Saturday, May 23, 2009

the cove

My husband regarded me with a skeptical eye. "So in your view," he was saying, "the primary purpose of a day at the beach is to avoid the sun at any cost."

I nodded. "Yes, that is the goal. Actually, if it's at all possible I would like to emerge even whiter than before. Bleaching would be ideal." I waved my sunscreen lotion at him, laughing. "Look ~ SPF Clorox!"

We had donned our bathing suits for the second time this century and, armed with an orange striped umbrella, a wide brimmed straw hat and enough Banana Boat SPF 50 sunscreen to protect us from harmful UV rays even in the face of a nuclear explosion had headed for the pristine sands of Crystal Cove State Park.

"You're already whiter than an Irish albino," said my husband. He was sprawled recklessly beyond the comforting shade of the orange striped umbrella, cap pulled low upon his brow, eyes scanning the horizon for signs of dolphin or whale. Or maybe Spanish galleon. Like an old pirate.

"Yes, well, I've done enough damage to my skin over the years to horrify many a Clinique salesgirl as it is," I replied. I thought of all the years I spent slathering my body with baby oil and going up on the roof of my Long Island home, the better to be closer to the sun. I would fry up there for hours. I had sun poisoning more than once.

"You do understand that you are still going to age," he said, grinning.

"I know," I lied.
"But you can't blame a girl for trying."

We had come to the Historic District of Crystal Cove to celebrate my husband's birthday, something we'd been wanting but unable to do for years; the cottages fill up within minutes of opening reservations, which book online 7 months in advance. After weeks of trying to snag a cancellation, we scored ~ first one, then two consecutive nights at Cottage #2, the Shell Shack. I am certain it is only due to Turk's most excellent karma. And he never doubted we would succeed for a minute.

Built in 1926, the cottage was a step back in time, a chance to experience the California beach style of a bygone, golden era. This was a community of artists and surfers, middle-class bohos and wealthy ne'er-do-wells. I've always felt I was born in the wrong time and place ~ as if, waiting in the wings to make my entrance on the universal stage I had stepped out for a cigarette and missed my cue to appear, stumbling out in some much later, less interesting Act 21. This is the scene I was meant to play in. This is the era in which I was meant to live.

Our front porch overlooked the cheerfully retro Beachcomber Restaurant, where they hoist and salute the martini flag every evening at 5:00, not so sharp, and ring the bell at the frequent dolphin sitings. The playful mammals cavort a mere 10 yards or so from shore. A waitress told us of a visiting seal pup as pelicans flew in formation over our heads. At night a chorus of frogs living in the nearby creek sang us to sleep.

And of course, there is nothing quite so wonderful, so soothingly powerful as the pounding of the surf outside your wide-open windows at night. It is, simply, bliss. From the oceans have we come and to the oceans we must return. I should live like this. We should all live like this. And if we're very, very lucky, thanks to the Crystal Cove Alliance, for a night or two we can.

Somewhere the martini flag is flying, and a very pale woman and her long-suffering, sun burnished pirate husband are making their way back up from the beach. Happy birthday, Turk. Cheers!