Sunday, June 20, 2010

Millions of beaches. Beaches for free.

After the drive down the coast, we made it to San Diego for a weekend of not-working before our visit to Scott Makeig's lab on Monday. The freeway system in San Diego exposed a source of confusion that had nagged me since Santa Barbara. As we were driving around on Saturday the 5th, Josef asked me if we could go to West Beach. He had also asked, in Santa Barbara, if we could meet someone at West Beach there. I told him that I wasn't positive, but I didn't think Santa Barbara had a West Beach.

But now, I was pretty sure. There is no West Beach in San Diego. Plenty of communities around here named "Beach" - Pacific Beach, Ocean Beach, Mission Beach, Solana Beach, etc. But no West Beach.

"Josef, I don't think there is a West Beach in San Diego."

"There is. I saw it on the freeway sign."

"But I never saw it anywhere, and you keep reporting West Beach everywhere. I mean, it would be kind of a redundant adjective, right? We're on the west coast. Where else would a beach be? I know of North Beaches, and South Beaches, but no west beaches around here. Or east beaches, for that matter."

"There it is. On the sign!"

"Ah. That's 8 West. Beaches. The "West" matches the freeway direction, not the beaches."

I had to admit, it was a reasonable misunderstanding. Whle we're at it, I wish they would make up their minds on whether PCH is a freeway, highway, Scenic drive, road, Carlsbad Blvd, etc. All the "Begin freeway" and "End freeway" signs along PCH in central California are unhelpful. Tourists don't really care about the technical details of when and why and where a road can be designated a highway or freeway. If you wanna sneak in some cross streets, fine; just leave it as a highway then.

But, of course, the beach needs no name to shine. The beach, by any other name, would not only smell as salty; it would instantly turn the foulest word pure. The brightness of the beach would shame that term as daylight doth a lamp; her skies would through the airy regions stream so bright that birds would sing and think it were not night!

On Sunday, we met up with others from our lab and I guided them to Garnet Street on Pacific Beach. I had promised a day with no clouds, or maybe one or two. Indeed, I trained Josef to play the fun San Diego game "Count the Clouds" in La Mesa, which is typically cloudless. His take: "Have you played Count the Clouds, Clemens? It is an easy day, and does not take very long." But the beach was entirely cloudy, with no sun at all, on an early afternoon! I was flabbergasted. Actually, the clouds were kind of pretty, but I didn't think labmates would agree. So we forged ahead anyway. Then, they deemed the water too cold, although it seemed fine to me. So we had to rent wetsuits, and I said we should get some boogie boards too, since it was their first surf lesson. Also, the waves were iffy.

We went to the beach and geared up. I pointed out how there was a line of surfers out there, and that was where the best waves are. I explained that we will first go to the line of smaller waves to practice and learn when to catch waves, and then we can get more aggressive. Markus was not convinced, eager to rent some shortboards and go rip it up with Kelly Slater in a tsunami somewhere. I said, dude, one step at a time. I also warned the lifeguards that I was launching gremmies, and he said thanks, be sure you surf right in front of our tower, and I said, yup, that's why we put all our towels right there, in front of your lifeguard tower. I also told them we would stay away from the line of board surfers, and I would just teach them whomping around the shore.

This plan worked out exceptionally well. There were surprisingly few kids whomping that day, and boogie boards are made for those cute little 3 footers. I had to admit, it was more fun than I remembered. Günther and Markus caught on pretty well, and Günther caught a pretty impressive 5 footer. We rested, went back, and repeated until we were pretty well beat. Nobody got any major sunburn, nobody got hurt, no equipment damaged; not a bad recovery from a beach day that, literally at least, started quite gloomy. The final comment of the normally laconic Günther as we left the beach nailed it. "That was great."

"Millions of peaches. Peaches for me. Millions of Peaches. Peaches for free. Lookout."
--The Presidents of the United States of America.

"You see, Clemens? All of this beach is a huge playground. It is huge, free, safe, healthy, fun, social, relaxing, and enriching. And kids love it."

"Don't they clean the seaweed?"


"All the seaweed on the beach. Do they clean it?"

"Uh. No. What's wrong with the seaweed?"

"It is just sitting there and rotting."

"Um. Well, sure. I mean, what else would it do?"

"They should clean it."

"Who is they? Besides, it washes up all the time. Nobody has any problem with it. Kids play in it all the time. I used to. Look how I turned out."

No comments: