As winter clamps it’s icy teeth firmly down upon our collectively, though strictly metaphorically, exposed backsides, I find my thoughts drifting back to warmer days of the summer past in a vain attempt to chase the chill from my bones. Upon reflection, I find it was quite a summer, full of fun and frivolity, and, frankly, my first fantastic taste of the life of luxury.
Sure, I had stumbled myself into a first class airplane seat before, as I’m sure most of us have at one time or another. But there were several experiences this summer that showed me what the better life could really be like. The first of these was The Beach Club.
Growing up any where else but The Five Boroughs, my only exposure to a beach club was through television and the movies. And, oddly enough, it would be the location where they shot one of these very movies that I had my first exposure to beach club life.
Friends, let me tell you, if you like going to the beach and have never been to a beach club, don’t go to one. I only say that because, once you do, you’ll never want to go to the beach any other way. The Silver Gull Beach Club is where they shot the classic Matt Dillon 1980s movie “The Flamingo Kid.” Apparently, the club was severly damaged by the previous year’s Super Storm Sandy, but when I laid eyes on it 10 months later, you’d never know anything was ever wrong. To gain access to the place you have to be a member or the guest of a member. Fortunately for me, my native guide’s parents have been members at the club for as far back as she can remember. They were generous enough to include me in the invite to my native guide and to give us one of their guest passes. As it turned out, we were there on the very last weekend of the season. Boy, am I glad we made it, just under the wire or not.
The club consists of several two story buildings, some jetting out onto the beach, mostly consisting of cabanas for rent for the season. In the center of the cluster of buildings are several pools, one for kids, one for adults only, and one for the whole family. There is also a hot tub and a brand new tiki bar, all of which is presided over by the watchful eyes of teenage lifeguards. The complex all faces out toward the beach and the ocean beyond. And if you look far enough into the distance over the water, you can see the very small yet distinct shape of the Statue of Liberty. That alone nearly blew my mind.
This place seemed to have everything: beach, shaded patio, air-conditioned televised football games on the big screen, an indoor cafeteria with more than just hot dogs and hamburgers. But it was the local color that really made the place: the old ladies and their cut-throat games of majong; the not-so-old ladies soaking in the rays on the beach; the men in the shade of the covered patio playing poker; and the seagulls, always the seagulls overhead. This was my kind of place.
As I revelled in this day of decadence, it became very clear that this was the ONLY way to do the beach. My native guide’s parents didn’t have a cabana; what they had was a locker that they split with another couple for the season. And when I say “locker” I don’t mean a place to leave your high school text books after fifth period French. This thing is big enough to step in and change your clothes before climbing in the car for the trip home. With this locker, the renter could bring all their gear, like beach chairs, towels, sunscreen, bags, big floppy hats, umbrellas, coolers and the like, only once and then leave it until season’s end. This set-up also provided a viable option for melanin-challenged individuals like myself who are forced to flee the sun’s loving rays within the first half hour of exposure no matter what SPF is applied, in the form of the covered patio and air-conditioned common area. And all without either being bundled like an eskimo on the beach in a desperate effort to avoid getting burned by the summer sun’s zealous demonstration of affection, or forcing the sun-worshipping goddess one has hitched themselves to who does not suffer from the same dread albinic affliction to pack in the day long before she is ready. Both guilt and grudge are avoided with the simple membership dues to a beach club.
But in my humble opinion, or “IMHO” for our text-saavy readers, the most important thing that a beach club provides is protection of one’s possessions while one is indulging in an aquatic frolic. Being blessed with a healthy dose of paranoia and situational awareness long before I moved to The City, my only concern with going into the water at the beach is the utter and complete vulnerability of EVERYTHING I decided to bring to the beach that day. And these days, who goes to the beach without at least bringing a cell phone with its standard issue camera? How else are you going to make all your Facebook friends jealous of your exotic lifestyle without these Instagrammed 1000 words plastered all over your Timeline from every concievable angle?
The beach club solves this problem by its very nature: it restricts access to its parcel of beach to only those who have paid for the priviledge or those that the priviledge payers can vouch for. And if any one of those people are stupid enough to swipe your stuff, the list of suspects is decidedly smaller than if you were at some jive old regular public beach (perish the thought!). So, when going for a dip, one can feel much more comfortable keeping their eye on the sea rather than on their belongings, which I advise strongly as that sea can be a real bitch and give you one helluva whallop when you’re least suspecting it. Now I don’t know from experience, but I imagine there are few things more embarrassing for a dude approaching middle age at a less than comfortablly rapid speed, than to be fished out of the drink by a red-trunked teenager young enough to be your son. No one would be happy with that mouth-to-mouth, I can be rather certain.
As I sipped my second pina colada under the shade of the tiki bar while gazing out over the glittering vastness of the Atlantic Ocean, the warm ocean breeze rustling the roof thatching, my native guide sipping at my side, I thought to myself, “Now THIS is the life! It can’t possibly get much better than this.” Little did I know…