August Morning in Rehoboth Beach

Wave after wave arrives, recedes, arrives — neverending music of liquid tapping the sand — a pattern copied by my memories of growing up in Rehoboth Beach with my brother, how the wave music was more in the background than under the spotlight on center stage (which happens on family beach vacations), while us kids walked or cycled the boardwalk, went to school, worked in the bookstore, ran around the streets. Called this home. How echoes of those times live in my head and heart. This summer, my daughters are living and working in Rehoboth. Other echoes. Different experiences from mine. My pride of seeing them in this transition of different growth than they’re used to. They are more waves arriving on this beach, bringing their own distinctive music, adding to the concert.

A video from that morning walk (to watch on YouTube, click here)…

Book Review: ‘Still Life in Blood’

Cover of book, and the background is a detail of an abstract painting, as red and black paint mesh together.

Still Life In Blood: A Delaware State Police Homicide Unit Mystery by Crystal Heidel 

Having grown up in Rehoboth Beach, I was really curious to read this mystery novel that happens there and in nearby Lewes. The story sucked me into it, delivering plot twists and suspense. That suspense and the short chapters caused me to keep wanting to turn the pages and find out what happened next.

A heads-up: This book is not a “tea cozy” mystery. There are gory parts.

As a few women are found murdered, we go along with Detective Jack Remington and his partner Jonny Stillwater as they seek clues to track down the killer. And they try to figure out how Francesca Munro is somehow connected to the murders. Francesca does her own detective work to find out information with that same goal.

She goes by the curious nickname Frenzy. She’s an artist with a gallery in Rehoboth. But she’s more than that. She experiences visions and dreams that tell of future events — an ability that runs in her family, from Frenzy’s mother to Frenzy to possibly her niece. And her past has secrets. These add interesting aspects to the story that enrich the “whodunnit” plot line.

This is an entertaining book that combines the puzzles of the killer’s identity and Frenzy’s past with suspenseful moments. If you’re open to reading a mystery with coastal small town flavor, I recommend it.

This novel is available on Amazon.

Books, Coffee, Crabs: Lives of a Building

Photo of old Victorian house, with a front porch. The house is light gray with white trim. Two boys are on the porch.

In summer, I often think back to the summers of my childhood. I grew up (ages 2-13) in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware — and I returned there every summer until I finished college. Back then, summers centered around my grandparents’ store: Gingerbread Square Books.

In the above photo, I’m the one sitting and my older brother Ramsey is standing. The photo is from the mid-1970s. It’s before the store’s sign was added to the pediment (if that’s the correct word) above us. I like that you can see, in the darkened interior behind me and above my head, a stack of books resting on a stair.

This building is on Rehoboth Avenue, next to the Post Office (at the corner of Rehoboth Avenue and 2nd Street).

Unfortunately, I don’t have a photo of the building with the bookstore’s sign. But here’s a painting from 1984 with more vivid color than the older photo. The brick walkway next to the building led to a small courtyard, then a mall with spaces for several stores.

Painting of the side of the building, with a brick walkway next to it. The walkway ends in a courtyard, where there is a shed on one side, and a large building is at the end.

Working at the bookstore shaped me a great deal. I already enjoyed reading the books we borrowed from the library, then the store broadened the array of books I saw.

When I sat at the cashier’s counter, I read when I didn’t have a work task to do, such as restocking shelves. Typically, the store was quiet in the middle part of the day — as tourists were enjoying the beach and ocean.

I inhaled whatever caught my eye: comic books (X-Men, Batman, Richie Rich, Spider-Man, Daredevil, etc.), The Three Investigators, colorful children’s books, Choose Your Own Adventures, photography books, Calvin and Hobbes, Garfield, novels by Stephen King, Ernest Hemingway, Tom Clancy, etc.

In all that reading, I fell in love with books. I saw them as delivering a kind of magic to transport me to other places and times, seen through the eyes of various characters.

I wanted to someday be able to create that kind of magic, to become a writer when I grew up. That stayed only a desire until my late teenage years, when I started writing stories.

Wasn’t until my 40s that I finished longer projects of novellas and a story collection — after a stretch of too many years when I didn’t write. Now I’m a hobby writer. I still hope to become a full-time writer, but that may have to wait until I retire.

My grandfather sold the property in the late 1990s. The building became Java Beach Coffee House and Cafe. I visited there with my wife and two daughters in 2005. Seeing the building with a different sign and colors and purpose was surreal…

The same Victorian house, now painted yellow-brown with a medium-brown trim. The sign reads Java Beach Coffee House and Cafe.

My family visited earlier this year, and we saw that the building became Claws Seafood House. Not only a new sign and colors, but a side room was added. Also, the brick walkway leading to the mall is blocked. The mall became The Pines restaurant, with an entrance on Baltimore Avenue.

The same Victorian house, now painted white with red trim. The sign reads Claws Seafood House and has a crab on it.

Now the only bookstore in town is Browseabout Books, an independent store. It used to be a competitor to our family business. Times and minds change. I enjoy visiting Browseabout, and I’m very glad it’s still around to serve as a source for books. What is a town without a bookstore? I hesitate to say one without a soul, but then I’m biased due to my love of books. If you ever visit Rehoboth, please check out the store — located at 133 Rehoboth Avenue…

A one-story building with a long green awning that reads Browseabout Books. The windows include displays of many books.

Hibernating Funland

Photo of Funland on Rehoboth Beach boardwalk

Behind closed locked garage-style doors, all’s quiet in Funland, been quiet since the end of last tourist season, the amusement park closed up tight to hibernate through autumn, winter, early spring.

The rides sleeping the deep sleep of gears and pistons. The horses on the carousel lightly snoring. The dragons on the ship loudly snoring. The Paratrooper and teacups and helicopters turning a little side to side. The bumper cars sliding on the slick floor, then returning to position. The haunted house rumbling.

All dream of summer’s return, flashing colorful lights, kids laughing and shrieking and wide toothy grins while riding the boats and swings and motorcycles, hurrying from one ride to another, parents trying to keep up, thrills of pretending to steer your very own plane for a time, hopped up on pizza and ice cream and cotton candy, some kids crying because they didn’t win the big stuffed monkey, who is also hibernating and dreaming of being hugged by a kid who mashes her face against it and cries out, “You’re perfect!” and carries it to the hotel room and sits next to it on the car ride (not nearly fast or colorful enough of a ride, c’mon you boring parents) to home and introduced to the other stuffed animals and joining the family.

The rides gather energy during the long hibernation, patient for the day they will wake and be launched into motion, the rides beaming with delight as the kids and grown-ups enjoy them. The rides joshing each other for which is the most fun for the humans, but they’re not nearly as competitive as the horses in the horse racing game, for they take that race over the plastic green track very seriously.

Funland is an amusement park on the boardwalk in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware — where I grew up.