As I approached Pawley’s I phoned and sent a textual message to my hostess, whom I had yet to meet. She didn’t respond to hails. Should I try to figure out something to do in this paradise myself or go see where it is that this person lives?
Let me back up. A while ago, I added a page to iLiveInMyVan.com called Destinations. On that page people, much like yourself, can recommend places that I should see. The page even includes a place for people to privately leave an email address or other means of contact. This woman, M, had been foolish enough to give a complete stranger her email address. Here, you can see what she typed. We’d exchanged a couple of emails, and more recently, a couple of phone conversations and text messages. I had the address and instructions for navigating past the guy who guards the gate onto The Plantation. Best I can tell, all of Pawley’s Island used to be a plantation and every house is in a gated community.
But I digress. I had decided to go see just what kind of house crazy people who would invite a stranger to come stay with them might live in. Mostly because I didn’t want to figure out how to navigate the public beaches myself. I managed to clear security and find the house, which looked like a really nice place to live. A convertible parked out front looked as if it might belong to the woman I’d talked to. Obviously, she just didn’t want to talk to me. I decided that in spite of this obvious slight, I should knock on the door. After all, she had invited me and I had told her that I was coming.
A moment later, I was greeted by an attractive woman, whose physique was much more befitting of yoga instructor than a mother of four. She seemed happy to see me. We exchanged pleasantries. Though she offered me full access to the cupboard, I ate some cheese and crackers that I retrieved from Walden. She was making some delicious pastries which she inexplicably found too ugly to serve at the opening of her, uh, yoga studio. (Turns out there was a reason that she looked like a yoga instructor.) She asked me what I was planning to do at Pawley’s. I didn’t really want to admit that beyond driving to her house, which turned out to be quite a nice place, I had no plans. Instead, I asked what she thought I should do. She described all manner of cool things to do and see, museums, natural wonders, and so on. At some point in following the a-guy-in-a-van-shows-up-to-a-stranger’s-house script, we discussed the fact that this seemed to be a situation that Emily Post had not prepared us for. Since it was my first such visit, I had no useful “Well, usually I . . .” examples. She wasn’t a friend of 25 years or more like the other people I’d visited thus far, we just met. M graciously agreed to help me figure out just what those rules were.
She had a previous engagement looming involving the new yoga studio. She gave me directions to the public beach and a time to meet back at the house for her family to take me out to dinner. I missed Emily Post chapter that said to take The Guy In The Van out to dinner, but who was I to object?
It didn’t take long to get to the beach and find a place to park. After a couple of false starts I managed to get Thor, a leash, my guitar, and a chair down to the beach. “ALL DOGS MUST BE ON LEASH” signs were prominently displayed. I walked on down the beach to be away from people thinking that if no one was nearby I might be able to let The Poodle explore a little while I sat and played guitar. Down the beach a ways I saw a guy with a couple largish dogs, probably labs, I headed that way and thought that I might go ask–dog owner to dog owner–just what norms for dogs and leashes were. As I got closer, Thor still on leash, the guy headed back to the house. So much for talking to strangers. I headed back the other way a bit, sat down and pulled out the guitar.
A few minutes later, the guy who hated Thor started walking up the beach my way. As he got closer it became clear that he wanted to talk to me. He explained that he’d seen my guitar from down the beach, that it looked like a Martin (it was) and that his wife said that he would NEVER take his Martin down to the beach. I explained that I might not either, but this one had been through a fire and that I didn’t have to be quite as careful as I might otherwise. I offered to let him play and he accepted.
He asked me to play a song and after trying to discern what kind of song he might enjoy, I played some John Prine song. He told me about his favorite John Prine song, which I hadn’t heard of. He said he had to get to dinner and headed back down the beach. I resumed playing guitar.
A few minutes later I saw him coming back down the beach carrying his guitar. Since I’d shared a song with him, he felt obliged to do the same and he played me a couple verses of A Good Time. Not a bad song; perhaps I should learn it. As he made his second attempt to head out to dinner, it was time for me to do the same.
As I approached the front door of the house a guy comes out and introduces himself as John. A couple days after I left Pawley’s I corresponded with his wife who informed me that his name was Jon. I’d called him John for all of the four days that I’d been there. No one every corrected me. That’s embarrassing.
Jon said that M would be back any minute and offered me a drink. He was having scotch, so I had the same. Somehow I associate scotch with late-night drinking, not an afternoon cocktail, but I’m reconsidering. We sat on a lovely second-story porch, overlooking Walden. The beach was nice, but things looked pretty good from where we sat.
I was also introduced to the kids, who were quite nice and polite. As quotes that I’ll reveal soon suggest, one of the kids was more happy to have a stranger in the house than the other.
When M returned, I got Thor situated in Walden and the five of us went out for dinner at a little Italian place. I ate too much pasta with a cream sauce and some tasty shrimp.
After dinner M showed me where I could shower and told the kids to stay out of it. Apparently guys who live in vans are to expect their own shower. She also offered me a bedroom. The week before a friend’s dog had come into the house and set her cats on a reign of terror in which they marked their territory all over the house. As a result, she didn’t want Thor in the house for fear of reliving that nightmare. This made complete sense to me. In my mind, one doesn’t really have to explain not wanting a 75 pound dog in the house. Besides, the bedroom was upstairs and the thought of Thor navigating those hardwood stairs was not at all pleasant. The air outside in Pawley’s Island was, however, so Thor and I settled in to Walden for the night.