Beach Justice

All the other beach authorities have a vessel or a crib that distinguishes them from the spring-breakers. You’ve got the guys in helicopters, searching the high seas for man-eating sharks or whatever. You’ve got the guys on ATVs, patrolling the dunes for illicit picnic activity. You’ve got the lifeguards in their stands, keeping an eye out for pretty people who might need resuscitating. But I, Ben Cube, originally from the land of New Jersey, do my law enforcement on foot. When someone is in danger, I don’t need to arrive on a glimmering white jet ski or leap out of a pastel cabana on stilts. I don’t even need the sanction of the South Florida government. I just need my swimming trunks and my impeccable sense of right and wrong. Yes, you’re correct. Mine is the face of vigilante beach justice.

On a typical day I wake up before dawn so I can reach the pier while the local rednecks still think they can fish with impunity. Many of these fishermen know me, having been on the receiving end of my justice in the past, and they pack up their gear and their coolers as soon as they see me coming. It takes all my self-restraint not to frogmarch them back down the boardwalk. But there’s always at least one oblivious tourist, or some doofus kid partaking in his first fishing lesson with Daddy, who needs to be taught the rules. “It’s right there on the sign,” I say as I approach these latter miscreants at the end of the pier. “No fishing. Read it and weep.”

The father stops reeling in whatever endangered sea creature he was reeling in. “Are you a game warden?” he says.

“If you don’t throw those squid back into the ocean by the count of five,” I respond, “I’ll be forced to make a citizen’s arrest. Do you really want your son to see that?” Nine times out of ten, they don’t.

Once the pier is purged of its lawbreakers, I extract my Sharper Image binoculars from their all-weather case and train them on the horizon. If I see too many people in a catamaran, or not enough lifeboats on a cruise ship, I don’t hesitate to call in reinforcements. Though as far as I can tell, the Coast Guard just sits on its collective ass 24 hours a day.

Next order of business is the nude beach. The nude beach attracts your standard law-abiding soul who just wants to sun his or her privates, but unfortunately it also attracts the scum of the earth. If you wonder where all of Florida’s creeps and perverts congregate during daylight hours, it’s here, where boobs and wangs can be tossed about freely in open air. If I see a young female spring-breaker, lounging on a towel, shyly baring her breasts to the sky, you can bet that right behind her will be sitting a fully-clothed troll filming her incognito with a camera hidden in his duffle bag, as if he’s a degenerate James Bond or some shit. This does not fly with me. Babe or no babe, this young woman does not deserve to have her boobs live-streamed to the internet.

So what do I do? I plop myself between woman and pervert, effectively obstructing the camera’s view. Sometimes I leisurely remove my swim trunks in the duffle bag’s line of sight so the pervert will be treated to artsy footage of my jiggling testicles. The pervert usually leaves quickly with his contraband, and after that my only duty is to inform the young woman of the valorous steps I’ve just taken to thwart her career in amateur porn. When I reach for a business card in my pocket so she knows that she can call me anytime if she ever sees anything suspicious, even if it’s in the middle of the night, I often forget that I’m still naked, and my hand skips comically over my thigh and collides with my sweatiest area. But such is life on the nude beach!

Next I break for lunch in the shade beneath the lifeguard stand.

In the afternoon most outlaws tend to be sun-stricken and lethargic, so I try to round up some beach cats for Animal Control. While securing one of these stray varmints in a sand dune last weekend, my hand got scratched up pretty bad, but I’m watching the wound closely. Plus I have faith in the ocean to sterilize 99 percent of infections, even rabies.

After the cat round-up comes my least favorite part of the day, but every hour can’t be a heroic hour when it comes to justice. You would not believe the amount of garbage these Spring Break hooligans generate during their week-long revels on the beach. I’m talking Silo cups, plastic bottles, water-logged underthings, cans of Bud Light, broken sunglasses, abandoned kiddie pools, candy wrappers, and once even a papasan chair. It takes an entire industrial trash bag to clean it up every afternoon, and that’s only for a two-mile stretch of beach. You’d think these kids were raised by animals. Still, I appreciate their youthful spunk. I was also a boy once. Though I don’t recall ever disposing of used condoms in the sand. Speaking of which, what kind of woman gives it up on a family beach? If I ever catch any of these litterbug hedonists in the act, trying to hide their hanky-panky under sun umbrellas or thinking that I can’t see them blatantly humping each other in the surf, I won’t stop until they’re registered as sex offenders. The occasional glass bottle? Fine. A loud radio every now and then? Fine. Sex on the beach? Not on my watch.

At the end of the day there’s always some human flotsam who thinks it’s a good idea to empty her bag of Cheetos into a quiet arrangement of seagulls and warmly invite hell to rain down upon us. This is intolerable beach etiquette. In what world is it okay to feed human snacks to nuisance birds so that everyone within a five-umbrella radius must flee like extras in a horror movie to avoid being pooped on? Or worse? No no no. This old woman has earned herself the full heat of my errant frisbee.

Finally, as night descends, I remain seated on my towel until I’m sure everyone has vacated the beach in a timely manner, before they start thinking about singing songs around an illegal bonfire or drunkenly setting off fireworks as if they’re somewhere in Mexico. When the last of the nudists put on their cover-ups and the final spring-breakers hurl their Silo cups into the ocean, I can finally return to my bungalow knowing that I’ve preserved the sanctity of the beach for another day. If I could afford a white jet ski, this would be my moment to ride it into the sunset.

South Beach selfies

For the next few days, the girls must inundate their Facebook pages with staged bikini shots. They stand in glossy clusters up and down South Beach, documenting their spring break cleavage. You get the sense that the girls selected their vacation companions based purely on how physically complementary they’d look in photos. Every thirty seconds, someone exercises veto power over a group image and the bikini shoot begins again. These young women are modeling spring break, rather than living it. They’re starring in a swimwear catalog available exclusively on their social media accounts. And Poseidon pity the boyfriend who’s conscripted to take photos of his lady as she rolls around suggestively in the surf, thong pointed to the sky like an arrow. In the distance, a dolphin splashes merrily in the Atlantic, but he doesn’t make it into the picture.

The newlyweds wander hand in hand through the historic lagoon gardens of Vizcaya. A selfie stick precedes them like a carrot promising relived experience later on. The cell phone on the stick’s extremity shoots amateur film of the man kissing his new wife on her sunburned cheek, then the man sweeps the camera around to include some unknown future viewer in the tour. Here is the picnic pavilion that resembles a sailing ship. Here is brackish water being pumped into a fountain made from limestone and coral. In the background, other tourists wander obliviously through the honeymoon video. Once they’re in, there’s no way out.

Florida Republicans keep snapping pictures of Miami. To foreign investors they text photos of Bahama-white sand, DJ Paris Hilton dressed as Barbie, and private yachts the size of naval destroyers cruising Biscayne Bay. Then the Brazilians send cash for new luxury condos they’ll never inhabit. No one takes pictures of the seawater flooding the streets at high tide. No one takes pictures of the storm surges that swamp ritzy nightclubs on the barrier island. The recent flood of real estate development is the only way to save the city from the actual flood. “There’s no such thing as climate change,” say Rick Scott and Marco Rubio, as they frantically delete Miami’s selfies from her phone.

Fuck yeah Everglades

How to observe the birthday of someone dead

Sleep late. Ponder your dreams. Feel queazy then remember you ate a jar of Nutella the night before. Get up when you’d rather stay in bed. Stare out the window. Watch the palm fronds whip around the parking lot. Text your mom. Mentally high-five Obama for his Selma speech. Grow morbid. Understand that your inborn disposition is far from presidential. Think about the birds. Wonder how the birds are doing. What do they do when it’s windy like this? What do I do when it’s windy like this? What do I do when my person is dead? Take a run along the ocean. Feel lucky to have an ocean. Feel lucky that he had an ocean. Smell the ocean. Smell it until your eyes burn. Try not to be depressed. Think of him casting his line into the surf. Think of him catching a big saltwater fish. Think of us eating it tonight at the party. Think of all the cake! Remember that there is no party. Consider having a party anyway because no one should be deprived of cake, especially since you’ve just determined cake to be a portal to the afterlife. Acknowledge the self-serving nature of this determination. Watch a beach cat devour a dune mouse. Note the cat’s resemblance to your childhood cat and the mouse’s to your childhood mouse, minus the blood. Come back to reality, which is death, which is what we’re all capable of bearing, according to our president. Cling to the reality of birds and fish, cats and mice, because human reality is a battering ram. Convince yourself that the man walking by is wearing flesh-colored underpants and isn’t just trying to show you his penis. Realize that you’ve strayed onto the nude beach. Admit that you’re the kind of person who’d probably wander around crying in a field of land mines as well. Forget the words to his birthday song because it’s been five years since you’ve heard it. Forget the words to everything. Just watch the seagull bobbing on the ocean like a flame you can’t blow out.

 

 

 

Interview with celebrity diarist Albert Knox

Interviewer: We’re here today with Albert Knox, the famed diarist who made his living documenting the day-to-day lives of high-profile celebrity clients. Hundreds of people, from pop stars to presidents, can rest easy knowing that their mundane emotional moments were preserved for posterity by Mr. Knox and his ubiquitous spiral notebook. On the eve of his retirement, Mr. Knox was kind enough to grant The Diary Journal an exclusive interview reflecting on his career accomplishments, his plans for the future, and his own dear diary. Mr. Knox, thank you for joining us.

AK: It’s a pleasure to be here.

I: Let’s begin with some softballs. Can you describe a typical day with one of your long-term clients, say Katy Perry?

AK: Katy hired me to write her personal diary for her California Dreams Tour [2011-12]. She told me that she’d kept a diary as a child, then got too busy to maintain it, so she was thrilled to be able to delegate the job. On a typical day I’d start by writing down her dreams and what they might signify, then we’d eventually move into thoughts and feelings on musical performances, meals, social interactions, and outfits.

I: Did you ever have trouble gaining access to the talent?

AK: I was always competing with photographers and film crews for access [Katy Perry’s California Dreams Tour was the basis for the documentary Part of Me], but as a diarist I usually developed a more intimate relationship with my clients than most full-time staff members. For example, Katy liked seeing pretty pictures of herself, but by the time we reached Japan she was even more addicted to reading about her complex emotions, as captured in my longhand prose. Only I could offer her that. They say a photo tells a story, but I told actual stories about Katy’s mental trajectories as she coped with the ups and downs of everyday life on the road.

I: Did the talent ever object to the way you depicted them in diary entries?

AK: If I couldn’t wrangle a client’s vanity, pettiness, insecurity, cruelty, rage, and selfishness into an endearing diary entry, then I wasn’t doing my job. I would not be where I am today if I couldn’t turn a celebrity tantrum into a profound existential crisis through my gift for language. I remember Justin Bieber throwing a fit on the tail end of his Believe Tour because he found out there was no coconut water within a 100-mile radius and his hydration depended on the unique chemical properties of the coconut. I sat in that armchair in Iceland with my spiral notebook in my lap as Bieber hurled whiskey bottles at his hotel wall, and I wrote, “I feel sometimes as if I’m living in a desert of my own design. It might seem from the outside that I don’t understand the vapidity and ephemerality of my fame, but I thirst for genuine human contact, a relationship to God that isn’t beset by panoramic ego challenges, and the liquid warmth of a nut.”

I: When I think of Justin Bieber, I think of those words, and they are precisely why I own eleven of his albums.

AK: The power of the diary can’t be underestimated.

I: As our readers know, your ample skills were put to the test by more than Caucasian pop singers. Political figureheads came to you as well when they needed someone to articulate their hopes and dreams in a diplomatic and easily digestible format. Let’s talk about the former President of the United States.

AK: He was committed to our collaboration more than any client I’ve ever had.

I: Why do you think that is?

AK: He thought about his family more than most world leaders, and many of his geopolitical and military decisions came from a place of anxiety about how his father might judge him. So that conflicted pattern of wanting to please a parent, wanting to rebel against a parent’s expectations, wanting to exceed a parent’s accomplishments, etc., was particularly conducive to the diary medium, for obvious reasons. And tear stains always lend authenticity to the page.

I: Whose tears were they, if you don’t mind my asking?

AK: Sometimes his. Sometimes mine. It was a long eight years.

I: Did you ever feel limited as to what territory you could cover in a client’s diary?

AK: The parameters were usually dictated by the client, but my expertise and literary finesse got me through most doors. When I first started working for John Travolta, for example, he was skeptical about my work. I think I was originally his publicist’s hired gun, meant to squelch some scandal or another. But once John saw what I could do, he began dragging me into the bathroom with him. He told me I was a fecal alchemist. I spent hours in there, sitting on the edge of the crystal bathtub, just jotting down notes. He still calls me sometimes when he’s shitting.

I: Do you keep your own diary?

AK: I did for a while, but when I was working I realized that I was just writing a diary about writing other peoples’ diaries, and then their diaries became about what it was like to be in my diary, and it became this weird sort of ouroboros literature, so in my meager free time I just focused on my poetry.

I: You’re a poet, too?

AK: Like diary entries, poems aesthetically temper experience so you don’t despise everything.

I: Do you despise everything?

AK: Let’s not talk of hate. I’m in love with elevating life to the uppermost reaches of linguistic activity. Does a photographer try to reproduce exactly what he sees, or does he try to filter the image through his particular aperture, and in so doing make the world seem like a more beautiful place? Do the right words make people more likable and humanity less bland and disgusting? Be honest with yourself: would you rather be purple or periwinkle?

I: A few final questions. Would you ever write a novel?

AK: Fuck no. I have to draw the line somewhere.

I: Are Jay-Z and Beyonce really headed for divorce?

AK: They’re considering a personal unpeopling, but their erotic energy will forever be united on a cellular level.

I: Were you ever starstruck on the job?

AK: If anything, my celebrity clients were starstruck by themselves. They were often moved to tears by the impact of their own words. As transmitted through my hand, of course.

I: Do you think your position will soon become obsolete because of video diaries and Vine and the like, or will the famous continue to need professional emotional translators?

AK: The inner world is in less demand every day. I don’t think anyone would care to read Kim Kardashian’s diary when he could see a photo of her bare bottom instead. But I continue to hope that other people like me exist in the world. People of great depth who yearn to know what Kim dreams about, and what she desires in her heart of hearts, and where her deepest doubts reside. People who value psychological substance over superficiality. But between you and me, the older I get and the fewer diary entries I write, the more I just want to see Kim’s ass and leave it at that. You could bounce a pencil off that ass.

Sea cow

I am a manatee. I excel at being a manatee. I am a manatee in a man’s world. I swim amidst the yachts at the marina. Sometimes I feel compelled to poop on them. My thoughts are all tremendous. It’s a wonder this ocean can hold them. My tail is worth its weight in pearls. The dock pilings lean orgasmic when I make ripples, swimming by. If you are a boat propeller, you have another thing coming. That thing is my dong. In the end, everything will sink, but I will still be on top. There are fish, and there are sea cows. It’s an unhappy fate if your lesser heart can’t grasp the distinction.

 

Minor improvements on the Space/Time Directory

This morning I read about the New York Public Library’s Space/Time Directory, an interactive Google map that will employ historical data to walk users through a virtual Manhattan of yore. This is a terrific idea, and I should know because I thought of it way back in 2008 when I was snorting amphetamines, day-trading away millions of dollars, and decoding the lyrics to Britney Spears’s “Womanizer.” [I was a happy housewife at the time, but my internal biography reads more like David Carr’s (RIP).]

Granted, my idea was a little more inchoate than the one with a $380,000 grant and the full support of the NYPL juggernaut behind it. Let the historical record show that I wasn’t envisioning a simulated time machine for New York City alone, which would have been a good place to start. I was thinking of one for all of human civilization (much harder to beta test). I imagined people being able to wander digitally through their neighborhoods 200 years prior to see what the land looked like back then. Or, if their homes were standing 50 years ago, they could virtually knock on doors to see who lived in them. They could look at photographs and read diary entries, birth certificates, obituaries, etc., of the people who once inhabited those domiciles. And while all this historical data was being explored, contributors would be populating the present moment with the same material, so people could rest assured that they’d exist in time and space long after they were gone, even if they hadn’t left behind a bestselling memoir or a compelling Twitter feed or something.

But this is basically what the NYPL plans to do. The Space/Time Directory is an aggregator of information, information that is then applied to an interactive atlas in limitless layers. It’s a way of taking everyone’s photos, documents, and personal histories and bringing them back to life in one interactive organism. The directory has the potential to revolutionize the entire concept of the past. I foresee people moving to the S/TD (ha) like they moved to Second Life, and watching their great-grandparents grow up as avatars.

Which is all well and good, but I have my own system-wide improvements to propose to the NYPL:

1) Once you’ve compiled the history, so the entire human journey is contained within a single computer program, hit the button that will determine whether or not any of it makes any fucking sense.

2) Let’s say it does make sense. Then you can build an algorithm! Out of math. And the algorithm will give S/TD users the option of messing things up in the past and consequently changing the future, a la Marty McFly. I imagine this will be a fun learning experience for the kids, so they’ll stop putting their grubby little fingers all over everything.

3) Include astronomical data so we can know what the moon was doing at the exact moment of our conception and we won’t have to pay our astrologers so much money.

4) Make cemeteries interactive so zombies actually pop up when you scroll over graves.

5) When your users click on a virtual movie theater in the distant past, they should be able to watch the films that were showing at the time. When your users click on a virtual bookstore that’s since gone out of business, they should be able to read digital versions of the books that sold best on the shelves. That would be the way to attract nerds, as if nerds weren’t the only people cruising the past anyway.

6) Other entities that should be in the Space/Time Directory: dogs, bugs, extinct mammals, Best Buy phone booths.

7) The S/TD as conceptualized by the NYPL has 4D but if we could step it up to at least 5D then we could see different universes that might have arisen in human history and they might be awesome and this whole project might merge into World of Warcraft oh my god.

8) I suspect that 6D might just be pornography and very few people want to see their great-grandparents having sex. But I’m not an astrophysicist. In this non-computer-generated life, anyway.

9) My head is exploding my head is exploding. The implications of this technology are infinite! If only I were a little smarter and could think of everything! But I’m all jacked up on speed (spinach frittata) and history is moving too fast into the future. I’ll come back to this later.

One honey bee, four near-death experiences

Spring

The drones sent me into exile. They said that I was worthless to the hive if I wasn’t going to mate with our queen. But I only want to mate with the boy bees. It almost makes me wish I were a worker, because the workers don’t have to put out. They just get to sit upon the flowers. I’ll have to find someplace new to live. Yesterday I landed in a bucolic meadow, but a black bear almost stepped on me, and then I flew up his nose for a second, and it was just bad times all around. Until I met Mulligan sucking nectar from a dandelion.

Summer

This afternoon I fell into the deep end of a swimming pool. It was stupid, I know, but I was only trying to skim the surface of what I thought was a pond. It took me a while to realize that not only was the blue water undrinkable, but its vessel was a death trap. My wings became sodden and useless. I could barely stay afloat. I knew it was only a matter of time before I drowned. But then a flightless man spotted me as he swam by with a pincher on his nostrils. He seemed to take pity on my frenetic form. With the flat of his hand he began pushing the water in which I was sinking toward the edge of the pool. He never made contact with my body, presumably so he wouldn’t be stung. As if I’d be so ungrateful! At this point I was about to lose consciousness, but the thought of Mulligan in the meadow kept me going. At last the man splashed me onto the concrete, my antennae still clinging to life and love, and I felt my wings slowly begin to drink up the sunshine. I would be reunited with my fuzzy, striped companion after all.

Fall

Mulligan seems to be ailing and I’m afraid he’s not long for this earth. I wonder if he stung one of the old lady’s cats while I was out foraging in her garden. He wouldn’t have told me if he had. And his anatomy seems to be intact. That handsome, bulging thorax. That perky stinger. But what is he saying now? Speak up, Mulligan. You make no sense. All I hear is buzzing. Don’t eat the goldenrod? But I love… oh. The old lady sprayed it with poison, didn’t she? That explains the collapsed colony behind her garage. I saw the corpse of the queen herself. You…you saved my life, Mulligan. Here, let’s lie together on this purple flower petal and watch the setting sun.

Winter

I see the geese flying high with their mates and the horses stabled with their foals, and here I am, alone, luckless, deprived of all society, just trying to keep my compound eyes from freezing in this malicious cold. Though I miss Mulligan terribly, I’m grateful he never had to suffer like this. All my enzymes are shivering. I’m drawn to the fragrance of a smoky chimney and I know my time has come. But frost glazes my wings before I reach the rooftop and its eternal stupor. I tumble like a pistachio nut into a snowbank. So this is it. At least the ants won’t eat me in this icy weather. But what’s happening now? I’m perched in a human palm. Warm clouds of air heat up my wings. The old woman holds me like that, enveloped in her breath, until I thaw back to life, and fly once more toward the promise of honey.

Because I love Kelli and Daniel from Fitness Blender

“Please get off me,” says the husband. “Your body reminds me of work.” The wife clenches her toned abs for the 61st rep that day. They’d shot two grueling workout videos in the studio that morning. Now that they were back home in their bedroom, she just wanted her man to peel off her sports bra and spank her with it.

“That’s like turning down sex from a nurse because she reminds you of disease,” says the wife.

“I would never turn down sex from a nurse,” says the husband, massaging his left tricep.

The wife unglues the sweaty leggings from her preternaturally toned thighs, then pulls two 10-pound barbells from the nightstand.

“You’re just lifting those out of spite,” says the husband. “And your breathing is all wrong.”

“Fuck you.”

“Sweetheart, you know our bodies aren’t for pleasure anymore. They’re a business. People stream our exercise videos because we’re ripped and we look good in Spandex. It’s hard for me to sexualize our bodies now that they’re our only source of income.”

“I thought people watched our videos because we’re in love, which gives us positive on-screen rapport, which inspires people to feel the burn, which makes them think that by doing the fitness, they can find love too.”

“No. You think we’d have all these downloads if we were as fat as we were on our wedding day?”

“We weighed a combined 12 pounds more than we do now.”

“Exactly.” The husband adjusts himself on the mattress so he can stretch his hamstrings. He’s never been as flexible as his wife. “Most of those were yours, by the way.”

“If I gain it all back,” says the wife, unable to take her eyes off her husband’s gym shorts, “will you have sex with me again?”

“Gaining it back is not an option. We have bills to pay. More importantly, we have fans who count on us to stay in peak physical condition.”

“What if you wear a blindfold?”

“As if I wouldn’t be able to feel those rock-hard glutes.”

“Then what?” says the wife, starting a set of lateral raises. “I can’t go on like this.”

The husband flips over onto his bare stomach so he can perform a cobra stretch.

“I wonder if porn stars have this problem,” he says.

“I’ll be able to answer that in about two months after I leave you and move to the Valley.”

“Don’t be like that, baby.” He moves into a child’s pose. “Maybe if we could just, like, repurpose our bodies somehow, after work, so when we get home, they’re no longer elite athletic machines.”

“And how do you suggest we do that?” says the wife, dropping to the rug for overheard bridges.

“I don’t know,” says the husband. “But I’m feeling like we didn’t get enough cardio today. You wanna do a round of burpees?”

The wife drops her barbells. “Can we do them naked?”

“Good idea,” says the husband. “That way I can review your form.”

Two insignificant things that didn’t really happen

Revenge

Rebecca worked for a small marketing firm that handled accounts from a diversity of clients. Last summer she began volunteering to head the ad campaigns that no one else wanted, e.g., the gastrointestinal disorder remedies, the spray-on hair. She did this because her ex-boyfriend had turned out to be a piece of shit who’d moved into her Soho apartment with no intention of ever getting a job, contributing to rent, or helping out in any way unless he could do it through singer-songwriting. Her ex-boyfriend had also posed for a series of stock photos back in the day so he could buy himself something nice that he didn’t deserve because he liked to stick his slimy crooked penis into everything.

Rebecca happened to discover this cache of stock photos of her ex-boyfriend not long after she’d confronted him about several items gone missing from her jewelry box, then kicked him to the curb. Revenge was sweet. Rebecca threw herself into work at the agency, and soon her ex’s face began appearing in ads aimed at those suffering from jock itch and hemorrhoids, uncontrollable diarrhea, chronic facial fungi. Rebecca had a girlfriend who worked for a popular online news outlet and she got in on the fun as well. The article “How to Identify a Hipster Douchebag” featured a close-up of Rebecca’s ex-boyfriend drinking an iced coffee in a rowboat in Central Park. The article “6 Signs Your Dude Is a Manwhore” was accompanied by a photo of Rebecca’s ex-boyfriend laughing into a slice of cheese pizza.

Rebecca had originally applied to the ad agency so she could earn a regular paycheck just until her online fan fiction landed her a Big Five book deal, but after the breakup she decided that she’d stay in the business at least long enough to see her ex on a billboard warning people about the pedophiles who live among us. Besides, she thought, pictures tell the best stories.

Photographer Emergency

An amateur photographer named David walks along the Florida beach in early morning, taking pictures of the sunrise. He squats on a dune so he can get the right angle on the light colliding with a lifeguard stand. He also takes pictures of a seagull. “Please, God,” he thinks, “let a sailboat pass by.”

A quarter mile down the beach, David passes a large crew of people staging shots of fashionable accessories in the white sand, probably for a Land’s End catalogue. A man with a camera barks orders at the handful of assistants holding white discs who are trying to reflect the morning light onto an array of vibrant products. Then David watches as the professional photographer suddenly drops to his knees, clutching his chest. The panicked crew surrounds him, but the professional photographer has collapsed face-down in the sand and is giving off every impression of being dead.

“Oh my God!” yells a woman with a clipboard, scanning the beach in every direction. “Is anyone here a photographer? Are there any photographers on the beach?”

One of the assistants scrambles up the steps of a lifeguard stand and grabs a bullhorn. “We have an emergency!” he says. “Someone please help us! Can anyone here shoot a purse?”

From a distance David takes in the undocumented fashion accessories, then looks down at his camera. This is his moment. “I can,” he says quietly. Then more loudly, toward the crew, as he speeds across the sand. “I can!” he says. “I can shoot a purse!”

Scenes from a Florida horse track

The minimum bet is one dollar. I bet five. When my horses come around the bend and stampede toward the finish line, I scream so loudly that a nearby baby starts crying in his mother’s arms.

I’m surprised that I’ve never been to a horse track before today. I’d always assumed that I had, because it seems so characteristic of me, but in retrospect I think all my familiarity with the racing world came from reading Seabiscuit.

People here are deadly serious. Most of them operate alone. They sit at picnic tables in the shade of the tiki bars, poring over stats in their official daily programs. One man’s future seems to depend on the performance of Bingo Kitten.

What is a horseman? Is it a jockey? Is it a centaur? Is it someone who enjoys the company of horses? And why am I not allowed to park in the spots designated “Horseman”? Is it because I’m a woman? I enjoy horses just as much as anybody.

I send my mom a text about being at the race track. She responds, “Slippery slope, that racing. When I lived in Florida I used to bet on the dogs.”

M and I win $15 and do an end zone dance. Everyone glares at us.

No one here seems to be rich, even the gamblers who bet with $100 bills. The only individual who appears to have done well for himself at the track is a man exiting the compound in a Ferrari. But his smugness seems less about winnings and more about taking money from poor people, so I assume he’s a manager.

According to the program, Bingo Kitten’s parents are Kitten’s Joy and Bingo Queen.

A statue of a horse towers above the palm trees at the entrance to the parking lot. The horse is ten stories tall. He is fighting a dragon. I rack my brain for a similar scene in mythology, but come up with nothing. Maybe the artist based his work on a cartoon. In any case, it takes my breath away.

For all of those gamblers who are down to less than a dollar, there are slot machines.

Post-time is at 12pm next Sunday. I will wear a sunhat and bring lots of quarters. My mom will be in town, but I’ll hold her to a budget so we can still afford tacos after the races. And I’m not leaving the track until my horsewomanhood is acknowledged, at least by the babies.