The luggage unpacked and the restless natives sufficiently quelled, we put on our suits and headed for the beach.
Despite its limited utility, one of the smarter accouterments Melinda purchased in previous years was a beach cart, one of those folding numbers that looks like an oversized baby stroller you can hang your chairs from and stack with gear. While I initially balked at the purchase — my parents’ method of transporting beach equipment was loading my brother and me down like pack horses — I realized it solved one of the less enjoyable issues with beachside leisure; trudging through a hundred yards of molten sand with more apparatus than a man climbing Kilimanjaro.
True enough, mere minutes after wheeling my kit onto the beach sans issue, a balding dad in a lime-green tank top staggered toward the water, his arms loaded with a pop up tent, a cooler and an inner tube the size of a monster truck tire. He made it three-quarters of the way through the beach’s No-Man’s Land before he stumbled, breaking his plastic flip flop. I watched him stand there, debating how to best mitigate the issue — whether he could repair the sandal with his big toe or if it would be more prudent to unburden himself of his cargo and go in with a pair of free hands. Meanwhile, the sand burned his exposed foot.
“Fuck!” he yelled, the pain forcing him to sprint to the cooler seaside sand, kicking his flip flop ahead of him.
A nearby mustachioed redneck wearing Realtree print shorts and alternating between a beer and a cup of dip spit laughed as the man hustled by.
“Hot?” the redneck said, chuckling.
“Fuckin’ hot!” the man replied.
To me, this sort of exchange would go in the Captain Obvious file. But much to my amusement, the rest of my afternoon was filled with watching people genuinely surprised at the temperature of beach sand.
Family after family would arrive, the parents weighed down with chairs and tents and tote bags, the children hilariously barefooted. The kids would get exactly four steps into their journey across the sand before stopping dead in their tracks and screaming bloody murder. At first, the parents would encourage them to toughen up and endure it. Then, after it became apparent the kids had no intention of taking another step, they’d begin fumbling for the kids’ shoes at the bottom of the beach bag. The wails would intensify to a falsetto of genuine pain, causing the parents to finally hoist the smoldering children by their middles and ferry them to safety like a sack of potatoes.
It seemed some people were just not cut out for life on the beach, a theme repeated in many variations throughout the week.
Take the guy who now passed my chair wearing dark jeans, a black t-shirt, a Chicago Bulls hat, and a pair of Air Jordan basketball sneakers. People like this have always confounded me, because what chain of circumstances led him to this particular set of beachwear? Had he never been to the beach before and didn’t know what to expect? Did he just come from an urban streetwear conference and made a wrong turn? Or was he so dead-set on his wardrobe that day he was unwilling to compromise with a pair of sandals and board shorts? Sand be damned, I gotta rock my J’s!
Equally entertaining was the family of nine who trudged past me with the following equipment: two folding lawn chairs, five bags of styrofoam take out containers, seven Papa Johns pizzas. What most interested me about this family was not the immense amount of non-beach food they carried, but where they planned to put it once the adults sat their fat asses in those folding chairs.
Answer? Right on the sand.
The family’s extra cheese and pepperoni party pack was not the only thing instantly covered with grit. Within five minutes of our arrival, my kids resembled sugar cookies.
“How can you possibly have so much sand on you already?” I asked them. “We just got here!”
J responded by plunging her plastic shovel deep into the ground and flinging its contents into the air.
“Sand shower!” she yelled. “Yay!”
“That would explain it,” I said. “I look forward to finding that later on every hotel room surface.”
One of the things I realized with some relief while sitting under my umbrella and ignoring my children was how much better shape I was in comparison to the majority of the beachgoers surrounding me. I don’t have any acute body image issues, but am slightly self-conscious that I’ve reached the point of my life when I can count the number of beers I had yesterday by the rolls in my gut.
I think I must have been watching too much Jersey Shore because I expected the beach to be populated by dudes with six-pack abs and girls with size zero waists.
Not so much. There were a scattering of beautiful people, sure, but for every toned and tanned vixen in a peach-colored bikini, there were two pasty fat dudes with ponytails, their titties bouncing as they lumbered like wildebeests over the hot sand.
And my god, the tattoos these people festoon their bodies with. I know tattoos have entered the mainstream over the past few decades, but is there a law that requires artists to give every third customer a jagged block of Gothic text or multicolored blob of dragon vomit? How do people arrive at these body-disfiguring designs?
The answer to my rhetorical question came minutes later, when I overheard the rotund twentysomething on the blanket next to me talking to her friends.
“I got this tattoo because my ex’s cousin’s step mom had it, and she was a badass. So I got the same thing she has but bigger, because I’m more of a badass than she is.”
It was unclear which tattoo she was referencing — there were several to choose from — but I secretly hoped it was the pattern of distorted leopard spots she wore across the outside of her ample thigh and butt cheek.
The Leopard and her friends’ conversation became my entertainment for the next hour as they explored a variety of ignorant and hilarious beliefs, including but not limited to:
– “California is the shittiest place. It’s like, insane to me that people are born there.”
– “Johnny Cash is the best singer of all time. Turn this shit up, the whole beach needs to hear it.”
– “The last time I took Xanax, I only took a half, but I blacked out. My aunt said I ran around a Walmart going nuts, playing video games and throwing balls and shit.”
The sun began to dip behind the row of hotels at our backs, and since the idiots next to me left to get more hard seltzer, Melinda and I decided it was time to return to our suite and get ready for dinner. I got the kids to retrieve their toys, which had somehow scattered to the four corners of the beach, and, after dumping the sand out of them twice, packed up my yuppie cart and rolled home.