Living at the Beach
Day 1: On the strip, the cooky landlord and nights by the water.
Beach towns have always fascinated me. They’re names alone sound both exotic and altered from your regular city.
Sauble. Wasaga. Grand Bend.
I’ve always wanted to know what it’s like to live by the beach, and this past weekend I got a taste of what it would be like to do just that.
M and I, along with a group of her friends rented out a small apartment right on the main strip in Grand Bend.
The apartment was nothing to write home about. A small kitchen, a set of plain wood stairs to an upper floor with three bedrooms and bathroom. The landlord was a cooky, wiry, woman, who in the middle of the first night, delivered a second fridge on a dolly into the kitchen, snagged a shot of Crown Royal, and left into the night, instantly earning my respect.
The home was the back of a fryer window that served fries and other deep fried delights onto the strip, meaning drinking on the back patio was always accompanied by the sound of passersby and meant the occasional visit from eccentric strangers.
However, the weekend wasn’t much about the apartment, it was about a group of friends who rarely see one another, finally getting the chance to do so and doing their best to have a good time with it.
Not a hard task to accomplish.
M and I arrived later on Friday night after having battled the traffic of Richmond Hill and snagged another friend along the way before heading west.
The light was fading from the day as we pulled into the back lot. After tossing our bags into the remaining room, we cracked our first drinks and settled in for a night on the patio.
A contingent of other people in the house adjoining to ours filtered in and out of our group as we sat chatting, playing drinking games and watching people pass by on the strip.
The night was cool, but a welcome feeling after the humidity of the day.
The party came and went like the waves on Lake Huron not far down the strip.
Stints of dancing on the picnic table benches to loud music would be followed by brief moments of calm as everyone enjoyed collective conversations. Then things would shift around again and the group would be screaming at each other around the table as ping-pong balls bounced into plastic cups or were slapped away.
Eventually, we made our way down to the water. It was about 2 a.m. as the group of us made our way down the strip. The street, usually lined with cars, was deserted, the sidewalks, generally crammed with people in swim trunks or bikinis, smelling of sun tan lotion, were empty and the shop fronts, typically open and welcoming were dark and closed up.
It was the first time I’d been back to Grand Bend in years. My previous memories from high school are hectic and wild, like something from an American Pie movie.
These streets were nothing like the beach town I remembered.
When we made it to the water, I dropped down into the sand and leaned back as M sat down beside me. The sand was cool between my fingers, the warmth of the sun long faded. A few of our group waded in the water. Laughter and scattered shouts were drowned out by the crashing of the waves.
The final wave of our party eventually receded, not before one of our group threw herself headfirst into it, fully clothed, and with that, we all headed back to the cottage for the night.
Day 2: Mimosa mornings and naps on the beach
The alarm went off in the morning, but I ignored it.
The sun was glowing on the other side of the towel that hung over the window as a shade. It cast a warm, hazy light around the small room, which simply consisted of a double bed in one corner, and a dresser in the other. The one side of the room was cut in half by the slope of the ceiling caused by the roof on the other side.
When we got up, it was around 11 or so, and the group of us ate some bacon and eggs in the sun on the back deck. Cooled champagne was popped, poured, mixed with OJ and drank.
After things were cleaned, it took a while to corral the entire group, but eventually we were all outside, bags ready and made our way down to the beach.
This time, the streets of Grand Bend were exactly as I remembered them.
People streaming in every direction, cars lining the streets jostling for parking spaces, and open shops selling sunglasses, tattoos, and bikinis, beside the shops selling cold ice cream or greasy fries and hot dogs. On our way down this time, I walk by the patio beside one of said greasy food windows that I’ve actually used as a setting in one of my short stories. The place looks almost identical to what I remember.
Once on the beach, we find a spot among the countless tents, umbrellas and people sprawled in the sand and settle in the for the day. I read for a while as the others chatted and absorbed the sun. Eventually I went in the water before flopping onto my towel, throwing my hat over my eyes and falling asleep for a while.
When I woke, M and I headed back to the strip hand-in-hand to get some ice cream. I opted for a frozen yogurt, M for the twist cone. The cup of blazing red yogurt was cold and delicious. We ate them in the shade, smiling at one another.
We rejoined the group after that, but only briefly as we all headed back to the house and got ourselves showered and ready for dinner and another night.
Dinner was had at a restaurant off the beach. We started with a round of Coronas that came in a bucket choked with ice before eating our meals and heading back.
The second night went much the same as the first, starting with drinks on the back patio, there was a brief outing to a local bar, but many of us were too sun-baked and exhausted to really amount to much. We threw in the towel after midnight and headed home.
Day 3: Final thoughts
We made our way down to the beach one last time the next morning.
It was around lunch and M and I stopped for another round of frozen yogurt and ice cream.
Grand Bend has undergone quite the revitalization from the years I came here in high school, skipping class with a large contingent of Grade 12s, packing into my dad’s mini van and heading for the beach. At that time, it was simply a stretch of stores running down to the lake and meeting a patch of sand.
Now, the area has developed and a large viewing deck has been built right at the end of the main strip. Stairs lead up to a wide patch of concrete that offers a wide view of Lake Huron and the beach below.
I ate my yogurt, we took some pictures and headed back the way we came.
Now, I’m always trying to find meaning in life, lessons learned in certain situations.
In my mind, it’s a very useful way of thinking that helps you appreciate what you have and what is still to come.
However, in other situations it can be counter-productive and get in the way.
Sometimes, life is just about spending a couple days at the beach and having a great time with your friends.
Lessons learned, meanings, forget it all, because really, you’re either having a good time or you’re not.
Until next year,
Thanks for reading,