Fish Story

Looking over the scrub oaks, past the pond to Tom Nevers head. ACK.

I smell bacon.

It’s unmistakable. It’s the smell of a workingman’s breakfast. It’s the smell that makes many a vegetarian yearn and even fall off the wagon. It’s the smell of something so bad that is so good.

There was a period when The Spouse was all about big breakfasts. He dubbed it the “hearty sailor breakfast.” I believe that term originated from a trip to the whaling museum combined with his summer obsession of reading Moby Dick on Tom Nevers beach. Slap me silly and call me Ishmael, but I don’t think he ever made it beyond the first third (I’m being very generous here) of his library-stolen, tattered black-bound volume with the fabric cover frayed, loosened and then separated from its spine. Me? I read the Cliff Notes.

So the hearty sailor breakfasts started at the beach house, where we’d cup our mugs of hot coffee as we surveyed the scrub oak and the annual shrinking view of the pond from the kitchen of the upside-down house. Beyond the pond, across a span of beach that ebbed and flowed according to the severity of the winter storms, was the big, wide and deep Atlantic.

It was sometimes blue. It was sometimes gray. It was sometimes green. It was often blue-gray mottled with green-blue tipped by shifting white caps with the deepest blue lapping at the horizon. I can see why Tom Nevers stood at that beachhead looking for whales. We did, too.

At night, the moon would laser its beam to light up a black-blue sea, whereupon the ocean would reflect it right back up, keeping some of the glow for itself to spread like a blanket that it cozied under. On some nights, the moon would creep up behind the ocean. On those nights it would magic itself into a giant glowing wafer and slowly, slowly, ever so slowly rise, so as not to tip off the waves. It only did this when it was a full moon. A crescent didn’t have the heft for this trick. But the giant sphere was so big it could hide in plain sight.

The morning after a moon like that, eggs and pancakes with blueberries, butter and real maple syrup and bacon would hit the long wooden table. There would be pirate talk, but mostly the boys vacuuming their breakfasts before a bike ride or beach day.

One year, the hearty sailor breakfasts continued at home. The Spouse would get up and start cooking a few strips of bacon to the delight of boys not anxious to get up and go to school. Much better than the cold cereal that The Doc offered up. There wasn’t always eggs and pancakes and bacon. Some days it was pancakes and bacon. Others eggs and bacon. But always bacon.

The smell of bacon soon permeated the morning routine. It began to greet me when I came home from work. It seemed to seep into the couch, the rug, the draperies. It hung in my coat, my gloves, my sweater, my t-shirt, my hair. After two-weeks of waking up to the smell of bacon, of coming home to the smell of bacon, of brushing my teeth to the smell of bacon, of going to bed to the smell of bacon, I felt like I lived in a greasy diner. The ones you recognize from a half-block away because of the smell of bacon. Always the smell of bacon.

Did I mention that I don’t care for bacon in the morning? I’m not big into breakfast. A bowl of cereal or a yogurt and some fruit or toast and coffee? I’m good. I mean, I’ll eat a waffle occasionally, but omelettes and hash browns and breakfast meats and toast and butter? No thank you.

Two weeks of the descent into The Great Bacon Diner, and I had enough. Enough bacon every single morning. That was it. And to this day, a dozen plus years later, I am still ridiculed for my bacon hatred and the moratorium I supposedly instituted.

Except that is obviously not true, because today, like many times in the past decade, I smelled bacon. And like many times since the purported bacon-ban, the eyes of the Big Guy and Baby Bear shone with an impish gleam. Like the sneaky moon, getting one over on the ocean. Thar she blows!

And for this, all of it, I am thankful. Happy Thanksgiving, Loyal Reader.

Froth and Effervescence

Little boy in a hoodie going all in on blowing

Tell me you never blew bubbles into your milk. I know you did. You didn’t do it to be subversive. Although it was a signal for your mother to shoot you the look. The one that turns you to stone. But her attention was just an added bonus.

No. The reason why you placed that straw in your mouth and blew the contents from your lungs into the milk, rather than draw the milk from the cup to become the contents in your belly, was because it was funny. And fun.

Bubbles are fun.

If you really blew hard and got the bubbles going, there was a chance that you could overflow your cup with piles and piles of milk bubbles. Exciting and fun.

When the tide meets the sand, there are bubbles. Kids kick the spray back into the ocean, and sometimes capture the froth in bright pink or electric green plastic buckets. Wild and fun.

Picking the jar of bubbles out of the basket from next to the chocolate duckies and bunnies on a sunny Easter Sunday meant that you would chase wild and free bubbles in the yard after church. It was good to run off that morning jelly-beans-for-breakfast sugar rush anyway. Distracting and fun.

There were foam bubbles and kiddie bubble bath and piling bubbles on tops of little heads and pictures to see the sweet babe modestly covered in bubbles. I still get a little sad thinking about the small bubble ice bergs floating around in the dirty bath water. It was time to get out. The bubbles were gone. Clean and fun.

While The Doc is not a fan of adult bubble baths (I really can’t stand a bath), I do admit that they look very fun. Watching Margot Robbie explain subprime mortgages in a bubble bath is elucidating and fun.

And she was drinking champagne. Now that’s my kind of bubbles. The better the champagne the tinier the bubbles. But even when they are teeny, tiny–this is good champagne I’m talking about–the little bubbles still have substance that you physically break with your tongue. Chill a bottle of Cristal if you want the best bubbles and the toasty flavor of a great toast. Buzzed and fun.

Even today, I’m happy juicing up the water with my Soda Stream. I pulse the button to see and hear the rush of air making intimate contact with the dihydrogen monoxide. And when it’s done, it makes a flatulent noise. I can barely repress my giggles. Science and fun.

Leaving the train station, at the end of the work week, all I could think about was bubbles. I think I must have seen something floating in the air. I felt like walking through walls of bubbles. I wish that bubbles were everywhere. Light, airy bubbles. Bubbles. Bubbles. Bubbles. Funny and fun.

Post #214

a guy and a dog walking along a dock in Ocracoke.

I walked the length of our beach road at 7 a.m. Sweat was dripping from the tip of my nose and from the bottom of my chin. Literally dripping. I was walking slowly. This was before coffee.

I finished the milk one day too soon. I thought about going half-rations in my coffee this morning, then I threw all caution to the wind. Black coffee tomorrow morning.

I was lulled to sleep by the ocean and was shocked awake by a silent wave rushing over my legs and quick chilling my torso. Like the wine chilling vat at Whole Foods. But more quicker. This was not an issue. I fell back asleep.

I watched fluffy clouds chug across the sky. One looked like a cartoon alligator splayed on his back, laughing at an unheard joke. Another looked like a train with three cars, white cloud smoke puffing out of its stack.

I heard someone say that there are bumper stickers with a picture of okra and a coke bottle. I wish someone had told me that before I embarrassed myself by mispronouncing Ocracoke. I convoluted those letters every which way. Many times. Never again. A picture in my head is worth a thousand words.

I decided that there were too many male voices on the streaming “radio” stations. So I sought out Icona Pop with Charli XCX. I don’t care. I love it!

I stood in front of the refrigerated aisle at the Food Lion contemplating the choices for the trip’s final six-pack. I went in thinking of the known crisp and slightly fruity Stella and walked out with an unknown Slow Ride session IPA.

I learned that the unknown could be a very good choice.

I found out that monkfish is on the list of the thirteen most ugly animals. First, the list has thirteen? Not ten? Not fifteen? Did somebody get bored? Second, we are having it for dinner.

I was right to try a news diet. I knew I was right when I broke the diet and saw some of today’s news.

I spoke to both boyz today. One is 33o miles away and one is 1,901 miles away. They both needed something. That oddly made me happy. Not redundant, yet.

When I spoke on the phone with the Big Guy, I covered my mouth. I had just eaten some garlicky gazpacho. I apologized for the smell. He laughed. He said he couldn’t smell it. I laughed. I said it was because he had a cold. He said, “no, it’s actually pneumonia.” Uhm, the good news? He stopped smoking. For now. And promised to drink plenty of liquids.

I have a sunburn on my legs. It is the accumulated tan of six gloriously sunny days. I should have been more generous with the leg sunscreen, but there was such a good base. It is the glowing coal type of sunburn–it doesn’t really hurt, but it is hot. I bet it’s just old people skin by morning. I’ll drink plenty of liquids, too. Can’t hurt.

I decided against trying to string this together any better. See it as you will. And, thanks, as always, Loyal Reader, for your indulgence.


Poseidon In The House

The waves are crashing on the beach. There are some big fluffy clouds. And some sandy feet and sandy sandals in the foreground. It's sunny, too.

The gods of the sea asserted themselves today. It’s not like they were absent. They are always a part of the ocean. It’s just that today they made themselves known.

For the past few days, the ocean has met the shore with gentle rollers licking the sand. The water was a gray blue at the edge and striped green blue and then medium blue. The waves broke late, and without fanfare. It was subdued, but, the boss is still the boss.

Today, the breeze was stiff and from the north. It wasn’t windy. Hats were safe on heads, but blankets and the bodies on them were quickly covered with a light layer of sand. If there was no body on a towel, it would fold upon itself. Only once and then it would be heavy enough to stay put.

The soundtrack volume went from 3 to 7 with the percussive waves falling farther and with more frequency. Where the waves were only breaking at the shore, today, they were successive lines of crashing hills as far as you could see. Sometimes, a wave cresting north-south would meet up with a wave cresting south-north. The resulting criss crossing swirled and left a creamy foam reminiscent of  a well-poured Guinness.

On the waves, out halfway to the horizon, I saw a five foot swell speeding to the coastline. As I squinted I saw the outline of Poseidon riding the crest that was actually six white seahorses pulling his giant shell sleigh. There were dolphins, or were those mermaids(?), breaching the water in front of him and along the sides as his emissaries. The clamshell turned into a pair of majestic sea turtles–siblings for sure and as old as the sea–with the god’s feet planted firmly in the center of their shells.

The trident carried by Poseidon shone bright in the sun.  The glint from the sun blinded me for a minute. I had to close my eyes. When I opened them, the billowing white wave had dissipated and I lost the god. But I know he was there.


You’re Not Boss Over Me

Bossed up. Like Diana. Wonder Woman. From an ad

The child was prancing at the edge of the waves. I don’t know if she was teasing the ocean, or if the ocean was tricking her.

She was backing away from the water, and I could see the bottom of her swimsuit had white stars on American flag blue. Reminded me of Wonder Woman.

I readjusted my sun hat and pulled the long brim up a bit so I could see better. The suit had a cutaway and the top was red with yellow trim. Was this really a Wonder Woman suit? The girl turned toward me and I saw the definite gold “belt.” I so wanted that suit. Now. In a grown-up size.

I always forget how important Wonder Woman is to me. When Warner Brothers added Wonder Woman to it’s super hero lineup and released the trailer for her film, I watched it about fifteen times that first weekend. Thirty if you count all the times I skipped ahead to see her break a rifle in half, over her back, and deflect heavy artillery shells with her shield. But the best was when the guy said, “I can’t let you do this.” She looked at him somewhat blankly and said, “What I do is not up to you.”

“What I do is not up to you.” I love this. She makes her own calls. She doesn’t care about the guy’s chivalry. She doesn’t thank him for his concern. It’s foreign to her. It does not compute.

She doesn’t apologize for her strength. She protects other super heroes–like both Batman and Superman as they blathered on about their relationship. She is a fully formed person–albeit a badass person.

The girl was about seven. My eyes closely followed her every frolic. She kicked her leg out at the incoming wave. I looked. She waved her little plastic shovel above her head. It was duly noted. She pushed her wet locks away from her face, showering herself with sand. I saw that, too.

I watched this little girl playing next to the big bad ocean. She had no fear. She was alert, but not leery. She displayed her confidence. She didn’t need someone to protect her. She was fine. Wonder Woman in the making. I hope she always remembers that she’s a warrior princess. Oh, and where she parked that invisible plane. It’s impossible to see.

Sniff Testing 1-2-3

Dog, sniffing on the beach. He definitely smells something.

What does salt smell like? It has a taste, but to the nose there’s not much. So the smell of salt in the ocean must not be salt. It tastes like salt, when you lick your lips. But it must not be the salt you are smelling. It’s the ocean. Since taste and smell work together it seems like you smell the salt.

Walking along the water on a hot summer day, there’s more to smell than the ocean. Some people bring elaborate meals. Frankly any beach meal is elaborate if you don’t eat it out of a bag. The smell isn’t specific, other than it was food. It had some kinds of spices or herbs that wafted to the shoreline. Maybe it was boxes of pizza. That seems labored. The beer was mostly in cozies. There was no smell of hops.

From the family of four little girls in matching pink swimsuits and very pretty bows on their little heads and accompanied by a little boy who did not share the pink print on his swim trunks, came the unmistakable smell of summer. It was the scent of Coppertone.

Coppertone was the only suntan lotion when I was a kid. It wasn’t called sunscreen in those days. It also didn’t screen the sun. But we were slathered with it when we got to the beach, before we ran into the water. It smells of sand and sweat and seaweed and my mother ensuring that our fat little legs were covered.

Coppertone makes real sun protection now. There are a bunch of different formulas. Sprays. Lotions. Sport. Waterproof. A little UV protection. A lot of UV and other rays protection.

But the kids’ Coppertone still smells the same. And it still feels the same. Like a ham sandwich on white bread with a little bit of sand and an Orange Crush. And the sound of gulls who screech greedily at those sandwiches and kids who scream like they’re on a ride at the amusement park but are just expressing shock at the cold water. And an afternoon in the sun, with the family, having a day at the beach.

Shell Game

Oysters, and a few clams i the back.

Oysters are of the sea. Of the rough and tumble sandy, rocky, salty sea. Of dark skies and storms that cold boil brackish water.

The chassis of an oyster tell you that they mean business. They are not the perfectly ridged, delicate, ombré fan of the scallop. They are not the smooth, radial, accreted ridges of a clam shell.

No. Oysters look like street fighters, with a rock hard face that has been pummeled into a misshapen mass of cartilage and bone, awkwardly swollen and of many colors. Not all of them, or maybe none of them, a color of health.

It dares you to open it. It is the door to the witch’s house that you step back from because nothing good can be in there.

What a liar.

When I tip the half shell into my mouth and the oyster sides onto my tongue, my brain hears phantom calls of gulls. I almost look up, to squint into the sun, or to push my face into cold sea spray on a clouded day to see big gray or white big birds challenging me for that briny bite.

I taste the entire ocean, thousands of years, hundreds of thousands of years, concentrated in a chewy drop of sweet saline. If they are shucked poorly, I will bite into bits of its shells. I roll the shale to the side of my mouth and pull out the nature.

When they are shucked well, and adorned with a squeeze of lemon and a spritz of sweet-sour-peppery mignonette they are still of the wild sea. Because that is what they are.

Of the sea.