"Darlin', There's talk around town; 'Bout a girl, who spread love around; with soft lips, And eyes, crystal blue..."
It must have been a new moon, or close to it, because the tide was way out, exposing an extra quarter mile of beach, just outside my old Coast Guard boathouse in Truro, on Cape Cod. It was a weekend, a Saturday, and the sun was directly overhead. I had just come down in the Twin, from Worcester.
"Gil, you look terrible."
"Thanks, Bill," I said. Bill's my brother, and had just rented the house up on the bluff for two weeks for himself, his wife, Viki, and his two kids. We were standing on the sandbar — halfway out in the ocean, it felt. Great for kids, let me tell you. Good for big people, too. Particularly somewhat burnt big people.
"I don't feel so good either, if you want to know the truth, Bill. I've been in the control room for three days with Keith Richards. That's what it does to you. Look. Notice the grey pallor to the skin, the bags under the eyes, and the ringing in the ears. That you can't hear — the ringing in the ears — but my ears are ringing, too."
"High volume levels?" my brother asked.
"Yup. Also lots of talk about rock 'n' roll. About other people — half of them dead now, or dying. Lives lost to rock 'n' roll. Decadent, tired stuff. Stayed awake all the time. It was sad in a way. Thrilling in a way. Just happened, you know. Haven't yet figured it out — what exactly happened, I mean. Looks like the Stones are coming to Long View, though. That much looks clear now."
"You just get here?" Bill asked.
"Just now. Haven't seen Nancy or the kids. They been here?"
"About an hour ago," Bill said. "Then she took off down that way with Abby and David. Some other guy with her, too. Don't know who. They all went down that way, towards Brush Hollow."
"Thanks, Bill," I said. I needed some exercise, to get the poisons out of my system. Better than jogging on the road anyhow, low tide was. And so I set off, running along easily on the salt flats, down past the lifeguards and the tourists, south along the beach to the place we call Brush Hollow, and which most new people or visitors call "the nude beach" at Truro.
It wasn't long before I could see them in the distance. That was Nancy, all right. Couldn't tell who it was with her, though. Except for the two little forms, which were almost certainly my kids.
I broke from a jog into a run. Nobody seemed to have any clothes on down there.
About a quarter of a mile away from Nancy — I could tell it was Nancy now, for sure — I see her walk up to where the blanket is, pin her little bathing suit on, and stalk off toward the right, up and over the dune, toward the path that leads through the Hollow and back to the road.
I'm really running now, pounding along at the water's edge, thinking I might still get down there before she disappears over the dune. No way, though. She disappears. Couldn't tell it was me, I figured. So I let off a bit of the steam, dropped back into an easy jog, and thought some thoughts about the Rolling Stones. Much of this book was conceptualized that way. Whenever I relaxed enough to let my mind roam a bit. Whenever I fantasized.
That, of course, is meditation. It's meditation in action; meditation in situation. The repetitiveness of your feet, slamming one after the other into the hard surface of sand, each making a sound like the sound before — like the sound after. It hypnotizes you, and for a second you forget yourself. That's the 'window.' The window on the future. The person you re-remember is a person with a game plan for tomorrow. A solution to the current dilemma. It's the window that makes the difference. "Zen and rock 'n' roll," if anyone asks you.
Today, running easily along the water's edge, feeling loose, and stronger with each step, it's Keith Richards I'm hearing in my head. It was the song we recorded the night before, or was it two nights before? I don't know. A country tune. Keith Richards singing a country tune with great pain in his voice — great expression. I made the tape play back in my head — something I wasn't able to do at all before turning thirty — and adjusted the speed so it would play along with the sound of my feet on the sand. Keith Richards, loud and live on the studio monitors at Long View Farm; me jogging along a Cape Cod beach under an August sun:
"Darlin', There's talk around town;
About a girl, who spread love around;
With soft lips, and eyes, crystal blue;
Darlin', say it's not you." 1
Another great meditation; take it from me. A meditation in situ, which is the best kind; ask any guru.
And so I was in very settled spirits by the time I made it to Brush Hollow — perspiring profusely, and happy with my lot. Nancy had long since disappeared over the dune.
I don't know to this day whether she knew it was me running after her, or not.
Doesn't matter. I could recognize the guy by now. It was only Bennie.
1 George Jones, "Say It's Not You." Permission granted.
All original material copyright © Gilbert Scott Markle. All rights reserved.