Summer is here

by Eric Ginsburg

The best thing to do after spending four hours in the car on a Friday night: Run into the ocean.

We spent the last stretch of the drive after a disappointing (and rather sickening) stop at Taco Bell discussing the increased risk of sharks at night, but we all decided it was worth it.

With our clothes deposited in small clumps on the sand, we made our way into the warm, calm waves, where mild blue phosphorescence quickly distracted us from our fear.

It’s not summer until you go swimming. It doesn’t have to be at the beach, but this year it will be as I return to North Carolina’s Outer Banks, almost a year after the fear of sharks ebbed. Now I’m crossing my fingers that the forecast will hold, the waves will be gentle and the phosphorescence and dolphins abundant.

It will be my third summer in a row making weekend trips to Pine Knoll Shores on Emerald Isle, a short boat ride from Cape Lookout and two hours north of Wilmington. My friend lives there, at an educational center complete with beachfront access, pools, rehabilitated birds of prey and a walkway under the street. In other words, it’s perfect.

The tide rips at the beach there during the winter, tearing it in half and creating a mini-cliff that is really only a problem if you forget about it while intoxicated and/or night swimming. By summer’s end the beach will level off, leaving the raccoons rooting through the trashcans and the sharks as the only obstacles to avoid.

There is the nearby retreat center, which we’ve determined is haunted due primarily to the architecture and the hidden path through a grove of trees to reach it. It’s visible from the gazebo near the beach, though it would be more at home in the hills of Romania. A second home for Dracula maybe.

The temporary embankment, imaginary haunting and perceived predators aside, the most realistic threats to this weekend are forgetting to pack or apply sunscreen and the imposition of this column.

Occasionally I’ll knock out a column while traveling, excusing myself to my hosts, scrolling through notes I’ve made on my phone. This Memorial Day weekend, my trip shall not be interrupted.

I refuse to bring a computer to the beach or to spend any time unnecessarily in front of a screen (unless its for the “Arrested Development” party planned for Sunday night). I’ll even stop texting, a claim my friends will doubt knowing how attached I am to my phone.

If I can remember to bring sunscreen and even reapply it after swimming — something for which I don’t have the best track record, as my mom will be more than happy to attest — this column is my most daunting foe. It was originally going to be about the crazy legislation coming out of the NC General Assembly, but I would rather upset you through jealousy of my weekend plans then depress you with a critique that others have likely already stated more eloquently than my column would. Because I just can’t stop thinking about the beach, and I would only be able to give it , tops, 80 percent.

I refuse to let anything nag at the back of my consciousness while I engulf multiple shrimp burgers from the Big Oak Drive-In & BBQ and must avoid the feeling that I should be writing instead of finally getting through Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, watching owls on the sound or napping face-down on a beach towel.

I want to be thinking about why I still don’t own sandals even though I know the sand will be hot by midday and the small, weeded area between the beach and my friend’s apartment is unpleasant for bare feet. For one weekend, I want the biggest problem to be deciding what mixers or salsa to buy.

The most “productive” thing I do should be finishing my book, spotting a dolphin or eating too much. It shouldn’t be sitting under a lamp and trying to masquerade as being more verbose or thoughtful than I am.

And now, it won’t have to be. By the time you read this I’ll be back in Greensboro, and while I’ll be anticipating the next beach trip, everything will be different.

Sure, the first day of summer is technically almost a month away, but I rang it in the first time I picked my feet up and let the water do the work.