The morning was calm. The ocean breeze caressed my face. My husband B began to speak in tongues.
“Haematopus palliatus! Haematopus palliatus!”
His eyes bulged and fingers reached toward the water. I saw the waves flick the sand.
“Haematopus palliatus! Two of them! Where are the binoculars?”
B’s words stumbled as he dug through the tote between our beach chairs.
“Two what?” I asked as he adjusted and focused the binoculars.
“American Oystercatchers. I usually only see them in Cape Cod.”
“Oh,” I said and returned to my reading.
B continued on about the red-billed shorebirds. I contributed an occasional “Uh-huh” with a “Hmm” every now and again for variety, acknowledging his way of enjoying a day at the beach while pursuing mine.
It was a perfect beach day. Rockaway Beach has gotten a lot of press for being the “in” spot for urban hipsters. B and I are urban, but have crossed the outermost boundary of hipsterdom. We selected the adjoining Jacob Riis National Park. The descriptions of the Robert Moses-designed park appealed to us, especially the old public-works-era feel, and the “Planet-of-the-Apes” look of abandoned relics within the overgrown brush.
“This is great. I didn’t expect to see these here,” B said.
“There’s always something surprising to see if you pay attention,” I responded. “I saw those horses hitched at the border of Jersey City and North Bergen.”
“Oh boy, here we go.”
“You still don’t believe me! I saw them, just like I saw those hippies at Grand Central.”
I fumed and re-read the same sentence five times. The shush of the waves and distant caws of the gulls restored my inner peace. There was another sound, though. A bird song, almost too perfect, and a jingling. B was still focused on the oystercatchers and missing a sight even more extraordinary.
“Forget the birds, B. Check him out.”
It was a man. Not a rippling, bronzed lifeguard. A sighting like that I would keep to myself. This person was fully clothed and I assumed to be male because of the lime-green, full beard. He wore a white turban topped with a two-foot high feather, ribbons with bells, and a singing African grey parrot. Under a full-length white cape, he wore a tiered… dress? gown? garment! of multi-colored ruffles.
“Holy s***!” B exclaimed.
We looked at each other and unleashed our loud laughs. Everyone sitting around us was looking at the man. B grabbed his phone and took off after him to take a photo.
“Gotta get a picture of that!” said the woman sitting closest to our chairs.
B returned with a photo, but no information on the guy. While he thought nothing of asking to take the man’s photo, B thought it was inappropriate to engage in small talk.
“I’m sending this to Mary. No one would ever believe this,” he said as he dialed.
“I know the feeling.”
“Here we go…”