While writing my rather dismissive review of Martin Parr’s Beach Therapy, I had the idea to see what sorts of beach-type photographs I had in my archive. Turns out, not too many, really. I don’t live near a (real) beach, and other than the 3 years I spent in Holbrook, NY, I’ve never lived anywhere near the ocean. While I don’t mind the beach, I far prefer the mountains, the foothills, the prairie, the forest. I’m a country boy, more or less.
My darling, adorable wife, on the other hand, spent 20 years in Exeter, UK, within minutes of the ocean. Before that, she was in New Jersey, and before that, in Bangladesh. She doesn’t mind mountains, foothills, prairie, forest, but far prefers the beach. Sadly, we live about 5 hours from the nearest beach, and closer to 6 from a beach you’d actually want to walk on, where the water doesn’t smell of chemicals and there aren’t balls of tar and dead fish washed up on the beach. So we’ve had to make do over the years.
As a sort of soundtrack to this, may I suggest anything from the Philip Glass/Robert Wilson opera Einstein on the Beach. “Knee 4,” perhaps, or “Trial 2/Prison: Prematurely Air-Conditioned Supermarket.”
Our Beachy journey starts back in 2014. I booked a cheap holiday in Kerrville, TX, in the (I think) beautiful hill country, where the landscape is lovely and the people are, well, fucking racists. We were denied service in a restaurant. We were stared at, pointed at, followed. We saw deer wandering the streets early in the morning. They didn’t mind us, much. Well, they ran from us, but not because we’re an interracial couple, nor because my darling, adorable wife had on a hijab.
It was our second indication that maybe we’re not welcome in the country. That maybe we need to stick to cities, where the people are more used to seeing different, funny, things.
Down in Kerrville, water comes at a premium. Former horse farms converted to goat farms due to lack of water are failing and (in 2014, anyway) were for sale, for cheap, because there’s no water. We found some shore on a little park around the drinking water reservoir, a dammed up bit of the Guadalupe river, either Nimitz Park or Kerrville Park (probably Kerrville Park).
My wife’s expression there is telling…
I’m joking, of course, but only a bit. She actually put on a brave face and didn’t blame me for dragging her to that awful place. Not that Kerrville is awful. The Hill Country is beautiful. But the people there need to get out more or something.
Either that, or the heart doesn’t know what it wants and there is something wrong with a boring white jerk like me to marry a wonderful, beautiful, adorable, fantastic woman like her.
Anyway. She actually was happy enough to be on a cheap vacation, and gave a great smile at one point.
Our next time on the beach came in 2015, on imported sand on the shores of Lake Michigan in Chicago.
Much better, on all counts. We had one incident of people staring and pointing: an Amish (or probably Mennonite) family on vacation in the Big City saw us and one of their children pointed as they all stared, open mouthed.
I gave them a pass. If I recall, they were stepping off a Greyhound bus as we stepped onto one of those double decker tour busses, and if I spent my whole life in a tiny town in eastern central Illinois, walking to school and riding to the local pantry in a horse-drawn buggy, well, I might stare and point at a beautiful hijab-wearing Bengali lady too.
The one issue: I shot Agfa Precisa and cross processed it. The first few images suffered from a camera operator that forgot to change the ISO on his otherwise aperture-priority camera, or maybe tried to shoot wide open on a too bright day with insufficiently fast shutter, or both.
I wonder if I’ll ever learn my lesson on that… Probably not. And that’s only one of the many reasons why Martin Parr is a famous photographer, and I’m more or less a nobody.
Our next Beach visit came in 2017. We actually went to an actual beach! For about 10 minutes. On the way from one city to another.
By 2017, my fellow Texans, my fellow American county-folk, had so distressed my darling adorable wife that she largely stopped wearing hijab anywhere outside of Dallas County, so I can’t really share any of the pictures I took of her. And, to be honest, I knew I couldn’t share any pictures of her, so I didn’t take many at all.
Shame on me.
One day, I’d very much like to go back to Corpus and get on the beach early in the day or late in the day, when the light is better, and spend a few hours walking, playing in the surf, lounging, maybe shoot a few rolls, maybe not. It’s really lovely down there, and you don’t much have to worry about people: if anyone bothers you, just drive down the beach a bit and soon you’ll be alone.
But for now, in late 2020, it’s unwise to leave your house, let alone drive 6 hours to find a decent beach.
Lately, we’ve been going to a park I found on the north side of Grapevine Lake. I like it. There’s some imported sand, largely washed away, and some great rock formations and trees along the lakeshore. And it’s almost always deserted too: win, win.
If you’re curious, I shot the above on a roll of long expired Kodak Portra 160 VC in 220, hence the tape mark on that last shot.
Good times, and while we can see the other side of the lake with ease, I hope this shoreline gives my wife a little something, a little glimpse of “home.”