Friday, September 19, 2008

Taking the Cure

I've been feeling sort of crapcake--some sort of snorfly condition, and today I decided to do what I always did in my youth when I wanted to feel better: I went to the beach.

My dad (who is actually a doctor) has some old-fashioned ideas about how to fix what ails ye, and his go-to Rx was always "go get some Vitamin D on your head." Funny how all these years after the furor over sun exposure, doctors are prescribing daily sun once again. I've always felt that it was especially effective when combined with sea, sand and salty air, so--feeling a bit absurd--I packed my red-nose self into the car with a huge wad of tissues, my book and the little unit that I still struggle not to call my Walkman.

I couldn't decide between Coronado and La Jolla Shores--let's face it, neither one is nearby. We may have a house now, but the trade-off is living on an arid, land-locked tundra at least 15 minutes from water in any direction. I think I chose La Jolla Shores for nostalgia reasons--I have taken many a constitutional on that beach, whether for my body or my poor, battered heart. There is something about a solitary stroll steeped in melodrama that soothes the soul. (Okay, feel free to high-five that sentence for its alliteration.) Also, I like The Cheese Shop.

After ordering my sandwich, soda and British fruit pastilles (so difficult to find!) and paying what seemed a suspiciously small amount ("Are you sure you've got it all?") I followed the myriad wet-suited wanderers carrying boards and kayaks towards the water. I was a little surprised to see how high the tide was, and the waves did pound so. I always think of La Jolla Shores as a long, wide beach with soft, rolling whitewash, but not today. There were also massive piles of seaweed, with their attendant flies. And though I had been expecting an empty expanse of post-Labor Day sand, it was hot today, and tourists are not that easily fooled.

But it was okay. I strolled along the boardwalk until I came to a pink bench with a plaque reading "Dedicated to Billie Flack." I stopped and smiled. I don't know Billie Flack, but I once began a spectacular failure of a romance on her bench. Now I thought I'd have lunch with her, lo, these many years later.

My sandwich was pretty good, and I lingered over the food review in the Reader while listening to the many people passing me who seemed to be talking to themselves, until I glanced up and saw their headsets. So many that I wondered what they were doing at the beach, in their ties and pleated pants, but it was not for me to know.

I had decided that I wouldn't go down to the water...after all, I'd have to get my feet dirty, and then what? I started walking down the boardwalk and was suddenly very conscious of the cement beneath my feet. "This is ridiculous," I says to myself, and swerved onto the sand. My flip-flops dangled from my fingertips and the sand was surprisingly hot. Soon the waves were rushing over my feet, and it was cold but I stopped noticing seconds later. Suddenly, I knew I would have been an idiot to skip getting my toes wet.

I switched on, not Walkman, get it straight, Sam!...and it started up on Ella Fitzgerald's "Begin the Beguine." I was about to skip it, when I realized I didn't care if the song was an absurd fit for a Thursday morning at the beach, because I love it. And it's about heartbreak and somehow thinking about heartbreak at the beach seemed exactly right.

I have to stop myself from dancing. I dance everywhere; I dance in the cereal aisle. I try to look cute but I know I just look goofy. I'm not a trained ballerina or anything. So I just wiggled my hips a little...hardly at all!...and did some very small kicks. The waves mostly covered them. It was beautiful out there, seaweed and everything. A girl walked by with her iPod and I wondered what she was listening to. Standing in the waves never fails to cheer me up, and I noticed suddenly that I could breathe and I hadn't reached for a tissue in a while.

Then a song came on I hadn't even known I had. Billy Bragg's "Greetings to the New Brunette:"

The people from your church agree
It's not much of a career
Trying the handles of parked cars
Whoops, there goes another year
Whoops, there goes another pint of beer

I watched my toes and thought about all the places I've been while this song was playing, and how this was a new one. And how different the song sounded from 20 years ago, and yet not different. How it seemed like an anthem then, but now I could tell I was doing my rubbery smile that means I'm finding something ironic. If anyone had been with me, they might have asked what I was smiling about, and I would have had a hard time explaining (though never you fear, I would have tried.) But no one else was there, so the smile was just for me.

When the song ended, I started back towards the car. Sweaty, but feeling a lot better. Stopped at the showers, where my feet rinsed off admirably. On the Walkman, a little roar of applause began, which meant I was about to hear "Stop Making Sense" by the Talking Heads.


Anonymous said...

Reading your writing puts a peace in my heart. When is the book coming out???

Anonymous said...

So jealous of your 15 minute drive to the beach... :) I always loved going for a walk by myself at Torrey Pines. Fixes what ails ya, even if nothing really ails ya at all. :) lix

Anonymous said...

My hubby loves your word "crapcake". I used it the other night and he was stuck on it forever!

Anonymous said...

A beautiful, magical post Sam. I don't know what I'm going to do if you don't write a book.

Did we ever tell you about our La Jolla magical moment? It was my first trip to San Diego, the one where I met you and thought I love that he has such a cool friend who I could totally be friends with. Anyway, it was pitch black and somehow we wandered out on some type of deck or boardwalk or something over the water, at the far north end of the cove or beach (yes, it was that dark! but I know we ate dinner in La Jolla overlooking the ocean and walked from there). Above us, hidden in the slope, was a violinist playing an intense, deeply moving song of which I don't know the name but it felt like it belonged in a movie about love and loss in European war times. We didn't even talk, just hugged and kissed and soaked it all in and I knew I loved Mike and had to marry him.

The Wades said...

Fifteen whole minutes to water?? Seriously? We could drive 15 hours!

I ALWAYS love a good alliteration!

"but it was not for me to know." love it!

"and it was cold but I stopped noticing seconds later."

you're the best!

hey, why couldn't i comment on that adorable little flick?

Laural Out Loud said...

Your writing floors me- so so good (and so unlike mine). Love reading when you write like this.

Oh, and another cure for feeling crapcake is a cupcake. Works for me every time! Though I might give a walk on the beach a try, too.