Book excerpt: A strong case for taking hardcover books to the beach

If the red flags are up, you might find another use for a book other than reading. Photo: (RT) A day at the beach.

DOTHAN, Ala., July 17, 2013 — There is a good reason to take hardcover books to the beach and it has nothing to do with reading.

While Rick Townley is on vacation, here is an excerpt from his book, For Boomers Only, which takes a humorous look at how baby boomers are coping with life in the new millennium. This story was inspired by humorist Russell Baker, who once wrote, “Ah, summer, what power you have to make us suffer and like it.”

Summertime Blues

Quick, without stopping to think about it, name all the things you remember about summertime as a kid.

Here are a few of my items: a squeaky wooden screen door with a spring that would make it slam shut and aggravate my mother, a metal fan that I used for shredding plastic soldiers, odd flavored hamburgers because my father used gasoline to light the charcoal grill, running through all the sprinklers in the neighborhood, backyards with no fences, a bicycle with fat tires and being able to buy a comic, a soda AND some bubble gum with just a quarter.

The one thing I don’t remember was a daily summer temperature near 450 degrees that lasted from May to October. Today we can’t survive without air conditioning, but we are told to moderate using it because it contributes to global warming by pushing the hot air out of our houses and into the air. Or something like that.

Frankly, I think global warming somehow involves Mexican food or Canadians blocking the flow of cool air from the north. Then again there is a record amount of hot air coming out of Washington, D.C., these days.

One neat thing about being an adult is being able to drive myself to the beach with some new books to read, preferably printed on paper rather than the e-book variety. The beach can be a fascinating experience, somewhat like jumping into a deep fryer, but it is also something baby boomers find hard to give up.

Despite countless sunburns, romantic disappointment and sand in places you didn’t know sand could get to, the beach is something indelibly imprinted into the universal consciousness of the entire “Pepsi Generation.”

I was never a huge beach fan myself, but I made a trip there recently after my neighbors complained about my running through their sprinklers to cool off. I found an old pair of baggies and Huarache sandals, put on Beach Boys music, bought a sand pail and shovel and headed off to the beach with the latest bestsellers tucked under my arm.

I forgot a beach towel thanks to a rogue senior moment upon departure, but nothing I was taking could be badly damaged by sand or sun. Nothing, that is, except for me. I had no surfboard. I couldn’t surf when I was young and I surely wasn’t going to try it now, but I did want to re-experience the joy of building a sandcastle.

The books were mainly for effect. I don’t ever remember actually reading at the beach, but if you’re not a bronzed sun god you have to at least look somewhat educated.

I got a nasty sunburn two minutes after stepping onto the beach, but I kept going. There were plenty of whitecaps on the waves and the beach itself was crowded, but no one was in the water. I figured they were all just wimps because the water temperature was probably about 135 degrees colder than the air. I didn’t know that it was a “red flag” day, which meant the undertow was quite strong and no lifeguards were on duty.

I went in the water anyway and was immediately caught by severe undertow that nearly dragged me halfway to Europe. With some struggle I managed to fight my way back to the shallows. It was then I realized that my swim suit had kept going with the current. Someone in Spain now owns a nice pair of Hawaiian-style baggy swim trunks.

I raced from the water to where I had left my things in the sand. I tore the covers from the hardcover books and used them for a new fashion statement while hastening to the locker room. Fortunately I had not brought paperbacks or an e-reader that day. 

The other neat thing about being an adult is that after being thoroughly embarrassed at the beach and suffering a third-degree sunburn in awkward places, you can sit in your air conditioned living room with a martini and watch beach movies on a flat screen television. The weatherman has forecast more high temperatures for the rest of the summer, but I don’t care because I’m not going anywhere. I plan to stay indoors until October, then I’ll venture outside for the three days of autumn we will get before it starts to snow again.

Note: The US Lifesaving Association estimates there are over 282 million visitors to American beaches each year, with about 54,000 rescues by lifeguards. The primary causes for rescues are rip currents and heavy surf. The odds of drowning at a beach with a lifeguard are one in 18 million, much higher on unguarded beaches. As with most outdoor activities, safety increases when stupidity decreases.

This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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Rick Townley

Rick Townley was a bookseller before switching to electronic publishing with The New York Times, Reuters, Grolier and others. He is the author of a humor book, For Boomers Only – Exploring Life in the New Millennium, a supernatural novel, Stepping Out of Time, and numerous short stories. In addition to contributing to the Washington Times Communities, Rick is working on a fiction series called Stigma and resides in southern Alabama with his 7-year-old granddaughter, Chloe.


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