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Beach House

Beach House

by Brandon Edmonds / 14.12.2010

Close friends bought a beach house recently. A fixer-upper in Rooi Els. It’s beautiful. You step out onto beach sand. Dassies dart in the rocks. Turn and its mountains, turn again and it’s the ocean. The sky all around you like a dream. All night the shoreline breaks and murmurs. You feel prized out there.

But the beach house has become the sign of everything I don’t have in life. The distillation of regret. A beacon of what’s left to be done. A challenge. Some day, I tell myself, I too will be married and own a beach house. It’s something to work toward. We’ll summer there, my phantom wife and I, we’ll summer there and have nights where clothes are encumbrances and wine turns our kisses golden. I can see us through the windows of our beach house at night. Firelight makes our summer skin look painted on. My phantom wife has a wonderful laugh. She makes a face when I tell her we probably shouldn’t open another bottle. I would do anything for her. There are days, too, when hope is gone and I doubt the dream. All I can see is what I don’t have. A beach house and all it means: freedom, joy, accomplishment, togetherness. Happiness. The good stuff. A good life.

Men have an unwarranted reputation for pragmatism. We are traditionally bearers of responsibility. We go out into the world and hunt things down: promotions, prey, pay packets. We are stand ins for reality in our children’s lives. Examples of how to be on the outside. In life. Pragmatic providers and doers. That image is changing every second of course. It has been ever since women began entering the workplace in greater numbers after the 2nd World War. Global statistics tend to reflect a planet of single mothers by now, making do in the developing world. Economic stress amplifies the burdens of family life. In South Africa the divorce rate is around 73%. “Broken families” are increasingly the formative reality of young people in this country.

A lot of men flee, apparently. My own father did. I’ve never met him. He’s an ongoing mystery to me. His absence has affected my work ethic. My self esteem. Can I blame him for not having a beach house? For not being all I can be? Is he behind my relative lack of success? President Obama was not far wrong in a speech he made on Father’s Day recently: “An active, committed father makes a lasting difference in the life of the child,” he said. “When fathers are not present their children and families cope with an absence government cannot fill.” He tends to blow my excuses out of the water, though, growing up without a father doesn’t seem to have held him back!

Even so my father’s absence definitely has something to do with a kind of laxity in me. A capitulation to larger forces. I tend to give up easily. Life’s too hard. It’s too demanding. I tend to take the easy route. Tend not to push myself. Countless opportunities have trickled through my fingers like sand. It suggests a lack of attack in my nature. Instead of going out and taking what I want – “making it happen” in the parlance of self-help manuals – I fold into myself and brood over what might have been. Again and again I choose the dream over reality. Regretful fantasy over actual achievement.
The CD of the year for me is Teen Dream by a band called Beach House. They’re a dream pop duo from Baltimore. Lead singer Victoria Legrand’s voice has been described as “coiling like smoke in the arches of a church”. It’s tremendously affecting. One of the strongest songs “Take Care” goes – “Feel this burning love of mine / Deep inside the ever-spinning, tell me does it feel it’s no good unless it’s real.”

Those lines are close to what I’d say to my father.

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RESPONSES (40)
  1. JM Koet$ee says:

    You need to write a fucking book. Get on it now.

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  2. Bob Blake says:

    Beautiful.

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  3. Previous Ex Girlfriend! says:

    Great Article. Brandon, I don’t think you should look for a job, you’re a great writer. I think you should have your own magazine or Website and make your writing available for everyone to consume.

    I also don’t think you should blame your absent dad for your shortfalls. I think kids from single parent homes are the best! We learn faster, we cope better with hard times and we usually turn to be very talented human beings who are able to multitask and take life’s blows. Maybe you’ve let opportunities slip through your fingers because you know your worth!

    🙂

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  4. Max says:

    agreed – Edmonds needs a book under his belt. or ten.

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  5. snapper says:

    crippling fear of failure, expressed through inertia regarding participation in anything meaningful?
    or maybe thats just me

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  6. Previous Ex Girlfriend! says:

    someone’s beefing, neh? Nothing Kak about Edmonds being a bloody good writer.

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  7. verveeld says:

    That beach house should be occupied by one of the many homeless families in South Africa, long before romantic whiteys start entertaining wide-eyed notions of using it as an escape from reality, of hoe?

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  8. Donal Davern says:

    Meaningful = pulling off autophellatio (literally or figuratively) for most in an age of form over substance. Artists always fear failure, particularly the really talented ones. Marion Keyes and Dan Brown have no such fear, but are merchants, not writers. Writers are supposed to search for meaning, to have doubts about purpose etc. There isn’t one of us, who, speaking honestly, doesn’t feel the same way. Good writing is aiming for a truth, so it stumbles as much as it struts. I say give credit where it’s due – Edmonds is always a pleasure to read.

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  9. Bob Blake says:

    This is a rather Freudian piece of writing.

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  10. Montle says:

    im am seriously starting to hate this fat fuck….the only reason why he’s so wise and intelligent is because he’s 65 years old..war vet….fuck you and your talented writing nigger.

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  11. Shirley says:

    Donal its fellatio with an “f”

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  12. vuyo seripe says:

    Mahala has cunts for readers. It’s a pity.

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  13. Andy says:

    love your work Vuyo!

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  14. brandon edmonds says:

    hey montle i still owe you forty bucks for letting me…you know. keep the toothbrush by the way.

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  15. Montle says:

    it was a gift. where did all the angry black females come from? what have you done???

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  16. dennis says:

    Nice one Brandon… Feel you.

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  17. mick says:

    NICE! Nary one negative comment (yeah that One schmo, but his icky blah was muted by deserved, eclectic, AND warm – and appropriately GENTLE!! – applause). Bra your Dad might or mightn’t be, but Hell! His genetic contribution to your RIDICULOUSLY eloquent ink is giddyishly bouncing upndown ‘n round as you breathe. You’ll get that lovely beach-front house yet, and some lovely lasses before the Missus graces said abode! Much bless.

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  18. brandon edmonds says:

    Oh Micky you’re so fine.

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  19. finisher says:

    You’re so fine you blow his ….

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  20. finisher says:

    Hey Micky!

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  21. Adriaan Bergh says:

    My Album of the year too. Sucks that it is being pumped to death by every hipster in the world…

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  22. Roger Young says:

    Hipsters are people too.

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  23. Captain Lombard says:

    Goddammit you’re good.

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  24. Ts'eliso says:

    Incredible piece of writinh, bless!

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  25. brandon edmonds says:

    Captain are you back from the island? We have a certain young lady captive out here in MzBerg…

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  26. Mark Twain says:

    A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval.

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  27. Your shrink says:

    It’s a great piece of writing, I’ll give you that. But jesus you will remain stuck on that soiled mattress of yours until you stop outsourcing blame for whatever you lack. Once you cross 40 an absent father, or any other perceived handicap, is just a bogus excuse for being lazy and cowardly. And I’ve got some more bad news: there isn’t a marriage out there where the “wine turns our kisses golden” – like all relationships, marriages take a bit of work, and courage, and persistence. There is no beach house out there, waiting just for you, beyond the one you construct for yourself using the ample resources you have right in front of you.

    Go read some Frank Bascombe -” the only task of a man in the second half of his life is to deal with regret and get on with what is.” Or something like that.

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  28. Your shrink says:

    The absent father has become the dirty racket you run on the world around you: the pay-off is that you have the perfect excuse from taking any form of volitional action; the cost: near total impotence. The irony? It’s all a self-devised entrapment, completely of your making, requiring most of your energy to maintain, despite the fact it destroys you and makes you miserable.

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  29. brandon edmonds says:

    Holy fucking shit. I feel like I’m being dragged along the road to Damascus over here…

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  30. mick says:

    @ Reflexive shrink [oh dear GODDDD, I just typed ‘@’!!! Lettuce try again:]

    (no that WASN’T a well-endowed smiley face you Faecetwits. Okay: ) Dear ‘Your Shrink’, aka ‘Me wanking uncreatively’: Edmonds’ flair tends to diffuse when he mentions his – not just Absent, but currently UNKNOWABLE – father; this says much. Fuck I cringed tentimemanifoldstyle when he swelled so lucidly regarding his estranged bro and said’s currently failing atmosphere. Not knowing the paternal source of your being is rough all round, but for a brilliantly sensitive soul such as our current subject, it is… INSANEly gnawing. And he never implies that his frantic ignorance regarding that broken ‘xx’ influx of his source is the reason for his flayling. He is also being kinda coy. The newly swelling boy-man is fiiinally entering his first (and there are Much more than two seasons to a life, ‘Shrinky’, except maybe yourwards), brimming season of Potentiae. Exclamation-mark.

    Also, that tune some of the above commentators have been circum-navigating has officially been cited ‘Best Composition in All The Vistas of Possible Human Endeavour’ by The Really Gifted Composition-Analyzers Galactically’. Only Juuust beating Cage, Stravinski and Carlo Mombelli to the Me-emblazoned throne. And stuff.

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  31. Captain Lombard says:

    @edmonds: Still on the island swatting mosquitos. You hang in there now my boy see.

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  32. a noise says:

    @Lombard & Edmonds – heard of facebook?

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  33. Lame-o says:

    I respect your honesty and openness and wish you luck.

    You’re in Cape Town though, right? Bear in mind that 80% of these beach house dwellers are financed by their parents (and I can’t see the wealth continuing to be generated in new ways by the next, post-apartheid generation). There isn’t really much money to be made in CT so don’t berate yourself too much for not having ‘made it’.

    Not that that is letting you off the hook wrt to making the most of your talents!

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  34. Riverdale says:

    Don’t write a book Brandon. It will be ignored by a public that doesn’t read, you’ll find yourself lined up in the nightmare high-school better-than-thou insincere sanctimonious ringfuck that is that SA literary community, doing time on R500 royalty checks watching the loudest fuckheads applaud themselves to the max while their uninspired drivel pours through the soft minds of the 5000 people in this country who read and buy local books and think that book launches are glam and sophisticated and not pathetic attention seeking exercises in applied butt-licking. You’ll end up taking a gun to your head, and will be buried beside your biggest dream in the plastic littered loam of derivative SA cultural nothingness. Better to stay on your couch, growing your ass and watching 80s TV reruns. Or go get a BCom, and send your heart out for harvest in the corporate wasteland. It’s never too late.

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  35. brandon edmonds says:

    Thanks for that @Riverdale. Bit of Christmas cheer!

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  36. Riverdale says:

    Merry Consumerwastelandfuckmas. That should have read don’t write a book to get a beach house or make money. Otherwise by all means, please do write a book.

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  37. @Lame-O says:

    “Bear in mind that 80% of these beach house dwellers are financed by their parents”

    Haha. Just like Andy Davis!

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  38. desdemona says:

    Once again one is deeply moved by the tremendous romanticism slumbering in the Edmonds breast. He has a touching faith in the never-never woman who ornaments his dreams. Yourshrink is more the cud-chewing realist who intones gruffly about relationships taking WORK etc. What the hell does that mean, anyway? Like the party bore, that phrase should be taken out behind the shed & beaten to death. Puritan motherfukas never tire of this bollocks masquerading as wisdom. It’s virtually guaranteed that anyone doggedly working at their relationship is a pussy-whipped fuck-up whose self-replication is little short of a social calamity.

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  39. bahumbuggah says:

    Bravo, desdemona, that’s telling em. Freud said, Love & work; these halfwits say, Love’s work too. So, the divorce rate’s 73%. Most of the lemmings who rush the altar presumably imagine that they’re destined for the gilded 27% who succeed. However, close observation swiftly reveals that this 27% might as well divorce, too, so uninspiring is their union, & so beside the point their pitiful recipes for marital triumph. There are many reasons for this. Not least among them, although it’s not polite to speak of it, is the extremely unpromising material offered by the Saffer female.

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  40. single mom says:

    Nice one! very provoking,real and short (not always enough time to wade through the long ones).

    Dave Mathews begged “mother, father please explain to me” .. certain factors got us here but essentially we are mammals. “female-material” is as intrusive as the male’s- ups and downs of “modern natural confusion”- which should not be a war!

    Staying positive and motivated is key, and balance the hole. it’s not always easy .. to unlock the right door and maybe some lemmings before us unlocked some wrong ones. u all at mahala have made my day sometimes.. the lot of you are kak funny (even the .. commentators) thanks!

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