Fun in the Sun?

Family On Summer Beach Vacation Run Out Of Sea Towards Camera

Ah yes, Paradise on Earth. As a people, we have traditionally viewed summer beach vacations as the closest one could get to Heaven while alive. When I first came out to California in the late 1960s, I thought so, too. While working part-time at System Development Corporation in Santa Monica, I spent many afternoons lying on a towel and reading steamy fiction like Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet.

The water was fun to a certain extent, but I was never a board or body surfer, though I went in often enough to be savaged by the occasional rough wave. Also, I tended to burn—especially as I had no one to slather my back with sun tan lotion.

While I live only two miles from the beach at Santa Monica, I don’t spend time there any more, unless I take a walk on the boardwalk connecting Santa Monica to Venice. Part of the reason is that the water is more polluted than ever, especially because we are only 20-30 miles (32-48 km) from the nation’s largest port, where freighters and tankers regularly foul the waters with petrochemical waste.

So when Martine and I go to Hawaii in a couple months, are we planning for any beach time? Not really. Although the waters at Waikiki are less polluted, the sun is stronger; and we both have fair skin. We are more interested in visiting Honolulu as a destination rather than trying to live in a pharmaceutical commercial.

I suppose if we lived east of the Mississippi, we would yearn for sunshine; but, living in Southern California, we have sunshine on most days of the year. In fact, September tends to be one of the hottest months of the year in Los Angeles. So we are likely escaping even hotter (albeit drier) weather at home.

South Bay

Looking South from King Harbor in Redondo Beach

The Pacific Coast from the airport south to Point Fermin on the Palos Verdes Peninsula is a kind of Beach Neverland in which there are a number of high-price communities such as El Segundo, Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach, a small sliver of Torrance, and the wealthy enclaves around the hills of Palos Verdes. Collectively, the area is known as the South Bay.

Today, Martine and I drove down to Captain Kidd’s Fish Market & Restaurant in Redondo Beach. It’s a bit of a splurge for us, but we enjoy the fresh fish and the view of the southwest-facing ocean on a sunny day. I had some Canadian salmon char-broiled, and Martine had some sautéed Alaskan cod.

Usually we walk south along the boardwalk after we eat, but today we just returned home. Martine’s feet have been hurting, and she wanted to rest them.

When I first moved to Southern California at the end of 1966, the first area that my friend Peter showed me were the beach communities of the South Bay. To the kid from Cleveland, which I was, it all smacked of hedonism; and I looked on it with disapproval. In later years, I was one of the hedonists on the beach in Santa Monica.

There is something gemlike in these communities. They have always had a kind of glow in my imagination. In fact, I wouldn’t mind living there, if I could afford it.