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It was a dark and stormy night when my husband and I arrived in Cape May for a September vacation, so we didn’t do much gazing off into the distance as we unloaded what we needed to get to bed. The next night, Friday, the 13th as it happened, I was out on the front porch with a friend around 11 p.m. when we noticed  2 orange lights in the sky moving in tandem though not close enough to be on the same object. They headed west along the beach and then turned south over the ocean around Queen Street and soon enough disappeared. Mildly entertaining but hardly anything to talk about–until one of us noticed another orange glow coming low from the east and taking the same track as the other orange balls. And then another and another. Completely silent and steady. We called our other witnesses outside and speculated all sorts of things: something the Coast Guard base was doing, drone testing, UFO’s or a really meticulous wedding planner showing her stuff. The last was all mine.

We looked forward to the next evening with four more friends arriving to either make fools of us or be foolish with us. A little before 10 p.m. on Saturday, sure enough, the orange balls kept popping up to the east, silently coming towards our house before taking a left over the ocean to disappear–seemingly before they were so far away that we couldn’t possibly have seen them. I think we saw 8 that night over the course of 10 minutes. My usually shy and retiring husband went down the porch steps to accost some people walking along on the sidewalk with their backs to the show and they started pointing and blabbing along with us, wondering what the heck it was we were seeing. One of them had a good camera with a telephoto lens and took a shot, which my husband saw, that seemed to show that each orange ball was actually 2 separate lights. We talked about getting in the car to try to find the source of it–perhaps to Poverty Beach where we could glimpse the Coast Guard Station’s beach, but we were too lazy to do that.

This is not that photo.



I wasn’t interested enough to do the research that one of our friends did. Somebody in 2010 noted a similar scene in Cape May and speculated it had something to do with the Electronics Support Group at the Coast Guard Training Center. I prefer the wedding planner scenario, imagining the rehearsal dinner guests and wedding guests on or near the beach oohing and aahing at the pretty lights in the nighttime sky.  We kept looking most other nights we were there, but didn’t see anything other than a beautiful full moon. When my husband and I walked to The Pier House for dinner one night, I couldn’t resist taking a photo of the light at Pittsburgh and Beach to send the friends who’d already headed home–not with the aliens–as far as I know.

Given that one of my most vivid dreams from childhood was of a traffic light near what is now the Heritage Motel in Cape May giving me lessons in how to walk on my heels, you would be within your rights to dispute the truthfulness of my earlier account. But I’d rather you just tell me what it was.

There is something about being at the beach that makes people revert to the ways of their childhood. Case in point:

No, I just took the photo.

A couple of grown men–or adults–or middle-aged men- I don’t know spent many hours working on this one day last week. Contraptions and tools I didn’t know existed had their day in the sun. I did not want to be married to either of these guys. I’m more of a drip castle girl myself, so all this professionalism of child’s play bewilders me a bit, but to each his or her art, I suppose.

And anyway, who am I to judge when I spent hours pulling crabgrass and digging in the sandy “garden” at my mother’s house before planting some plants that will last only a bit longer than that sandcastle did. And later that night, I spent an hour or so doing what people in my family do at the kitchen table at the beach–play double solitaire:

My only vacation vice....

We used to be a gin rummy family, with intergenerational tournaments that were actually exciting–even when you got bounced out in the early rounds. Then we split into Spit or Hearts camps though when my great Aunt Margaret would visit, we kept it simple–War. But once we were introduced to this double solitaire version, there weren’t enough decks of cards in the house to keep us all happy. It’s addictive. And especially annoying when someone who isn’t playing lets you know you missed a move. I would not think of playing the game anywhere but at Cape May. It belongs there.

I would like to make social card-playing a feature of regular life again though. I don’t know that cards can withstand the move from vacation at the beach to Richmond, but it would seem a better fit for life here than sandcastle-building.

To reward myself for driving out to the West End on a mission of James River Park System mercy (delivering park maps to Blue Ridge Mt. Sports), I veered into the Gayton Crossing Shopping Center off Gaskins Rd. to treat myself to a little gelato at Deluca Gelato.  Given how rarely I make it out this way, and faced with too many delectable flavors in English and Italian, I was most happy to hear that I could squish two flavors in one fairly tiny cup for a reasonable price. Sold!  Frutti di Bosco (mixed berries) and Chocolate moved me to compose poetry on the spot–Um Yum.  Sadly the photo taken at home several minutes later doesn’t do the combo justice.

I think it's illegal to take a photo of oneself eating gelato while driving a stick shift so this doesn't look as good as it tasted.

And when I was in Cape May recently, I walked to Italian Gelato near the Washington St. Mall and was pleasantly surprised again by the friendly folks scooping and smooshing generous amounts of the same two flavors into my $3 serving size. Try that at Ben & Jerry’s–not happening.

I’m back!