Vacation reflects undying ambition to do nothing forever

MIKE LITTWIN

August 11, 1993|By MIKE LITTWIN

My wife and I have this little vacation ritual. The first thing we do upon arrival, even before arguing about where to have dinner, is to figure out how long we could stay.

In other words, if we sold off everything -- the house, the cars, the kids, even my complete collection of Gene Pitney 45s -- how long could we hang on to a little piece of paradise before the money runs out?

This shows, of course, a tremendous degree of shallowness. You wouldn't expect that from my wife, a teacher after all, whose job it is to mold the youthful flower of our nation.

From someone like me, whose greatest accomplishment is the ability to touch my nose with my tongue (you try it, wise guy), well, that's another story. You may not be surprised that my goal in life is to do absolutely nothing, but only if I can do it under semi-luxurious conditions.

To find your LPV (longest possible vacation), you plug some numbers into this simple formula I've devised: Total assets divided by weekly vacation expenses. You see, Mrs. Goolsby was right. Math is important.

Could we afford an extra month?

An extra year?

How about forever? Someone's got to win the lottery.

I'm not saying everyone thinks this way. In fact, I'm always amazed at how few do. Some folks actually want to accomplish something on their vacations. They climb mountains. Or take on white-water rapids. Or throw the kids into the back of the station wagon, strap Grandma onto the hood and head off to Wally World. Some even visit museums.

You know these people. They have a plan. A beginning and an end. They're probably very successful in their lives and careers and floss three times a day. I bet they run, too.

I don't want to plan. I don't want to do anything. I especially don't want to floss or run.

I want to be like the guy from "A Year in Provence." Did you read the book and the sequel? It's about this British couple who do chuck it all and move to a farmhouse in southern France. The guy writes two books about their fascinating adventures, most of which revolve around either eating dinner or the dangers of the illegal truffle market. The books sell in the millions. Go figure.

My book would be called "Three Weeks in Bethany." We rented a house we couldn't afford and from which, if you looked between the two houses in front of us, you can see the ocean.

We cooked out a lot on a grill and ate some seafood and also pizza. I still don't know what a truffle is. We had lots of visitors. The most dangerous adventure anyone had was when my daughter ran out of SPF 15 sunblock.

(Here's a riveting conversation between teen-age tanners in the modern age: "What number you down to?" "Eight on my face, 4 on my back, and 2 on my legs." It'll all be in the book.)

There are many reasons people go to the ocean. I suspect one involves getting in touch with our primordial roots when our ancestors slithered in from the seas. For me, it's something more concrete: getting in touch with one of my enduring ambitions. Which is, of course, to be a beach bum and slither any time you want.

I've met beach bums. They're blond and tan and they're lifeguards or they teach sailing and they follow the sun, like in the movie. They surf. They call people "Dude." They grow stubbly beards. Their stomachs are flatter than the economy. They do not have a mortgage. They dropped out of college and made this life for themselves.

When I finished college, I began to work on a newspaper, which is almost the same thing except you don't get tan and strange women will call a cop if you try to talk to them.

I went to talk to my lifeguard the other day. This guy really looked the part. When he wasn't saving children's lives, he was chatting up beautiful women from his perch high above us on the lifeguard stand. This was his seventh season.

When I asked him why he kept coming back, he just smiled at me, with pity I thought.

I didn't have the heart to ask him what his ambitions were. I was afraid he might actually have one.

I wanted him perfectly content. Which is what I was. A book in hand. My feet in the sand. The waves crashing. It seemed like forever.

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