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.