Excerpt from a New Book 14

DECEMBER 28th

Hitting the beach

In Spain, December 28th means something.  There, it is known as the Day of the Innocent Saints and it marks the anniversary of King Herod’s highly questionable Messiah-control policy of ordering his men to slay every child under the age of two.  Of course, none of the tragedy ever would have occurred had those three big-mouthed Wise Men not blabbed about the Savior being born to begin with.  Once Herod got wind that the Son of God was residing under his jurisdiction, he sensed his reign might be in danger and decided to do something about all the rampant adoration going on.  He decided to rub the kid out.

      Herod was fully aware that the threat came from a newborn babe, a week maybe two at the most, but just for safe measure Herod took no chances and raised the legal execution age to toddlers.  I tell you, the bloggers would have had a field day with that one.  Although the historical accuracy of the biblical account is greatly disputed, a number of scholars even claim the entire story was entirely made up, the feast has been observed for some 1,500 years.

      At some point in history, the Spanish converted this historical moment, that is, the brutal slaughtering of scores of innocent preschoolers, into their version of April Fool’s Day, a time for playing practical jokes like sticking “Kick Me!” signs on each other’s backs or putting shocking but totally false reports in the newspaper.  I have come to understand, appreciate and even love countless traditions inSpain, but choosing mass infanticide as a premise for pulling the old “got a stain on your shirt” joke still escapes my grasp of this culture.   Somehow, I missed a step.

       Here in Greenwich it was just Monday.  Plain old Monday and there was little amusing about it.  Monday after Christmas weekend; Monday when we could do a few everyday things that did not require being stuffed like an animal prepared for slaughter.  Seeing that it was a sunny day, we decided it was the right time to go for a good healthy post-Christmas walk to work off some of those excess calories, which, by then, had run into the tens of thousands.  Back inMadrid, all I would have had to do is tie up some shoes and lose myself for the long walk in the endless streets and neighborhoods of the capital.  However, back home, things were different, and we needed a car to go somewhere to use our legs.  I chose the beach down in Old Greenwich known as Greenwich Point.

       That’s the official name at least, but locally everyone calls it Tod’s Point and if you are really from Greenwich, you know that.  An impostor doesn’t.  Tod’s Point is a small peninsular hook which affords one of the few true sandy refuges for the town’s sun seekers, which isn’t saying much considering its fairly modest size for a coastal community with over 60,000 residents.  Compared to other places in the northeast, the beach is a mere sandbox.  In fact, Connecticut beaches as a whole, with their painfully gentle waters and sometimes crusty unrefined sand, have never really impressed me very much.  I guess they improve as you head out towards the eastern end of the state, but the closer you get to New York where Long Island sound begins to shrivel up, the less enthralled you are about the shore, and the more suspicious you are about the quality of the water you are wading in.  It gets tested weekly in the summer, and on occasion the bacteria numbers become problematic, but for the most part they are deemed clean.  I noticed that over the years I glow in the dark from time to time.  But that may be a coincidence.  And it certainly doesn’t keep the town’s people from flocking to its sands time and time again.  Plus, the point can be very peaceful and strikingly beautiful, when it isn’t overrun with beachgoers.  This is especially in the fall and winter.

       But that wasn’t the only reason why I wanted to go down there.

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