I'm going to be 100% honest with you here (when am I ever anything but), I really love the beach. I always have. As a wee little struggle I could be found spending my summers padding about in the water, filling my hair with sand and, this being Atlantic City where I spent the summers of my misbegotten youth, avoiding beer cans and hypodermic needles as I trotted along the shore. My father, Padre Struggle, has always shared this affinity for sun, sand and surf with me, and to this day as our paler family members shroud themselves in cover-ups and sunscreen and hide in the shade of a nearby cabana, we two wander the beaches of the world bronzing in the sun and scaring fish. So when we decided to take a weekend trip down to San Juan, Puerto Rico, finding the steamy Struggledelphia summer just a touch too cool for us, it was only natural that we would find ourselves oceanside.
Now, the beaches of Puerto Rico are famous not without reason. Apart from the fact that the waters of the Carribean are so insanely clear that you can see far more of your fellow bathers then you might actually want to (plus, you know, animals, and whatever), they provide a welcome respite from the more, shall we say, colorful aspects of my fellow Islanders. In a culture with more hand gestures then an interpretive dance group and more deep-fried objects then a McDonald's test kitchen it can be nice to get away from el tapon (while a literal translation of this might give you plug, the denizens of Boriquen know it best as traffic jam) and spend some time relaxing with the sound of the ocean trilling in your ears. Of course, as it happens, in the months between May and September, you might not be the only person with that idea in mind.
For example, when we strolled up to our favorite beach, El Escambron, a scant twenty minute walk from Viejo San Juan, ready to spend a little time getting to know skin cancer intimately, we realized somethings very quickly. Number one, every single other person who lives in the general area of San Juan had arrived there before us. And number two? They had brought the entire contents of their homes.
It must be said that my family and I do indeed bring quite a few things on any excursions we take ourselves. I personally am capable of packing a small suitcase for a less then 24-hour trip. And that's when I'm restraining myself. So I understand that when you take a beach trip you need sunscreen, towels, your sarong, your sunglasses, a book, another book if you think you might get bored with the first book, a notebook, a camera, a snack, a second snack because you burn so many calories burning in the sun, and a chair. At the very least. But compared to almost everyone I observed on Saturday afternoon, I'm like one of those Tibetan monks with 5 possessions.
Walking around, I noticed the following, none of which would have ever occurred to me to bring with me, well, anywhere: Multiple charcoal grills, a gas grill, several shopping carts filled with food, at least five full-scale infant play pens, tents, family sized coolers, three kitchen tables, and last, but in no way least, a sofa. Yes, that's write, a real living room sofa. Right there. On the beach. Because beach chairs? Just don't cut it any more, I suppose.
Now look, I'm all for comfort and convenience. I mean, as I currently type this I'm debating whether it's worth it to climb a total of two flights of stairs go get food (glorious food!) or to stay in this comfortable spot, and I can honestly say I have no idea which impulse will win. But bringing your living room and kitchen with you for a trip to the ocean? That's just crazy.
They did look comfortable, though. Maybe if I got a pick up truck? With some reggeton blasting and some bumperstickers on the back, I might fit right in!
Leah Franqui is a fairly interesting person/director/writer/reader/eater/drinker. She likes ugly dogs and dislikes her hair in the morning. She's a sucker for environmental causes and plays hardball with deals on chewing gum. She is a struggle.