Monday, February 06, 2006

Merlin Hats and Technicolor Sunsets

Sometimes I think that all people in the world can be categorized into two groups in terms of preferences, no matter what the subject. For instance: tea or coffee, cats or dogs, Asterix or Tintin, Windows or Apple, Freecell or Solitaire…so you get the idea.
Still, when it comes to choosing between beach and mountain, I must admit I am a little thrown. A few years ago, living in Florida, the nearest beach was always a drive away, and this might have helped tip the balance in favor of ‘beach’. There was this gorgeous place called St. George’s Island that was a favorite retreat for all of us in college.
It was about two hours away, a scenic drive once you got out of the city. At one point, you could see a bridge, curving over the glittering sunlit ocean; at night, this bridge sparkled and twinkled like the gateway to a magic kingdom. The beach itself was stunning, with firm white sand and gorgeous blue-green water.
So once my roommate and I had two visitors, who had driven down all the way from Boston where they studied. Far from being tired or zombie-like after their marathon cross-country drive, these two were fresh and smiley like the proverbial daisies. In fact, I remember them turning up at our door late at night, each wearing a blue or red velvet Merlin hat decorated with silver stars (they had won these at some local fair en-route to our place) and greeting us thus upon arrival, they made it seem like the most natural social ritual in the world.
To prove the point that they were going about this trip king-size despite having the regulation graduate-student shoestring budget, these two had rented a convertible: a nice-looking golden Chevy Sebring. The roommate and self were grandly shown this magnificent piece of machinery while we threw together a spur of the moment trip to St. George’s.
The drive was fantastic. Then the roommate and I quickly discovered that it’s probably a bad idea to sit in the back in a convertible with the top down, especially when the drivers were as exuberant as these two and kept getting lost. Still, the detours were interesting enough and the beach, when we finally arrived, was right in the middle of a Technicolor sunset.
Our two Boston-weary friends couldn’t get enough of it. We had the wine and fruits we had brought along, and then what do you know? For some reason there was a fireworks display on the beach. Fireworks on the beach at sunset, with wine and fruits! The four of us doubted that life could get any better.
As it turned out, it didn’t. Soon afterwards, the roommate and I moved to Cincinnati and Washington, D.C., respectively. One of the two Merlin-hat wearing, convertible driving mavericks went on to Kentucky (!) and the other, I believe, is still in Boston. But say the words St. George’s Island, and I am sure the grins on all our faces will be exactly the same.

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