Kenya was cooler than I had expected, and the little town six hours north of Nairobi had a name that I’ve now forgotten. Dust clouds breezed through the grassless church yard after the preacher finished his PowerPoint sermon. I walked around with my camera in my hand and unintentionally collected children. The boys made ridiculous poses with knuckles and elbows, squinted up eyes and their best gritty face. They were tough guys, young but treacherous, and telling the world, “I’ll mess you up.”
As soon as I snapped a few pictures, they dropped their impersonations and clustered behind me to see their pictures. They were pleased with how the camera captured raw ferocity and then they readied themselves for another shoot. What the little boys couldn’t see was how absolutely adorable they were. They couldn’t see their secret smile and rounded cheeks. It will probably take years for these tough guys to figure out just how giddy they looked.
Kure Beach Fishing Pier breached the earth-sea barrier with weatherworn planks. Jutting out of the turquoise waters rickety pier pilings, resemble the long legs of an insect too tall and bulky for its broom-straw legs, swayed with the energy of the Atlantic. As I walked out on the pier, I could easily imagine the pilings splintering, breaking the pier in half and folding into the water like a ship with a ruptured hull. A storm will one day do just that to Kure Beach Fishing Pier, as storms have done to fishing piers up and down the coast of North Carolina.
But that storm was not coming today. The weather was nice. A spring day, a few clouds to the west, sun slipping lower, just a hint of a breeze -- it wasn’t time to be wearing shorts yet, but maybe next week. Pier fishermen busied themselves hooking pieces of frozen shrimp and squid, casting, and waiting. A few were pulling in mullets and pin fish. Others smoked cigarettes and chatted up their fishing neighbors. Con...