The Nags Head vacation was good - great even. I realized recently that it was my first vacation since Italy in June of 2003, if I don't count visiting the parents or visiting the grandparents as vacations, which I don't. Trips to Michigan usually consist of a couple of relaxing days in South Haven, and then a furious flurry of driving across the state to Lansing, Madison Heights, Redford, and Detroit to visit relatives and friends. This is hours and hours of driving, and, while it's good to see friends and family, I'd hardly call it relaxing.
This trip, though, was relaxing. I'm tanned and relaxed right now. I took Highway 301 down on Sunday - bypassing 95 - and had a pleasant, scenic trip nearly the entire seven hours. When I got there, my friends all had been there a day, but I quickly got into the groove. Days were spent on the beach, neck deep in Haruki Murakami's The Wind Up Bird Chronicle (astonishing, spooky, strange, and the narrator reminded me of myself to an amazing degree) and then The Kite Runner (about what I expected - a well-constructed story that gets a little preachy but is powerful). Plenty of alcohol was consumed and lots of board games played throughout the nights. Rob took out his guitar every night as we tried to stump him with songs. I slept in every day and went to bed when I got tired. I barely thought about anything other than what was in the moment.
I swam in the ocean, the water feeling warm after an initial shock, the waves pushing me around like a bully. I loved giving myself over to the waves; so much of my life is spent with my thoughts and words in restraint, and losing total control of my body as the waves sucked me under and beat me to the sand below was exhilirating. I closed my eyes tight and made sure the waves didn't allow my neck to hit the ground in a dangerous angle, and just let them do their will. The undertow was so strong that I worried about getting farther out than chest deep, and the waves so relentless that I couldn't turn my head. Playing frisbee in the water was like playing a game of basketball in which the waves were the world's best defenders; you had to throw to someone open - away from an impending wave - as well as make sure your throw was cleared the oncoming waves.
One night, we went out to the ocean after a few drinks. The moon was full and hanging over the sea like a balloon, the reflection across the glowing water one of the most beautiful sights I've ever seen. To our right, we saw Jupiter and, less visibly, Saturn, both looking like lights on boats over the harbor. The days were just as picturesque. One morning, I laid alone on the beach on a Detroit Tigers towel. I couldn't put down my book - I was on around page 450 of Murakami's 600-page book - until I noticed that the sky was one of the bluest colors I'd ever seen, just like my grandmother's eyes, and completely cloudless. I stared up for a while, thinking that it was one of the most beautiful colors I'd ever seen. The sound of the water crashing upon the shore made the scene even more memorable.
The friends were three couples (one I know very well, one I know pretty well, and one I didn't know at all), two sisters, and three single people (one of them the brother of one of the couples). It was a good amount of people, because there were few enough so that I didn't get sick of anyone, and enough single people where I didn't feel like a loser for not being coupled up. I'm really into one of the girls who was there, but I don't think she's into me, and because I'm pretty much still in middle school, I don't think I'll pursue anything there unless she decides to give me more visible signals. But, otherwise, the trip was drama free and internal struggle free. I didn't check my e-mail or go online once for seven days, which was nice. Because school is coming up, I had a bunch of school year dreams every night, but that's also a function of sleeping well, and that's good too.
The last nice thing about the trip, besides the relaxation and the company, was the price. I didn't do any of the organizing, just paid my $200 back in January and showed up at the place. Throughout the week, I spent only the $85 in tips that I made on Saturday night - and that was including gas. Part of that was going out to eat on my birthday (my friends wouldn't let me pay for my own dinner), and not going out any other days except for an afternoon happy hour. The rest was all just my share of the groceries and beer, and gas, and all that just wasn't much at all. I probably would have spent more if I was here in Baltimore. This is the perfect sort of vacation to have if you're on week 8 of 10 weeks between paychecks.
It's good to be home, and I've been checking e-mail and making some posters for my classroom. It's August 20th and I still don't know what I'm teaching, but I've heard rumors that are unsubstantiated but better than anything I've gotten thus far. I'm planning on all ninth grade - four classes of Honors, and two classes of College Prep. It's sort of a strange schedule, but I have a feeling they did it to me to give me 7th period planning for coaching, and, if that's the case, I thank them. I think it will be interesting to set up the same course for two different kinds of kids, and look forward to the challenge despite a few misgivings.
I have to stop this post before it gets too long and boring. Oops, too late.
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