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Sunday, 18 July - link

spin cycle

My chest hurts if I breathe too hard. My neck and shoulders are stiff to bend or turn. My left wrist has been pretty thoroughly scraped, raw to the touch. Same with my left shoulder. There are raw patches on my chest as well - patterns like a starburst surrounding the scrape. Red refractions. Elbows, back, chest. Searing when I turn or stretch. Hearing is still partial in my left ear - a bit of water remains.

ethan's beach slideThis is evidence of my fun! Yesterday -
to the ocean with friends, in Nantucket for a weekend. Nantucket is an island off the coast of Massachusetts and I took me a few hours here to realize that most people don't just come here for shopping or sitting around - it's an island, a small island which means if you drive for twenty minutes in any directions there's the ocean. So we offroaded to some relatively deserted stretch of sand and we set up a few towels, slathered on some sunblock, and then ran hard, feet pumping, mad dashing for the water.

car, post beach - alexis, kate, justinActually that was just me - Lars and Ethan went into the water more slowly, and Alexis and Kate made it in later. I had this feeling like I had to push myself. Maybe it was the pace of the waves. I had been swimming in the Pacific Ocean twice in the two weeks prior. It wasn't like I was saltwater starved. But the Atlantic seemed choppier. More restive, more aggressive. The waves came more frequently that what I saw on Venice beach, and these waves promised more pitching. They came fast and hard. Breaking close to shore.

I had first touched them the night before. Nearer to midnight, the water and sky and sand dark. I stripped and strode into the surf as my friends stood further up the beach. They weren't interested, but they became alarmed. My head disappeared under the surface and I rose for air a few paces into the water. I could always stand - I figured that was a good policy in a dark churning ocean. But they couldn't see. They began yelling and approached the water. I strode out naked to see what all the fuss was about. It was me - they needed to hear me yelling to know that I was alive, within reach, hearing them.

This day I ran into the water because I wanted to feel it - I wanted to match the intensity of the waves - I hurled myself into the surf, whirling my shoulder and back to hit the water fast and hard. Water squirted into my right ear; I was immediately off-balance from this hearing distortion. But I was wet. And I was being carried by the water -

All that sensation lasted for hours. I remembered time when I was a shorter boy - fighting the waves, or rolling with them, just playing in the water, feeling it all around me, rising and falling with it, against it - reveling in the endless series of play partners. Each pile of oncoming water like an amusement ride, a primal force, unstoppable. Learning to work within the wave and then forgetting and being punished. And then standing up to make gestures at the broad blue surface, before riding it again back to land.

So many kinds of fun you can have in pounding surf! And these were waves not much taller than me, just propulsive. So I swam fast when I saw one coming, working to match its momentum. Maybe it would catch me, and carry me, and then pitch me into the sand. The best moments were my chest up on the top of a crest, arms stretched out to the side, face wide, mouth open, shouting joy as the wall of white churn behind me pushed just under me, up and forward.

But this was increasingly rare, as I caught more waves too late or in the wrong twisted posture, and I was churned hard. Some times I was just hammered down! Pushed into the sand by a finishing wave, and then rolled onto shells and small rocks. Human spin cycle - my bag of flesh tested by these surfaces, sandpaper to the skin.

And then I would get up, ready to charge back in. If I had been floating for a while, waiting for the right big moment, then I would find myself chasing a rapid series of large waves. If I rose up quick and ran back into the water, I might position myself right, and find myself flying again quick.

But the longer the day wore on, the hours of this rolling and tumbling, the harder it got to get up. I might make it back to the second wave, but I was out of synch, out of breath, and I would get tossed. Hours into this play, I was dizzy, staggered by the waves. And then the pace of the following waves, coming again, taking me out at the knees, knocking me back down, rolling me further. I was slowly losing my bearings, and I liked it.

pimm's cupBut the saltwater was most insidious - filling every orifice as I was submerged. My ears plugged, my throat clenched tight around the salt. My nose running. Eyes beginning to squint and burn. I loved the feeling so much of being in the water, but it was slowly becoming untenable. My taste for romping near the shore was gradually eliminating my ability to stand, to see, to think clearly.

I took a break from my search for altered states in the surf. I went up to our little encampment. I drank a fantastic cold Pabst Blue Ribbon. Ethan fixed Pimm's cups. He had cucumber for the drinks, but no lemons. I was offered five dollars to find a lemon on the beach; I left to find one just to please my friend. So I walked for fifteen minutes, untrained calves straining against the sand, asking each human settlement along the sand if they had citrus fruit. And none did. I returned fruitless. Ethan served me a fluffer-nutter sandwich. We ate slowly warming St. Andre's cheese on bread (Ethan later renamed to "Sand Andre"), with fresh tomato and a soft boiled egg. And then I laid around for a time.

spear holdinglars - spear chucking
And as the food was digested, the moment came to wander again. I found a large pole with both buoyant and heavy attachments, making it an unwieldy but appealing toy. Lars, Ethan and I took turns throwing it, competing for distance. Or in the absence of distance, we competed based on throwing performance - yells, tumbles, odd throwing styles.

And then back to the water. I was really losing my edge now - my calves tightened into painful cramps, I was routinely tossed such that my ankles came over my head, my shoulders and back pushed hard across the sand. Ethan and Lars joined me, and I didn't see any reason to stop. There were a few places I could see where the beach had pushed through my skin, but these are just flesh wounds, small abrasions, scrapes. Our bags of skin are remarkably resilient, I reasoned. Besides, floating in the ocean, waiting for a wave, I felt totally stimulated. More than three TVs in the living stimulated. Watching the water, pulled by current, paddling and floating, sunshine and saltwater. I loved it, to the pain.

snottyAnd when I finally couldn't stand up enough to make it fun, when I was going facedown on too many waves and sailing on too few, when my friends were putting on their clothes and folding up towels, I walked up back to the beach. I picked up the last cold Pabst and cracked it into my thirsty maw, sitting on the beach elbows on knees where the surf could still touch my ankles. I sucked down the glorious cold fluid. My knees were shaking, my arms trembling. I poured the beer over my head, to cool and invigorate me. It stung the small cuts on my head and shoulders. Ethan came up behind me, to take my picture - I was stunned, surprised, and as I rose, saltwater snot leaked freely out my nose. He took pictures. And, it turns out, he shot some video of me floundering about:

spin cycle Spin Cycle - 2.4 megabyte Quicktime Movie
Posted on 18 July 2004 : 13:11 (TrackBack)
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Justin's Links, by Justin Hall.