When last we left our brave travelers they (we; me) were waking from a re-affirming, albeit rain-soaked night of rest and resolve, and we were rewarded for our tenacity with a beautiful sunrise, clear blue skies, and a warm breeze that kept the mosquitos clinging to their shelter in the bayberry bushes. Despite our damp bedding, the kids were still comatose–ten hours a night seems par for the course, when they can get it–so my wife and I decided to go off the island to grab some coffee at The Assateague Market–a nifty little store less than a mile from the visitor center that, in true vacation store form, has just about everything you’re looking for and a few things you weren’t looking for but need anyway. After the night we had just enduded, even the thickest truck stop sludge would have been a blessing; but the stuff we found brewing at the Market was fresh and delicious. We were served by the friendly owner of the store, whose pleasant demeanor left us just as warm as did his coffee–and why wouldn’t he be happy: I’m not sure what his lot is during the off-season, but in the summer he’s his own boss, in a beautiful place, taking care of customers who are happy to be there. He’s living the dream–and I encourage you to stop in and spend some money at this place if you happen to be in the neighborhood.
Alas, not everything was hot coffee and friendly smalltalk–we were shocked to discover that while we lay blissed out in the sun and frolicking in the surf, the great entertainer Robin Williams, an icon for most of my years, had taken his own life. Not only that, but a town in Missouri was splitting at the seams following the execution of an unarmed young black man by a white police officer and the draconian response by local law enforcement to subdue the protesters who took to the streets howling with bitter sadness and the rage of the otherwise powerless. We were predictably aghast–in what kind of world does Robin Williams hang himself? The answer is a world where police kill young men with all the forethought I employ when swatting at a bug, then attempt to suppress knowledge of what they’ve done by violently clearing the streets of protesting citizens and driving off, or in some cases arresting, the national media.
We turned on the radio to hear accounts of conservative blowhards deconstructing Williams’ death as a natural progression rooted in his liberalism, or simply an act of cowardice, and the Ferguson, Missouri police actually establishing a no-fly zone over their town, to keep the news helicopters away while the fired tear gas and rubber bullets into crowds.
I turned it off. There would be no shaking the inevitable sadness of both stories, but I just wasn’t ready to wholly abandon the media vacuum of a vacation. At home, I devote too much energy to current events, give too much power to the endless episodes of injustice that gnaw at my sense of right and wrong–I may tell my children they should not expect to be treated fairly in the world, but there’s still a part of me that craves a nation of peace and respect. I was fascinated that two huge stories had been running so roughshod over the media while we remained blissfully unaware–and I have to admit a certain grudging jealousy for those who simply live their lives without ever giving a damn what happened in the world around them. That would be nice indeed.
That isolation, of course, is one of the main reasons we like Assateague. The photo above demonstrates the differences in development–and culture–between Ocean City below and Assateague Island above. It’s nice to be able to taste the OCMD carnival–as we did last year when we celebrated our daughters’ birthdays by dragging them behind a boat, but it’s especially pleasant to be able to retreat to the quiet, primitive landscape of sea grass and sand dunes, starry nights and–what the hell–even the cold showers and pit toilets.
Back at camp we roused the kids and cleared out the tent, draping sleeping bags over the van, the picnic table, folding chairs and sitting pillows out in the sun to dry. That day, and the rest of the week, would be a series of more perfect days–temps in the mid 80s and blue skies. The waves were big for much of Wednesday, but they too calmed as the storm move further up the coast.
We even swam the morning before we left–packing quickly, then stowing what was left in the early hours and hitting the beach for 3 final perfect hours before departing for another year, timing our travel to miss the congestion around Baltimore and pulling up to the curb on our tree-lined street with just enough time before dusk to get things unpacked. We discovered, with selfish satisfaction, that the weather at home had been “autumnal” in our absence–high temperaturses in low 70s and lots of dark skies and rain.