Outer Banks, North Carolina
All eyes are on the horizon here at North Carolina's Outer Banks, the first line of defense against the Taliban Navy and other would-be infiltrators. We are not quite sure what this navy would look like; suspicions are that the flotilla would comprise 55-gallon oil drums lashed together with ropes, or perhaps the enemy will come to shore clinging to driftwood, scimitars clenched between their teeth. Whatever the case, we are ready for them, and there seems little chance that Camp X-Ray will get any survivors. As the philosophers on the fishing piers put it, the crabs will eat well if we are put to the test.
Even at vacation time many minds focus on the present and future dangers. Potential mayhem on July 4 is a topic of wide conversation. Warnings about massing on the Washington Mall are routine, though the possibility of encountering the Beach Boys or Wayne Newton (or whichever cheese acts are booked this year) is reason enough for many of us to avoid that scene. One of our party plans to spend the 4th along the Charles River in Boston, where the symphony is playing for free. All agree that Boston would seem a somewhat likely target, along with every place else, including Centre Court at Wimbledon, which is on television from seven in the morning until three in the afternoon. So far, all clear. And so a toast to that.
And a toast to much else, besides.
The lurking possibility of being blown up is not entirely negative, and indeed there is something ennobling about the fact that one might die for one's country simply by attending a free concert. For it is our solemn duty to live our lives normally, as if Bin Laden and his various soul mates had never slithered from hell's poisoned womb. Put in this light, all acts of everyday life take on a heroic air, and we've been heroically visiting various places of public gathering, many of them decidedly anti-Islamicist. None is more so than the local Brew-Thru.
It was once believed that Brew-Thrus were created in order to provoke anti-drinking zealots, but time has now revealed their higher purpose: To stand as a total rejection of the desert scum that seeks our demise.
There can be no doubt that these establishments are very near the top of the enemy's target list, and not only because they make the purchase of alcohol so very speedy and efficient. Here, several of the West's great advances are on display: widespread automobile ownership, a vast selection of highly desired consumer goods, popular music on the sound system, somewhat rapacious prices, and an emphasis on quick service. Stanley Kurtz, the well-known think tanker, recently wrote of the Islamic world's basic rejection of the West's emphasis on punctuality. Getting things done can take a long time in that part of the world.
By contrast, a good Brew-Thru employee will have that case of Bass Ale in your lap within 20 seconds. The really good ones can guess your poison by the kind of car you drive, and will be waiting with your order by the time you pull to the ordering station. They might also sell you a camera, a long-distance phone card and a few pounds of Beef Jerky before you are on your way. One assumes they'll eventually add mail order brides to their menu.
The emphasis on keeping time is hardly confined to the drive-through beer market. Even when Americans are on vacation, a sizable portion wear watches, even to the beach. One notes many people running along, glancing at their wrists as they dash across the sands. In peaceful days, that can be annoying, yet in these times it is a bit endearing. As the philosophers casting lines into the surf point out, Americans are very traditional people, and traditions are the rocks you stand on when the sands start shifting.
The philosophers admit that our adversaries have some noble traditions of their own, including the covering of the female body. Their problem, of course, is that they apply their tradition too widely. A better standard might be to require some type of shield when the subject tips the scales at 250 or above. That would be a generous measure yet still a great boon to the textile industry, especially if hefty males were brought into compliance.
On the other hand, there is a great Western ideal which holds that ripeness is all, and in that sense perhaps the ripest among us are the most philosophically advanced. Or perhaps this is another case where ideals, when put into practice, turn out to be quite ugly.
These contemplations come and go as one stares across the sea to the horizon and into the vastness of the sky. They gain something of a jolt in the evenings, when the stronger spirits are let loose. One of our party spends a great deal of time in South America and brought along two jugs of a popular drink called O Cravinho. It is concocted at the Terreiro De Jesus in Salvador, Brazil, and combines the flavor of spiced cinnamon with a potent dose of the Devil. We knock it back as crabs and fish fry on the stove, taters bake in the oven, and the girls walk about in hot pants, flashing their awesome gams.
So we pass the week, wondering what would indeed happen should a Taliban sapper ride an empty drum through the surf and invade our holiday home. We're figuring he'd take in the sights and smells, have a snort of O Cravinho, and cry "Take Me To Your Leader." We'd drop him off at the Brew-Thru and wish him well.