Thursday 31 MAY 2018 – Beaufort, NC
This morning in bed, my eyes not yet opened, I turn my head to the right and feel the pierce of a knifey headache I can tell will be with me all day. I’m dehydrated, hungover, and hormonal, the trifecta of head pain. I take two Advil, one Excedrin, downed with a coke zero, a few neck rolls, and crossed fingers. No matter how hard and long this thing lasts, I am going into town. I insist. I have found more and more that when we are in a place where we can get to land, I get to land. Insistently. At the beginning of the trip I was more apt to stay aboard the boat some days and get off others, but this has changed as the months have gone by. Glenn and I leave the boat at every possible chance now. This is primarily for the exercise. We have a real hunger for moving our bodies even if they are only inactive for a few hours of boat time. Exercise, consistent exercise, may be the one thing I miss even more than showers these days.
Beaufort’s downtown is a mile away and an easy walk from the Town Creek Marina, by which we are anchored this time. We have made an arrangement with the marina that lets us shower and tie up out dinghy during the daytime for $5/day. The last time we were here we left the boat in a slip for a week and headed inland to celebrate Thanksgiving with Glenn’s family on the other side of the state. At that time, we didn’t get to see much of the town, having only one day in town. We are hoping to see more this time.
We get to the town’s center in very quick time. Even though it is quite steamy outside, we are within the newly opened Turner Street Market eating a comfortable sandwich lunch before any significant melting occurs. The air conditioners in this part of the world are already working at high capacity, though it’s not quite yet summer. Every establishment we walk into is its own pocket of super chilled air. I can’t deny the comfort, but it’s overkill. Not only are temperatures indoors absurdly low, but mostly unnecessary. We have all become accustomed, maybe even addicted, to this excessive waste of resources, no? I lament this only for a short while before our lunchcounter mate starts telling us about the book he is reading. He’s an older gentleman and thought I do not remember the title of the book, his enthusiasm is palpable. He’s a quarter of the way through the story. “I don’t want to tell you too much,” he says, assuming we will be picking the book up ourselves, “but it’s very, very interesting.” He then tells us the plot building the suspense without giving away any spoilers.
Friday 01 JUN 2018 – Beaufort, NC
Chore day. In the morning I do several loads of laundry. The Town Creek Marina has two washers and two dryers, so the work is twice the normal speed. While we wait we take care of some business via the internet as we sit in rocking chairs on the marina’s large, breezy wrap around porch. In the afternoon we borrow Annie’s car and go grocery shopping, provisioning the boat for another couple of weeks. Afterwards it’s haircuts and showers before a night on the town.
On advice from Nancy, a friend of Annie’s, we start our evening at the grand opening for the Turner Street Market where they are giving away free fish tacos, veggie curry, sangria, and cold beer. There we meet up with Patrick and Annie, who have come out tonight too. We sit together at a table on the sidewalk sipping beers and proseccos and watch as Annie greets at least half of the people that come by. She knows just about everyone in this town! Soon, not fully sated, we are on the hunt for more food. Following Annie, we cross the street, amble through Beaufort’s Historical Grounds across an alley, around Aqua restaurant, to the small, tucked away Backstreet Pub where a magical food truck is serving small portions of foodie foods on paper plates. Under the leafy trees we order, Annie runs into more friends, and we sip our drinks leisurely chatting with other waiting patrons. When the food is ready we take our morsels and drinks to a fenced in beer garden around the corner. There are kids and dogs running around and the same picnic benches and tables as at our local beer garden in Ann Arbor where we would probably be sitting right now if we were there. My soft shell crab has a curry sauce that makes me want to lick the plate, which I resist, trying to make a good impression to fit in with the other grown-ups, or something. Some evenings, Annie tells us, this place has live music. She gestures to the small concrete platform in the corner where bands usually set up. She is disappointed, I think, that there’s no music tonight. Maybe she thought we would enjoy the evening more? It would add a bit, I suppose, but I’m not complaining still high on curry. Just then Annie gets a glimmer in her eye. She has an idea! We quickly gather up and leave, following behind her quick pace. At the waterfront she turns right onto Front Street, then a quick left walking straight into Finz, a local restaurant. Flying now, she says something to the hostess but doesn’t stop and takes us all through another set of doors, right turn, up some stairs to an open rooftop terrace we get all to ourselves just as the sun is setting in the western sky. We settle in for a few minutes and enjoy the colors, digesting our dinners, and admiring at this fine spot.
One thing that I really love about Annie is the way she talks to Ava. I often don’t make enough space for Ava in my conversations with adults, assuming that she will jump in if she wants to. Annie, however, will take the time to specifically address her interests and give her time to answer. This comes in part, I’m sure, from Annie’s experience as a school teacher, but also she just has that nature. Many of my friends at home have this too. I am attracted to people who take notice of every voice – especially the smallest one. And I am particularly moved when that act of generosity is aimed at my kid. Tonight Annie is drawing out Ava around the subject of gardening, an interest Ava is just starting to develop.
Back out on the street the five of us fumble around for another destination. We walk the waterfront checking out boats, tattoos, dogs, and dessert menus until finally someone, maybe me, convinces the rest of us to get ice cream, which we do at the General Store, where Annie runs into a gaggle of former students adorably calling her “Miss Seigel,” who hug her and circle around her and want to know how she’s been and what’s new. It’s clear they love her and that she loves them right back. They are sweet and tender with her, especially one smallish boy with a crew cut and a beautiful face who touches her on the back of her arm in a way that almost breaks my heart on the spot. Watching them I wonder if they know about her husband. Students, my students, always give me energy. I hope they are doing that for her too.
Moving again we meander down the street with remnants of sugar cones still in our hands. It’s fully dark now, but not very late, maybe 9PM. We turn back toward the marina and start to separate and say our goodbyes when Patrick points out a live musician playing at Cru, the wine bar. Annie looks in longingly. Should we? We make one more stop for one more glass of wine, and where for at least another hour and a half, we listen to a very fine country singer, watch Annie meet up with friends, and watch Patrick watch Annie and thank his lucky stars.
Saturday 02 JUN 2018 – Beaufort, NC
In the middle of the night Glenn wakes up with a bad pain in his right knee. The joint has been swollen and hot to the touch for a week now. We’re both worried that this means he has an infection that is worsening. In the morning when the situation hasn’t improved we make a plan to go to the hospital to get it checked, but not before we grab some cinnamon rolls at the Beaufort Farmer’s Market. It’s not that Ava and I are unsympathetic, but fresh pastry is hard to beat with a mere mid-level swelling injury. Even Glenn goes along with this plan. Besides, everyone agrees, a farmer’s market is a great place to gawk at get to know a place. Shortly after we find the bakery stand, with our buns and coffees in hand we plunk down on three, tucked away folding chairs and table, and peering from the backstage, watch the town roll by. Not long into our sugar high Patrick and Annie join us to drink their coffees. We hadn’t made a plan to meet up, but it’s from them that we even know about the place (though the town has robustly advertised it with thousands of lawn signs that we somehow overlooked). They’re here to buy some vegetables and when they finish they drop us off at the hospital in Morehead City.
The past few days of being in Beaufort we roamed its streets with more swagger than in other places we have been. There’s just something different when you know someone in town. I imagine it’s like having an older sibling forge a path through one’s school life. One walks through doors more confidently. Through Annie we have operated with some local knowledge and this way saw things and went places we wouldn’t have. Of course, this has meant that we missed the things we would have seen and done in their place. And who knows? Maybe that was a big loss, but most likely not. The other day I was reading the chapters on northern Africa in Dark Star Safari. Theroux was recalling his visits of the ancient temples in the Aswan region of the Nile’s valley. I was not familiar with these structures. At one point I got the idea to search the temples on the internet to see an image of the buildings and spaces he was describing. Though the searches produced a plethora of information, at the top there was always an area of general data including a basic photograph for each building I had requested. This was perfect for my needs in the moment. I flipped through several search pages for the temples named in the book examining shapes and details and dates before I noticed a key piece of information included with each entry: a star rating. Yep. Each ancient temple had been given an evaluation. The Temple of Isis at Philae (380 BC to 362 BC), 4.8 stars; Kom Ombo (180 BC to 47 BC), 4.6 stars; Temple of Edfu (237 BC to 57 BC), 4.6 stars. For a second I was stunned, my first impulse was to research the authorship of the ratings. Who was doing the evaluating? And who did they think they were? I mean, what was the criteria? Architecture? Present art value? Touristic amenities? Toilets? The nerve! But then, I remembered my swagger. And I turned down my outrage.
The diagnosis for Glenn’s knee, which takes two full episodes of Fixer Upper – one good, one less good – to determine, turns out to be: Wedontknowitis. (Sorry for the Latin term.) The doctors write a prescription for Naproxin and hand over a pair of giant crutches, both of which Glenn eschews in approximately 8 hours.
Sunday 03 JUN 2018 – Beaufort, NC
A blood-red bookmobile pulls into the center of town today and grabs my attention.At $1/book who can resist? Luckily for the boat, I only have $1 with me. I buy Maggie Nelson’s The Red Parts. Maybe an influence of the bookmobile itself?
Tuesday 05 JUN 2018 – Beaufort, NC
Before out planned departure tomorrow we want to have the boat’s bottom cleaned. There’s a thick layer of slimy growth and some colonies of barnacles starting all over the hull. Normally, we would do this nasty chore ourselves, but rather than further aggravate Glenn’s knee, we call a professional diver. While Glenn waits for his arrival, Ava, Annie and I go for a last round of produce provisioning. One of the places we shop and with which I am now infatuated is LIDL. Five-star recommendation for this German, discount super market. Back at the boat Glenn’s wait is in vain. The diver didn’t show up. Fortunately, we find another one to come and do the job while we make dinner. We will leave with a clean bottom after all.
Wednesday 06 JUN 2018 – Oriental, NC
A twenty-mile motor north on the Adams Creek gets us to Oriental. We are fortunate to find space at the public dock where we can stay for 48 hours for free. We are not fortunate when we go searching for anything oriental.
Sunday night’s storm. This one looked much worse than it was. (Next week’s was the opposite.)