THE PERFECT SPOT
There is a science in preparing for a day at the beach- in many ways going to the beach has a precise professionalism to it for the seasoned beach goer like myself. From the evening before to the packing up at the end of the day and everything in between I can say with complete confidence that I am a master. I am proud of my self-anointed status. This was all learned from the original master, my grandmother, my mother’s mother who taught me the routine that starts with an early rising and an early departure so you “beat the traffic.”
To this day if I leave for the beach anytime after 9:30 in the morning, I feel like I have gotten off to a late start and I actually have pangs of anxiety in my body as I make my way in my car towards my second home, the beloved beach. Some people can’t sit for any time at all at a beach; I am the opposite. I write, I walk, I sit, I stare, I read, I nap. Most times, I don’t bring my cell phone because I find that I too easily get time sucked and sidetracked and I like the break I get without one.
Seasoned beach goers according to Kathryn Black, my grandmother, (yes her last name is Black and mine is White in case you didn’t notice this and it shouldn’t go unnoticed that my mother’s is Black too, irony. Yes.) head to the beach and are on the road by 9:00am, latest. If friends want me to drive them because of course I always buy the outrageous one hundred and forty dollar beach pass, they know that the train leaves at nine or else they have to meet me there. I have softened a little over the years on this, but only if it is a weekday. Weekends, forget it. Everything must happen succinctly in order for this to happen and this is where the expertise comes into play.
My aim is not to be first at the beach, I don’t strive for this, that is like trying to get the A1 spot on Southwest Airlines, a near impossible feat no matter what time you get ready to hit the check in online button. No. The point is to get a parking spot and to get on the beach to claim my real estate for the day, the perfect spot. It is this spot grabbing that makes for a perfect beach beginning and there are a few choice spots I head towards depending on the day of the week, the way the wind is blowing and a few other factors that are part of this declaration today. The perfect spot is the spot away from the masses, so the quiet surroundings of the waves lapping and the seagulls chirping is the sound I hear. I don’t need to be right at the shoreline anymore. I used to, but now privacy and quiet is my go to spot and this is not by the water. The sounds I don’t want to hear are the booming music (music should be relegated to earphones if you ask me), annoying conversations between people that never stop for the entire day, (isn’t the beach for some quiet time?) and as far away as possible from the dreaded rookies, the ones who think it is cute to feed the seagulls. Even though, thankfully and finally, smoking is no longer allowed on the beach, some still smoke knowing that there are surely no beach police coming to give them a smoking ticket and surely the teenage lifeguards are not going to cause a stir. This is another reason for the early arrival to get to the perfect spot aka ‘my spot’ and sitting away from the masses. The final reason to be as far away as possible is the dreaded one way cell phone conversations. This really puts me over the edge.
There is a lot to being an expert beach goer. First off there should always be a beach bag ready to go in the back of the car. As much as I have certain rules and regs about the getting to the beach, there is also a certain release that must happen to make sure that the bag stays put. I am not a stickler about two important aspects of excellent beach preparedness. I do not care the slightest bit about sand in my car. Anywhere. I don’t clean my feet, or force people to shower and rinse off before stepping in. I barely shake the towels out. This is freedom and beach efficiency at its finest. Too much work, frankly for the frequency that I go to the beach. Sand can accumulate, pile up. I don’t care. I will attend to it at season’s end. This all makes it easier for the second element of importance in beach perfection- leaving the towel in the car. Now I don’t leave the same towels in the car for the entire season, I take them out when the weather is not predicted to be beach worthy or when I know I am not going to make it to the beach for a few days, but for the most part, I keep towels in the car. I don’t just keep one, I bring at least three now along with this awesome cotton blanket I got in Menorca a few years back. Last year I added a few hand towels to the bag because I can take them easily from my business, they have become quite handy, no pun intended, really.
The permanent beach bag always contains the following: hair ties, lipstick, beach earrings, (if you are a regular, you totally get this) writing instruments usually in a Ziploc baggie- sharpies, pens and very sharpened pencils, good sunscreen for the face and 2–3 bottles of coppertone spray 30 for the body purchased in bulk from BJ’S at the beginning of the season, said beach towels, my beach hat, a scarf, a sweatshirt, a long sleeve cotton shirt and a pair of beach linen pants in case it is chillier than I thought. It is always chillier than I thought. This bag is always in the car alongside of the beach chair so when I need to leave, I only have to bring along the overpacked cooler and the bag of reading and writing. Lunch for a full beach day needs to be substantial. Like the way I layer my clothes, I must prepare accordingly with food as well. Tuna or egg salad usually with some type of greens, plenty of fruit and something to crunch, I love cashews, and of course water. This is usually more than enough to graze all day on and I will often wait to eat breakfast so my first meal is more like brunch when I finally sit and get settled.
I don’t often bring a sandwich anymore because I really don’t eat bread that much, but this past week, I found myself on the beach on my actual birthday. It was a divine gift and I made the most delicious lunch of fresh tomatoes on sliced brioche with mayonnaise and it was heaven. For the less seasoned soul reading this (or for my dear friends, you know who you are but who shall remain nameless that belong to Bailey’s Beach where beach going is a completely different and zero effort (aka glorious) experience, this likely sounds exhausting. It is not. It is heaven for me, it is a tradition handed down to me from my grandmother and it happens automatically.
I hang on to traditions and as much as my son never really enjoyed the beach to the level I have, I hold out for the magnificent moment that some day in the distant future, I may get to have the joy of a grandchild too. Then my beach going experience will be a whole new level and for this I smile as I know my grandmother taught me well.