some good timely advice on how to survive a coastal romp - written
by someone who has obviously "been there / seen that." Keith Hatton
has perhaps seen too much, which is why he now lives in Austin. It's
been said that America has gone from barbarism to depravity without
an intervening period of civilization. The same is true for Texas
beaches. They went from cannabalistic Karankawas to the debauchery
of Spring Break with only timeout for pirates, Comanche raids, hurricanes,
Union gunboats, more hurricanes, German submarines, ammonia nitrate
explosions and hepatitis cruises.
Have fun. - Editor
a long hiatus from the Texas shores, I promised myself an extended
Memorial Day holiday frolicking along the sandy beaches of Port
Aransas and South
Padre Island. Instead, I was thrown into a surreal world of Alice
in Wonderland with Gidget overtones. I was clearly unprepared for
what I encountered. Shocked and confused, my trauma could have been
prevented with a little knowledge, insight and preparation. Sharing
these ten suggestions for dealing with Texas beaches will help others
avoid similar problems and have an enjoyable trip.
- Plan before
you go. For women, acquiring that perfect bathing suit is crucial.
Unfortunately, there are only a few great bathing suits remaining
this time of the year. These can be found in the toy department
of most major stores. Look for “Barbie Accessories”. And, yes,
you will see string bikinis on the Texas beaches. Worn mostly
by women who resemble Broderick Crawford, and appear to have been
kicked out of Weight Watchers meetings for smuggling in doughnuts.
The nightmares should go away within a month.
- Many people
think all Texans are rednecks. However, we’re really as hip as
our California counterparts. This is especially apparent in the
number of piercings you’ll spot along our roaring surf. Belly
buttons, normally reserved for the sole purpose of gathering lint
from the cheap sweaters your relatives gave you at Christmas,
are now adorned with an assortment of jewelry. And, many young
men have more pricks on their face than an overweight porcupine
with a goiter problem. If you are bothered by people who look
as if their face caught on fire and they put it out with an ice
pick, I strongly suggest other vacation plans.
- You will
see an overwhelming number of tattoos. Remember when the only
person with a tattoo was that burly ex-Marine? His tattoo consisted
of something tasteful, like a naked lady planted squarely on his
upper arm looking as if it was scratched on with an almost-dry
Bic pen. Now, pre-teens have more body “art” than the Louvre.
Even silver- haired Texas grandmothers, formally relegated to
crocheting in the car, prance around in skimpy bikinis with tattoos
that read “ Old Cowgirls don’t have to keep their calves together.”
(P.S. Don’t forget to bring that all important nausea medication.)
- You will
eventually have to deal with sand in your swimsuit. It is just
a fact of life at the beach. You can prepare your body for that
somewhat uncomfortable sensation by placing four 8”X10” pieces
of 60-grit sandpaper in your shorts the day before your beach
excursion. (It’s also great for exfoliating dead skin around those
- Baggy clothes
are the fashion trend for young males at our Texas waters. Baggy
swim trunks, baggy jeans, and baggy tee shirts. And the bigger
the better. Anything that will contain the youth as well as a
four-burner Frigidaire range should be an appropriate fit.
- You will
also notice a number of adolescents cheerfully playing in the
surf, building sandcastles, and of course getting into all kinds
of mischief. Oh, the hours of wonderment and awe the small tykes
bring to a beach setting. However, bringing children to the coast
isn’t for everyone. For example, it is not for sane people.
- Surf fishing
can be great fun along the Texas Coast. And knowing what bait
the fish are biting is all-important. Asking the locals for the
“bait du jour” is a sure-fire way to land that trophy fish. After
asking around, you will undoubtedly find that the top two baits
are: dried week-old Cheese Whiz and “The gristle off Mamma’s Sunday
- Long strolls
on the beach are very romantic. And, it is natural to be curious
about the more unusual objects found lying lifeless along the
water’s edge. Be sure to know the difference between the small
Portuguese man-of-war and those certain products formerly only
sold in drug stores and gas station vending machines. Don’t touch
- At times,
seagulls can be a nuisance. Their caffeine-crazed personalities,
as well as their habits of begging and stealing, sometimes make
it difficult to enjoy even the simplest dejeuner saveureux. Often,
mace or pepper spray will fend off the pesky fowl, however, for
the larger, perkier gulls, it is best to just hand over Saturday’s
ham sandwich rather than lose one of your precious extremities.
- Come prepared.
At other state beaches people pack sunscreen, refreshing herbal
teas, sport drinks, vitamins, and healthy snacks. It seems that
Texans keep it simple. A large bottle of Jim Beam or Jack Daniels
is all that’s needed. If you have small children, you might want
to bring extra cups. If your children are really small, cutting
Jim or Jack with some Coke or 7 Up is good parenting and would
be the responsible thing to do.
© Keith N. Hatton
June 26, 2004