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A Nondescript Vacation Is an Awesome Vacation (Which Does Not Mean I Won't Write at Length about It)

The (Cyber) Bag of Weasels

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"About as much fun as a bag of weasels"...when I first saw this Irish adage, it made me think of the life of a writer: sometimes perilous, sometimes painful, certainly interesting. My paper journal has always been called "The Bag of Weasels." This is the Bag of Weasels' online home.

A Nondescript Vacation Is an Awesome Vacation (Which Does Not Mean I Won't Write at Length about It)

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I've been in Ocean City all this week (hence I'm quieter than usual, i.e., pretty much silent except for handling site-related stuff), home last night. It was a beautiful week for the beach and, all in all, pretty nondescript, which is sometimes exactly what a vacation needs to be.

My parents came down with us for the first half of the week. I woke up Sunday morning, post-beestung nose, with diffuse facial swelling that made me look rather like a non-cute Avatar character: non-cute because, unfortunately, the swelling didn't also come with large luminous eyes and blue skin; I just looked puffy and weird. We left on Sunday and got into town around 1:30 and had the traditional arrival lunch at Piezano's, then headed for the beach. The temperatures this week were in the low 80s (~27C), sunny, but with a breeze off the ocean that kept the beach cool. Actually, at times, it was almost chilly.

A breeze off the sea is not good for surfing, though, as it flattens the waves. Poor Bobby has had awful surfing all week. (To add insult to injury, the surf this morning, post-Arthur, was supposed to be effing awesome.) The mornings have been workable, but he only went out twice in the evenings because the surf was so flat and the waves breaking pretty much at the beach.

At home on the other hand ...? It was apparently hot as hell. When we picked up the Goldens from my inlaws yesterday, my father-in-law said that he stepped onto the back deck one afternoon, and the temperature was 105F/41C in the sun. They live just outside of Baltimore, so it wasn't that bad at home but still in the 90s/mid-30s C. In February, we went to Ocean City to escape the three feet of snow in our yard. This time, although we didn't time it this way on purpose, it seems we avoided the first big heat wave of the year.

The surfing was bad but, at the beginning of the week anyway, the wind for the kite was great. We flew the kite just about every evening until the wind started to pick up at the end of the week in anticipation of Hurricane Arthur, who grazed us on Friday morning. We have a Prism Jazz stunt kite, but it is a beginner's kite, so it is not designed for high winds. We broke it when we first got it, trying to fly it in too heavy of winds, so we're more careful with it now. Bobby's getting really good at it; I'm ... ehhhhh. I can do some slower tricks with it, but Bobby whips it around in a figure-eight pattern so that the wind in its wings sounds like a little airplane taking off. (The video in the link above is of someone who really knows how to fly it. We don't do most of the things with ours that they do with theirs. Maybe someday.)

I did a lot of reading this week on the beach. I binge-read ... well, re-read ... The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. I last read it in college, so it's been a while. Given certain recent Supreme Court decisions, it was a timely choice. Then it was thesis-related reading for the remaining days. I finished a reread of Opland's Anglo-Saxon Oral Poetry. Fun times.

On Tuesday, we went with my parents on a sunset cruise on the Judith M. Bobby and I did this last year. (Another one of those weird instances where experiences superimposed themselves: I remember so clearly last year that Bobby wanted to go to the upper deck, but there is nowhere to sit up there and I didn't think I could stand on my feet for that long because they hurt so bad. I also wasn't sure that I could manage the steep stairs. This time, we went to the upper deck and watched a group of dolphins that came up alongside the boat, and I stayed on my feet for most of the cruise.) The wind was starting to pick up, so the captain decided not to take the boat onto the ocean because of the spray, so we went to the OC commercial fishing harbor instead, which I loved. I have an obsession with fishing boats. I have no idea why! I'm a vegetarian, for pity's sake! I think it's because it's one of the few jobs left that relies completely on nature and natural forces. There is also something about watching a boat go out to sea. And something about a boat coming in from sea. Also I like the fact that most of them have arms.

I apparently got really excited over the fishing boats because my family teased me about it. :^| They were pointing out the houses I would be most happy in because I could sit outside and watch the boats going out to and coming in from the sea all day.

Ocean City has quite a commercial fishing industry. Probably the best-known example of it is from the movie The Perfect Storm: the boat that played the Andrea Gail was an OC fishing boat.

My parents. My dad looks good for 81, doesn't he? (He's not actually 81--he's 71--but he insists he's 81 so often that I sometimes find myself forgetting that he's not actually 81.)

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Bobby and me. In the background is the Ocean City Inlet. To the left is the end of Ocean City; this is where the Boardwalk begins and is home to the pier, rides, and culinary classics like Thrasher's Fries and Dumser's Ice Cream. (Or Trasher's and Dumpster's to me.) You can see the Tidal Wave rollercoaster at Trimper's Rides just over my head. If the picture showed just a bit more to the right, you'd see Assateague Island, which has no permanent human habitation and is best known for its wild ponies, which are theorized to have escaped a Spanish ship that sank off the coast.

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Selfie with the Go-Pro! The Inlet area of Ocean City is in the background.

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Looking out to sea in the Inlet. The fishing pier (which was partially destroyed during Hurricane Sandy and then damaged again in this past winter's insane winter storms) is to the left. Bobby and I love that fishing pier. It costs 50 cents to go out as a sight-seer, so we go out almost every night because I like to watch the boats come in around 11 PM. You can see how choppy the surf was and why the captain decided not to go out to sea. There are speedboat cruises along the OC coast where you are forewarned that you will get wet, but this isn't that kind of cruise.

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The sun going down and the fambly looking over the side. The Inlet area is to the right.

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Bobby and me again, not as good of a picture, but dad took this one because of the fishing boat in the background, for his wack and fishing-boat-obsessed daughter. (The boat was called the Knot Easy.)

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Coming back into the Isle of Wight Bay. To the left is the Coast Guard station. You can barely make out two gray boats sitting in an enclosure (to the left of the more visible white boat). These are designed to capsize and right themselves in stormy seas. They are apparently taken out sometimes off the OC coast and intentionally capsized so that the Coast Guardians can practice. Eek. (Apologies for the weird quality of some of the pictures! Our point-and-shoot is broken, so we were using Bobby's Go-Pro camera that he uses for taking snowboarding videos. It has no viewfinder or zoom because it usually rides on top of his helmet, so it's kind of a point-and-guess.)

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The last time Bobby and I went, it was overcast and so our sunset cruise did not have a sunset. This time, though, we were not similarly disappointed, and the sunset was gorgeous. The sunset over the Isle of Wight Bay, Ocean City.

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After the cruise, we got a late supper at Fish Tales, the restaurant/bar located right alongside the marina. We'd never been before but Bobby and I scoped it out last time we were out on the Judith M, and it looked really cool, so we tried it out and were not disappointed. It was open-air seating right alongside the water with plenty of deck chairs to pull up and watch the bay while enjoying a drink. That night, Bobby and I went down to the beach--we were both too tired to get on the B and go downtown--and saw two shooting stars.

Mom and Dad departed the next morning for home, but Bobby and I still had two more days. We lounged on the beach and then went to the free shipwreck museum just across the state line in Fenwick Island. We've been through that thing so many times, but it's always changed just enough to make going back annually worthwhile. We took the car, but since we were sharing space with a 12-foot longboard and since parking is expensive at the Inlet, then we decided to park at the hotel and take the B downtown. We were having dinner at Shenanigan's Irish pub and seeing a band we liked.

One of those things happened where someone does something stupid and jerkish to save themselves a minute of time and ends up costing you a boatload. As we were driving back to the hotel, some assclown stretched a green turn signal and ended up blocking the intersection, so we had to sit for a minute until traffic eased enough for him to pull out of the street. Meanwhile, a B had pulled alongside us. We were making good time but didn't get back fast enough to catch that bus; we missed it by about 30 seconds. This wasn't a big deal, we figured, since it was a holiday week, so they were surely running at least every ten minutes. Twenty minutes later ... still no B, although we saw about eight going in the opposite direction. I think they all ended up somehow at the Inlet, and they were literally sending them in droves down to the Delaware line so that there were buses available to travel southbound. We were both starving--it was going on 9 PM!--and I was starting to get hangry, and so when we got on the B, I made many whispered mean comments about the outfits of fellow passengers that they clearly thought looked cute but actually looked really stupid. (High-waisted shorts! W.T.F!!) Dinner was good and we enjoyed the band, and I had two Guinnesses and got pretty buzzed. We walked down the Boardwalk, and it was so late that the fishing pier was closing, but the young woman who was running it that night let us go out for free until she got it shut down. ($1 saved! Woohoo!) There was a pretty fierce lightning storm out over the water that was spectacular to watch.

Ocean City's busiest day of the year is probably the 4th of July. We were leaving that day. (Hotels basically triple in cost that night.) It was getting progressively busier as the week wore on. Thursday, we had another beach day, then had reservations at The Shark on the Harbor, which is OC's highest-rated restaurant in West Ocean City, on the commercial fishing harbor. Yay! Bobby had called the day before and got one of the last reservations. When we were driving across the Division Street Bridge, the traffic coming into town was crazy.

The Shark on the Harbor is farm-to-table or boat-to-table, depending on what you order. All of their seafood is locally sourced, with the boat and captain listed in the menu. The menu changes twice daily. It is an incredible restaurant; this was our fourth time there, and I think we like it better every time. I had the beet and berry salad, which I could have eaten like four of, it was so good, and the cauliflower steak, which is my favorite menu item there. Bobby had the hot-and-sour crab soup and the blackened mahi-mahi. We finished it off with a white-chocolate and blueberry bread pudding and a pair of house-made doggie cookies to take home to the dogs.

We headed to the Boardwalk after that. We'd been doing so much in the evening that we hadn't walked much, so we walked from the Inlet to 12th Street, stopping in our favorite shops (Ocean Gallery and Kite Loft!) and stopping on our way back to people-watch. On one of the busiest nights of the season, the people-watching was pretty daggone good. The fishing pier was closing again by the time we made it back to the Inlet, and we didn't even try for a free admission this time but watched what we could from the part that extends over the beach that you can use for free. We wrapped up for the night with $10 at Marty's Playland: pinball first, then the remainder on Ocean Hunters. We almost beat Ocean Hunters, one of our favorite games there; we got to the end-boss of the fifth level, and there are only two levels after that. We decided that, next time, we'll do Ocean Hunter first and spend our full $10 if needed to beat the game. We've been playing it for about ten years now whenever we go to OC, and it's getting really wonky as it ages, so I'm worried it could go away at any time. (It was broken over the winter, but I guess they decided to fix it; it seems pretty popular despite how stupid it is.) It's definitely one of the stupidest games I've ever played. You play as a pair of divers (Chris and Torel [??]) who are diving for treasure in the sea but also fighting sea monsters because those two things go together like horse and carriage. You fight various marine animals that actually don't pose much of a threat in real life (like deep-sea fish and jellyfish ... the latter can sting painfully, of course, but don't actually attack people like they do in Ocean Hunter) and then a monster at the end of each level. You periodically have to rescue other divers from monsters. It is very poorly translated and stupid on so many levels and yet ridiculously fun to play. Bobby and I know it so well that we can recite whole swaths of badly translated lines by heart.

That was our last night, and I think we got out just in time. When we returned, a group of young women had taken up residence in three rooms near ours and were up half the night shouting in the halls and banging doors. (One of the dumb bunnies them claimed the next morning to have had a $10,000 ring stolen from her room. Bobby and I watched the OC police arrive and he later heard her talking about it in the hall. 1) They had the doors to their rooms propped open all night, so if you leave expensive jewelry in your room unattended and with the door not only unlocked but propped open, then you kind of get what you get and 2) I don't believe that anyone who can afford to have $10,000 on her finger would stay at the Sea Bay Hotel. I love the Sea Bay, but it is a place that one would describe as "clean" and "friendly," not the sort of place that offers the sorts of amenities that a person with $10,000 tastes in jewelry would require. (I mean, my family was excited at the presence of a microwave in the room that looked like it came from the '80s!) So I have a feeling she was full of shit, but I was glad nonetheless to not have her sort of inconsiderate and stupid drama queen to put up with on vacation. One night of slamming and shouting was more than enough.

Friday morning, I woke up to the sound of shrieking winds. Hurricane Arthur, which had made landfall in North Carolina the night prior as a category-2 hurricane, was just grazing by. The wind speeds in OC were a sustained 35 mph/56 kph, which was enough to make a sound and a fury with very little damage. Since Arthur was supposed to leave as quickly as he arrived, Bobby and I decided to wait out the worst of it in the hotel so that we didn't have to load the car during wind-driven rain. Once the storm started to clear, we had some errands to run and got lunch at Tequila Mockingbird; by this time, Coastal Highway was insane, and we crept back southward to the bridge to leave. I can't imagine what traffic was like further downtown.

And now we're home and it's back to work on Monday. Boooo.

This post was originally posted on Dreamwidth and, using my Felagundish Elf magic, crossposted to LiveJournal. You can comment here or there!

  • There is also something about watching a boat go out to sea. And something about a boat coming in from sea.

    I am with you all the way that! I used to love to stay in tiny towns in Mexico with nothing to do but watch the shrimp boats go out at night and come back in the morning and other guys pull in nets and mend them on the beach. It feels like going back in time or something. I am not sure what the magic is.

    Sounds like you had a great time except for the bus/hangry incident and the motel drama.

    Fantastic pictures.
    • Really the motel drama was my only complaint! It would have been nice if the bus came on time, but we always view riding the B as a form of entertainment in itself. And the website was wrong about the time the band came on, so we would have been a half-hour early if we'd been on time.

      There is just something so essential and romantic about a small boat heading out upon a massive sea. But you know that I have a fascination with the ocean and boats generally! I should count sometime but figure that at least half of my o-fic stories involve the sea in some significant way.
  • I'm glad you had a good time, though I'm sorry Bobby didn't get much surfing in. (Though I'm rather relieved he's not able to go out surfing in Arthur's aftermath; I was appalled when I heard the beaches on the East Coast were open. Rip currents are nothing to play with.)

    I'm a little amused to hear that you broke your kite when you first got it because I did that with mine (which isn't a stunt kite). Thankfully, it was just the wooden crosspiece snapping in half, and duct tape's held it together ever since.

    Those are lovely pictures.
    • The man who is teaching Bobby to surf was very emphatic that he should not go out Thursday evening or Friday because of Arthur. He is a national longboarding champion and said that he would not be going out because the water would not be safe. That was more than enough for Bobby to likewise stay in the sand!

      Sure enough, though, Beach Patrol had several rescues on the 4th, post-Arthur, including a rescue in which the Coast Guard had to be called in because the beach patrolers who responded to a surfer in distress also became trapped in the Inlet due to the size of the waves. (There was also a death being reported as of last night, due to rip currents, and the headline is still showing on Google, but the article is no longer posted. Not sure what's up with that, but we've had two rip current-related deaths already this season in OC, both during Senior Week.)

      It's crazy to me that, with all the public education on rip currents in OC and how to get out of one, that people still die in them, or that people who can't swim still go out into the ocean. I guess it's the "it won't happen to me" mentality.

      We snapped a plastic piece on our kite that unfortunately had to be replaced ... but thankfully, the Kite Loft has all of that stuff in stock, so a five-minute dash into the store and we were flying again. :)
      • Yay! I'm so very glad to hear that.

        I don't know why, either. It probably is the "won't happen to me" thing… but really. It's not that hard to stay out of the water. The ocean is not friendly. (Beats me why with the danger, the beaches just didn't stay closed. I'm having trouble wrapping my mind around it.)

        When I was in Pensacola at the end of May, my parents and I went for a walk on the beach despite the on-and-off rain, though it was generally off at that point. It was my birthday, our last night there, and just a few minutes walk wouldn't hurt anything. The red flags were flying due to rip currents and the beach was thankfully deserted. I walked where the waves came up on the beach, and at one point, one receding wave nearly dragged me into the water proper, which was an "oh shit rip current! I didn't know you could feel them on the beach itself" moment. I found out the next morning that someone had gone swimming just over the border in Alabama and predictably drowned.

        I'm glad you were able to get it flying again swiftly. :D
        • The ocean is not friendly.

          No it's not. I'm a strong swimmer, I love the sea more than any other natural setting on earth, and I'm respectful as hell of it. It baffles me when people treat it like a kiddie pool. It's a vast, impersonal, and dangerous-on-many-levels natural force.

          I was rather surprised that OC apparently sent out the Beach Patrol later in the day on the 4th, once Arthur blew over. I would have thought they would have kept them in to discourage swimming, but I figured that they assumed people would get in, Beach Patrol or no, and wanted to at least make sure that there was someone on hand who could rescue a person caught in a rip current, for example. OC has a swim-at-your-own-risk policy when Beach Patrol is off-duty; I don't know if they ever close the beaches there. I would assume there's something like that in place, but I don't know what it is.

          which was an "oh shit rip current! I didn't know you could feel them on the beach itself" moment.

          Now imagine if you'd slipped and fallen and couldn't swim ...

          I know it would be bad PR, but I really wish these beaches would put more emphasis on the fact that people who can't swim (or aren't wearing proper flotation equipment) really have no business in the ocean.

          Bobby has been caught in a rip current before. (Surfers actually like them because surfers are weird!) He had no problem getting out by using the swim-parallel-to-shore method that is posted at every beach entrance in OC, on every lifeguard chair, and preached by every lifeguard when they periodically pull in all the swimmers to educate them on rip currents. But Bobby is a strong swimmer and knew how to handle the situation, one or both of which seem to be generally lacking in these incidents.
          • It's a vast, impersonal, and dangerous-on-many-levels natural force.

            Yup. And I can't understand how people don't understand that. (Me, I'm a hills and mountains gal.)

            I would have thought they would have kept them in to discourage swimming, but I figured that they assumed people would get in, Beach Patrol or no, and wanted to at least make sure that there was someone on hand

            That makes a lot of sense to me. The beach we went to has always been swim-at-your-own risk; the lifeguards are at Pensacola Beach aka the tourist beach. Perdido Key's more where (some of) the locals went.

            Now imagine if you'd slipped and fallen and couldn't swim ...

            I didn't have to; I was imagining it as I staggered toward the water. While I can swim, I'm not a strong one (certainly not as good a one as when I lived in FL), and while I like to think I'd be able to escape…

            I know it would be bad PR, but I really wish these beaches would put more emphasis on the fact that people who can't swim (or aren't wearing proper flotation equipment) really have no business in the ocean.

            Me, too. It might prevent problems (though given human stupidity, I rather doubt it). It might look beautiful on the surface, but that's far from the entirity of it.

            Eek! I'm extremely, extremely glad that he knew what to do.
  • Assateague Island! :D (I'm grinning in real life. I love horses and ponies).

    Ugh, swimming. I love it, it's one of the only athletic/excercise things I can do without pain, but I'll never understand the mentality that it's in any way a safe thing to just run into the ocean without knowing what you're doing, even though half my relatives seem to love the sink or swim method to teaching how to handle swimming and the ocean...
    • Assateague is a great place to visit, if you haven't already! :) We've probably been a dozen times and have seen ponies every time. Sometimes, you can see them from Ocean City, across the Inlet. In the summer, they are often on the beach. And there are foals ... 8)

      It scares me to hear of people running into the ocean who can't swim. As Indy notes above, it doesn't take a lot of water to feel the pull of a rip current, and all it takes is a slip and a fall to be pulled out to where a person can no longer stand up. Several people die every year in Ocean City because of this.
      • I haven't been yet, though I dearly want to go! I've rarely been able to leave the area I grew up, except to see my dad's mom and siblings. The foals must be adorable!

        When I was little - between the ages of 5 and 10, with my sister being almost 3 years younger than me, and our cousin 2 years younger than here - I can remember several times when they managed to get out of the house while we were down at my dad's mom's and roam the beach with me chasing them. Now that I'm old enough, I can understand why my mom always seemed to be upset to hear vacation stories like that. :/
  • I am with you over the ... romanticism, I guess, for lack of a better phrase, of boats and harbors. When I have an afternoon to kill I'll buy a ticket to Ellis Island, which comes with all-day access to a ferry that hits a lot of tourist sites in the lower harbor. Sometimes I get off and go to the museum if they have a new exhibit, but mostly I just ride around on the boat all day. It's small enough and low enough in the water, city-subsidized but geared more toward tourists and families than commuters so it has some nice observation decks.

    I was a bit surprised to see you think recent court cases make rereading Handmaid's Tale timely, because personally I wonder if sometimes the way we think about court cases like that is needlessly apocalyptic. There are things that worry me, that make the world of that book seem a little too close for comfort, but they're more in the opinions I hear about women and people getting "friendzoned" and a lot of the rhetoric coming out in the aftermath of the California shooting, for instance - the court cases are deeply troubling to me but for other reasons, basically the idea that religious freedom is identified with what powerful corporations can do rather than the protections individuals of all or no religion have available to them.

    That's just my reading of the case, though, and I don't mean to delegitimize your fears. I'd just be interested to read a bit more about what the connection you saw between the book and recent events was. Incidentally, the book is one that I love being unsettled by and I reread it every few years when I feel myself getting blase when it comes to injustices in the world. Actually need to do that one of these days.

    Love hearing about your Ocean City vacations, btw! Not just the stories themselves but the spirit and humor you infuse into them. You rock. (Though I'm sure you already knew that. :-D)
    • The ferry trip sounds lovely! I would certainly do that myself. (I have been on that boat out to Ellis Island but was one of the tourists with a place in mind to get to and then back. :) There is just something about the OC fishing boats sailing out to the horizon with their "arms" up in the air ... *happy sigh*

      I was definitely being a little melodramatic in my assertion about The Handmaid's Tale. Do I think the Hobby Lobby and buffer zone cases mean that I am going to be stuffed into a red costume and trained to bear a privileged man's children? No. Certainly not. However, I do think that both cases show an acceptance of certain views that parallel those in THT. Taking the buffer zone case, for instance: the idea that women can be harassed, threatened, and physically blocked from receiving basic health care (since the majority of women harassed by protesters are seeking nothing to do with abortion care). The fact that there has been clinic violence--which those buffer zones were in response to--also suggests that we're okay with women fearing for their lives or safety when going for a pap smear or a birth control refill ... or even an abortion. That for seeking reproductive health services, women deserve to be punished. I can't believe, for example, that if anti-vax protesters decided to try the same tactics outside of pediatric clinics, that the move to shut that down wouldn't be swift, immediate, and unequivocal. (Certainly the Supreme Court seems to have no problem with the buffer zone around their own place of work ...)

      In the Hobby Lobby case, I am honestly more bothered by the escalating "rights" being granted to corporations, although it is certainly troubling to see an all-male majority decide that a woman's boss has the right to determine what kind of health care she can purchase with the benefits she's earned. Alito, in the majority opinion, stated outright that the decision could not be extended to allow employers to refuse coverage for vaccinations and blood transfusions or other similar instances--so again, we get back to the idea that it's perfectly cool to punish women for seeking reproductive health care. Why are we okay with singling out women and their health care? It is also disgustingly paternalistic to assume that my boss has any notion of what's best for me, medically or morally, that I can't decide for myself with the guidance of a medical professional. Again, singling out women as not capable of making those kinds of decisions for themselves smacks to me of a version of the same paternalistic attitudes in THT.

      Long story short, I suppose that I am troubled by the attitudes toward women that seem to lie behind the recent court cases and THT. In fact, I'd say that part of what makes THT work as a piece of dystopian fiction is that it presents a world that feels completely foreign to our own, yet we can see the same types of attitudes that produced and allow that world to exist in our own society, albeit in much-reduced form. That's what makes it so troubling--and effective--a novel, imo.
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