Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Snap Out of It

When my course is set for the beach, don't get in my way.

It was just about the time I finished all the writing I had to do that I first heard the tornado sirens wailing. To be honest, I wasn't sure what the sound was, but that's what Facebook is for, right? Once I realized that there were tornados in the vicinity and that most of my friends at work were hunkered down in basements and interior rooms, I took the warning seriously.

While my disdain for the suburbs is well-known, no one wants to see photos and video of overturned cars, destroyed houses near Brandermill and swirling debris over the Huguenot Bridge. Scary.

But the main effect of the tornados on me was the warning not to drive for an hour.  By the time that was lifted, it was time for me to head to the Library of Virginia for Modern Richmond's kickoff event for Modern Richmond week. I'd had my ticket for the Haigh Jamgochian - the architect who designed the tin foil Markel building over at Willow Lawn - symposium for a few weeks now.

I wasn't at all encouraged when I arrived at 5:20 for a 5:30 event and only four people were in the auditorium. I heard two women discussing how their kids were still at school, having been held by the school system for fear of sending out buses into a tornado.

Around 6:15, an announcement was made that the start of the event was being delayed so that all the people who'd bought tickets had time to make it there. "We hope this isn't too much of an inconvenience," the Modern Richmond spokesperson announced.

Actually, it was. I'd only been planning to stay until 7:00 anyway, so that was my cue to exit stage right and head eastbound, where I promptly ran into a fierce thunderstorm directly over Shockoe Bottom. By the time I got to Rockett's Landing, the roads were dry and the sky looked sunny and clear. Proof positive that I'd escaped at just the right moment.

Driving away from the city and the scary black clouds hovering over the western skyline, it occurred to me that I couldn't remember the last time I'd driven to the Outer Banks at night.  And while my goal was noble - who wouldn't want to fall asleep to the surf and wake up to the same? - I'm terrible at recognizing landmarks in the dark, so this was bound to be an adventure.

In Waverly, the Tastee Treat we'd eaten at a few months ago now had a "Closed for the season" sign out front. When I stopped at a Stuckey's for a bathroom break, the first thing I noticed was a sign reading, "NO LOUD MUSIC," which necessitated me turning the Pet Shop Boys down considerably. Inside, they had showers as well as bathrooms for weary travelers. Fortunately for me, I was already clean.

Crossing the state line, I saw several signs, all with the same ominous message: "Avoid travel in North Carolina. Major roads are impassable," not the most reassuring of greetings.

Despite a lifetime of coming to the beach, finding a house I've only been to once in an area (South Nags Head) I don't know well was, hmm, how shall I say, challenging to say the least. What made it easier was that there was no traffic to speak of on the beach road, so I could back up easily when I finally realized I'd reached my destination: Moonstruck.

It's a poetic name for a monster of a house, but it's oceanfront and nothing's better than that.

And while all appeared to be quiet at the house on my arrival (despite prolonged door knocking and tooting my horn), my hellos were finally met with two male faces with glowing cigars in their mouths from the deck on the third floor.

Beau and Beckham helped me bring my stuff into the house where Pru had assigned me the same oceanfront room I'd had last year. If anything proves that she loves me, that's it. I was given the news that Hot Dog won't be joining us after all, having opted out of making the trip from Arizona. His loss.

The three of us reconvened on the porch where the guys were doing some serious damage to a bottle of Scotch whilst puffing on their stogies. At one point, they switched cigars (also known as swapping spit), the better to compare flavors.

All I know is I heard something about "thick wrapper, delicate leaf" and knew I was out of my league.

I give the guys credit, though, because after all that Scotch, they had to be tired, but were gracious enough to sit up with me. Not that it was much of a sacrifice given the most excellent breezes, practically perfect temperatures ("It feels like nothing," Beau observed) and a view of foam on crashing surf. Even the stars were remarkably clear, at least until some wispy clouds moved in toward midnight.

Truth is, I'm sorry I missed hearing Haigh Jamogochian talk about architecture (who doesn't like to hear an architect go on and on?) but the delay in starting was enough for the siren call of the beach to drown out any remorse I had about not waiting around indefinitely for the lecture to begin. Besides, it's common knowledge that I hate it when the punctual are punished and the tardy rewarded.

Maybe I was just ready to leave my inner nerd at home and let the beach frivolity begin.

Hot Dog's going to be sorry he missed this.

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