Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Suddenly This Summer

"Good grief! Again?" a friend asks with exasperation.

Hallelujah, says I. No such thing as too much ocean breeze.

I can't help it if other people don't need as much time at the beach as I do, although I am glad that I know someone as inclined as I am to make the drive to spend even a day soaking up ever-changing breezes and bathing in the ocean.

A pro at this, I pack a cooler and a beach bag of necessities, although we have to make one pre-trip pit stop at Saison Market to score some pink: Le Fraghe "Rodon" because what would a trip to the shore be without sufficient Rose?

As my above-mentioned friend would say, "Quelle horreur!"

In my analog quest to make it to the ocean without using my date's technology, we may have chosen a rather scenic route through Pungo and environs, although who would complain about a bonus ride in the country en route to a day goofing off?

Certainly not anyone I'd want to get sandy with.

We stopped at Bandito's food truck to score lunch - enormous fish tacos and chicken burritos - from the same family who've been roadside since I began going to Sandbridge. And while the truck's location is no longer as convenient (nothing beats across the beach road), the food remains stellar.

Setting up camp squarely between two lifeguard stands not far from where the waves were breaking, we found ourselves on the international beach, with a group of German families to our right and two French couples to our left. It made for interesting eavesdropping since we could only guess at content by tone.

What was impressive were the two little German boys (one in a wide-brimmed black hat that you'd never see on an American 8 year old) who diligently spent hours building a sand castle and filling its moat bucket by red bucket, never once asking for their parents' assistance, or even talking to them.

They were all about their mission.

The ocean temperature felt cooler than our last couple forays to the beach, but not for long, forcing us to admit that we'd just been overly hot when we'd first gone in.

Or perhaps just traumatized.

Standing at water's edge, a woman and her son approached us, the kid wearing a Trump mask and making thumbs-up motions. We'd seen them earlier making their way up the beach and wondered what was up, but when they followed us into the water (we had our back to them) and stood there, he with his thumb up and she giggling like an idiot, we just turned away.

What kind of parent puts her kid in a hideous mask and trots him around to make others uncomfortable? This is childhood circa 2017?

Happily, once they exited stage right, the rest of the day was golden.

I finally finished A.E. Hotchner's "Papa Hemingway," which I'd begun at the last beach house (because a book with so many chapters set in Cuba and Spain deserves to be read seaside).

We took a mid-afternoon watermelon break because being covered in watermelon juices is just a fine excuse to get back in the water. We took a later-afternoon chips, guacamole and salsa break, causing my companion to ruminate on how he could possibly be hungry again.

According to my Mom's long-held wisdom, children eat and sleep better at the beach than anywhere else and realistically, why wouldn't the same apply to adults?

The ocean was striped with bands of color - olive green, bottle green, aquamarine and silvery blue - by the time the lifeguards blew their whistles and we took it to mean it was officially happy hour and got started on our groovy organic Italian Rose. Full-bodied, crisp and with a pleasing minerality, we took our glasses down to enjoy by the German boys' masterpiece now that they were gone.

By then, the beach had begun to empty out and my earlier prediction that we'd outlast 95% of the crowd had proved I'd learned a lesson or two since coming to Sandbridge.

It was going on 7:00 before the time felt right to walk, although that was partly the Rose and partly a comment someone made recently when they saw us walking together ("Girl, don't you walk that man to death!" - a hilarious comment Mac later attributed to my no-nonsense hat).

Our timing was perfect because the combination of the very wide beach and the McMansion houses that line it (the very same ones we mocked mercilessly as we passed them for their architectural mish-mash style, un-beachlike look and overblown size) meant that we weren't walking in direct sun and it was uncrowded, with most of the people left on the beach having arrived in the last hour or so.

I was especially taken with the large guy who'd arrived toting a load, set his young 'uns up and then walked directly into the ocean, not leaving it until near dark. The smile never left his face as he regarded them from his refreshing stance up to his shoulders in salt water.

We took plenty of ocean detours ourselves, arriving back to break up camp only minutes before the parking lot closed. You never saw two people shower publicly so quickly.

Luckily for us, Sandbridge may close its lots early, but Margie and Ray's rustic crabhouse is now open on Mondays and doesn't turn away pickled beach-lovers with sand in their hair, even when they show up at closing time to slide on to barstools.

The bartender was friendly, a local on a stool bantered with us about the fish-heavy decor and no one made us feel bad for showing up late and starving.

We discovered that one advantage of being a tardy arrival is that while plenty of people are still eating - a 16-top in the back was still picking away at mounds of crabs and two other large parties were nowhere close to finished eating when we showed up - the kitchen's not especially busy, so our mahi mahi and pound of spiced shrimp arrived in what felt like no time.

Everything was locally caught (okay, maybe not the hushpuppies) and positively delicious, but also, see: Mom's rule of thumb.

Let's just say I slept the sleep of the just. Good grief, yes again.

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