Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Seen as Something More

As Stevie Nicks once sang, "Never, ever been a blue, calm sea. I have always been a storm."

When you've been coming to the beach since you were two weeks old, you get used to storms as just part of a beach trip. I know people who are bummed when a storm interrupts any part of their beach stay, but I'm not one of them.

Yesterday's walk involved a northerly wind so stiff I walked backwards for most of it. We came across what can only be called spontaneous beach sculpture - a shapely mass of wood, wire and dried seaweed - laid out on the sand as if part of some larger display.

Glossy black sea crows (we looked them up to verify) also looked like pieces of art against a turquoise cottage with bright white trim. The ocean was warmer even than the day before, with waves crashing so hard as the tide went out that there was a constant lace of ocean spray above the breakers.

All in all, a gorgeous day even given the constantly roiling clouds, intermittent rain and changeable gusts of wind that seemed to blow from multiple directions at once.

The balcony off our room is covered, making it a fabulous retreat when it is raining and the two-seater Nags Head Hammock Company chair that hangs from the floor above is about the most comfortable, not to mention local, way to lounge while taking in the length of the beach in front of us.

When it came time to decide where to head for dinner, the state of the flooded roads became a factor so we decided to stay in the 'hood and go to the venerable Sam & Omie's.

Interestingly enough, all 3 of my partners-in-surf-and-sand have been there before. Only I had somehow vacationed for decades here without ever making it there to eat. Part of that is my preference for more northerly beaches and part is simply that I've been to plenty of places very similar, so I'd never felt any urgency to make it a destination.

We shouldn't have been surprised to arrive to find lots of people sitting around waiting for a table, but we were. It was a gorgeous evening to await our turn outside, especially given how close the ocean is to the restaurant and how briny the air smelled.

Unfortunately, not everyone had the same attitude and one group walked by us, grumbling because they hadn't been given buzzers or pagers and were expected to listen for their names to be called.

Honestly, I applaud Sam & Omie's for keeping it pure with names and not devices. It's worked for them since 1937, so why change?

Everything about it was immediately familiar: the woody interior, sprawling layout, servers who call you "hon" and a straightforward menu with only a few concessions to eating off the land. Not the kind of place to find trendy fish, but just the place to find fried clam strips.

Old school seafood eating in a convivial atmosphere right up until 9 p.m. because when you're open from breakfast on, that's plenty late enough to be serving dinner.

My flounder was stellar, my date's marinated tuna brought two large pieces of flavorful fish and the onion rings positively perfect (sweet inside, lightly battered outside), making the accompanying clams the understudy not the lead.

Where Sam and Omie let me down was with dessert. Their coconut cake had whipped cream, not frosting (unacceptable) and our server regretted to inform us that the last piece of Heath bar chocolate torte had just been served.

That's where staying with the hostess with the mostess comes in handy because she spirited us back to the cottage for chocolate rum cake which she'd picked up in Bermuda a few weeks ago and a lively game of Scattergories set to a soundtrack of '60s R&B and crashing ocean surf.

But only after my companion and I walked down to the beach to investigate the unusually high tide which had come in during our absence and, with its serious encroachment on our walkway and steps, made clear that while Hurricane Jose had moved on, he wanted to be remembered.

Me, too. And because I'm a Gemini, I'd like it to be as part blue, calm sea and part storm. Always warm.

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