Zero Day at Beverly Beach State Park (actual date Friday, 6/6/14)
Last night I turned in early. All was peaceful until a man and a woman arrived at the hiker-biker camp with roller bags and loud voices. Through the mesh of my tent I could see them. Middle-aged, skinny and dirty. When they opened their luggage it exploded like a zit. It overflowed with clothes and bedding and even a cast-iron skillet. Not your typical camping gear. My guess was they were homeless. I heard beer cans open, even heard loud swallowing, then the woman started flirting in a tone that suggested she was already drunk. She was loud and her dysfunctional banter made me cringe. She berated the man as he motored through another beer. Occasionally he’d come up for air and offer up a grunting insult of his own, but she was better at it. Way better. Part of me wanted to be angry and tell them to keep it down. But I wasn’t angry. I was fascinated. I felt like a fly on the wall of a backwoods single-wide. Eventually I fell back asleep but around 3:00am something stirred me. A strange sound, like a wild animal. Maybe a screaming raccoon? Something else nocturnal fighting for a morsel of human trash? But it wasn’t an animal. Not really anyhow. It was the banchee-like moans of my campsite mates who apparently found love somewhere between the sarcastic sheets.
In my dream I am flying. My backpack is weightless and I weave over the windy peaks and still valleys with the ease of an eagle. I slice through the air and feel a million tiny pulses on my face and hands. Below me are perfect shells and shipwreck treasures. Tsunami floats and debris. There’s bright green seaweed littered with crisp paper money. I notice it all but I don’t stop. I fly over it, getting sand in my teeth. Never looking back.
In the morning I feel like I traded my body for a much older one. I am broken and stiff. When I move my joints it sounds like a campfire made with wet wood. I have some inflamed bursitis in my hips, plantar fasciitis in my feet, and a big toe with an ego problem. I inspect my shoes and inserts which are worn out and broken, respectively. It takes me a while to roll out of my tent and when I finally do I am happy to find my loud-talking neighbors absent even though their tent is still set up.
After a wobbly walk to the beach I return to the campsite and read poetry by Larry Levis, occasionally stopping to write some of my own. I write about a boy who goes to a ballgame with his dad and eats peanuts. I write about personal narratives and habitual myths I’ve been telling myself for decades – many untrue. I write about fording the Sixes River and the curious seals who scared the shit out of. About singing Biggie Smalls in a terrified pitch. I write about a man named Turtle. About burning soup in a borrowed pot. I write about playing catch in the front yard with my old man. I try to push the limits.
My afternoon nap is so long that it feels like another day when I finally wake up. Since I need food, I walk to a mini-mart and fill my bag with empty calories. The mart literally has something for everyone. And besides the typical inventory I saw the following: pookah shell jewelry, Metallica t-shirts, glass and antler bongs, giant scorpions encased in polyurethane paper weights, swords, luchador masks, fossils, and giant skull statues for the garden. The man who rings me up is the one-and-only employee and he’s been running the show seasonally for 14 years. He does 6-months here at the entrance to the State Park, then 6-months at a similar place in Las Vegas. I ask if it’s OK to pay with a $100 bill and he says, “No problem – I love them.”
I spend a lot of time reflecting on the trip thus far and find this written in my journal:
“This walk is a metaphor for life, which is why it’s hard to define without the words sounding unworthy. But it does remind me of who I truly am. It’s like anything that requires a lot of physical or mental work – it feels good. It forces me to really listen to the uncompromising voice inside my head. Mine confirms what I already know – I love a challenge, I love working hard. But I also enjoy the fuck out of some downtime.”
I thank God for an occasional zero day even if I have to put up with annoying neighbors. Such is life.
Dogs in the dog house
Beverly Beach hiker/biker camp