I was born to a paradox whose name is California.
My father, a son of the Gold Rush, was raised in the City by the Bay, looking inland towards the granite cliffs of Yosemite, past the old foothill mines to the barren peaks of the Sierra Crest. My mother, a daughter of beckoning sunshine and cool ocean mist, was raised on the beaches of Santa Cruz, looking outward from bluff to sunset over blue Pacific waters. Together, they create a diametrically opposed ethos: a state of two identities. They have spawn a generation of irreconcilable differences. – My sisters look westward towards the water. My brother and myself, we look eastward towards the mountains.
I have never understood the appeal of the beach, but I know it’s an important matriarchal fiber in my soul, thus resigned to frustration, I feel like I don’t understand a part of myself. I look towards the coast with a sort of cautious curiosity, as if towards a lost and perplexing past, but also with a contempt one feels for something tauntingly incomprehensible. Being raised in California, I’ve been surrounded by people who sing endless praises for the beach, and thus my disdain grew as it might for a foreign language everybody else speaks, or a joke everyone else finds hilarious.
I know I should accept the beach as part of myself, but I feel the beach taunting me, ridiculing me for not being a part of the exclusive club that somehow includes everybody else I know. Spending most of my life on the coast, I have gone to the beach on many occasion, and, much like going to a night club or some trendy bar, I find myself spending hours only pretending to enjoy myself while feeling denied of some mysterious key that somehow makes clubbing fun for everybody else.
TIME SPENT AT THE BEACH*
I remember once recently I went to Padre Island with a friend of mine. We drove through Corpus Christi, and I felt as if I were passing through a town that had been washed away violently by too many storms until all that was left was a battered and detached land of sleepiness and decay. We went to the shore and looked outward into the Gulf of Mexico. It was overcast and gray. Dead fish lay washed up on the sand as far up and down as the eye could see. I thought about the romanticized idea of a Pacific Coast beach house, pleasantly sunny and with a breeze, and it brought me back to images from my youth: rusty boats, rotting wood, stickiness and sand, and an ageless, timeless population of disenchanted hippy souls time has since forgotten.
A friend once asked: “Why does the ocean stand for freedom when it’s the most impassable feature on our earth?”
|What the beach smells like:||fresh ocean mist||kelp, sunscreen|
|What the beach sounds like:||gentle rolling waves||crying babies, tourists|
|What the beach feels like:||freedom||salty must|
|What one drinks at the beach:||Corona with lime||Bud Light Lime|
|Nude beaches:||hot topless coeds||old shriveled men|
And yet, it is beautiful. I can’t deny it. So many people I know enjoy it, they love it. Why do I need to understand it? Why can’t I just accept it for everyone else who does understand it? Why do I feel like I need the beach to accept me as one of its own? Do I not realize it doesn’t care who I am or how I feel about it? Can I not love it because my mother was born to it, because my sisters love it so? What do they see that I can’t, and why can’t I see it?
What are your secrets, ocean? Tell me.
And so there I stand at the border of land and sea, antagonizing the ocean shore, so beloved by those I adore, for whose affections also yearn. I loath it as a jealous lover basking in his own inadequacies, an estranged son and brother, envious of all its affections and praise, reluctant in my admission of defeat. For, as I look past my beloved kin and kind dancing happily in the sand, I see out into the azure wasteland of nothingness, silently taunting me with its infantilizing formidable will, at whose mercy I only wish I could also be.
*Data acquired by personal anecdote.