Coast

Coast: (n) the part of the land near the sea; the edge of the land.

It was a Thursday afternoon. (Actually it probably wasn’t a Thursday afternoon, but I needed someplace to start this essay.)

I was twenty years old, had a music group and was gradually starving my way to success. The definition of that process, by the way, is that there may be visible signs of progress in your career, but you’re also about ready to be evicted.

I had spent all of my youth and the beginnings of my adult life living in the midwest and visiting the mid-south. I had no complaints about the region–just felt deprived of the opportunity to go to the coast and see the ocean. Any coast would have been fine, although I did not favor Northern Canada and the Arctic Ocean.

No opportunity came my way to go and view the glorious blue. So finally I just decided to make an opportunity. I scheduled a little coffee-house gig for us in Sarasota, Florida. Matter of fact, I ended up being able to procure three such opportunities on our way down there. This trifecta of bookings was certainly not going to be enough to cover expenses. I didn’t care. I was going to the coast to see the ocean.

Our vehicle was in terrible shape, so on the way there we broke down–once mechanically and twice from bald tires, which finally exhaled all air.

Yet we finally arrived in Sarasota. Breathlessly, with my hand shaking on the steering wheel, I headed off to see the beauty of the ocean, the waves crashing onto the shore.

It was mind-altering, as all new experiences should be. I just sat there with the members of my group, and we stared at it for two hours. I was so excited that I went to a nearby cafe to order some lunch, which considering our budget, consisted of sharing a muffin, a hot dog and a cup of coffee among three people.

All of us were bubbling over with enthusiasm, as we shared with our waitress that we had come all the way from Ohio to Sarasota to see the ocean. Each one of us had a brief testimonial of how much the experience had impacted our life.

The waitress stood and listened patiently, and when we finally fell silent, having completed all of our praise, she quietly deadpanned, “That’s not the ocean. That’s the Gulf of Mexico.”

She walked away, confident of her geography.

I looked at my two comrades. They were just as distressed as I.

Staring out in the distance at the waves, it suddenly seemed meaningless.

Me wept.

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Bronze

j-r-practix-with-border-2

Bronze: (v) to make a person or part of the body suntanned.

I’ve often missed out on conventional wisdom because I could not afford to go to the convention.

So I frequently found myself going against the common thread of understanding and sewing up my own solutions.Dictionary B

On one such occasion, I scheduled our music group to perform in Miami, Florida, in the month of July.

Nobody does that.

Miami becomes a glowing hot rock, to be avoided by any living creature which does not wish to swelter. But our group wasn’t that popular–we were certainly never going to be able to be in Miami in January.

So we went in July.

It was very reasonably priced (since nobody was there) and really no hotter than the rest of the country, which was also experiencing summer.

But my achievement during those two weeks was something I had never experienced before and haven’t since. For you see, I worked up the courage to put on a pair of shorts, go shirtless, and walk around the beach until my skin turned bronze.

God, I loved it.

At night, I stood in front of the mirror and stared at my brown hide, realizing that I had never before enjoyed my body–because it was the color of pewter.

I was bronzed.

I wasn’t intimidated to step along the sidewalks near the ocean in my cutoff blue jeans and just act like I was one of the locals.

In the midst of those two weeks, a friend of mine debuted her new book and invited me to come to Nashville, Tennessee, for the signing. When I arrived I was the talk of the town.

“Where’d you get that tan?”

“Must be nice to lay on the beach all day long…”

Never in my life had I felt physically valuable to the world around me.

  • Spiritually–yes.
  • Emotionally–certainly.
  • Creatively–I hope so.

But for the first time, my “bronze” covered up some of my obesity, puffiness and, shall we say, “whitey-white-white.”

Now, I know you’re not supposed to get too much sun. I know there’s a danger of cancer.

But I am so grateful that on at least one occasion in my life, I got to walk around, for a little while… as a bronze Greek god.

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Beach

Beach: (n) a pebbly or sandy shore by the oceanDictionary B

Yet another illusion shattered for this traveling, hopeful vagabond.

As a boy, I dreamed of going to the ocean.

As a young man, I nearly lusted for the possibility of staring at the raging tide.

So as soon as I had enough gumption to start the engine of my beat-up car and point it eastward, I headed off to discover the wonders of the sea.

I arrived.

I got out of my car, adorned in what I considered my best beach wear, which really was a cut-off something-or-other, stepped onto the sand, and immediately noticed that I sank down, just a little bit.

I had seen movies where people walked on the beach. Some of them even ran. But for some reason, my stocky frame made the beach feel a little more like quicksand. So every step was twice as hard as walking on concrete, and therefore, in no time at all became discouraging.

Trying to overcome my disappointment, I attempted to jog so as to dispel the sense that the whole experience was a failure.

  • My knees started hurting.
  • My ankles soon joined
  • My legs were burning and aching.

And within about 25 yards, I fell to the ground, vanquished.

Then, to mock me, the tide was coming in and splashed in my face.

Still lying on the ground, I turned my head to the water. As the next wave gradually made its way in my direction, I thought I heard the froth giggle and say:

“Come back again, fat boy, when you aren’t so plump.”

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Arid

dictionary with letter A

Arid: (adj) A climate having little or no rain; too dry or barren to support vegetation.

Green grass is beautiful. No doubt about it.

Yet eventually it requires your intervention with a mower.

Mountains are stunning in their visage. Yet somehow or another, they compel you to climb them, which is annoying, to say the least. They can also become quite frigid when the calendar says tepid.

The ocean is gorgeous and powerful. But whether you like it or not, sometimes in its more stormy brawls, it intrudes on us “land-lubbers.”

On the other hand, the desert is nearly perfect. Because it lacks vegetation, does not require water and is ancient in its days, it really doesn’t request much from the surrounding mortals. Yet in its simplicity, it reminds us that:

  • we live on a planet
  • we are part of a cosmos
  • and if we don’t allow the moisture of experience and compassion into our lives, we, too, can dry out and become arid.

I know it may seem strange, but I do love the desert. However, you have to be careful because it is so hot and dry that you may become unaware of your need to hydrate.

So as long as you remember that the desert can live without water but you can’t, you can stroll around and enjoy the complexity of rock formations which have been beaten by the sands of time and the mood swings of Mother Nature.

The desert reminds me that the earth does meet the heavens–and we are all intended to live as one.

     

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    Adirondack Chair

    Words from Dic(tionary)

    dictionary with letter A

    Adirondack chair: (n.) an outdoor wooden armchair constructed of wide slats. The seat typically slants downward toward the sloping back.

    If anyone asks you, Panama City Beach is very sunny in the first two weeks of March, but icy cold if you decide to sit anywhere near the ocean. (Just a little travel tip from the well-seasoned vagabond.)

    The reason I can share this is that I rented a cottage near the Gulf one year, to spend a few days writing on my first novel. It sounded so romantic and exciting, with a bit of wild abandon thrown in for good measure.

    This was before computers and word processors were portable and could be taken out into a thatched-hut cabana for creative purposes, so I was using an old manual Royal typewriter. The little machine was quite quirky, having a nasty disposition which caused it to occasionally refuse to register the “e” key. I didn’t care. I was a writer–and I was near the beach, transforming my thoughts into storyline.

    Three things immediately came to the forefront:

    1. Manual typewriters were invented in hell, to the devil’s glee–especially when you’re sitting out in a cabana with the cold wind blowing through, icing your fingertips. Now, I might agree that a certain amount of pain is necessary to stoke the furnace of composition, but I draw the line at frostbite.

    2. The second problem was that my cottage was much warmer than my workplace, so my mind kept floating back to the grocery provisions stocked in my refrigerator, the television set sitting idly by, awaiting my return, and the room heater that took away the chill and made me toasty. So to keep from going back to being the non-creative lump considering the virtues of daytime TV, I would frequently step out of my cabana into the sunshine and perch myself to thaw out in one of those Adirondack chairs which peppered the surrounding sand. Thus, my third problem.

    3. The first time I sat in the chair I was fine, because I didn’t allow myself to get comfortable. But the second time, the sun was so warm and glowing that I leaned back into the chair, sliding into that slope described in the definition, and I dozed off. When I awoke, I tried to rise to my feet to go back to my writing, and I realized that my posterior region seemed to be a perfect fit into the slat at the bottom of the back of the chair. I had wedged myself there–seemingly, permanently.

    I and the chair were one.

    At first I laughed, thinking that if I just wiggled or squirmed, I would be able to free myself. But no. In a matter of moments, terror gripped my soul. Try as I may, I was unable to unplug myself from the chair. Should I scream for help, only to be emotionally damaged for the rest of my life if someone actually had to uncork me? Should I stay there, hoping that after a few days, weight loss would trim my backside?

    For some reason, it occurred to me to do the twist. Remember that dance? You wiggle your hips back and forth like working a hula hoop. It took about fifteen minutes, but finally my left cheek freed itself, and then, by brute force, I was able to rise to my feet.

    I have never sat in one of those chairs again.

    I’m sure for normal people, who do not have a rear end that parks quite so well, they are absolutely comfortable and adorable.

    For me, they are ... the quicksand of furniture.

    Abroad

    by J. R. Practix

    dictionary with letter A

    Abroad: (adv.): 1. in or to a foreign country or countries: we usually go abroad for a week in June 2. in different directions; over a wide area: the seeds were scattered abroad.

    I always wanted to say “abroad.” Unfortunately, you must have a certain amount of money, clout and look good in an Ascot to be able to mutter the word. I once tried wearing an Ascot, but it ended up looking like I had tied a fancy piece of cloth around my neck to cover up an ugly goiter.

    “Abroad” is one of those words people used when I was a kid to refer to countries that were not nearly as freedom-loving as America, but had much prettier stuff. It amazed me that the United States was the greatest nation on earth but you had to go to Greece to see the Parthenon, Paris to check out the Eiffel Tower and London to hear Big Ben ring his chimes.

    Maybe that’s the whole problem–we settle for mediocrity in our own lives while maintaining comfort, but yearn to go “abroad” to check out the really cool stuff. I don’t know when “abroad” became “overseas,”  or then changed to specifics like Europe, Africa, Australia.

    But I still think if I ever became wealthy, I would be tempted to rub it into people’s noses by telling them I was going to the ambiguous nation of “abroad” so as to make them wonder for a longer period of time, exactly how exotic my destination might be.

    I did try it once. I was going on a trip to Toronto, Canada, and informed some friends that I would be out-of-pocket for a few weeks because I would be “abroad.” Looking at me like I had just registered a really loud belch, they inquired exactly where “abroad” was going to be.

    I wanted to lie. I really wanted to make up some country that none of them would be familiar with, but frightened to question lest they appeared ignorant. But my nasty penchant for telling the truth, mingled with my lack of creative spontaneity, caused me to blurt out, “Canada.”

    They all thought this was hilarious. For after all, EVERYONE knows–Canada is not abroad. It’s attached.

    There’s the rule. You can’t say you’re going abroad if where you’re going is hooked to your homeland.  So “abroad” is anything that requires you cross a body of water.

    And I think that would mean an ocean instead of a creek.