Sunrise at the beach: A chance encounter

How two strangers brought a new light to the day. Photo: Sunrise brings a surprising encounter

CHICAGO, June 3, 2013 — The best thing to do when you can’t sleep at 4:45 and sunrise is at 5:17 is to head to the beach. The sand is wet from last night’s rain. Head to the pier and plop your butt at the very end.

The horizon is overcast today, but the sun finally peaks through. Glorious. For about 30 seconds. Then I heard them. Two men coming up behind me. They’re debating about whether you should take chances with your career. “I need the more 9-5.” “No, Man. You gotta take chances.”

They’re loud and drunk and swearing, and I want to turn around and say to them, “Why, of all the miles of beach in this city, do you two have to be on my pier?” But I don’t have the guts. I sit quietly and try to ignore them as they walk up.

“There’s someone here!” Yup, and you just ruined her tranquil morning. Go away.

Sunrise thanks to O’Hara brothers

“Oh, man! I’m so sorry! You’re out here trying to enjoy this, and we come and ruin it.”

“It’s all right.” No, it’s not, but I’m nice. And there are two of you between me and the shore, and you’re drunk. And one of you is oddly well-dressed.

“We were at our niece’s wedding, and we’re still going. This is just gorgeous!” Well-dressed pulls out a nice camera and starts taking pictures of the sun playing with the clouds. “You should have a camera! Give me your email address, and I’ll send you some of these.”

I don’t think so. “I’m good,” I say. “I can do this any time I want.” He snaps a couple pictures of me. “Why are you here?” he asks. “Couldn’t sleep.”

The other one is still processing the fact that I’m there. “I don’t think so,” he says with a big smile and a twinkle in his eye. “I think someone sent you here.” He has long, wind-blown hair, jeans, a navy hoodie and a chipped tooth. Well-dressed has neat, graying hair. He’s wearing suit pants, maybe from a tux, a white dress shirt and dress shoes. The two of them are quite a combination.

It turns out they’re brothers. Brian and Dan O’Hara. And when we parted ways an hour later, this is just a sampling of what I knew:

They grew up on the southwest side of Chicago. Brian is trying his hand at acting. He’s single but looking and enjoys tequila. Sometimes from a water bottle on the beach at 5:30 a.m.

“Are your kids Latin or Parker kids?” Dan asks. “No. Public schools.”

“I’d never send my kids to school.” Brian says you can’t trust schools or teachers. “I wouldn’t send my kids there to get bullied. I’m a smart guy. I like learning things. They’ll see their dad reading and learning and they’ll want to do it to.”

“That will work until they’re about 10,” I tell him. “Then they’ll see dad doing it and want to do the exact opposite.”

Dan rejoins us after some more pictures. “What are you talking about?” “Brian was bullied in school.”

“Were you, Brian?”

He’s slightly stunned. “Well, yeah. I was.”

Dan suddenly decides he’s hungry. “Hey, it’s breakfast time! I love breakfast. Are you a breakfast person, Julie?”

“No, too much work.”

“You should come have breakfast with us. You should meet my wife.” Oh, I’m sure she’d be happy to have me appear in her kitchen the day after you were out partying all night.

“Tell her the communion story,” Brian says. “I’ll tell her. No, you tell her. You tell better stories. Tell her the story about our other brother!” So there are at least three of them? Wow. “Our other brother has issues.” Oh, this is gonna be good. “Dan, tell her about the communion.”

“Our other brother is kind of a germ-o-phobe. So, our uncle dies, and we’re at his funeral. We go up for communion, and my brother takes it in his hand and walks away from the priest. He didn’t put it in his mouth right away. I was next in line. So the priest takes off down the aisle after my brother! Says, ‘You’re defiling the body of Christ!’

“He takes the wafer out of my brother’s hand, puts it back in the bowl, comes back to the front and gives me the wafer my brother was just putting in his mouth! After the funeral everyone is shaking his hand. My brother says ‘That wasn’t necessary,’ and the priest looks at him and says ‘Shut the bleep up!’ Can you believe it, Julie!”

“No, he didn’t!” Brian yells, practically jumping with delight. “He said ‘Shut up and go to Hell! The priest said ‘Shut up and go to Hell!’”

By now, we’re starting to wander back off the pier. Brian’s telling another story, but I’m not listening. I’m thinking about how annoyed I was when they first walked up behind me, and how delightful my morning became because I was too wimpy to tell them off. Brian puts his arm around my shoulder. All right, you guys are adorable, but not that adorable. I remove his arm.

They’re still chatting away as we cross the bridge over Lake Shore Drive. On the way down, we meet my next-door-neighbor. “Hi, Jen!” Oh, this is gonna be fun to explain. It’s barely 6:00 a.m., and I’m wandering the park with one guy wearing what’s left of a suit and another one with his hood up and a water bottle that obviously does not have water in it. I give Jen’s dog a quick ear scratching, and the three of us walk off together smiling.

We cut through the park to Clark Street. The O’Hara brothers take a right, and I wait for my light. Dan says, “Let’s go find some breakfast. Bye, Julie!”

And as suddenly as they appeared behind me, they’re gone.

If, as Brian said, someone sent me there today, it was only so I could spend a delightful hour with a couple of happy guys on a beach.

What a great morning.

 Julia Goralka is in the process of returning to writing after a break to edit her husband’s first novel. She is discovering that it takes a while to return from the realm of pre-teen sci-fi adventures.

Read more from Julia Goralka at End of the Day with Julia

Contact Julia via Facebook or through the Ask Me A Question link above.

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Julia Goralka

In addition to her work at The Communities, Julia Goralka is a free-lance novel editor and has served as a volunteer board member or committee member for several local charitable organizations. Prior to writing and editing, Julia was the Division Coordinator for the interest rate derivatives marketing desk at a large financial institution based in Chicago.

Contact Julia Goralka


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