Friday, August 27, 2010

Part 3: The Stones

At some point around the McCarthy period, somebody in the FBI asked my dad whether his sister, Jane, (or Dane, as we call her), was a Communist. My dad, a Communist himself at the time, immediately said "no." He was telling the truth, Dane was a Trotskyite, and, as he put it, "would sooner die before calling herself a Communist."

Aside from her political activities, not just among "the reds", but also in the civil rights movement, Dane is also one of the most well-traveled people I know. At this point in my life, that's saying quite a lot. There are very few people who I can have a normal conversation with where both parties can relate stories spanning four continents. It's really nice.

Her branch of the family took the name of her late husband, Bill Stone, himself an active member of similar political lines, a union activist, and a college professor of English. I got to see a little over half of the family branch that survived him over the last week. Joyce, the carpenter was busy at home in Minnesota, and Dan, my best chess teacher was busy with the adult education program he runs on the north side of Chicago (called simply and accurately, "Fun with Learning"). So I spent a little time with their big brother, my cousin, Dave, the teacher and delegate to the  teacher's union, and his wife, Debbie, who is a lawyer for the ALA, and whose main job is legal defense for the first amendment of the American bill of rights. Then their daughter, Elizabeth (English major and improv actress), and I flew and drove out to the town of Duck, North Carolina, to see Dane at her time-share.

Duck is on the Outer Banks, a tiny strip of land between the sound and the ocean, a few minutes drive north of Kitty Hawk (and the equally oddly named but much less famous town of Kill Devil Hills). I'd never been on a time share before, and wasn't sure what to expect. It was weird. After all this time traveling all over the place, I was, for the very first time, doing the classic thing most Americans associate with travel: getting off an airplane, renting a car, and driving out to a resort where we had a reservation. Surreal. The rental car (a white Kia Rio) is clearly a special Hertz reserved for the under-25 customers. It has manual locks you have to lock individually, crank windows, and no cruise control, yet it comes with satellite radio receiver, and audio and usb jacks. It's like somebody in 2009 wanted to make a car that reminded them of 1999, then got an unexpected donation from the Sirius/XM corporation.

The apartments here are enough to fit ten. There are three of us. I have what amounts to a one-bedroom apartment to myself, a five minute walk from a beautiful Atlantic ocean beach.

It's been a good vacation. Aside from swimming, visiting Kitty Hawk, and climbing the only migratory lighthouse I'm aware of, we've been swapping stories and eating very well. I managed to go swimming in the ocean and not get horribly sunburned, which is always a victory.

But my favorite moment might have been on my second night, when I walked out around midnight to go take a look at the ocean. The weather forecast had been threatening us with thunderstorms, and the place was cloudy when I started  down the drive. I walked to the shoreline, pulled out my headphones and cued up Jamie Cullum's "I Love This," right as I hit the beach. Like magic, the clouds scattered, giving me a near-full moon and stars to walk with on the beach with the crashing Atlantic.

I think I might go see if I can't do that again.

Check out this entry's Photos.

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