Thursday, July 7, 2011

In Training to Fry Fish

My visitors can't wait to immerse themselves in the beach life once they arrive.

Today's friend pulled up, brought in her bag, beach towels and home-grown produce and said, "Okay let's go to John's!"

For those not stepped in years of Outer Banks vacations, John's is a low-slung concrete dive with fish sandwiches, burgers and about forty different types of milkshakes. For old-schoolers, they even have malteds.

So we joined the throngs waiting to place their orders in the hot sun of the asphalt parking lot. The few scattered wooden picnic tables held others already waiting for their orders.

You have to see the mass of humanity at John's to appreciate how it appeals to everyone: young, old, rich, poor, white-bread and ethnic.

Happily, we got our order in fairly quickly, but were warned first that the wait for food was a solid half hour. As my friend told the cashier,"I just spent three hours driving here, so what's another thirty minutes?"

A sign in the window clarified the reason why: "Sorry for the wait. We are training today."

We found a bench in the shade and proceeded to watch the theater of the parking lot, noting that even when we were sixteen, we never had the bodies that some of these girls have. Must be all the hormones they've ingested since birth. Or superior DNA.

When our name was finally called, we grabbed our bag and shakes and hightailed it back to the cottage.

Eating John's beach grub may be a vacation tradition, but eating it in the midday heat of a parking lot with idling cars all around is most definitely not.

Besides, while we'd been gone, a beautiful breeze had materialized from the south, so lunch on the back porch overlooking the ocean was a far more enjoyable way to go.

I'd gotten the rockfish and she the dolphin, both on long crusty rolls slathered with tartar sauce under tomato and lettuce. My rockfish was perfectly fried and generously portioned.

We'd agreed to share a box of onion rings, made all the more satisfying for the coating of grease on the bottom with bits of breading scattered around.

Our giant milkshakes, always the most popular items on John's menu, were as thick and chocolatey as ever. That's never changed.

Afterwards, we sat down to read for a while before acknowledging to each other that it was nap time. A John's lunch pretty much thickens the blood to the thickness of paste.

Half an hour later, revived and only a bit groggy, we took to the beach for a walk, only to be stopped by a member of the beach patrol saying that a thunderstorm was coming so the beach had to be cleared.

Walking back, my friend started laughing. "I love that I've only been here a few hours and we've already eaten at John's, napped, read and walked on the beach!"

That's the thing; jumping into this lifestyle is a snap.

It's switching back to reality when you leave that poses the challenge.

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