How Did I get Here?
by Solomon Philbrick

The column that will get me banished to MySpace

I had lunch with an ex-girlfriend the other day, for no other reason than that she had pestered me via email until I finally relented and agreed to see her. Having arrived a half-hour early to the appointment, I wandered down to the beach and sat on a short brick wall to watch the waves and the people, and I was struck with the strange sensation that I was witnessing what normal people do when they live in a beautiful place, or at least have access to one. Families were well represented, with fathers and mothers getting sunburns while their kids made sandcastles and dug holes in yet another futile attempt to reach China. Others walked around in various states of appropriate undress, and some carried surfboards, volleyballs and other fitting things. It was a very pleasant scene, one that I had seen many times before but never from such a remove as to appreciate it fully.

musclebeach.jpg The appointed time came and I met the ex at a Mexican restaurant nearby. We ate our burritos and chatted about music, movies and other such things that people talk about when they don’t really want to talk. We were surrounded by groups of people doing the Sunday afternoon at the beach thing, chatting loudly, drinking wine and fawning over small dogs out with their owners. After we finished our burritos the waitress shuffled us out of the restaurant quickly, and we decided to go for a walk on the beach because there was really nothing else to do at that point.

We must have made for the most ridiculous pair of people on the beach that day: two people under thirty trudging through the sand on a sunny day in jeans and sweatshirts. Even the old hippies doing yoga in Speedos seemed more in their element than the two of us, since there is nothing odd about old hippies on the beach. At that point I realized that something was plain wrong with the way I have been living my life. What exactly was I, a man with no real responsibilities, doing walking the beach in a sweatshirt and jeans with an ex-girlfriend who I knew was at some point going to berate me for something or other?

Comparisons are odious. I know that because some dead poet said it. Even with that in mind, though, I could not help comparing myself with the people I saw around me. I know that their lives are probably no more perfect than my own, but hell, they were actually out doing something and seemed to be enjoying themselves. The young couples were probably going to go home and screw each other, the families would go home and treat their sunburns just like mine did years ago and the old hippies were…well, the old hippies were going to do whatever old hippies do. I was going to let my ex-girlfriend yell at me for a while before going home and playing God of War or reading The Faerie Queene until it was time to go to bed.

There’s nothing wrong with reading The Faerie Queene or playing God of War of course, but good God, I live within a two-minute drive from the beach and actually pay rent to live here. Why on earth am I not doing anything to take advantage of this situation? People take whole weeks off from work just to come and hang out where I live and all I ever see are the walls of my apartment and the stacks in the school library. Talk about a wake-up call.

Philbrick is afraid he's not old enough to do yoga on the beach in Speedos yet.

Secular Monk Archives


I live about 12 minutes from the beach and a short train ride from Manhattan. A quick ride in the car can take me to a world famous zoo, Coney Island, an aquarium (one in either direction), vineyards, arboretums, harbors, fishing, hiking trails, museums... I take advantage of none. People plan their vacations around our beach and other tourist attractions and I just sit here and stare at the tv or complain about how boring my little town is.

It's road tripping time. Thanks for the reminder.


i saw my ex last night. well, one of them... when it comes down to it, the real one...

we were together for five years. we've been apart for five years.
we had good sushi and a lot of fun.

it took five years to get there - five long painful years.


I'm with y'all (we say that here), I never seem to be doing any of things people go to a lot of trouble to come here and do. I pledge to take my sister and her kids to some local stuff when she comes this summer, rather than my usual "Well, what do you want to do?" Making plans, checking schedules, I'm on it.


Excellent point. I live in a place surrounded by natural beauty and though I try to get out and experience it, often, I really don't and the people around me never venture out.


eXTReMe Tracker