(Or at least my first one.)
Hey New Englanders, just think: it could have been worse. Last week could have been your long-planned summer vacation. Back on Friday, the predictions of mere afternoon thunderstorms could have been optimistically read to imply the hopes of morning sun, with nothing more unpleasant in store than the usual sort of oppressive humidity that makes the beaches of the east coast seem like a good destination. But as mere threats of showers turned into the reality of a week-long deluge, those hopes sputtered like the incessant sizzle of rain on a gray sidewalk, a not-uncommon view from the front door of our rented cottage, as three sodden generations of eyes stared hopefully for a sufficient break to make one of our doleful processions to the seawall, in which we could descend to the lonely beach in a line, like the bedraggled priests and priestesses of some lugubrious god*.
Hampton Beach in New Hampshire is an attractive little strip of sand across the street from a seedy midway (complete with a selection of junk souvenir shops and inedible food), but it dies out pretty quickly. North of the beach, and past a little settled outcrop, there's a long stretch of concrete barrier behind which lies an expanse of shore that is only beachy at low tide, and, on the other side of the road, summer cottages, where we rented a place with the kids and the parents. The cottages comprise a much nicer neighborhood than the tourist trap, and winding still further north along the shore finds you some lovely state parks and the homes of the really rich. In the North Hampton stretch, where we were, the waves at high tide sometimes crash up over the jersey wall, which is an impressive sight, but they can also strike incautious pedestrians, which isn't so great when you've only brought one sweatshirt. Along the upper reaches of the beach, below the wall, rough-cut granite obelisks have been dumped unceremoniously everywhere, to prevent erosion I imagine, lying at all angles in a bed of rocks, which are weathered like river stones. (So the erosion prevention is temporary--gotta be rough on the concrete.) As the waves retreat, the gravel sounds an immense and satisfying clatter like a blues man riffing on a gigantic washboard. As the tide ebbs, a beach is revealed below this, with firm, dense sand that is great for walking and throwing a football around, which we did infrequently last week. I have no idea what it's like when it's crowded.
It wasn't just rainy, but also cold. On July 1, we went out to a restaurant and asked to sit near the roaring fireplace. The first night, I walked down to the beach with my wife (perhaps thereupon to investigate one of these long romantic walks of which I've heard mention), and nearly went into teeth-chattering convulsions. It feels like the temperature drops about 20 degrees when you go past the wall, and for much of the week, mist picked up from the ocean and blew across the strand in great billowing sheets. It was a great scene, and quite eerie. With only 50 yards of visibility or so, you could look three ways and pretend that you were the only person on earth. (I did actually snap a triptych like that, and intended to post it with some other photos, but that will require my mother solving enough digital mysteries to extract the photos from her camera and email them to me. Might be a while.)
Fortunately, nerds can keep themselves occupied without a lot of fresh air and exercise. The kids had their own loft, which eased the awful space constraints, and we revved up our family jug band once a day or so, playing the same five songs all of us know until we couldn't stand it anymore (or until the booze made us too clumsy). And we broke off into shopping parties, and for a cultured night out or two. What beachgoers there were were almost exclusively surfers, and that might have been an outlet for my wife and me (there was a rental place up the street), but we were intimidated by a distinct lack of thirtysomething pudge threatening the seams of all the wetsuits.
On the Friday we headed out, the weather--it's been about a month of rain here--finally broke into a beautiful, dry, post-card of a summer day. So we stuck around and did beachy things in the still-frigid water, and laid about to dry on the scattered monoliths. About long enough for me to get a fine crop of sunburn on all that virgin expanse of forehead, as it happens. We packed up under threatening thunderheads (and also big rain clouds), and were thrilled to come back to the dull comforts of home, where at least I have enough sweatshirts.
Which I guess is what vacations are for.
*it's been done.
Monday, July 06, 2009
(Or at least my first one.)