Spring Break loomed large last week, and intrepid idiot that I am, I had to check it out. I called my Dad (the G.P.) and asked if he’d care to join me. And, although he was still suffering from the lung infection that I’m insisting on calling the Presbyterian Plague just to annoy the Rev (my Mom), he agreed to come along. I’m not sure if he thought he’d be able to save me, or if he was just interested in checking out some wahinis in bikinis. I’m betting on the latter.
We decided we’d head to the beach at around noon on Friday, forgetting in out inimitable Bair fashion that it was St. Patrick’s Day. I am usually not a participant in St. Party’s Day activities. I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but it sure seems like there’s always a lot of drunk idiots clogging things up on National Let’s Just Give Up Collectively days. In any case, after about 15 trips in and out of my parents’ house, we finally got Stadler, Rowlfie, myself, the G.P,, five bottles of water and the camera loaded in Dad’s truck. Then we couldn’t find the remote control to the gate for about fifteen minutes. There was yelling.
Some background information is necessary here for you to understand the full impact of what’s about to happen in this story. The G.P. is an old newspaperman from way back. He was in the business as everything from a reporter to an editor to a pressman over several decades. He even wrote a column for a paper a lot like this one. If I worked harder, or got paid more you might be able to say I am flopping right along in the old man’s huaraches. In any case, Dad has something that I don’t: journalistic training, which (best as I can tell) means that any time you talk to someone you have to write down their name, hometown and age in pencil on a skinny pad that fits conveniently in your back pocket. Evidently, it has to be exactly this kind of notepad and it MUST be in pencil, otherwise every time you sit in water, the writing might not be totally unreadable. Dad sits in stuff a lot. I’m pretty sure several Todd’s in Dad’s reporter history only very narrowly missed being listed as Toads, but that’s the way it has to be. It’s the training. Also, Dad hasn’t worked on the Island where asking people their age (especially in order to print it in the newspapers) is a good way to get whacked in the side of the head, or get very ganged up on at the Barrel’s weekly cheap wine and killer gossip night. Be very careful, young Dadawan. The ways of the Island are mysterious – is what I should have said. Instead, I just said, “Dad, it’s pictures for the Moon of people who don’t live here! We don’t care what their stupid names are!” He didn’t get it.
We decided we’d save the beaches on North Padre for last, and head straight to Port A. We took Access Road two and experienced some initial surprise at the lack of crowding. There were actually several miles of beach in there with almost no one on it. Granted, it was just after noon. Both Dad and myself are so old, neither one of us thought it was early. At least one of us had been up since 4 a.m. I wasn’t me. Finally, though, a flag of Texas so big that it could definitely be seen from orbit heralded the first Outpost of Insanity. I got also got tipped off by the straight row of blue trash cans, no more than four feet apart – miles of them. Port A must have majored in passive aggression at City College. The gesture was appreciated.
We pulled a little further in, unloaded both the pups, got the G.P. and the camera set to grab photographic evidence of our trip and off we walked. It was actually a nice day at the beach. Other old people were running the Breaker Gamut in gaily decorated golf carts, or just walking like us, pretending to mind their own business. Dad happily took photos after I asked kids to pose. He did tell every single person that while he was definitely working for the paper, we weren’t “writing down anyone’s names or anything.” No one cared. They were all bong beers from the ubiquitous tube and funnel rig. I did notice that many of these devices had matching stickers. Shout out to the Port A artisanal beer bong craftsman – that twenty cents of tubing must really keep the wheels on the trailer!
One of my favorite groups of Breakers was the kids playing horseshoes right at the edge of the water. Instead of just having one “ring” (pole that you throw the horseshoe at) they had two. This would have been pretty smart, as that way no one has to do the “I’m trying not to look stupid, but I totally look stupid” walk to retrieve the shoes, EXCEPT these kids insisted on standing right behind the ring when the other kid was throwing. Because the participants were 20 something boys, and things that are normal sized aren’t adequately compensative, the horseshoes were essentially iron rings the size of toilet seats. I thought they were playing some kind of full contact horseshoe chicken. I walked up to one of the kids (I didn’t write down his name) to ask him about it. “Are you playing some kind of chicken,” I asked. “What’s chicken?” he responded. I didn’t want to tell him because of the proximity of certain two lane roads. “Um, it’s nothing….so why are you standing right in front of where a giant iron horseshoe is about to be?” “Oh, it’s okay!” he said cheerfully taking a sip of his tallboy, “You just have to trust the other guy!” “How well do you know the other guy?” “Him? I’ve never met him. I guess you just have to hope you don’t get hit.” I just walked away without bothering to attempt to explain to him that if he just stood three feet to the left of the ring, the chances of getting hit were exponentially decreased. I didn’t want to accidentally invent Horseshoe Chicken or have to explain how exponents work.
We kept walking, with the G.P. yelling in his poor plague voice, “Fifty cents to pet the dog!” Finally, we reached the epicenter of the Breaker earthquake – a ring of trucks, vans and one school bus with parts of the comforting wording scratched out so that it read, “Cool Bus.” We were at Thunderdome. We slunk between a couple of ridiculously tall trucks into the land of stripper poles mounted on unsupported tail gates and the stench of marijuana in quantities that were Coloradan. Dad immediately turned around and walked back out. I stepped in some kid’s sand square trying to follow him and the kid tried to make me do something, but I’m the current world boss of 20 year olds, so it didn’t work out.
Dad and I headed for the truck. We’d been out long enough. I asked the G.P. what he thought of the festivities. He was quiet for a minute and then he said, “A couple of girls petted Rowlfie, but ain’t none of them paid me.” I think he spoke for us all.