The Magic of Labor Day and Last-Minute Plans

Labor day, 2011. As usual, I had a barbeque planned with some friends. Once it hit noon, about an hour before people were coming, though, I got a few phone calls from my potential guests. One had a cold and couldn’t make it. Another had to work early the next morning, so he didn’t want to come and be tired the next day. My most reliable friend bailed too, citing a dinner with her in-laws that she couldn’t escape.

I looked around at the array of food I had begun to prepare. Spinach, tomatoes, walnuts, and all the ingredients for a beautiful salad. Zucchini, squash, and plenty of fruits and vegetable to either skewer and cook or eat as finger food. Chips and all the ingredients for a brilliant salsa. I had even gone so far as to hand-make falafels for everyone.

With enough food and drinks to feed 20 people, I was going to be spending the day alone. I decided that, since the food was going to go to waste anyway, I might as well make it. I spent the next three hours barbequing, skewering, cooking, and munching as I worked.

I took stock and saw the plethora of beautiful food now prepared. I had nothing to do with it other than attempt to eat as much as possible, or give it away. After eating a couple of skewers and a falafel, I got fed up. I wrapped up as much as I could, which was probably about 20 pounds of food, put it in a couple bags, and got in my car. I secured the food in the backseat, and turned the key. Where I was headed, I didn’t know. But what did I have to lose, really?

See, I had had a tough year. My mom had died, my dad and sister had moved across the country, and I was left all alone. The last thing I wanted to do was to spend time alone on a holiday. I needed to be with people– someone needed to carry me into a good mood. Those people, apparently, would not end up being my friends.

Once I was in the car, I somehow ended up going through the canyon to the beach. The windy road, whistling wind, and breathtaking views began to lighten my mood, and I was feeling better. I decided that I was going to go to the beach and invite people to feast with my. I didn’t care if it was all homeless people, to be honest. I wanted to have a great meal with some conversation, and I was going to get it with any means necessary.

My cheeriness didn’t last long. About a mile from the beach I hit wicked traffic. I sat in the same spot for 12 minutes, then got to inch forward about three car lengths. Joy. After the twenty minute mark, I was done with it. Recalling the REM video, I jerked the car to the side of the road and threw it in park. I grabbed the bags out of the back, locked the doors, and just started walking.

There was no sidewalk, but since traffic wasn’t moving either, I thought it would be fun to walk in the middle of the road. I got to pass car after car at my slow biped pace. It was great. I felt like I was beating the system; sure, it would take me 15 or 20 minutes to walk there, but on such a glorious day, what else would I rather be doing?

I even got to make a left hand turn at the stoplight. I walked on the inside of the turning cars, keeping pace with them as they moved and passing them once they stopped. Trucks with kayaks, cars with surfboards, vans with children all fell victim to my march.

I reached the beach in no time. I found a little spot on the crowded sand and started to set up the food. As I unwrapped plate after plate, my area grew into a quite impressive swatch, and it was a good thing I had set up when I did; the beach filled quickly to the point of capacity, and my plates were fending off encroachment quite nicely. I soon had one of the roomiest spots on the beach.

Once I was finished setting up, I stepped back and surveyed my work. It looked good, I thought. Now I just needed some people.

I first recruited a small group of three friends. They were walking by with their towels, looking for somewhere to fit, and I boldly called to them.

“Free food, and a place to sit, if you want!” I smiled. At first, they weren’t sure if I had actually been talking to them, but then I waved them over. I explained to them that I had made all this food that would go to waste if no one ate it. To prove it wasn’t poisonous, I took a bite and swallowed it.

They looked at each other, nodded, and sat down. We engaged in some small talk, and soon they were recruiting people for me as well. Our group of four became six when a couple joined, then ten when a family with two kids sat down, and finally fifteen when some teenagers leaving the beach to go get food spotted us.

There we sat, sitting for hours on end, joking with each other, telling stories of the week, laughing like we were old friends. At one point, the couple got up and started doing their hilariously choreographed dance while the rest of us clapped along and shrieked with laughter. The family of four and I had a race to the water to see who could dunk in the fastest. (I came in second, right behind the mother.)

The three friends pulled out a frisbee from under their towels, and we soon had a huge game going. I was getting advice from three people at once on how I should throw correctly. We were sprinting to try to catch it, weaving in and out of other people’s picnic areas, diving into the water or sand, jumping over whatever debris was in our way.

One of the teenagers pulled out a guitar and played songs that we all sang along to as we ate. After that, we played some horseshoes with a set that we had borrowed from one of our neighbors. I lost, since I am terrible at horseshoes, but I had fun cheering and yelling.

As always seems to be the case, the sun began to set and the beach started to empty. Soon, our group was the last one left. We chatted a bit more, finished the last of the salsa, and eventually all got up to go. I hugged every one of those 11 people and thanked each one. As we went out separate ways, I felt a smile stretch across my face. I walked back to my car with lighter bags and a lighter heart.

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