It is 2 a.m. last Sunday and I am standing on the sand at Myrtle Beach, a partial moon overhead and a string of high-rises to my back. The waves are surging onto the shore, licking the sand and then fading just at my feet.
It has been years since I had been to the beach and with a long weekend I had a wild hare and decided to make the long drive there. I don't like driving, I don't like bridges, I don't like big roads and so every trip for me is usually an ordeal to get there. But with that battle fought I am letting my mind be a part of the great power of the waves, the poetry of nature, the tranquility of the moment. People, mostly young, dot the coastline but they are quiet, going about their little made-up tasks of hunting for shells or walking in the water or sitting and watching the waves as I am doing.
All of nature's big energy like waves and fires and hurricanes or tornadoes have a hypnotic element about them. As a kid we lived in a downtown location in one of only a handful of big porches, high ceiling houses that were fighting to survive against the creeping intrusion of businesses. All of downtown was my backyard and while you would go out into a field and play baseball I would creep out on a summer night and eat a burger at the all-night eatery by the proud name of the Deluxe Diner.
Suddenly some arsonist started over a period of months burning down some of these stores, first a big cafeteria, then a department store, then the local television station and then the First Baptist Church. My family in the middle of the night would troop the several blocks and stand behind the barrier and watch the huge fire. We would stand for hours and watch. It, like the waves, was a hypnotic experience, the sheer magnitude of unleashed force. I don't condone it but I can see how firemen who become arsonists so they can battle more fires are like junkies on crack.
But in the midst of watching the waves crashing and then slurping ashore I start to think one about the whole theory that the gravitational pull of the moon somehow causes these waves. And I start thinking about what would happen if you harnessed all this power. I guess I am getting old and worldly. You know you are when you see a stately oak and start figuring in our mind how much board feet of lumber you could get out of it.
Anyway, when I get back home I go of course to the Internet, the science fiction monster become reality that rules our lives now. On a Web Page called "PageWise we've got the answers," I find out that harnessing power from these tides is centuries old. Romans invading England ground grain by harnessing the waves. About 1 percent of Nova Scotia's power is generated this way. I guess one other thing I like about the beach and the crashing waves is that as things change these remain constant. The skyline behind has gone from pristine land to a jungle of concrete, but they can't do much to destroy the ocean and shore.
I don't like things that change, especially those that change for the worst.
I was back in Jonesboro, a lobster like most rednecks who beach without proper protection, and I went to what used to be my favorite restaurant, the City Diner on Tara Boulevard.
The first time I walked in there a year ago I was impressed because the owner, a guy named Tony, doted over you. He was everywhere, talking to you, making sure everything was ok. He threw in a little extra this and that. His restaurant which looked like a New York City diner was buzzing and never closed.
Now Tony has sold out. I don't know any of the details, but unlike my crashing waves, things have changed. Not open 24 hours a day any more. It started reducing these hours during the week and then on the weekend. Its magic always open with waiting food has turned it into any other restaurant. Gone is the doting and the little concerns for how things are, replaced with slower service and owners who don't seem to care if you come in or not. Regardless of how few customers are in there it seems to take a very long time to get your food. I ordered from their lunch special menu and when I got ready to pay it was dollars more and I was told the lunch special ends at 2 p.m. even though there is no indication of that on the menu. It's sad losing a "friend" or seeing one change so much you don't recognize him. So unlike the waves that every so often hypnotically beckon me back I think I will be eating at restaurants that don't change as much.
Bob Paslay is assistant managing editor of the News Daily and Daily Herald. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (770) 478-5753 Ext. 257.