by Meredith Norton
I know I'm almost 40 and should be getting excited about big things like career milestones and hedge funds and mortgages; but I don't. I get excited about sand castle contests. Last weekend, after harassing them for weeks, I dragged my friend Rebecca and her family, along with my family to the 42nd Annual Alameda Sand Castle Contest. We packed our beach bags with sunhats and plastic pails and shovels. My five-year-old son sported his fake Ray Ban Aviators (that I'm terrified at only $3 aren't really UVA/UVB protected and are going to blind him) and together we registered for two spots in the sand sculpture division.
The kids and Rebecca's husband built an Albi the Racist Dragon and right next to them the rest of us built a Medusa head. We rocked those ten-by-ten foot plots. People were stopping to watch the magic and tell us how awesome our sculptures were; journalists took our pictures. I swear to God if one of them had interrupted my process to ask a few questions about my name being on the short list for the Nobel Prize (it isn't) I would have screamed at him: "Silence! We have only 3 hours here. You think art of this caliber just happens!?" Luckily nobody brought that up and I didn't have to be rude in front of the children.
Waiting for the judges decision we lounged around basking in our newfound celebrity. No doubt about it, both sculptures were crowd favorites. So many people stopped to talk to us that after a few minutes I couldn't even be bothered to listen to them. I'd barely redirect my tongue from chasing a diced peach around a plastic fruit cup to answer a fan's question.
"That is so incredible. Are you professional artists?" they'd ask.
"Argh! Which Einstein forgot the blasted spoons? I'm dying here!" I'd respond.
My ego, hugely inflated from the thrill of sand sculpting, was already making my head too big for the little people. And rightly so. At 1 o'clock the judges arrived with a bull horn to announce that Albi the Racist Dragon and Medusa had won 1st and 2nd place, respectively. Out of over 300 competitors, we 8 unprepared novices with our little plastic trowels from Target's Dollar Spot had won 1st and 2nd place. This was turning out to be the fourth best day of my life (pushing both my marriage and the birth of my son out of the top five).
I jumped up and down for several minutes shrieking, "Yay for me! Yay for me!" Then we packed up our stuff and headed back to the car, all the while gabbing about how fantastic our blue ribbons looked and wondering which journalists' photographs of us would make it to the front page of the newspaper.
The next morning I rushed to get the paper only to find the brief joke of an article buried deep in the middle of it. Neither my name, nor my kid's, nor either of our fantastical sculptures was mentioned. And to make matter worse it turned out that we'd only won 1st and 2nd prize for our category: family. The sand castle trophy went to Best In Show.
I moped for the rest of the day. Actually, that was Sunday and I've been moping ever since then, well, until four hours ago on Wednesday. Four hours ago on Wednesday my friend Andrea sent me an email saying that a picture of me and my Medusa sculpture are beautifying the front page of the local Alameda newspaper. I haven't seen it yet, but that's not really the point. The point is that I couldn't be more delighted if I knew what a hedge fund is and it had done whatever it is you want them to do or even if I'd won the Pulitzer.