Searching for the Beach

The bright white sand beach did seem to stretch for miles in both directions from the wide wooden staircase as we had been told. Uncountable striped and solid color umbrellas gleamed in the intense sun with uncountable children running, shouting and splashing in the small waves. Additionally, the roar of the crowd was mixed with blasting boom boxes from all sides.

We had planned on spending a whole day at the sand beaches on the Gulf at least once a week while in Naples, Florida. There were nearly 20 small beaches in this area of the Gulf, mostly small ones accessible at the end of city streets with little if any dedicated parking spaces. These beaches had the look of just that – the streets ran out at the shoreline. These streets or boulevards were populated by formidable stucco homes on large lots apparently from the 1940s. Further back from the beaches, averaging six or eight blocks, were busy city streets and much less impressive homes intermixed with two and three story condominium apartment buildings dating from the ’50s or ’60s. On some of these older streets sporting the large mansion-like homes, there were heavily planted boulevards with palm trees, colorful jacarandas and other exotic (to me from the Midwest) species of trees.

But the several main city beaches had plenty of parking (with the proper county beach sticker – $25 annually) including bathroom facilities plus the requisite shack serving hotdogs, pizza, ice cream, and cold drinks.

This first visit followed a great brunch just across the street that put us onto the sand about 1 pm, the height of the sun worshipping day. As we carefully climbed down the weather beaten wooden stairs, I immediately noticed the noise, or really the absence of seaside calmness. The sound of waves washing onto the sand beach in the tranquil milieu I was seeking was completely absent. The Gulf of Mexico was fairly placid with slight wave action (the boating forecast was for light wind with one to two foot waves). There were many groups of small and larger children building sand castles while others were attempting to bury each other or running and shouting with youthful reckless abandon. There were small groups throwing sand at one another while standing and issuing high-pitched yelps in the lapping waves.

All in all it had the appearance of a Norman Rockwell painting, albeit with much more sound added. We found a bare patch of beach near the shore to admire and share the waves. There were many beach umbrellas surrounding us. I noticed there were literally no sun worshipers without a beach umbrella. At least this seemed to be a health conscious if noisy group, I thought.

As we spread our blanket and positioned our chairs (schlepped from the curbside as I had to park several rows back) it became apparent that there would be little if any absence of yelling kids, screaming broods or boom boxes.

Our goal was to idle away the afternoon by soaking up some sun, walk a bit on the beach and catch up on our reading. As we settled in, I noticed sunbathers with iPods or other earphones. I had purposely not packed ours. I planned to get away from societal noise and its interruptions so as to experience the effect of the waves caressing the sandy beach.

The sun’s warmth was as welcomed as it was expected, however we carefully spread our sun block. After stabilizing the beach umbrella in the shallow sand, I adjusted it as the sun followed its course. We both shortly noticed the noise didn’t allow us to concentrate on reading easily, so we climbed out of our beach chairs and ambled up the beach as planned. As we noticed the many and varied attired sunbathers, we commented on their assorted outfits and body shapes as we walked along the gulf’s edge. The noise of the sun worshippers seemed to follow us as we moved along.

Shortly after returning to our scrap of beach, it was evident the exodus for the afternoon was getting underway. The clamor level was slightly lower, but still there was not the noticeable sound of waves lapping upon the sandy shore.

“Finally, the noise is less intrusive,” I thought. And so we continued reading, realizing shortly the nearby blankets had not yet emptied. The beach exodus had not yet reached their station. I feared they were staying as long as we were. But that did not include reading and enjoying the beach effect on their part. Another blanketed tribe came up and added on to theirs with noisy greetings. They began playing bridge on a portable short wooden rolled up table which appeared from their back pack. They had evidently played together often since it was the friendliest, loudest bidding bridge playing I had ever witnessed.

We discussed moving away from them down the beach, but the effort was more than we wanted to expend for the amount of estimated remaining time. The shadows were beginning to lengthen and a cool breeze sprang up announcing the coming end of another sun soaked day.

We decided to pack up and trek homeward. We re-schlepped our blankets, towels, two folding chaises, large beach umbrella and bag of books and magazines including the unread Sunday New York Times to curbside. We ran our feet under the beach shower in order to lessen the amount of sand we carried back to the car and ultimately into the house. I hiked deep into the parking lot for the car. My wife waited somewhat patiently at the curb for my return to load up our belongings.

On the ride back we spoke of the fine weather and pristine appearing beach. I groused, more than I needed to, I even agreed, that the wash of waves sound I was whining for was definitely lacking due to the over population of the area. Ah well, we all had to be somewhere, I allowed, with very little humility.

We entered the house and we both devoted the next few minutes to re-rinsing our beach shoes and feet from the still-accumulated sand.

I carefully balanced on the edge of the bathtub. I placed both feet on the washcloth stationed below the spigot and slightly turned on the warm water. There it was! I was startled to recognize the slight slush of water washing over my bare feet. It was exactly the sound I had sought and had been planning for all afternoon! I grimaced at the revelation of what I had been seeking was right here in my own tub in my own bathroom in my own home. I guess there really is no place like home, after all, of course with your own bathtub.