| A few days ago, I was rummaging through some old boxes and discovered a collection of photos.They showed pristine white beaches, waves lapping at the shoreline, and huge and terrifying carnival rides.There were also photos of an old and weathered, wooden walkway, and thousands of tourists strolling aimlessly about while attired in Bermuda shorts, colorful tee-shirts, and an assortment of often risque swimming attire. As I started to peruse the pictures, I began to reminisce about my family's trips to the beach, which have become a yearly tradition. My wife enjoys any vacations that involve both sand and water. She also loves the abundant sunshine, the intense daily heat, the smell of salt air, warm evening breezes, the taste of Nathan's Famous hot dogs, lightly salted french fries, and the multitudes of humanity leisurely visiting the shops abutting the miles of seaside boardwalks.
I on the other hand, enjoy relaxing trips to isolated, yet quite comfortable resorts which sit nestled in scenic valleys amidst towering and snow-capped mountains. I relish the thought of enormous breakfasts of eggs, bacon, home fries, and gallons of sweetened coffee, served on enclosed verandas over-looking majestic lakes filled with crystal clear water. I also enjoy hiking on safe and clearly marked trails, swimming in meticulously clean and chlorinated indoor pools, viewing the impressive and steep mountain sides from the window of my suite, and wearing comfortable sweaters to ward off the chill of the evening while sipping elaborate drinks as a talented piano player does his best imitation of Billy Joel.
If I had it my way, I would spend every vacation in my own wondrous Shangri-La. Why do I dislike the beach so much? Hmmmmm, let's see..... I'm bothered by people, sand, large people in extremely small swimwear, cold water, salt, wind, jet skis, giant baggy swimwear, porpoises, boardwalks, bad food, high prices, heat, rules, signs, sharks, jellyfish, surfers, beach umbrellas, seagulls, rotten little kids, teenagers, six-pack abs, string bikinis, drunks, lifeguards, people, the sun, sun tan lotion, bugs, crabs, and people. How many of you love the beach? I’ll bet that the majority of you are raising your hands right now. I just don't get it. Is it the women in tiny bikinis running into the surf, getting their feet wet, giggling, and turning around and running back out? Is it the blond-haired surfers carrying boards and saying dude all the time? I asked my wife why she loves the beach so much, and she simply said, "I just love to lie in the sun, feel its warmth on my body, and get a wonderful tan." I told her that maybe we should book a trip to the Sahara Desert next year. You have sand and heat, but none of those annoying seagulls. If I want to get cooked to an internal temperature of two hundred degrees, I have an oven at home that will do the trick. Can you say broiler setting?
Last August, my wife and I rented a beach condo near the Maryland coast. You know the kind. They're the size of a small house, but have six small levels squeezed in between two adjoining units, they cost three thousand dollars per week, and they sleep up to eighty-four people. It's crazy. Every chair, sofa, table and cupboard folds out into comfortable sleeping accommodations. I guess it's great if you happen to get some unexpected guests.
"Hey honey, Uncle Earl, Aunt Betty and their six kids just showed up.” "That's okay dear, just put them in the hall closet next to Cousin Clem in the washing machine cubicle."
Oh, I almost forgot. There is only one tiny bathroom with a single phone booth-sized shower. I always inevitably end up on the sixth level in a tiny, windowless, cramped, closet-like room with a five by two foot bed, and an ambient temperature of close to one hundred and twenty degrees. I have a question that's been bothering me. Is it considered a beach house if it's a mile from the beach, and the only scenic view is your neighbor who lies on her deck in a microscopic string bikini? She’s the one who must be at least ninety, and you thought was an enormous raisin until you saw her move.
Did you notice that even though the ocean is a mile away that behind your condo are narrow, winding canals with brackish filthy water, small boats, and dead things floating by. And the smell! Is that malodorous and pungent odor the delicate scent of Aunt Bertie's famous fish head casserole? When I strolled out onto the back deck I almost expected to see yellow police tape, an NCIS team, and the body of some recently deceased crime boss staring vacantly up at me. Things just keep getting better and better, don't they?
Hey guys, are you with me on this one? I know you want to send the women and kids to the beach and hang out all day in the air conditioning while drinking beer, eating hot wings and watching sports. Well, I can tell you right now that it isn’t going to happen. Like me, you'll most likely end up trekking for miles along crumbling concrete sidewalks under a merciless and unforgiving sun while carrying an umbrella, a two hundred pound cooler, and a beach blanket. You'll also end up carrying your sister's son Tommy who keeps crying that his feet hurt, is only twelve, yet weighs at least a hundred and fifty pounds.
Thank God the beach we went to allowed food and drinks, and didn't charge us to use it. Have you ever been to a beach with a fee? Is that crazy, or what?
"Excuse me sir, but that will be twenty dollars to recline comfortably on a crab infested acre of ground-up rocks with a surface temperature of two hundred degrees. Oh, by the way, have a nice day."
Have you ever been to a beach that has signs which won't allow anything? They'll have massive red and white lettering that says, "No smoking, no alcoholic beverages, no eating, no sleeping, no profane language, no boisterous behavior, do not go in the water, and do not feed the seagulls.” Don’t feed the seagulls? Well, what am I going to do with all this nouvelle cuisine I brought to dazzle the palates of all my white, black, and gray feathered friends? I guess I'll have to eat all these hors d' oeuvres, nigiri sushi and sashimi myself. I also have a question for all the people who are in charge of beach rules..
"Hey beach supervisors. Your sign says no food allowed, so we left all our food back at the condo. What do you think we have to feed the seagulls anyway; our children?” "Hey honey, here comes a big one. Do me a favor and just toss Johnny up in the air. Thanks."
Here's something I haven't figured out yet. If you come to the beach to lie in the sun, then why do you always bring an umbrella which is so big that it casts a shadow so large, you would swear you were witnessing a once in a lifetime solar eclipse? Do you want to know what really bothers me about the beach? Whenever I come to the beach I seem to get uglier. I'm not kidding. It's true. When I'm at my local corner pub tossing down a cold one, mingling with like-minded people, at my annual Star Trek convention, or strolling the aisles at my neighborhood Wal-Mart, I'm at least an eight or a nine on a scale of one to ten. I never look my best as I meander slowly along a sand covered beach. My attractiveness rating seems to drop considerably to about a three or a four. Maybe it's because I'm surrounded by thousands of attractive people with fit bodies and golden tans. It also doesn't help that my skin is so white that kids keep calling me albino man, and women are putting on sunglasses to keep from suffering permanent retinal damage. When I’m on a beach my face is also always scrunched up and looks red and discolored. That's probably because I've been holding my stomach in for six straight hours, and I'm ready to pass out from oxygen deprivation.
Did you ever notice how smart the vendors are who run the food and clothing stands along the boardwalks which abut the beach? They're absolute geniuses. What do they sell? They sell nothing, but hot dogs, snow cones, crappy foreign-made trinkets with no useful purpose, golden brown and lightly salted french fries, and enormous tee-shirts. That's it! If you think about it it's almost diabolical. All the women including my usually thrifty wife will spend five hundred dollars on about five dollars worth of junk manufactured in China. I end up buying a big cotton tee-shirt for fifty bucks, because I feel self-conscious not only about my slightly rounded stomach, but by my plentiful back hair that could use the services of a good landscaping crew.
The vendors also sell nothing but a seagull’s favorite foods. Buy a hot dog or fries on the boardwalk and what do you see? That's right; you see hundreds of seagulls flying swiftly and hungrily towards you with mustard and ketchup packets firmly clutched in their beaks. The vendors are smart. They know that you don't stand a chance against hordes of vicious, stealthy and highly intelligent flying garbage disposals. The vendors also know that the seagulls will snatch the food right out of your hands, and you'll be back for more. Of course you will. You don’t have any other choice. The kids and seagulls ate all the food, you have a two hour trek back to the relative comfort and safety of the condo, and you're burdened by the crushing weight of the cooler, umbrella, and Tommy on your sturdy yet tired shoulders. Without a huge and filling infusion of much needed protein, you will most likely die of hunger along the way.
I have some questions about the beach that have been bothering me for awhile. When we see a surfer wipe out and then emerge from the waves floating next to his board, why do we always cheer? Why do they call those nasty biting flies, horseflies? Is it because some of them are so big they have jockeys riding on their backs? This question is for the ladies. Do you hate those women in bikinis who eat nothing but rabbit food and then parade up and down the beach in front of your husband at least two hundred times with water bottles daintily clutched in their delicate little hands? Do you take the sunglasses off your husband’s face as he pretends to sleep, because you know he's staring at them?
Why, when I'm lying on the beach do people with PETA and Greenpeace tee-shirts always surround me, yell one two three, and then proceed to roll me down the sloping beach into the roiling surf? Why after this enormous and strenuous effort do they always cheer as the strong and dangerous rip current swiftly takes me far out to sea? Have any of you ever seen a lifeguard at the beach? If you did, I'll bet they didn't look like Pamela Anderson of Baywatch, did they? How come whenever I approach the water I start hearing the theme music from the movie Jaws?
Someone told me once that the beach has crabs. Do I have to get a prescription for antibiotics from a doctor like I did in 1992, following my spring break trip to Cancun, Mexico? Why is the water always so cold? Are the polar bears floating by on ice floes heading for the North Pole? Isn't beach volleyball insane? Why, when I get close to the water does it always chase me back up the beach? Why as it chases me do I always run up the beach like a little girl screaming hysterically? What is the world record for holding your stomach in without dying? Does Crisco shortening work just as well as suntan lotion to procure a safe and lovely tan? Why do they call them jellyfish? Do they have jelly in them? Are they the secret ingredient at Dunkin Donuts? Why do they call beach attire swimwear when hardly anyone ever swims? What's sand made of, and how come two months later I still find it in my butt crack?
Here are the two most important questions. First of all, why do all the guys with six pack abs and perfectly sculpted physiques wear big baggy swimwear, while middle aged men with less than perfect bodies and excessive body hair, attire themselves in skimpy and quite revealing European style swimwear? Secondly, why would anyone ever want to go visit the fabled beaches of Europe if all the men look like that?
I guess it's time to head back to the condo and get some rest, and maybe a little something to eat. Not only did the seagulls steal all my food, but they're sitting right next to a big sign that says, "Do not shoot, beat with a baseball bat, frighten, awaken from their hot dog induced slumber, or in any way disturb the seagulls." Disturb the seagulls? I don't see any starving seagulls that are burnt to a crisp, dehydrated, and facing a night of sweating and listening to grandpa fart and snore. I think what really tired me out was fighting the undertow as I was racing out to sea so fast that the porpoises couldn't keep up. Before I go I have a question to ask. When I was in the undertow, my wife was standing on the beach very close to some good looking Italian guy wearing a tee-shirt that said, "Save the Whales." As the unstoppable current kept pulling me further from the distant shore, I could hear her yelling "Swim straight in towards the beach." I could be wrong, but when you're in an undertow, aren't you supposed to swim sideways to get out of it?