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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

In a Pen State of Mind

In a Pen State of Mind
By Mike Lauterborn
© 2010. All Rights Reserved

Penfield Beach, CT – A balmy, almost cloudless mid-June day and Penfield Beach is drawing sunbathers like kids to a Mister Softee truck. The bikinis are out – neon pink, lime green, snow white, royal blue, sun yellow. And keeping a bead on them are brawny jocks lobbing footballs back and forth.

A gaggle of gals on a mat of overlapping towels is entertaining themselves with horoscope readings from an astrology book. “Here’s Aries, hey Allie! It says if you can keep from becoming obese, you’ll remain attractive. I think that means you’re already fat!”

In the opposite direction, a young male boasts about his conquests: “I’ve hooked up with everyone I’ve dated.”

Shore-side, a young woman struggles to affix a sail to a sailboard. A duo in a plastic molded kayak oars in near her.

“So this old man buys me a drink and tells me, ‘Now you have to go dance with this kid,’” one of the Astrology group members confesses to her mates. “What am I, a soft-core prostitute?” This incites confessions from the others about their encounters with men in bars, pick-up lines and drink-buy offers. There’s also chat about the awkward merging of 20-somethings and 40-somethings at an intimate local watering hole.

Interrupting the revelry, an elder woman in a ridiculously saggy teeny weenie bikini wanders up shore and steps her way around blankets and towels. She catches the look, gasp and gape of each person she passes, who make comments like “WTF?” or “Did anyone else see that?” Ultimately, there’s a collective giggle that sparks and grows in volume, chasing the woman as she tries to hitch up her bikini bottoms, which may as well be around her knees at this point.

A quad of beefy guys shows, spreads out what looks like a painter’s tarp and plop down. It’s very apparent they’re not frequent beachgoers, unless it’s to Tar Beach (read: asphalt rooftop). They wear sleeveless tees and gym shorts, sport broad tats and spark up cigarettes.

The Astro group, of apparently well-heeled means, has changed topics, now to separation of church and state and what people eat in third world countries. Their gab catches the attention of a trio of women of color, who eyeball them with disdain and make comments to one another about the group.

A pair of young ladies strolls by to test the water with a toe. One looks down the beach in the direction of the pavilion, where families and school-aged kids tend to congregate, and says, “I feel like this is Teenage Wasteland.” On the return, the unenthused young woman, who is still fully clothed, adds, “My sister says this is the only water you can go into with two arms and come out with one,” a poke at the water quality.

The women of color are now looking at photos of themselves at a recent outing and saying, “Do you know how much we had to drink that night?” and how one had passed out on the others’ lap with mouth wide open and snoring.

Other electronic devices all around are pulled, checked, pecked at, tucked away and then checked all over again minutes later. Bucking the trend, a couple plays the card game UNO and cools off with Arizona Iced Tea.

A little boy tears past them, carrying a stick and chasing another boy with it. Their feet splash in the gentle waves that lap the shore.

Matching the colors of the bikinis here, kayaks carefully stacked in 3-tiered wooden storage racks invite watersports enthusiasts to pay a visit.

Pacing along the shore in the opposite direction of the sprinting boys are four lads and a girl of college age. They wear the typical beach uniform of their generation: shorts to the knees and baseball caps worn backward. They glance up the beach at clusters of honeys, hoping to make eye contact.

Two female peers sprint by them at a perpendicular angle and run splashing into the water, diving forwards when they reach knee level and submerging. They are joined by a third, who follows suit, somewhat reluctantly.

“Why did you go in?” ask the duo of the singlet. “You guys forced me!” “But aren’t you sick? Now you’re wet and sick.”

They are joined by four more female friends, who halt at water’s edge to preen and chat.

The women of color pull up stakes, followed by the urban quad, then the UNO couple. Taking their place: a dad in shorts and an A-Rod Yankee tee, pulling along his two young daughters who are dressed in matching striped swimsuits.

Sailboarder girl managed to get her mast up, took a loop out on the Sound and re-beached.

Looking like Travis Buckle from “Taxi Driver”, a young dude with a Mohawk and torso covered with tattoos ambles by. Beside him, in contrast, his preppy friend, who carries a football for them to toss.

“Have you ever gotten fried?” “Tell me if I’m getting burned.” “I use a 35.” Sun concerns from the group behind me.

“Trumbull (landlocked) should have a beach,” another suggests, “and a bridge from the ocean to transport the water.”

The subject switches to tubing. “I love lazy rivers.” “Yosemite has the best tubing.”

The women that had variously dove in and stood beside the water now sit up on a rail of the nearest pavilion structure, embrace and are captured for posterity by a male friend with a camera.

“OK, now choo-choo!” he cries out, and they change position in such a way that they are facing the same direction, sitting behind one another, for another pic.

The stick with which the one little boy had been chasing the other little boy now floats in the water, which approaches high tide. The Astro Girls have fetched ice cream treats, including a Sponge Bob pop, from the snack bar. Travis and friend are through with their ball tossing.

“Hi Chad!” a woman that has joined the Astro Girls calls out to a guy coming up the beach in a gray shirt with TULANE across the front. She is showing off a new bright pink swimsuit to the group, simultaneously pulling down and pulling up the stretchy black beach dress she’s wearing.

One of the rail posers now approaches the water. “I’ve got to pee. That’s why I’m going in,” she says to a nearby friend, then sprints in. “Oh my gosh, it’s cold! My nipples are cold!” she gushes shamelessly, cupping her breasts.

The Astro Girls get to their feet, dress and are out now, leaving a big dimpled, sandy void. On the perimeter of the void, a couple has settled in, wearing dark colors to match their deep brown skin, laying on their bellies and playing footsies with each other’s toes, their bodies closely side by side.

Up the way, a redheaded woman sits up on her knees and finger combs her blazing reddish mane. She mirrors the colors of Fruit Stripe gum – orange hair, yellow bikini top and green bikini bottoms.

“Guys, is this how it’s going to be?” says a pale white guy standing waist deep in the water receiving Frisbee tosses from friends up on the beach. 

Now a cluster of friends of Afro descent, who have been sheltering themselves in the shade of the Pavilion rails, have wandered to the water and are eyeballing it. One goes in quickly then realizes she’d had her phone on her and it has fallen into the water.

“Oh my god, my phone!” she yelps, snatching it from the tide. “It’s done,” says a friend, looking over and assessing the damage. The phone’s owner hustles the device up to a towel to lay it to dry in the sun.

“I’ve got a BBB… Belly Button Burn,” says a guy in the group behind. It’s a common beach occurrence – a spot that is neglected during lotion application.

A mischievous lad in black shorts with a Charlie Brown-like yellow stripe down each leg finds a horseshoe crab lolling in the water and decides to torture a sun-basking female friend with it.

“Ewwww!” is the resulting squeal. He grins, satisfied with the prank’s result, returns to the water and hurls the poor creature, with legs flailing, some 100 feet out into the water. At last check, the chucking of sea life is not in the best interest of its survival.

Phone Girl has seemingly gotten over the potential demise of her calling device and is now batting around a large blue rubber ball. Her five young adult friends are her playmates, along with a small cocoa bean-colored boy they call Elvis.

Walking past them, a guy as hairy as a bear, struts determinedly along carrying a kayak paddle.

“What’s with the white bathing suit?” a girl behind asks a guy friend. “A white bathing suit looks good on a girl, but I don’t know about a guy. The guy defended, “I bought it as a bathing suit, not thinking that it was a white bathing suit. At least I can judge how tan I am!”

One of the males, with a pony tail, in Phone Girl’s group, busies himself dragging into the water those friends that have been reluctant to go. They scream and wail, to no avail. One whom he surprises chases him up the beach. “I’m gonna git chu!” the pursuer threatens, though a grin spreads across his face. Phone Girl herself becomes a victim, too, carried by Pony Tail and another and essentially plopped bottom first into the tide.

“Daisy Duke shorts and bikinis on top…” is the tune carried on the breeze from a radio somewhere. It’s rare to hear music actually, given that most beachgoers listen to their tunes from iPods with earbuds in their ears.

A member of the group behind concludes that it’s better to hit a friend accidentally with a Frisbee than a stranger. “With a stranger, you’re like I’m SO sorry… and with a friend, you’re like, sorry Laura, it won’t happen again.”

Phone Girl and company are now wrapping up, in advance of elementary aged kids getting out of school. It seems like a good Going Time… and, besides,  there’s World Cup Soccer, featuring the mad Brazilians, already under way on the tube.

So long Penfield… see u another day.