Last week’s column about going to the beach generated some unhappy email replies. Apparently, writing a few smart-aleck comments about being uncomfortable at the beach is enough to put the state’s entire tourism industry in jeopardy. C’mon, even if the Dept. of Tourism accidentally published my beach-bashing essay on its website, it would have no impact on whether people visit the shore this summer. It’s not like thousands of state residents are contemplating a beach vacation, and saying, “Hey Marge, we should take the kids to the beach this year, but I have no idea what it’s like. Are there rolling meadows at the beach? Apple trees? Opera houses? Petting zoos? Wait a minute, here’s a column in the newspaper. Hmm, this guy says the beach has lots of sand and salt and sun. Wow! Who knew? We are definitely NOT going there!”
No, everybody already knows what the beach is like, and my essay is not going stop anyone from visiting. And besides, it’s not like I was bashing the beach. Mostly, I was bashing my ancestors, who gave me this pale and fragile skin, which doesn’t do well at the beach. I like the beach fine, but my skin doesn’t like it very much at all. I would be perfectly happy to go to the beach and just leave my skin at home, but that would probably leave a stain on the seat of my car.
As I mentioned last week, my wimpy skin burns easily and starts to chafe at the mere thought of getting sand in my bathing suit. Since the unhappy emails I received are making me a little defensive, I’m compelled to bring out the big guns. So here goes: I’ve already had skin cancer three times. There, now don’t you feel bad for criticizing me?
When my friends and relatives ask me to go to the beach with them, I know they’re trying to be nice. In their minds, they’re saying, “Bill, wanna join us for some fun at the beach?!” But to me, a beach invitation is similar to visiting a guy in the hospital who just had a tumor removed from his lung, and saying, “Hope you get better soon, and here’s a little gift: a carton of Camels. Unfiltered. Just the way you like ’em.”
On those rare occasions when I do visit the beach, I spend most of my time doing two things: taking bets on which part of my body will blister first, and searching for shade. But in case you haven’t noticed, the beach is noticeably lacking in maple trees (not to mention opera houses and petting zoos). So I visit the snack shack a lot, which has a small overhang that gives some relief from the sun. The kid behind the counter says, “That will be $3 for ANOTHER Snickers bar, sir, and $9 for five minutes of shade.” I willingly pay.
Last week I forgot to mention another delightful aspect of visiting the beach. No matter how carefully you wrap the sandwiches in your cooler — even with double Ziploc bags — by the second bite you are chewing a sizeable portion of sand. Some thoughts at that moment: “Oh, now I know how these things got their name,” and, “Maybe this sand will polish my teeth,” and, “I read somewhere that ingesting sand can clean out your colon. But hopefully not right here right now.”
By the way, tomorrow, July 16, I will be in the Republican-American booth during Torrington, Conn.’s downtown Marketplace street fair. Stop by and share your favorite beach adventures, both the bad and the REALLY bad. The most interesting stories will appear in a future column!