Weekend Beach Bum
|by Eric Morrison|
I blinked my eyes, and my beautiful beach summer is now over. Like so many other gays and lesbians who visit Rehoboth during the magical months of June, July, and August, I was a weekend beach bum. Come to think of it, I wasn't much of a bum at all this summer. Working on Saturdays helped pay for my weekends and whenever I wasn't working, I was usually fluttering through the air like a grand social butterfly, or running from restaurant to store to bar to beach, like the proverbial headless chicken. (Tasteless phrase for an adamant vegetarian, n'est-ce pas?)
A few times this summer, I must admit, I almost went out of my egg-yolk-free noodle. (That's better, isn't it?) From Monday through Friday, I worked my normal 40+ hours in Wilmington, and sandwiched all of life's mundane tasks between Monday and Thursdaylaundry, cleaning, dishes, the gym, paying bills, calling the bank to find out why, for the seventeenth time, my debit card had died, etc. I hadn't realized how much I accomplish on a city weekend. (Incidentally, I am well aware of the fact that the words accomplish and weekend were not meant to appear in the same sentence.)
So what if my apartment usually looked like a hurricane had blown through it, and I often returned on Sunday evenings to find my dirty clothes performing a way-off Broadway musical entitled A Little All-Purpose Laundry Detergent Works Wonders, music and lyrics by my boxer shorts, choreography by my socks. The other day, just to say, "I'm sorry that I didn't have time to talk to you all summer," I bought my friend's poodle a gourmet box of treats. Little did I know that Gigi was backed over by a garbage truck one fateful day in late June. All summer, my voice-mail and e-mail accounts have been overflowing with saved messages that I swear I meant to return. But now I'm back from the beach, my friends have graciously forgiven me, and I'm reflecting on fourteen wonderful weekends.
I must be growing up, or something akin to that awful phrase. I'm embarrassed to admit that most of my favorite moments from last summer involved some form of thoughtless debauchery. This summer, I had a few thoughtless moments that made me look like a willing participant in a debacle but, in truth, were completely innocent. For instance, one Saturday night at the Blue Moon, I met a very nice fortysomething gentleman. He had just come out of the closet and left his marriage and Ohio for Rehoboth Beach. After we discussed the freshness of the air outside the closet, he asked me to walk him to his car so that we could exchange phone numbers and continue our discussion at a later date, as he was meeting a friend for dinner. I happily complied and his car was right around the corner.
After I congratulated him on coming out, I decided that a few quiet moments sitting on the beach would perfectly compliment the three margaritas swirling through my bloodstream. I sat on the sand, lost in the roar of the dark ocean. However, I did not realize that tequila seriously impairs your ability to pick a wise nighttime beach spot. Before I knew it, a virtual tsunami washed over my body and moved me several feet from where I had been seated. Soaked in seawater and covered in sand, I returned to the bar for one more drink before heading home to clean up. Comments and snickers followed me from the entrance to the bar and beyond. At first I thought it was just the wet, sandy shirt and shorts. Then it occurred to me that I had left the bar an hour earlier with a man and returned soaked and covered with half the beach. I chuckled to myself over another salty pale libation, amused by my own naivete and the "knowing" winks of others. It was that kind of summer.
But my favorite mental snapshots from this summer involve simple things. I passed many happy hours perched in the colorful CAMP courtyard, savoring brie sandwiches and the witty, wacky words of Bob Smith and David Sedaris. I didn't make it to the gym as much as I wanted this summer, but I can boast calves of steel thanks to countless calming walks on the beach. Nine-hour Saturdays at the caf, starting at the crack of dawn, sounded like hell to my friends, but endless chais and mochachinos, chatty children, and madcap co-workers made it more fun than work.
This summer, I think I met every gay man inhabiting D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, and any Pennsylvania town ending in burgh. (I think I already know every gay man in Wilmingtonand not in the Biblical sense, thank you very much.) I ventured to Rehoboth every weekend this summer to be around "my people," and I certainly accomplished that goal. I was buoyed by our stories of resistance, hope, and survival. I can vouch for the same-sex couple findings of the census; I think I met a million cute gay couples this summer. Straight couples started to seem like anomalies to me, and it's nice for the sequined pump to be on that foot for a change.
The only depressing part of my summer was Monday mornings. Don't get me wrongI never awake on Monday mornings singing the praises of a new workweek. But this summer, Monday mornings meant much more than a return to the office. They meant that I could not crack a campy joke and expect comprehension, much less laughter. I cannot leave my office after a long day, saunter down to Poodle Beach, and feel at home. I cannot stroll down to the Blue Moon and find a sympathetic character with whom to discuss the many comic foibles of heterosexuals. (Say, Fay, do you have a year-round room for rent?)
Finally, this summer, I was pleasantly shocked by the way times have changed. I have been a part-time Rehoboth beach bum since my toddler years, and never have I experienced so much acceptance of gay people, so little disdain for our differences. One sunny Sunday, two teenage girls whispered and pointed at two men holding hands. Holding my breath, I prepared for confrontation. Then, happily, one girl turned to the other and smiled, "That's awesome!" One lonely evening, two teenage girls approached me on the boardwalk as I sat absorbing the last rays of the day's sun. They asked me if I were gay. I responded in the affirmative, and so did they. They talked about their gay friends in school who are coming out of the closet left and right, and my tired spirit was bolstered by their support.
More than anything, that's what I'll take away from Summer 2001. WE ARE WINNING! We are still victims of physical and psychological violence, inflicted by others and ourselves. But this summer, in the waves of Rehoboth Beach, I saw the tide turning, and it is too powerful and righteous to stop. Until this summer, I had forgotten that "Rehoboth," translated from its Dutch origin, means "room for all." We need Rehoboth everywhere, and this weekend beach bum is happy to report that we're moving in that direction.
Eric lives in Wilmington, but his heart is still in Rehoboth. His e-mail address is temporarily inactive. Drop a bottled note in the ocean and he'll get it.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 11, No. 13, September 21, 2001.