Lee Wochner: Writer. Director. Writing instructor. Thinker about things.


On the beach

Zuma Beach, 9/2/20

After somehow becoming alerted last week that September was looming, and so, also somehow, was the end of summer — a summer without live theatre, without concerts, without parties and without Comic-Con for God’s sake — I decided to go to the beach. That was one thing, at least, that I could do this summer. So, today, I went to the beach.

At 4:18, newly planted onto the sand at Zuma Beach, I cracked open my journal and wrote this:

The sea side of the beach is a cliff of sand about four feet high — beneath that it’s a straight drop to the water.

I brought the wrong sort of towels, of course, in my rush. Turns out I brought smallish bath towels. The wind keeps blowing and lifting the exaggerated hand towel I’m sitting on. My backpack — with phone, added towel, lotion, shorts, jacket — rests on the sand because the towel is too narrow to accommodate it. Or me.

But if I hadn’t left in a hurry, I wouldn’t have made it at all. There are always a hundred things to do — that must be done! — and without picking up and heading out with determination I’d still be at the office, or at home, doing them. Life is one endless to-do list.

The wind is strong, pelting me with sharp bits of sand.

Fifteen minutes later, at 4:33, I added this:

It’s actually pretty boring at the beach.

As usual.

Zuma Beach, 9/2/20

I’ve lived most of my life near a beach. Where I grew up, we were only eight miles inland, and we went to the beach now and then, sometimes in Atlantic City, sometimes off Brigantine Island. I never knew what to do there, and usually took comic books with me. (Today, I took Ron Chernow’s massive biography of George Washington, which I’m about 20 percent through.) As a young man, I lived for four years within two blocks of the beach and went there, I think, twice. When I moved to California 30 years ago, the idea of going to the beach was briefly novel, because now the ocean was on the left — but who could continue to care about that?

Within 45 minutes today, I was ready to go.

Now, I will say that once — one time — probably 15 years ago I had a terrific beach experience. I rented a shabby motel room up the coast near a penitentiary and went down to the beach and found that I was the only person there. I took a folding chair and a bottle of whiskey and a couple of cigars and my laptop and something to eat just in case and happily sat out there for hours writing. At one point a lone fisherman came from somewhere and walked past me and we exchanged nods; otherwise: no one. Just me and writing and the familiar vices. Because, of course, who would go to a prison beach, and during the middle of the week?

That’s the beach I can see going back to.

One Response to “On the beach”

  1. Paul Says:

    I lived with in walking distance of the beach in Margate, NJ all my life, As a kid I loved going to the beach, swimming in the water, riding a raft i the waves, making sand castles with drips of watery sand.

    As I got older I stopped going to the beach. No particular reason why. I don’t know if it was because it was tedious getting “ready” for the beach, packing the towels, drinks, sandwich, something to read, sun lotion (now sun block) or the result of too many bad sun burns. (Skin cancer sucks.)

    I find the beach boring now, just sitting and watching others on the beach. Also, did I mention skin cancer? So I stay out of the sun as much as possible, use sun block when I have to be in the sun and limit my exposure.

    I like the beach much better in the fall, with a bright blue sky and cool air. I find that much more soothing than the shouts of kids and the parents telling the kids not to do this or that.

    I should also mention the chance of green head flies attaching and the dreaded getting sand stuck in the sun block on my skin as other reasons to avoid the beach.

    Also, the beach tag fee. Most Jersey shore communities require beach tags to offset the cost of beach maintenance.

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