“Shipping companies sell surplus cabin space through selected travel agents…”

Who knew? Who knew that all the time UD spends on her balcony in Rehoboth Beach staring through binoculars at immense container ships with three immense initials painted on their sides she could be ON the ships, steaming to Hamburg? Who knew that the endless UD/Mr UD dithering about what’s on each ship, where it’s going, how it operates, what the thing’s various decks actually look like, etc., could so easily be settled?

A highlight [of my trip] was a morning’s tour of the ship, led by crew members. In addition to nearly 4,000 containers stacked on the exterior decks, there were six “roll-on, roll-off” decks carrying vehicles, ranging from a fleet of Range Rovers and transport trucks for the US army to an aeroplane fuselage. As the captain explained the complexities of the enormous operation, I marvelled at the sheer scale of everything around us, an industry responsible for transporting 90% of goods worldwide.

Cabins, with private bath, sound fine; on-deck activities are simple but fun (UD would of course play Scrabble); cruising instead of flying gives you big eco bragging rights…

Recent campaigns such as the Swedish flygskam (flight shame) had shone a harsh light on my blindness to the climate impact of air travel, and I had decided that booking a flight wasn’t an option. Since 2017, I’d emitted over 14 tonnes of carbon from flights alone. I realised that all my efforts to reduce my carbon footprint at home in Milan – I cycle to work, limit food waste and seldom buy new clothes – are wiped out by just one flight between Canada and Europe.

I’ll see your flygskam and raise you thirty years of not driving cars, taking trains everywhere, walking everywhere, living in a small house, owning one teeny, insanely fuel-efficient Prius, very seldom buying new clothes (so there!), and indeed finding virtually all of my consumer goods as brand-new castoffs in my daughter’s long-since-abandoned bedroom. The only food I waste is my once a year pomegranate martini at the beach — I can never finish it.

Geezers, Geese.

Mr UD (with binoculars), and friend Steve, wonder what the enormous white blob in the water in front of them is. Turns out it’s snow geese, which can (a woman who lives in our apartment building year-’round tells me) stretch out and float over large swathes of ocean.

Running to see the first sunrise…
… of 2020.

“Mixed cloud and sun” sounds pretty meh when you read it off of a ten-day forecast page…

… but then you get to the Atlantic coast and quickly realize that in this setting, mixed cloud and sun is gorgeous, exciting! From their second-floor balcony, Les UDs gawk at the sudden opening of the sky to sharp clear sunlight, which studs the gray waves with silver/white and shimmers the sand. Then the curtain falls and the moody blues are back, and your eye goes to the happy people on the boardwalk – people who get that being here now surpasses being here in August. They wear thin sweats in the mild weather, and as they walk some of them consider what it means to have come to the end of another year.

Some of them wear shorts and tee shirts: The 17th Annual Race into the New Year is about to start.

Me? When I got to our apartment last night, I discovered that my phone wouldn’t recharge and my laptop wouldn’t turn on. Mr UD was at the outlets picking up food and an extra blanket, so I fumed alone.

As I fumed, it occurred to me to get the hell out of the apartment and walk. Walk away. Take a humanity bath.

The boardwalk was very dark, and few people walked it. We couldn’t see one another – just bundled up bodies in motion. Yet as each of these solitary specters passed, they wished UD a happy new year. Virtually each one of them! As she trilled happy wishes back, UD‘s fuming went up in smoke.

Mr UD fixed all of her phone and laptop problems when he got back.

Mr UD eats breakfast, wears his Mather House sweatshirt, and anxiously awaits the start of the race.

“You can count on nature doing what nature has been doing forever. Do you think you’re going to rush in on Nature and grab off an insight?”

UD is sure Abe Ravelstein/Allan Bloom is right about this; he might even be right about this: “All educated people make the same mistake – they think that nature and solitude are good for them. Nature and solitude are poison.” But what the hey. Here’s another picture, now that I’m back in ‘thesda, from my beloved Rehoboth in autumn.

Me, I have a Get Rid of the Goat theory about the seashore off-season.


The thing about the beach off-season is that there’s almost nothing there. It’s as though someone systematically removed everything from the world. Standing on the beach, you certainly sense a world hunched up behind you; but it’s well behind you, and you can’t hear it over the waves.

Found Art.
Back from the beach. Already planning our next stay there.

Mr UD, Rehoboth Beach, Spectacular Autumn Day.
Looking a little like John Wayne.

Skeletal Greetings from Post-Halloween Rehoboth Beach.

Where you can still run sleeveless on the boardwalk. It’s that warm.

Morning rises behind the beach replenishment project.
Chilly on the balcony, but worth it for the light show.

Finally, after late night rain and wind, the ocean coughs up a few of its…
… calcite-lined stones. Which is the only thing UD wants from the ocean.

Les UDs en vacances: A cut above.
Reading material at our breakfast restaurant.

Halloween Tree, Rehoboth.

Beautiful Shitshow

At the center of this image, water and sand come blasting out of the ocean onto the replenished beach. UD got a tutorial in the whole double-your-beach process this morning from one of the workers – there’s the little GPS boat that scans the ocean floor for sand mountains, and then the bigger boat with one end of the pipe, sucking up the sand and sending it forward. They put shells and stones in dumpsters and then smooth the stuff along the strand. “I work in Florida, South Carolina – I’m not sure we do much good down there, but the weather’s milder here.”

Hitchcock at the Beach
Zoom in to see masses of gulls gather at the base of the machine dredging sand, water, and little sea creatures onto the beach.

Watching the beach get…

… replenished.

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