Growing up in Southern California we went to the beach like some people now go the the mall, on a whim, with no particular planning. It was a 10 minute trip from practially anywhere. We wrapped our Velveeta on white bread sandwiches in foil and shared one 12 ounce glass bottle of Coke between the 4 of us. We laid in a row on our mothers bath towels on the hot sand talking to the sky. We threw ourselves into the salty embrace of the waves when we got too hot. Even at 14 and 15 we took off our tops to prevent tan lines and glared down any passer by ill-mannered enough to look.
Thirty-something years later I have just returned from my Minnesota version of going to the beach. No longer a 10 minute trip, this is an hour excursion which requires at least three days of planning to produce the right menu and correct ingredients for libations. Gone are my foil wrapped Velveeta sandwiches, replaced now by Brocolli florets and artichoke dip. Buttery Nipples and Long Island Iced Teas are now served in matching plastic goblets with individual charms so we don’t get them confused, along with iced bottles of water to keep us hydrated. Plush 22 lb. terry loop beach towels with fancy dobby hems now protect our aging thighs from the harsh lounge chairs circled evenly for ease of conversation on the manicured lawn. We step gingerly into the lapping lake water and wade out waist deep then retreat the the comfort of our chaise, modestly wrapping our hawaiian print sarongs around our spreading middles.
Attempts on my part to draw any comparisons of this lake experience to the actual beach either to this midwestern bred congregation or to my similarly displaced compatriates from the past, draws alternately polite laughter or confused silence. Why, ask the lakies, would you prefer the gritty sand to this nice grass? Why, ponder the beachies, even bother to drive that far to sit on the grass? And what does lake water do?
Aside from the obvious tactile differences, I suppose there are subtler distinctions. A sort of unspoken code known only to seventies era teenagers who grew up on the coast, now long since forgotten or burried under thirtysomething years of midwestern cultural brainwashing. I shake my head and long for the easy grace with which we would glide from one thing to another on a whim, with no particular planning.