Going to the beach


When you grow up in the Northwest (as I did), going to the beach is a unique experience. The Northwest seashore is cold and foggy most of the time, even in the summertime, and not terribly welcoming.  Still, we went at least one day a year. It was a two-hour drive each way, to a little town called Long Beach, Washington, which was the usual beachfront honky-tonk town, with arcades and candy stores (I associate it with the smell of cotton candy, and I was there a few years ago, and am pleased to tell you that it still smells like cotton candy). 



Down the road from Long Beach is Ilwaco, a fishing port at the mouth of the Columbia.  (Ilwaco doesn’t smell like cotton candy; it smells like low tide and fish guts. But it has its charms too.) My father sometimes went salmon fishing on a charter boat out of Ilwaco; they’d go out very early, spend the day retching their guts out (the Pacific at the mouth of the Columbia is famous for being choppy), and come back empty-handed.  Then, on our way home, we’d stop in a little town called Chinook and buy a huge whole salmon for fifteen cents a pound, and pack it in ice in the trunk of the car. Dad would clean it when we got home, and we had a freezer full of salmon steaks to eat all winter long. 



In 1978 I relocated to Rhode Island, the Ocean State.  Here you’re never more than eight or nine yards away from a nice beach: Goosewing, Horseneck, Misquamacut, Narragansett, Moonstone.  (Moonstone was for a long time a nude beach.  Then the state decided to protect the piping plover, which (coincidentally) nested on the nude beach. And that was the end of that.)



In the Peace Corps, I was lucky enough to be posted to two places with beaches attached: Kenitra in Morocco, which has a lovely beachtown called Mahdia Plage nearby, and Tunis, with its long arc of beaches stretching out through Carthage to La Marsa. 



For one dangerous moment in Morocco I thought about becoming a professional expatriate, living in Tangiers with Paul Bowles and William Burroughs and the rest of the louche lowdown American crew I found there. 



Good sense talked me out of it.  But it would have been wonderful to wake up and look down at the Strait of Gibraltar every morning while having my morning coffee.


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