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At last, Ace gets some beach time

After two and a half months on the road, Ace and I finally landed on a beach. We love the mountains. We love the desert. But, all in all, there’s no place we’d rather land than at the beach.

No other place — and I’m just speaking for myself now — is, at once, so stimulating and soothing. Give us the sound of pounding surf, the sight of gliding pelicans and the smell of salt water and, of course, access to some air conditioning, and we are happy souls. All my senses, and perhaps even my brain, seem to to work better at the beach.

And this wasn’t just any beach. This was — in what was perhaps my biggest freeloading coup to date – a gated beach community, part-time home to North Carolina’s rich and famous, good old boys like Andy Griffith and not-so-good, not- so-old ones like John Edwards.

Figure 8 Island near Wilmington is a private paradise – not accessible to the beach-going hordes, private enough that celebrities (usually) find solace there, and dotted with mansions that seem to think they’re big enough to defy hurricanes.

Exclusive is what it is — the sort of place I’d be prone to make fun of, unless of course, I was invited in.

Once Ace and I were, we didn’t want to leave.

Ever.

I’d made a point to time our continuing travels so that we’d be able to take advantage of an invitation to visit my former University of North Carolina classmates Steve and Louise Coggins, year-round residents of the island who were holding a mini-reunion for some college friends, most of whom I hadn’t laid eyes on in — as someone felt it necessary to point out — 35 years.

Steve, a lawyer, and Louise, a psychotherapist, are hard core dog lovers, and hard core people lovers as well. Earl, their Cavalier King Charles spaniel, is the latest in a long line of rescues. If rescuing dogs weren’t enough, Steve has also hauled some humans out of the ocean, and I’m guessing Louise, in her job, has pulled a few humans back from the riptides of life they were caught in as well.

They, and the other old friends I reconnected with, seem to remain just about as wacky as they were in college — Louise, who once tracked down Paul Newman on the island and talked him into posing for a picture, in particular. They seem to remain — despite all you hear about the vanishing idealism of my greying generation — just as idealistic and committed as they were then, too. Maybe even more so. If there’s a liberal cause, or a Democratic candidate, you can probably find its, his or her bumper sticker on the back of Louise’s car. (“Who would Jesus execute?” was my favorite.) And, beyond lip service, both she and her husband seem still up for a fight when it comes to what they think is right.

That, to me, was even more refreshing than getting slapped and tickled by a cold ocean wave, though I must report that the ocean is not cold at all. It’s the warmest I’ve ever felt it. (This continues to be the summer I came to believe in global warming.)

Ace and Earl hit it off immediately — Earl being a low key little dog who likes to sit in a lap, or other comfortable spot, and observe the humans, often with a quizzical stare that makes you think he’s still trying to figure out the species.

Ace — though he’s not big on swimming in the ocean, prefering to wade, was in his element, too.

Meaning he had humans with whom to bond — there’s nothing he likes better than having lots of people around to lean on, lay atop and hold hands with.

He seems most content when among multiple friends, kind of like Steve and Louise. Their beach house — rebuilt after Hurricane Fran claimed their first — seems to have a steady stream of visitors coming and going. If it were a bed and breakfast, it would be doing a thriving business. I think there are long stretches between the times only they and Earl are there.

I hung around for two days, evening out my one-sided driving tan and pondering how I might extend my stay. I offered to become Steve and Louise’s live- in gardener — especially appropriate because, at their wedding, I, having gone attired in blue jeans, was mistaken for a gardener. I considered altering the dates of my visitor’s permit, or stowing away on the island, sleeping on the decks of unoccupied mansions during the night, frolicking in the surf by day.

But finally, and with great effort, I tore myself away.

Ace was even harder to tear away. For the first time on this trip, he didn’t come when I called him to jump in the car. Instead he walked up to the front door of the beach house and sat down — not the momentary, ready-when-you-are-sit, but that determined, try-and-budge-me sit dogs do.

But after taking in two days of good friends, good food, good sun, good surf, and a breezy oceanfront porch swing nap that — until Ace came over and started licking my hand — was perhaps the most restful nap ever in my entire history of napping, we forced ourselves back in the hot old car and headed north, headed in search of another piece of my past.

That story is coming soon. Suffice to say that — unlike my college friends, and their principles — it didn’t hold up so well.

Comments

Comment from Eighteenpaws
Time August 9, 2010 at 7:02 pm

How yummy! The photos of Ace, accompanied by the tale of your friends and this area, are just addicting. What great shots of Ace’s reposes! — I think that I want to DATE your DOG! And yeah, happy that you were reminded that we “boomers” still feel very much our 60s childhood eyes and have, today, even MORE causes to champion. P.S. Enjoyed the tantalizer…..Can’t wait until the next blog.

Comment from Amelia
Time August 9, 2010 at 10:34 pm

The crew here stranded in the beach house just read this aloud to Earl who is in mourning for John and Ace as are the rest of us. Extensions on the guest pass are in the offing for such fabulous and sympatico guests. We love what you wrote and the pictures. Come back. Don’t wait for reunion 36. :-)

Comment from Derek
Time August 10, 2010 at 9:45 am

Sounds like you and Ace are a pair after my own heart. I love visiting the desert, mountains, lakes, etc…but there is just something about the ocean that calls to me. I can’t imagine living more than a few hours from it for any extended period of time. I’ve never been to Wilmington, but its long been on my “potential relocation” list as a place to investigate further. As always, safe travels!

Comment from Kim
Time August 11, 2010 at 2:36 pm

Buddy-ro, you and Ace made our reunion complete. Please make this gathering of old friends part of your yearly journey. Looking so forward to the release of Dog, Inc., which is sure to make you a “FABULOUSLY SUCCESSFUL AUTHOR”, yes indeedy!

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