This week’s dispatch comes to you from the Emerald Coast, where dolphins frolic just beyond the waves’ foam and the bearded, ponytailed man in red cutoffs five yards from our deck rents a pair of blue canvas beach chairs with a matching umbrella for $200 per week.
But we are here, intoxicated by white sand, seagulls and sails. It’s a week that we don’t have to set the alarm to raise the boys, to make the breakfasts, to pack the lunches, to check the Thursday folders, to brush the teeth and comb the hair. And somehow, the morning miracle that it is, get outside the house before Bus 102 turns the corner to whisk the eldest off to Central so we can rinse and repeat and catch Bus No. 1 to Will Rogers an hour later.
The beach empty but for the bearded man, a few dedicated joggers, and a middle-aged fisherman hunting a meal, the mornings are quiet enough to hear the waves on the calmest of days. But by lunch time the night before has worn off enough that the frat boys and the sorority girls find their way back to the sand, where the smart set pours on the sunscreen, the too-cool-for-that boys turn stop-sign red and a few bronzed sculptures remain immune.
The average human has 3,198 square inches of skin that the college crowd covers with less than 12 square inches of Lycra and it’s only 52 degrees with a 20-mile-per-hour southerly wind.
The boys, chess club refugees whose peak sporting experience was a second semester badminton class, show off their athletic prowess by throwing footballs to one another, exploiting a silent agreement to stand close enough to one another that the throws look like zip lines to the end zone instead of the wobbling arc of the loser at the duck hunt.
The girls spread towels nearby and pull off tiny shorts and cropped T-shirts to reveal even tinier bikinis. They spend the next hour posing for each other’s iPhones with the Gulf in the background; there are model poses, silly poses, pyramids and piles. There is no thought of recording what they did on Spring Break, merely what they looked like. When the poses are exhausted, the towels return to the bags, the shorts to the hips and the people to wherever they were before they appeared on the beach.
“The March Hare will be much the most interesting, and perhaps as this is May it won't be raving mad — at least not so mad as it was in March,” says Alice.
Mad as a March Hare. The expression has been around since the Middle Ages, an English reference to the hares’ long and prosperous breeding season that starts in February and goes straight through to September. Frisky, they are, but convenient for all the springtime stories of eggs, bunnies, fertility and new life.
We all get a little crazy, a bit of Spring Fever, and nowhere more so than on white beaches where even cool sunshine is a respite from winter’s grey, and baskets — for pastel eggs or bright orange balls — mark a hurried return to longer days and shorter pants.
Come Friday, we’ll endure the groggy return to I-35 lane closures and waiting out the left turn signal at Second and Bryant and wondering whether a life spent on the beach renting overpriced umbrellas is really such a bad idea.
“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat. “We’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”
© Ted Streuli 2019