when i heard that it'd be in the 90's today, i knew i had to take the day off, and i'm quite sure i wasn't the only one. instead of faking an illness so i wouldn't have to work tomorrow, i decided to just tell my bosses the truth, that i wanted to take a personal day because of "the weather." besides, i would write about it anyway (if they read the weblog) and i would have a hard time explaining why i was so tanned come thursday. so this morning i woke up and got ready for the beach, the only place worth going when it gets hot like this. julie just happened to be going to gloucester, where her family had been renting a beach house for the week to coincide with the celebration of her father's birthday today, and i was able to tag along for the ride.
i went to city sports in porter square to buy a new pair of swimming trunks (the one that i have, besides being my only pair, is also really tight around the waist). my eyes were immediately drawn to the style that's very short (to show off my legs) but not speedo short (to not show off my crotch). i was torn between a pair of medium red and a pair of small blue. i kind of like the red more, but because it was medium, i kept on having this image of my shorts being yanked off by the rough ocean waves. besides, they had elastic waistbands anyway, so i decided to go with the small size instead. next, i went to star market to buy a bag of ice, a bottle of pomegranate juice, and some seltzer water. i saw a woman there buying sunblock, and i wanted to give her the thumbs up, like, "hey, playing hooky? me too!"
when i got back home, mike returned with his parents, who would be shadowing him all throughout the day in preparation for his harvard law school graduation tomorrow. now let me tell you, i have a way with chinese parents. maybe because they remind me so much of my own parents, but when i'm with chinese parents, i'm more charming than usual. i was talking to them, asking them when they arrived, the weather in sacramento, weather in boston, where they're from originally, how long it took me to paint my place, etc. my roommate never instructed me on how to behave with his parents, and i could've easily said, "do you know your son has been paying me rent but he doesn't actually live here?" but i decided not to rain on an otherwise happy occasion. besides, i would be going to the beach soon so i wasn't feeling particularly malicious. after they left for lunch at zoe's, julie showed up in her car and we left for gloucester north of boston.
having grown up in the north shore area, julie told me all the places she used to hang out, like a tour of her childhood haunts. we stopped off at a shaws supermarket to get some lunch, before arriving at our final destination. her brother bob greeted us as we pulled in to park. we went inside the house, dropped off our stuff, and headed for the beach, where the rest of the family plus family friends were out getting some sun. the beach was called long beach, and despite the fact that it was supposedly private, there were a lot of people out today (although not as much as the public beach we drove by, we didn't actually see the beach, but the parking lot was crowded with cars).
we camped out our stuff next to julie's family on the beach, applied sun block (spf 45), ate our lunch, before heading into the water. let me describe the sensation: the day was hot and humid (the sky hazy), and on the beach underneath the noonday sun, i was sweating as well, but as soon as i hit that ocean water, it was absolutely freezing, the water temperature must've been 40 degrees or something. it was just a case of extreme temperatures happening simultaneously. while my upper body was jungle hot, everything below my knees was subzero. after a while though, i sort of got used to it, and it didn't feel so bad, even if my toes were a little bit numb. later i'd discover a new trick, where i'd sit just at the edge of where the beach ended and the surf begin, and while sitting on the beach warmed me up, whenever the surf came in it'd cool me off, so there was always this happy balance. it took some getting used to, as cold surf water hitting my privates felt like that weird sensation you get right after somebody hits you in the balls, before the pain kicks in, kind of like a muted "that's not right" feeling. experience it yourself my friends! later, julie's parents played bocchi ball while julie and i threw around a plastic wiffle ball with jai alai sticks. i was all diving and getting dirty in the sand catching the ball while julie pretty much stayed a stationary target.
there wasn't much wildlife, the only things that'd wash up on the shore were small pebbles, various kinds of seaweeds, and empty crab shells. judging from all that exoskeleton, there must be a lot of crabs in the area. at one point we decided to walk down the length of the beach (don't let the name fool you, long beach isn't that long). julie, being the environmentally conscious person that she is, couldn't stand seeing bits and pieces of garbage washed up onto the shore so she found a plastic bag and picked up whatever trash she could find. eventually we made it to the end of the beach, where it became this rocky hill. neither one of us had shoes on, and when we tried walking on the rocks, it was too painful and dangerous so we scratched the idea, even though it appeared there's another parking lot and more beach further beyond. we headed back, and saw the salt marsh located directly behind the beach houses. it seemed kind of wrong, like development was encroaching on ecologically valuable land, but the area seemed pristine enough, perhaps the people who live there take care of it, or just don't throw stuff into the salt marshes.
a group of high school kids asked julie and i if we could take their photos with their cameras. during the commotion, i threw my own camera into the mix as well and grabbed a snapshot too. it's like i'm incorporating their memory into mine. perhaps they will be surfing the web, and accidently come across this photo i took of them, and they will totally feel weird, and then i'll know my job is done. i also like to add, "oh, by the way, this is the best photo on the roll," whenever i'm asked to take somebody's photo. i don't know why, but it just seems fun, and even if the photo turns out to be the worst one ever, they can never find you anyway to complain. i like this particular photo because two of the guys don't have girlfriends and two of them do; i wonder what those two guys on the right have that the two on the left don't (besides girlfriends).
there were also a very pale couple i affectionately labeled "the hispter couple" who were frolicking in the water. the girl would strut around, running along the shore, while the boy would chase her from one side of the beach to other. occasionally they'd splash water on each other, or maybe one would jump on the other's back, or they would embrace. they seemed like newlyweds, and i was very curious to know their story. where are they from that they can be so pale? are they playing hooky as well? how can she love someone with so much hair on his head? "if the water wasn't so cold, they'd be out in the ocean doing it," i told julie, who agreed with me.
the waves kept on advancing, until there was very little beach left. julie's family had already moved back into the safety of the house. we endure for a few more minutes, watching the hipster couple dance around in the surf, drinking pomegranate spritzers. i could feel the sunburn on my back, all the spots that i wasn't able to get good coverage on. i also knew i had goggle marks on my face because i wore my glasses today instead of my contacts (which, by the way, are all dried up because i didn't store them properly, but they were a pair of old disposals anyway, i should just order some more). eventually we packed up our stuff and julie drove me to the gloucester commuter rail station.
i'd never taken the commuter train from this far before, and the only other time i'd ever taken the commuter train in my life was when i went with manny to medford via train. i didn't even know where to buy the ticket, but julie told me before she left that i buy it when i get on. the train arrived at 5:30 and i got on along with the other passengers. a conductor moved through the cabin and i paid him $5.50 for a one way ticket to north station. he put a little ticket on a special ticket strap on top of the chair in front of me. despite the cost (it really isn't that much, considering how a subway token is now $1.25), it was worth it for the experience and also the scenery. i had a window seat, and unlike the subway where you're underground and most of the time you just see darkness, the commuter rail actually went through some really pretty vistas. the ride took less than an hour, and i actually fell asleep for most of it, something about spending a whole day in the sun that can really drain you. there were a lot of people going to the red sox game (judging from overheard conversations and the plethora of red short jerseys - unfortunately the game would be rain delayed and the sox would end up losing despite having nomar back in the lineup). i didn't check a mirror, but i was curious if people could guess that i've been to the beach. if the tan doesn't given it away, maybe the fact that i'm wearing my short swimming trunks might. i just felt like i was getting away with something, like i'd been naughty and haven't been caught. part of the train ride i was thinking about all the people who were working today, and that i should've been working, and whether or not this day even happened, because it seemed just so out of the ordinary from the everyday monotony. if i can take two days off like this every month for the rest of the summer, it'd be great. i just can't afford to use up my vacation days, that's all. maybe i should propose summer hours during our next company meeting. because i know the next perfect beach day comes around, i'm afraid i won't be able to control myself, and i just might take it off again now that i've set a dangerous precedence. and it helps if someone comes with me too, preferably a girl with a car.
from north station i took the green line to park street, from park street i took the red line to porter square. at park street, i noticed the new ceiling lights, as well as the stepped up police presence. on the red line, my usual train, riding with the other commuters, the people who were at work today, i felt a sense of triumphant satisfaction. everything also seemed weird, like i'd been away for a long time and only recently came back, and now everything seemed new again. this is the very definition of being refreshed.
the happy feeling i was experiencing would of course be marred slightly when i got back home. when mike came home, all those old resentments came back. leaving glasses everywhere. not refilling the water pitcher. drinking my sodas (you don't pay rent anymore, you don't get to eat my food for free). stinking up the bathroom. letting in mosquitoes into the house. no mention of the damage to the medicine cabinet when he moved out last month. i knew my week would be ruined when he called me monday night to ask if he could stay at my place for a few days. i was just starting to get used to living alone again, a year's worth of having to share my place with somebody else finally coming to an end. and now that he's back, i have to relearn living alone all over again, like picking at a healing scab. and then last night he asked me if his girlfriend could stay here tonight as well. when did my place become a free youth hostel? it's already a free storage space for all his stuff in my basement. when she got here, they both quickly said hi and then went to his bedroom, never to be seen again. that's it? no, "hey, thanks for letting me stay here tonight, i really appreciate it," or, "hi, how've you been? haven't seen you in a while." maybe i'm expecting maturity from children, that's the problem. but isn't that just common sense, your basic manners? wouldn't they have a better time if they stayed at a hotel for the night? room service, all the privacy they want, a bigger bed? i think tonight's the last night though, they leave tomorrow, except he wants to come back in july and stay at my place when he takes the bar exam in boston. hmmm, what a coincidence, looks like i might be on vacation that week...