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Beach in winter is cold, but nice

March 06, 2007|by TIM ROWLAND

Commentary

There's something about the beach in March. Something magic, something obscure, something you don't necessarily get at other times of the year, so it seemed an opportune time to go and find out what it was about the beach in March that I'd forgotten from years past. And before the dying evening was gone, as the light dwindled, it had come to me. I had my answer what it was this time of year that makes the beach so unique:

It's COLD.

Crewcut-freezing cold, although to be honest, crewcuts always look a tad stiff.

But to me, beaches "in season" have their drawbacks. For example, in July, people frown on you for wearing shoes.

To put it simply, sand is not my friend. This dates back to the time I worked summers in a sand mine, and had sand creeping into places where, prior, I had never known I had places. If I were choosing a natural resource to spend the rest of my natural life with, sand would not be high on the list.

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Especially when it coagulates with that goo known as sunscreen and sticks to your neck. And the back of your knees and all kinds of other unwanted locals.

But when it's cold you can enjoy the beauty of the ocean while wearing sneakers, socks and sweatpants and all other manner of sand-prohibiting haberdashery and no one gives you a second look.

Partly this is because at this time of year it's standard behavior and partly because there ARE no other people. Beaches in summer attract a load of people packed Haiti-raft thick, and nothing destroys nature than a small city's worth of people seeking nature.

And in the very early spring, a natural part of nature is naturally missing, that being the airborne soup known as humidity. To me, the beach in summer is like waking up in a glass of Epsom salts. You can't really tell whether your eyesight is failing due to advancing years, or if the humidity is turning the beach umbrella five feet in front of you into a ghost.

In early spring, the sunrises are crystal clear. It makes me wish I were one of those poets of the written word, like Mark Helprin, who can take something like a cow giving birth and turn it into impressionist art. Me? No. I would start out like, "And the sun's early rays lit the droplets of spray into fires of molten glass, like the glassmaker making glass out of his glass-making thingy."

Somehow, it just doesn't work.

What else doesn't work is the area of accommodation, where hotels have this way of telling you that you are not wanted by, being, in a word, closed. The same cannot be said of the commodity known as "Bed and Breakfasts." I'll be honest, B&Bs and I are not cut from the same cloth - and as a way of demonstrating, allow me turn to the specific area of cloth. Like around windows.

An entire industry is made out of the curtains in these historic homes. As for me, and I think most guys of the modern era, I am happy enough for a "window dressing" that is basically limited to miniblinds. Let the light in, let the light out, that's all I really require. No so, our ancients. They treated curtains like pancakes, looking for any excuse to add a layer, and true to historical accuracy, so did the innkeepers. First there is the gauze group, then comes the lace group, then the jacquard group, then the group of some material roughly the weight and thickness of leaded x-ray vests. Rather impressive, really. A nuclear bomb would have bounced off, I suspect.

At these spots, the breakfasts are good, but you can't enjoy them. The owners stand around panting, just waiting for you to pose a question to which they can leap down your gullet and fashion a totally overblown answer out of your gizzard.

"So, this room I'm staying in, I guess it was once,.."

"Oh let me tell you about that room. It was where pirates took their hookers to gamble and you notice all the tall windows, but in those days doors were taxed, so they made the doors look like windows but sometimes there would be raids and then the gamblers would throw their chips out the windows which were really doors, and we know this because when doing the renovation, we excavated stacks of ..."

And by this time all you want is another pancake, but it does no good because these innkeepers have such a rage for explaining.

By the time you leave you are full not from food, but from descriptions of the grounds, the architecture, the flowers that were planted by the previous owner and a whole bunch of other stuff you didn't want to know.

Dazed, you walk outside to one constant. It's still March, and it's still cold. But nice.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324 or via e-mail at timr@herald-mail.. You can listen to his podcast, The Rowland Rant, on www.antpod.com.

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