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Finding peace and solace at Walmart ... and not the beach

Many long for the beach. Some people work hard every day just for those one or two weeks a year they get to spend on a beach. Others use their desktop background as motivation - a picture-perfect ocean view that they hope will someday be their retirement destination.

This weekend I drove to Outer Banks, N.C. for two shows. It was 78 degrees when I arrived Friday evening. This is a beach town. Tourists venture here from Saturday to Saturday from May through September, usually renting out large beach homes for family and friends. I just visited OBX with my fiancee and her family last summer.

In February, however, Outer Banks isn’t such a happening place. The souvenir shops, ice cream stands, and tiki bars are either mostly empty or closed entirely. The comedy club in Outer Banks usually isn’t open during winter either, but a private party gave reason to turn on the lights and fire up a comedy show of mid-season proportions.

Each of the three comics on the show were former teachers. Most of the crowd consisted of current or former teachers, and I was a little apprehensive because everyone knows that teachers make the worst students. Try speaking to a group of teachers during a faculty meeting at any school in America. There will be half a dozen side conversations about upcoming plans and student transgressions going on around the room. But this group of teachers turned out to be great, and made for a boisterous but attentive audience.

When comics work this club in Outer Banks, they stay at Ed’s house, the owner of the club. Ed’s house is in a gated community about three miles from the beach. Like most of the vacation homes, it comes with multiple bedrooms, as well as a bucket of tiny soaps, shampoos, and conditioners that Ed has collected from different hotel rooms over the years.

I woke up early on Saturday morning at casa de Ed, and had the whole day ahead of me. It was still beautiful and in the mid 70s. I started off by going to a coffee shop with my laptop and sat for about an hour. It was still early-ish, and the beach along with the Atlantic Ocean sat beckoning right around the corner.

Call me awful names if you must and think less of me as a person, but I’m not a huge fan of the beach. The hot sun beats down on you with hardly anywhere to hide. There is sand everywhere. Sand can get very hot, and little sand particles get in your shoes and other very difficult to reach places for days after.

But there is enormous pressure to spend time at the beach when you’re fortunate enough to be in a beach town. I just didn't t want to deal with it on this day. The beach is fun when you’re with loved ones and prepared with towels and sunscreen, but I had already dug into Ed’s bucket of hotel soaps, and I wanted to stay dressed for the day. Most importantly, I had another show to do. I couldn't be hanging out at the beach all day and walk in looking like a sleepy lobster.

I decided to stop by the beach, just to take a look. I parked the car and risked getting sand in my Chuck Taylor sneakers for a picture. I stood at the top of a flight of wooden stairs that led to the sand and I took pictures because that’s what the people back home in Buffalo want in February - pictures of the ocean and beach. When that was over, I still had plenty of options and a day to kill. In Outer Banks, I found my own beach: Walmart.

I needed new tires. My errands didn't stop just because I was in OBX for an afternoon. I’m a busy dude, and I have stuff to do. Among many other things, one thing my father taught me was that Walmart has great deals on tires. So on a 75 degree day in Outer Banks, I finally found my beach as I sat in another coffee shop working on my laptop while a nice employee worked on my car. I drove to the show through the sandy ocean roads on my new, inexpensive tires.

I don’t dream of a life that ends with retirement to a beach, but retirement isn’t my concern right now. My goal is to work. I have a lot to look forward to. More than 8,000 people will watch me perform in March.

The beach can wait.

Brian is writing weekly about his stand-up life, culminating in his March 25 appearance at Shea's. Visit each week to follow along.

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