I have had an on again, off again love-hate relationship with the beach my whole life.
During my earliest childhood years, I lived with my mother in California and we were constantly at the beach (totally free and very clean back in those days). My mother made headline news when she (7-8 months pregnant with my sister) and another woman pulled a shark that got into the shallows on to dry sand. His jaws are still hanging on a wall in the local Naval museum (don’t ask which base, they’re all a blur).
We camped on the beach and stole creatures out of tidal pools to dry on the roof and become home decor. There were dune buggies and bonfires every night, and deep holes dug into the sand in the shape of hearts behind the dune furthest from the beach that were filled in each morning and dug afresh (and if you can’t guess how they were used, your childhood was severely lacking in social beach etiquette).
I loved the beach, but was wary of the tidal current, which we called the rip tide and which I imagined was a giant frog (rip-it!) that grabbed your legs and pulled you under water (bless that six-year-old imagination).
I spent two different years of my later childhood living in Florida with my father and step-mother. We lived on a canal (where I was certain the Creature from the Black Lagoon lived and was creeping across the backyard to my window at night when the dolphins came into the canals to splash and play) and, like every other family, we had a speed boat. I don’t remember going to the beach to just fry in the sun or frolic in the waves, but I do remember trying to learn to water ski on inland lakes, ocean fishing (puffer fish are really cool!) and clamming along the coast.
As a young adult, I once spent every weekend of an entire summer at Second Beach in Newport, Rhode Island. At the end of the summer I had turned from lily-white to a nice shade of ivory. I far more enjoyed the little beach on the Newport bay that had a beautiful lawn, a meager six-foot stretch of sand, and water filled with phytoplankton that we would stir up into a phosphorescent light show at night while skinny dipping. Star-lit and moon-lit walks in the dark along the edge of the surf was my prime beach time.
I have now lived in Florida as a mature adult for 21 years. During that time I have been to the beach twice, once in Ft. Lauderdale where I lounged on a sea-side chaise under a huge umbrella and was brought drinks and food by cute cabana boys (I braved the sun once to dip myself in the water and hastily retreated) and once on a fishing trip with my best girl friends, including one baby. Understand this: We did not fish with hooks. We didn’t actually want to catch (and thereby handle) any fish. We loved casting and reeling, and of course we had to drink beer! And we moved our fishing activities to inland lakes and rivers after Kelly ate a substantial amount of (hopefully) helpful pro-biotic sand and I had diaper duty.
So yesterday I went to the beach with my best friend ever. Alice and I have the same complaints about the beach, such as burning to a crisp after 5 minutes in the sun wearing the heaviest sunscreen available is not fun, having sand go places it shouldn’t outa (and having more of those places as we age!) is not gonna happen, and after going into the clear blue waters of the Caribbean, neither of us is willing to put one toe in the scummy, brownish water of our Central Florida waterfronts where you can’t see Jaws until it’s too late.
Here is our idea of the perfect day at the beach.
- Turn on Garmin and have him take us to New Smyrna.
- Follow a sandy track to the tiny parking lot of our favorite seaside dive bar (and no, I’m not saying where because everyone would start going there and we want it all to ourselves!).
- Sit at the outside bar, which is tucked under enough roof that the sun can’t get to you until late afternoon.
- Order refreshing alcoholic beverages.
- People-watch with a horrified obsession.
- Look at the ocean.
- Look at the sand.
- Enjoy the cool ocean breeze.
- Order some lunch.
- Order more refreshing alcoholic beverages.
- Flirt with old men who chat us up and want to pinch our asses (Alice declines gracefully saying they should probably start with a pat on the fanny).
- Crack jokes with the bartenders.
- Crack jokes with each other.
- Order more refreshing alcoholic beverages.
- Relax and let the alcohol burn off.
- Get a cup of ice water and tell Garmin to take us back home.
- Take a nice long soak in my roman tub (alone, dirty minds!) with wonderful smelling bath products and a refreshing alcoholic beverage.
- Have a nice bit of nap (don’t get your hopes up: alone again).