My mother's neighbor refers to Spirit Airlines as the Cartagena Express. Spirit has a reputation for luring you in with inexpensive airfare, and then charging for every added convenience save boarding the plane on your own two legs. Print your boarding pass at home or it's $10 to check in at the airport. $30 at least to take luggage with you. Crash landing in the sea? $50/minute to use the flotation device. But back in May, round trip airfare on Spirit to Myrtle Beach (where my mom lives) was more than $100 cheaper than any other airline. So I bit the bullet, made the purchase, and proceeded to agonize over how to keep it from turning into a $500 flying experience.
And then.... I decided to stop agonizing. Well, maybe not decided. I surrendered to the fact that I could agonize no longer.
This was a much needed trip after closing my first Off-Broadway play, Bill W and Dr Bob, in which I enjoyed a lovely 3 month run. It was a wonderful time with wonderful people. And while not exhausting in and of itself, during this time, I not only kept my day job, but I continued to teach and build my side business as well (ESL and Accent reduction; see “Dialect Coaching” page). The average day began at 6:30 in the morning and did not end until my arrival home at about 11:30 at night. On the odd night or afternoon when I was free, it was a struggle to be charming and amusing with friends and family, and I'm nothing if not known for my charm and amusing-ness. So in search of the positive, I decided to use the Cartagena Express as a test; if I'm only allowed 1 personal item on board that has a limited amount of room to fit things, what were the bare essentials that I needed in order to have a pleasant vacation?
The answer wound up being “not a lot.” My mother lives not far from the beach, and I intended to go there every day and stay for as long as my Anglo-saxon skin could stand. This led me to conclude that besides my bathing suit and beach sundress, not much else was essential. So the night before my departure on a 5 day vacation, in a large blue tote purse I placed 3 pairs of underwear, PJ's, 1 pair of shorts, 2 tank tops, a bathing suit and sundress, a small pouch of toiletries, a MINIMAL amount of make-up, and my wallet.
I say with pride that I did not use a new pair of underwear until my final morning in Myrtle Beach, nor did I wear any of the clothes I brought along because my wardrobe changes consisted of putting on my swimsuit and sundress in the morning, coming home and popping into PJ's after my shower, and waking up in the morning to do the exact same thing. I went with the intention to relax, and relax is exactly what I did.
Here's another decision that led to bliss.... At the beach, my mother and I played Yahtzee. I took dips in the 82 degree water every 30 minutes or so to cool my slowly browning skin from the sun that beat down from a cloudless sky. I read several pages of Love in the Time of Cholera glancing up every so often to exchange smiles with the boys on break from Columbia. I collected seashells, ate salami sandwiches with mustard on white... yeah, that's right... WHITE bread.... I taught my mom how to stand sideways to avoid being toppled over by breaking waves so that we could make it past the breaks and swim in calmer waters. And, not to be too cool for school, I got.... a henna tattoo. Guys, I was seriously afraid that they wouldn't let me onto the beach the last couple of days because my new found relaxed coolness brought on by the henna might intimidate the other swimmers and sunbathers. But they did, thank God. AND, here's the kicker.... I do not have any photographic proof of a single one of these beach bum activities. And that is because, as to the afore mentioned decision...
I left. My iPhone. At the house.
That's right!!! I said it. I decided that I did not want to be reached by the non-Myrtle-Beach-World under any circumstances. I didn't want to be called or have email at the tip of my fingers. I didn't want to be tempted by buzzfeed bullsh** or pictures of someone's dinner. I didn't want my head buried in crushing candies when I could have been reading about the continuing saga of Fermina and Florentio. And I did not want to interrupt the experience of any of these perfect moments with “Hang on, let me get a picture for FB. And don't worry, I'll instragram it first.” So, instead of pictures, all I have are these.....
I look at them now, as I type this, back in place on my window sill. I pick them up and feel the delicate, ceramic like structures, so thin I wonder how they ever served as protective homes. I stroke the intricate lines that fan out from the center point across the surfaces, and gently raise my hand up and down measuring the weightlessness of them all. I do all of this from the tiny, cramped cube of my Park Slope bedroom; the fan is blowing, the Rosé adds a cool sweet calm, the smoke from my neighbor's grill momentarily makes me think the building is on fire.... But I hold these little found shells in my hand, and I swear... almost with tears in my eyes... I can hear the waves. I can smell the seawater and feel the sand clinging to my hot, sun-screened calves just before a refreshing dip. I taste the saltwater on my lips and the salami on my tongue. I hear my mother's voice saying “Oh, sh**. Well, I'm scratching my Yahtzee!” I recall our friend John's dismay at forgetting his radio so he had no country music, and my mother and I recreating the songs A Capella so that he didn't feel so sad..... “My caaaaaar woooon't staaaarrrrt annnnnnd,/ M'girrrrrlfrieeeeeend left meeeeee/....” I see the reddened, freckled shoulders of college boys and remember how once in a while we sweetly exchanged smiles as they leisurely tossed their footballs nearby. Peace. That's what I remember.... peace.
When I was flying back into New York, there was an immense cloud cover that was making the city below quite dank and dreary after the preceding day's rain. But above the clouds, outside my window I saw this calm, blanket of white, this bright, beautiful blue. As the plane growled into our descent and lowered into white haze, I took a deep breath and professed my gratitude to the cosmos for the gift of the last 5 days, and just for the moment and for being alive. And perhaps when the city starts moving too fast again, or I'm stressed about money, or if people here seem a little colder than usual, or if I just miss my family, I will grasp these cool, lovely shells, taste the sea, find that peace, and remember just how few things were (and are) needed to make a happy moment.