This is what I want for myself, my family and the rest of you.
It’s 11:30 in the morning, the sun is blazing, the sky is blue with not a sign of a cloud and we’ve collected our stuff for the beach, including a cooler with three beers and two hero sandwiches, $10, an umbrella, two folding beach chairs, four beach towels, ample highly effective sunscreen with 50 SPF, my book about Tom Seaver, my earpods and cell phone and finally, my shades.
It’s a three block walk from the bungalow to the beach but that’s OK, though the pavement is really, really hot and I didn’t bring shoes or sandals. Avoiding blistered feet makes me walk crisply trying to find the shadows where the cement is not as hot but otherwise I’m in no hurry because it’s vacation. I’m not worried about COVID-19 because that is finally a nightmare of the past so there is not a facial mask to be seen on any adult or child and that includes me and my family so that I can actually see a person’s entire face and not have to imagine if they are smiling or frowning and I don’t have to worry that I’m passing someone on a bicycle who is not six feet away from me.
It’s about 96 degrees today and for me, the hotter the better and I can smell the singular, tell-tale scent of the salt water and hear the surf pounding as herring gulls circle over head screaching while looking to hit on an unsuspecting tourist and his ice cream. Higher up, a bi-plane cruises by pulling a banner advertising happy hour at The Water’s Edge while a boat filled with people hoping to see a few dolphins chugs along about 100 feet off shore, with everyone waving to the people on the beach. Further off shore fishing boats pass while people on jet skis speed by, their pilot and passenger holding on for dear life as the craft goes aloft after crashing through each wave, in what appears to be a very dangerous hobby.
I only get daily passes to the beach so I pay the $12 for the family for the day and I’m good to go, which means I can quickly get my tickets at the kiosk from the older man whose deeply, lined skin reveals that he has gotten too much sun in his life and sprint from the ticket kiosk to the beach because my feet feel like I’m walking on burning coals, which I am.
We make it to the water, alive, and barely in the nick of time, I can cool my burning tootsies in the wonderfully cooling, high tide surf, which is sending four-foot tall waves crashing. I scan the area for a good spot as the beach is pretty crowded today as it’s a perfect day to crash under the burning, hot sun. There’s a spot, big enough for us to plant our folding beach chairs on top of our beach towels, set up our umbrellas, unpack my cooler with beer and hero sandwiches, slather my arms and legs with sunscreen, get out my book about Tom Seaver, insert my earpods, doff my shades and I am in heaven. I’ll read a dozen pages and close my eyes and start to doze as all I can hear are the waves, the gulls and muted conversation from people on nearby beach blankets. It is so warm and so peaceful and so welcoming and words don’t do the feelings justice. Then I’ll pull out a beer and a half a hero sandwich from the cooler which I open carefully, trying to keep any blowing sand from getting into the sandwich, although invariably some sand gets in but it’s not enough to make the sandwich inedible.
There’s a group of at least a dozen girls with their beach chairs and blankets and most of them are lying down, their tops untied, hoping for the sun to take care of their skin while others are sitting and talking about things that are perfect for a summer day. On another blanket is a young, African American couple with a bubbling baby who is wearing a funny, wrinkled hat while he sits under a small umbrella contraption shielding him from the sun because his virgin skin is so sensitive. His mother is digging through the beach bag for a baby bottle which she hands to her son, who grabs it with great appreciation. Across from me there’s an elderly couple, both on beach chairs and both immersed in their books, careful not to interrupt each other with talk as after so many years together, they don’t have a whole lot to say to each other anyway.
In the water, one swimmer seems to have gone too far out when the deeply tanned, blonde haired lifeguard, obviously annoyed, stands on his perch and blows his whistle and motions for the swimmer to get back closer to the beach. A young woman runs to the water and dives in what feels like freezing water while kids on Styrofoam surfboards try to catch waves that will carry them to the sandy beach and two little girls are plopped down while they use their tiny, plastic shovels to dig into the sand, with no apparent plan.
After a while, it’s time for a long beach walk down towards the lighthouse and watch how the shoreline has changed as it does each year. A fisherman is casting out from the surf while others are not evident but they have placed their rods in white plastic tubes that are anchored in the sand and I step beneath the lines carefully. By the time I decide to turn back, it’s already getting late and I think about the steaks I’ll cook on the grill later but now I have to scan the hundreds of umbrellas to locate mine and when I do, it’s time to pack up, return to the bungalow and do whatever I want to do, thank you. I have one more sprint to avoid scalding the soles of my feet and I reach the outdoor shower which washes off the gritty sand and the sticky salt water and all is good.