The News from Long Beach

It’s a steamy 86 degrees here at Long Beach, a place where all the women are tan, all the men are buff and all the children are excellent surfers.

The beach is pure peace in the early morning. True, everything has a certain calm to it at 5:45 a.m., but when you’re standing with your toes in the sand and can look for miles and see nothing except for beach, surf and sky, you feel like you’re smack in the middle of serenity. And that’s a nice place to start your day.

Today, the baby stroller brigade power-walked up the boardwalk in its usual purposeful way. Everyone knows to stay clear of the swarm of spandex-clad women pushing their most precious cargo and squeezing their hind quarters. Once, in August of 1989, someone didn’t heed the call, “Comin’ Through!” He walked with a limp for a month.

Tanning begins early here. It’s a sport for some, a job for others. The locals have a range of sun-kissed skin tones—cocoa, caramel, bronze—all of which are well-developed. You can tell who lives here year round by their degree of tan, and who is riding over a bridge into town with their SPF 60 that’s the consistency of glue. The locals abide the tourists, but that’s about it.

Parking in Long Beach isn’t so much a chore as a crusade. Spots near the sand are hard to come by and expertly managed by local residents. Some move motorcycles from their garages to hold a space on the street if their car is being used. Others jump to move their car from their designated space to an open spot if company is dropping by. It’s part Survivor, part Seinfeld.

Tonight is the annual Sun Dance, a time when everyone in town holds hands on the beach and bows three times: Once for the sand and sea, twice for the invention of surf boards and thrice for those squat, aluminum beach chairs that fold up to the width of a pancake. So, if you’re around this evening, by all means head to the beach for the festivities. And if you’re coming from that craggy rock to the west, one recommendation: Get a spray tan first.

My regards to Garrison Keillor.

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