Sunday, June 16, 2013
May 10, 1982
Seaside wears on my like a history of scars, the salt air eating at me like a metal tin man beginning to rust and flake away. The ocean roars then whispers in an alternating rhythm I can’t always predict, sometimes boasting like an exaggerated actor, and other times more subtle. I came here in 1973, angry and alone, suffering from some kind of ego deflation that made me ask for the ocean to strike out at all the plastic people I saw around me.
Now they try to fit in by looking the same. But then and now, people fall into types, groups needing certain characteristic people to include as members. Sometimes, when I walk around, I see our little clan, the artistic type, the rebel type, the intellectual, and the comic. We all need to feel happy and secure, even when we act as if we are neither. Most people are consumed with pursuit of money, even when we profess that we are non-materialistic, knowing in the end that cash gives us options we don’t have otherwise, even when we survive on very little.
Adults do come here but they come as parents mostly, reliving their earlier lives through their very young children, or giving their teens a little space where they might engender the other gender in a way far safer than what can be found in the adult world. Those who forget that this is a fantasy lose themselves and their way back, assuming somehow that they can stretch this amusement out for a life time, thinking that the prizes they win either at the wheels of fortune or in the strip clubs, can become a way of life, when for real people, honest people, thoughtful people, it isn’t.
While the masses come back again and again to spawn here like salmon each summer, few take it so seriously as to get trapped in the spinning wheels, and those that do become part of the amusement ride, not merely plastic, but mechanical. Most of the people who live here year round oil the machine, making their living off the tourists, but understand that it is a job, not a fantasy, and they do not take it so seriously that they get caught in the spokes. I come here more regularly than I used to but almost always off season like this, my family living a few miles away so that it is just a short jog down the highway and over the bridge to this place. I’m drawn here when the rides are still silent and the hawkers still too busy setting up their little games to pay much attention to me.
I’m drawn to the sea and its endless cycle of whispering and screams, the seagulls calling over me in some song I still don’t completely understand. I don’t come here during the season, except for some specific reason, though sometimes, when I do, a little bit of the old magic still shows through, a glitter of the fantasy in some of the younger people’s eyes, a little sadness in the faces of aging beach bums who couldn’t give up the life they mistook at real, they, too, perhaps, listening to the song of the sea, seeking answers like I always do from this mystic place of mystery. Today, the work shakes with waves not crowds. The music rises from the beach side instead of the boardwalk concessions.