Bliss Station

Recently, I was intrigued by a writing prompt from Rachel Lyon, “Where is your bliss station?” This lead me to ponder youthful phenomena such as “spring break” or “fresh start” as a belligerent and delirious adult. So what follows is a wryly ludicrous palace of the mind, an exercise I recommend if you feel astray or tired. My resulting fever dream may, or may not, reference the following: Waterworld, jacuzzis, R. Kelly. It also comes with a playlist if you just need that.

Spin the “Bliss Station” playlist on Spotify

There is sand at this “bliss station.” Places with sand can be blissful places — some of them — but this place is sand and water over prettily-painted toes. Where the shore meets the sea, mangrove roots weave themselves into structures to catch the tides, lapping along to a natural rhythm. When the tiki torches are magically lit at dusk, endless seafood buffets appear alongside bonfires under a new moon. Once all are fed, the banquets disappear all at once, no cleanup required, under the temperate canopy of starlight. Only experienced guitarists serenade those gathered.

Bliss Station is a place where the only conceivable challenge is how to keep floating. And yet, somehow stressing over how to stay afloat is pointless, because it’s so damn easy. Invisible water wings don’t chafe against skin. There is no need for protective lotions. Bliss Station is not an open-sky, sunburnt struggle like in Waterworld. However, Bliss Station and Waterworld have two things in common: not for everyone.

Legends and tales about bliss are easy. Giddy endings are satisfying, and “happily ever after” tropes are simple. Try conjuring a Bliss Station after a hard week, or after a loss. Imagine the space beach in the film based on Carl Sagan’s book Contact, where the sky is shimmering with constructed constellations. A blue-eyed father in his prime simply walks down the beach speaking slow platitudes in soft tones. The idea of infinity is within reach. Just over there is the ocean: deep and powerful and teeming, a wrinkled mirror in which to ponder depth and impermanence with or without margaritas. Trying to manifest a “bliss station” that works for everyone becomes somewhat limiting, as the specifics of bliss seem to vary. For some, bliss means backyard barbecues, beer, fresh coconut. Not everyone likes coconut.

Stephen Shore Ginger Shore, Causeway Inn, from Uncommon Places 1977

Bliss Station provides all the other-worldly wonders befitting an escape, and yet caters to the comforts that a temporary haven should provide, like terrycloth slippers and tiny cigars. Bean bags serve as beds when rest is required at Bliss Station. HUGE bean bags, covered in cruelty-free angora fur that billows softly in open air breezes. In the morning, pre-coffee Bliss Station rabbits wearing sweaters are released to lower blood pressure.

Back to the sand. Sand is only useful when the muscles needed to traverse it are worth a damn. If exhausted with grief, let’s say — or anemic or vegan or lazy or worn out from being chased too far along the surf at night — sand can prove to be a challenge. Bliss Station remains stationary while surrounded by water because it is made from the magic sand of fantasy, like an island level world in a video game. There is no laboring through sand, lugging beach chairs and coolers. There is no geological explanation. The palm trees are rooted in the concept of comfort; nothing that actually bears physical mass. The bar at Bliss Station is made of driftwood and does float about a ways, which adds to the pleasure. Pain killers flow freely.

Bliss Station has a juke box that changes like a mood ring. Most often it plays the kind of reggae that you barely notice, soft and tinny like the quiet part in a Bond film before the shit goes down on an island. The sand is never shaped or shoved too much by “weather.” If a nice day is the absence of weather, Bliss Station does not have weather. If rain is needed — let’s say someone’s mood ring turns black — a small cloud gathers in isolation. Bliss Station does participate in cancel culture. Bad vibes just do not appear on the island, whether the vibes were made in a problematic man’s presence or not. Jacuzzis are just as filthy as they always were, and Bliss Station likes it that way.

There are no rules, no schedules, no barking Carnival cruise coordinators. Sure, there are activities. And boy, are there amenities. At Bliss Station, there is no such thing as paddling too far from shore. Everyone looks great playing beach volleyball. Amenities include deep tissue massages performed in earnest by Jodie Foster and Snapchat filter facials. Sand never gets anywhere it shouldn’t be, and lest it should, there are outdoor showers every ten yards.

Enough fantasy. “Station” implies a wayfarer construct, like when plans are barely made before they must change again in haste. The expectation is to move on. Bliss Station is for staying, for remaining, for simply being. Shall it remain exclusive, like The Beach or the entrance to Hogwarts? After all, not everyone can chill on a crowded public beach. If advancing from point A (a less than blissful place), to point B (Bliss Station), point C should simply be void, ideally. If bliss is a stop along a journey, who wants to move on? Point C is void only if Bliss Station is a permitted stop for desired wanderers. If forced to leave, then “station” is affirmed, and “bliss” is called into question.

Gotdang Rufus Thomas in Mystery Train.

A station is ultimately temporary, for refuel or rest. Gas station, train station, baby changing station— but it also connotes status. It suggests that there is a beautifully-designed glass and steel structure to cast daylight upon arrivals and departures, perhaps with wooden benches like pews for civilized waiting. Station is earned with badges for battles, or the scratch required for a ticket, or shoes. In modern cities, a station like this can remain disused, blighted, its windows busted out completely, host to only vagrants with no destination, or ironically, no station. Who out there can build a bliss station where magically, anyone can stay?

If you somehow made it to the end of this kumbaya bullshit, you’re clearly delirious and perhaps you should subscribe?