Ten Best: Things about the beach

by Jordan Green

Watching the surfers at Wrightsville Beach Asidefrom the fact that the surfers monopolize the prime waves, the bestthing about being at Wrightsville Beach is watching the them paddle inahead of an arriving water mass, rise to their feet as it surgesbeneath, perform a poetic slalom along its advancing line, turn 180s ortake the express towards the shoreline before collapsing in the surf.Wrightsville Beach is the most accessible piece of beachfront from theTriad, and my lady and I took pleasure in crouching in the shallows atdusk and then again the next morning to watch the performance. Soft air, water and at either end of the day Anovercast sky in the early evening before the first fat dropletsdescend. The calm promise of a hot day at 8 a.m. in the morning beforethe temperature soars. These are the perfect times to be in the ocean,we discovered. The water is cold and bracing at first, and thencomfortably refreshing. The air is like a warm bath, and the lightplays gently across the sand without the harsh intensity of midday. Noneed to do anything but take it. Rocking George Michael on Interstate 40 Afriend has supplied a burned CD copy of a George Michael compilation.For anyone born between 1960 and 1980, there’s an inherent nostalgiafactor with Michael, the more talented half of Wham! Let’s face it:There’s something campy about the artist, from the sly elision ofreligion and sexuality in his best work to the pretension of hispolitical album Listen Without Prejudice, Vol. 1 and the comic elementsof the Beverly Hills incident in which he exposed himself to anundercover vice cop in a public restroom. In any case, "Jesus to aChild," "Father Figure," "Careless Whisper" and "Don’t Let the Sun GoDown On Me" make a perfect soundtrack for zipping down Interstate 40. Cape Fear Museum Myquestion about the 1898 Wilmington massacre elicits an apologeticexplanation at the front desk about how the museum can’t possibly fiteverything in, and this seminal event in North Carolina history islimited to a single panel, but the Cape Fear Museum is still prettycool. We agree that the highlights would have to be a replica of theskeleton of Wilmington’s giant ground sloth, a diorama of the fall ofFort Fisher in 1865, a scale model of the Civil War-era Wilmingtonriverfront containing intriguing details about blockade running and thejukebox that plays songs linked to the Cape Fear area at the drop of amuseum-issued coin. Spanish moss We have plenty ofkudzu in the Triad, but Spanish moss is a gothic horticultural featurethat retains a measure of novelty for out-of-town visitors toWilmington. Hanging in chain links from the live oaks inside the medianon Market Street in conjunction with the city’s antebellumarchitecture, it gives Wilmington a slightly decadent feel, much likeSavannah and New Orleans. Cameron Art Museum Theadmission fee was a little steep and admiring line drawings and woodsculpture was not our first order of business, but since we came toWilmington without a map or Mapquest directions to our hotel, CameronArt Museum turned out to be a fortuitous first stop. We stumbled onsome kind of film shoot and wireless internet promotion and, moreimportantly, secured a map orienting us to both downtown and the beach.For the nitty gritty, visit Listening to free music at the Wilmington river walk Acrowd and a noisy spectacle attract people like bugs to light.Sophistication and originality are hardly requirements for a good draw.Searching out food and historic atmosphere in old Wilmington, westumbled on the city’s weekly Downtown Sundown concert. As we followedthe sound and threaded through the crowd, we came upon the banstand.The local talent was covering Van Halen… covering the Kinksspecifically the proto-metal gem, "You Really Got Me." Raunchy guitar,operatic hard-rock vocal squeals, the visual and aural feast summonedSunset Strip circa 1978 more than Swinging London circa 1964. Then weresumed our culinary mission, treated to a fading serenade of Warrant’s"Cherry Pie." River-front dining Which brings usto dinner on the deck alongside the Cape Fear River. After passing afurious woman screaming at a treacherous man, we found our spot atElijah’s. My companion ordered a catfish sandwich and a scrumptiousappetizer of shrimp covered in globs of jack cheese on horizontalslices of French bread, and I had scallops, oysters, catfish, shrimpand coleslaw. There’s nothing quite like the combination of deep-friedseafood, the sound of the river lapping against the supporting postsand light dancing across lines of tables on the floating deck. Free wireless service at the Red Roof Inn Thebest lodging deal on a Friday night proved to be the Red Roof Inn, aroadside establishment set like practically all of them on MarketStreet midway between the beach and historic Wilmington. As an addedbonus, our motel offered free long-distance calls, continentalbreakfast and free wireless internet. We undertook a plan to lie in bedand watch a Japanese soap opera. The Red Roof Inn’s signal was ratherweak and we lost some time trying to connect. Luckily, the wirelesssignal from the nearby Dunkin’ Donuts was running strong, and we wereable to avail ourselves of this transnational cultural experience. Encountering recurrent punk-rock hitchhikers Departingfrom Wilmington, we ran across two celluloid-perfect, punk-rock boys onthe roadside thumbing for a ride west toward the Triangle, one of themwearing a Misfits T-shirt. Selfishly perhaps, we passed them by. Then,after stopping for gas, we passed them again about a half-mile down theroad. We had to traverse some two-lane back roads before we found ourway to Interstate 40. A couple exits to the west, we encountered themagain. This time the guy wearing the Misfits shirt was grinning ear toear. What kind of highway-thumb magic they possessed we never learned,but we considered abandoning the car on the side of the road, andthrowing our lot in with theirs.’­