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Halfbaked n’ Bothered: Life is a Beach. by Margaret Baker

Troy at Beach Florida 2014

When I was a kid in North Carolina we used to go to Surf City every summer. Surf City was not a cool beach. It was not popular with teens on Spring break or with topical trunks surfer dudes. There were no amusement parks, no miniature golf courses with giant alligator entryways, no seafood that wasn’t heavily breaded and fried. There was a sad little IGA for all your canned peas and Vienna Sausage needs. You could wander barefoot out on the Surf City pier dodging fishing hooks and shrimp guts and occasionally peer into someone’s bucket and say “got anything?” We never minded that we were staying in a rusty mobile home that smelled like Nescafe and Raid. We never minded the inevitable wad of sand that collected in crotch of our swim suits. Sunburn and jelly fish were only minor inconveniences. We didn’t mind drinking tea made with fishy tasting water or falling asleep to the thunk thunk of an electric base wafting from the Moose Lodge on party night.

I was of course delighted when my sister and her husband recently bought a house in good old Surf City and invited us to vacation there. The house is air-conditioned, carpeted, clean and free of sand, salt and warm breezes. It has a laundry room, cable TV and a dishwasher. It sits on stilts and has a great view of another house which sits right in front of the inland waterway which is really near the ocean.

In spite of all this luxury the thrill was sort of gone. My skin now splotches in the sun so my beach experience was spent hunched under an umbrella which forced me into an attractive Cro-Magnon posture. Fear of skin cancer caused me to buy the ultra viscous albino proof sunscreen which also acts as a grit adhesive. Granules of sand stuck to every inch of me and to everything I touched. You could have used my abrasive turkey sandwich to strip varnish. The first day in spite of lavish chemical protection I burned my neck forcing me to invent the turtleneck dickey/swimsuit ensemble which I must say did NOT catch on. My curly hair, volumized with salty moisture, looked like something that Joan Rivers had electrocuted. There was no where to pee except the ocean but that’s ok because salt kills pee, right. Right?

And alas, Surf City, formerly of hip wader couture and bloodworm kiosks had been DISCOVERED.

Cottages were replaced by condos, McMansions, boat heavy marinas and Wings, a mammoth coastal crap retail plaza. The calming lull of the ocean was often drowned out by boom boxes and the sea breezes were smothered by cigarette smoke and cloying coconut lotions. The IGA was still there but totally trumped by Wal-Mart and Food Lion. Teeming traffic lined up to cross the bridge and Hardees “Eat Like You Mean It” bags tumble-weeded across the asphalt.

In spite of the inevitable encroachment of progress, I discovered that there is still a way to enjoy the sea. You simply rise at 6:00AM and join the fishermen, shell collectors, dog walkers and searchers for meaning. Before ten o’clock the ocean is calm, the sun is merciful and the preening bodies are still asleep. You may never get quite as excited over plastic buckets of molded sand as you once did but you can recoup the feeling that you’re facing something with end-of-the-earth grandeur, a mystery so divine you never want it solved. Fry up another hushpuppy. I’ll be back.

– Margaret Baker, LBSPY #55 (June 30-July 28, 2014)


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Publisher/Editor in Chief at HashtagWV | + posts

HASHTAGWV ART & ENTERTAINMENT Publisher/Editor-in-Chief, Christina Entenmann-Edwards has been a WV resident since September 2008. She was born and raised in Fairfield County, Connecticut, and is no stranger to hard work and the entrepreneurial spirit. In 2006, she graduated from Quinnipiac University (Hamden, Connecticut), Cum Laude, with a B.A. in History. In 2010, she graduated with an M.B.A. from Liberty University (Lynchburg, Virginia). In February 2012, Christina launched HashtagWV as the area’s first full-color, free arts and entertainment tabloid + online platform. Christina completed the Leadership West Virginia class of 2021, which is an innovative program that grows, engages, and mobilizes leaders to ignite a life passion to move West Virginia forward.