99 Problems, and a Beach is Lots of Them

It’s beach season! I live in Utah, where the closest thing we have to a beach is a lake that’s mostly two inches deep and smells like rotten eggs, but growing up I used to visit the Oregon coast quite a bit. Well, the last few summers I’ve visited some fancy East Coast beaches with my wife’s family, like Ocean City and Virginia Beach, and I have to say: these beaches are different.

East Coast beaches have these things called boardwalks, which is basically something they build to get a hundred stores as close as possible to your wallet. Ocean City even has an entire amusement park on their boardwalk, complete with an enormous Ferris wheel with a huge logo advertising Soda of a Particular Brand. If enjoying the natural beauty of the ocean is more your thing, you can of course walk down the man-made pier (for a price).

As you look out on the water, airplanes fly by with old-school banner ads – actual banners – for vodka and/or casinos, which are outdone only by the enormous barges that float by carrying nothing but theatrical-size digital billboards for competing vodka and/or casinos.

I don’t want to suggest that there was no natural life there. We saw an entire school of energetic dolphins jumping behind a barge, doubtless trying to follow it to the vodka and/or casino for which it was advertising. I also saw three small children quizzically investigating a used diaper that had washed up on the sand, and if that’s not the Circle of Life in action, I don’t know what is.

The research department of a local university actually did a comprehensive study of the chemical makeup of the sand at Ocean City. It was a four-year study using thousands of samples, and their findings were peer-reviewed and published in a respectable science publication. They found that the sand at Ocean City consisted of only 10 percent natural minerals, 14 percent asphalt, 32 percent sunscreen, and 114 percent discarded Caprisun pouches.

Oregon beaches, meanwhile, have actual sand, but they don’t have extensive boardwalks, amusement parks, or vodka-addicted dolphins. To even get to the beach you have to take an implied path through waist-high grasses and just kind of vaguely walk towards the sound of the ocean. You’ll know you’re going the right direction once you pass a plaque commemorating the spot where Lewis and Clark once relieved their bowels.

Oregon beaches are just absolutely gorgeous, punctuated by picturesque rock formations and coastal curios. They make for beautiful postcards and breathtaking art. The only drawback, of course, is that they’re unsuitable for human life.

You see, the ocean there is colder than an Eskimo’s mother-in-law. No one actually goes into the water. If they do, they wear something called a wetsuit, which is basically just frogperson cosplay and a ticket to condescendingly declare “Wow! I can barely feel the cold at all!” as they grin manically, their teeth chattering, before their tongue darts out and catches a nearby sandfly.

No one wears wetsuits on East Coast beaches; they wear the finest beach fashion available to them at the many stores on the boardwalk, which, from what I can tell, mostly involves a lot of cheap tee shirts with expensive price tags. But wow, the poetry on these shirts! Who can really put a price on being able to emblazon such deep emotional trauma across your chest as “I Love Hot Dads,” or its inspired sequel, “I Love Hot Moms”?

The most intriguing shirts, though, are the ones you buy in pairs. To me, that’s a daunting proposition. When you buy one, you have to fully commit to always being literally right next to the other person, as if you’re cosplaying Siamese twins. And you absolutely cannot be the only one to wear the shirt. Imagine walking around the beach wearing “BE / FUC / BIT” without the accompanying “ST / KING / CHES” right next to you.

And then there’s placement, too. What if you get on the wrong side of each other? What am I supposed to make of “STBE KINGFUC CHESBIT?” Some kind of British lord with a Germanic first name and a propensity for stabbing people? Ocean City is not for you, Lord Chesbit! Go stab elsewhere!

There is something commendable – even admirable – about the merchants’ brazenness at East Coast beaches. I paid $17 for a hamburger and a Soda of a Particular Brand from a windowside diner, and the guy had the cajones to ask for a tip. The corner store that sells a gallon of milk for $8, a five-star review, and the last four digits of your Social is literally named “Outrageous Outlet.” At that point you can only pull up your Yelp app and blame yourself, right? You sure didn’t step into a store called “Reasonable Outlet.”

Meanwhile, the only food at Oregon beaches is a tiny mom-and-pop restaurant that serves small cups of chowder and sells used books written exclusively before the assassination of Franz Ferdinand.

There aren’t even lifeguards at Oregon beaches. There is only a national parks ranger wearing green shorts of a climate-inappropriate length, who will patrol the beach to warn people of the endangered Snowy Plover birds. He will remind you that they are a protected species and to please not litter, interact with driftwood, or leave out anything edible. (Locally sourced vegan snacks are fine.)

You’re not supposed to stand the driftwood up, because – and I am not making this up – the natural predators of the Snowy Plover will then use it as a perch from which to build guard towers and machine gun nests for their Snowy Plover concentration camps, accelerating the extinction of this fragile bird.

Meanwhile in Ocean City, roving gangs of birds are mugging pedestrians on the boardwalk for their nine-dollar fries. If you try to scatter the birds they’ll just twist their heads and stare at you, as if to say “Who do you think’s in charge here?”

But going to the beach isn’t just about the sand or the water or the ambiance – it’s about the people.

At East Coast beaches, attractive twenty-somethings wander the beach to chat with you, take your picture, ask if you’ve seen the signs for the local vodka and/or casino nearby and if you knew they were throwing an event tonight, and then politely inform you that the picture is free but that people typically give them a tip.

Then you have the local musical talents, like that guy playing “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” (for tips). Badly. With a bagpipe. This man is parked, all day, in front of the one restroom within 7 miles that isn’t customers-only. And yes, even the public restrooms have tip boxes. They hang ‘em on the wall, right next to the automatic hand dryer from 1972 that looks and sounds as if it’s missing a lawnmower pull-cord.

Of course, the only bathrooms on Oregon beaches are among nature itself. You have to find a secluded spot half-hidden by piles of driftwood and tall grasses and just hope that the Snowy Plovers aren’t watching you.

But truly, the beach experience is a universal human experience, no matter which beach you choose to visit this auspicious beach season. And remember, if you enjoyed this column, please leave a tip, and don’t forget to pour out an ice cold Soda of a Particular Brand!

This article first appeared in the Duzett Gazette, the really official newsletter of Carl Duzett. Sign up here to get more content like this in your inbox, as well as some other content that isn’t quite like it, but is probably also good.

read a free story

Get a copy of the award-winning short story THE ONCE AND FUTURE CLEAN by subscribing to the Duzett Gazette.

Other Articles

The Batman – The Review

Do you want to watch a movie that takes place in a city where it never stops raining, and where they still actually listen to grunge music, and that features Robert Pattinson playing a bat-related protagonist? Then boy do I have two movies for you!

For Whom the Gun Tops

I just saw the new Top Gun movie, and I have to say it’s the most exhilarating, engrossing, spectacular movie about counting that I’ve ever seen. 

Local Politics are Best Politics

Recently I attended the Utah County Republican Convention as a delegate. I know that reveals something about me that may be controversial to some, but I am not afraid or ashamed to admit that yes, I do live in Utah County.