A (strange) day at the beach | VailDaily.com

A (strange) day at the beach

Bernie Grauer

My plane began its long decent from 30,000 feet with nothing visible below us except a monochromatic, ugly brown sky. I peered out the window anxiously to see the city where I was born and lived for 60 years, but I didn’t get to see it until the plane was less than 600 feet above the ground and about to land at Los Angeles International Airport.Real Southern California aficionados can’t see the smog for the overcast but here’s what happened while I was there on a short, smog-filled weekend.I had been invited to play in a fund-raising golf tournament, and I was a little embarrassed when I drove my el-cheapo-compact rental car into the country club parking lot. I snuck slowly by three Mercedes station wagons, two Lamborghinis, two fire-engine-red Ferraris, three camouflaged Humvees and four dark blue Jaguars until I finally found a comfortable place out behind the dumpster where the kitchen help parks.Before the shotgun start, a fellow in the cart next to us lit up the biggest cigar I have ever seen. It was at least an inch in diameter, a foot long, and had to cost more than my rental car. I had to quickly move away from the cigar-smoke-smog-additive and get away just before the dark cloud of cigar smoke would have made me throw up all over my clean, rented golf cart.After the golf tournament I drove down to Hermosa Beach to take a look at where I had lived for so many years.The town is still all concrete, asphalt and sand and has 10 times a many people living in its two square miles as we have on our island that is 60 square miles. (That’s 35,000 people versus 3,500.) I found a place to park in the next town and walked into downtown Hermosa on the strand: the Strand being a ribbon of wide concrete that separates the sand from the ocean-front houses.It was my statistical observation that every third woman under 25 had some form of jewelry in her navel, and it sure looks like it would be uncomfortable for them to sleep on their stomachs. Some of them had so many face, ear and body piercings that they looked as though they had fallen face-first into a fishing tackle box.The real status in beach towns today, however, is how deluxe is the baby stroller you’re pushing. They come in all sizes, shapes, prices and colors and have all kinds of people pushing them. A dad on rollerblades glides by with his kid asleep in his crash helmet in a three-wheel carriage. You can’t tell whether he is a stay-at-home dad or he takes the day shift with the new kid and his spousal equivalent takes the night shift and they see each other occasionally, or it’s just his day off. His stroller did have miniature Mercedes Benz hubcaps on all three wheels.I sat on the cinderblock wall for a while and watched a Mexican nanny in a white nurse’s uniform stroll by pushing a super deluxe baby stroller. Something is wrong with this picture because the kid in the stroller she is pushing looked old enough to sell newspapers, but her own kid is walking and is still in diapers.The South Bay Strand is a real melting pot. Visiting it after not seeing it on a day-to-day basis for so long, I could write about almost everyone that I see because most of them look out of the ordinary to me now.I saw one man who was jogging and jiggling my way. I say it that way because that’s exactly what was happening. He was at least 6-foot-6 and had a waist to match. If you do the arithmetic, 6-foot-6 is 78 inches, which is the approximate circumference of the biggest, fattest person I have ever seen jogging. However, in this land of make believe, I’m the only person who thinks he is out of the ordinary, because he had an earring in his navel.What is ordinary when at least 30 percent of the ads in the local newspaper are for cosmetic surgery? Liposuction, tummy tucks, and whatever else the well-heeled, insecure, 30-year-plus person can pay to have their looks changed so they can look younger from 10 feet away.I think it is wonderful that only in America can such things as this happen while we read in the National Geographic about newly found tribes in a jungle somewhere and marvel at what they all do cosmetically. Only in Hermosa Beach can you sit on a cinderblock wall and watch the same type of far-out-of-the-ordinary people pass you by headed for who knows where.Me? I’m headed back to airport as soon as I can.

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