Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Let Me Outshine the Moon

Age is all the rage right now.

That ridiculous Microsoft #HowOldRobot thing that's everywhere at the moment claims to be able to judge your age from a  photograph. Apparently it needs some work because a 35-year old friend was told she looked 63 (she looks 30 in real life).

And what does it tell me when I give it my Facebook profile picture? That I'm a 29-year old female. It is to laugh.

I'm not saying that there aren't parts of me that act more like a 29-year old than my real age. Going out every night, attending so many music shows, hell, even my lack of fiscal conservatism could be considered more stereotypical of a younger person.

But my face? Sorry, that's a face that's seen a lot more than 29 years of life. It's experienced far more things than any 29-year old has had time to. And I don't have a problem with that.

However, it does point to some serious issues with #HowOldRobot. Work on it, geek squad, and get back with me.

Sunday morning, an observer might have guessed that I was more like 10 years old when I woke after only seven hours of sleep instead of my usual nine. The reason was pure excitement. I was leaving for the beach today and my annual week at the little oceanfront cottage that's been my destination since the '90s.

Itinerary: walk on the beach, read on the beach, eat, drink, sleep. Listen to the ocean 24/7.

Up early, I spent the morning doing the last of the packing and loading the car, eager to be on the lesser roads I take to the Outer Banks. The three-hour trip down is the kick-off to vacation, but since I was traveling solo, it's also an excuse to stop wherever I want, eat at roadside haunts that grab my attention and generally indulge myself.

I passed the Nina and the Pinta down off of Dock Street in my pursuit of Route 5 and ultimately 460, where I pulled into Adams Country Store with the Editors' "Open You Arms (and Welcome)"  blasting my arrival.

Inside, a man with one eye on the race greets me from his stool behind the bin of hog jowls that that sit as sentry at the door as I head to the back case for an RC Cola. Behind the counter up front is a woman who eyes me warily until I announce without being asked that I want  a ham sandwich with mustard.

Holding that cold bottle of RC as I cruise down 460 taking long pulls off of it, I am soon in the midst of a major caffeine buzz, hardly surprising since I don't drink coffee and rarely soda. It's kind of ideal right now, though, this buzz: cruising down the road on the way to the ocean under a bright blue sky and afternoon sun make me feel like I'm embarking on an adventure.

The geography captures my eye the whole way down because I'm looking at a very different landscape than I did all those years I came in July. The green of the trees is much lighter and more tender-looking, fresher. I pass a couple of old duffers tooling along, one in a restored Model T and the other in a  '66 Mustang. They feel like they're on an adventure, too.

I wind up riding next to a Land Rover where the girl in the passenger seat is methodically wiping (probably last year's sand) out the inside of the same model boom box as I have, notable mainly because it's so groovy looking, curved and aerodynamic. Hers is white and mine is bright blue (a Valentine's Day present last decade) but there's no mistaking the groovy factor. We are sisters.

After passing Frog Island Seafood year after year, this time I stopped for lunch, chatting with a table of ROMEOS as my crabcake sandwich (made with Frog Island crab, they say) and onion rings are prepared.

The couple in front of me to order have a look and the server asked if they're riding today. "Yep," the Mr. says while the Mrs. tells her how perfect the weather is for it. It's the kind of day that could make any activity better.

At the cottage, there was good news and bad news. For the last couple of years, there have been window A/C units, eliminating a breeze from one window in every bedroom. I rail against it every year in the guest journal. Who takes a house right on the ocean and then closes the window so you can't hear it?

But on the "watch out for Mother Nature" front, the beaches north and south are severely eroded, much, much narrower than I've ever seen them after a lifetime of summers here. Scary narrow in some places. During high tide, the water was lapping the house's stilts.

A look down later while lathering up in the outdoor shower off the big, screened porch revealed how much closer the sand under the house is than it was last year. Dredging can't start too soon, if you ask me.

After an hour setting the little cottage to rights, or at least ordering it the way that gives me the most pleasure, I am joined by my favorite beach partner, who'd also stopped at Adams. Beds made, we set out for a walk.

The peace and quiet of being here in early May is extraordinary. Most houses, especially the biggest ones, aren't occupied. People walking down the beach are an occasional diversion, not the endless parade they are in July. The water is too cold for any but the school-age children who on their only beach vacation this year.

Of all the unlikely coincidences, it's restaurant week down here, something I go out of my way to avoid in Richmond, but here it's just a reminder of how off-season it is right now.

At our favorite dive bar, we run into the same plumber as last year, except this year he provides the insider's tour and we got to experience the blue room.

The two closest places, Run Down CafĂ© (which is anything but, although it was in the mid-'90s) and Ocean Boulevard (starting strong with a appetizer of lamb shoulder with sorghum-glazed spring vegetables) both check out as intact and open. A new place in the old piano bar produced a tomato pie with pimento cheese that was stellar and I'm no pimento cheese worshipper.

Walking the beach is far more exercise than in the past because the sand has so little time when the ocean isn't lapping at it to dry out. I began a memoir, "The House in France" that's already delivering a peek into an ex-pat world I've never known. One afternoon nap so far and it was a doozy.

The first night here was a full moon, the moon making distinct shadows on the floor of the screened porch, a brilliant white light that lit up the ocean, too.

Real life intrudes when my partner in crime has to return to the city shortly after Tuesday dawns pink and perfect. My next visitors don't come for days.

It'll be interesting to see what I do with so much time alone here.


  1. Just lie on the sand eyes closed. Listen to the sounds of the sea: wind, waves & gulls & daydream. there's nothing back here that can't wait. That's that important. Hope the weather is good for you. I always try to find a spot down on hatteras where i'm solo on the beach all day.


  2. let's do lunch one day.


  3. i'll be back after the holiday. I'll contact you.