“There’s one,” I said. I gazed toward the crashing Pacific waves, leaned back in my beach chair, shading my eyes before the coming sunset.
“One what?” asked the disinterested wife, her beach reading interrupted.
“Jet Ski,” I said. “I mean, personal watercraft.”
“Well, write a column about it then.”
No, those days are gone. Nothing lasts forever, even personal watercraft hatred. Those perfect summer days on the lake, drinking lukewarm coffee, ingesting cheap fiction and detecting the faint scent of two-stroke engines are just fond memories now. There is no point in columns explaining why I not longer hate Jet Skis, I mean personal watercraft, written to satisfy readers who look forward to my annual critique of aquatic machinery.
“No column this year. It’s the only one I’ve seen, and it belongs to the lifeguard. It’s their save-the-surfers thing. Riptides, you know.” Indeed, the Jet Skiing lifeguard was going from bobbing head to bobbing head, explaining to future victims why they were heading out to sea, offering an orange pontoon to the needy.
This never happened at Lake Chelan, where we had spent the 20 happiest summer vacations of our life. Loss of accommodation and family obligations brought us to this bittersweet spot for commentary, Pacific Beach just north of San Diego. We’re sitting on the sand with 20,000 or so other people, enjoying the wonderful weather, turning our red noses into the breeze and looking across the choppy water knowing that if we could swim due west for six months we could make landfall in Japan.
This is the Warner family reunion. We are beach city stock, born and raised to the north of here, four blocks from the Pacific shore. We should have salt water in our veins and tar on our feet and be waxing down our surfboards, but I suspect we’d all rather be back at Lake Chelan. No offense to the California folks, but Lake Chelan is the best place in the world to spend a summer’s day. If you like to complain about Jet Skis, I mean personal watercraft, nothing comes close.
We don’t have a lake this year, so we make do with an ocean. Even if I prefer a freshwater environment, I will say that a day on the sand produces a superior sunburn. After my first-day exposure I am now covered with enough 30 spf to float me. I push my flaky toes into the sand and think that if I rolled around for a bit I could look like a giant sugar doughnut. On a Southern California beach, this constitutes a constructive thought. There’s trouble. I worry about what I’ll write when I get home, and a beach is draining my brain. For people like me the big problem is the first day back, when you must write about your vacation. There’s no alternative, having been oblivious to the real world for days. This forces you into tourism, for fodder. In San Diego that usually means SeaWorld or the zoo. I left Shamu and the penguin option to the younger Warners with larger budgets.
We did make a trip to Petco Park, not a zoo but a baseball stadium in the heart of downtown. It is beautifully done, a marvelous design. We had a thrilling afternoon in the upper deck joining in the Warner family pastime of rooting against the Hated Giants. We disguised ourselves as San Diego Padres fans and chanted “Let’s Go Padres … (clap clap, clap clap)” for the first time in our lives. The Padres responded with a home run binge and smashed the weakening San Franciscans 10-1. What a great game.
San Diego is a military town, and this was Armed Forces Appreciation Day at the ballgame, with appropriate and appreciative flourishes. The Padres wore their camouflage uniforms. Wounded veterans threw out the first pitch. The highlight, however, was watching an entire section of fresh-from-bootcamp Marines stand at attention during the seventh-inning stretch and sing every verse of the Marine Corps Hymn at the top of their lungs. The crowd hushed. Marine voices echoed through the stadium. It was strangely emotional, seeing a boisterous baseball crowed silenced as hundreds of young men vowed to protect them.
People will sacrifice for their country, and among other things protect my opportunity to sit in the sand, get sunburned and watch for Jet Skis. Lake Chelan it is not, but the reminder was appreciated.
Tracy Warner’s column appears Thursdays and Fridays. He can be reached at email@example.com or 665-1163.