Beachy Keen

By Chris Erskine
Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES ~ I try to keep moving, just so they don’t toe-tag me and send me off to the morgue. I run in the mornings and lift in the evenings, mostly beer and the on-sale Chardonnays.

“Dad, you look great for 57,” one of the kids said the other day.

“I’m 52,” I said.

“Oh.”

I’ve also been trying to get out to the beach, where healthy older folks spend a lot of time, running with their golden retrievers, pondering their pasts, losing their credit cards in the sand. If you haven’t turned 50 yet, it is the age where you begin to lose things – car keys, credit cards and a significant portion of your vocabulary.

We were down at the beach on the Fourth of July and plan to go again every weekend this summer. I find the beach rejuvenating, and there are always plenty of strangers there who have never heard my stale, tired stories or my stale, tired jokes.

“I’m thinking of buying an island,” I say, starting one conversation.

There are many ways to start up a conversation among new friends, and I find “I’m thinking of buying an island” to be somewhat effective.

There are other handy conversation starters. “I married the perfect woman – just ask her” seems to work pretty well too.

The beach makes me flip with my remarks, which is the one social advantage I don’t usually possess. People describe me as “friendly,” “nice,” “good with library books,” but seldom flip.

“He’s very good with books,” my wife is always proudly telling new neighbours. “Very good.”

I think there’s something in that Coppertone. It affects me like moonshine. Rub a little Coppertone across my shoulders and the worries of the world begin to lift. I shed 20 years and grow back several teeth I lost recently. Coppertone is like my fountain of fun.

What I also like about the beach is the way the family unit reverts to caveman days. At the beach, the men do the cooking and the women relax in their beachy chairs. I notice how the wives like to get a little crocked. I tell them they’re not supposed to drink at the beach; it’s the law. Do they listen?

“Hey burger boy, fetch the ketch!” they just holler, then chortle till they pass out.

What I also like about the beach, lately, is the harem pants our friend Debbie was wearing the other day, blowing like tiny linen sails in the late afternoon gusts.

Debbie looked like Liz Taylor, in one of those boozy love stories Taylor did back in the 60s with Richard Burton, about a love triangle with a sandpiper. There’s something to be said, I guess, for diaphanous britches.

It’s amazing how one pair of harem pants can invade your brain. Yet, though I admire harem pants, I have no real interest in harems themselves. I just imagine 10 versions of Posh, all sultry, all lying around twirling their hair and looking for trouble.

“Can you take out the trash?” one of them would say, and in no time, the other Poshes would be harping at me to take out the trash or fix the float ball in the toilet. That’s what harem life would be like for me. A torturous sorority.

Seems to me that having a harem would be very complex. You’d have 10 mothers-in-law. Can you imagine Christmas? Somehow, I see lots of tiny white poodles, peeing everywhere.

One day, the harem master would come to me and say “We have a new member!” and she’d turn out to be just like the others – shockingly beautiful, a little high strung, selfish and smarter than me. Who needs that? OK, I do.

But frankly, you can keep your harems. Life is already full enough.

Besides, I’ve got this wonderful beach, where we’ve decided to go every weekend, all the way till mid-August. Posh fills the cooler once and we are stocked till fall.

You should see Posh fill a cooler. It’s as if we’re off on some round-the-world voyage. There are grapes, to fight scurvy, and three kinds of salsa for protein. There are seven types of brats and hummus and wedges of cucumber. When that doesn’t seem enough, she sends me to the store for a little wedge of pepper jack cheese.

“Be sure to look at the price per ounce,” she warns.

By the time she is done, the cooler – roughly the size of an SUV, a little wider – is so stuffed that you can’t find anything, and you take to just grabbing the very first thing you can reach. In my case, a juice box and some Hannah Montana crackers.

Yum, this is the life. Someone fetch the ketch.

Erskine can be reached at chris.erskine@latimes.com.

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