I’ve been coming to my family’s beach house every summer since I was born. It’s a lovely, classically old-fashioned house, with old exposed wood beams and white-washed walls, a screened in porch with a swing hanging from the pale blue ceiling and a room in the front where you watch the ships and the storms come in and where, after air conditioning and, grudgingly, internet, the only real “improvement” has been the addition of the small fridge tucked into the pantry off the tiny galley kitchen to hold more wine. It’s the kind of place that feels at once incredibly special and hushed and totally broken in and comfortable. Coming into it for the first time every summer, upon opening the door it always feels like the house has been holding its breath, and woosh! It all comes rushing out with this very particular smell. This very our-old-beach-house-smell. What is it that’s so powerful about that? The heady undercurrent of the house smell is punctuated by the rush of summer exclamation points- the intoxicating-sweet of the bedside gardenia, the you-can’t-buy-it-anymore-but-it-lives-in-the-teak-drawers-here-for-forever pina-coco smell of ZERO spf tanning oil, the woodsy cedar of breeze-thin cotton blankets in the linen closets, the musky sand-and-sea smell of old surfboard wax. All of these conspire to make this smell, saved up in a summer of living, biding its time through the stormy winter, just waiting to waft out again next year. My brother once told me that he would steal one of the ancient navy towels with the birds on them from the house at the end of every summer just so he could have some of the the house smell until he came back. This year I might just try and take it with me when I leave too.
Our friend Phil is a rocket scientist. And when your friend the rocket scientist invites you to come to see the rocket he built from scratch launch into space, you go. Especially if the journey is just a few fried shrimp and some wild ponies away from where you are anyway. Per the scientist’s instructions, we drove up the Eastern Shore, out to Chincoteague (technically to the Wallops Island Nasa station), down a windy dead-end-road between corn and cotton to where the marsh starts and the world ends to get the best view of the launchpad. Above is the picture I took of it, dark under infinite stars, cocked and ready to go, literally poised to search the skies looking for the end of the universe. Here is the picture Toshiaki Arai took:I mean, seriously, how amazing is that!? Philly K, brilliant genius, rocket launcher, and he cooks a mean fish.
If you need me, I’ll be right here.