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A few notes from my recent vacation, because, yes, some of us take notes on vacation:

Two things hang over your head like a souvenir inflated Sword of Damocles when you're on a beach vacation: sunburn and rain. The second is a thing you can't control. The first is a thing you can, but choose not to.

Take sunburn. Now, most people make one of two classic mistakes when it comes to being in the sun too long. Mistake No. 1 is they spend all of their first day at the beach, assure everyone they don't need sunscreen because they "never burn" and spend the rest of the week looking like a cross between the Lobster Boy at the circus and a resident of Chernobyl.

Mistake No. 2 is they are good all week long, adding sunscreen every two hours, just like Mom said. Then, Friday comes, and they panic because they don't feel like they've got enough of a tan, so they spend all day at the beach, assuring everyone they "never burn" and besides, they've got a "great base down" and they'll be fine.

They then spend two weeks after their vacation looking like a cross between the Lobster Boy at the circus and a resident of Chernobyl, but in a dress shirt.

Now, having pulled both those stunts before (sometimes in the same week), I've been, shall we say, burned enough. I use a sunscreen that comes out of the bottle like white tar and has to be applied with a trowel, every two hours. Something with an SPF (whatever that is) of about 50 (frame of reference: standing in your kitchen looking out the window probably delivers an SPF of 40 and a flannel shirt is about a 45).

So, I return from vacation looking like someone who spent the week in the bottom of a Chilean mine. But, no sunburn. I do, however, have a rash from a reaction to whatever is in that lotion.

I've also discovered another way to avoid sunburn: Have it start raining halfway through your trip and not quit until you pull out of the driveway on the way home. Bad for your disposition, but great for your skin.

Beach vacations are also about contrasts. For instance, there is the contrast between the effort that appears to be required of the beach chair guy who runs back and forth, carrying about eight chairs and four umbrellas without breaking a sweat vs. the Herculean effort for me to move my chair four inches back to stay in the shade.

Then there's all the stuff you waited in line at the grocery store for over an hour to buy on the first day. Half of it you seem to run out of instantly, which means you will probably spend about a quarter of your vacation back in that line. The other half is stuff you don't want, aren't quite sure what is, never use and hope the cleaning people enjoy.

Now, thanks to public service announcements, I've learned that we're seeing more marine life on the beaches. And I know just how to handle a beached whale, dolphin, seal, etc. I'm to assume they're in distress and contact the proper authorities.

I've also decided that if I see a beached shark, I'm to come to the logical conclusion that they're not in distress but are , in fact, evolving and I should run screaming before they finish growing legs and come for me. Seems logical.

On the last beach day of the vacation, the Lovely Mrs. Smith and I took a walk on the shore. It had quit raining (bitter, bitter) and all those things that bring you back -- the sun, the hypnotic crash of the waves, the brilliant white sand -- were there for us.

Ahead, I saw a father carrying his daughter down to the water. She had on about as much safety equipment as her little body could support, and still, the newness of it all terrified her. So he sat there, holding her as the waves lapped around them until she felt secure enough to stand on her own.

And in that instant, I was back there with all of my children. Holding them while they got used to the water. Until they could stand on their own.

You can burn, it's expensive and hard to get to, and it might (will) rain.

And I'll always go back.

Commentary on 06/14/2019

Print Headline: The call of the beach

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