I quit drinking five years ago, and in the immediate days after my last beer I had a harrowing, paradigm-shifting thought: Did I have any real interests if drinking was removed from the equation? “Maybe you don’t even like the Red Sox,” a friend joked in the midst of this Matrix moment. “Maybe you just like drinking in a bar and the Red Sox are an excuse.” Put another way: What would I do with my free time if I couldn’t drink? Did I really enjoy eating out at restaurants, seeing live music, lounging at hotel pools, rooting for all things Boston sports, meeting up with friends or chilling on beaches? Or were these merely the socially acceptable settings — excuses — by which to get hammered? I learned the hard way that some of this was true. Case in point: Have you ever thought about how stupid the beach is? It’s really idiotic. Here’s what I mean.
Are you planning to avoid the sun? Then you have no reason to be on a beach. Hard stop. The act of seeking out a place with an overabundance of that which you are trying to avoid — in this case, sunlight — is pure stupidity. I often act as a beach-gear mule and lug various sun-protection equipment — tents, umbrellas, cover-ups, sunscreens, bunkers — in the unrelenting heat, to then build a makeshift shelter so my beach guests can hide from the sun for the afternoon. Here’s an easier plan — don’t go to the beach. If you desperately want to evade the sun’s radiation and yet you’ve chosen to sit on a beach all day, you haven’t thought this through.
Sand is an abhorrent, abrasive material, made from quartz, basaltic lava and granite, among a million other sucky things. It’s beyond comprehension why we seek out vast areas filled with a trillion tons of this caustic substance. It’s like “hey, wanna go lie down on nature’s version of broken glass? I promise it will be burning hot thanks to all that sun.” Um, no. “Did I mention that it will stick to every part of your body and you’ll find it in your clothing for weeks?” Perfect. I’m in.
When kids see the ocean they see a giant toilet. True story: I was at a barbecue in Cape Cod over the July Fourth weekend and overheard two boys opine about the Atlantic Ocean’s usefulness. “You can go potty in the ocean AS LONG as it’s NOT poop,” said one. “But sometimes I poop, too,” said the other. Stop. Gross. No. And you know where you find lots of kids and lots of ocean? The beach.
What is there to do?
My question when I’m being asked to go to the beach is always this: “What are we going to do?” “You can read.” I can read? That’s something high school substitute teachers say to students when they’re half-assing the job. I know I can read. I don’t need to walk across burning shards and hide under an umbrella to do it. “You can relax.” Relaxing on the beach is doing what, exactly? Staring straight ahead at the water? I can enjoy that — for 30 seconds. Then what?
Gorgeous people, barely dressed
No argument here. But…
If we’re being honest with ourselves, the beach is like a stupidity convention. Whenever I’m at the the beach I’m usually stressed out by some moron doing something that’s in direct conflict with common sense. The last time I was at the beach, “relaxing,” we watched a father who, in the middle of a crowded area, broke out a baseball to play catch with his son. It was a touching moment between a young boy and his half-drunk dad, witnessed by about 50 of us lucky beachgoers sitting nearby. After a minute I realized he wasn’t playing catch, he was TEACHING the kid to throw. With an actual baseball. Guess what happened? Yes. An errant throw and a few screams later, and a nearby woman had a fresh bruise on her thigh. Relaxing.
The idea of the beach vs. reality
Most of us are chasing the idea of the beach, and I get that. I also want to go to a place that’s warm and fun, away from work and other responsibilities, where everyone is relaxing or playing water sports or listening to music, and half-naked pretty people walk about. That sounds amazing. Kind of like a fairy tale. Because it is. Whenever I think about the beach, inevitably the ’90s show “Baywatch” flashes through my head. When I lived in L.A. I saw the “Baywatch” crew filming one Sunday morning on the Santa Monica beach. Pamela Anderson was there. So was the Hoff. After a few minutes, Tommy Lee and a friend showed up too. When I looked around at the TV crew, the cast and the few other random L.A. locals standing there gawking (like me) that morning, we all had something in common. We all looked bored. You know why? The beach sucks.