Except for the persistent fog, summer vacation at the beach remains one of life's greatest pleasures. The thought of umbrellas and beach chairs, picnic baskets and fat paperback novels can make even the most serious of stressed folks contemplate relaxation. We are drawn by the lulling sound of the surf into that "laid back" space. Everyone hunkers down in the sand and celebrates long days in sun.
For locals, it's a season of great change — some good, some frustrating. The frustration? Traffic, traffic, traffic. I could say the word a few more times, but then my column would look like Laguna Canyon Road in the late afternoon.
No one in town needs a calendar to remind them of the shift to vacation drive tactics. Locals simply start driving the back and side streets, weaving up and down hillsides in an attempt to get in or out of town.
The good? I think most everything that comes with summer is good. Warm weather (darn fog), warmer water, south swells and long days that end with golden sunsets. There is a plethora of new faces, the healthy hustle and bustle in the retail and food services sector, and the chance opportunity to make new friends from far-way locals.
Tourist watching is a kind of sidebar to being a resident in town. With all grand affection, we watch as they join us in the search for the never-to-be-found perfect parking spot. And because our local lots are rather oddly placed, streets like Forest Avenue turn into their own kind of "beach highway," as families unload their cars and head down the sidewalk.
Babies are secured in strollers, which double as beach-furniture carriers. Chairs pile high on towels, toys spill from the sides, and coolers balance precariously on top of everything. Walking children are often given the task of carrying some part of the burden — usually with a sour and often whiney face.
What makes a street like Forest or Ocean avenues interesting to watch, is that the sidewalks are narrow. Add a few trolley loads of sightseers to the mix of stroller-beachgoers, and yep — it can be a pretty tangled mess.