"From this hour I ordain myself loos'd of limits and imaginary lines, going where I list, my own master total and absolute, Listening to others, considering well what they say, Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating, Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me."
Walt Whitman (1819-92)
"When I look back now over my life and call to mind what I might have had simply for taking and did not take, my heart is like to break."
Akhenaton (d. c.1354 BC)
And now, the current weather, from some random person we pulled off the street:
Monday, May 31, 2004
in-ter-mez-zo Function: noun
Etymology: Italian, ultimately from Latin intermedius intermediate
1 : a short light entr'acte
2 a : a movement coming between the major sections of an extended musical work (as an opera) b : a short independent instrumental composition
3 : a usually brief interlude or diversion
4 : today, me, in Urbanna
I really needed Sunday, even though I couldn't really afford it.
What the heck, some things can't be valued in dollars. Sunday's junket was one of those things, I think.
My wife has been wanting to "see some big water" and "see a marina" for what seems like a couple of months now, and Saturday she declared that since all the chores were done, Sunday was the day.
Problem was, I seem to have entered this funk that makes me feel like I don't even want to leave my house.
Come to think of it, that got worse Saturday. And I know why.
My grass had gotten entirely too high, since I had not cut it the week before. I'd been putting it off and had resigned myself to a Saturday morning of grass cutting. But it was a Memorial Day holiday weekend after all, so I slept in a bit.
My wife went on a couple of errands, and when she returned about 10ish or so, she came in the bedroom and said "Gee honey, the grass looks great!"
I, of course, was just getting out of bed. Now, my wife very seldom says anything in the slightest bit sarcastic, so I was taken aback. I mean, I knew I was slack having skipped the previous weekend, but sheesh, I was gonna get to it.
So I took the easy way out and assumed I didn't hear her right. "What? What do you mean?" That'll show her. Nothing counters sarcasm like innocence, huh?
"The grass. It looks good."
Her face looked as honest as ever. Weird. "I didn't cut the grass."
Blank stares all around for a moment.
"Oh no. He did it again, didn't he?"
I looked out the window. Somebody had in fact cut my grass.
"Did he cut the back too?" I asked in growing mortification.
My neighbor had cut my grass for me. I know he does that just to be nice, since he has a riding mower and it only takes him a few minutes. But its really embarrassing.
I looked out the window again, and he and his son were already in the final stages of putting in a new flowerbed beside his driveway. It was not even 11am yet and there were going to be plants in by noon.
I stayed in the house all day out of raw chagrin.
Well, Sunday came, and off we headed for our day at the water. We (actually meaning my wife) had picked out Urbanna, Virginia as our destination du jour.
Urbanna is a neat little town that rests on the banks of the Rappahannock River on Virginia's Middle Peninsula. This is the site of the annual Urbanna Oyster Festival every year in November. That's when 75,000 people descend on the town all at once with the purpose of eating as many oysters as they can, partying as hard as possible, and drinking as much adult beverage as they can find. It is billed as "a Salute to the Oyster" although these activities, to me, seem quite unoysterlike.
Except for the drinking. I think a case could be made for that being oysterlike. Not to mention that with enough drinking, you might well end up acting like an oyster, just laying there.
Anyways, the thing cranks up on Friday night with a "Fireman's Parade" including about 100 fire engines. I've never seen that part of the festival, maybe this year. What I have witnessed is the "Oyster Festival Parade" on Saturday.
By the time the Oyster Festival Parade happens, at least three or four people in the crowd have already been partaking in copious quantities of adult beverages to honor the "succulent bivalve" as their web site puts it. So when the "numerous marching bands, equestrian units, and locally produced floats" start heading down the street, everyone is in the right mood.
I have to admit, their hearts are in it, but my goodness what a spectacle.
The marching bands are usually from nearby towns. Being in the middle of nowhere, these are usually not bands of reknowned musical ability. But what they may lack in virtuosity, they certainly make up for in enthusiasm.
Now, there are a couple of excellent bands, don't get me wrong. But personally, the entertainment value of a perfectly pitched band can't hold a candle to one whose sole redeeming feature is a gyrating 350lb baton twirler in go go boots.
The "equestrian units" are, if I remember right, made up of people who have some American Indian (Native American) blood in them. They parade proudly on horseback down the street in their traditional garb of feather headdresses, Levi jeans, and "Awful Arthur's Crab House" t-shirts. Believe me, it's awe inspiring.
But nothing at all can hold a candle to the "locally produced floats." Some of them are actually good. Others are more like farm wagons with the sides decorated and filled up with bank employees. Some of them are simply dump trucks with little ribbons here and there. The local garbage truck was in the parade, if I recall. And the Oyster Festival Queen was riding in the back of a pickup truck.
And God bless her, she was the type of person who could only have merited that honor in a town as small as Urbanna. Hey, she had a pretty face and I'm sure she had a nice personality. (No, I'm not being cruel, its just that for a beauty queen one has standards, ya know?)
Oh, I have since found out that beauty is not one of the factors in choosing the Oyster Festival Queen. I just wish they hadn't made it so darned obvious.
You will note that I haven't said which year I saw this festival first hand. We'll leave that unsaid. What I will say is that I had a hoop hollerin good time and want to do it again.
But this Sunday, being six months away from the festival, the town was sleepy and peaceful as we crossed the bridge over the river. There's no festival this weekend, and the town is still waking up from its winter's sleep.
They had their regular compliment of tourists in the downtown area, which is where they have their cafes and antique shops.
Have you ever noticed how tourists cross the road?
They are worse than birds.
Typically it goes something like this. The tourist will take up a position in some mostly obscured area, like between two parked cars or behind a tall bush. Fully aware of you in your approaching vehicle, they will grab the closest animal or child, hopefully one that belongs to them, and time their road crossing carefully.
I'll have to slam on my brakes, they will dart across in front of me, and I'll be left cleaning up all the stuff that now has spilled in my seat.
I think they must go to school for that.
We head through town to check out a nearby campground that had been recommended to us. The name of it was Beth-Page, and it was every bit as nice as the Woodall's guide had indicated it would be. The only problem I had with it at all was that most of it was filled up with permanent sites, and only a small area was available for occasional campers like us.
I always find it interesting going into a campground like that. Invariably, they develop their own internal culture.
This one seemed to have attracted an overabundance of families with thirteen and fourteen year old girls whom they dressed up in skimpy bikinis and turned loose on the world. The girls would then stalk from place to place in small groups of two or three with deer in the headlights expressions on their faces.
I found it rather disturbing. If I had been fifteen, I would have found it more like a smorgasbord. Parents, if you are ever tempted to let your little girl do that, don't. Take my word for it. I used to be one of those fifteen year old boys.
On the other end of the spectrum is the sizeable population of older retirees that flock to these campgrounds like flies on a cherry pie. And their sense of taste, of style, is unequaled.
For example, this weekend is Memorial Day, where we remember our servicemen who died serving their country. In honor of the occasion, the retirees did such things as line up one foot tall flags down their entire site, drape anything red white or blue from anything they could hang it from, and even tastefully wrap red, silver, and blue ribbons around every steel pipe on their golf carts.
Like I said, unequaled.
We headed back into town and started looking for a marina so my wife could see some sailboats. Urbanna has some really nice marinas and they attract some very, very nice sailboats.
As we pulled in to the parking lot, to my astonishment this greeted us, pulling out at the same time as we were pulling in:
I just had to get a picture of it. I blocked the exit and jumped out. "That is the coolest thing ever! Can I please get a picture?"
Maybe I should say here that what we were looking at is a Chrysler Prowler, my absolute favorite car on Earth. And this one had a custom matching trailer! Whoa!
"Sure!" the driver said. To be honest, I think he was enjoying the moment even more than I was.
"Thanks!" I said.
"Thanks!" he said right back, just beaming.
We parked and took a look at the sailboats, and they were really beautiful. I have always loved the ocean and sailing, and even though we were way up the Chesapeake Bay from the Atlantic Ocean, I could still feel the familiar tug at my heart.
One day. One day.
On the way home, my wife said that she had seen me happy and enjoying something for the first time in a long time. And she was right, I did.
It was time for an intermission. I'll bet that her desire to see "big water and a marina" might have been for my sake.
In any event it worked. It felt so good to just drop my life on the sidewalk for a day and walk around without all the weight. Tomorrow comes soon enough, and it will all be there to pick up again.
Thanks, I needed that.
To look backward for a while is to refresh the eye, to restore it, and to render it the more fit for its prime function of looking forward.
Margaret Fairless Barber