Monday, January 16, 2017

Birthday at the beach ~ my column from Sunday's paper

My birthday is this week. I celebrate 66 years on the planet.

Through the years, the gifts from my lovely spouse Jilda have evolved. During the early years when my hair was thick and my waistline was thin, she gave me records, books, and snazzy clothes.

This year, I got sweatpants with an elastic waistband and an In-Tone Rebounder exercise machine. The refrain from an old Sheb Wooley song, “I Just Don’t Look Good Naked Anymore,” flitted through my head.

On the upside, we reserved a condo at Orange Beach for the weekend, and I’ll have an opportunity to spend some time by the water. It’s a great getaway in January because the kids are usually back in school and we have the beach to ourselves.

We rise early, sip coffee while waking up and then walk the shoreline. We normally spend this time in silence. There is no better place for contemplative strolls.

My thoughts go deeper as I fall into rhythm with the ebb and flow of the waves. The concept of time seems out of place there. No matter how old my birthday bones feel, my spirit soars making me feel younger — ageless.

The sights, sounds, and smells of the ocean are like no other place on earth. When the sea is calm, the surf sounds like a whisper. But after storms, it sounds more like thunder, and you can feel the vibrations deep inside.

The colors at the Gulf Shores, Orange Beach and the Panhandle of Florida are like no other beaches I’ve ever visited. The sand is so white it looks as if you could use it to sweeten tea.

It’s hard to put a label on the color of the water when the weather is fair. It’s not blue, and it’s not turquoise, but a fusion of many shades from that end of the spectrum. I’ve always wanted a 1967 Chevy Chevelle SS the color of the Gulf in January.

Another reason for loving the beach is fresh seafood. I know I say almost every food is my favorite, but seafood is very close to the top of the list.

Usually, when we go to the beach, we’ll have an oyster Po’ Boy sandwich at least one day for lunch along with a cup of seafood gumbo. Then at night, we’ll hit one of the restaurants where the locals go.

These places are often under the tourist’s radar. Last year when we asked a hotel concierge about a good place for seafood, he told us about a high-dollar place that gets all the press. We’d read about the place, but we were hoping for some out-of-the-way place. An older woman who worked in housekeeping overheard our question and stepped over as we walked away from the front desk. She told us about a small restaurant nearby where her family went for seafood. It was perfect!

I’m excited about my birthday getaway and for an opportunity to reflect on all the blessings in my life. But there is an old saying that resonates with me as I celebrate my 66th year — “If I’d known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of my knees.”


  1. I can almost hear the waves crashing on the shore and the smell of salt sea air. And the seafood, oh yum...

    It brings back some childhood memories of walking on the beach with friends. We even dug up clams with the heel of our foot. We put the heel over a hole in the wet sand and did a suction motion with the heel and up would come the clam. No need for shovels to dig up a feast.


  2. I discovered America 12 years before you. So me, FDR and Truman had it in good shape for you and Ike. That was a very good column The beach will mean as much or more 10 years from now. Amazing how ageless the sea is. This was a good read, THANKS!

  3. This is my birthday week as well. And how I would love to be beside the beach.
    Have a wonderful, wonderful contemplative restorative time.

  4. Oh I do hope you have a wonderful time. The gumbo sounds so good. Have a bite of it for me.

  5. This is a great post Rick. It even made me chuckle a bit about the sweatpants.
    I wish you many more good years!

  6. I do love the beach and seafood too. Here in Ohio we get fresh Lake Erie Peach and I must say it is good. Happy Birthday! Sounds like a wonderful one !

  7. Congratulations on reaching 66. I also love the beach and just braved snow and ice to get there.

  8. The best time for the shore in Jersey is in October, if you get one of those warm October days, the water is still warm and the beach for stripers is good to if you are a fisherman.

    Sounds like your Gulf in January.

  9. Like my father before me, I like to discover eateries 'off the beaten path.'
    How nice of that housekeeping associate to step up and offer her recommendation!

  10. Anonymous3:24 PM

    I actually go into a form of withdrawal when I'm away from a large body of water for too long!!

  11. This beach looks so no matter the achy bones it must have felt grand to walk there. I love seafood as well and glad you found a place that the locals go to...always better than the touristy spots.

  12. Happy Birthday! Have a wonderful time!

  13. 66 you say, well that is nothing to sneeze at, I hope you have many more years ahead of you, the beach looks nice but the beach usually looks nice unless there is a terrible storm then not so much

  14. Rick, I am glad you had a good birthday! Congratulations on 66 years! Your life is only beginning! You have so many more books to write.


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