After all these years and hundreds of thousands of words written about Oregon’s “great birthright,” as Governor Oswald West memorably described the state’s publicly owned ocean beaches, a detractor of my writing about beaches has emerged. Actually, the term “detractor” understates it; someone out there really hates what I write and spends a considerable amount of time telling me exactly that.
His attack began about a year ago with intermittent emails, letters to the editor, a letter to me, and then a barrage of emails virtually every weekend. Initially, the communications contained mostly wry and often bizarre comments that I assume were meant as rebuttals of points I was trying to make in my columns. Later, he just got more weird, angry and faux-literary with his derision.
From what I could gather, he hates beach dogs roaming off leash and thinks it makes perfect sense for two people to sit silently on driftlog and text all day with the ocean roaring 50 feet away. He hails from an exclusive beach community known for its covenants of conformity and apparently loathes living on the Oregon Coast since he’s constantly complaining about the very qualities that make living here so wonderful. Here’s a sample of his invective:
To Matt, Sanctimonious Pontificator — I’d rather a tourist taking selfies in the dunes than the scores of bagged and un-bagged loads of dog**** I’ve come upon in them, and rather cell phones on the sand than morons spraying me with mud while giddily doing figure eights in their trucks. How often have I read, in your tedious encomia to the Oregon Beach Bill, that the beaches are “for the people”? Well, to paraphrase the foes of Citizens United, dogs and trucks are not people!
He’s old. Perhaps not necessarily in age, but in spirit. There is a difference. I’m 52 and feeling younger every day. He describes my detesting of umbrellas as some sort of “macho” pose. Au contraire sir, letting rain lave you can help anyone embrace the long-suppressed femininity of Mother Earth. Try walking in rain without an umbrella for extended periods of time and you just might understand that. I did a few years back and it was the best thing that could have ever happened to my teaching and writing, not to mention my soul.
In particular, the detractor took umbrage to my claims that Oregon has a unique legacy of publicly owned beaches unlike any other state in the nation. He railed against my “Oregon “exceptionalism” and repeatedly cited the example of Florida as having many more miles of public beach than Oregon and that people enjoyed themselves more there because they could frolic in bikinis and swim at leisure in the warm water.
My first thought to his latter point was straight out of a Johnny Paycheck country anthem: take your sun and shove it! I ain’t vacationing there no more.
To his former point, it is true that Florida has many more miles of beach than Oregon. But not all of Florida’s beaches are publicly owned and even many of the ones you may use can cost a significant amount of money to enjoy (parking fees, etc.) I might add, too, that no one has to check into a motel, hotel or campground to access a particular Oregon Coast beach. I’ve also heard stories from friends that sometimes you have to drive for miles and miles to find a dedicated access to the beach in Florida. On the Oregon Coast, they are literally everywhere you look.
I responded to my detractor a couple of times early on and once suggested he should consider walking more on the beach (for free) and think about where he was, what he was doing in Oregon, and reflect on the possibility he was becoming an embittered old man.
After this rebuke, he totally lost it.
His most recent communication (now approaching 40 emails total) was utterly ridiculous and hostile in a way I hadn’t seen before, and I never responded. I don’t get into the gutter with the gutter-junkies.
And then, while walking with Sonny the husky on the beach, I decided I would respond…but with more than a mere retort, that tiptoes along the edges of the gutter. (Notice I’m still standing with this metaphor.)
Dear Vainglorious Vile Viscount of Vitriol:
Sir, enough is enough! Either move back to your bright beloved Florida or accept my challenge of a duel: building driftwood forts on the beach at 40 paces in a ripping rainstorm. Sonny the husky will serve as my second. You can bring along your flat screen TV.
Why do I get to set the conditions of duel? Because I extol the virtues of the Oregon Coast and the sacrosanct great notion of free public beaches and you merely complain. Because I have better things to do and you don’t. Because you consult a thesaurus and I don’t. Because I have a great dog and you don’t.
The winner of the duel — me — dashes naked into the ocean. As for the loser — you — well, you get to stand there in chinos and think about palm trees, dog-less beaches and the terrible abuses of socialism.
How do I know you will lose? You can’t build a fort while holding an umbrella, fiddling on a phone or drinking your own bile from a Styrofoam cup.
Matt Love is the author/editor of 14 books about Oregon, including “The Great Birthright: An Oregon Novel. They are available at coastal bookstores and through www.nestuccaspitpress.com.