Schubert on the Beach

Written By: John Birdsall

Schubert on the Beach

I first met Schubert on the beach. He was a handsome fellow and had a lovely stride. He reminded me a bit of E.A. Robinson’s Richard Cory. Indeed, the people on the beach did stare at him, and considering his age, he appeared imperially slim.
I was told that Schubert grew up near Riverhead, but I first met him near East Hampton. It wan’t clear that we would be close initially, but as time passed, our friendship became inevitable.
Schubert loved the beach. He was very impressed by the imprints his feet left in the sand. Occasionally, he would glance back, admiring his work, then scamper towards the waves, as if he were an excited small child. A seagull meandering close to where the waves swept on the beach would always draw his attention. I found it a little bizarre that an adult seemed to want to chase every seagull he saw, but I let this behavior pass without commenting on it, as he seemed to be thoroughly enjoying himself.

Schubert was an excellent shopper. We often visited the mall in Bridgehampton, where he really enjoyed wandering the ailes at Kmart, and he was happy to peruse the music CDs with me at the old record shop, long ago turned into Olympia Sports, but his favorite store was Wild Bird Crossing. I would pick up a bag of birdseed and he would insist on smelling it.
“Who smells birdseed?” I would laugh as I held the bag under his nose, but he seemed to care not a jot, and continued sniffing, as if this was an operation of particular importance.
Barbecues on the beach really got him going. We would be meandering down Main Street in Bridgehampton, perhaps after breakfast at Candy Kitchen, and I would say, “Schubert, we are thinking about having a barbecue at Sag Main tonight, would you like to join us?”
Well you would think I had just asked him if he would like to be canonized and sent directly to heaven! His mouth would twist into these bizarre contortions, he would begin jumping up and down, and emit small yelps of pleasure. This behavior would attract bemused stares from the Golden Pear coffee crowd or the more upscale outdoor brunchers at Pierre’s, but Schubert never seemed to care, and I paid them little attention.
Occasionally, we would sit together on the bench in front of the public library. Schubert was not a big reader, I don’t think he ever came into the library with me, but he always waited patiently outside, and I suspect he understood why our family loved the Bridgehampton Library.

Of course Schubert was an avid music lover, but his real passion was exercise, in fact, he was an exercise nut. He would often meet his friends in the evening at the beach to go for a run. I enjoyed this activity myself, but always struggled to keep up with Schubert, who was by far the superior runner. We rarely talked while we ran, occasionally I might shout some encouragement at Schubert to slow the pace, but generally we just enjoyed the magnificent colors that the sunset painted over the Atlantic Ocean.
Sometimes while jogging, I would mention certain scientific facts about our surroundings,
“You know,Schubert, the Atlantic Ocean is 6000 kilometers wide and as deep as Mount Everest in many places,” but he usually just raced off in front of me and I ended up talking to myself.
Then the day came, like a hammer blow to my finger, when Schubert made it clear that he no longer wanted to run on the beach anymore.
Schubert was old, his health was failing, and even walking became a chore. We would still go to the beach together, and he would sit on the sand, staring peacefully out at the mighty Atlantic, lost in his thoughts, he never complained about his health, but I knew he was consumed with his deteriorating condition.
And suddenly he was very sick, and then he passed away.
I do miss him dearly, and I can’t go to the beach without thinking about him. Sometimes at the seashore, something will happen to remind me of how much I loved Schubert. Just last Sunday afternoon, my wife and I walked into LT Burger, hungry for their veggie salad and a medium-rare burger, and “Only the Good Die Young” was on the jukebox.
My wife asked, “Isn’t this Billy Joel?”
For some reason, the song made me think about Schubert on the beach, but I did not tell her, and simply replied,
“Yes, it’s Billy Joel.”

Sent from my iPhone