Here’s a little essay from the Golden Age when my kids were small and I had a nine to five job with benefits.I think I can say with complete certainty that every single word of it is literally true.
Most days in August I try to catch the early train to work so I can leave a little sooner. My wife throws kids in the car, meets me at the station and we go straight to the beach. I scamper off to whatever poorly lit restroom they’ve left unlocked and change out of my work clothes. Something about balancing precariously on top of my shoes while I struggle to get a leg into my bathing suit without stepping in the pasty mix of urine and sand on the poured concrete floor, like Cirque du Soleil meets affordable competition for Chippendales, just says ‘Summer’ to me. It’s nice.
By the time I get out on the beach, the blanket is already spread, the chairs set up, the toys scattered and my kids have a layer of sand coating every inch of their body. They look like garden sculpture. Lurching, shrieking, garden sculpture come to life hell bent of getting sand on the blanket, in the food and in the babies case, up my nose, in my mouth and as close to my retinas as her pudgy little digits can get it. My wife and I take shifts. For the first hour or so The girls and I wade in the water, build a sand castle, I tell them the identical rocks and bits of shell the keep showing me are beautiful and my Bride reads a mystery. Then as the sun begins to set, painting the sea a million different shades of Orange and Teal and an almost Thalocyanine Blue, she says “Say girls, why don’t we take a walk so your Dad can get some peace?” I watch them, my women, the tall one holding the hands of the two little ones, turning into silhouettes as they get smaller, smaller. And then it’s my turn.
I like to start small. I look around for the nice, large group. Some days I go with an extended family, hopefully intergenerational, but if I’m in shape and feeling athletic, I enjoy groups of disaffected teens. I take the sack of stale bread I got from my cafeteria at work, roll it around a little to make crumbs and saunter over. When I dump out the bag, the alpha male invariably asks me what the hell I think I’m doing. “Don’t you recognize me?” I respond, “I’m Tippy Hedron” That sentence takes about three seconds to say, which is just about how long it takes the first Sea Gulls to arrive. In the unlikely event this doesn’t cause enough ruckus for me to get away unscathed, I’ve found pointing at the youngest child and shrieking “OH MY GOD, HIS EYES! HIS EYES!!!” usually gives me space to make a run for it.
I stop at my blanket just long enough to strip down to the undies I’ve left on under my bathing suit. I favor the old tighty whities. Colored drawers are too easily mistaken for some sort of French bathing suit, and I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have mud wasps lay their eggs in my spine than be taken for a Frenchman. Next I put on my suit socks, pull ‘em way up my calves, slip on my loafers and race off down the water line flailing my arms, weeping loudly and randomly shouting nonsense words like “Chunkies” and “Bulvula”. If you decide to try this, here’s an important tip: Don’t run in the same direction your wife and kids took. Catch up with them and the fun is over. Didn’t I learn that the hard way.
Once I’ve exhausted myself and/or attracted enough attention, I tumble to my knees in the surf, raise my fists to the sky, and gift my gathering public with a tribute to Charlton Heston’s classic star turn from the end of “Planet of the Apes” Unless there’s an off duty Cop in the crowd that’s pretty much it for my act. You’d be surprised just how easy it is to walk away. Most beach goers have no real desire to interact with a sandy lunatic in nothing but soaked Fruit of the Loom’s. On the rare occasion that some Mental Health Professional, well meaning Christian or other Goody Goody pain in the ass does feel compelled to approach me, I can usually make them turn around by tearfully begging them to ‘Help me get the sand out of my creases’.
When the kids get back to our spot, I greet them with a heartfelt “Who’s ready for ice cream? I know I am!” It’s amazing how a little exercise and some time to yourself makes the tensions of the workday melt away! Oh, one last thing. This is strictly a beach bit, and does NOT translate well to Movie Theaters, Museums, Houses of Worship, or other enclosed spaces. Also, while you’d think performing this piece at the Actual Statue of Liberty would have really made the Planet of the Apes thing shine, it turns out our National Monuments have a lot of Security Personnel and they’re really kind of high strung these days. They didn’t even laugh at “That ain’t dynamite, I’m just glad to see ya!” Go figure.