Watch It Happen

Another Seaside Classic, with Ten-Twenty-Liz, Bones, and (not pictured) the Big E. First night of mellow weather, early Spring ’03, the four of us decided the only sensible adult choice in the face of the sweet tickle of impending Springtime Goodness would be to hop into the FSDmobile and high-gear it to the Jersey Shore, in search of dunes, vibes, nightbreeze, and the Mythical New Jersey Beach Fox.

The Legend of the Beach Fox started back in winter 1999 when, after crashing a literary reception for the poet Robert Creeley in Camden, NJ, Josh Carr and I decided to head to Sea Isle City because our friends Hollie and Maggie said they had a hot tub — yo, what would you do?

Carr and I are knocking on the door of Hollie’s haunted beach bungalow, freezing beachwinds lashing against us, and it isn’t until a half hour later that Maggie and Hollie burst screaming over a dark crest of dunes, clearly in a panic. Hollie is soaking wet and we rush her into the house and as she warms up in the shower Maggie explains the story. Apparently Hollie was chased into the ice-cold ocean by a savage Beach Fox, and Maggie merely stood frozen in terror as the vicious creature stalked up and down the shoreline, snarling and foaming at the mouth, pointed fangs glinting in the sinister moonlight. Eventually the Beast stalked off in search of bigger prey — Maggie tried scaring it with a piece of driftwood but the thing just growled — and Hollie escaped certain freezing death and returned to the beach.

Holy Wow, we thought. A motherfuckin’ Beach Fox!

So now it’s four years later and I’m with my new crew and we’re at Whole Foods, stocking up on a Dune Feast to bring to the beach. The scene:

WHOLE FOODS CHEESE LADY: Anything you folks are looking for?

FSD: Ah, yes. We’re in search of a cheese. A particular kind of cheese.

WFCL: Yes…?

BONES: What we want is a Beach cheese.

WFCL: A beach…

LIZ: As in, to be consumed on a beach.

BIG E: A dune, to be specific.

FSD: Right. A Beach Dune Cheese. There will be a crusty baguette, and red wine.

WFCL: I see, well, this is just the one for you I think, here, try this…

FSD: What if sand gets in it?

WFCL: Even better. What we have here is the perfect kind of cheese for beach consumption. Sand will only enchance its flavor.

AS EVERYONE HIGH-FIVES IN UNISON: Perfect!

And so, with a big ass crusty baguette, two bottles of red, and the Perfect Beach Cheese, off we go, zooming down the AC Expressway, future uncertain, present accounted for.

You know Liz, right? No need to find the Weird because she’ll just Bring it. Weird incident at the rest stop: right next to the plastic yellow “Caution Wet Floor” signs Liz immediately falls over, multi-colored pills (we later discover it’s just a collection of vitamins, specifically procured with this prank in mind) spilling all over the floor.

“Oh my God!” she screams. “My medicine! Without my…now I’m really gonna LOSE it!”

Weird Living continues as we enjoy our Beach Repast behind some spooky wind-whipped dunes, eyes strained in search of the ever-elusive Beach Fox, and cautious for possible swooping strikes from the recently invented Flying Beach Fox. I’d recently caught up with the 21st century and purchased a cell phone, and what better to experience the wholly new sensation of being able to call someone from a dune than to crank call Father Gibbs? Liz is on the phone talking a very convincing six-year-old voice, explaining to Gibbs that after narrowly escaping the salivating jaws of a crazed Beach Fox she has been kidnapped by a half-mad gang of Beach Bandits! Help! Please send help! Send the Coast Guard! Send the FBI! Send anyone!

“Whatever you say kid,” Gibbs says, “Now put Bader on the phone.”

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, w./Screamin’ Joe, summer ’97. Joe blew most of his money on dice while I got drunk in a park with a German guy who could barely speak English. The German guy was a really nice dude, really into the new Radiohead album and convinced I was the coolest guy he had ever met in America. We drank canned beer under a tree and tried our best to have a decent conversation. Joe was becoming incoherent by this point in the trip — it was somewhere in the desert where he told me his new name was the “Highway Hypnotist” and he was convinced we were being followed by a hooded ghoul named Ghoul — the first time he saw Ghoul was during a rainstorm in Utah. We had slept in an abandoned schoolhouse near a creek, taking shelter during a rainstorm, and Joe woke me up to tell me to tell me that he had seen Ghoul, fishing down by the creek, cackling between bouts of lighting.

“He pulled a skeletal fish right out of the creek,” he told me in completely seriousness, “right out of the fucking creek.”

“I believe you,” I said, and we left it at that.

Once we hit the desert he started seeing him again. “He’s out there,” Joe would say. “Do you see him?”

“Yes,” was all I could say. “I see him.”

Since it was only me and Joe in the above photo, taken in a really depressing motel somewhere on the outskirts of Vegas, I can only assume it was Ghoul who took it.

    "Who is the third who walks always beside you?
    When I count there are only you and I together
    But when I look ahead up the white road
    There is always another one walking beside you
    Gliding wrapt in a brown mantle, hooded
    I do not know whether a man or a woman
    -But who is that on the other side of you?"
-T.S. Elliot

Desperately Seeking Ghoul, Colorado, 1997. Joe took this picture while precariously balanced on the roof of what he was convinced was Ghoul’s former residence. There’s ways of living and it’s the way I’m living right or wrong.

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One thought on “Watch It Happen

  1. That Liz–adorable and nutty as a shithouse rat.

    That might have just been a small dog or coyote; I’ve seen plenty of foxes down there, especially out by Brigantine Wildlife Refuge, but I don’t think foxes growl. Could be wrong, of course.

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