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Maintaining sanity for annual vacation to the beach

An old Willie Nelson song laments the fact that “I gotta get drunk and I shore do dread it...”

I understand the sentiment — not about the getting drunk part, though. This time tomorrow I’ll be on vacation and I shore do dread it. I understand it’s for the good of the company that I get away for a bit to recharge, contemplate the cosmos and regain perspective. I get that.

But what will I do with my time without deadlines to dictate when I rise and when I sleep? How will I prevent boredom from creeping in? What will I do to keep my mind sharp? And just how much fun in the sun can a man tolerate without getting soft?

I need structure. I need a plan, a purpose, meaningful endeavors to keep me occupied. I need work. But it is important that I take a respite. Sanity may be at stake. In fact, I may be too late already to salvage what’s left of my lucidity, which was never all that lucid to begin with.

So I will, reluctantly, pack the car and head east first thing tomorrow morning, driving into the sunrise, aiming for the Carolina coast, ETA sometime Saturday afternoon. No, it’s not that far, but I’ll stop and see in-laws in Birmingham and spend a night or two with my mom in upstate South Carolina and on to the beach from there.

By Saturday evening I will be ensconced in a little beach bungalow at our favorite vacation retreat, Sunset Beach, North Carolina, a relatively quiet little island in the southeast corner of the state. Dinner likely will be served at Twin Lakes Restaurant, named for apparently non-existent lakes, but offering the best seafood I’ve ever tasted. I recommend the grilled mahi mahi.

I’ll spend the evening reading on the deck, listening to ocean sounds and sipping on grape juice of one kind or another.

And then I’ll have to contend with the beach for a week. What a drag. Sun, ocean breezes, seagulls clamoring for attention, scantily dressed women, more grape juice. I can feel the boredom seeping in already.

Fortunately, my two grandsons, Hunter and Aaron, will help me pass the time. They are pretty persistent about getting me out of the lounge chair and into the water to splash around and in the sand to dig holes and make sand forts. We chase minnows in the tide pools and toss Frisbees or baseballs.

Sometimes they twist my arm and persuade me to take them fishing on the bouncy, bouncy dock behind our friends’ house on the marsh. We watch hermit crabs and look for the green lizards that inhabit the backyard. We might take a kayak out into the waterway.

We could go to a minor league baseball game one evening. I have a book signing on Wednesday. We always drive up to Southport to stroll through antique shops; I typically peruse the stacks of old books looking for valuable first editions — never found one. We’ll eat crab burgers at Provisions, a quaint restaurant on the Southport docks.

I’ll get sunburned in spite of warnings from Pat, the woman who is in charge of my better nature, to put on more sunblock. I’ll try my luck at fly fishing in the surf and will not catch anything for about the fifth year in a row and will care no more than I did the last time I caught nothing.

I’ll read several novels; might start writing another one, if the boredom really sets in.

And the whole time I’ll be thinking about work and what a sacrifice I’m making for the company by absenting myself from meaningful labor for a time.

See what I mean about the sanity issue?

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