AUTHOR: Beth TITLE: DATE: 7/31/2004 02:54:00 PM ----- BODY:
I'll love you till the ocean Is folded and hung to dry And the seven stars go squawking Like geese about the sky
--W.H. Auden
The bridge over the inlet was standing up, and a large yacht passing through the aperture, when Steve and I got to the beach on Friday night. Due to my gum problem, we had originally planned to stay home, get KFC, and let our brains turn to tapioca in front of the television, and even made it as far as the Kentucky Fried drive-through before Steve said suddenly, "You want to go to the beach?" And I said, "Sure. Why not?" So, instead of watching the Sox clobber the Minnesota Twins, last night we found ourselves in the car, watching the inky waves and the empty sands of the private beaches as we waited for the bridge to close again. Then we were on the strip, overwhelmed by neon, watching Saggy McSagtits--and his similarly endowed wife--parading down the street in all their fat-rolled glory, holding hands, bedecked in skimpy neon. Middle aged men in hot-pink polo shirts caterwauled through oldies on the stage between the bath houses, and parents in the crowd gathered around it made disinterested toddlers' arms wave as if they were dancing. Men with glorious mullets and biker beards yanked dogs on leather leashes through the crowd. Ripe teenagers of both sexes bared bellies, shoulders, chests, legs, and all would have been pricelessly gorgeous if they hadn't all been so self-conscious. All in all, it was a beautiful scene. We went to Sal's Pizza, where I was tempted to ask the brown-eyed guy with the heavy Italian features if he knew my father, since my father knows his father...I think. Instead he and the girl with him taking orders laughed at Steve's t-shirt. "Goodbye, we have other lives to brighten," I said, turned with my paper plate of greasy goodness and ran straight into the crazy Jesus guy. I love the crazy Jesus people. Suffer all the crazy Jesus people to come unto me. They are wonderful, in all their celibate, black-socks-and-sandals glory, holding out tracts to people who say God knows what back because they think they're helping. It's tragic to me, the way these complete strangers suffer to love you, and even if it's not going to get me to share their beliefs, it moves me. This poor man was so overcome with the fact that someone was stopping to speak to him respectfully (I can only imagine the kind of responses he'd gotten so far) that he stammered and shook, and didn't ever get it together enough to sermonize. I took the tract he offered, and encouraged by this, he said, "I...I have lots of different kinds..." "Sure," I told him. "Whatever you want to give me." "Well," and now he was on a roll. He dug in his little pack and game up with a Chick Tract. I was overjoyed; I've read them all online, but haven't ever gotten my hands on a hard copy. "Thank you," I told him sincerely, while a kid in an alternate-color, short-brim sideways Red Sox hat, a big baggy Starter shirt and board shorts, and a woman in a bright-pink bikini top and stonewashed jean shorts passed by, giving me hard stares. "God...God bless you." the CJP said to me, overcome. Steve was waiting for me a little ways up the sidewalk, shaking his head. "I can't believe you talked to the Crazy Jesus Guy," he said when I caught up, although of course he could. "Eh," I waved him off. "He probably thinks I was sent by God." After eating our pizza, we went to one of the best places in the universe--the Fun-A-Rama arcade, where five dollars bought us a glorious half-hour of hardcore Skee-Ball. I may quite possibly be the least athletic person who has ever walked the earth, but what very few people know and appreciate about me is that I am the Undisputed International Heavyweight Champion of the World in Skee-Ball. My father taught me the technique when I was a child at this very arcade, and the widom I learned in those days has stayed with me; popping the quarter in the little slot, waiting for the brown balls that look like they're made out of pressed cardboard to clack down the chute, leaning back and bowling them with a flick of the wrist, came back to me last night within seconds. The yellow tickets were soon spinning out of the machine, pooling on the dusty wooden floor; the red light on top of my machine flashed every few minutes as I racked up another 160 score. In one memorable round--an instant classic--I shot a 290, including a miraculous sink into one of the 100-point cups in the upper corners. People came by the machines, slipped a quarter in, bowled half-heartedly, eventually turned to watch me for a few rounds, and finally headed toward the Wac-A-Moles, shaking their heads. At more than one point, I had a crowd gathered to watch my utter mastery over this machine, I kid you not. Then came the best part, the final flourish to the Skee-Ball ritual once a Skee-Ball master has reached adulthood: find the smallest, cutest kid you can over by the prize area, especially if they're whining about a prize they're short five tickets for, and hand all your winnings to them. The only thing better than the disbelief on their faces is that on the faces of their parents. The salt air felt cool on our faces after the time in the arcade, with hundreds of sweating people operating hundreds of heat-exuding machines. Before we left we walked down onto the sand, and sunk our feet into the chilled sand at the edge of the continent. We stood quietly for a few moments, watching the moonlit waves crawl up the beach, letting them soak the bottom of our pants legs. Finally, Steve broke the silence. "You ever seen the beginning of Jaws?" he asked. A beat. "Now is not the time to bring that up," I finally replied.