jump to navigation

In the Shadow of the Beach October 7, 2013

Posted by The Typist in The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
Tags: , , ,
2 comments

image The Rosemarie Dunes trailhead is right on the shore highway of Orange Beach, Alabama.. The most striking view isn’t the loblolly pines or yucca and grass undergrowth but a towering condominium. You have to ride until tree-bearing high land behind the dunes can hide the monstrosities that have become for  most tourists their vision of the beach, a slice of high-rise life rising a dozen or more stories built on foundations of sand and lifted into the air by balloons of boosterism.

On both sides of the trail are visions of tall dead things, the gray tree  trunks Orleanians will recognize from drives in and out I-10 across the spillway. Everywhere in sight of the beach towers are trees that did not survive the flooding or salt spray, and resilient more resilient pines shorn of all their lower branches as if by the clippers of a bonsai artist. On the day I arrived at the Romar Guest House, a carefully preserved specimen of the pre-high-rise shore, Tropical Storm Karen formed at the mouth of the Gulf of Campeche and took more or less direct aim at Orange Beach. On my first ride into  Gulf Shores Park I was reminded how far storm surge or salt spray can reach, far past my ground-level room less than 200 feet from the high tide line.
image
Orange Beach is thankfully a gap-toothed work in progress, with private cottages both weathered and ancient and extravagantly new, a declaration of the wealth to be made shuttling tourists to their breath-taking room views by elevator.  The Romar Guest House’s deck is nestled in the afternoon shadow of that high-rise but has a clear view of the beach, and a stretch of several hundred yards to the east with one nouveau beach mansion next door and a line of older beach houses. That land is owned by an association of ten people, and my gracious hosts Greg and Deb assure me the chances of getting ten people to agree on anything are slim. They think that land safe from development but I’ve seen Destin’s endless parade of highrises as I crept through Saturday night traffic. It’s not efficient to recycle glass–which is basically melted sand–but there are hordes of people who have figured out how to transmute sand into concrete and then into gold, so I’m not so  sure.

I take solace in October and what amounts for me to a private beach, and in my daily rides down the Rosemaire Dunes trail. Once past the views of condos  and hotels it’s easy to get lost in the loblolly and slash pine and wiregrass, to catalog with my camera unfamiliar flowering plants and a peculiar thing which looks like it belongs underwater and grows in great profusion in certain spots along the trail.20131005_112157 With my limited knowledge I think some sort of wort, but I can`t seem to find a matching pictures of the dozens of varieties native to Alabama. I peer out into the bogs looking for alligators. At the stretch signed “alligator habitat” and fenced in wire there is a bridge with a Do Not Feed the Alligators sign and there it is, a good-sized specimen basking exactly where most convenient. I’m tempted to toss a coin at him to see if he is real but I can see his eyes follow me as I maneuver for a good picture. Further on there are isolated patches of cactus and I wonder if these are native or perhaps storm-planted refugees from someone’s home garden.

The trail is busier than the beach but on a beautiful weekday not much more so. Intent cyclists pass me on narrow-rimmed alloy racers and recumbent bikes but they are counting miles not flowers. The one inescapable reminder of where I am are the regularly spaced benches with the donors names burned into them: the Michigan Snow Birds Club sticks in my mind among the memorials and Rotary clubs, but I am here in the peculiar season between the sun worshipers and the snow birds, breezy days of low eighties and scattered cumulus with the children all in school and the parents busy working to save up for next year’s condo week

At trails’ end I am deposited back onto a busy highway. The bike path ends to my left, leaving me to huddle on the shoulder until I reach a shopping center accessible by a wooden bridge over a pond filled with lilies. As I make my way past CVS and Holiday Inn Express, before I reach the imposing row of relentlessly identical Phoenix condo towers in their endless Roman numeral variations, I pass a few reminders of the pink and aqua stucco motel beach of childhood memories. Souvenir City 2 Souvenir City raises its high pink roof promising endless shelves of conch and dried starfish and ships in a bottle. I hesitate for a moment but resist the temptation to redo my apartment in retro beach chic. I don’t have enough room for the things I already have. A Flora-Bama t-shirt complete with hangover and sunburn more pink than any shell I might buy will be my souvenirs. Just before I reach the condo cliffs I pass an older cottage with a yard filled with tropically colored aging single-wides nestled on crushed shell. Trailers The past is not completely erased here as it is in Florida. The conquistadores came to Florida seeking gold and eternal youth. They arrived a few centuries too early for the gold and after sizing up the glittery examples of eternal youth in the Flora-Bama as dance partners, I settled for leaning on a railing sipping a Red Stripe, making chit-chat with my neighbors. Eternal youth, with the best potions and surgeons available, is not all that attractive a proposition in acid washed jeans and sequined tops.

I leave early with my shirt and head back down Perdido Beach Boulevard, stopping at the Waffle House for breakfast and flirting with the bored waitresses who for once seem genuinely interested in the attention. I am the only customer they have seen for hours. Back at the Romar House I am no longer the only guest but at 56 still the youngest and the rest retreated to their rooms hours ago. I pour out a glass of Meyers and step out onto the deck to listen to the surf in the idle solitude I have enjoyed for days, glad to know I have found one outpost of the old beach just down the road from the faded tropical trailers and Souvenir City. There is hope for Orange Beach yet.

Beach Fence (2)

Advertisements

The ragged hem of Ocean October 4, 2013

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
Tags: , , ,
add a comment

A reprint while I am at the beach quite intentionally without the laptop.

February 26. Covered 172 miles. Cloudy sky, grey sea. Nothingness.

February 27, Covered 94 miles. Blue sky, blue sea. Nothingness.

— Two log entries from Bernard Moitessier’s The Long Way.

This is not the ocean, these mild ripples washing the crowded shore. It is merely the edge of the thing, a ragged hem. The loud, brown devotees of sun and surf who assemble each morning at the water’s edge do not really understand the depth and breadth of what lies past the dim gray line that is the horizon.

I have never voyaged out onto the true ocean, the place where land is mostly memory, but one of my compulsions is reading the literature of adventure, particularly that involving long, solo voyages into the rolling blueness. Here on the shore we are barely acolytes of the sea, mere poseurs compared to men and women like Moitessier, the ones who sail out far and alone into the very depths of the Southern Ocean.

There is no Poseidon lurking off the shores of the Redneck Riviera. The young women basking in the sun substitute weakly for sea nymphs, sandy-diapered children chasing the sea birds and the rolling breakers are our only water sprites. The ocean of the water gods, the ocean of Moitessier lies far beyond anything the beer sipping sunbathers can even begin to conceive.

I think my neighbors in the sand would find the epigram above confusing. To me it is one of the best descriptions of Oceanness, of the true nature of the great rolling thing at my feet that I have ever found. I know that Ocean is out there, and I am as humbled as a Haji standing in the sand just gazing out towards it.

The ragged hem of Ocean August 6, 2011

Posted by The Typist in New Orleans, Toulouse Street.
Tags: , ,
2 comments

February 26. Covered 172 miles. Cloudy sky, grey sea. Nothingness.

February 27, Covered 94 miles. Blue sky, blue sea. Nothingness.

— Two log entries from Bernard Moitessier’s The Long Way.

This is not the ocean, these mild ripples washing the crowded shore. It is merely the edge of the thing, a ragged hem. The loud, brown devotees of sun and surf who assemble each morning at the water’s edge do not really understand the depth and breadth of what lies past the dim gray line that is the horizon.

I have never voyaged out onto the true ocean, the place where land is mostly memory, but one of my compulsions is reading the literature of adventure, particularly that involving long, solo voyages into the rolling blueness. Here on the shore we are barely acolytes of the sea, mere poseurs compared to men and women like Moitessier, the ones who sail out far and alone into the very depths of the Southern Ocean.

There is no Poseiden lurking off the shores of the Redneck Riviera. The young women basking in the sun substitute weakly for sea nymphs, sandy-diapered children chasing the sea birds and the rolling breakers are our only water sprites. The ocean of the water gods, the ocean of Moitessier lies far beyond anything the beer sipping sunbathers can even begin to conceive.

I think my neighbors in the sand would find the epigram above confusing. To me it is one of the best descriptions of Oceanness, of the true nature of the great rolling thing at my feet that I have ever found. I know that Ocean is out there, and I am as humbled as a Haji standing in the sand just gazing out towards it.

Falling off the edge July 18, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Dancing Bear, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
Tags: , , , , ,
add a comment

I’m off to the edge of the world for a while to watch the waves roll in and out. Might be quiet around here for a while.

See you at the Ashley Benefit: tanned, rested and unsteady.

Redneck Riviera May 29, 2007

Posted by The Typist in New Orelans.
Tags: , , , ,
1 comment so far

Yes, I know that’s Alabama and I’m in Destin, Florida. Still:

• In the south there are people with the accents we associate with Blance du Bois and the characters of Designing Women. They must all go to the beach in the Carolinas.

• Why does a man with a confederate flag tatooed on his back have a woman so tan she couldn’t pass the paper bag test?

• Why is all the crab at The Crab Shack overlooking the Gulf of Mexico Alaskan and Dungeness?

Really, I have no right to complain or to condescend, In spite of the building down the beach which looks barely boarded up since Ivan in 2004, it’s lovely to sit on my balcony staring at the moon’s track on the water nad listening to the constant rumble of the surf. I have b een away from the sea too long.

— posted via Blackberry