Monday, January 11, 2010

Ballston Beach Brings Back Memories …

Yesterday I mentioned Ballston Beach, where our friend, Nate Cook, found an ancient bottle in the sand. Although the recent erosion was reported extensively in the local papers, Sven and I decided to drive down to Truro and see for ourselves. Being at Ballston shot me back in time to the days when Gil Markle owned the magnificent house that is about to tumble into the sea.

I can still see Gil, sitting on the edge of his porch, dressed in a worn bathing suit. Strange how places, like music, can conjure up the past! He probably wore sunglasses below the curly hair, to his shoulders, no doubt, and probably was smoking a joint. It was the end of summer, towards sunset, and a rosy glow warmed the sand. I had come with my friend, Beth, who knew the popular (former) philosophy professor from Clark University. Beth was newly married to one of Gil’s students, a wedding that took place at Long View Farm.)

It was hot that day. Beth was brazen and beautiful, with her long dark hair flying in the breeze off the ocean, and a frankness that disarmed both men and women. We ascended the path, like two Alices in Wonderland, blond and brunette, both tanned, both eager for adventure. I remember Gil’s pleasure at our surprise visit and how he served rosé wine from France, where I lived at the time, in stemmed glasses. And, he spoke perfect French. We enjoyed ourselves, but it was clear Gil had more important matters on his mind.

First, a description of the beach house. I had never experienced an interior where the wrecking ball had basically gutted everything. No one did that type of thing in the 1970s, so the lack of interior walls already made the house unusual. I remember an outdoor swing inside, and the six windows with view of the ocean, the chimney in the middle, and stairs to a sleeping loft. There were built-in benches around the walls and a bar as kitchen. Everything was painted the same color, although I do not recall its being white, choice of the current owner. Sven and I peeked in a side window. I also snapped a photo from the porch. The view of the ocean, of course, still knocks your socks off.

Gil managed a very successful recording studio, as well as a travel business. When the travel business "crashed and burned," he lost everything, including this jewel of a house where sky and sand and ocean merged. I don’t know whether Gil invited his rock star friends to Truro. Rather, I think he saved his house on Ballston Beach for intimates. Beth was almost one, but not quite. I picked up on her sense of awe and excitement at being in Gil’s presence and that shivery feeling returned every time I met him afterward. I felt a bit of that same way yesterday.

I already posted a photo of the beach access path, closed to foot traffic. Now pedestrians must use another entrance, further north. Truro Selectmen warn people to use caution at the old access, beside Gil's former beach house.

(Through Beth, I also met Bruce Springsteen. Beth now lives in California where she raises a family and volunteers for Planned Parenthood. Her husband produces popular television shows. Gil recreated himself in 1992 as the head of Passports, a company that organizes educational tours for students. As for me, I’m back on the Outer Cape and work as an innkeeper ….)