Willing to put almost anything on the line for a summer place with an ocean view

July 08, 1996|By MIKE LITTWIN

ONCE AGAIN, I FIND myself dreaming of the beach.

This happens from time to time. I'm in the middle of something, say a sentence about Bob Dole -- "You're right, Bob, tobacco is not always addictive; like, for example, when you're dead" -- and the beach intrudes.

I don't hear waves or anything weird. It isn't like I commune with long-lost lifeguards. The only channeling I ever do is with a remote control.

But there's this pull, this irresistible, I-must-get-outta-here pull.

I know it isn't only me. Some people are so desperate to get away, to get to the beach, which is the standard for "away," they go to Ocean City, and not on just any weekend. Thousands of you recently returned from the "Independence-Day" the-movie-sized nightmare of traffic and crowds and bad food, just to be at a beach. Fourth of July at Ocean City is not my dream. That's too much like real life.

For me, there's no point in dreaming unless you do it up at least semi-big.

I am dreaming of a beach house -- simple in a semi-luxurious way, meaning it must have AC and cable -- that I never have to leave except for life-supporting supplies (like beer and crabs) and life-giving forays into sand and surf.

My dream beach house comes with a deck overlooking the ocean and from which, if you turn down the music, you can hear the insistent call of the waves. In other words, nothing like the last beach house I rented.

Yes, it had a deck, but not so you'd notice, unless you enjoy looking into the kitchen of the house in front of you. Of course there were those magic moments, when the moon was properly aligned, and the shades were undrawn, that if you stood on one foot and craned your neck, you could almost see the ocean through your neighbor's kitchen window. It was either the sound of the ocean or a loud dishwasher.

Lesson: Paradise doesn't come cheap. And neither does a view.

In my dream, the beach is nearly abandoned, except for select family and friends, meaning no in-laws. I've seen beaches like this, but only in movies with Deborah Kerr, or from a highway where I can just barely make out somebody else's dream beach.

My wife and I have this vacation ritual. Upon arriving in paradise, rTC or as close to paradise as they allow mere mortals, we determine just how long we could stay. In other words, you take the cost of one day and to get your LPVI (longest possible vacation index), you divide that into your total assets, including your 401(k) plans and whatever you might be willing to sell off -- meaning, anything but my original Beatles albums. That's how many days you've got.

Days of no bosses, no deadlines, nothing that can't be resolved by a quick dip in the ocean.

Just a hot book, a cool breeze and a cold drink. Feet in the sand, sun low in the sky, water a deep sea green, Van Morrison playing in the background.

I prefer rocky beaches, like they have in Maine. I like California beaches, with dramatic cliffs or mountains in the background. I like beaches with scenery I don't have to move to see.

When I lived in California, there were days when you could go to the mountains to ski in the morning and make it to the beach by afternoon for a bracing swim. My routine was slightly different. I'd sleep late, have a large brunch and then hit the beach by early afternoon.

There are many people, I'm told, who want more from vacations. There are Type A people, who need to get up early, who need to plan each day. These are not beach people. You see them there. They're the ones fidgeting, or organizing a beach baseball game. Life is for planning. The only planning you have to do at the beach is to decide what book to bring and whether to use SPF-8 or SPF-15.

There are people who want culture or adventure on their vacations. They visit museums or they rock-climb.

Some pile the kids into the station wagon, strap Grandma on the top and go to Wally World.

I've done culture.

I've had adventure.

I never strapped Grandma on the roof of the car, but I once had a third cousin, twice removed, who was hit by a bus. It made the cover of the Daily News.

Now all I want to do is nothing, and for great stretches of time. Some men dream of nothing. Some men have nothing thrust upon them.

I can go either way, so long as there's an ocean view.

Pub Date: 7/08/96

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