Cape May Journal

Saturday, August 10, 10:18

(in the car)

Fred (nephew, 9 years old) enjoying an audience of three that has no escape for the next 93 minutes, begins one of his peculiar queries.

“Raise your hand if…”

It trails off. Not sure if this is because he jumps off without a place to land or because his eyeballs are glued to an iPad. Everything is secondary to the screen. Always. Still, he is curious and adventurous, our future archaeologist. He meanders through a valley of mismatched clauses. “…have you ever, what do you think is the…my favorite, do you know how which dinosaur has blue legs?”

Mom puts in a valiant attempt, but she is told that she is wrong.

He explains. “Pokémon has two legs because…”

I put in earphones and, like many men, seek solace with a Joe Rogan podcast. Chuck Palahniuk.

Saturday, August 10, 13:29

Cape May is nearly perfect.

Quiet, coolish in the shade, hottish in the sun.

Aunt’s house is in a neighborhood off the main drag and is a perfect beach house. Homey, a well-used porch with pockets of sand here and there, a creaky screen door, wide open windows in lieu of air conditioning. Kitchen is a bit tight, cozy with food. Baseball is always on.

Mom, aunt, sister, niece, and nephew embroiled in discussion concerning the events surrounding a dropped birthday cake two years previous. I have heard four versions of the event and not one of them fully corroborates another. Fascinating.  

Decide to walk to the beach rather than hear 4 different climaxes of the same story. It’s like living in a Faulkner novel.

Personal opinion: it was Mom’s fault.

Saturday, August 10, 14:50

Beach 25. Everyone seems relaxed. Nobody’s voice has been raised in the time I’ve been here. Stress seems to have been left with the very pleasant guy who’s checking beach tags. I get in the water quickly, enjoy the push and pull of waves and blurry dolphins in the distance.

Aside from the always lingering fear of sharks, I am relaxed.  

Saturday, August 10, 15:17

Disconcerted by two things:  

  • Being the furthest person from the shore
  • How quickly the ocean causes my bladder to release.

Interesting to note:

After roughly 9 minutes at the beach, I began fully reconsidering my entire life’s course. Questions:

  • Why did I move to a landlocked country where the sun disappears for 6 months out of the year?
  • Why didn’t I learn to sail when I was young?
  • Is it too late to learn how to sail?
  • Can you join the Coast Guard at 44 years of age?
  • Why does the Pokémon have two legs?

Saturday, August 10, 17:45

Grilled hotdogs and burgers, potato salad, and iced tea.

Perfect day.

Tan, legs tired from swimming and walking.

Warmed by unique sense of comfort and tired that comes from being in the ocean. Jimmy Buffet is a fucking genius.

Feel linked to something primitive. For eons (wo)man has had relationship with ocean, looking at it, scared of it, throwing nets in it to catch dinner. I am part of that when I come to the ocean. I wonder if everyone feels like this.

We are too used to walking around Target and looking into our phones.

What a great feeling to go back to nature! Beach tag guy is nice, but can he really regulate the beach? The beach belongs to all of us! It’s nature, man!

Roar! I am one with nature!

Ah man. Here come more dinosaur questions.

Joe Rogan

Ooh, flank steak for dinner! Yum!


Sunday, August 11, 07:20

Up early. Wrote on porch. First draft of Coast Guard application letter. Tried to make it funny, but it turned out more like a letter from a high school guidance counselor. (Though I am well advanced in years, my mentality is painfully youthful. I have recently realized a desire…). Sister stalks downstairs in primitive search of coffee.

We walk to local café. I peruse cork board adverts for writers, painters, artists. An open call for actors for a local production of a play. Candles and handcrafted bookmarks and shell sculptures all over the place. Nice artist community?

Sis orders a coffee called an eye-opener (obvs reasons). She requests 3 shots of espresso in it; the woman looks at us like we’re nuts. I tell her we plan on flying back to our house. The woman does not smile. Maybe no sense of humor in Cape May? Haven’t heard anything funny in two days. Hm. Nobody laughing either. Hm again. Have I said anything funny? Hm once more. Maybe they need a comic writer down here, for I am hilarious. I actively decide to get ball rolling by laughing at my own joke. The woman looks at me and clearly judges me. She is not the only one.

Have visions of the future. I write comedy in the mornings, spend the afternoon doing something in the ocean (fishing, swimming, boating). Spend the evening eating seafood and drinking light-colored beer.

These visions are appealing. Yet I am having trouble finding funny things. Everyone here is relaxed. Too relaxed. Comedy needs stress. Hm.

Add vision in which I figure out how those activities could be funny.

Sunday, August 11, 12:36

Wrote (nothing funny). Edited (still didn’t make it funny). Gave up and ate.

Reading on porch. Comfortable. Padded lounge chair with Ottoman.

Vonnegut was very funny but was never comfortable. This irony is more poignant when I’m almost asleep. He lived in Iowa and Cape Cod. Was he funny on Cape Cod?

Quinn (niece, aged 11) tells me we are going to beach.

I avoid humor and try to pass along a universal Vonnegut truth, say, “so it goes.”

“Huh?” she asks.


“What are you talking about?”

“Oh nothing.”

“That doesn’t make any sense. What did you mean?” She tugs on my shirt.

Quinn is 11. She is like a short adult who can’t drive but who has very good skin. She’s pragmatic, thoughtful, and very intelligent. She will be the Secretary of State one day. Until that day, she will ask me what I meant by “so it goes.”

I feign sleep until I attain sleep.  

Maybe I’ll move to the beach and open a Kurt Vonnegut themed bookstore. Joe Rogan’s podcast on loop every day. The beach needs comedy.

Nah. So it goes.

I think this is funny. Turns out I am almost asleep.

I go to the beach. I have figured it out. Being at the ocean is like living in a Valium.  

Sunday, August 11, 16:08

On the porch nursing wounds from nature attacks. There were three attacks.   

1st – jellyfish stung my arm.

2nd – crab pinched my toe when I stepped on him. I get it, I’d pinch someone who stepped on my house too, but still. What a dick.

3rd – seagull stole the bottom nub of my peanut butter and honey sandwich. He gathered seagull chums and eviscerated my sandwich right in front of me. All the while they laughed at me in that mocking high pitched gull squawk and my mom scolded me for not better protecting said sammich.  

I told the beach tag guy the story and he laughed. Hard. It’s the first laugh I’ve heard in two days. I am funny! He told me to rub sand in the jellyfish sting. He’s a nice dude.  

Treated the jellyfish sting with cortisone and the toe with Neosporin. Nothing can repair my hurt feelings from the sandwich thief.

I reflect: The first funny thing that happened to me was being attacked by nature. I get laughs from the story. Beach tag guy. Sister. Some very tanned woman on the beach. Facebook approves. Niece and nephew had the bends from laughing. Stress and pain equals comedy. Nobody funny lived on the beach, just philosophers and probably Herman Melville. Hemingway too, but who knows what happened with that guy.

Note to self: Find a Vonnegut Cape Cod diary.

Gulls flying nearby. I guard my pretzels. Fred begins an interrogation:

“Raise your hand if I love Craig of the Creek.”

Joe Rogan.

So it goes.

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