By Mike Lauterborn
© 2010. All Rights Reserved.
Penfield Beach, CT – The beach and I meet again and today we find a menagerie of moms, satchel of students, wardrobe of workmates and cluster of couples. The sky is full of clouds, there’s a stiff breeze and yet the air is warm.
A subset of 12 of the Workers has broken off from the main group, who are armed with red party cups and gathered on the Pavilion deck, and is playing volleyball. The players are not at all smooth, exercising muscles that have become more accustomed to updating spreadsheets and visiting the water cooler than batting a ball, but they do their best and appear to be having fun (if the occasional squeals are any measure).
The deck-based Workers, in their polos with nametags, look on, cheer or squeal in unison. From inside the Pavilion, live acoustic tunes play, and for a while the group forgets about their Daily Grind.
Nearby, a guy in khaki shorts, a green tee and cap sits in a multi-colored low-rise beach chair and reads. There’s a black soft side book bag, sandals, folded newspaper, water bottle and a black guitar case in the sand beside him. It seems he has all his bases covered.
Not far from The Reader is another lone guy, a JFK Jr. type, in dark-patterned plaid shorts and dark sunglasses laying flat on his back on a towel. He seems content enough to be immersed in his own space.
There’s another reader down the way – a brunette with her hair in a bun, simple blue swim top and black bottoms. She’s amply brown and seems fairly involved in the read, with the exception of the occasional glance up.
I see at least two sunburns, both on the backs of pale pale young white girls who have underestimated the sun’s strength.
“Brown-Eyed Girl” is the Pavilion tune now and the acoustic guitar sounds rich as it’s strummed, the sound reverberating around the wood and glass structure.
The tide is on its way in as a group of five students has realized. They tug their towels up the beach, recreating the encampment that they had initially established.
Brunette Reader packs up now, slips on a long black cotton beach dress and exits. She’s quickly replaced by a young couple hauling a large yellow travel bag.
The Moms group numbers six plus two children, including a squat girl with a “I’M NOT SHORT… I’M FUN SIZE” t-shirt. These are your usual Fairfield women of leisure, with housesitters, caretakers, garden services, contractors and the rest of the usual chore providers. In their pastel outfits and designer sunglasses, they chat about new restaurants, their dogs, children headed to college or home construction projects. They are evenly tanned, professionally toned and cosmetically tweaked.
A patchy colored seagull looks on, quite disinterested in everything going on. Now he’s being serenaded by The Reader, who has pulled his guitar from its case and is plucking away, playing along with the current song selection.
Strolling by now are two toast-brown women with long manes of brown hair. One is especially browned, and the abbreviated white bikini she wears enhances the contrast. They carry red party cups and make their way towards the main Pavilion. Needing the facilities, I follow two car lengths behind and laugh to myself as they pass other women who give them catty stares.
It appears we are both headed to the same destination and realize simultaneously that the main bathrooms are closed. The one in the white turns to me as I catch up and says, in halting English, “Where… the bathroom?”
I’m at a loss for the moment and can think only of the port-o-potty in the parking lot but figure there must be another connected to the structure. Sure enough, a few steps along and around the corner we find two doors, both leading to bathrooms, though one is locked. The second is unoccupied and I do the gentlemanly thing and let them go first, standing along a rail looking out at bobbing buoys.
When they emerge, they say, “Thank you,” and I ask about their accents. It turns out that Carla, in the white, and Deva, are from Montreal and just having a short visit with a friend renting housing nearby for the summer.
“I was sleeping and they [Deva and a guy friend with whom they traveled] woke me up and said ‘let’s go.’ Now we go back tonight,” she said.
It turns out Carla is originally from Portugal and had also spent time in Miami where family lives. I told her of my travels in Montreal and sites with which I was familiar – the geodesic dome, the Olympic village, the Formula One racetrack, the casinos… I mentioned, too, the local Fin du Monde beer, but she didn’t know it. “I work in a club, so I mostly drink vodka.”
I followed them back to their towels where their friend, John, with the house, was standing. He had a prison-like number tattooed on his chest and another design on an upper arm. He said he was a ballplayer, had tried out for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and plays ball at Central High School in nearby Bridgeport. He encouraged me to attend a game.
Deva, which is Sanskrit for “god” or “deity”, didn’t say much, though only because her English was limited. Carla translated for her. She smiled a bright white smile and nodded.
Happy hour was getting started on a big yellow comforter with a blue flower pattern to it. One of the two Sunburn Girls had produced a bottle of vodka. “We need a chaser,” said one of the three friends with whom she was sitting. No one seemed motivated to go for one though. “We’ll use water,” said the guy in the group. Into red party cups, the apparent standard cupware here, the concoction went.
The Towel Tuggers, who had been punting a soccer ball around, are now snapping a group photo of themselves while standing around an upended Playmate cooler. Of the five in the group, one is a guy and he’s been charged with photo taking. Wrapped in an Alpine Lager logo’d towel, he holds the camera out while they pose along the tideline with the ocean as a backdrop.
“I’m so burnt!” one says, pulling off her sundress so they are all now in bikinis. They take a front facing composed photo, then turn around to show their backsides, placing a hand on each other’s butts. Another pose, with peace signs… then one they call “the wedding pose”, wherein they spoon each other… yet another where three of them hold a fourth in their arms horizontally… Then two of them hold the other two in their arms like babies. Next, they decide to capture the whole group by placing the camera in the sand and aiming it at themselves while standing along the shore. Not satisfied with the lot to date, they then lay flat on their bellies to try an auto-timed shot. They are like circus clowns climbing in and out of the clown car.
Beside them, a Frisbee match erupts between a quartet consisting of a guy in black shorts with large Twister-like spots on them, another in gym shorts, a third guy in green shorts and a tee, and a pale blonde in a white suit with stripes. A surfer-like dude with bushy blonde hair joins them.
The guy in gym shorts notices a Nautica beach chair has been placed by a garbage drum. “Are you getting rid of this?” he calls over to the couple that had placed it there. “Yeah, it sucks!” they reply. He opens it up, sees that it is repairable and says, “It just needs one bolt… we’ve got tons of them.” “Oh, good!” say the couple, glad to provide this donation to the needy college student.
Five women stroll up then. They are of Turkish descent perhaps and two have head scarves. They pose for photos, acting giggly and girlish, though the youngest is perhaps 50. They capture the late day light, which signals that it’s Getting Along Time… that bittersweet moment when one has to extract oneself from an enjoyable setting and return to reality.
Catch ya later PB.