explain.

In our system of justice the scales are and should be tilted towards the accused. We have a presumption of innocence. The state has a harder job than the defense. A defense attorney only has to convince one juror that there is reasonable doubt to free his client. The prosecutor has to convince all 12 jurors. In this case in particular where the case against Anthony was circumstantial the job is even harder. As I researched this case I learned that there was no murder weapon, no forensic evidence, not even an agreed upon cause of death or even time of death. What there was , was a despicable woman and a dysfunctional family and an adorable innocent child. But the jurors were not charged with making moral judgments about the defendants’ character, they were charged with coming to a unanimous conclusion concerning the facts and evidence of the case and they did so. The prosecution could not argue the facts of the case so they portrayed Anthony as a slut and unfit mother. The defense did its job of proving reasonable doubt by pointing out the lack of actual evidence. This case had bushel baskets of reasonable doubt! When the state places the fate of a human being in the hands of a jury of her peers one hopes that that jury listens carefully to the facts, follows the charge given to it by the presiding judge, and makes their decision accordingly.

Did Casey Anthony kill that little girl? I’m 99% sure. But in our system it has to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. In such a system, sometimes guilty people are set free. When that happens it isn’t pretty. However, I prefer to live under a system of justice that occasionally sets guilty people free than one that routinely convicts the innocent. God bless America.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

My 4th of July

Just got back from 4 days in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina where I celebrated the 4th with my wife, my sister and her husband, and the 50,000 others who decided to do the same thing. Heretofore I have always spent the 4th either in the back yard of my parents’ house or at Nags Head. So nothing I have ever experienced in the past prepared me for the throngs of people as far as the eye could see on the wide beaches of the Grand Strand. Each day we would drive from our palatial condo on the hill 4 blocks away down to the public access parking lot where we would battle for a space, deposit the money into the collection station,( $1.50 per hour ), and then grab our considerable gear and trudge through the hot sand to do battle for a spit of land to call our own. Once our beachhead had been established we would sit in our rickety chairs with one eye on the books we had brought to read and one wary eye on the very large reptilian woman in the chair 18 inches to our right who smelled oddly of Old Spice. Then there were the several women and men who served as excellent examples for any teenagers who cared to look, of the consequences of poor decision making and youthful indiscretion in the area of body art. Yes, that super cool starburst fruit chew design that seemed so right that Saturday night years ago after that Grateful Dead concert in Hoboken doesn’t hold up to the ravages of time and the inexorable pull of gravity.

As I took a walk down to the Apache pier zigzagging through the teeming masses I was treated to the Super Bowl of people watching. It was a moving feast for the eye. Every kind of body type of our species was on display in every possible stage of development. There were the skinny, the fat, the tiny daintily featured , the big-boned. There were the fair skinned wearing large floppy hats hiding under canopies, then there were the grotesquely seared ones whose skin looked as if it had been prepared for use in the manufacture of leather wing-back chairs, the kind you see in the lobbies of law firms who specialize in personal injury cases. Then there were the ladies who had managed to pour themselves and their ample bosoms into bikinis designed for 14 year old girls. Oddly these particular ladies seemed fond of beach games that required rapid movement and quite a lot of lunging, like beach volleyball and corn hole. More often than not their bodies were also adorned with ill-conceived tattoos whose futures were not good. One in particular sported a brightly colored butterfly right across her belly...which if she ever gives birth will soon resemble an axe-murderer with a handlebar mustache.

As I walked and watched this slice of Americana it seemed that most of the people my age were fabulously unhappy. We looked hot and annoyed at the presence of so many other Americans. But there was one group that seemed totally unfazed by the universal hassle of human beings too close to other human beings. The toddlers. Those adorable kids experiencing the beach for the first time. The bright eyes, the look of wonder when they see their toes disappear in the sand after a receding wave washes over them on its way back out to sea. The fearlessness of the two year old who sees his Grandpa out in the water and runs headlong into a crashing wave with his little arms out and face turned up in joy. It’s the sort of thing that you can’t help but watch with a certain lump in your throat. That kid was you 50 years ago, and that kid was your own kid just last week, it seems.

All was not lost because of the overcrowding. I read two books, took some killer naps, shot 81 at Pine Lakes. And ate some truly wonderful food. I missed my kids though. Hope they missed me.