One of the things that a pale, befreckled person looks forward to during a beach vacation is reading. Reading on the shady deck in the morning, reading on the couch at midday and reading under an umbrella while out on the sand. And the book that I was most looking forward to reading was one that I’d read nearly 20 years before in nearly the same place.
When I was in graduate school at UNC, I took my only non-Christmas vacation for a long weekend on the Outer Banks to visit with my friend Dave and his folks who were renting a house there. It was a great time and the book I’d picked up to read was a paperback of Peter Benchley’s 1991 book, Beast.
Let’s be honest – Beast is a barely veiled reconstruction of Jaws, wherein the shark is replaced by a giant squid, the crazy captain is replaced by a sane captain, the American academic shark nut is replaced by a Canadian academic squid nut, and Amity Island is replaced by Bermuda. As thrillers go, it’s actually pretty good if you can keep yourself from comparing and contrasting to Jaws, and I will say that Benchley was ahead of his time in incorporating environmental themes and the costs of knocking ecosystems out-of-whack well before it was trendy.
But the fairly-good quality of the book (note: don’t ever watch the TV movie — it’s horrible and doesn’t track the book at all) wasn’t necessarily the reason that I was happy for the re-read. In looking back, I realized that book and that vacation had some long-lasting impacts. First off, the book kindled in me a fascination, nay, a love of giant squids, because it helped me to realize that giant squids are awesome. Some things I’ve found out since: they’re awesome at making rum, they’re awesome in urban fantasy, and they’re even awesome in orbit.
But more importantly, that vacation planted the seed of an idea that when I moved back to Delaware to be a post-doc, that maybe Dave and I would rent a house together. That decision catalyzed a friendship that has gone on to be one of those very rare whole-adult-life ones and transformed us into Roomies.
Now, you might recall that one of the things that Roomie and I started last year was a head-to-head competition on picking NFL games against the spread: The Roomie Cup. During the course of the season, we decided that rather than just for bragging rights, there needed to be an actual vessel, a physical Roomie Cup that the victor was allowed to keep until the following season was decided. A little poking around on Etsy and we found someone that would make us a cup (a mug actually) with exactly what we wanted on it:
A giant squid.
The inaugural Roomie Cup went to Dave after he won the year seven weeks to six. I’m still bitter because I wanted the Roomie Cup ensconced in a place of honor at The Aerie. I have high hopes to regain it after this season, though time will tell, I suppose.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that you can never tell where reading a book on the beach might lead, do ya?
Just don’t go in the water.