A summer in O.C.: this is a tough way to make a living?

AT THE BEACH

September 04, 1992|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Staff Writer

Ocean City -- Three weeks ago, this beach correspondent happily packed to move back to small-town, rural Maryland after months of writing features and other stories from the shore.

Then the call came: Could you stay for three more weeks? Through Labor Day?

What? Three more weeks of kids dragging sand into the condo, the car? But then again, a lengthened assignment would mean three more weeks of sunrises over the Atlantic, sunsets over the bay, afternoons reading on the beach and more restaurants to review.

Any hopes of escape from the hustle and bustle of Maryland's premier resort washed away likes castles in the sand.

I'm still here. My family -- wife, Cindy, and three children, Nathan, Courtney and Chelsea, escaped to Emmitsburg. They had had enough.

A summer at the beach -- an assignment that sounded so wonderful four months ago -- had worn thin.

Writing from the beach, it turned out, was work. More work than I had anticipated. The bicycle, golf clubs and tennis racket I packed for what I envisioned as a working vacation have gathered more dust than use.

Assignments included more than feature stories about tea time at the Dunes Manor Hotel or bikini contests. There were news stories, business stories, and occasionally, sports stories.

So, my days spent at the beach were few.

pTC While I wasn't confined to an office or a tie (work attire became T-shirt and shorts), there was another, unanticipated stress factor: the kids.

A makeshift office in a corner of our two-bedroom condo became daily magnet for Chelsea, our 18-month-old. She wanted my lap, my papers, my pens. I couldn't turn her away from my lap without a barrage of tears from hurt feelings.

And kids collect sand -- in shoes, in swimsuits, clothes, toys and cars. They drag in everything they find on the beach. We have enough sand in our belongings to replenish the beach next year.

But I can't convince anybody about how much work it was or how stressful working at the beach sometimes became. They don't want to hear it.

And nothing I tell them will convince them otherwise.

Although I am ready to leave, this assignment has produced some fond and memorable moments (which will further dispel any notions that this assignment was real work). Here were some of the highlights:

* Camping at Assateague Island. We heard wild ponies galloping by our tent before dawn; walked a deserted, natural beach at sunrise; we laughed when we caught ponies snooping in the neighbors camping gear.

* Eating our first crab cakes at the Bayside Inn on Smith Island. Eating more crab cakes at Fager's Island. And even more at the Fenwick Crab House.

* Walking along the quiet and well-kept streets of Snow Hill and Berlin -- quaint Eastern Shore towns with interesting histories and friendly folks. We absolutely loved the homemade muffins served with lunch at the Snow Hill Inn.

* Touring Merry Sherwood Plantation, a recently restored pre-Civil War mansion. A morning-turned-afternoon visit with owner Kirk Burbage, his mother, Gladys, and innkeeper Emily was small-town hospitality at its best. Received my first taste of "bubble and squeak," an English breakfast dish of cabbage, sausage and cream sauce.

* Sitting in the cabin of the rocking Fish Finder as the sun sets on the bay, listening to Mark Sampson's shark hunting stories -- stories as fascinating as any shark documentary on cable television.

* And, of course, watching schools of bottlenosed dolphins swim along the shoreline. And evening walks along the beach -- even if it meant carrying the 18-month-old who only came to like the sand and ocean in the waning days of her visit.

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