The Other Part of Travel: Restroom Experiences

When you’re traveling, you have to use the restroom.  The restroom at your hotel, at the restaurant after a long lunch, at the friendly bar you just dominated the main social circle at, when walking the street markets, you name the scenario, when travelling, and you probably will need to use the restroom at some point.

It’s a common experience that relates all of us together.  But I have to tell, I’m convinced the list of common experience is becoming smaller.  And now the restroom is under attack.

And no, this isn’t about genitals, or a person’s “toolbox,” (whatever that reference is NOW being used for), or gender, or names, pronouns, God, your convictions, or anything else that conjures up a thunder storm of emotions.  No, this is more basic than that.

I recently was on a shopping trip, and decided to eat lunch while I was out.  I was buying hygiene and cleaning supplies, and knew I was going to pick up some power tools afterwards, but thought, “hey, what the heck, I’ll eat lunch in the middle, because, ‘Merica……or whatever.”

So, I got to the restaurant (which I will protect by not naming, because this isn’t their fault) and needed to use the restroom.  It was full, for a while.  Ok, I’ll wait.  Because, what else can you do?  That went on for an eternity, and that’s a whole other situation.  But after patience, I got my moment of relief.

I use the stalls, because of weirdos I’ll discuss later.

I sat down for my business, and after a minute some person walked in.  Who knows who they were?  I don’t want to assume.

They went to a urinal and did whatever they were doing.  And honestly, I’m not sure I want to know exactly, nor can I assume in this particular situation.  This restaurant has music they play throughout their establishment.  And that includes the restrooms.  And they play music that tends to be popular, because that’s their marketing strategy – being popular.

A song came on, and I had to ask a millennial (at a much later time, and NOT in a restroom), it was Little Toy Guns by Carrie Underwood.  I don’t know Carrie Underwood’s music.  I’ve heard the name over a dozen times in my life, but I don’t know anything about her, other than she sings country music.  I may experience some bias in this element of the story – because I don’t like country music.  My understanding of the music is it that it originates from folk music hailing from Northern Europe, and that it became “Americanized” through bluegrass and Appalachian heritage, and fast forward to today, and it’s been…….well, it’s been.  I don’t have a taste for the music, I don’t understand the joy people get out of it.  To me, it’s like someone speaking Prussian……it’s no longer viable.  Alas, I digress.

This song came on, and the, whatever, at the urinal started humming the song.  Ok, that’s weird.  No one does that in a restroom.  At least not where I come from.  But to make matters worse, they began singing the song, loud and proud.

It’s already uncomfortable when someone starts humming a tune in a restroom, but to go full-on karaoke, like its last call, and you’re vying for a free drink…..I don’t know what else to say about it, other than it’s far and away from anything decent.  Singing in a men’s restroom?  Singing a country song in a men’s restroom?  A song, sung by a women?

“What in the hell is going on?!?!?!?” Is all I could think as this was happening.

Here I was, trying to finish my business, and this person just takes over the air with their singing.  And for those who are weirdly wondering, it was not good.

I’ve sung in the shower, the bathtub, on the way to work in my car, in my office while working late.  I’ve even sung at a few company parties.  I have not sung in a public restroom.  I’m quite proud of that record.  It’s one of the many things I stand behind when it comes to my record as a human being.

Now, you might be wondering, “Well gee Matt, if that’s the worst thing you’ve ever experienced in a restroom, what are you complaining about?”

I’m not complaining, I’m merely pointing out how weird it gets when you’re out traveling.  And frankly, just being in public in general – because this incident reminded me of a very weird restroom incident when I was in college.

I went to Central Washington University.  There I said it, I’m not protecting them in this incident, but it also wasn’t their fault either.  I used to work in their BOD office, which is an abbreviation for Board of Directors.  For the uninitiated, it’s a panel of students who are voted into specific roles that serve the student body as a whole.  I was a staffer in the office, and we had a restroom below our office.  Clearly, spending time in the office often meant you may be spending some time in that restroom.

I went into said restroom one unassuming sunny April day.  I used a urinal.  There was a person in one of the stalls.  They were in the ADA install in fact.  Lots of room to roam, and boy did they use. They were in there before I was in the restroom, so I figured they’d be on their way without me ever seeing them.  Like I said, it was an unassuming day.

But, that just wasn’t going to happen, no matter how much I assumed.  As I got to the urinal, I could hear them marching around in the stall.  I was in the Army.  When I say marching, I mean it.  This was very dedicate, purpose-driven marching in the stall.  They were serious about getting from point A, to point four feet away, and back again.

At the same time, they began grunting.  I don’t know how else to explain it.  It wasn’t the type of grunting you may have heard in public restrooms.  It was grunting that was in-sync with their turns in the stall while they marched.

Then I saw their fist pumping in the air, above the walls of the stall, out of the peripheral vision in my left eye.  I admit, I was getting nervous.  I just wanted to get out of there as fast as I could.

I cut off my business, affixed my jeans, and made my way to the sink to wash my hands.

As I did that, the person began making shouting noises with those grunts.  It was like they were trying to talk, but couldn’t get their vocal chords to work.  This was getting completely insane.

I turned on the sink, and at that moment the stall door came full swing open, slamming into the adjoining wall.

The person continued to fist pump, but with the intensity of a Lion eating Hyena for breakfast, after fasting for a week.  They stood about 5’7’’, had on flip-flops, shorts that cut off above the knees, a t-shirt, black rimmed glasses, and short dark brown hair.  They appeared to weigh above 300 pounds.

I began washing my hands, hoping that avoiding eye contact would avoid any interactions.  Because there is no way I’m talking in the restroom, let alone to this walking YouTube clip.

They started shouting “I’m the champion!  I’m the champion! I’m the champion!” and ran out of the stall, straight for the door, while another person walked in.

Thankfully, I was able to finish washing hands without an actual interruption, like having to fight a person off their medication.

The person that walked in asked me “What was that about?”

I simply said I had no idea, that I was just washing my hands – as if I needed to justify that I had no involvement with the aspiring professional wrestler who was working on their ring intro.

And still, this is just the surface of some the weirdest moments I’ve witnessed – in public restrooms.

These are bizarre behaviors to say the least, but to acknowledge it publicly, I hope to do more good than to cause a lot of gawking.  Looking at it from the outside, I would probably be laughing.  Don’t feel guilty if you did.

I decided to share this because I am working on a confessions project, the working title is Confessions of a Nation.  If you have confessions like this, or of something completely different, send them my way at: matthew@matthewballantyne.com.

I ask for as many details as you can remember, and I will turn your confession into a short story, filing in whatever may be missing from the confession in terms of story elements, with fictionalized details.  These confessions remain anonymous, and the added story elements give it an extra layer of anonymity.

What happens if I write your confession into a story?  You’ll get a free copy of the book if you desire.  You may also breathe sweet relief.  I know I am after getting this restroom business out of my head.

Coming Tomorrow:’The Other Part of Travel’

If you read my blog, I spend some time posting travel pieces.  I usually focus on quirky bars and restaurants, the general surroundings, and fun things to do.  It’s usually vacation oriented, so why wouldn’t it be about indulging?

But, one of the things I leave out are the weird interactions, happenings, and even incidents, where I am an unwilling victim, or an unknowing witness to something utterly insane.  Let’s face it, the world has gotten strange.  Really strange.  Astronomically strange.  It’s unhealthy, that’s how strange it is to be out in public.  And not just certain people.  For everyone.

Everyone seems to be working hard to make things over-complicated, unfathomable, unthinkable, overt, and above all, unreasonable.  Perhaps it’s in the rush to be a part of the next killer meme.  Or to get a video to go viral, add subscribers to whatever nonsense channels they have, so they can claim an income they aren’t getting, in hopes of scoring that income elsewhere.

Or it could be that insanity goes unchecked in our ever-benevolent society.  At any rate, I feel like trying out some story telling from the back pages of my travel journal.

I’ll be posting the first one tomorrow, and we’ll see how it goes.

Why Does Small Town America Matter?

The flyover States. The Midwest, the Great Plains, the Rocky Mountains. We have these large portions of land, water, grain, cattle, manufacturing plants, real home cooking, original buildings that display their character, and a truly visual representation of community.

The drawback for much of these communities is that they have smaller populations, limited resources, and an inability to capture large financial commitments they need to expound on their qualities, and make their respective destinations a draw for outsiders.

And then of course, that limitation goes to an on-going problem that America faces: competition for tourism dollars.

Many small towns across America have jumped onto the concepts taught at the former National Main Street Center were encapsulated by the ability to re-vitalize their downtown cores to eventually attract tourism dollars; the best money any municipality in this country can hope for.

Tourism dollars bring larger tax percentages (think those 20 percent or higher hotel taxes), and spend-happy customers at various retail shops that otherwise wouldn’t see the types of draws that would support their rent and utility payments.

Tourism is great, and getting something in place that is sustainable is certainly a goal worthy to have; but understanding that not every town can expect a major tourism draw is not merely a belief, but a principle that any small town looking to reclaim its luster should abide by.

The real truth is that it takes years of building (and a lot of rebuilding!) in all other directions before those first tourists will ever show up.  Merely propping up a few businesses in your downtown core, slapping an arts festival together and marketing it as the weekend destination is not going to work.

At the same time, people like Richard Florida, author of Cities and the Creative Class, have suggested that creative people, those who add vibrancy and theme to your small towns eventually leave for larger cities; simply because their purpose is better supported.

It’s a reasonable argument, in that we all recognize that larger cities tend to have more robust options and resources to not only support, but even more so, cultivate, the talents of many.  Industry, technology, space, and certainly an audience are all key factors to a creative reaching and achieving their potential; and making their own path.

Small towns by and large have not offered this in some time, and there are exceptions, by this is the going theme among many.

Some towns embrace the change, and want to support.  Others do not.  And still some fight it tooth and nail, not wanting anything “ruining….” Well, who knows what!

But right now, in 2019, small towns do have the ability to add some balance to the value they provide compared to their bigger, devouring brothers.

Much has been said about the internet and it’s democratization of information.  But the true power in internet services is the true exploration of fast telecommunications in the far-flung corners of agri-land.

But even more so than that, proliferating them in such a way that budding entrepreneurs, who are young, bright, and are inevitably part of the community’s growth, will be able to land the tools in small towns, that allow them to branch out the larger world.

One example of what I’m talking about is Ernest Greene Jr, also known as the musical artist Washed Out.  Greene was born in small town Georgia, and after leaving home for an education at a major D-1 school, followed by graduate school, he moved back in with his parents after not being able to find work in his profession. 

That could be the end to a very sad story about wasted youth, but instead, while Greene was searching for work, he start to create synth-pop and chillwave music that he eventually posted on the internet to a profile he named Washed Out.  He has said numerous times that the music was born out of a deep desire to remain happy in the state of life he was in; a lack of a job market during the 2009 recession that kept him unemployed, and living at home.

On the other end of the music, was an audience that discovered him and brought him to his first show, a sold-out showcase.  This led to a music career that is now roughly ten years old, with songs of his reaching the charts, as well as being encompassed into television royalties (he wrote the song used by Portlandia as their theme).

Greene didn’t need to be in New York City to capture his audience, and in fact has stayed in small towns in Georgia for their inspiration on the music he makes.

Greene proves Mr. Florida wrong, and he also proves that small towns have appeal that is routinely untapped.

It’s not necessary for people who want to preserve their small towns, or want to turn them into tourist hot spots to curate the entire town.  In fact, it’s quite possible that doing so will hurt the town’s potential.  But those that want to make their small towns achieve some growth, and have something to offer future generations need to consider supportive infrastructure foremost; buildings, utilities, and use of space.

These three elements are the foundation.  Everything else after is window dressing – and it’s advisable to leave that portion to the creatives you’re wanting to keep around.

I’ll write about this topic more at a later date.  Until then, consider your town, what the intention is, and whether or not that truly lines up with what your community wants to convey.  If there is a disagreement, those things need to be settled before any plan of direction is written or carried out.

It is one of the cruelest jokes we play on ourselves in the United States.

The flyover States. The Midwest, the Great Plains, the Rocky Mountains. We have these large portions of land, water, grain, cattle, manufacturing plants, real home cooking, original buildings,

Men Should Write: For Themselves, Mainly

I’m not sure when it happened, but at some point in the 20th century it no longer was manly to journal.

Really, it became sacrosanct for men to be involved in writing.  And that’s quite dangerous, factually.

Men exist, therefore they are.  And the idea that men should reduce their role in any aspect of life is counterintuitive to any growth that any person may desire, man or otherwise.

It’s not to say that men do not write, we can be certain that James Patterson, Michael Connelly, and Cormac McCarthy carry on a legacy all their own.  And there are also many men in the non-fiction categories carrying a torch so bold.

But our numbers dwindle.   And dwindle.  And continue to dwindle.  I would not believe that men would stop writing altogether, but mind you as the numbers continue to lower, our appreciation for writing and even more, reading, goes away.

I can’t speak for you, but I don’t want to live in a world where men don’t have strong appreciation for reading and writing.  And I surely don’t want to perpetuate this trend long after I am gone.

What I do want is to make men stronger than where they are now.  And reading, and writing for personal reasons, are two major components to anyone being stronger.

Ernest Hemingway journaled.  William Shakespeare and Edgar Allan Poe surely did.  And while the common trait is that these three men are writers, there are those among us that are not writers that do write.

This is why I’m a proponent to journaling.  Stereotypes tell us that journaling is the domain of women, where they write dreams, and hopes, and gossip, and probably a whole host of things so toxic no one but those women would dare lay claim to them.

Men need to journal.  They need to remember their history accurately.  They need to have their compass aimed in the right direction.  They need to know where they came from, and where they are going.

Life is not something you can figure out exclusively within.  You have to have outlets, and you have to have a way to retain the memories that fit into the bigger picture.  Men workout.  They build furniture, cars, and houses.  They fish and hunt.  They sail, run, invent new beer, and a host of many other things.  These are all outlets.  Extremely excellent outlets.  But somewhere in all that, men write about these experiences to retain accurate records, which are of course memories.

Hunters write logs of their hunts, detailing weather, terrain, pacing, angles, and so forth.  Furniture builders write basic assembly instructions which become part of manuals for repeating a particular build.  Runners write journals which cover much the same ground as hunters, except the focus is how they felt in their performance.  Sailors write logs of the sea, what they encountered, and chart their routes.

I could go on, but the fact remains that men by and large already do journal, but they skip over the most important topic: themselves.

As men, we are routinely asked to support others, mainly women, through relationships.  Kids, households, ensuring security and stability for all.  We hold down jobs that tie into that paradigm, and at those jobs we are eventually asked to be leaders of work, rather than just workers.

Still some of us are self-employed, own a business, where we have to continue that legacy of security to ensure that others are taken care of long before we are, and still we have household to think of.  Even without thinking about it, men are largely self-sacrificial, whether society recognizes it or not.

Our biggest obstacle is recognizing that the nature of life demands this of us.

As men, we have to get ourselves motivated for the path we choose, and sustain that motivation throughout a lifetime of achievement, failures, happiness, sadness, disappointment, and even the brutality visited upon us by our significant others, physical or otherwise.

Journaling is what created success for Hemingway.  It created success for Theodore Roosevelt.  It created success for Andrew Carnegie.  And it will help create success for you.

While physical outlets are very much worthy of our time, and should always be pursued, journaling helps process thoughts in your mind.  Don’t think of this as place where you talk exclusively of feelings.  Surely, if feelings come up, don’t be afraid to document them.

This is about recalling what you did that day, how that informs tomorrow, and what could have gone better.  It’s a place to recall your top ten goals.  It’s a place to figure out what that next big move is going to be.  It’s a place to explore the why behind a failure.

Men must journal, especially men that accept their role in life, so that they can get through those feelings of loss of themselves, and get on with exploring, adventuring, and taking on the challenge that lie ahead.

Men must journal so that they can become better writers overall.  Men must journal so that they become better readers, and better editors, and these things lead to better leadership.  Better leaders lead to better men.

If you are a man reading this, I want you to consider the social landscape you are currently operating in.  Regardless of your political affiliation, this world is not healthy for your survival.  And whether you, or popular opinion realize it, in order for this world to be healthy and to survive, you must exist greatly.  You must be vivid, and bright, and visionary in all that you do.

You don’t need to conquer the world, but you do need to conquer the portion you are in.  The more succinct you are at that, the more people surrounding you will back off, realizing they cannot compete.  And while this thought may seem far distant from what I just wrote, you must also realize that uncluttering your brain, your soul, and making yourself better at reading and writing are the four pillars that get you to a place where you are in charge of your domain, and no one else can threaten it.

If you fail to engage here, you will eventually die in some massive capacity, be it professional, personally, or just plain life.

Journal.  Become the man that you’re destined to be.

Travel: Delaware Beaches

It’s been awhile since I’ve written a travel article.  These tend to get a lot of new traffic to my page, so I try not to inundate my site with them.  Though I have quite a few stories of stories to tell yet, let’s talk about the most underappreciated beaches in the US, the Delaware Coast.

A quick lay of the land: the three main beaches are Rehoboth Beach, Dewey Beach, and Bethany Beach.  There are some smaller beaches as well, and we’ll talk about that at the end of the article.

The first thing to understand is that Delaware beaches are underappreciated – not undiscovered.  When you go, you’ll find a lot of the standard fare you would find in most any beach oriented economies.  Chain hotels, high-end seafood restaurants, both franchised or independent offerings, bars galore, and trinket shops.

Yes, the boardwalks here are like most anywhere, except maybe not as cluttered with commerce, and not as jam-packed with beach goers, but I assure you it’s busy.

Delaware beaches are unique in some aspects however.  In all my travels, I’ve never seen beachfront in the US that was commercialized, but at the same time relatively left untouched.  Of the roughly 25 miles of beachfront that Delaware has, there is only one boardwalk structure that I’ve seen that stretches through the beach, and that one does not go out into the water.  It seems like most everywhere else a walking pier is an inevitability, but not in Delaware.

Some of you may not like that, others will rejoice in the minimalist approach.  I think Delaware has made me appreciate the latter.

Rehoboth is probably the most populated of the beaches, but it’s hard to tell – most beaches in Delaware have official populations under 500, but at any one time there’s tens of thousands of people present in the off-season (winter months), and six or seven times that in-season.

If you’re looking for dinner during the week, or brunch on the weekend (a Delaware tradition) and you’re in Rehoboth, look no further than the Blue Moon Café – they have live performances for brunch, and their menu is ‘what’s what’ of mid-Atlantic sea fare.  And the drinks are spot on too, if you’re into that sort of thing!

During the day, popcorn fans will have new haunt.  Fisher’s Popcorn started as a family popcorn stand in Ocean City, Maryland – a short drive from the Delaware beaches.  But since they opened in 1937, they’ve expanded, and now are all over the mid-Atlantic beach scene, and very prominent in Delaware.

The Blue Hen, Henlopen City Oyster House, and Grotto Pizza are also excellent restaurants in Rehoboth to frequent.  Be sure to hit up Dogfish Head Brewings as well, located at 320 Rehoboth Avenue.  Their beer has been a standard along much of the east coast and beyond for quite a while now, and there’s good reason for that.  And no time along the boardwalk would be complete without a stop at Thrasher’s Fries.  They have Old Bay flavored fries, for those that like that sort of thing.  But they have  many more, and I’ll stick with any of those.

Just south is Dewey Beach, which has several B&B and vacation rentals that capture the Victorian-era architecture and furniture that was popular at the time of the beaches were settled formally.

Aside from that, Fifer’s Farm Market Café offers the tradition of farm to table menu that is so rarely seen on beaches.

If you’re looking to stay with a younger crowd, I suggest The Surf Club Oceanfront Hotel, and if you’re looking to relax more, the Bay Resort offers inlet waterfront with similar amenities.

The Starboard, located at DE 1 and Salisbury St is well known for their Bloody Mary’s….it seems catering to hangovers here is a theme.

While Rehoboth is not at all different from the rest of the landscape, you start to notice as you travel south through Dewey that the character and culture changes up from the typical tourist “fast paced” business sector, to calmer people, brighter skies, and hotter sand.  While it’s difficult to capture what these beaches must been like when they first became a community – sometime in late 1800’s – it does feel like a sliver of that old culture can be found somewhere around Rodney Avenue.  But I do reserve that for the beach front exclusively – businesses here have taken to more updated trends and desires of consumers.

(Writer’s Secret Spot: Nalu Hawaiian Surf Bar, 1808 Coastal Highway – because you can never go wrong with Guava-glazed ribs and Summer Watermelon salad!)

I know I haven’t described the beaches very much up to this point, and for good reason.  I wanted to use this point in time to back fill.  Call it a cheap trick.

The beaches in Delaware are special for me, not for any usual reason.  I’ve traveled a lot of the country by vehicle.  There’s only a handful of States I haven’t spent time in at this point, so while I have blind spots, I feel I have a lot of experience I can draw upon to relate one area of the country to another.

One of the things that really draws me into these beaches is the massive amount of sunlight, sky activity, and ocean activity they deliver to the human eye.  When you go, pause, take in the scenery these beaches have to offer.  While the summer certainly has its crowds, they are not overpowering to the point that you couldn’t isolate your mind and observe.

There’s a grand sense of peace on this section of our country.  The view is like a snow globe, all encompassing, round, but past any sense of limitations your eyes may provide.  The view here is remarkable, much like the “Big Sky Country” of Eastern Montana and Western North Dakota.

The sand generally stays warm to hot, so I recommend footwear of some sort, though you’ll be barefoot before you know it.

As you continue south on the Coastal Highway, you’ll immediately exit Dewey Beach and drive over Seashore State Park – which is an eco-habitat and beach of tremendous value.  Kudos to the State officials that found a way to protect its most sensitive portion of beach, while still providing direct travel for residents and tourists.  Coin Beach sits that far southeast of this State park, garnering the name for all the people with metal detectors that have found coins and other valuable metals at the spot for many years.

The Indian River Marina sits on the southwest corner, where numerous fishing charters work from.  Just north of the marina is the Burton Island Trailhead, which also has a kayak launch point.  From this portion of the park you can discover the countless inlet waters of Rehoboth and Indian River Bays.

Between idyllic beaches, and calm inlets, the Delaware coast has a lot to offer people up for their own adventures.

Continuing south you’ll wind up in Bethany Beach.  The first few miles are all privately owned homes.

After that you reach the city core, and like its sister cities, Bethany has local restaurants that deliver.  Mango’s serves Caribbean style fare, but don’t expect jerk chicken that’s authentic to Jamaica.  It’s still well done.

Sunshine Crepes offers the French breakfast you’re always searching for.  Bethany Blues BBQ might be the most interactive of all.  Aside from their standard menu, they have event nights, like Bourbon & Barbecue, and Barbecue Class.  Who could go wrong pairing grilled meats with bourbon?  And the class says it all, you walk in for dinner that you’re going to learn how to prepare.  That’s probably not your typical beach weekend event, right?  Bethany has a bustling downtown core, but leaves most of the rest for private residents, though the beaches are open to all.  That’s just fine by me, people invested in the community are what make any place worth visiting in the first place.

Bethany Beach offers several public parking lots along the boardwalk, but beware they are all relatively small and fill up quick.  Don’t be surprised if by 8:00 A.M. they are already full, and you’re stuck walking from your hotel.

Speaking of which, if you are looking for accommodations in Bethany Beach, I suggest The Addy Sea.  It’s a B&B, preserved from 1902, and kept in excellent condition.  And did I mention it’s located right on the beach?  See, I’m solving your parking woes already!

Marriott has a Residence Inn on the beach too, so if you’re more of the hotel type, there are options.

Continuing south even further puts you into South Bethany and York Beaches – these are not beaches advertised to the public, and generally are difficult to access in any succinct manner if you are not a home owner, but they are very lovely if you can get to them.  There is a strip mall in this section of beach, back on the Coastal Highway.  In it is one of the finest sushi restaurants you can find on the Eastern Seaboard, Misaki.  It is quaint, traditional, and very delicious!

The next stop is Fenwick Island, but as you travel south yet again on the Coastal Highway, you’ll notice a concrete tower on the left side of the road with blue and yellow sign in front of it.  This is an observation tower that was built during World War II, and there’s a community organization that wants to make it part of the tourist fodder in the area.  You can find them at Restore The Tower. They in fact are restoring multiple towers in the area, to include building a new one to mark a previous tower that was either taken down or destroyed.

As you continue down the highway, you’ll think you’ve seen all you can of the Delaware Beaches, and out of nowhere you’ll come across Fenwick Island.

The first thing you’ll see is Fenwick Island State Park, and its large parking lots on the left side of the highway.  Then the community will begin to unfold in front of you.

Just Hooked is a locally sourced seafood restaurant you’ll see first, followed by Jimmy’s Kitchen the next block down, which is as eclectic as anything else in Fenwick Island.  The difference between this place the other three locations is that there’s a lot of unique personality in Fenwick.

Sea Shell City is a gift shop specializing in sea shell items, but on their second floor is the Shipwreck Museum, which boasts many items that have drifted onto the shores from ships that were lost at sea.

If you’re tired of restaurants at this point, and want to get your own meals cooking, check out Bahama’s Crabshack & Seafood Market – you’ll be cracking crab legs in no time!

Of course, what trip the beach would be complete without a trip the ice cream shop?  Kohr Brothers frozen custard is just a block away from the State line with Maryland.  Across the street from Kohr’s to the west, and behind Viking Mini-Golf & Go-Carts is The Island Creamery.

And after all that travel, you’ve probably earned a triple scoop.

Lewes is a city directly north of where we started in Rehoboth, and it does get included in the tourist literature if you research the Delaware Beaches.  I didn’t include it because I didn’t go there, and it’s not really on the beach.  It has a coast line on the Delaware Bay, and specifically right next to Cape Henlopen State Park.  And that park marks the true Delaware coastline along the Atlantic.

If you’re looking to do something a little different, check out the Delaware Beaches.  They have quite a bit going on without taking up too much of your attention.  You’re there for the beach after all.

 

 

Travel Information:

Closest International Airport: BWI – Baltimore (Reagan National is probably easier to travel from and to however, as it sets you up for direct access onto Highway 50.)  Philadelphia is also a viable option.

How to get there:  If you use BWI or DCA (Reagan) follow the highway signs to get onto Highway 50, and drive straight through Salisbury to the coast.  This will place you north of Ocean City, Maryland.  From there turn north on Coastal Highway, which will quickly place you in Fenwick Island.

If you’re coming out of Philadelphia, head south on Interstate 95 and take Highway 322 across the Delaware River.  Take the Highway 55 interchange south, and continue south as it turns into Highway 47 through Erma, New Jersey.  When you reach Cold Spring, turn right and head into the Cape May-Lewes Ferry Dock.  This ferry ride will take you across Delaware Bay, into Lewes, and from there you can make your to Rehoboth Beach first, and head south.

Have a great time!

 

 

How ‘Real’ is Story: What Treme Taught Writers

Writers are the greatest of story tellers, if only for the fact that the tools they have at their disposal give them the ability to tell the greatest version of any story.

Especially when writing for a book, writers get use interplay between plot and story, the two main elements that advance a novel, and make it relevant to an audience.

David Simon, the man behind the books Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets and The Corner, along with television series’ The Wire, Generation Kill, and adaptation of The Corner, Simon has taken a long time to develop a craft revolving around the story, and is a master of explaining how elements of story affect, and influence the future plot.

It’s now several years later after his last television series, Treme.  And while the series did not hold the attention of a viewing audience very well, there is a lot of hope, and a lot of lessons learned from the series for writers.  This is why I write about it today; it offers a glimmer of hope to writers who want to be at their best.

Treme is a different kind of television series.  Writers of all kinds who have seen it generally come away with a strong appreciation for the show.  The reason for this can be summed up as follows:  it’s not about characters going from one premise to an ultimate truth.  It’s about characters existing in their world, after it’s been flipped upside down.  It’s about the human condition, almost exclusively.

The show takes place in New Orleans, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.  It follows over a dozen characters who come from varying walks of life, and represent different parts of the cultural backbone of New Orleans; music, cuisine, venues, and dance.  From traditional jazz musicians, to New Orleans Indians, to gourmet chefs, and everyone in between, the focus is on the people from the large art scene in New Orleans, as they rebuild their lives in a city set for major changes that ultimately interrupt their usual routines.

In a typical series, one would expect to see growing animosity between the protagonists and antagonists.  One would expect to find a clear bad guy, and a clear good guy.

But what this series showed was that in real life, we have profound effects on one another, without being an antagonist at all.  It should be noted that Simon did go out of his way to make banks, real estate investors, and law enforcement appear as incapable saboteurs, who’s only existence is designed to ruin the world.  Removing this portion from the show, and we would have witnessed the purest form of real-life story ever told in any medium.

With that said, the characters go through challenges, as could be expected.  They all have arcs in fact.  But, whereas most shows would have a grand ending for the varying characters, Treme leaves the characters more or less where they were before, perhaps with more refined direction, some even with what would be considered large life changes, but all in all, they are not “forever changed” as is common practice in works of fiction.  This is where Simon’s version of storytelling really went for something bold.  Taking art and placing it ever so close to life, and then making us watch those lives unfold.

My educated guess is that ten or twenty years from now, we’ll discover that Treme was far enough ahead of it’s time that there will be a renaissance in its honor, leading to a half a dozen shows trying to capture this uber-real feel.

For writers, it’s a vision of hope to tell stories about “real” people going through “real” dilemmas, which may be out of reach for their audience (making them interesting!), but because traditional media leaves us expanding into fantasy, even in “real” settings, we as writers get pushed further and further from being able to tell story in reality.  That is the unfortunate condition we live in, a constant pursuit of fantasy, at every turn.

While general viewing audiences may not be ready to experience this type of storytelling, what likely turned them off completely is an unfortunate sub-narrative that Simon likes to place within his work, and if you’ve heard him speak, you know where it comes from: his latent socialism.

This is why Simon is not a pure storyteller.  He instead will try hard to push a political agenda into his stories, even at risk of killing his project.  This is why The Wire died after five seasons, and why The Corner only got picked up for a brief six episode miniseries, rather than a larger multi-season telling.  Try as Simon might, people generally don’t enjoy his political views as told through character’s story and experiences.  Maybe he should option his work in Russia.

This is also why people involved in storytelling should avoid taking political views to one extreme or another.  You ultimately alienate one half of your potential audience, and then don’t challenge the other half of the audience, leaving both tuning out your screams for whatever.

Simon would have you believe that New Orleans was a political story in post-Katrina life, but as we place distance between that event and the present, we find more and more that politics had less to do with the fall out of New Orleans, and more so to do with individuals and their views of New Orleans being a ‘post-apocalyptic world.’

For writers, the idea of telling a story that focuses on typical people trying to keep their lives together is romantic, if for nothing else, it allows writers to stop trying to re-invent the ‘kill or be killed’ concept of most storytelling.

It’s also a lesson about establishing and maintaining an audience – stay out of politics.  Especially as writers of fiction, it’s not our place to tell people what to think about a given issue.  If they are consuming fiction, they most likely are not looking for that.  And even if they are, they probably need some story elements of fantasy involved, because a story about real people with real problems, over a backdrop of political ideology will undoubtedly wear out the audience.

Treme made that all too clear, despite its major triumphs.

Work Update

The front page on my site tells you about several novels I have in progress.  The good news, they are on the way.  The bad news, while one may be published in 2020, the others might be further down the road.

Such is the writing game.  It’s hyper-competitive.  I recommend that if you want to be a writer, make the decision at the age of six, then commit to it in full and get your first draft out at age nine.  If it’s a novel with a nine-point arc, and characters who are consistent throughout, whoever you sent your query package to will be completely glad to publish whatever drivel you came up with between Chapter One and the The End.

Other than that, if you do it any older, you need to accept that no matter how good you are at your craft, no matter how much editors, critics, and your fellow writers love your work, someone way up above has a different agenda at hand, and while your story fits a certain premise, it likely doesn’t follow the day’s trendiest stereotypes and biases.  You know, those things the media is supposedly tearing down on our behalf, but are surely doubling down on them when it comes to a project making money……yay!

To that end, I have start writing a series of short stories, prose, and even opinion pieces for a yet to named title of my own, which is intended to provide much needed to support to C.O.P.S.  For those that don’t know, C.O.P.S. stands for Concerns Of Police Survivors, it’s an organization that supports those that have lost loved ones to line of duty deaths, by assisting them with paperwork for funerals, benefits, estate law, as well as trauma counseling.  They also do a fair bit of lobbying for the same topics, and then some.  And still, that’s not all that they do.

I’m probably not doing enough to describe how great a cause this organization is, so check them out here: Concerns Of Police Survivors

You may hate law enforcement, you may think that there are officers not held accountable for poor behavior and performance.  Regardless of them, the officers that have died deserve our recognition, for they were performing the job on our behalf, and they paid a dear price for doing so.  However, what is rarely discussed is that families of these officers lost pay a dear price as well.  And it is through COPS, that many resources are directed at helping these families through their most difficult time.

I will keep you updated as this project comes together, it’s very beginning stages, and while I wait out the clock on my novels, I figure it’s time to keep my pen hand moving.

Go Cubs Go! NLDS Game 5

Game 5 was a wilder, out of control version of the first four games all rolled into one.  When the dust settled, Wade Davis controlled the game from the Bottom of the 7th to close, in about the best possible way we could expect.

Washington is not a slouch of team, despite their clear lack of offense had suggested through the first four games.  Our side was not nearly as good when it came to the bats, and several costly errors paved our way.  It’s nice to win, it’s a character building exercise.  It’s not awesome building this kind of character in the playoffs.  It’s a bit concerning in fact.

The better team, but not by much, and only because the other team enabled them far too much, and paid for that.

There’s really nothing else to say about it, critiques from the first four games still apply.

Another Loss: NLDS Game 4

This really should not have happened.  It did.  The way the Cubs played they certainly deserved the loss, but it should not have happened.

Most likely you watched if you’re a baseball fan, but to recap, two things happened:

  1.  No offense ever got started for the Cubs
  2. Carl Edwards, Jr. had another meltdown

A third was that Wade Davis pitched into a grand slam by Michael Taylor, something he has never done before, but that was not the issue.

This series has proven a couple of things about the Cubs current roster:  Javier Baez, Carl Edwards, Jr., Ben Zobrist, and Jason Heyward are expendible.

To their credit, Zobrist and Heyward actually produced some hits in this game, but it’s too little and way too late.  Both players cost way too much for the little they provide, and Heyward dropped a catch that would be difficult for most, but seeing as he’s a defensive dynamo it should have been routine.  The ball was in foul territory so it didn’t hurt, but if he’s not going to snag everything he attempts, then his value becomes less and less.

Javier Baez had an at-bat, I can’t remember now if it was in the 7th or 8th, where he faced six pitches, all outside of the strike zone, he managed to reach a 3-2 count, placing the sixth pitch into play for an out……to say he lacks plate discipline is to greatly understate his problem.  He’s suppose to be part of the future of this club, but he needs something we apparently don’t offer him, and I’d rather take my chances with free agent infielders than continue with someone who can’t buckle down and hit when it counts.

While I will concede the three players above could have arguments for their overall play, there can be no doubt that the experiment of Carl Edwards, Jr., a prospect picked up in the Matt Garza trade, is over after this season, preferably now.  It’s one thing to find a steal on the open market, and surely he’s had great moments on the mound.

That said, he’s folding to the Nationals.  They are a competitive team, in a division of non-competitive teams.  If you can’t find a way to defeat their batters, who spend half the season facing lackluster clubs, then you are on the wrong team.

Perhaps it makes me a non-believer in Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer’s team build, but only of a small fraction of it.  And while the four players highlighted have more or less done their jobs up to series, they’ve floundered before, and it appears they are floundering more so than usual.

Later today Game 5 will take place.  Let’s hope for some Harry Caray magic out at the DC Navy Yard.

Cubs Win!: NLDS Game 3

This was another nail biter.  And it’s great to see that the Cubs are still perennial winners in the categories of small ball tactics and tie games.  But the offensive effort needs to improve drastically, especially if there’s any hope of advancing, and winning in the NLCS.

Both Quintana and Scherzer pitched strong games, striking out a boatload.  To put in perspective, there was 56 total at-bats in tonight’s game, and together they struck out 14.  Of the five innings that both pitchers were not part of, there were only three strikeouts.  Neither pitcher reached seven innings, but both were brilliant, as was expected.

The Cubs bullpen was anchored by great showings by Pedro Strop and Wade Davis.  Edwards Jr was back out for an inning plus, and he too got the job down efficiently.

The game came down to what it came down to in Game 1, the difference being that it was an even thinner win margin, Tommy La Stella came in as a pinch hitter in the bottom of the 8th for Edwards Jr, who’s night was done.  La Stella took a walk, at which point Leonys Martin took over as a pinch runner.  In similar fashion to his performance in Games 1 and 2, Rizzo took his stance at the plate, and belted a hit to center field that dropped in, giving Martin the needed time to sprint the bases, scoring the Cubs’ second run of the game, which led into a defensive hold in the top of 9th, securing the win.

Similarly, in the bottom of the 7th, Zobrist punched a single, and when he was aboard, Albert Almora Jr pinch hit for Kyle Schwarber, and he too singled to center, leading to Zobrist crossing the plate.  I’m telling this action backwards of course, but the point is that pinch hitters made the difference for the Cubs.  It’s nice to have these options, but it would be better to see some offensive production within the starting lineup.  Rizzo has been a difference maker in the series.  But he can’t do this alone, even if he has done most of it thus far.  Bryant needs to get cracking, though he has a .273 batting average through Game 3.  Zobrist did get a hit tonight, but to my count has two hits in 11 at-bats.  Addison Russell has two hits in 10 at-bats.  Javier Baez has zero.  Jason Heyward, who’s turned into offensive albatross since being signed has one hit.  These four need to get going if the Cubs are going to sustain any momentum in the playoffs.  Almora Jr and Jon Jay also have low batting averages, but since much of their action comes in pinch hitting situations, it’s to be expected that they are not hitting for average from appearance to appearance.

Speaking of Jon Jay, when he’s been in the field, his defense has been brilliant.  I’m starting to wonder what the value in Jason Heyward is defensively too, since that is the other thing he’s evaluated on in terms of why he’s on the roster.  If Jay keeps making snags in the field, I’ll put up with his offensive, because at least he has a chance of being productive on both sides of the ball.

That said, Game 4 is going to be interesting.  The Nationals are down to an under-performing Tanner Roark, facing the sharp Jake Arrieta, who’s just coming back for the first time after recovering from a hamstring injury.  If Arrieta can dial in 70 percent of his typical effort, I do believe we may have this series wrapped.

EAMUS CATULI!