Monday, November 30, 2009

Modern American Slavery

When I was in elementary school learning about history not just in this country but all human history I was consistently struck dumbfounded by the idea of one person keeping other people in bondage. Something inside my head could not understand how it could be justified in any way that people could be viewed as property with every aspect of their lives being controlled by another person or group.

Many might be surprised how openly the discussion of all aspects of slavery were brought out down here in the South. While the most gruesome and explicit details about slavery didn't come until high school none the less as a young child my classmates and I understood that families were torn apart and bought and sold like farm equipment. Physical and sexual abuse could come at any moment with it later being laughed about by otherwise "pillars of the community." Even as something basic as learning to read could be a death sentence for both the person wanting to learn and the teacher. While slavery was a nightmare on all levels when you boiled it down what most got me was the simple idea that a slave had absolutely no control over what was done to them and had no recourse to correct it. That total inability to have even the most basic control over ones own fate still makes my skin crawl.

In my youth I could at least take some comfort with the belief that the institution of slavery was something had been confined to the past. Years later I would come to believe that while it had been abolished here in America that in other, less developed and enlighten parts of the world some form of it still survived. Much to my sadness my next revelation would have me find out that in far away and forgotten corners of America isolated pockets of what amounted to slavery was being practiced. Still I hoped and believed that these were exceptions to the rule and that shining the light of day on these hideous affairs would stamp them out. Now even that is gone with word that while the institution might be relegated to the past like some contagious virus the scourge of slavery has not only appeared again but is growing.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Yeah, its my birthday and all I got was a stupid hat

...and maybe something more tonight.

For several years now I have relegated my own birthdays to a back burner of sorts not really wanting to think about it less for reasons of mortality than just the idea I don't want to deal with the hassle. Previous birthdays during this present period had me laying very low avoiding the phone not wanting to try and make conversation with the usual manner of honest well wishers who would call and ask strange questions like what great gifts I had received and what new resolutions or epiphanies that might have suddenly appeared in my head.

Well for one, while I greatly appreciate them for their well meaning thoughts they represents, my collection of cheap Wal-Mart brand colognes is so enormous now I've had to apply for a permit to store hazardous materials here at the house. Not to sound like an ingrate but simply put I have no life-beyond being a chauffeur and loan office for my kids- and because of that I have next to no reason to wear a fragrance that at best smells like a newly scrubbed clean operating room, and believe me I know!

But such is the life of a middle-aged dad whose greatest desire, beyond a bikini clad supermodel walking into my life convinced I'm her long lost love, is spending time on a windswept beach and enjoy watching bikini clad ladies cavort in the sand. Hell, right now I'd just be satisfied to be on a beach with such visions being generated by my own gray, Swiss cheese-like, material that occupies the space between my ears. Thankfully I have a terrific family who goes above and beyond the call of duty to chase such thoughts away by having me running countless missions picking up and dropping off friends, doing insidious serf-like yard work, and assorted home repairs.

On the subject of being asked about birthday resolutions and epiphanies I have wondered if I was somehow delinquent for not pursuing some form of insight that might guide me better in my life. Usually when I respond that no, that no revelation or vision had come my way as I ate my birthday cake I get the this look of resignation as if such a thing was probably a long shot to begin with as far as I was concerned. Truthfully, those who read my prattle already know I ponder the meaning of life and belly button lent on a regular basis. Because of that I have long since come to the conclusion that I must be insane cause the world to me is clearly crazy and I know I can't be the only one sane.

For those reasons birthdays for me have become subdued affairs were quiet contemplation has taken the place of parties and elaborate celebrations. I don't need them and honestly such ostentatious affairs are better left for my kids. Though this morning when asked by my wife if I wanted at least one special thing for myself I answered sex and grilled cheese sandwiches to which after a few minutes she responded "maybe". So I may be having a party after all, I just better not get the melted butter on the bed sheets.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The mysterious Uncle Daniel

Seriously late Friday Flash Fiction
***Author's note: Okay, I'm late but wife, kids, the job, and a low grade stomach bug during the weekend all jumped in to make both writing and typing an upsetting, sour pain in the ass. So sue me. This story is an more elaborate version of a Writer's Digest writing prompt that wanted people to write about finding money in a garage or house you had no idea was there. So here it is, warts and all and if you don't like it I will refund all your money. *************
Even in my earliest memories, the picture was both exotic and faded. The black and white photo was of a young couple on the deck of a large sailing ship. Elaborate riggings and other nautical items surrounded them, and in the background the beach of a near pristine and idyllic tropical island complete with Polynesian style canoes and thatched huts created a scene that both stirred thoughts of adventure and relaxation. The young couple in the photo looked at each other oblivious to the setting around them, each totally enthralled with the other.
While the name of the island had long since been forgotten despite the romantic and adventurous stories that had been handed down in the family the ship was called the Pater and the couple was my great-aunt Isabella and her husband, the man I would come to love and know as Uncle Daniel. The story of Aunt Isabella and Uncle Daniel had the misfortune to become one of those tragic loves that bored housewives in later years would eagerly read in the form of pulp romances as they waited for both ungrateful children and neglectful husbands to call for them.
Aunt Isabella had run away from her home and father after learning that he was planning on going through with the arranged marriage of her to the son of a rich family down in Charleston. While such practices are rightfully considered shocking and strange now they were still commonplace among the high society elites despite what people said in public. However, Aunt Isabella refused and in a show of defiance and spunk her father years later would come to appreciate she packed a small bag and left town in the middle of the night.
Aunt Isabella somehow made it to New York and dressed as a man joined the crew of a trading ship. She sailed around the world several times as a crewmember of that ship using her fake male indentity, how she did it is anyone’s guess but in Hong Kong she left the vessel behind losing her disguise and started writing. Her stories were very quickly picked up by such magazines as National Geographic and Dramatic Adventures. Frankly it is believed her rapid success was because of her supernatural ability to be an utter pest as her father put it after both receiving a letter from his wayward daughter and later reading her stories.
A few years later a letter came saying Isabella and her new husband would be returning home for the birth of her first child. Her father, long since having almost sold his daughter off to a form of slavery and realizing his stupidity, eagerly awaited her return. Her return, with husband in tow, was joyous but short. She and the child both passed away during the birth with her father and new husband both lost in sorrow.
While Uncle Daniel by all right, being a stranger to a small Southern town should have drifted out of everyone’s lives Isabella’s father in a way adopted him into the family.
No one really knew where the man everyone called “Uncle Daniel” came from but by all accounts he apparently just appeared one day on the planet to meet and marry my grandmother’s sister. He never talked at all about his home and childhood although after a respectable amount of time passed after Aunt Isabella’s death he became a much sought after widower to the ladies of Georgetown. It didn’t take long for those ladies to come to the understanding that he was hopelessly still in love with his dead wife. Nevertheless, for most people in Georgetown, South Carolina by the mid-1950’s he had long since become an iconic fixture that seemed ageless. My first memory of him was as my mom and dad were walking down Front Street with me riding some little tricycle and him sitting in a chair in front of the old fire station.
Even then he looked like some ancient Southern college professor, short with brilliant white hair and beard dressed in a rumpled brown jacket and black slacks. He greeted my parents like they were his own children rising up from his seat and when he saw me I was scoped up and tossed into the air.
Squealing with glee as he tossed me in the air I remember his warm, comforting smile. “Don’t be a schlemiel,” he would say only to toss me in the air some more.
Thinking about it now for someone so old what I remember most was his strength and how secure I felt as he caught me. After that he shooed my parents away and took me inside and along with the fire chief showed me the shiny fire engine and later bought me an ice cream at the old café down the street close to the town clock. From then on any trip to Front Street for my parents to shop had me begging for a chance to see Uncle Daniel who could always be found nearby.
I wasn’t the only child in town to feel that way about Uncle Daniel and actually felt some jealousy in having to share his attention at times. But he seemed to relish it and I never remember him making me, or anyone else feel left out. As the years passed he was always someone that everyone could depend on in good times and bad.
But even someone as seemingly ageless as he eventually had to pass away. It was the early 1970’s as a mishmash of people he knew helped to clean out his small house just off Highmarket Street. After years of never giving any hint of where he was from or if he had any brothers or sisters at all of his belongings were either carried off as keepsakes or donated to charity.
My girlfriend and I were cleaning his garage when we stumbled upon a box that had nothing on it to identify its contents, something Uncle Daniel always did religiously. We were aghast to see thousands of dollars in it along with a strange circular device about the size of a kitchen clock with several groupings of numbers on the face divided by several horizontal and vertical lines running perpendicular to each other. The lighted numbers were barely visible with the device looking like whatever it used for a power source was close to being exhausted. My future first wife ignored the device and with a joy that she never really showed in our marriage began counting the money in the box, after several minutes, she stopped and started laughing.
“Jake, look at the year on the money,” she said.
It took a few seconds for me to understand her statement but once I did I knew something was wrong. All the money had the year “1997” on it and after further examination looked nothing like real currency. All the pictures of Hamilton, Grant, and Franklin were far larger, along with that other features were just wrong. With the foolish certainty of youth, we tossed the box into the trash along with the strange device, but only after I took one of the hundred dollar bills as a keepsake. I tucked it into an old copy of one of Mark Twain’s books he seemed to love and soon after forgot about both the strange money and the book.
I’m much older now but the memory of that man has stayed with me longer than either of my wives and my grown children who now have their own families. My joys are simple now that my body has become tired and worn out forcing me into an assisted living apartment. My family comes every other weekend to visit but my company is mainly my collection of books that I jealously guard from the others I live around. From those books I can sail the oceans, explore new worlds, and float down the Mississippi. Which brings me to the rushed visit yesterday of my daughter-in-law who quickly dropped by delivering yet another box she had found stored in the far corner of the attic of the old house.
Rummaging through the items inside, I found the old copy of Huckleberry Finn from Uncle Daniel’s house and while browsing through the pages about to slip away down that river again that strange looking currency I took to be fake fell down to the floor. The rush of years fell back to that day as my first wife and I looked through the box. Now looking at that enlarged picture of Ben Franklin with the signature of a now former Secretary of the Treasury perfectly preserved I now no longer wonder where Uncle Daniel came from, but when.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Whispers from the past

The old camera had been in a box for decades, the pictures never developed, and now with the prints in his hand his blood ran cold from looking at the images that came from it. Thomas had found it after cleaning out countless dusty items from mom and Harvey’s house. The old disposable had been stashed in a box on the highest, and seldom used, shelf of the linen closet. For Thomas the camera was an odd curiosity, neither mom nor her husband Harvey had ever been much on taking pictures as he and his siblings grew up. The only pictures taken in his memory had been during strictly formal affairs like birthdays, graduations, and later weddings. What few cameras that were in the house could sit for years before the film was used requiring it to be sent off for development. Seeing that all the exposures had been taken Thomas had an absolutely burning curiosity to know what memories the old device held.
Days later in the quiet of his own home Thomas held the pile of prints in one hand, staring at each picture as if they showed bizarre rituals from long dead civilizations. After several minutes he would then move that picture to the back of the pile only to be captivated again by the next.
He knew every person in the pictures he held, they were his family. The pictures had been taken in the late 70’s on a family vacation to Disney World. The print he currently stared at showed his mom, baby sister, much younger baby brother, and himself all hugging Mickey with Cinderella’s castle in the background. Thomas’s heart skipped a beat to realize that the one taking the photo had to be his deceased dad.
Picking up the pace, quickly viewing then sliding more images to the rear, he saw a family having a spectacular adventure, everyone smiling and clearly caring about each other. He stopped when he came to the one of him standing next his dad in front of the entrance to Tom Sawyer’s Island. His father’s hand gently rested on his shoulder. Thomas now fully remembered that trip, the heat and humidity of the summer air, the noise of the crowd, and how safe and loved he felt at that moment. He especially remembered now the gentle touch of his father’s hand at the moment and how he dreamed of being just like him.
While the memories had come back each felt like an alien sensation, strange and particular as if the people he looked at were a completely different family. Thomas was glad to have the house to himself at that moment. His wife and son were out buying groceries and he needed time to come to grips with his inadvertent discoveries.
Thomas had been ten around the time of that vacation believing that everything good in life was eternal. However life’s uncertainly and brutality did not let him keep that belief for long.
Just as he turned twelve his father had been killed in a car crash, a drunk driver had crossed over into the oncoming lane suddenly. While his mother and siblings rallied around each other nothing could alleviate the pain from their missing husband and father. Far from sending them into poverty after his father’s death, life insurance and his mother returning to work had guaranteed a steady and decent lifestyle. Except that the spontaneity and love of life his father always demonstrated was gone. In its place was a sullen sadness that soaked each surviving member of his family to their bones.
Matters were made far worse three years later when Thomas’s mother brought home Harvey saying she had met someone she really liked. As much as Thomas and his siblings resisted Harvey became their step-father and while he never abused them or their mother directly we was a sour, tightwad little man who seemed afraid of both his new children and expressing any emotion. Harvey had come into their house quickly removing most of the past from view, their mother going along saying they needed to accept Harvey as part of their family.
As the years went by Thomas’s mother seemed to accept her new husband’s personality and changed hers to fit it. Thomas, his sister, and brother rebelled but never could come to directly challenge and break away cause their mother seemed so frail and lost, tied to a colorless man.
For Harvey family vacations, elaborate birthdays, and celebrations were wastes of money. Money was to be saved for those darker days when things were sparse and for Harvey every day was sparse with things always about to get worse. Many times Thomas would wonder what brought his mother and Harvey together and all he could think of was that loneliness was its own special kind of Hell and that she had reached out to the first man she had found.
For the children liberation took different forms. For Thomas’s younger brother it was college, paid for by their father’s life insurance much to Harvey’s chagrin, and who now lived in Boston. Thomas’s sister married and moved across the country out west hardly keeping contact with the family. And for Thomas it had been joining the army. Thomas realized each child though had been marked by so many years in an unhappy home.
Sitting in his home looking at the picture of him and his father on that hot Florida day Thomas realized that he had taken on many aspects of Harvey’s personality. At best he kept himself at arms distance from his son, now about the same age of himself during the Florida trip. For his wife Thomas knew he did little to show his love to her and in fact did much to criticize and push her away.
Thomas looked into the eyes of his deceased father and could almost feel the man reach through time and space telling him that he had to change not to end up lost and alone. After Thomas and his siblings had moved out their mother had sunk into a depression that ultimately ended her life. She died alone in a nursing home, not even Harvey by her side in the final hours. Thomas didn’t want to end up that way but his path seemed set in stone.
Thomas slid the picture of him and his father to the rear exposing another one, this time it was one of his entire family. His father, mother, sister, brother, and himself locked in a tight embrace in front of some fountain. The simple look of joy of that moment on his father’s face from decades ago reached deep into his soul showing him that not all was lost. That he only needed to reach out to those he loved to receive it in turn.
As if his chance had come Thomas then heard the noise of a slamming door and the running feet of his son. Knowing change would not be easy and would take time Thomas very gently sat the pictures of a lost past on the dresser and went out to reclaim his family and his soul.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Divided Germany in Autumn

Climbing into the way-back machine for me I remember some of the trip Uncle Sammy sponsored for a huge number of my fellow American soldiers and myself in August of 1987. I hadn't been at Fort Carson for more than two months playing full-time soldier when I was approached by a couple of non-commissioned officers of another unit in my battalion about joining them on the Return of Forces to Europe (REFORGER) exercise they had been tasked with.

If there is one avenue of posts and stories that I have not tapped it is that three month period where I learned the full meaning of the phrase about travel broadening the mind.

If I remember correctly we flew directly into Rotterdam, drew equipment at a preposition site then drove like bats out of Hell into Northern Germany. So much that bathroom breaks seemed to have been forgotten until one goofy kid from South Carolina couldn't take it anymore and pulled over and let it fly in front of scores of good Deutshlanders, fellow troops, and a television crew filming our convoy.

Many other sad and fun adventures followed during my three months in Europe. Including a night a platoon of Britsh troops, captured, stripped naked, and tied an American officer to a tree. Almost resulting in an American three-star general declaring war on them in the middle of war between the evil "Orange forces" out to conquer Germany from the east and the heroic "Blue forces" out to stop the Slavic hordes.

But the most revealing part of the trip was my visit to a concentration camp and the Inner German border. Not the Berlin Wall mind you, I didn't get that far by no means but the segment I saw was no less menacing.

It was late September and all the training and after action reports and reviews were over for the most part for the lower enlisted like myself. Our days were spent doing maintenance on the equipment we we would be turning in, hanging out in the various circus-sized tents watching movies or eating, or doing our level best to make time with female troops who being generally out numbered had developed a very cynical and choosy side to what male troops they would have sitting next to them "holding hands".

Still though, our great benefactor Uncle Sammy saw fit to cough up funds for visits to relatively near-by places. I got to see Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp. Nothing of the camp itself survives because liberating British forces had to burn the buildings down due to disease. All we saw in 1987 were mounds with brick memorials in front noting how many bodies were underneath. All supernatural jokes aside, walking those paths and seeing those mounds covering literally thousands of bodies you had to be soulless not feel the presence of those victims of a twisted madness not beside you. And no, somehow I missed seeing the tombstone-like memorial to Ann Frank.

The other trip I took during those days was to the Inner German border. When we got off the bus for that visit we were immediately greeted by West German border police who gave us ignorant Americans a brief history on the "wall" and what their mission was overseeing their side. We were also strictly told that when we saw the East Germans that we were to say absolutely nothing and make no gestures to them what so ever. After that we were shown the actual border and at first I was severely underwhelmed. What we at first saw was a simple rope barrier about a foot off the ground where the West German police talked so more about how many barriers there was from that point eastward. We couldn't see anything really at that point because of a grove of trees blocking our view.

As we had been briefed though five or ten minutes later two armed East German soldiers came out for the trees and to my surprise took several pictures of my entire group. I have to admit, that sort of freaked me out at the time and even now I wonder about what paranoia purpose those pictures served. Even now I can picture some Karl Rove looking character in a near-by depressing gray DDR office smoking a bad cigarette looking over those pictures trying to find the face of some super-spy among the collection of stupid and young American faces.

After the East German soldiers pulled back from where they came we were escorted to a raised platform that if I remember correctly actually sat beside a ravine offering a panoramic view of East Germany. All the barriers and obstacles on the pamphlet above could be clearly seen, thrown in for good measure was some sort of commie jeep headed for one of the watch towers.

Given the times, and remember this was two years before the Wall fell, I had a very surreal feeling knowing that the place I was standing at that moment could at the drop of a hat become the front-line for the Third World War. While all sort of warm fuzzies were building even then for the ultimate ending of the Cold War it would not have taken much, a stupid military commander and/or politician somewhere in the world, to have the tanks rolling and the luftballons going up.

Especially strange for me was to see a seemingly empty village on the east side leaving me to wonder if people even leaved there and if they did what sort of people lived there so close but yet so far from the West.

Our visit to the border ended fairly quickly and I'd like to say that my fellow soldiers were as equally taken back with both the view of a oppressed land and the realization of how damn lucky we were to live in a place that despite its numerous faults was lightyears better when compared to the lands we saw stretching eastward. However, all the talk on the bus consisted of the normal stuff twenty-somethings guys talk about when forced into a sparse female environment. In the end I guess that is what freedom to a large extent is all about.

On a closing note this post was "inspired" by the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Watching the television pictures two years later of Germans climbing on top of the wall that only weeks before would have gotten shot was beyond amazing. I don't think many realize or at least remember now that conventional wisdom from all the highly educated diplomatic, geo-political, and military types said that the only way that wall would come down would be under the force of tanks with mushroom clouds spouting all around.

Since then I have heard more times than I want to count conspiracy theories about "New World Orders". Hell, an important part of the History Channel's programming are shows about various conspiracies involving shadowy figures controlling things. But maybe, once all the self-aggrandizing crap by the political ideologues and conspiracy theorists are boiled away, a large segment of people realized how stupid and oppressive the system they were living under was and decided they would not take it anymore.

Nah, such an event would be giving credit for commonsense to the masses and would be a bad example since in my opinion the menace of Communism has been replaced by the religion of voracious hyper-capitalism, and the billionaires doing "God's work" wouldn't want their special status upset.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Just go ahead and piss on Mother Nature some more

Got to hand it to the naked primates running around bitching about the tree huggers threatening economic globalization and endangering corporate profits over silly things like recycling or being responsible for trash we all make. To hear some of the nice and pretty business pundits on the financial-religious shows talk its as if fundamental rights are being violated by promoting efforts to curb our relentless pollution of the planet.

A few weeks ago I was channel surfing and landed upon one of the business channels and due to my basic instincts stopped because one of the blonds on the show had big hooters and was gladly exposing the upper portion of said cleavage. During that segment the usual collective of little shits, twits, and bimbos were whining about how mandatory recycling of common plastics in certain urban areas was going to cost jobs and cost the consumer extra money resulting in some sort of dire consequences for Western Civilization. Now this whining is not unusual, more recently more or less the same group, while not coming out and saying it directly, were all having a minor spasm over how it was unfair for health insurance companies to be forced to take on the burden of people with preexisting conditions. Being even more vague they all agreed, from what I understood, that anyone with a preexisting condition was simply shit out of luck if they didn't have the money to pay for a doctor themselves.

So with such compassion about their fellow humanity you can imagine how little they care for the cheap plastics that we gleefully cast aside not giving a rat ass about where they end up. Of course, living in a closed system (the planet Earth y'all) the Greater Union of Marching Morons never realize that it will eventually find its way back to us in some manner.

Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Sources of pollutants

Plastic photodegradation in the ocean

Some of these long-lasting plastics end up in the stomachs of marine birds and animals,[21] including sea turtles, and the Black-footed Albatross.[22] Besides the particles' danger to wildlife, the floating debris can absorb organic pollutants from seawater, including PCBs, DDT, and PAHs.[23] Aside from toxic effects,[24] when ingested, some of these are mistaken by the endocrine system as estradiol, causing hormone disruption in the affected animal.[22] These toxin-containing plastic pieces are also eaten by jellyfish, which are then eaten by larger fish. Many of these fish are then consumed by humans, resulting in their ingestion of toxic chemicals. [25] Marine plastics also facilitate the spread of invasive species that attach to floating plastic in one region and drift long distances to colonize other ecosystems.[14]

Saturday, November 7, 2009

This ain't good for anyone

Feeling really bummed out and lazy with no mental motivation beyond more beer, a movie, and then having Dragonwife tell me for the millionth time she has a headache. Actually did some yard work today in an attempt to be the respectable suburban dweller like all the other hive people I live around. It pretty much sucked beyond all description.

Came across this political cartoon from the Seattle Times and after hearing comments from several republicans, namely party hack and confirmed suckass Michael Steele, the evidence that they have all lost their minds continues mount. I have no idea if it will get this metaphorically bad with Palin, Beck, and Limbaugh excommunicating and executing anyone not carrying the extreme party-line but I figure its bad enough already.

Hopefully, I will get motivated, or at least think of something real to write in a couple of days. Then again I have more pictures from Hilton Head I can post.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Just a few Hilton Head memories

The only problem with nice weekends away from home is that they always end. As planned we came home Sunday after spending five hours at the outlet malls where Dragonwife and Miss Wiggles bought a few needed clothes and what I will describe as a trunk load of crap that in the end will just take up space either in the attic or garage. I would be neglectful if I didn't add that when we pulled out from the resort Dragonwife had volunteered to drive being that I had to go to work later that night. Long story short napping in a Toyota Corolla for someone my size does not really work.

The picture above is of the Saturday night sunset on Broad Creek. Around me were all sorts of ghouls and goblins doing the resort sponsored Halloween activties. Miss Wiggles dressed as a witch and I would have included pictures of her in custom except none were in focus.

Being completely screwed up and out of chronological order this is a picture of the beach on Saturday afternoon. I found this sand castle looking like some abandoned ancient city from a lost civilization. That Saturday was just about a perfect day as they come. I was able to ditch Dragonwife and Miss Wiggles who were taking part in a craft back at the main resort. The only problem I had at that moment was that the beach house bar was closed for the season and there were no cute babes or smoking hot MILFs anywhere to be seen.

Even more chronologically screwed up this is the resort pier sticking out on Broad Creek. This was taken on Friday afternoon as the clouds moved in and the mist started swirling around giving it an almost fantasy feel.

Across the creek you can still see the mansions owned by the truly rich and famous. I have actually heard that real estate agents have special checks they do on any potential buyer long before any house is shown. Which I understand to a certain level but the devil is in the details and if the story I heard is true such things like politics and family history are taken into consideration. So say I win fifty million in the lotto and want to buy one of those mansions I was told that it just wouldn't happen.

This last item is just a short video of the beach with me walking around enjoying the sights, sounds, and smells of the beach. I promise I don't say much.