The best time of my summer was this day when my friend Meg and I drove down to visit my parents. They live in the Minnesota river valley. Like, on the Mississippi. Very Mark Twain. Anyways everyone has a boat so we drove there on the probable hope that by the time we got down to the beach, someone we knew would be out on the water.
This time, it was my dad. He has an expensive fishing boat. It’s not what you think of when you picture “expensive boat.” That’s a yacht. An expensive fishing boat is just a little bit bigger than a cheap fishing boat, the difference is that it goes really fast.
My dad is a professional fishing guide and loves to tell the story of one summer day when he was out on a trip and driving past a no wake zone near the marina my best friend’s boat docked at. “Who are those fucking idiots drinking beer in the water with no life jackets on at 11am?” He asked his clients. They were, of course, my friend and I. In our defense it was only like our second beer and we had fun noodles to protect against drowning. This time we were safely inside the vehicle and it was my dad who was dangerous by spinning the boat around until we were soaked and buying us beer at the store in the little beach town we were near.
After a few hours we got out at a beach and walked to a bar in town in our swim suits and towels. I read John Updike’s A&P at a very impressionable age so I really romanticize wearing skimpy clothing and bare feet or flip flops in the summer. Like, by doing so you are kind of proclaiming your innocence or youth to the world. Or at least holding onto it consciously, as long as the summer lasts. Men stare in cars even when they are with their wives, which is depressing and makes you even more certain you never want to be on the other side of that window.
The only people in the bar are bikers and townies, everyone is 50+ but friendly. The juke box (there’s always a juke box) is playing country music or classic rock. This is a description of each bar on the main drag in town, at all times. There are no fancy people in this part of the world. Maybe that’s what I like most about being here. The river valley is too beautiful to leave, it’s fancy enough for us all.
Cities are beautiful too, just not in the arresting way that nature is. You’re never shocked by a skyline. You’ve seen it before and can appreciate it, but it doesn’t stop you in your tracks like it does when you’re driving here and you clear the tree line and the valley just opens up in front of you. When Meg and I are in the townie bar drinking Old Styles we’re with the people who aren’t casual admirers. We’re going back to the city later. However hard you want to argue the heart of an old biker dude is, he’s the one that can bring himself to leave this place.
It might be different for us because I have a theory that there is a lot to putting physical distance between yourself and your problems. When I leave the city I’m leaving all my boy dramz and driving towards the beach. No one makes you cry on the beach. It has literally never happened. I haven’t figured out yet if trying to live at the beach is asking too much, or if everyone has a place like this and I’ve just been lucky enough to find mine.