beachI don’t know about you, dear readers, but I want to blow this popsicle stand and head to the beach. In fact, looking outside my window right now, with the raindrops hanging from naked branches and the sky looking downright depressed, all I can think about is the smell of coconut-scented sunblock.

Especially in January, with Christmas over but winter here to stay, dreaming about warm climes is a nice way to spend a few hours.

With utter clarity, I can imagine myself walking by the ocean, with the slow whoosh, whoosh, whoosh of the waves. I can feel the water-soaked sand soften and relent under my feet. The breeze spreads the smell of salt and seaweed, and little kids comb the beach for seashells. Women are basking on towels, reading cheesy novels whose plotlines improve as they become greasy with Coppertone. And at the end of the walk? Grilled mahi mahi and a frosty, umbrella-adorned drink tasting tropical and sweet.

Ah yes, there is just nothing more perfect.

When I was 14 my parents decided we would go to Mexico for our family vacation. As part of their travel planning, they picked up a thick catalog that showed nearly all of the hotels in Mexico, complete with a few thumbprint-size photos of each facility and a tiny write-up that talked about whether or not the rooms had blow dryers or Jacuzzi tubs or included breakfast.

Almost every Saturday morning for at least eight weeks, I would sit down in one of the wingback chairs in the living room and pick up that catalog. Then, I would look at each of the photos. I would imagine myself in each of the hotel pools, sleeping in each of the beds, standing beside each palm tree and lying in each hammock. I would imagine myself, though flat and 14, glorious in a bikini and tossing my long hair over my shoulders in the most islandy way.

In the end, the dreams spawned from that catalog were slightly better than the actual trip, which involved, yes, salsa and a glittering pool, but boy-short hair and a one-piece.

Of course in reality, the beach can never be as good as the dream, only because real life tends to get in the way. Sand, after all, gets inside bathing suits. You fall asleep on your towel and get a nasty sunburn. The people beside you are talking loudly about their last night’s escapades that involved pitchers of Coor’s Lite and handstands.

But largely, being at the beach is a bloody fine way to spend a week, if only for the utter relaxation that comes along with it. Unlike other trips where you feel like you need to go and see the Alamo or the Declaration of Independence, your day really needn’t be much more complicated than whether you want to wear your blue bathing suit or your white one. If you want to sleep or swim, snorkel or jet ski. In fact, forgetting your sunglasses in the room and having to go back to get them might be the most you actually accomplish in an entire day.

It’s awesome.

For now, however, I am land locked and tied to my schedule of writing, picking up the dry cleaning and cooking spaghetti for dinner. It’s not a bad life, of course, and January, though long with its 31 days, is not a bad month. But how sweet it would be to be stepping off a plane right now and being greeted by a balmy breeze. Driving to the hotel, hearing music with steel drums, being served rum punch with grated nutmeg. The ocean rolling and blue. The pace decidedly slower. The sun about to set into the water.

Man, if only.

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