Here are the best things about my vacation last week:

  • Hearing the white noise of waves crashing every night.
  • The rental house had a deck right on the edge of the bluff overlooking the beach. I could step out on the deck with a cup of coffee, or a cold beer, and watch the waves, see seagulls flying by, watch fishing boats going to and fro, and generally relax.
  • The weather was beautiful. It was clear enough to see the sunset 5 out of 6 nights — unheard of for the Oregon coast. The highs were in the mid-sixties, a blissful break from the 80’s and 90’s we have been having inland.
  • Stars. For the first time in a long time, I could actually see the stars at night. From the deck, the Big Dipper sat front and center over the beach, pointing to Polaris, the North Star. Cassiopeia sat over the house. The faint backbone of the sky, the Milky Way, arched overhead. I saw three satellites, and one shooting star. From our deck I could also see the Yaquina Head lighthouse as it flashed its unique identifying pattern: 2 seconds on, 2 seconds off, 2 seconds on, 14 seconds off.
  • Watching the octopus get fed at the Mark Hatfield Marine Science Center. I’ve often stated that there is nothing in any horror or sci-fi special effects extravaganza half as creepy as what Mother Nature cooks up every day. Watching an octopus feel its way around a tank with its boneless tentacles is bad enough, but to watch it pounce on a live crab, to first paralyze it, and then inject it with an enzyme that literally dissolves its living flesh, well, that beats anything Hollywood has ever dreamed up.
  • Finally getting to eat at the Canyon Way restaurant and bookstore in Newport. My brother has been telling me to eat there for years. We finally made it. My God, it was good.
  • Building a fire in the firepit next to the house. There was a time in my life when I built a fire every single day. I miss it. I miss the artistry of laying out the kindling. I miss the snap and crackle as it catches and the smell of the smoke. I miss the penetrating warmth of it. Cooking hot dogs and s’mores doesn’t suck, either.
  • Standing knee deep in the freezing surf, and watching salad plate-sized rock crabs scurrying around my feet. You could actually reach down and grab them by the carapace, and pull them out of the water as they waved all of their segmented legs frantically in the air. If you brought them out to the wet sand, they would promptly bury themselves. Although it took a bit of a gut check to actually reach down and retrieve them, hoisting those huge bugs out of the water was a real Aliens-meets-Marlin-Perkins kind of moment. My kids were impressed.
  • Taking my kids to the beach the evening before we left. My daughter scurried from the surf to the high tide line, looking for any type of living critter she could find. She enthusiastically dug for Mole Crabs, prodded jellyfish that had washed ashore, and generally stuck her nose into everything. Meanwhile, my son just sat down on the sand and contentedly dug holes and made piles, humming to himself as he did so. As the sun began to set, they both walked down to the water’s edge and started playing some game together. I was behind them, and for a few moments, all I could see was their silhouettes outlined by the blazing gold of the setting sun as reflected from the water. Two silhouettes holding hands, joyfully jumping up and down, and passing things back and forth. It was almost painfully touching.

Here are the worst things about my vacation last week:

  • The rental house was a bit of a wreck. Although maintaining a structure on the ocean is always challenging, it was nonetheless pretty run down, even for the beach. About half of the lights were dysfunctional, either missing bulbs, dangling from the wiring, or entirely missing. There were no outside lights, for example. The freezer portion of the refrigerator smelled strongly (and I mean strongly) of dead fish. The rental agency sent out someone the second day we were there who scrubbed the bejesus out of the thing with bleach, and it gradually faded. We still never used the freezer.
  • The house had no direct beach access. The house next to us had a stairway to the beach, as did the one next to it. We, however, had to either walk along the shoulder of Highway 101 for about 100 yards, or drive to a nearby park.
  • I caught my daughter in a blatant lie about locking the door to the upper deck. She had told us it was locked, even though she had left unlocked so she could sneak out in the middle of the night. This was the worst example of the battles and skirmishes we had all week. When things were going her way, she was enthusiastic and affectionate. When she wasn’t getting her way, she started picking on her brother, and talking back. Sigh. So much for our fresh start.
  • It didn’t last nearly long enough.