I live at the beach. A few years ago my brother and his family moved to Florida. He started to surf a lot with my nephew and to post glorious images of “dawn patrol.” He loves living in Florida and is happy living at the beach. It didn’t occur to me until August of 2011 that I too could live at the beach. Then we moved. From the deck of my apartment, when the tide is high and the air conditioners on the roof of the adjacent hotel aren’t filling the air with their white noise, I can hear the roar of the waves. My brother loads up his surfboards on his truck and drives 20 minutes to the pier at Flagler. I can stroll 150 yards to the East and feel the sand between my toes. He lives near the beach, I live at the beach. Truth be told, he probably spends more time in the water than I do.
Ironically enough, I’m writing the draft for this post while sitting on the beach and watching my daughter play with a friend of hers. I think I’ve been to the beach about six times this summer. I know that’s weird. Not as weird as the lady walking in front of me who’s wearing a tank top and ski bibs (I kid you not!) I didn’t bring my phone or I’d have taken a picture. There is no end to the weird things you see when you live at the beach… especially when you live at the beach in Georgia.
It’s not that I don’t like the beach. I love it. I love the salty taste of the water, the constant warm breeze blowing in off the ocean, the heat… I really love the heat! I grew up in Michigan, but I’m pretty sure I was meant for a warmer climate. I put on long sleeved shirts and jeans when the mercury hits 70 degrees. I’m serious. Ask anybody, except my friend Pat, he’s sick of hearing about it. I like to be philosophical about it, even Biblical, referring to the words of Paul in his letter to the Romans. I like it on my deck. I have beer in the fridge, sometimes a cigar or two in the humidor, high speed internet access and usually no drunks with a vocabulary consisting primarily of slurred profanity, stumbling around calling out to his wife “where are you?” because he’s so impaired he can’t even see straight, like the guy behind me right now. I can see the ocean from my deck, so it’s really kind of like being there, except for the obvious fact that it’s not actually being there.
Why is it so easy to live life without being there?
I turned 46 last month and have begun to quote a phrase I heard somewhere, “If I’d have known I was going to live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself.” I really should go back to the gym. I pay for a membership at the YMCA which is only 6 blocks from my apartment. A good friend of ours, Erin, who is also a personal trainer, refers to this phenomenon as “paying your fat tax.” I’d could stand to lose about 20 lbs, and if I were to ease back a little bit on the beer, it wouldn’t be that difficult. The difficulty of actually easing back on beer when living on Tybee is another matter entirely. What I’d really like is for somebody to create a beer that helped you get in shape. They could call it muscle beer. It would be brilliant. I’d even donate to the kickstarter campaign and I’m certain that I wouldn’t be alone. But it doesn’t work that way. I’ve lost weight before. At one point in my life my 5 foot 6 inch frame sported a chunk of flesh clocking in at 2o5 lbs. It was not pretty. I began to exercise regularly and watch what I ate (and drank) and was able to lose 20 lbs in less than three months. I lost another 20 a few years ago, finding myself weighing the same as I did when I got married in 1990. I was also on the verge of a nervous breakdown and too broke to afford beer, so there’s that.
I don’t sleep very much and can be found many nights sitting on my deck. Some start out with bursts of inspiration, which lead to posts similar to this, maybe grabbing my mandolin and learning another weird song to toss out at the next open mic nite, or adding a few pages to the script I’m writing for a no budget horror movie that I want to film with my friends here on the island. More often than not, these evenings end up with me watching some ridiculous movie about Zombie Sheep who go on a rampage and kill everyone at the remote research facility where they were created. Those nights I justify by calling it “research.” I’m running out of movies like this on Netflix, so I really should get on filming my movie.
I grew up in the church, and for as long as I can remember, it was my life. Then I quit going. There isn’t a church on my deck. Oh sure, I could start one, but then I have to attend regularly. Lots of people call themselves “Christians.” The argument goes something like this, “I’m an American, right?” Apparently the connection is obvious. Some even go to church. My pop says that “going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than working in a bakery makes you a donut.” Church isn’t a place, it’s the people. I have those people in my life again, and that makes me very happy. I’m learning all over again what it means to be a Christian.
I’m gonna go play in the ocean with my daughter now, because today I’m actually at the beach.